Who’s knows what you want, what you really really want? I do, and what you want is a round-up, of course. It’s been too long. Take a gander, friends:
- MOOC meltdown! (Quelle suprise!) It’s almost as if I know what I’m talking about! From Inside Higher Ed: “A professor’s plan to let students in his Coursera massive open online course moderate themselves went awry over the holidays as the conversation, in his words, “very quickly disintegrated into a snakepit of personal venom, religious bigotry and thinly disguised calls for violence.” But some students have accused him of abusive and tyrannical behavior in his attempts to restore civility.” Cue Nelson Muntz. I suppose there’s something to be learned from internet hatefests, but I don’t think it should be for college credit.
- Speaking of college credit: check out this experiment in using Twitter to engage students in survey classes run by my colleague Robert Jordan. He writes, “The students, primarily freshman, have formed groups of 10-15 individuals tasked with the goal of a producing and publishing a work of digital public history via Twitter over the course of the semester. . . . [S]tudents quickly learn to discern an academic from a non-academic source; work collectively to determine the best narrative structure for the publication of their particular topic; develop an awareness of the opportunities and challenges inherent to communicating information through digital media; utilize digital and physical library resources; construct Chicago Manual of Style-formatted bibliographies for their sources; and become “knowledgeable users” of several digital technologies.” I’d say that’s pretty darn good for students in a 100-level survey course. You can find Robert on Twitter at @rjordan_csu–this semester he’s offering a new undergraduate course in digital history that will in part be co-taught by my colleague, Sarah Payne, who’s teaching a digital history methods course at the graduate level.
- As my late high school French teacher used to say, run, don’t walk over to Vanity Fair to read Joshua Prager’s portrait of Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” behind the key Supreme Court decision on abortion 41 years ago in Roe v. Wade. I’ve heard the moral of this story before–about McCorvey’s ideological flip-flop from pro-choice to anti-abortion, and the argument that McCorvey isn’t so much a political activist as an opportunist. That’s probably not new to most of you either–and really, I don’t blame McCorvey for attempting to profit from her own exploitation, considering that she doesn’t have a lot else going for her. No, I was more interested in the huge historical score that Prager made when he went to visit McCorvey’s former partner of 35 years Connie Gonzalez: “[she] said that McCorvey had not visited her in years. But traces of McCorvey remained everywhere in the ranch house. The ashes of her father, in a blue-glass urn, sat beside figurines of Jesus and J.F.K. A black-and-white photograph of McCorvey—a girl of seven in cat’s-eye glasses crouched beside a German shepherd on a dirt road—stood in a frame. In the garage, rat-chewed boxes held McCorvey’s bills and prescriptions, photos and letters, clippings and speeches. McCorvey and Gonzalez had wrangled over money after their split, and a bank was about to foreclose on the property. The files in the garage were set to be thrown out. Gonzalez and her family gave them to me instead.” This is every historian’s fantasy, of course: to be not just permitted, but invited, even begged to have exclusive access to documents, objects, and files previously viewed by no one outside the family. This will never, ever happen to me–but a girl can dream, can’t she?
- Matthew Pratt Gutterl has a new website with an affiliated blog on which he writes about contemporary intellectual and professional issues in American Studies and in the history and politics of race more generally. Check out some of his latest “musings” on The End of the Thinking Public (about the incipient de-booking of the NYPL), Debt (on student loans), and Candor, in which he writes about his professional journey (so far). Yes, he is privileged as a full professor at Brown, but he explains the price he has paid for this privilege: “The personal backdrop to my professional arc wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. For most of it, I was living apart from my wife – three planes away, in fact. My father was dying, and his ultimate passage and my consuming grief made me question whether I was right for this job. . . .Other realities: I have pulled more (work-related) all-nighters since I turned 40 than I ever did before – and I’m only 43. (Six and counting, if you are curious). I started taking medication for high blood pressure in year two of graduate school, and have blown through more medical regimes than is healthy. Sometimes, I eat out; sometimes, I just eat scoops of peanut butter and cheese sticks. I drink coffee far more than I drink water. The academic life is a sort of half-life.”
- And so far, my email communications and network access on campus appear to be uninterrupted. However, I assume that I’m being monitored, so email me a vos risques!