That old snag again?
Eyal Press has written about his experiences teaching journalism at SUNY-New Paltz recently. Contrary to the most popular university-themed clickbait you might have seen at The Atlantic or The Huffington Post in the past academic year, he finds that complaints about “political correctness” fascistically controlling class discussions and about this so-called “coddled” generation of students to be overwrought. Says Press:
I’d been hired to teach an undergraduate journalism seminar that focused on polarizing, divisive subjects: abortion, immigration, Islamophobia, the gun debate, campus rape. Issues likely to touch sensitive nerves, in other words, and to stir considerable discomfort among my students.
Several of the students in my class felt strongly about these issues. A few chose to write term papers that drew on personal experiences as well as on research and interviews they did. But no one in the class seemed uncomfortable talking about them. Nor did anyone object when I told them that, especially when reporting on issues close to their heart in which they had a personal stake, it was essential to talk to people whose opinions they did not share and to imagine things from multiple points of view, including views that disturbed or repelled them. None of the students called for “trigger warnings” to be placed on any of the books or articles on the course syllabus, despite the fact that several contained vivid descriptions of abuse and violence. When students aired criticisms of the readings in class discussions, the objections were about the quality of the work, not the offensiveness of the content.
This is what I’ve been reporting from my perch at a public Aggie in the West. My students are far from privileged, and as Press reports, the issue they’re most worried about is the debt they’re accruing in pursuing higher education. In a class he visited with 15 students, Press asked how many would be graduating with student debt. Continue reading
Dump the blue books!
The always-thoughtful David Perry of How Did We Get Into This Mess and on Twitter @Lollardfish) has given his last blue-book, in class, timed exam. Those of you who know his writing will not be surprised that he’s doing this because of the inequities and exposure in-class exams mean for students with disabilities:
I’ve been inching away from the blue book for years, but it’s time to go cold turkey and match my praxis to my principles. Whatever pedagogical gains the in-class test might bring — and I’ll argue they are few and increasingly less relevant — I can no longer justify forcing people with disabilities to disclose their conditions in order to receive basic test-related accommodations.
Although protections for disabled students date back to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act spurred widespread change throughout academe. Compliance with the ADA and with Section 504 — for any institution receiving federal funds (including financial aid) — requires providing reasonable accommodations to students with diagnosed disabilities. It’s become routine, rather than rare, for students to begin the semester by presenting their professors with documented requests for accommodation.
That it’s become routine is great but far from perfect. Not only do students have to disclose disability to their professors —who are no more immune to ableism than to any other sort of bias — but the most common form of accommodation extends the disclosure to classmates. Many students with invisible disabilities (such as anxiety disorders or ADHD) require quiet rooms and extra time to work on a test. I’m thrilled to provide both. On the other hand, when the whole class gathers to take an exam, with one student conspicuously absent, everyone notices.
Right on, David! (Be sure to read the whole article.) He comes to his conclusion about canning the in-class, timed exams based on his understanding of the concept of universal design. Perry explains, “That term — coined in the 1970s around architecture and public space —advocates that systems be designed to accommodate the widest range of function and ability possible. Universal design asks us to try and build accessibility into the fabric of our institutions and culture, rather than wait until individuals make their needs known.” I’m sure you’ve seen evidence of it in buildings of recent construction–the extra-wide doorways and hallways, the paddle-handle door pulls that have replaced traditional doorknobs because they don’t require the number of fine motor skills to operate. Continue reading
Ugh. Disgusting! As if we need more proof that we need professional standards that prohibit sexual relationships between faculty and students at all levels. (As in most of life, the solution is just don’t be an a$$hole, isn’t it? We can avoid so very much trouble in life if we put up this little sampler in our offices, kitchens, and living rooms and obey.)
I’ve made the point here before about how these relationships poison other faculty-student relationships as well as the learning climate in general. But here’s something else that’s ruined when faculty-student sexual relationships are tolerated, something I have direct and sad experience with myself: the notion that faculty interest in young women’s brains and careers isn’t tainted by sexual motives.
When I read Fernanda Lopez Aguilar’s experiences as an undergraduate student of Thomas Pogge’s at Yale University, I was reminded of something that happened to me as I was finishing college. What happened to me was much less dramatic, but it was I think very related to the feelings of confusion and humiliation she recounts in the linked Buzzfeed article.
Sadly, although women are now the majority of college students (and have been for two decades at least), young women frequently have their intellectual ambitions questioned and have to wonder about the interest that senior faculty–especially senior male faculty–have in encouraging them. Lopez Aguilar thought Pogge was interested in supporting her intellectual work, when it turns out his interest was mostly just sexual and prurient: Continue reading
Some of you may remember a few weeks ago when I wrote a response to Bob Neer’s article in Aeon, “The U.S. military is everywhere, except the history books,” arguing that military history courses were in danger of disappearing from American university curricula. Paul Huard, a writer for War is Boring, picked up the conversation and has written a nice summary of our points of view in “The Battle over U.S. Military History.”
Interestingly, both in Huard’s article and in recent private correspondence between me and Neer, we probably agree on more than we disagree. Neer is not interested in strict definitions as to who qualifies as a military historian, and neither am I. (Nor am I interested in imposing purity tests on historians whose work engages women’s history, the history of gender and sexuality, or North American colonial history. I’m a big-tent kind of gal.)
Check out Huard’s article, which seeks to bring us all to a truce in which we agree on the importance of both military history and understanding the role of warfare in North American society over the past 400 years or so. And yet some military historians seem very determined to draw boundaries and police the borders of their discipline in ways that seem to me to be distinctly against the mainstream of historical practice. Continue reading
UPDATED BELOW, Sunday afternoon.
Who do college and university faculty work for? Do we work for our students? Do we work for the administrators at our institutions? If we work at public universities, do we work for the taxpayers of our states? Do we work for our colleagues? Who has a right to demand work from us?
The reason I’m asking is that last week ended for me in a faculty meeting yesterday afternoon that was billed as “important” by our department chair, because we were going to learn all about some new software that would “make it easy” to generate our CVs and our annual reports. (I bet some of you know where this is going.) Continue reading
La Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencies/City of Arts & Sciences
Hello, friends–I’m back from Valencia, Spain, where I attended last week’s European Social Science History Conference. It’s a big conference–I had no idea how big–and it was an honor to meet and interact en Inglés with so many European historians and other scholars. I’m always in awe of people who can manage to give papers and communicate in a language besides their native tongues. We Anglophones are truly put to shame by our European colleagues’ virtuosity & daring.
Click on the video clip for a little sonic atmosphere–more trenchant commentary and my holiday snaps on the flip. Continue reading
The whole gang here at Historiann HQ wish you and yours a quiet, ad-free holiday of your choice this spring. I’ve had such an overwhelmingly positive reaction about my decision not to provide content for free at sites that are run by advertising dollars that I thought today I’d also direct your attention to other ad-free and content-rich history blogs. Most of these are group blogs, except for The Way of Improvement Leads Home, which is run by the indefatigable John Fea of Messiah College:
- Tropics of Meta: historiography for the masses! Mostly modern U.S. history, California history, media studies, race, and gender.
- Nursing Clio: a group blog on gender, sexuality, and the history of medicine
- U.S. Intellectual History: big-tent intellectual history as it’s written and taught by junior and emerging scholars.
- African American Intellectual History: same as above, with a focus on black intellectuals from the eighteenth century to the present.
- Religion in American History: a group blog on the obvious, with contributors who cover the richness of American religious history from the colonial era to the present.
- The Junto: a group blog on early American history by historians based in North America and Britain.
- Borealia: a group blog on early Canadian history (First Nations/New France to Confederation, 1867)
- The Way of Improvement Leads Home: John Fea’s blog on early American history, American religious history, and early U.S. intellectual history. Fea is apparently a man unafflicted by hunger, thirst, or the need to sleep, as he’s just published yet another book, and he has a podcast now, too! (I am not worthy, but then, neither of most of you so we’re in good company.)
- Notches: A group blog on the history of sexuality, mostly European and North American.
Most of us who contribute to blogs like these have day jobs, or are madly finishing dissertations, or sometimes both. It’s honest labor, and we do it because we love history and refuse to believe that it’s irrelevant for understanding the world as we have inherited it. Peace, my sisters and brothers! Continue reading