- Denver second grade teacher Austen Kassinger says that struggle is inherent to learning, and that parents need to push their children to achieve by owning that struggle. After spending an entire evening working through five long-division problems in fourth grade, her mother told her to figure it out: “No, she did not think the assignment was unfair. No, she would not write a note to Mrs. Hall. And no, I absolutely could not stay home from school. Thus went her long-standing policy for schoolwork: If my sisters or I didn’t understand something, it was our job, not hers, to talk to the teacher. . . .I wonder what would have happened if my mother had taken the approach of the comedian Louis C.K., whose tweets about his children’s homework recently went viral: ‘Yet again I must tell my kid ‘don’t answer it. It’s a bad question.’ ’ ‘Who is writi[n]g these? And why?” “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!’ My mother could have said some version of those things in response to my meltdown, but she didn’t. She chose not to blame the question, or the teacher, or the test. And because of her steady insistence that if I took ownership of my learning, I could master any subject, I recovered from long division and went on to take AP calculus, multivariable calculus and linear algebra — in high school.”
- This is the chief complaint I hear from K-12 teachers: lack of parental support for their work, or even resentment that parents undermine the standards they have set for their students. Yes, the same parents who make sure their children get to soccer and football practices and games on time, and force their entire families to eat crappy food and live in the backs of their minivans and SUVs to do so. I just don’t understand the priorities of my fellow Americans. At all.
- Dartmouth digital humanist Mary Flanagan writes about the power and the overwhelming distraction of laptops and other personal digital devices in class. She has encouraged the use of digital technologies in her classes to good effect, “[b]ut most days, there will come a time where faculty or guest speakers actually speak, or dialogue happens or provocative points are raised. It is then that students with technology-control issues immediately check out and check into Facebook or online games or shoe shopping. Unless they are directly involved in a hands-on activity for which they will be accountable in public by the end of class, it is much easier to give in to the presence of technology and lose the experience of direct engagement.”
- Do you ban the use of tablets, laptops, and/or phones in your classes? I have a blanket statement on my syllabus about not using digital devices to distracting ends in class, but I haven’t banned them outright. A few of my students every semester buy e-books and use their Kindles or tablets in class to access them as well as PDFs of assigned articles and primary sources. This year, several students have used their phones for this purpose as well. As for laptops, it’s only a few students at my university who use them in class, and my experience is that it’s both some of the high performers and some of the low performers who use laptops in class. That is, they work well for very organized and dedicated students, and they serve as vehicles for distraction for others. I have been of the opinion that it’s up to students to pay attention, or not–remembering full well all of the means by which I used to distract myself in college classes nearly 30 years ago. Also, if students are distracted by someone else’s laptop or tablet, it’s up to them to find a seat in which they can learn. But now I’m starting to think that digital distraction may play a role in the poor performance of my two most recent classes, and that I may need to start banning laptops.
Archive for the 'unhappy endings' Category
Last week, Kate Raphael of Pacifica’s Women’s Magazine (KFPA 94.1) contacted me to see if I would let her interview me about Stephanie Camp and the importance of her scholarship. Kate put together a series of commemorations of the lives of feminist women who have died recently–Maya Angelou, Sandra Bem, and Stephanie. The show also features a lengthy interview with Stacy Russo, who edited Life as Activism: June Jordan’s essays in the Progressive. Russo shares her memory of Jordan as a teacher as well as reviews the importance of her work.
Just go read this description of a job interview in a humanities program at a rich SLAC. The search Chair told our informant, Anonymous, that the young African American woman on the faculty had been denied tenure. Some flava:
Dr. Chair explained that the whole process had been very unpleasant and that the aforementioned white male colleagues had been “hurt” as a consequence. I said something innocuous in response like, “Oh well I suppose the tenure process is hard on everyone.” But Dr. Chair assured me that there had been problems for a while. “We just want this to be a nice place,” she said.
In addition to making her white male colleagues sad, Dr. Chair told me that the African-American woman who had been fired did not produce what she was expected to produce or teach what she was expected to teach. When I asked what those expectations were, Dr. Chair sighed and said something to the effect of, “She’s a black feminist, you know, and it’s just: not everything is about black feminism.” She said this to me matter-of-factly, as if it were a satisfactory answer to my question.
David Leonhardt asks “Is College Worth It?,” and finds that the pay gap between college grads and people without college is at an all-time high. Fortunately, he sings one of my favorite songs here too:
[The] public discussion today — for which we in the news media deserve some responsibility — often focuses on the undeniable fact that a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee success. But of course it doesn’t. Nothing guarantees success, especially after 15 years of disappointing economic growth and rising inequality.
When experts and journalists spend so much time talking about the limitations of education, they almost certainly are discouraging some teenagers from going to college and some adults from going back to earn degrees. (Those same experts and journalists are sending their own children to college and often obsessing over which one.) The decision not to attend college for fear that it’s a bad deal is among the most economically irrational decisions anybody could make in 2014.
The much-discussed cost of college doesn’t change this fact. According to a paper by Mr. Autor published Thursday in the journal Science, the true cost of a college degree is about negative $500,000. That’s right: Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars.
Longtime readers will recall my frustration with the “high cost of higher education” media conversation, mostly because I think it’s dominated by people who are choosing to pay for private, selective educations for their children, not by people who patronize our fine state colleges and universities, which have in fact kept the price of their educations artificially low by shifting a majority of their faculty from tenured or tenure-track positions to adjunct casual labor. Also, where’s the accountability for school performance by students in these conversations? Are students with 3.0 averages or higher suffering from unemployment at the same rate as students who didn’t work as hard in college? We don’t know, because no one ever holds alumni responsible for any part of their achievement (or lack thereof).
This article comes just a week after I submitted my final grades for the two classes I taught in the spring semester, an upper-level course aimed at History and other Liberal Arts majors, and a lower-level survey course. Continue Reading »
Via a retweet by Modupe Labode on Twitter, I found this fascinating essay by Manon Parry, who tells of her experience as a recent Ph.D. who had an informational interview with a staff member from the National Women’s History Museum in 2010:
While CEO Joan Wages may not think historians are integral to the project, the resulting online exhibitions, labelled “amateur, superficial, and inaccurate” by Michel, are certainly disappointing, mixing trite sentimentality (“Profiles in Motherhood”) with shallow celebration (“Daring Dames,” and “Young and Brave: Girls Changing History”). As the Huffington Post article noted, “there appears to be little rhyme or reason to who or what is featured on the museum’s website.” Yet despite the upbeat tone and narrow emphasis on great women and their accomplishments, the exhibitions are still too provocative for the right-wing opponents of women’s history. Since 2008, legislation to grant NWHM permission to build near the National Mall has stalled six times, blocked in Congress by Republican opponents acting on behalf of anti-abortion interests. Michele Bachmann’s charge that the museum will create an “ideological shrine to abortion” is just the latest in this repeated strategy. In 2010, Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Jim DeMint (R-SC), placed a hold on a bill two days after Concerned Women for America requested one, claiming that the museum would “focus on abortion rights.” In response, Wages reassured opponents that reproductive health will never be tackled in the museum. “We cannot afford, literally, to focus on issues that are divisive.”
I know first-hand that the content of the museum’s website owes more to the fears of a political backlash than to the results of decades of groundbreaking historical research.
I completed my PhD in 2010 with Sonya Michel as my dissertation advisor. Interested in employment opportunities at the NWHM, I arranged an informal phone conversation with a staff member at Ralph Appelbaum Associates, then involved as designers for the project. Although this contact acknowledged my relevant training and expertise, she bluntly stated that my research, on family planning media over the twentieth century, made me a liability, given the political sensitivity of the topic. Birth control may be legal in America today, but it is clearly not legitimate. I mention this personal anecdote as full disclosure, not to complain about what happened to me, but to highlight how bad things have become. This is the state of the public history of women in twenty-first century America. Simplified, politically sensitive, and censored.
Susan B. Glasser, Editor of Politico, tells her story about Editing While Female, and points to the generic conventions of complaints about women in leadership positions in modern journalism:
Shortly before I became the editor of the national news section of the WashingtonPost in late 2006, Ben Bradlee, the legendary former editor of the Post, came up to me at a party. I hear you’re going to get the national job, he said to me. “Do you have the balls for it?”
I was 37 years old, my son was a toddler, and my incredibly supportive husband, the Post’s longtime White House reporter. I was sure that I did. But I was wrong.
She continues, “In the course of my short and controversial tenure in the job, I learned several things,” Continue Reading »
As with any such upheaval, there’s a history behind it. Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson, who spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, had been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, which accounted for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same. I was also told by another friend of Abramson’s that the pay gap with Keller was only closed after she complained. But, to women at an institution that was once sued by its female employees for discriminatory practices, the question brings up ugly memories. Whether Abramson was right or wrong, both sides were left unhappy. A third associate told me, “She found out that a former deputy managing editor”—a man—“made more money than she did” while she was managing editor. “She had a lawyer make polite inquiries about the pay and pension disparities, which set them off.”
I think “assertive” and “exhibiting leadership” is what they call “pushy” when a man does it. Continue Reading »
WHEN a mother does not nurse her own infant, she, in many instances, does violence to nature; a custom unknown among the most polished in the purest ages of Greece and Rome. The sudden check given to this great natural evacuation of milk, at a time when her weakly state renders her unable to sustain so great a shock, is often of the worst consequences to herself; and the loss to the child is much greater than in commonly apprehended. A woman in this case, runs the imminent risk of her life from a milk-fever; besides the danger of swellings and imposthumes of the breast, and such obstruction in them as lay a foundation of a future cancer, (7).
Yes, a 205-year old breastfeeding manual on the first page threatens the reader with both the loss of her child and CANCER! But let’s not get too smug today. Maternal Solicitude is almost as subtle as modern pro-breastfeeding propaganda. Continue Reading »
Rebecca Traister, who wrote Big Girls Don’t Cry, the single best book about the 2008 Democratic primary contest, has written about Monica Lewinsky’s essay in Vanity Fair, and has supersmart things to say about our tendency to cherchez les femmes instead of placing the blame for men’s poor behavior where it belongs–on the men. Instead of antagonists, she writes, Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton are doppelgangers:
In the fervid investigation and coverage of it, both women got hammered—as slutty and frigid, overweight and ugly, dumb and monstrous. They each became cartoons of dismissible femininity—the sexually defined naïf and the calculating, sexless aggressor, characters who illustrated the ways that sex—sex that’s had by men as well—always redounds negatively on women. These two women weren’t at odds; they were in it together.
. . . . .
The reason that, no matter what they do, neither woman can ever shake this old story is that it is never-ending; and it is important. It is the story of women in the United States: marginalized, sexualized, and pitted against each other since time began in an attempt to keep them at the fringes of a power structure and very far from the top of it.
Go read the whole thing. (Why isn’t this woman a staff writer at a legacy magazine like The New Republic, The Nation, or The New Yorker? I sure as $hit would rather read her than Adam “let me
sell tell you about my adorably precocious children” Gopnik, or some of the other very predictable writers at those publications.) Continue Reading »
This is a brief coda to the previous post, in which several commenters noted that they support selective special causes on their campuses. I have in fact done this too–for example there’s a “school is cool” program coordinated through Baa Ram U. I’ve supported in the past, which provides local needy schoolchildren with new backpacks loaded with the necessary supplies. I’ve also donated to several memorial funds and fellowships coordinated through other universities, but have been frustrated by the ongoing begging that goes on for years and years, meaning that the University of Whatever Foundation ends up spending at least the amount of my donation on paper and postage.
For example: In 2003, I made a one-time donation to the University of Colorado for a scholarship in honor of the late Jackson Turner Main, an emeritus professor there, and the University of Colorado Foundation still sends me invitations and solicitations. Eleven years later! It leads me to ask: who did I kill to deserve this?
Continue Reading »