Redshirting children: the first line in the defense of heterosexuality

Here’s a little something to make you barf first thing in the morning like you’re six weeks pregnant.  (Warningif you are pregnant, proceed with caution!)  In a story about “redshirting” children–mostly boys–and starting them in Kindergarten at age 6, Kristina Dell reveals this little nugget about why holding children back from starting school is an attractive idea to many parents, especially competitive wealthy parents:

But often it’s the parents, not the teachers, who insist on redshirting their sons. Besides academics, many see multiple bonuses for their boys to be bigger. “A majority of boys’ parents that I have spoken to feel like the social life of a boy has a lot to do with sports,”says Debbie Moussazadeh, a mother whose daughters are in kindergarten and third grade at Horace Mann School, a private school in the Bronx. “A kid who is older for that year may have a bit of an advantage on the field.” Parents who have read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers are well aware of the Canadian hockey study he cites, which found that the number of players who made it to professional hockey leagues was disproportionately composed of people who were the oldest in their grade. “I had parents say to me, ‘Don’t you want Holden to get a sports scholarship?'” recounts [parent Holly] Korbey. “But I would say, ‘He is four years old and I don’t even know what he’s good at.'” What’s more, parents see it as a good thing socially if their boys have an extra year to grow, so they won’t be shorter than the girls in their class down the road. “People were seriously concerned that Holden would drive later than everyone else and wouldn’t get to go on dates,” says Korbey.

But the incentives to push back boys often work in the opposite direction for girls. Parents don’t necessarily want their girls to undergo body changes while their classmates are still playing with American Girl Dolls. “Many parents don’t want their girls to be the tallest and hit puberty first,”says Aimee Altschul, a doctor in Fairfield, Connecticut who has two daughters (whom she did not hold back) in pre-kindergarten and first grade.

Apparently, everyone knows that boys have to be taller, stronger, and better at sports than girls, and everyone knows that girls who grow boobies or use deodorant in third grade are disgusting pigs!  Continue reading

Pushbutton teacher, now on public access television!

Jonathan Rees hits another one out of the park today with “When Professors Disappear,” his demolition of the magical thinking about online courses, for-profit colleges, and the labor history that reveals the insidiousness of these phenomena.  (And, something silly someone said in the New York Times about disappearing professors because the internets will replace us, or something.)  I’d like to just quote the whole thing, but that would be plagiarism, but here’s some flava:

Proponents of distance education might tell you something about how wonderful it is that students can learn all the way from India or in their pajamas, but anybody who knows anything about labor history knows that this kind of large-scale technological investment is really all about costs. Professors demand salaries. Cut out the professors and save the cost of their salaries.

But that’s where the labor history analogy breaks down. The Bonsack cigarette rolling machine not only destroyed the jobs of untold thousands of workers, it led to really, really cheap cigarettes. Online education, an education so bad that some employers won’t even consider someone with a degree earned from a for-profit college administered this way, is actually seven times more expensive than a real education at a typical community college. Professors haven’t disappeared entirely yet, but obviously none of the cost-savings from online education have been passed on to students. Since even online courses with poorly-paid adjuncts save schools so much money in costs compared to real classes, shouldn’t they cost less rather than seven times more?

Jonathan, I’m sure we’re just too stupid to understand all of that awesome free enterprise, for-profit magic!  Continue reading

More guns in the hands of college students is just the ticket!

One man was killed and eleven people were injured at an off-campus party among students at Youngstown State University over the weekend.  Strangely, the angle of this story at Inside Higher Ed is the danger of off-campus fraternity parties, not the danger of this nation’s promiscuous access to firearms. 

I’m glad that the national media are interested in violence in college parties in the case of a deadly shooting.  Usually, the violence directed at women (in the form of sexual assault) and young men physically assaulted by other men at fraternity parties never even gets reported, let alone media attention.

Here’s something from the Denver Post’s AP wire story that interested me this morning:

This is one of those days that every university president across the country, as well as many other officials, always dread,” [Youngstown State U]niversity president Cynthia Anderson said at a news conference on campus. She had visited the wounded and their families at the hospital earlier in the day.

Anderson said she had been assured by police that there was no threat to the northeast Ohio campus. Continue reading

Sunday roundup: unicorns, meritocracies, and humanities grants edition

Pure meritocracies, humanities grants, and unicorns!

I’m waaaaaayyyyyy behind on a number of projects whose deadlines are already in my rear-view mirror. I really shouldn’t blog at all, but I can’t resist letting you see what’s going on on the few blogs I’ve been able to check into this week. So here’s something for you all to click, read, and discuss while I’m away: 

  • First, Zuska reports on a recent conference session that featured some women SciBloggers talking about the “Perils of blogging as a woman under a real name.”  She writes, “[t]he discussion ranged over a lot of topics, and near the end, someone in the audience said ‘I don’t want to get a [job/fellowship/grant/whatever] because of affirmative action, I want to get it on my own merits.’ I said, why do you imagine that the dudes getting those jobs now all got them all on their own merits? . . . . Why do we imagine everyone else who gets stuff got there all by their lonesome with no assistance from anyone else? I don’t even know what the fuck it means to get somewhere all on your own merits. You can’t even learn to wipe your own ass all on your own merits.”  That is, if you bother to wipe at all, and just think of how many undeserving non-wipers are getting all of those jobs, fellowships, and grants instead of us, the overly-conscientious committed meritocrats?
  • Speaking of grants, in “Humanities People Like Money, Too!” Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar provides an example of worthwhile service to her university in volunteering for a Research Advisory Council to educate the Office of University Research on the facts of humanities grants and their relative scarcity and small dollar amounts that nevertheless are incredibly helpful to humanities scholars (especially those with 3-4 teaching loads, like her!)  Click and laugh away at her OUR’s suggestion that “If you got a Guggenheim, we’d support it. . . . Continue reading

And I would rather be anywhere else but here today

Since we’ve been discussing whether Egypt 2011 will turn out to be more like Iran in 1979 or Eastern Europe ca. 1989, I thought we’d all enjoy this commentary on geopolitics, Cold War proxy wars, and the empire, “Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions in 1979. (At least, that’s what I think it’s about. Different interpretations/analyses are welcome in the comments below!)

Here’s hoping that those tanks massing in Tahrir Square in Cairo protect more people than they injure today.


Not actually Mary Rowlandson

“Amazing” has become my least favorite word through inflated overuse.  As the Oxford English Dictionary entry for the adjective illustrates that over the past 400 years or so, the meaning of the word has completely flipped (like awesome after it in the later twentieth century).  Whereas the obsolete definition (with sixteenth- through eighteenth-century examples) is “[c]ausing distraction, consternation, confusion, dismay; stupefying, terrifying, dreadful,” the word was clearly in turnaround in the eighteenth century, because it’s also defined as “[a]stounding, astonishing, wonderful, great beyond expectation” with overlapping examples from the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries. 

I don’t quarrel with those who use the more modern definition (which it itself pushing 300 years old by now), but I regret the loss of the alternate meaning and especially its overuse in recent years.  I frequently hear “amazing” to describe restaurant food or a vacation experience or activity.  The word has been leached of its power to amaze, if you will.  In Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative, The Soveraignty & Goodness of God (1682), she describes a brutal Wampanoag and Narragansett surprise attack on the English settlement at Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1675 in which her house was set afire; her sister, brother-in-law, and nephew were killed; and her youngest daughter was mortally wounded: 

About two hours (according to my observation, in that amazing time) they had been about the house, before they prevailed to fire it [set it ablaze] which they did with flax and Hemp, which they brought out of the Barn. . . . Now is that dreadfull hour come, that I have often heard of (in time of War, as it was the case with others) but now mine eyes see it.  Continue reading

The Revolution will be Tweeted and Facebooked as well as televised.

Let's stop at a bookstore/cafe next!

I’ve been hanging back for the last week and watching the exciting developments in North Africa (Tunisia and Egypt) and the Middle East (Yemen, and now I hear that in Jordan King Abdullah had to dismiss his Prime Minister and cabinet.)  I haven’t written anything here before about these current events because I am completely out of my depth outside of North American history and am just trying to read and learn what I can.  I ran into a colleague today and we reminisced about how like 1989 it all feels–we hope it’s the Eastern European 1989, not the Tiananmen Square 1989, of course.)

Although everyone is more excited about the uses of new technologies in the twentieth- and twenty-first-century revolutions, I’m struck more by the similarities in them than the differences.  Back in 1989 in Tiananmen Square, everyone was excited by the role of the fax machine.  Last year in Iran’s failed revolution, it was Facebook and Twitter, and these social media tools are prominent in driving world-wide interest in what’s going on in today’s revolutions.  I’m teaching Eighteenth Century America, which is my retooled American Revolution class, and what strikes me is the role of cities in just about every revolution I can think of:  the American and French Revolutions, the Revolutions of 1830 and 1848, the Russian Revolution, the Cuban Revolution, and all of the Revolution of 1989.  Continue reading