Spring: the season for dumba$$ ideas? (Or are they like little black dresses and never out of fashion?)

What is it about the opening tulips, the flowering crabapple trees, and the blossoming lilacs that makes university administrators spring their half-cooked “brilliant” and “revenue-neutral” (i.e. Excellence Without Money) schemes on the faculty and students?  Is it that they know we’re buried in end-of-term papers and exams that must be written and graded, and the last thing we need in our lives is more long meetings?  Last year as you may recall, Baa Ram U. asked us to consider the scheme of “concurrent enrollment,” in which high school history teachers would be permitted to teach courses for which we in the History department would give Baa Ram U. credit.  (The uni collects the cash, and we just provide the free credentialing service.)

This year, apparently one administrator has decided that we need to be more like prestigious, well-funded Ivies and elite SLACs.  Of course, it would cost millions if not billions of dollars to accomplish this honestly, but that’s not on the table.  Continue reading

In which we see once again that academia still functions as though it's 1956 (only with fewer tenure lines)

life inside the bubble

I have a friend who lives in a little college town who says, “It’s like someone put a bubble up around this town in 1956.”  Sometimes I think this is true of all of academia.  Dr. Crazy had an interesting post the other day about the essential conservativism of college professors:

You’d think conservatives would actually love a person like me.  I mean, instead of getting out there and organizing and protesting and sticking it to The Man, I spend my time reading books, harping on students about the quality of their prose, and spending endless hours in meetings and doing paperwork.

Her point was more about the essentially conservative nature of our work–great books, big ideas, the mechanics of reading and writing well–moreso than the conservative politics of most university faculty, but in “Sexism in the Academy,” Speaker’s Corner ATX reports a recent experience that suggests that there may be considerable overlap with respect to women’s imagined roles and ambitions:

Today when I told my male, child-free advisor that I am no longer married to the idea of being an academic when this is all done, he said IMMEDIATELY,

Why? You wanna have more babies?

Sigh. Even people who I respect so much and who have been very good overall in respecting my decision to have a child while in graduate school still react like this to my choices in my personal life. On top of that, he seemed surprised when I said “no”.

I can’t imagine that when a man decides that perhaps the Academy is not a good enough life for him or is not the ONLY possible future that he sees for himself or his family, he is met with such a reaction.

And just so no one accuses me of picking on my male professor – I once had a female professor who I love and adore call my son a “hurdle”. Ouch. And *shrug*. So it goes.

In fairness, it’s possible this advisor wanted to initiate a conversation in which he would urge her to stay in academia and have more children–but somehow, I think SCATX read this conversation right.  Continue reading

Sarah Weddington to be fired from adjunct position at U. Texas

Here’s your depressing women’s history news of the week–a Famous First pioneer is about to lose her job.  Hey, Longhornswhat gives?  (Via Echidne). 

In 1967, 26-year-old attorney Sarah Weddington joined forces with the Women’s Liberation Movement and took on one of the most perpetually controversial Supreme Court cases in American history — Roe v. Wade.

She was the first woman to represent Austin in the Texas Legislature and the first woman to hold the title of General Counsel to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She served in the White House as an adviser to President Jimmy Carter before coming to UT to teach in 1988.

After 23 years at the University and more than a dozen state and national leadership awards, UT officials told Weddington, an adjunct professor in the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, that she would no longer have a job at the end of the spring semester.

I thought this part was especially telling:

Weddington said she was aware of the looming budget crisis but was surprised to hear her position was in jeopardy.

“I always thought that tenure for me was not that important because I thought as long as you were really good at what you do and did a lot to work with your students, you’d be OK,” she said. “Now I know I was wrong.” Continue reading

History: practical, sensible, and likely to be in the curriculum in another 50 years

Hey, all of you history professors, grad students, and majors, The Daily Beast has some good news:  History is nowhere to be found among their rating and ranking of the “20 most useless degrees!” 

In fact, what struck me as I clicked through their gallery of majors is that there are only two “traditional” liberal arts or natural science majors in the top ten (music and chemistry?)–the rest fall into the category of majors associated with specific trades, like Journalism (they’re number one!), Horticulture (2), Agriculture (3), Advertising (4), Fashion design (5), Child/Family Studies (6), Mechanical Engineering technology (8), and Nutrition (10).  The liberal arts come up more frequently after the top 10:  Theater (12), Art History (13), Photography (14), Literature (15), Art (16), Fine Arts (17), Psychology (18), and English (19).

Who ever would have thought that Art History was a more practical choice of majors than “Mechanical Engineering Technology?”  (And didn’t that used to be called just mechanical engineering, or is that another major altogether?)  To be sure, there are serious limitations to the methodology, which (this being the United States of Kiss My A$$) is all about the Benjamins:

To find the most useless degrees college students can get with their four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars, we wanted to know which majors offer not only the fewest job opportunities, but those that tend to pay the least. The Daily Beast considered the following data points, weighted equally, with each degree’s numbers compared to the average for each category, to achieve a categorical comparison that accounts for differentiation from the mean. Data are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale: Continue reading

Larry Flynt, time hater

Time Haters

Via Salon, we learn that Larry Flynt and Columbia University political historian David Eisenbach have written a book together, One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History.  It looks for the most part like the kind of book you’d expect Larry Flynt and a political historian to write–it’s built at least 80% around secondary sources and it offers almost no acknowlegement or citation of the pioneering historians who made this kind of book possible (the feminists and the gays, of course). 

Instead, the footnotes I’ve been able to vet (via the book’s page at Amazon) offer just the usual parade of biographies of (in the words of my kiddie encyclopedia collection) “great men and famous deeds.”  Kudos for citing Catherine Allgor’s A Perfect Union, her new bio of Dolley Madison, and Clarence Walker’s Mongrel Nation, though–otherwise in the notes for the first chapter, it’s all founding fathers, founding brothers, the dogs and barn cats of the founding fathers, etc.  Shocking, I know.

It’s funny (and by funny, I guess I mean LOLSOB) how some analyses (like those offered by the feminists and queers) go from being dangerous, unsourced, risky, out-on-a-limb evidence problems, to being conventional wisdom in about 30 seconds these days.  Too bad for you, historians of sexuality–it looks like you risked your careers, your fortunes, and your sacred honor only to get buried in a footnote in a book by Joseph Ellis or Robert Remini, because those are the only books any authors of popular histories will ever read or cite.  Continue reading

Good Friday, good grief, and good eats: Feasts of the Dead

I’m in Philadelphia for some Easter weekend fun, but I thought it was too much of a coincidence with all of you Christians eager to eat the flesh and drink the blood of your Lord Jesus Christ to let pass the recent publication of Erik Seeman’s The Huron-Wendat Feast of the Dead (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011).  From the book jacket:

“Two thousand Wendat (Huron) Indians stood on the edge of an enormous burial pit… they held in their arms the bones of roughly seven hundred deceased friends and family members. The Wendats had lovingly scraped and cleaned the bones of the corpses that had decomposed on the scaffolds. They awaited only the signal from the master of the ritual to place the bones in the pit. This was the great Feast of the Dead.”

Witnesses to these Wendat burial rituals were European colonists, French Jesuit missionaries in particular. Rather than being horrified by these unfamiliar native practices, Europeans recognized the parallels between them and their own understanding of death and human remains. Both groups believed that deceased souls traveled to the afterlife; both believed that elaborate mortuary rituals ensured the safe transit of the soul to the supernatural realm; and both believed in the power of human bones. Continue reading

Education: too valuable to waste on non-voting unproductive non-taxpayers

Once again, something that would be a funny Onion parody, except that it’s on the level (h/t Tom at Romantoes.) And the “funny” thing here in Colorado is that it’s the Democratic Governor who has proposed slashing the K-12 budget! (Then again, he’s taking a much smaller whack out of the higher education budget, which has been the unencumbered piggybank the state’s been raiding for the past three years. That’s what counts as “good news” these days, I guess.)