College vs. “the real world.” Who pushes this myth, and why?

I was in college and graduate school for nearly ten years, and in that time I must’ve had 1,000 different people tell me, “Wait until you graduate and go out in the real world,” or “Graduating next year, huh? You’ll finally be in the real world.” And every time I heard such stupidity I wanted to slam a pie in the speaker’s face. Even toward the end of my Ph.D. program, when I was working 70 hours a week and earning $20,000 a year, an occasional nitwit would say something like, “Well the party’s almost over; time for the real world.”

The collegiate fairy tale myth supposes that I spoiled myself in early adulthood by avoiding “work” and going to college. Presumptuous garbage. Like my students today, I had in college an enormous and time-sensitive workload, social pressures, empty pockets, and little sense of physical continuity. Any psychiatrist will tell you that moving domiciles is one of the most stressful life events that humans experience, and yet we make college students move around like carnies, in and out of dorm rooms, and perhaps urging them to relocate to off-campus housing as upperclassmen. On September 13, the fraternity house of Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of Maine, where I teach, was condemned and 22 students were tossed out. My, how lucky they are to know nothing of real-world pressure!

Heh.  I agree with this guy–but I also really like his (pie) in-your-face attitude.  The only correction I would make to his screed Continue reading

K12 Inc. online schools: 12% graduation rates and 0% accountability. Awesome!!!

Toldyaso! I SO told you so.

Guess what?  Online “academies” for K-12 students?  Not such an awesome idea!  Grace Hood has an alarming report on KUNC radio on the money paid to the for-profit company K12 Inc. to administer “COVA,” the Colorado Virtual Academy (click here to read or listen to it):

At a time when public schools are seeing deep cuts in funding, there’s a growing market for companies running online elementary, middle and high schools. The largest for-profit company overseeing these programs in Colorado is Virginia-based company K12 Inc. While public schools are struggling to survive, K12 Inc.—with the support of state tax dollars—is reporting double digit profits. Meantime, it’s not measuring up to state academic standards.

To be fair, the kinds of students who end up seeking an education online are not those who are having success in traditional schools.  But instead of spending the money on human teachers to teach classes in bricks-and-mortar schools, let’s instead send $22 million a year to Virginia for an “online academy:”

Student enrollment at COVA has grown to about 5,000 thanks in part to marketing by K12. But despite the allure of flexibility and education from home, COVA is finding a relatively high number of students are dropping out. Last year the school reported a 12 percent graduation rate. That’s compared to a 72 percent average for all public high schools statewide.

Let’s try a thought experiment that I saw on Corrente recently in a post by Lambert (sorry–can’t find the exact post):  substitute the words But despite with Because of.  So:  Because of the allure of flexibility and education from home, COVA is finding a relatively high number of students are dropping out.  Continue reading

Dumbest. Comment. Ever.

I’m sure most of you humorless feminazis have been following with unsurprised disgust all of the chatter about Ron Suskind’s Confidence Men and his “revelation” that Barack Obama White House is run more like a pickup hoops game, with women advisors sidelined and shoved into the bleachers.  (The WH’s efforts to distance themselves from Suskind’s book are at least good for a laugh!)  After all, President Obama made his basketball buddy the Secretary of Education, and those Obama golf outings sure look like photos of every other Presidential golf entourage of the past century, from William Howard Taft on.  Anyone who paid the slightest iota of attention to the gender politics of Obama’s 2008 campaign won’t be surprised, anyway–all of us “sweeties” over the age of 30 or so sure as hell paid attention.

In any case, this has got to be the absolute dumbest thing said about the gender politics of the current WH:

It’s passing strange that a man who was raised by a strong single mother, who talks affectionately about the influence of the banker grandmother who helped raise him, who married a strong woman, who lives with his mother-in-law and who has two daughters he adores, could ever create an Oval man-cave where some women felt uncomfortable. Continue reading

I miss Nora Ephron

Who else can turn out feminist commentary, pop culture awareness, and teh funny at such a clip?  I discovered Ephron as a teenager in the 1980s, when I came across copies of Crazy Salad (1975) and Scribble, Scribble (1978), two collections of her essays from the 1970s.  Reading her books made me want to learn more about that bygone era, and she taught me everything I know about some very 1970s things:  amyl nitrates, Jan Morris, and EST, for example–things that a sheltered midwestern suburban teenager in 1984 had no other way to learn about.  I thought that she was very smart, very funny, and an incisive critic of her era. 

I understood when she went Hollywood and decided to write and direct movies–it pays a hell of a lot more than writing for print or online publications, after all.  And lord knows, it’s not like Hollywood is glutted with working women writers and directors who want to produce something other than bam-bam/cops-n-robbers/blowemup movies.  But I miss the writing she did in the 1970s, which was of the moment and became an important work documenting the history of feminism in that era.

She’s got a commentary this week on The Daily Beast from the perspective of someone who was “an adult in the 1960s.”  Accordingly, she serves as an important feminist corrective and offers some words of caution about the Mad Men-ripoff, 60s nostalgia trap of The Playboy Club, which is apparently a teevee show now.  I would love to quote the whole article, but you’ll just have to click this link to read it.  Here’s a little flava:

Inspired by the success of Mad Men, it has gone back to the early 1960s, to that golden moment just before the women’s movement came along and ruined everything. It’s about several Bunnies, an ambitious Chicago lawyer, and the mob. The show (or at least the opening episode) is not unlike Playboy magazine in the early years: it has its moments, but it’s mostly an excuse to show women’s breasts, which (in this version, because it’s on a network) are usually encased in fabulous pointy period bras or shoved upward in satin-polyester Bunny costumes. Hefner doesn’t appear except as a shadowy figure, like a masked mafioso in the Federal Witness Protection Program. But he does provide a weird, creepy voice-over, on which he says that Bunnies “were the only women in the world who could be anyone they wanted to be.” Continue reading

How we teach history? Thoughts on the work of professional historians.

Joshua Kim writes at the Technology and Learning blog at Inside Higher Ed that he’s reading and really enjoying Charles Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.  Then, unfortunately, Kim makes a whole lot of questionable assumptions about the ways in which history is currently taught or should be taught in university classrooms.

The last time I learned about the Columbian Exchange was in high school. Learning dates and the sequence of events, and getting familiar with maps and geography, was central to my high school history experience. As a history major in college the emphasis on maps, dates, and events diminished, as the work in primary sources came to the forefront.

I can’t imagine 1493will be much required in college history courses, as this type of historical narrative for a popular audience (written by a journalist and not a historian) probably does not conform to how postsecondary history is taught. This is perhaps too bad, as I just did not know most of the history of Columbian Exchange described in 1493.

Learning how to “do history”, to work like historians, is probably not a bad thing. But most history undergraduate students will not go on to graduate school. A book like 1493, a book with strong opinions and lots of dates, geography, people and events, might be an example of the kind of works we should make room for in our history courses.

Kim is probably right that a synthetic work aimed at a popular audience probably won’t be on a whole lot of college and university syllabi.  But why should books aimed at a general audience be taught by professional historians, when students might instead read a more challenging book with a professor on hand to guide them through it?  Students are perfectly free at any point of their college or post-collegiate lives to pick up a book like 1493 and read and enjoy it, just as Kim did.

Quite frankly, I don’t think I need to show my students how to read a book like 1493 or celebratory biographies of the so-called “Founding Fathers” by David McCullough.  Continue reading

The Testosterone Defense: being wrong but never paying a price

Echidne has an interesting analysis of Bill Keller’s hilariously titled article, “My Unfinished 9/11 Business:  A hard look at why I wanted war.”  (Get it?)  She comments on his stupid evocation of manly hormones to explain his useful idiocy in supporting–against all evidence and logic–the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

I remember 2002-03.  There were a lot of so-called “liberal” and even left “men” who had major hard-ons to invade Iraq.  You probably can remember some of them, too:  wrong blogger Joshua Marshall, wrong New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, and wrong writers Christopher Hitchens and George Packer.  Wrong Kenneth Pollack–who alone among this crowd has had the decency to retreat into the background–gave the rest of the rat pack cover for their support for George W. Bush’s second war.  None of them had military experience.  All of them treated the invasion of a sovereign country as though it were a stoned late-night game of Risk in their parents’ basement.  (Only even stoned Risk-players know never to get bogged down in an Asian land war!) Continue reading