Why do I think this is my target demo?

Cool Dad Raising Daughter on Media That Will Put Her Entirely Out of Touch With Her Generation,” from The Onion and via Fratguy:

Campbell said he has also been vigilant in ensuring Emma develops an increased familiarity with timeless classic films, a parenting strategy that will inevitably hobble her as she attempts to achieve individuation while negotiating an adolescence heavily influenced by the very latest pop culture.

Since her early childhood, a period sources said featured a Danger Mouse–themed birthday party that utterly baffled the assembled 6-year-old guests, Campbell’s daughter has been fed a steady diet of marginalizing cinematic masterpieces from the world’s very best filmmakers.

“Jean-Luc Godard, Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder—you simply need to know who these men are if you want to call yourself culturally literate,” Campbell said of the three iconic directors whose creations could not have less utility to his daughter as she searches for a way to achieve a sense of belonging among her fellow middle-schoolers. “Sure, she makes a face when I don’t let her see some ridiculous movie with CGI robots because it’s John Sayles Night and we’re watching The Secret Of Roan Inish instead. But I’m giving her a leg up, even if she doesn’t know it.” Continue reading

(Re-)inventing the educratic wheel

All new! This time with sparkles!

Do you ever get the impression that there truly is nothing new under the sun in education?  Do you ever think that we end up re-inventing the wheel, year after year?  Well, this American Radio Works documentary “Don’t Lecture Me” won’t disabuse you of those suspicions!

I promise, I sat down Monday night to listen to it with an open mind.  Although it teased me that it would show me how lecturing in college classrooms is a complete waste of time compared to the New! Improved! Revolutionary! way to teach developed by some physicists, I came away with the valuable insight that I’m already doing these things, and I bet you are too.

First of all, did you know that lecturing to your students for 50 or 75 minutes in a monotone voice without permitting any student questions or interaction isn’t the best way to teach your subject?  Amazing.  This is what this program defines as “the traditional college lecture.”  The takeaway point is that there needs to be active learning in the classroom, viz., expecting students to read books outside of class; asking students to write brief responses to their assigned readings in class; asking students to answer questions or solve problems when you are explaining key concepts (or “lecturing”) to them; and asking students to explain key concepts to each other during class.  Did you know that exactly zero percent of college professors in “traditional universities” do this right now? Continue reading

Harris-Perry to Joan Walsh: we are so not friends!

Via RealClearPolitics, Melissa Harris-Perry has responded to Joan Walsh’s response (“Are white liberals abandoning the president?”) to her “Black President, Double Standard:  Why White Liberals Are Abandoning Obama,” which we discussed here last weekend.  (H/t to thefrogprincess, who originally alerted me to the Joan Walsh response in the comments on that post.) 

Harris-Perry makes some really good points about the ways in which black scholars and pundits are challenged about their ideas when they dare to talk about racism.  In “The Epistemology of Race Talk,” she notes that (white) interlocutors meet conversations about racism with charges to “Prove it! . . .The implication is if one cannot produce irrefutable evidence of clear, blatant and intentional bias, then racism must be banned as a possibility,” and questions about her authority and expertise (“Who made you an expert? . . . It is as though my very identity as an African-American woman makes me unqualified to speak on issues of race and gender; as though I could only be arguing out of personal interest or opinion rather than from decades of research, publication and university teaching.”)  I’m very sympathetic to both of these issues, as they’re textbook ways to derail a blog conversation, as many of you probably already know!

But, I feel like Harris-Perry was unfair to Joan Walsh when in the same response she accused Walsh of using the “I have black friends” claim. Continue reading

So-called “progressive” Michael Moore shows how to shut down a feminist critique

I clicked on this link because RealClearPolitics has it headlined “Jane Harman Calls Out Bill Maher’s Sexism.”  Unfortunately, it’s more effective as an object lesson in how so-called “progressive” men like Maher and Moore maneuver to shut down feminist viewpoints and conversations.  Former Congresswoman Jane Harman gives up on her challenge to Maher’s sexist description of a “blonde twink” on Fox News Channel, and her observation that she’s one of one women invited to last week’s show.  She does this even after noting that the dynamic is identical to that described in “the book of the month” by Ron Suskind, with its description of the gender politics in the Obama White HouseCheck it out, with permission to shut down the conversation about sexism granted by Bill Maher and an assist by John Avlon

Be sure to play it through to the end, where Moore accuses Maher of being “secretly attracted to” the “blonde twink” referenced earlier in the conversation, and the two joke around about Maher’s horndoggery with conservative women.  Continue reading

Gerstle on White’s Railroaded, Gilded Ages, and the corruption of democracy

Via John Fea’s blog, I found Gary Gerstle’s review of Richard White’s Railroaded:  The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern AmericaBoth White and Gerstle in his review are writing history for our times, friends:

For a generation now, historians have been reluctant to write about capitalism. Cultural history has been the rage, even as developments in the Second Gilded Age (1980–2008)—the unleashing of private economic power, the dismantling of government regulatory controls, and the deepening of income inequality—were making clear the need for a new reckoning with capitalism as a historical force.

Against this background, it is significant that one of the most distinguished historians of our time, Richard White, has written a book about an epic story of the First Gilded Age: the building of the transcontinental railroads between the 1860s and the 1890s. From the moment the first of these railroads was finished at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869, these immense undertakings became an American obsession, eliciting both marvel and anger. The marvel was about the technological and organizational feats required to build these roads across vast and often difficult terrain and the profound ways in which these projects transformed America—economically, geographically, and politically. The anger was about the power accruing to the men who built these roads and their consequent ability to hoodwink investors, bribe congressmen, exploit farmers and other small shippers, and engage in speculative activities so dangerous that they periodically brought the entire U.S. economy crashing to the ground. No industry did more to galvanize anticapitalist fury or to generate movements for economic regulation during the First Gilded Age than the railroads. Continue reading

Liberal racism: a possible explanation for an Obama loss in 2012?

Still, electoral racism cannot be reduced solely to its most egregious, explicit form. It has proved more enduring and baffling than these results can capture. The 2012 election may be a test of another form of electoral racism: the tendency of white liberals to hold African-American leaders to a higher standard than their white counterparts. If old-fashioned electoral racism is the absolute unwillingness to vote for a black candidate, then liberal electoral racism is the willingness to abandon a black candidate when he is just as competent as his white predecessors.

The relevant comparison here is with the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Today many progressives complain that Obama’s healthcare reform was inadequate because it did not include a public option; but Clinton failed to pass any kind of meaningful healthcare reform whatsoever. Others argue that Obama has been slow to push for equal rights for gay Americans; but it was Clinton who established the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy Obama helped repeal. Still others are angry about appalling unemployment rates for black Americans; but while overall unemployment was lower under Clinton, black unemployment was double that of whites during his term, as it is now. And, of course, Clinton supported and signed welfare “reform,” cutting off America’s neediest despite the nation’s economic growth. Continue reading

Tales of the Small College Town

(With apologies to Armistead Maupin.)  A correspondent writes:

Dear Historiann–

I work out at a gym off campus.  I have often seen some of my colleagues and one of my graduate students in various states of undress, including nudity.  Likewise, they have seen me the same way.  While I am generally very comfortable being naked in front of others, I have found that these encounters make me slightly uncomfortable.  They also make me laugh.  What is the etiquette for seeing your colleagues and your students naked in the gym locker room?  I sure could use some advice.

Heh.  I’ve never been so grateful for my 33 mile commute as I am today! Continue reading