Here in the U.S. the slowness and lateness of the results of the British exit vote on the European Union, or “Brexit,” is crazy-making. It’s 8 p.m. Mountain time in the U.S.–doesn’t that make it 2024 already in Greenwich Mean Time? How do you people in Britain take this molasses-like pace of election returns? (If that were on the ballot, I’d definitely recommend a revolution. Or at least several strong mugs of flip while you wait.)
I didn’t have strong opinions about the Brexit, although leaving the E.U. seemed like an astonishingly stupid idea from a U.S. perspective: “Go ahead: pull out of the E.U.! There’s always Ireland when we need to move our European bases of operation to another English-speaking country .” Also: “Get used to standing in the slow line when you’re traveling in Europe, with the rest of us who don’t have E.U. passports.”
But then all of the pro-exit voters and leaders I’ve heard and seen interviewed in the U.S. media sounded like Donald Trump, plus the fact that both David Cameron and John Oliver have been urging a NO vote on this Brexit business. I heard an interview on NPR yesterday in which a British retiree in Spain said he hoped that the U.K. would vote NO on the Brexit today, but admitted that if he were back home, he’d probably vote to leave the E.U. Why? Continue reading
Ursuline chapel and convent, Quebec City, 2015
I know I’ve been very quiet lately. I’ve been traveling for nearly three weeks, mostly tending to family affairs and doing a little research along the way. I’ve also had the chance to spend valuable time in conversation with friends in Michigan and New England, a rare pleasure all the more precious because of current events, which utterly bristle with hostility and violence now. I feel very sheltered and cared for by all of you, in comparison to so much of the rest of the world.
Although I’ve blogged extensively about the peculiar ferocity and gendered nature of gun violence in the United States over the past 8-1/2 years, I must admit to being completely hollowed out by the horrors of the mass murders in Orlando 10 days ago. What does it matter what I or any of us write here, with that kind of nihilism plus access to semi-automatic weaponry living among us? Unsurprisingly, the killer was a 100% homegrown American man, and like so many other American men, he was deranged by anger, misogyny, and his own sexual desires.
I may have more to say about this, especially the fact that the murderer targeted a largely LGBT and Latinx crowd, something that’s been lost in the panic about his supposed motivation to join ISIS/ISIL. I’ve been happier living in my imagination in some of the more peaceful corners of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for the past few weeks. We all must consider how we can take the best of the past and make it a living tradition, and leave behind the worst: injustice, brutality, corruption. Historians struggle with these issues more than most people, I suppose.
A few weeks ago, I was invited by Edward Carson (@ProfCarson44) of the Christian Century to write something for their history blog, Then & Now. Here’s an excerpt from “What future is there for religious women in the west?” Continue reading
Now that Hillary Clinton has become the *official presumptive nominee* for president of the Democratic party and first woman standard bearer for a major U.S. party, it’s worth revisiting a post I wrote a few months ago about women’s paths to political power in historical perspective. I also have some questions about the widespread tendency to call Clinton “Hillary” instead of following the political and journalistic convention of calling her by her surname.
As most of us know, Clinton’s rise to political prominence is singular in the U.S. not because of her kin connections (through a husband), but because of her sex: Continue reading
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
Phil Hill reports on the Scriba Disaster: Sakai-based LMS for UC Davis is down with no plans for recovery:
In what might shape up as one of the worst LMS outages in recent history, UC Davis has been working without an LMS for the past week and does not expect their vendor to fix the problems before the end of the term. UC Davis uses a version of Sakai hosted by the LMS remnants of rSmart. In 2013 rSmart sold it’s Sakai-supporting LMS business to Asahi Net International, and in 2015 a private equity firm – Vert Capital – bought ANI and renamed it Scriba. Scriba brands the Sakai LMS for UC Davis as SmartSite.
UC Davis is on the quarter system, with the last week of class next week (May 31) and finals the week of June 6. A few months ago UC Davis announced their intention to migrate to Canvas as their LMS. SmartSite subsequently went down on May 19th, and all signs are pointed to a complete and final outage. Scriba will not answer the phones (you get a message that the mailbox is full), and UC Davis staff are making a heroic attempt to in-house recreate LMS tools and even to recover grades that had been entered on SmartSite.
At this point, they’re working on a temporary fix that will permit only instructors (not students) to access their LMS information for the end of the semester. 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
Since I’ve got another book in the bag, this summer is all about readin’ and reflectin’. I’ve never had a summer in which I was not engaged in writing a monograph for more than twenty years: first it was a dissertation, then it was Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England (which was not a revision of my dissertation, oh well. . . ), and then it was my forthcoming The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright. And that about covers the previous 24 summers!
So what the heck am I doing with myself?
I’m giving myself the gift of just reading and dreaming about what might be an interesting project that will bring together my interest in women’s and gender history, sexuality, fashion, the body, and material culture. I’ll be reporting here and there about what I’ve read and who else might be interested in reading what I’ve read too.
For example, I finally have had the chance to look over The First Book of Fashion: The Book of Clothes of Matthäus & Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), edited, translated, and with essays by Ulinka Rublack and Maria Hayward. It’s nearly a coffee-table kind of book in terms of its size and production values. I first heard about this book last winter via Twitter, which led me to Rachel Herrmann’s fascinating interview with Hayward about fashions in the courts of Henry VIII and Charles II of England. Continue reading