National day of recognition of the majority of faculty

majorityfacultyHappy(?) New Faculty Majority Day!  (Why not May Day–you know, the red one and not the fake Elizabethan one with Morris Dancers and Maypoles?)  Anyhoo–Marc Bosquet offers up a reminder of what the use of adjunct faculty is all about:

The logic of the HMO increasingly rules higher education. Management closely rations professor time. Thirty-five years ago, nearly 75% of all college teachers were tenurable. Only a quarter worked on an adjunct, part-time or nontenurable basis.

Today, those proportions are reversed.

If you’re enrolled in four college classes right now, you have a pretty good chance that one of the four will be taught by someone who has earned a doctorate, and whose teaching, scholarship and service to the profession has undergone the intensive peer scrutiny associated with the tenure system.

In your other three classes, you are likely to be taught by someone who has started a degree but not finished it, was hired by a manager not professional peers, may never publish in the field he is teaching, or who got into the pool of persons being considered for the job because they were willing to work for wages around the official poverty line.  Continue reading

Mary, please shut up!

he-manLarry Kramer is on the warpath–this time against queer theory and gender studies.  (Yeah, they’re not your friends at all, Larry, whereas history departments everywere are falling all over themselves to hire queer historians.  Not!)  Give me a break:

“[T]he plague of AIDS was allowed to happen because much of the world hates us and most of the world knows nothing about us. … I needed no queer theories, no gender studies, to figure all this out,” Kramer said. “Why can’t we accept that homosexuality has been pretty much the same since the beginning of human history, whether it was called homosexuality, sodomy, buggery, hushmarkedry, or hundreds of other things, or had no name at all? What we do now they pretty much did then. Period. Men have always had cocks and men have pretty much always known what to do with them. It is just stupidity and elite presumption of the highest and most preposterous order to theorize, in these regards, that then was different from now.”

It’s all so simple!  Why haven’t we seen this before?  Gay history is just about men who knew what to do with their penises, and our task as historians is just to find out the who, what, where, and when (presumably, the “why” is self-evident in LarryLand), and write it all down in  The Big Book of Transhistorical GaynessContinue reading

Shooting fish in a barrel

cowgirlgunsign1UPDATED BELOW

Just as the middle class is always rising, the masses are always revolting, and the evil claws of the patriarchy will get you too, my pretties, so we have another column by a tenured professor at an elite institution who argues that we must “End the University as We Know It” (h/t to Hotshot Harry who sent the link on to me.  Congrats on the new job, Harry!)  Stanley Fish has the week off, so they found another member of the guild to beat up on professors.  Riddle me this, friends:  which members of other professions write columns in the New York Times about how their jobs are misconceived and/or useless?  Do physicians write columns about how pointless their work is?  Do the clergy opine about their irrelevance in our times?  This time, it’s Professor Mark C. Taylor’s turn to argue that the “mass-production university model has led to separation where there ought to be collaboration and to ever-increasing specialization.” 

((Yawn.))  I’m all for reforming “the university” (as if such a standardized, uniform creature exists.)  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  “as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less.”  Taylor makes some good points about the exploitation of graduate and adjunct labor, but instead of demanding that universities invest in their faculty and create more full-time positions, he says that universities should “impose mandatory retirement and abolish tenure.”  That’s right–the problem isn’t that the people who have all of the money and decision-making power at universities have decided to cheap out when it comes to faculty development and their instructional budgets–the problem is all of those old farts who won’t get out of the way! 

Taylor sure sounds like a department chair bucking for dean:  most of his suggestions will cost universities almost nothing because they depend mostly on–wait for it!–volunteer faculty laborContinue reading

Mary Wollstonecraft at 250: Are the Doors of Perception Still Open?

Today’s offering is a guest post by Wayne Bodle, who teaches in the History Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in honor of Mary Wollstonecraft’s 250th birthday.  He is the author of The Valley Forge Winter:  Civilians and Soldiers in War (2002), and numerous articles on early American history.  Professor Bodle notes the general neglect of Wollstonecraft’s landmark birthday compared to other celebrated birthdays this year, and shares with us some of his original research and thinking about family relationships in history.  His research has led him to ask why family historians have been so focused on parent-child relations to the exclusion of sibling relationships, which frequently were of much greater endurance than parent-child relationships.  This is an especially pertinent question when looking back more than 200 years, because death in childbirth and high infant mortality rates meant that many parent-child relationships were tragically fleeting.  He thinks we should consider siblings in family history at least as much as parents.
Woodcut by William Blake for Wollstonecraft’s “Original Stories from Real Life,” 2nd ed., 1791

Mary Wollstonecraft was born on this date in 1759 in London, the second of seven children and a daughter of the heir to a modest manufacturing fortune who squandered it in a vain search for leisured gentility.  Her childhood was marked by repeated residential moves, downward social and economic mobility, her father’s occasionally abusive treatment of her mother, and parental investment in the education of only her oldest brother, Edward (Ned).

Wollstonecraft’s 250th  anniversary has been far less noted this year than the bicentennials of the births of Abraham Lincoln or Charles Darwin.  The Unitarian Church at Newington Green, in London, where she met British political and social reformers, held a symposium last Friday on “Mary Wollstonecraft and Newington Green Radicalism.”  The University of Exeter sponsored a workshop the same day on “Wollstonecraft is 250: Lives, Works, Influences, Legacies.”  The University of Oslo, in Norway (where Wollstonecraft traveled in 1795 to pursue the business interests of her lover, Gilbert Imlay), is today observing “Mary Wollstonecraft, 250 years.”  The Council for Parity Democracy in London buries her deeply in a list of “Anniversaries of Distinguished Women: 2009.”  The Center for Eighteenth Century Studies at Queen’s University Belfast has just sponsored “1759: An Interdisciplinary Conference” to assess “a year that should be as well known in British history as 1066.”  Its call for papers last summer noted the death of General Wolfe, the publication of Voltaire’s Candide, the suppression of the Encyclopedie, the death of Handel, and even “the founding in Dublin of the St. James’ Brewery, by Arthur Guinness.”  Wollstonecraft languishes in a long list of suggested “possible topics.”  No American institutions have taken even that much notice.  Governments have issued no stamps or coins and no flurry of special publications or conferences looms on the horizon.  

Wollstonecraft is difficult to teach in a general education environment.  Her signal production, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman(1792), is a dense text to modern undergraduate eyes.  I used it in a university-required course for underclassmen, who call all books “novels” and 90- page Bedford Readers “long.”  They unsurprisingly hated it, but when asked to write fictive dialogues between Mary and Benjamin Franklin, they turned in fairly spirited performances. Most of the young women cast Mary as modern and assertive, while their male classmates imagined “Bens” who were more contrite than defensive.  This partially convinced me that the rumored generational campus gender “backlash” might be more illusory than real.  But it would be helpful if a wider range of Wollstonecraft’s short works, of fiction, children’s literature, didactic theory, political criticism, and book reviews, was more available for classroom use. 

I am not a Wollstonecraft scholar, but rather a historian of sibling relations who came to her in that context.   Continue reading

Sunday morning roundup: Good lord.

cowgirlropeCool and cloudy here–I’ve got some arguments and citations to wrangle, geld, and brand today, so here are a few items to mull over while I’m out writing on the range:

  • To paraphrase something Roxie said the other day, you know it’s a weird news week when you see a headline about a husband who guns down his wife in broad daylight and you’re relieved that he didn’t assassinate his children, too.  (H/t to Ann Bartow and reader Indyanna, who both alerted me to this last night.)  This one’s of special interest, folks–the suspect is a Marketing professor at the University of Georgia.
  • Actress Bea Arthur, dead at 86.  I was a child of the 1970s, but was far too young to have seen Maude in its original run.  I remember the reruns of Maude when they came on sometime after the ABC After-School Special and before the M*A*S*H reruns, and I remember thinking that I had never seen a woman like that on TV before.  Most TV women were model mothers in the mold of Carol Brady or the daffy mom in Please Don’t Eat the Daisies–when adult women appeared at all, that is.  Continue reading

Letters to the Editor of Dartmouth Alumni Magazine


Baker Library, Dartmouth College

Comedy gold, from the May/June 2009 issue of Dartmouth Alumni Magazine (what can I say?  I get a lot of magazines.)  Sorry–no linkie:

A Taxing Situation

I am disappointed by the lack of outrage at the nomination and subsequent confirmation of Timothy Geithner ’83 as the country’s new Secretary of the Treasury [“Big Picture,” Mar/Apr].  Continue reading

"Mom, all I wanted was a Pepsi!"

From Margaret Talbot’s “Brain Gain” in this week’s New Yorker, on the rise of off-label ADD and ADHD drug use by college students (and others):

Alex thought that generally the drug helped him to bear down on his work, but it also tended to produce writing with a characteristic flaw. “Often, I’ve looked back at papers I’ve written on Adderall, and they’re verbose. They’re belaboring a point, trying to create this airtight argument, when if you just got to your point in a more direct manner it would be stronger. But with Adderall I’d produce two pages on something that could be said in a couple of sentences.” Nevertheless, his Adderall-assisted papers usually earned him at least a B. They got the job done. As Alex put it, “Productivity is a good thing.”

Does this “characteristic flaw” look familiar to you teachers out there who grade student essays?  Maybe the drugs only make you thinkyou’re more focused than you actually are?  (Or, as the article argues, they produce smaller improvements the higher up you are on the intelligence scale in the first place.)  Talbot reports that “white male undergraduates at highly competitive schools—especially in the Northeast—are the most frequent collegiate users of neuroenhancers.” Continue reading