Archive for the 'childhood' Category

September 28th 2013
The Liturgy of the Book

Posted under American history & captivity & childhood & happy endings & jobs & O Canada & publication & women's history

Esther Wheelwright (1696-1780)

Esther Wheelwright (1696-1780)

When Tenured Radical wrote a blog post about the “Grafton Challenge” this summer, I was both impressed and completely intimidated by the blistering pace at which Tony Grafton writes:  3,500 words a day!  Amazing.  Then when she followed up to report that Matthew Gutterl had drafted a book this summer by. . . sitting down to write every day and cutting out distractions like blogging!. . . I thought to myself:  how much longer do I really want to live with the book I’m writing now, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright?  Isn’t it time to move on?

So, I decided to finish a rough draft of my book this fall, with Christmas day as my drop-dead date.  When I finished the second draft of Abraham in Arms eight years ago, the only time I had to myself that was completely free of familial distractions or responsibilities was from 4-6 a.m.  So, several days a week I now get out of bed at 4 a.m. and try to write for two hours.  It’s not as difficult as you’d think.  Caffeine helps, as does a shockingly early bedtime the night before.  I’ve had a cold this week, and the high-test antihistamines I’m on also give me a kick.  (I think it’s the stuff they cook meth out of, so no wonder.)  I prefer the silence of the tomb when I work, and my brain is freshest first thing in the morning, so 4-6 a.m. it is.

(I was reviewing a chapter I had already drafted, and I re-read something I had written last summer about how the Ursuline nuns I’m writing about would rise at 4 a.m. to begin their day.  Coincidence?  Continue Reading »

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September 4th 2013
Back to school! Also, the shrinking life expectancy of poor, white women.

Posted under American history & childhood & class & Gender & Intersectionality & race & students & unhappy endings & women's history

ElvgrenteacherSorry for the radio silence–we’re back to school and I’m up to my skirt in it already.  If you’re looking for something to read over the lunch hour, go read Monica Potts’s sympathetic, sad exploration of the life and death of Crystal Wilson in “What’s Killing Poor White Women?” in The American Prospect.

Wilson isn’t anyone you’ve probably ever heard of, but Potts makes her obscure life and death in Cave City, Arkansas, a fascinating case study. The author aruges that the death of opportunity in rural America has hit girls and women without high school degrees especially hard.  It also implies towards the end that feminism is at least part of the cure.  In the words of the technology coordinator for the Cave City schools Julie Johnson,

 “You don’t even hear about women’s lib, because that’s come and gone. Continue Reading »

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August 26th 2013
A CALAMITOUS DAY unto me!

Posted under American history & childhood & local news & publication & race & unhappy endings

Illustration from Little Robin Red Breast, A Collection of Pretty Songs (Worcester, 1786), p. 42.

I’ve been putting the finishing touches on an essay on age in American history, and one of the editors asked me what seemed like a completely reasonable question, viz., “did everyone in early America know their birthdays and their exact ages?”  I had to confess that I didn’t even know if birthdays were common knowledge among Anglo-Americans, let alone Native Americans, enslaved Africans or African Americans, or French colonists. I figure that the iced layer-cake with candles on it appeared in the later nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, but I had no clue about colonial North American birthday awareness or celebrations thereof.

A little research on birthdays (or “birth-days,” as it’s more usually spelled in eighteenth-century English-language printed material) suggests that around the turn of the eighteenth century if not earlier, the annual acknowledgement of Anglo-American birthdays appears to have been commonplace.  Thomas Foxcroft wrote in  The day of a godly man’s death, better than the day of his birth (Boston, 1722) that “The anniversary celebration of birth-days is an ancient custom,” 31.  Unfortunately, Foxcroft didn’t leave it at that: Continue Reading »

24 Comments »

August 8th 2013
“Opting back in” is SO much less sexy than “opting out,” apparently.

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & class & Gender & women's history

Judith Warner on “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In:”  Why isn’t this story getting all the attention that Lisa Belkin’s “Opting Out” story got a decade ago?

The 22 women I interviewed, for the most part, told me that the perils of leaving the work force were counterbalanced by the pleasures of being able to experience motherhood on their own terms. A certain number of these women — the superelite, you might say, the most well-off, with the highest-value name-brand educational credentials and powerful and well-connected social networks — found jobs easily after extended periods at home. These jobs generally paid less than their previous careers and were less prestigious. But the women found the work more interesting, socially conscious and family-friendly than their old high-powered positions.

.       .       .       .       .       .

Among the women I spoke with, those who didn’t have the highest academic credentials or highest-powered social networks or who hadn’t been sufficiently “strategic” in their volunteering (fund-raising for a Manhattan private school could be a nice segue back into banking; running bake sales for the suburban swim team tended not to be a career-enhancer) or who had divorced, often struggled greatly.

When Lisa Belkin attempted to reach out this spring to the women she interviewed in 2003, she found a similar mixed picture. Many of the women declined to talk about their lives; a few would talk only if they were not identified. Continue Reading »

44 Comments »

August 4th 2013
Word to your mother

Posted under childhood & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

Dr. Crazy:

Note to all y’all bloggy readers who are mothers of daughters: when they get to be 38-going on 39-years old?  And when they tell you to stop riding them like they are fucking teenagers?  Listen before they burst into tears.  Listen before it becomes a big THING.  Because you know what?  They will be grown ass women then, and this sort of drama sucks balls.  And your daughters really want to spend time with you.  They just hate it when you act like motherfucking assholes.

It’s probably a good idea to hold back long before your daughters are 38 or 39, or before they’re even teenagers.  Continue Reading »

10 Comments »

July 9th 2013
Why they only need little houses on the prairie now: reproduction politics in South Dakota

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & the body & women's history

Charles Ingalls (1836-1902), hipster

You might have wondered why I found myself driving across South Dakota recently.  I’ve heard for years about the DeSmet annual Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, in which the townspeople put on a play based on one of the Little House series of books.  Unsurprisingly, their play rotation focus on the books set partially or completely in DeSmet–By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter and Little Town on the Prairie.  This year’s production was Little Town, and I have to say that I was impressed.  The talent is mostly local, with the major roles played by high school or college students.  Local younger children and adults played some of the smaller roles.  The permanently installed stage sets, lights, and sound are not small-town at all, and the setting on the South Dakota prairie is beautiful and memorable.  The show was timed so that complete darkness finally fell just as the play ended, so the mosquitoes held off until the curtain call.  I strongly and enthusiastically recommend a visit.

My only criticism?  I don’t mind seeing a high schooler play Charles Ingalls, but he really should try to cultivate Pa’s crazy ugly hipster beard.  They’re back in style these days.

Those of you who know the books will remember that DeSmet is the place where the Ingalls family finally settled after Pa’s restless and relentlessly unsuccessful attempts at homesteading in Wisconsin, Kansas, and Minnesota.  Continue Reading »

31 Comments »

May 20th 2013
When you see Count MOOCbot, scream and run away!

Posted under American history & book reviews & childhood & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Daniel Luzer on Jeffrey J. Selingo’s College (Un)bound:  The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students, in a review entitled “Revolution for Thee, Not Me:”

[I]f we’re expanding access to college through alternative, technology-based systems, is this really expanding access to college or providing a different experience entirely? Perhaps the biggest flaw of this book is that while Selingo offers a very good take on what declining state funding and innovative technology could mean for both colleges and students, he fails to consider what this “revolution” in higher education might mean for American society as a whole.

“The college of the future will certainly be different than the one of today,” he explains, “but robots will not replace professors in the classroom anytime soon. Harvard will remain Harvard.” He estimates that 500 or so of America’s 4,000 colleges have large enough endowments to remain unchanged by this revolution. But isn’t that a problem? If Princeton and Williams will be unaffected by these trends, what’s really going on here?

It seems that the future won’t unbind higher education for everyone—just for the working and middle classes. That’s because rich people will always be able to afford traditional colleges. Continue Reading »

17 Comments »

May 8th 2013
Worst teachers ever.

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & fluff & Gender & jobs & students & wankers & weirdness

Trying to avoid grading final exams? Slate offers a diversion with a feature called “What’s the worst thing a teacher ever said to you?”

The Slate writers had some pretty funny stories, usually involving teachers who were irritated about being corrected by their students, but the stories in the comments below are funnier. Check out the story of the kid who tried–and failed!–to convince his high school honors English teacher that Miguel Cervantes’s Don Quixote takes place in Spain instead of the Netherlands. (Because windmills–duh!) And the stories about not understanding a teacher’s thick Southern or New England accent are pretty funny too: what would you do if you were asked to lead your class “down yonder hill,” or if instructed to draw a picture of that cozy autumn ritual we know as a “barn fire?”

The worst thing I can remember was probably said by a student teacher in his late 20s Continue Reading »

46 Comments »

February 20th 2013
On the value of majoring in business, from Professors Truth and Biafra

Posted under American history & bad language & childhood & students

Take it from Shmuel Ellis—a business professor and administrator at Tel Aviv University (via Gawker):

Ellis said in his email that the business school recommends undecided undergraduate students choose disciplines like pure sciences, math, economics, psychology, computer science, history, literature, philosophy and architecture.

“Study of academic disciplines prepares students to think scientifically in these fields and form the foundation for advanced studies in graduate degree programs,” he said.

Lemme translate this biz-speak for all you non-biz majors out there: “Don’t major in business, major in a real field of study instead.” What is this guy, Sojourner Truth, Professor of Truth at Truth University? (Learn about who Sojourner Truth was, and what “truth” means, in real majors, like history or philosophy.)

Continue Reading »

7 Comments »

February 9th 2013
New ideas for running “team family” like a business! (Not.)

Posted under American history & childhood & jobs

Stressed out by your chaotic home life?  Why not “run your family like a business?”

Like many parents, the Starrs were trapped between the smooth-running household they aspired to have and the exhausting, earsplitting one they actually lived in. “I was trying the whole ‘love them and everything will work out’ philosophy,” she said, “but it wasn’t working. ‘For the love of God,’ I finally said, ‘I can’t take this any more.’ ”

What the Starrs did next was surprising. Instead of consulting relatives or friends, they looked to David’s workplace. They turned to a cutting-edge program called agile development that has rapidly spread from manufacturers in Japan to startups in Silicon Valley. It’s a system of group dynamics in which workers are organized into small teams, hold daily progress sessions and weekly reviews.

As David explained, “Having weekly family meetings increased communication, improved productivity, lowered stress and made everyone much happier to be part of the family team.”

When my wife and I adopted the agile blueprint in our own home, weekly family meetings with our then-5-year-old twin daughters quickly became the centerpiece around which we organized our family. The meetings transformed our relationships with our kids—and each other. And they took up less than 20 minutes a week.

What kind of disorganization and anomie are people living in these days that having a weekly family meeting seems like some kind of brilliant breakthrough?  (And, wow:  I guess the author of this article should get Dad of the Year for spending 20 minutes a week talking to his twins.)  Don’t miss the part in the article when the author discusses writing a “family mission statement.”  Hint:  these mission statements are just as full of business-speak flatulence as most business mission statements.

I don’t mean to brag, but we have a nightly family meeting we like to call dinner.  Continue Reading »

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