“Something broke, and it seemed irreparable.”

Kelly J. Baker has a thoughtful and interesting report on her blog about why she’s decided to take a break from academia for the year, and perhaps forever:

In May, I quit my job and moved to Florida. Both decisions might seem big (they were), but they were remarkably easy. My lecturer gig paid little, the teaching load was heavy, and my department was dysfunctional. Leaving behind students, friends, and colleagues was hard. Watching my daughter mourn the loss of her friends was harder.

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After six years on the job market, I found myself burned out. I’ve had conference interviews and campus visits. I’ve been a second choice for tenure track jobs multiple times. I applied for jobs while teaching three and four classes a semester. And I finished my first book, wrote articles and book reviews, received a contract for a new book, edited a journal, organized panels, and experimented with an ebook. The harder I worked, I thought naively, the more likely I was to get a job. Optimism is hard habit to kick.

During this past spring semester, something broke. My tireless drive to research and write dissipated. The latest round of rejections hit harder than previous rounds, and I was tired. Why make myself get up extra early to write if there was no tenure track job for me? Why spend the time researching when I would rather spend time with my daughter? Why kill myself for a job opportunity that would never materialize? I found that I couldn’t do the work I used to love. My motivation stalled.Something broke, and it seemed irreparable. Continue reading

A CALAMITOUS DAY unto me!

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

Let’s make education more like a business

Yahoo executives at a retreat

How would we do that?  Let’s try to learn from those innovators in places like Redmond and Palo Alto, shall we?

A Major Problem you wish you had, or, Historiann-thologized, again!

This is what’s called a super-slow rollout, folks:  a chapter from my book Abraham in Arms:  War and Gender in Colonial New England (2007) has been excerpted for inclusion in the latest edition of Major Problems in American Women’s History, 5th edition (Cengage Learning, 2013), edited by Sharon Block, Ruth M. Alexander, and Mary Beth Norton.  My book has now been excerpted in the two biggest anthologies of American women’s history, as a portion of my book was included in Women’s America (7th ed., 2010), edited by Linda K. Kerber, Jane Sherron DeHart, and Cornelia Hughes Dayton.  Pretty cool, eh?

As I wrote the first time around: Continue reading

Looking for sexism in the coverage of women candidates for office? Try a mirror.

Editor and Publisher of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel writes that the U.S. needs more women in elective office:

Will shattering the Oval Office’s glass ceiling and electing a madam president be an inspiring achievement for this country? Of course. Do we also need madam mayors, madam senators, madam councilwomen, madam sheriffs, madam governors and madam congresswomen all across the nation? You betcha.

.       .       .       .       .       .

Unfortunately, women running for elected office confront greater barriers than their male counterparts. Their appearance, qualifications — even psychology — are subjected to intense, often crass, scrutiny.

You don’t say!  Have you glanced at the archives of The Nation from 2007-08 lately?  No?  Need a refresher?  Look here.  And here.  And here, where notorious d!ckbag Tom Hayden calls Hillary Clinton a “screech on the blackboard. From First Lady to Lady Macbeth,” and in a very manly rhetorical maneuver, blames his Clinton Derangement Syndrome on his wife’s influence.  (She “is inspired by Barack Obama’s transformational appeal,” he wrote.)  Clinton didn’t run a primary campaign.  No.  Hayden claims that it was a “path of destruction.”

Who was the editor who published that sack of $hit?  Hmm? Continue reading

David McCullough beats the dead like they owe him money.

I don’t know why I find this Onion article so funny and yet feel so awkward laughing at it at the same time (h/t anonymous, who put this link in my comments yesterday.)  Historians and other humanists:  how do you feel about it, and why?

I think it has something to do with shame about exploiting the dead, plus slavery, neither of which is very funny.  (But of course, my opportunities for exploitation are much more limited than McCullough’s.)

This, on the other hand, is just shamelessly funny. Continue reading

Another reason to question the Lords of MOOC Creation

Go read Michael Lind on the inevitable fallibility of our modern political and media elites.  I think there’s something in there that speaks to the pump-and-dump cycle we’re seeing now with MOOCs:

The politicians and pundits who get the most attention — at least for a while — are those who treat a genuine but limited and reversible trend as evidence of imminent utopia or approaching apocalypse. Such hype is then magnified by an infotainment industry that promotes drama and penalizes nuance.

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When it comes to the hype market, you will seldom err by betting against it. When everybody who is anybody in politics and the press agrees on something, it’s time to raise some doubts.  Continue reading