Archive for September, 2011

September 29th 2011
Why do I think this is my target demo?

Posted under American history & art & childhood & fluff

Cool Dad Raising Daughter on Media That Will Put Her Entirely Out of Touch With Her Generation,” from The Onion and via Fratguy:

Campbell said he has also been vigilant in ensuring Emma develops an increased familiarity with timeless classic films, a parenting strategy that will inevitably hobble her as she attempts to achieve individuation while negotiating an adolescence heavily influenced by the very latest pop culture.

Since her early childhood, a period sources said featured a Danger Mouse–themed birthday party that utterly baffled the assembled 6-year-old guests, Campbell’s daughter has been fed a steady diet of marginalizing cinematic masterpieces from the world’s very best filmmakers.

“Jean-Luc Godard, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder—you simply need to know who these men are if you want to call yourself culturally literate,” Campbell said of the three iconic directors whose creations could not have less utility to his daughter as she searches for a way to achieve a sense of belonging among her fellow middle-schoolers. “Sure, she makes a face when I don’t let her see some ridiculous movie with CGI robots because it’s John Sayles Night and we’re watching The Secret Of Roan Inish instead. But I’m giving her a leg up, even if she doesn’t know it.” Continue Reading »


September 28th 2011
(Re-)inventing the educratic wheel

Posted under American history & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers

All new! This time with sparkles!

Do you ever get the impression that there truly is nothing new under the sun in education?  Do you ever think that we end up re-inventing the wheel, year after year?  Well, this American Radio Works documentary “Don’t Lecture Me” won’t disabuse you of those suspicions!

I promise, I sat down Monday night to listen to it with an open mind.  Although it teased me that it would show me how lecturing in college classrooms is a complete waste of time compared to the New! Improved! Revolutionary! way to teach developed by some physicists, I came away with the valuable insight that I’m already doing these things, and I bet you are too.

First of all, did you know that lecturing to your students for 50 or 75 minutes in a monotone voice without permitting any student questions or interaction isn’t the best way to teach your subject?  Amazing.  This is what this program defines as “the traditional college lecture.”  The takeaway point is that there needs to be active learning in the classroom, viz., expecting students to read books outside of class; asking students to write brief responses to their assigned readings in class; asking students to answer questions or solve problems when you are explaining key concepts (or “lecturing”) to them; and asking students to explain key concepts to each other during class.  Did you know that exactly zero percent of college professors in “traditional universities” do this right now? Continue Reading »


September 27th 2011
Harris-Perry to Joan Walsh: we are so not friends!

Posted under American history & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & women's history

Via RealClearPolitics, Melissa Harris-Perry has responded to Joan Walsh’s response (“Are white liberals abandoning the president?”) to her “Black President, Double Standard:  Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama,” which we discussed here last weekend.  (H/t to thefrogprincess, who originally alerted me to the Joan Walsh response in the comments on that post.) 

Harris-Perry makes some really good points about the ways in which black scholars and pundits are challenged about their ideas when they dare to talk about racism.  In “The Epistemology of Race Talk,” she notes that (white) interlocutors meet conversations about racism with charges to “Prove it! . . .The implication is if one cannot produce irrefutable evidence of clear, blatant and intentional bias, then racism must be banned as a possibility,” and questions about her authority and expertise (“Who made you an expert? . . . It is as though my very identity as an African-American woman makes me unqualified to speak on issues of race and gender; as though I could only be arguing out of personal interest or opinion rather than from decades of research, publication and university teaching.”)  I’m very sympathetic to both of these issues, as they’re textbook ways to derail a blog conversation, as many of you probably already know!

But, I feel like Harris-Perry was unfair to Joan Walsh when in the same response she accused Walsh of using the “I have black friends” claim. Continue Reading »


September 26th 2011
So-called “progressive” Michael Moore shows how to shut down a feminist critique

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

I clicked on this link because RealClearPolitics has it headlined “Jane Harman Calls Out Bill Maher’s Sexism.”  Unfortunately, it’s more effective as an object lesson in how so-called “progressive” men like Maher and Moore maneuver to shut down feminist viewpoints and conversations.  Former Congresswoman Jane Harman gives up on her challenge to Maher’s sexist description of a “blonde twink” on Fox News Channel, and her observation that she’s one of one women invited to last week’s show.  She does this even after noting that the dynamic is identical to that described in “the book of the month” by Ron Suskind, with its description of the gender politics in the Obama White HouseCheck it out, with permission to shut down the conversation about sexism granted by Bill Maher and an assist by John Avlon

Be sure to play it through to the end, where Moore accuses Maher of being “secretly attracted to” the “blonde twink” referenced earlier in the conversation, and the two joke around about Maher’s horndoggery with conservative women.  Continue Reading »


September 26th 2011
Gerstle on White’s Railroaded, Gilded Ages, and the corruption of democracy

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & race & unhappy endings & wankers

Via John Fea’s blog, I found Gary Gerstle’s review of Richard White’s Railroaded:  The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBoth White and Gerstle in his review are writing history for our times, friends:

For a generation now, historians have been reluctant to write about capitalism. Cultural history has been the rage, even as developments in the Second Gilded Age (1980–2008)—the unleashing of private economic power, the dismantling of government regulatory controls, and the deepening of income inequality—were making clear the need for a new reckoning with capitalism as a historical force.

Against this background, it is significant that one of the most distinguished historians of our time, Richard White, has written a book about an epic story of the First Gilded Age: the building of the transcontinental railroads between the 1860s and the 1890s. From the moment the first of these railroads was finished at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869, these immense undertakings became an American obsession, eliciting both marvel and anger. The marvel was about the technological and organizational feats required to build these roads across vast and often difficult terrain and the profound ways in which these projects transformed America—economically, geographically, and politically. The anger was about the power accruing to the men who built these roads and their consequent ability to hoodwink investors, bribe congressmen, exploit farmers and other small shippers, and engage in speculative activities so dangerous that they periodically brought the entire U.S. economy crashing to the ground. No industry did more to galvanize anticapitalist fury or to generate movements for economic regulation during the First Gilded Age than the railroads. Continue Reading »


September 25th 2011
Liberal racism: a possible explanation for an Obama loss in 2012?

Posted under American history & GLBTQ & jobs & race

Still, electoral racism cannot be reduced solely to its most egregious, explicit form. It has proved more enduring and baffling than these results can capture. The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.

The relevant comparison here is with the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Today many progressives complain that Obama’s healthcare reform was inadequate because it did not include a public option; but Clinton failed to pass any kind of meaningful healthcare reform whatsoever. Others argue that Obama has been slow to push for equal rights for gay Americans; but it was Clinton who established the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Obama helped repeal. Still others are angry about appalling unemployment rates for black Americans; but while overall unemployment was lower under Clinton, black unemployment was double that of whites during his term, as it is now. And, of course, Clinton supported and signed welfare “reform,” cutting off America’s neediest despite the nation’s economic growth. Continue Reading »


September 24th 2011
Tales of the Small College Town

Posted under art & European history & jobs & students & the body & weirdness

(With apologies to Armistead Maupin.)  A correspondent writes:

Dear Historiann–

I work out at a gym off campus.  I have often seen some of my colleagues and one of my graduate students in various states of undress, including nudity.  Likewise, they have seen me the same way.  While I am generally very comfortable being naked in front of others, I have found that these encounters make me slightly uncomfortable.  They also make me laugh.  What is the etiquette for seeing your colleagues and your students naked in the gym locker room?  I sure could use some advice.

Heh.  I’ve never been so grateful for my 33 mile commute as I am today! Continue Reading »


September 23rd 2011
College vs. “the real world.” Who pushes this myth, and why?

Posted under class & jobs & students & wankers

I was in college and graduate school for nearly ten years, and in that time I must’ve had 1,000 different people tell me, “Wait until you graduate and go out in the real world,” or “Graduating next year, huh? You’ll finally be in the real world.” And every time I heard such stupidity I wanted to slam a pie in the speaker’s face. Even toward the end of my Ph.D. program, when I was working 70 hours a week and earning $20,000 a year, an occasional nitwit would say something like, “Well the party’s almost over; time for the real world.”

The collegiate fairy tale myth supposes that I spoiled myself in early adulthood by avoiding “work” and going to college. Presumptuous garbage. Like my students today, I had in college an enormous and time-sensitive workload, social pressures, empty pockets, and little sense of physical continuity. Any psychiatrist will tell you that moving domiciles is one of the most stressful life events that humans experience, and yet we make college students move around like carnies, in and out of dorm rooms, and perhaps urging them to relocate to off-campus housing as upperclassmen. On September 13, the fraternity house of Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of Maine, where I teach, was condemned and 22 students were tossed out. My, how lucky they are to know nothing of real-world pressure!

Heh.  I agree with this guy–but I also really like his (pie) in-your-face attitude.  The only correction I would make to his screed Continue Reading »


September 22nd 2011
K12 Inc. online schools: 12% graduation rates and 0% accountability. Awesome!!!

Posted under American history & childhood & jobs & local news & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers

Toldyaso! I SO told you so.

Guess what?  Online “academies” for K-12 students?  Not such an awesome idea!  Grace Hood has an alarming report on KUNC radio on the money paid to the for-profit company K12 Inc. to administer “COVA,” the Colorado Virtual Academy (click here to read or listen to it):

At a time when public schools are seeing deep cuts in funding, there’s a growing market for companies running online elementary, middle and high schools. The largest for-profit company overseeing these programs in Colorado is Virginia-based company K12 Inc. While public schools are struggling to survive, K12 Inc.—with the support of state tax dollars—is reporting double digit profits. Meantime, it’s not measuring up to state academic standards.

To be fair, the kinds of students who end up seeking an education online are not those who are having success in traditional schools.  But instead of spending the money on human teachers to teach classes in bricks-and-mortar schools, let’s instead send $22 million a year to Virginia for an “online academy:”

Student enrollment at COVA has grown to about 5,000 thanks in part to marketing by K12. But despite the allure of flexibility and education from home, COVA is finding a relatively high number of students are dropping out. Last year the school reported a 12 percent graduation rate. That’s compared to a 72 percent average for all public high schools statewide.

Let’s try a thought experiment that I saw on Corrente recently in a post by Lambert (sorry–can’t find the exact post):  substitute the words But despite with Because of.  So:  Because of the allure of flexibility and education from home, COVA is finding a relatively high number of students are dropping out.  Continue Reading »


September 22nd 2011
I can’t get out of what I’m into

Posted under American history & art & bad language & captivity & Gender & GLBTQ & the body & women's history

WARNING: NSFW or young children.

‘Cos it’s a steady job
And it’s the only thing that makes me money Continue Reading »


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