Archive for February, 2012

February 12th 2012
Sunday round-up: snow fun at all!

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

I’m not in fact skiing today with the rest of the famille Historiann, as I have too much work to catch up on.  Here are a few ideas and miscellaneous items to keep you warm on this cold and snowy weekend:

  • Today in slactivism:  Reader and commenter Susan passed this along–all you have to do is click on the slide show to enable a donation to help the education of girls in Pakistan.
  • Speaking of education:  how about some support for the education of girls and boys in the United States?  When I read stories like this b!tching about the low 4-year graduation rates at universities in my state, and at the same time the high rate of remediation our high school graduates require, why doesn’t anyone point out that hack politicians and businessmen have made war on K-16+ education for years, attacking public education at all levels in particular as wasteful and ideologically suspect, and in general doing their best to withdraw public sympathy and taxpayer support for any kind of education?  At the same time, they’ve also conspired to pass laws that offer incentives to corporations for taking their money and their jobs offshore to chase the cheapest labor around the planet.   Now, all of a sudden, they’ve seized on the idea that College for Everyone is the way to save the U.S. economy–because the factory and manufacturing jobs are gone and because construction is in the toilet, everyone needs to be a knowledge worker now.  So whose responsibility is it to turn everyone into knowledge workers?  Continue Reading »


February 11th 2012
On selling your department to job candidates, and true confessions from job interview hell

Posted under jobs & local news & unhappy endings

Flavia at Ferule & Fescue has a terrific post now about selling one’s own department to job candidates on campus visits.  She explains why she’s putting some real effort into recruiting quality job candidates rather than just letting the ridiculous buyer’s market sort everything out:

So I’m rousing myself at 7.30 a.m. and driving to campus every day we have a candidate visiting, making time for each one’s job talk and teaching demo andeither lunch or dinner. I’m donning a suit (to communicate respect for the candidate and the general professionalism of the department), I’m asking encouraging questions, and I’m doing my damnedest, through my interactions with my colleagues, to show as well as tell our candidates that we’re a happy and collegial place where friendships extend outside of the office. I want our candidates to see how intellectually engaged we are, and how interested in other people’s work. I want for our students to perform well, and for Cha-Cha City to sound and look appealing, and for the campus, ideally, not to be covered in a sheet of ice.

And in fact I’m not sure why having the department come off well matters so very much to me. The job market is terrible, our list is deep, and though we don’t always get our our first-choice candidate we’ve never had a search fail and have always wound up with someone wonderful.

But I guess I wish to extend the sort of kindness to our candidates that the department extended to me on my visit–and, more selfishly, I wish for the people whom we don’t hire or who don’t accept our offers (and perhaps, by extension, their colleagues and friends and advisors) to have a warm impression of our department. There’s nothing bad about good press.

How very adult and courteous!  Well done, Flavia. 

While it’s great to be regarded well as a host department, there’s also the more immediate issue of treating your guests decently and as though they’re not wasting their time on a campus visit.  There’s nothing more excruciating than being on a campus visit as a job candidate and feeling unwanted during the interview, which is something that happened to me once.  Continue Reading »


February 9th 2012
Today’s fake controversy: contraception and Obamacare

Posted under American history & Gender & the body & wankers & weirdness & women's history

It's. . . THE BISHOP

Gail Collins has written an excellent column on the fake controversy that the Republican presidential candidates and the U.S. Catholic Bishops are making over the Obama administration’s rule that Catholic institutions that are not Churches and do not impose a religious test on its employees (universities and hospitals, principally) must offer insurance coverage for birth control.  She explains quite succinctly that the right to religious liberty does not imply a right to impose one’s belief on others:

Catholic doctrine prohibits women from using pills, condoms or any other form of artificial contraception. A much-quoted study by the Guttmacher Institute found that virtually all sexually active Catholic women of childbearing age have violated the rule at one point or another, and that more than two-thirds do so consistently.

.       .       .       .      .       .      

The church is not a democracy and majority opinion really doesn’t matter. Catholic dogma holds that artificial contraception is against the law of God. The bishops have the right — a right guaranteed under the First Amendment — to preach that doctrine to the faithful. They have a right to preach it to everybody. Take out ads. Pass out leaflets. Put up billboards in the front yard.

The problem here is that they’re trying to get the government to do their work for them. They’ve lost the war at home, and they’re now demanding help from the outside. Continue Reading »


February 7th 2012
Caucus night in Colorado: who’s who, and WTF?

Posted under American history & Gender & local news & unhappy endings & weirdness

It’s caucus night!  I’m not caucusing because that’s only for Republicans, but apparently dozens of my fellow citizens are wandering dazedly through middle school hallways looking for their precinct caucus room right now as I’m typing.  God love ‘em.  This roundup has a Republican primary theme to it.  Cue the Lee Greenwood sound track, and let’s rock:

  • Who is Callista Bisek Gingrich, and why does she appear to be a strangely convincing Mad Men-era historical reenactor?  Ariel Levy offers some insights:  “She does not seem like a forty-five-year-old, or at least not like a forty-five-year-old of this era. She has the style and smile of an astronaut’s wife, even in her downtime. Once, in Cedar Rapids, I happened to run into her in the women’s bathroom at the airport. In her suit and pearls, with her stiff coiffure, she looked as if she had just exited a beauty parlor in 1962.”  (My theory:  it’s all in the coiff.  She may have been a wash-n-wear kind of gal back in the day, but once you’re spending that kind of time and money on an oddly unfashionable hairdo, you’re all in.)
  • From the right Alana Goodman argues that the Stepford Wife persona doesn’t actually make voters forget she’s Newt’s third wife.  Rather, it makes the Gingrich marriage appear even stranger and more off-putting.  I think the public should leave the spouses of the candidates alone, since after all they’re not running for anything, and if their wives or husbands win they won’t not be offered a paid position in the government.  But Goodman is probably right that the deadeye Pat Nixon impersonation is only going to invite unwanted speculation.  And those of you on the left may well think it only fair play given the ugliness that Michelle Obama has had to deal with, which has been clearly and persistently racialized. 
  • Who would have thought that Mommie would turn out to be one of the more interesting and powerful First Ladies on the Republican side?  Give me Nancy Reagan any day, in her off-the-shoulder Galanos gown over Nixon or Barbara or Laura Bush.  Cue the Dynasty soundtrack!
  • In “Who in God’s Name is Mitt Romney?” Frank Rich argues that the mystery in the riddle wrapped in the enigma that is Willard Mitt Romney is in fact his religion, which although agressively evangelical is also famous for keeping its secrets and sacred rites to members only.  Continue Reading »


February 7th 2012
Who let the dogs out? The importance of a diverse faculty.

Posted under American history & race & students & weirdness

Tenured Radical offers some thoughts from pseudonymous guest blogger Herlin Hathaway, a Jamaican American graduate of a small, liberal arts college who’s midway through his first year in a Ph.D. program.  The main point of the post is to get some insight into academic transitions like Hathaway’s, but to me the strongest point that came through in his piece was the overwhelming whiteness of the faculty he has worked with:

My advisors had always told me that there is something about being a black male in academia that attracts well intentioned but often embarrassing special attention from some white faculty. I had not experienced this while at Little College because my professors seem to have been the most socially conscious, social justice oriented and culturally sensitive teachers ever. They were never patronizing or imposing and always critical but kind. Indeed, there were other professors at Little College who were known for being inappropriate or “too much” but I never studied with them. I was not prepared to not have this happen in graduate school, however.

.       .      .      .      .      .      .      

Prof. X is not so much inappropriate as he is overly paternalistic. Prof. X wants to “rescue” me intellectually, which is both nice because he is supporting my work, but weird because sometimes he talks down to me. In class, Prof. X points to me when he discusses any and all things “African American.” (This I can at least understand because my work is on the African American family but it has become a running joke in the class because he doesn’t realize he does it.)

Prof. X once asked me if I played basketball because I’m so much taller than him. I told him I used to play football. In front of the whole class, Prof. X then proceeded to tell me how he graciously helped (almost rescued) his previous inner city black student-athlete from his inability to read and write and guided the young man to become a multiple fellowship award winner (Fulbright, White House Internships etc.).

Hathaway’s experience is probably all too common given the absence of faculty of color on most faculties, let alone in top graduate programs.   Continue Reading »


February 3rd 2012

Posted under local news & weirdness

I woke up at 4:30 this morning to an NPR news update claiming that a major snowstorm is hitting Eastern Colorado, with up to 2 feet of snow by the end of the day!!! Here’s what I observed: 2-3 inches of snow on the ground, most of which fell before bedtime last night, and some icy and snowpacked patches on the road. My commute to Baa Ram U. took an extra 10 minutes this morning. I am no daredevil–growing up in the Midwest plus my growing appreciation later in life for the laws of physics has made me a very cautious driver, particularly in snow or rain.

People sure are prone to weather-induced hysteria. This kind of hype used to be confined to the local teevee news channels, but I guess the Weather Channel has made it mainstream.

(More substantial blogging will resume in the near future.)


February 1st 2012
Yes we CANada!

Posted under fluff & O Canada

But wait: there’s more! Continue Reading »


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