My sabbatical is over! I went back to the classroom today, and was immediately attacked by Ellen Jamesian undergraduates for assigning a book about rape without posting a trigger warning on my syllabus. They also constantly accused me and one another repeatedly of racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist microaggressions, and we were only talking about the syllabus today!
Just kidding. The students in HIST 369: History of Sexuality in America seemed fine, even enthusiastic. All of those who stayed after class to talk to me and my fellow instructor introduced themselves politely, shook our hands, and thanked us for answering their questions.
Can everyone who wants to scream and wail and rend their garments over so-called “political correctness” please get a grip on reality? Based on what I’ve seen back here at Baa Ram U., the kids are alright, the professors seem chipper, and the only people who seem to have a problem with what’s going on here are people who don’t work on a college campus. Today’s case in point, Emily Yoffe, a.k.a. “Dear Prudence” at Slate. Now I ordinarily enjoy her agony column, although I disagree with her sometimes. But when I read this yesterday I just about plotzed: Continue reading
This is a stupid story, but there’s an interesting nugget buried in the explanation for how and why a Young Adult author was chased off the internets for standing up for reality-based high school sex education and biology classes:
The Gilbert [Arizona] School Board—under the leadership of three Tea Partiers who consider Common Core to be a “pile of dog poo,” and with the encouragement of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the same organization that engineered the notorious anti-gay discrimination law in Indiana—had spent a great deal of time debating a section in the biology textbook that contains extremely “controversial” material about contraception preventing unwanted pregnancies. According to a local news report, some board members wanted to black out the lines that mention various birth-control methods, vasectomies, and—wait for it—drugs that can induce abortion; others wanted to rip out the whole offending page. Instead, the school board compromised on the instructive sticker.
View from my hotel room, Quebec City, July 4, 2015.
Yesterday’s post on the latest panic over the fictitious “epidemic” of “p.c.” on American college and university campuses got me thinking about something else I’ve been meaning to write about here on the subject of public engagement. Our students are the public we engage most frequently, so the two subjects are interrelated. Those of us who are open to and generous with our students will probably have an easier time thinking about the role that public engagement plays in our work life. Public engagement is now a component of how faculty are evaluated every year, so it’s a good thing for all of us to think about now that we’ve rounded third base of summer and are headed for home and a new semester.
I’ve alluded to this before, but because the air date approaches soon, I can tell you that I was invited to collaborate and participate on-camera in an episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” which will air on TLC at 9 EDT/8 Central on Sunday, August 30. I would encourage any historian contacted by the show’s researchers to communicate with them and share your knowledge, because unlike some other shows and cable channels that traffic in historical content–cough**TheHistoryChannel**coughcough–“WhoDo” researchers and producers take pride in learning from their collaborators and encourage us to play a role in developing the most interesting stories that a celebrity subject might want to learn about. Continue reading
At Salon, Swarthmore College alum Arthur Chu writes a brilliantly funny and angry screed about those silly “p.c. culture” articles published as clickbait by The Atlantic last week, and says exactly what I’ve been thinking and meaning to write all week long–just go read and think about it. His thesis is pretty clearly announced in the headline “So college ‘p.c. culture’ stifles comedy? Ever hear a comedian sh*t on the American Dream at a Wal-Mart shareholders meeting?” In short, Chu exposes once again that the term “politically correct” is a meaningless bludgeon only used against some forms of speech and protest, and not against others.
Chu says it all much better than I can, but I’d just like to add two things: although I’ve been guilty of it on this blog on occasion, and only in the distant past I think, the recent jeremiads about “kids these days” published in The Atlantic just make the authors appear sclerotic and judgy, as the young people say. Please protest if I ever write something as carelessly and thoughtlessly dismissive as those silly articles! (Pro tip to those worried about “p.c.” today on college campuses: the best cure for bad, silly, or uninformed speech is more speech, not a huffy demand that an entire generation of students S.T.F.U.)
Finally, I’d just like to add that although I think that I can teach college students a thing or two that might come in handy some day, I also think that older people should pay attention and see what we can learn from our students too. They are the generation that made sodomy laws and constitutional amendments preventing same-sex marriage fall so quickly. It wasn’t my Generation X, which has mostly been just about us instead of serving others or working towards political action. Even on a politically complacent, historically white campus like Baa Ram U. during the 2004 election, in which gay marriage bans were on several state ballots, I had majorities of students ask me in honest disbelief why anyone would be against same-sex marriage or harbor prejudice against gay and lesbian people. Continue reading
There’s a nice explanation at Inside Higher Ed today about the #ILookLikeAProfessor meme that took off last week on Twitter. Masterminded by my Tweet peeps Sarah Pritchard, Adeline Koh, and Michelle Moravec, the movement attempts to address the age-old problem that we professors who aren’t bearded white men face at work:
Frustrated by the microaggressions we experience as “nontraditional” faculty, we started a new hashtag:#ILookLikeAProfessor. The flurry of photos, retweets and horror stories since last Thursday suggests that we are not alone in experiencing entrenched stereotypes and bias — both subtle and explicit.
- The female professor mistaken for an undergraduate. She was grading homework, not doing it.
- Male teaching assistants assumed to be the professor.
- Faculty members of color assumed to be the custodian.
- Asian professors assumed to be Chinese food delivery drivers.
We are not making this up.
Perhaps like many of you, I was appalled but sadly not shocked by the senseless murder of Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati “police officer” Ray Tensing. The only thing that surprised me is 1) what violent people are willing to do even when they know the cameras are rolling, and 2) that Tensing was indicted yesterday on murder and manslaughter chargers. Also 3) why the f^(k are campus “police” issued service revolvers? This is clearly a risk to public safety on and near our campuses.
Higher education needs to look to itself to address the militarization of campus “police forces.” It’s not just the state troopers and municipal police, but the so-called campus “police” who patrol our workplaces and our students’ educational and recreational spaces. DuBose’s death has moved me to share my encounters with campus “police” over the past twenty years of my life as a faculty member. Yes, me! Goody-two-shoes white faculty lady! Continue reading
Mary with Laura holding Susan. Illustration by Garth Williams, Little House in the Big Woods, 1932
Today’s post is an unanticipated part III in my series Crossing Over, on writing and publishing an academic book that aims to be a “crossover” title with a popular audience. Part I can be found here, “What is my book about?”, and Part II here, “Will I ever publish this book?” Many thanks to those of you in the comments on those posts who encouraged me to write a Part III. I hope to hear from the rest of you as to the writers and titles you see as your historical and literary models.
One of the challenges in writing The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright (Yale University Press, forthcoming 2016) was the fact that her life is very eventful early in childhood and adolescence, and then again in old age–a reversal of most biographies, which tend to focus on the adult years of a subject’s life, and offer only scant attention to their youths and their decline in old age. But while her childhood was very eventful–taken captive at age 7, brought to New France at age 12, and announced her intention to become a nun at age 14–most of it before she enters the Ursuline convent as a student at age 12 is only very lightly documented.
How does one write the history of an eighteenth-century childhood, especially one almost entirely undocumented? Although I was powerfully influenced by the historians I’ve been reading all my professional life, especially those who have focused on telling the story of a single life, I saw this as more of a literary problem than a historical one. That is, I knew what I could do as a historian–I just didn’t know how I could bring it all together. Or, as I wrote in part I of the Crossing Over series a few weeks ago: Continue reading