Saturday round-up: Sunshine, Unicorns, and Tumbleweeds edition

These boots were made for kicking some a$$!

Hiya, folks!  Hecksapoppin here–it’s warm and clear here on the High Plains Desert, so I have to pitch hay while the sun shines.  Here are some ideas to keep you occupied while I’m out.

  • Isis the Scientist writes about the “Mythical Sunshine and Unicorns of University-Based Child Care.”  We see those little chain gangs of toddlers and preschoolers on campus–they must be somebody’s kids.  Why not yours? 
  • The Mohegans have elected Lynn Malerba, a woman Sachem, for the first time since the eighteenth century.  In my book, I argued that the Algonquian Indians had no tradition of female political leadership, and that the so-called “squaw Sachems” of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were evidence of the stresses of colonialism on Indian peoples.  (And of course, having women leaders became further evidence in English minds that Indian peoples didn’t deserve political sovereignty.  Never mind Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Anne, of course.)
  • It’s only March 6, but I think we already have our Mansplainer of the MonthOf course, it makes perfect sense that one 40 year-old 14-page article probably would have changed my intellectual life.  How tragic for me that I missed this Rosetta Stone!  All is lost!  I’ve submitted my resignation letter to my department Chair already, and will go dark here at as of midnight Sunday.
  • A former No Child Left Behind advocate changes her mind and decides that testing kids to death isn’t teh awesomeDiane Ravitch writes,

As I listened to the day’s discussion, it became clear that NCLB’s remedies were not working. Students were offered the choice to go to another school, and they weren’t accepting the offer. They were offered free tutoring, and 80 percent or more turned it down. Enough students signed up to generate large revenues for tutoring companies, but the quality of their services was seldom monitored. I recalled a scandal in New York City when investigators discovered that a tutoring company, created specifically to take advantage of NCLB largesse, was recruiting students by giving money to their principals and gifts to the children; several of the firm’s employees had criminal records.

Adult interests were well served by NCLB. The law generated huge revenues for tutoring and testing services, which became a sizable industry. Companies that offered tutoring, tests, and test prep materials were raking in billions of dollars annually from federal, state, and local governments, but the advantages to the nation’s students were not obvious.

.        .         .          .         .        .         .          .        

What I learned that day fundamentally changed my view of No Child Left Behind. When I realized that the remedies were not working, I started to doubt the entire approach to school reform that NCLB represented. I realized that incentives and sanctions were not the right levers to improve education; incentives and sanctions may be right for business organizations, where the bottom line — profit — is the highest priority, but they are not right for schools. I started to see the danger of the culture of testing that was spreading through every school, community, town, city, and state. I began to question ideas that I once embraced, such as choice and accountability, that were central to NCLB. As time went by, my doubts multiplied. I came to realize that the sanctions embedded in NCLB were, in fact, not only ineffective but certain to contribute to the privatization of large chunks of public education. I wonder whether the members of Congress intended this outcome. I doubt that they did.

Who ever would have predicted this, my friends?  I know, I know:  just as history is far too important to be left to the historians, so education is too vital to be left in the hands of well-trained teachers with small classes.  Why do that, when instead we can create a federal boondoggle to enrich grant- and contract-seeking educrats and edupreneurs with no classroom experience whatsoever, and at the same time punish the teachers and principals with their damned unions by labeling their schools failures?  (It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!)

Have a great day, friends.  (And, I was just kidding about the resignation letter and going dark here–never fear, I’ll be back.)  Now, let’s drift along with the tumbling tumbleweeds with the Sons of the Pioneers:

32 thoughts on “Saturday round-up: Sunshine, Unicorns, and Tumbleweeds edition

  1. Dang’nation, I missed that one too, Historiann. I think I was stressing over late grad apps and early acceptances, though, plus living the faux bohemian life of a one-term pseudo-art major. What was keeping you busy in your neck of the woods? This is a heaping-helping of postables for one day. I think I’ll take some in my backpack out to the li’berry. I’m stressing again just thinking about what else might be getting by me.

    That “chain gang” metaphor just about says it, too.


  2. I hate NCLB tests.

    Working in a urban public school with minority, poverty-level students shows quite clearly that testing doesn’t work for them — yet we have to spend all our time teaching to the standards that will be on the tests, and trying to drill relatively useless facts into their heads. (Seriously. Last week I was teaching them about sling psychrometers. Not even meteorologists use those tools anymore, although psychrometry is an important science and very useful for HVAC engineers… but why are these 12-year-olds supposed to be interested?)

    The worst part is that they have absolutely zero motivation to put in serious effort. I guarantee that they have a better grasp of the material than their scores reflect. In the last quarter test, the highest score was seventy-something, and the average was slightly more than fifty. These kids don’t remember everything, but they’re certainly not that bad at retaining information. It turns out that a lot of them just get bored and don’t even go finish the test, even if given two hours. I’m supposed to be working on enriching their science education and providing inquiry-based approaches to information, but instead I end up spending a lot of emotional energy agonizing over their poor test-taking skills which artificially deflate their scores. (The dilemma must be worse for teachers who are actually rated by their students’ performance, a metric I thankfully don’t deal with based on my position. The standardized test scores are not fair to students, not fair to teachers, and not fair to the school.)

    It’s a shame I am worked to death and don’t have time to write my thoughts on this more thoroughly 🙂 It’s more of a shame that my students aren’t getting the attention and education they could use. On the plus side, though, at least I help them have some fun with science a couple days a week…


  3. Erica–wow. It’s good to hear from you on the front lines, if disheartening. Your students are lucky to have you.

    Indyanna: what was keeping me busy in 1970? Well, probably raisins and sandboxes, since I was probably 18 months old when that article was published. (This is not to say that it’s always a waste of time to read old history books and articles, BTW. This is to say that lecturing someone on their own discipline takes better chops than a reference to a 40-year old 14-page article.)


  4. Wow, your mansplainers are so much more condescending than mine (although his follow-up comment might have won a prize if I hadn’t deleted it). I suppose I have to thank the patriarchy that my male privilege means I only have to deal with it occasionally rather than all the time.

    I can’t even begin to imagine how much better your book could have been if only you’d paid more attention to 1970s reductionism (just a prejudiced guess, but that’s what the semiotics of the title say to me). 😉 But seriously, I’ve found A in A immensely useful as it’s allowed me to make lots of interesting connections in my English Civil War work. The English treated the Welsh in some similar ways to Indians. Mark Stoyle found lots of racist pamphlets saying that Welshmen were poor and lived in hovels, but he didn’t make the connection with masculinity. I’ve found Stephen Marshall doing the shaming men by telling them women are better at fighting thing in 1642. Right now I’m trying to write a sample chapter for a book proposal ostensibly about horses, but it’s grown to ridiculous length because I need to do so much ground work about the intersections between race, gender and religion, and there isn’t that much secondary material that I can cite for 1640s England to prove the points I want to prove. A few years ago I heard Andy Wood giving a keynote speech at an early-modern English social history conference. He said the two key things we need to pay more attention to in future are gender and America. He certainly wasn’t exaggerating.


  5. I caught that comment too and got a good laugh about it. It made me wonder if part of the dynamic of mansplanation (sp?) is the “a little knowledge can be dangerous” phenomenon. I am quite sure the article sheds some light on the issue–but it’s neither a starting point nor an ending point, right? I could easily name check any number of denser, more comprehensive books on slavery, economics, and ideology relevant to the topic, like Peter Kolchin’s book comparing American slavery and Russian serfdom or David Eltis’s book on the transatlantic slave trade, wherein an economic historian argues that ideology, not economics, determined who was enslaved and how.

    I say this not to brag or show off (hey! I know these books!) but to point out that answering big questions requires, you know, slogging through any number of big, important books in the field, not just pulling out one article that may or may not have stood the test of time. Pulling a 40 year old article out of JSTOR or some such might show that you know how to start to answer a big question–but only someone with a supreme (and probably misplaced) sense of self-confidence thinks that they’ve answered said question thoroughly enough to lecture others about it.

    Query: is mansplanation a gendered example of anti-impostor syndrome?

    (I have a prime manplainer story about a colleague that is almost *exactly* like Historiann’s commenter but telling it would be too indiscreet. Ah, how I wish I had a more anonymous commenter name.)


  6. On NCLB: the small elementary school in my parents’ home town has to hire aides for 50% of the students because they are “behind” the standards for reading and writing. This is a school of perhaps 60 students in a very wealthy area; these students have college-educated parents, secure home environments, and tend to eat nutritious organic foods. If these kids — who are starting out life ahead of the game, and have the advantage of very small classes — can’t do well on the tests, what chance does anyone else have?!?


  7. Come on. You wrote a dumb ass post about Krugman. (Someone in comments at Edge of the American West found a long quote pointing out limitations of the Domar article. That quote was by… Paul Krugman.) De Long wrote a dumb ass reply. Now I know academics get particularly exercised when they feel insulted by someone in a rival discipline, but this whole exchange has made no one look good.


  8. oh, Historiann — you’ve somehow attracted the attentions of Brad DeLong & Walt (of Crooked Timber comment threads). Can the Orcs populating the comments sections at IHE & the Chronicle be far behind?


  9. Hey, I’m not sure if this has come up before, I just came across this interesting (yet annoyingly written) article about a baseball historian finally getting some of the (fulll) credit her husband took while he was alive.

    “Everyone assumed that he had done all that work by himself — that’s what he wanted them to assume, but we were equal partners,” said Mills, 81, working on her 26th book at her home in Naples, Fla. “All these things were done jointly. He just couldn’t share credit. And I didn’t say anything at the time, because at the time, wives just didn’t do that.”


  10. Now I know academics get particularly exercised when they feel insulted by someone in a rival discipline, but this whole exchange has made no one look good.

    Dude, you don’t get it. People are making fun of Delong’s comment for its pompous douchebaggery because it is hilarious to laugh at pompous douchebags. As difficult as it may be for high-school debate-team alums like you to comprehend, it’s got nothing to do with “being right” or “looking good”.


  11. Oh My God. “Hank” Seymour wrote-on-‘roids, (of the literary variety, in that he was stealing his wife’s stuff)?!? Say it ain’t so! This is going straight-to-syllabus for a course I’m teaching next fall. If anybody thinks the Civil War Roundtable brigades take few or no prisoners on the conference trail, I’ve heard that the Sabrmetricians are the cossacks of the scholarly world. Not that I’ve ever been to one of those events.

    There’s a new generation of baseball scholars out there who go far beyond the Seymour/Ritter generation in terms of sophistication and sources, helped greatly by the internet. But it still does seem to skew very heavilly male in gender terms–perhaps not surprisingly.


  12. Buh-bye, Walt. Thanks for playing. Don’t you have some 40-year old articles that need reading? (I think Walt’s feelings are just a bit hurt because he wasn’t named Mansplainer of the Month.) You probably should have read the rules for commenting here, but FYI, we don’t go in for name-calling or gratuitous insults here.

    Gavin, thanks so much for your compliments about my book. I’m just grateful that anyone picks it up at all, let alone finds it helpful! But, you’re very kind to let me know.


  13. I’m so grateful to be brought up to date on the article that would have changed my life. Who knew?

    I was amused last weekend at a small conference to hear all sorts of people unexpectedly seeking a Grand Theory to Explain Everything (about that subject). I suspect there are lots of people who want a GTTEE: if you’ve got the magic bullet, you can stop thinking.


  14. Ah, the mythical university daycare, I know it well! I think they finally offered us a spot for eldest when she was ready to enrol in JK. No room at the inn for special needs youngest, though, who still needed care at that point.

    Because of the inability to get into the university daycare, we’d early on opted for private care. That was also the only way that we could get a part-time space (one academic salary on furlough does not pay enough to cover one or two children in full-time care). When our home care provider told us she was going back to U for her B.Ed., we surveyed our options. Eldest could get after-school care at her school. Youngest’s care was the challenge.

    We ended up putting youngest into another daycare in town which had the wonderful advantage of actually, you know, having spaces. And fielding lots of outraged comments from local childcare service people who’d meet with us about youngest’s special needs saga that we had somehow just overlooked the wonderful, magical U daycare that should obviously be accommodating her. Um, no, they stonewalled us but good!


  15. I second the nomination for mansplainer of the year (or at least for the month of March)

    harummph. You know, I trained with economic historians studying serfdom & peasants in Central Europe and China. We did read plenty of articles from the 1970s, because they were the start of an important debate that went on for about ten or fifteen years. No matter how salient the article was, none of use assumed that they were the _last word_ on anything. There was always more research to do… more questions to answer.


  16. That’s exactly it, Matt–the idea that there’s something out there that is eternally the dernier cri is just asinine. (And, I might add, the comments left here by some are just more disciplinary aggression on the part of economists, who are unsurpassed in their arrogance, in my experience.)


  17. I happened to be at event last night with other faculty and grad students where we were courting prospective graduate students. In talking with one of the prospectives, the question of Atlantic history and women’s history came up, which immediately turned the conversation to this blog. (For real!) Which prompted two things:

    1) I essentially “outed” myself as a commentator and was then recognized by the Mad Men avatar Historiann made;

    2) More than one person chimed in with things like “Man, did you see what Brad Delong wrote?”, “Can you believe that guy?”, “what a piece of work.” So word is spreading of this mansplanation and its epicness. Ah, the internet records things for posterity.


  18. (Hehehehe.)

    Thanks for telling me this, John. (Sorry about the accuracy of the Avatar!)

    I try to remember that generosity and politeness will be rewarded. I haven’t always lived up to this 100%, but I try to. The corollary of this is of course that mean-spiritedness and d!ckishness will be returned and remembered, as you note.


  19. (Dernier cri = last word.)

    Hey, man–I’m an American historian who actually knows a little bit of a few other languages than English. So I want to show off a bit! Like Sideshow Bob, who actually used the expression, “Ahh, le mot juste!” in a episode of The Simpsons.

    (Le mot juste = the exact word.)


  20. Pingback: Dumbest. Comment. Ever. : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  21. Pingback: Dumbest. Comment. Ever. | Historiann

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