Feminism and whig history: why are we always fooled again?


The whig of illusory progress!

Echidne has an interesting post about the history of the moon shot, “Reaching for the Moon,” in which she calls out the erasure of women from history even by purported “feminist” allies.  The specific occasion for her post was an article by Paul Campos, in which he boasted whiggishly, “One measure of how much has changed in the last 40 years is that the very idea of a woman astronaut in the 1960s would have seemed outlandish to most Americans (that the Russians had a female cosmonaut was widely interpreted as a preposterous publicity stunt).”

She responds that on the one hand, women’s participation was fixed within rigid limits, but that they were in fact part of the Apollo project all along:  “the absence of women astronauts in the program has a much more concrete reason: They were excluded from it. Books have been written about that: Margaret A. Weitekamp’s Right Stuff, Wrong Sexand Stephanie Nolen’s Promised The Moon.  And there were women involved with the project itself as described by Robyn C. Friend in The Women of Apollo.”

Echidne then muses, “I’m not sure why women’s history appears to evaporate the way it does.”  Well, here’s a theory:  Continue reading

Friday round-up: police state a-go-go, yee-haw!

cowgirl2Man, oh man!  The arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. last week, and the dismissal of the “disorderly conduct” charges against him this week, are still top news in the U.S.A.  (Really?  I mean, isn’t that whole health care/North Korea/climate change thingy still unresolved?)  No apologies here for reporting and commentary on Skip Gates’s latest run-in with the authorities for being an African American man, since this is a blog that is full of commentary and gossip about higher ed, in addition to “history and sexual politics, 1492 to the present,” as the syllabus suggests.

Anyhoo, I’ve got a full day of exercises–physical and mental–ahead of me, so I’ll just leave you with this roundup of (mostly) intelligent commentary about l’affaire Gates, for your reading pleasure:

  • Check out Philadelphia Negro in “You Can’t Come Home Again.”  Darryl is a certified all-ivy grad who (like every other black man in America) has had his share of hassles by the authorities, on campus and off.  He writes, “we always have to worry if the keys to the kingdom will actually unlock the doors before us.  Because if they do not (and sometimes even if they do), someone else might call the police.”
  • Prof.  Susurro tells her stories about assumptions about who’s a professor, and who’s not.  (I linked to this a few days ago, but think it’s worth highlighting again.)  Every faculty member of color I know has stories like these–every single one.
  • Rob Weir at Inside Higher Ed suggests that we “Relax and Take Five.”  Really?  This article seems to sum up the fake “objective” view that many white people have of Gates’s arrest.  Continue reading

Secret Agent Historians


Yeah, Squadrato baby, yeah!

Squadratomagico has an interesting post about her current research in London at the “Secret Agent Archive“–no specifics, because she doesn’t want to give away her identity in her day job, but she finds the location of the current object of her research exciting.  (And it sounds like an opening scene to an Austin Powers movie.):

I enter Secret Agent Archive through modern steel-and-glass doors that whisk open automatically, then submit to a bag search. I proceed to a room in the back, where I stash my personal belongings in the modern lockers with frosted glass fronts. Here’s where it really starts to get interesting: up two flights of gleaming marble stairs, through another set of modern steel-and-glass doors; then I swipe my magnetized I.D. card through a reader, which buzzes and flashes a green light. That is my go-ahead to pass through the turnstile surrounded by a metal detector.

Now I’m in the restricted sanctum.

Then it’s a turn down a corridor, through a pair of massive wooden doors into a reading room populated by a scattering of folk absorbed in their researches. Now, I ascend more marble steps, then walk back along a brightly-lit catwalk lined with books, heading way, way to the back and through a fire door into a very small, short passageway. Then, penetrating ever deeper into the bowels of this place, I immediately push through yet another completely unmarked, solid wooden door that looks like part of the paneling in this narrow space.  Continue reading

What is good teaching, and how can we know it?

poitiertosirwithlovePrompted by our discussion on Monday about “Teaching and tenure:  what counts (and what’s good?),” and by Dr. Crazy’s point that we ended up not “actually talking about how to evaluate teaching” on that thread.  She asks, “[s]o I’m wondering: taking the student evaluation bull$hit out of the equation, what makes good teaching? How do we determine that?”  To tell the truth, when I posed that question Monday, “what is good teaching?”, it was more a rhetorical question than one for which I have a clear answer.  After all, so many of us teach so many different subjects to so many different kinds of students at so many different kinds of institutions that pedagogies are nearly infinitely variable. 

So just to get our discussion rolling, I propose that good teaching shall be known by these three paramount qualities:  Continue reading

Skip Gates arrested for being indignant in his own home! Historiann left peacefully to her own indignation.


Man–you faculty and grad student types think you had a bad day fighting the forces of evil with trenchent observations about the historiography of the Indians of the Great Basin, and witty bons mots about the Investiture Controversy?  Via The Daily Beast, Eminent Harvard African American Studies Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested last Thursday afternoon when police investigated a report that someone was trying to break into a house on Ware Street in Cambridge, Mass.  The Boston Globe reported tonight:

Police arrived at Gates’s Ware Street home near Harvard Square at 12:44 p.m. to question him. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.

He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. Gates accused the investigating officer of being a racist and told him he had “no idea who he was messing with,” the report said.

 Gates told the officer that he was being targeted because “I’m a black man in America.” [To read a copy of the police report, click here]

Friends of Gates said he was already in his home when police arrived. He showed his driver’s license and Harvard identification card, but was handcuffed and taken into police custody for several hours last Thursday, they said.

Man, oh, man–who wouldn’t be pi$$ed off for getting the third degree in one’s own home, after showing identification?  Yeah, that happened to me all of the time when my white self lived in Somerville and Cambridge…the police were just bustin’ down doors and interrogating white grad students and Harvard faculty every day.  (And what’s with the nosy neighbor who somehow isn’t nosy enough to be capable of recognizing her own neighbors?)  Apparently familiar with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Professor Gates has retained the services of “Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, who has taken on previous cases with racial implications.”  Right on.

If you have a minute to click and read the Boston Globe article:  scroll on down to the comments, where you’ll be instructed by the colorful denizens of the non-peer reviewed world-wide timewasting internets that Continue reading

Teaching and tenure: what counts (and what's good?)

everythingcountsdepechemodeWell, if you teach in a Ph.D.-granting institution, what counts is research, and if you teach in a bachelor’s degree-only institution, it’s teaching.  With apologies to Depeche Mode, notEverything Counts, in Large Amounts.”  This unsurprising result is brought to you by a national survey of Political Science departments, published in the most recent edition of PS:  Political Science and Politics, and reported by Inside Higher Ed.

A national survey of department chairs found that superior research compensates for “mediocre teaching” at 55 percent of Ph.D. granting institutions, compared to 34 percent of master’s institutions and 17 percent of bachelor’s institutions. A contrasting split is evident at bachelor’s institutions — although many of them do not claim that their faculty are committed to research. At 64 percent of bachelor’s institutions, superior teaching would compensate for mediocre research, while that’s the case for 38 percent of master’s institutions and 14 percent of doctoral institutions.

.        .       .         .        .        .       .         .        .        .       .         .       

Departments from different sectors share some approaches to evaluating teaching. Overwhelming majorities across sectors report using teaching evaluations, teaching portfolios, syllabi, and peer review of teaching by other faculty members. But department chairs or deans are much more likely to be involved in peer review of teaching at bachelor’s institutions than doctoral universities. For instance, 69 percent of chairs reported doing peer review of teaching at bachelor’s institutions, compared to 27 percent at doctoral institutions. For peer review by deans or senior administrators, the figures were 31 percent for bachelor’s institutions and 3 percent at doctoral.

This survey appears to be a relatively blunt instrument, because I think the more interesting questions are:  1)  What kind of teaching are we talking about:  survey classes, upper-division elective courses, or master’s or Ph.D.-level seminars?, and 2) in any case, how do we know what is good teaching?  Continue reading

Sunday round-up: Rodeo Days edition

CD18CHEYENNEFRONTIERDAYSWho can resist “The Grandaddy of ‘Em All?” It’s high rodeo season out here on the high plains desert–check out this bareback rider, courtesy of the Denver Post.  There’s a reason you don’t meet too many rodeo cowboys over the age of 21–especially not the bull riders.  (One exception:  calf-roping teams frequently feature “senior citizens,” by which I mean, men in their 30s, 40s, or even 50s, many of whom do a brother act or a father-son act.)  The African American Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo usually rolls through town later in the summer.  Unfortunately, I missed the Colorado Gay Rodeo last weekend in Golden, and (shockingly!) Potterville’s own Stampede because of my recent travels.  Although Cheyenne Frontier Days is supposedly “the Grandaddy of ‘Em All,” the Stampede is bigger, better, and beats ’em every year, fair & square.  (We’ve got much better food at our rodeo–pork chops on sticks, roasted sweet corn brushed with butter, and lotsa barbecue.) 

Now, for some less cheerful news:  I’ve got some updates on the UNC Predator Proffie, Vance Fulkerson, that we’ve been following here at Historiann, all from the Denver Post this morning.  To wit:  Continue reading