My week up in Rocky, or ROMO (=ROcky MOuntain), another acronym used by Parkies, was a rich learning experience. As a seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Eastern historian my expertise was fairly irrelevant, but I took the opportunity to learn about how the NPS works. Besides keeping up with all of the military- and government-style acronyms (EIS, NEPA, EA , ETC) for the laws and procedures that structure the park’s conservation work, faculty from Colorado State and UC Santa Barbara helped CSU students think through the ways that environmental history informs and can assist natural resource preservation as well as the interpretation and visitor experience of the park. Continue reading
Click away from this blog immediately and go read Suki Kim’s angry and disturbing article “The Reluctant Memoirist” about the marketing and reception of her book Without You There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea’s Elite. It’s a fascinating exploration about the intersection of journalism, marketing, race, and sex.
Some of you may remember hearing about her book, which recounts her daring and adventurous mission to penetrate and report on North Korea by working as an ESL teacher at an evangelical Christian university that catered to the DPRK’s elite young men. In her article for The New Republic, where she serves as a contributing editor, she recounts the potential danger she faced in the service of reporting on the world’s most locked-down and closed off dictatorship, or “virtual prison state,” as Kim calls it: Continue reading
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
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
Scripps College (the women’s campus of the Claremont Colleges) has invited Madeleine Albright to be their commencement speaker, and some students and faculty don’t like it. These students and faculty accuse Albright of being a “war criminal.” I think that’s a ridiculously overblown charge. My guess is that she’s a proxy receptacle for leftist resentment of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, but the accusation that anyone who complains about a choice of commencement speaker is somehow against free speech or are not “letting her speak” is equally hysterical. So let’s rehearse:
- Students who write op-eds for campus newspapers (or any newspapers) aren’t “silencing” anyone. They’re exercising their right to free speech.
- Faculty who sign letters of protest and/or promise to boycott graduation because they dislike the speaker are not “silencing” anyone. They’re exercising their liberty of speech and association.
Repeat until no longer outraged! Continue reading
UPDATED 12:30 p.m. MDT, with details from my syllabus below the original post.
I’m now going to do something I hardly ever do: I’m going to tell you about something my students have done. I can’t restrain myself! I’m so proud of my women’s history students this semester. Six of them have written biographies of previously unrepresented or under-represented women in early American history, and they’re now published on English-language Wikipedia. Check them out:
Inés de Bobadilla (ca. 1505-43; first woman governor of Cuba)
Alice Clifton (ca. 1772 – unknown; as an enslaved teenager, she was a defendant in infanticide trial in 1787)
Rebecca Dickinson (1738-1815; American tailor and seamstress in Hadley, Mass.)
Elizabeth Hanson, captive of Native Americans (1684-1737; former Wabanaki captive from Dover, N.H. and the author of God’s Mercy Surmounting Man’s Cruelty, 1728)
Sarah Osborn (1714-96; Evangelical Protestant writer in Newport, R.I. and author of Memoirs of the life of Mrs. Sarah Osborn.)
Rachel of Kittery, Maine (d. 1695; enslaved woman murdered by her master whose case set a legal precedent in New England)