Category Archives: Fear Itself

July 6, 2011, 5:37 pm

What If Thinking About Education As A Business Were A Good Thing?

The Nation had a recent, and very provocative, issue organized around the theme “Re-imagining Capitalism:  Bold Ideas for a New Economy.” Assuming that the revolution is not on its way as we speak, the authors argue for the restructuring of capitalism to provide the prosperity that free-market theory (as practiced across the political spectrum) has made an even more distant dream.  These articles are worth a read, particularly since they break into old dichotomies to demonstrate how a more humane economy might also be a stronger one:  the series features employee-owned industries as opposed to the euphemistic “small businesses” politicians love to talk about; government as a guaranteed employer of last resort rather than as a workfare overseer; and reforms of liability law are but a few of the ideas about how we might balance the profit motive with a more even distribution of…

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June 2, 2011, 3:07 pm

As The Department Turns: What Causes Conflict, Drama And Other Energy Sapping Dynamics

Things can explode when you least expect it!

 This week’s Chronicle of Higher Education features a blog post by David Perlmutter entitled “It’s Not Your Fault.”  Aimed mostly at helping assistant professors and graduate students understand how they might have unintentionally become the target of a senior person’s anger or jealousy, Perlmutter explores six factors that might cause unwelcome behaviors by senior people.  While it is sometimes the case that a younger person’s actions might have provoked the incident or ongoing dynamic, it is also likely that it didn’t. The project of figuring out what went wrong can be just as agonizing for a younger person as the reprisals and criticisms themselves. 

As Perlmutter notes wisely, “sometimes the quickest relief comes from merely figuring out that a single tussle or a longstanding feud is not your fault but rather originates in the minds,…

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November 18, 2010, 3:28 am

Disciplining Your Class: How Not To Go About It

Mark P. Talbert, a senior lecturer at Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration, is having a bad week.  Not only did he go berserk in front of his class, the episode was recorded by a university video system, which means the quality is better than what is produced by your average cell phone held in the air by a student.  Oh yeah, and it also means the tape is in possession of university officials, who are investigating, according to Inside Higher Ed.  Talbert’s little breakdown was triggered by a very loud, and I suppose facetious, yawn.  Roll the videotape!

If it isn’t bad enough that Talbert exposed his students to this ill-humored rant (my favorite part is where he tells the class that they are just going to stay there until the culprit confesses), he has now exposed himself to the slings and arrows of everyone on the Internet too, and many of them are ROTFLTAO.  A discussion of the…

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September 26, 2010, 2:42 am

Where Women Gather, Trouble Follows: Letting Off Steam At The University Of Toledo

When you were flying over Ohio last week, did you see a big cloud over Toledo?  That was a bunch of steamed up faculty!  The Toledo Blade reports a wholesale restructuring of the University of Toledo that has comrades at that school in a state of distress.  According to Blade reporter Christopher Kirkpatrick,”President Lloyd Jacobs plans to break up the century-old College of Arts and Sciences and create three new colleges in its place.”  These colleges will be “discipline-driven,” and the humanities and social sciences have been promised an equal seat at the table with the professional schools and the sciences. Humanities and social science faculty are skeptical of this, and everything else about their future in the new university.  Jacobs was hired in 2006, promising the board of trustees that he would “create a UT academic experience more relevant to everyday life, and to ultimately…

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June 26, 2010, 3:12 pm

Uncivil Liberties: Teaching Evaluations and A Clarification

Courtesy of Margaret Soltan at University Diaries, who draws our attention to the recent exchange between Stanley Fish and Ross Douthat on this matter, I began thinking about teaching evaluations in a more orderly fashion than I have of late. My disorderly thoughts have been sparked by colleagues, several of whom are quite experienced teachers, receiving some of the rudest and cruelest teaching evaluations I have ever read at Zenith. Sexism is also on the rise, particularly among the students of younger, female faculty (who are also sometimes presumed to be adjuncts.)

I found these evaluations remarkable because my experience in the past has been that Zenith students often go out of their way to be charitable to someone they like and have empathy for, sometimes damning their professors with faint and contradictory praise as a result. The evaluations in question do the exact opposite: …

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June 20, 2010, 8:53 pm

Sunday Radical Roundup: Fathers’ Day Edition

The new social media has made Father’s Day an even odder event than it ever was when it was only about neckties, Lacoste tennis shirts and greeting cards. Facebook and Twitter are alive with paeans to fathers past and present: dead fathers are assured that they will never be forgotten, husband-fathers that they are truly appreciated. The Radical household does not engage this, as we have no fathers (“Down with the patriarchy!”): the last one crossed over into the Great Beyond over a decade ago.

So imagine my surprise when I opened the New York Times, turned to an article about end of life decisions and instantly burst into racking, inconsolable tears over someone else’s father. In “What Broke My Father’s Heart” Katy Butler details the role played by fee for service medicine in ripping every shred of dignity and peace from her parents’ final years. An ill-informed decision to put in…

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June 7, 2010, 1:21 pm

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Disobey The President: Transforming The Military In Historical Perspective

We move forward into a summer of political negotiating that might end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the Clinton-era policy that lifted the ban on gays in the military, provided said gays pretend to be straight (and, as an ironic touch, created a phrase popular among the sexually dishonest who claim to be in sophisticated open relationships when actually they are just cheating like everyone else.) Policy makers and GLBT lobbyists wishing to lift the ban might usefully consult Beth Bailey’s America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force (Harvard, 2009) as they consider how to present what is perceived by many to be an unprecedented alteration in the United States Armed Forces. As Bailey observes, the transition from the draft to an all-volunteer Army was a political decision made by the Nixon administration in 1970 that military brass resisted vigorously despite what they perceived as the…

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September 13, 2009, 1:11 am

Professor Radical Goes To Washington To Preview The Apocalypse

Today the Radical got up at dawn, took a cab to Teenie Airport and came to our nation’s capital on behalf of an American Historical Association book prize committee. But I was also in for a nice surprise. Because I do not travel in the Right circles, until I checked my Twitter account I had not had it on my radar that the Teabag people were marching on Washington today.

Hence, I got to see history in the making. The hotel where the committee was meeting is right near the Mall, so that when I checked in with half an hour to spare, I rushed back onto the street to begin documenting the event. That’s when I ran into the gentlemen in the photo on the left. I saw their flag swirling about and asked them if they would pose. They were happy to do so, but asked me to wait until they could stretch it out completely. “We don’t want you to just take a picture that makes everyone think it’s a…

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May 6, 2009, 8:46 pm

This Is What You Do: A Shooting On Campus

Over two years ago, on April 17, 2009, after the Virginia Tech shootings, I wrote this post. Towards the end I wrote:

So far, two faculty members have been identified as among the dead, one of whom may have tried to block the classroom door to give his students time to escape through a second story window. Another faculty member, interviewed yesterday on NPR’s Fresh Air, described barricading himself in his office as he heard the gunfire below, listening to students and faculty being shot and not knowing where his two children (enrolled at Tech) were at that precise moment. And I know that I am thinking about this because the human mind grasps precisely what it can handle and no more but: am I the only college teacher wondering whether I would have the courage to try to save student lives in such a pointlessly horrible situation, knowing that mine might be taken in the process? Or the …

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February 26, 2009, 10:33 pm

Excuses, Excuses….Excused: The Teacher Learns A Lesson

When I was a young faculty member, I had a comedy routine that went like this. I would cup my hand to my ear, look intent and say to a colleague, “Listen! Do you hear that?”

You would answer, “Uh — no. What?”

Me: “That soft thumping sound!”

You, listening hard: “What do you think it is?”

Me: “The sound of grandparents hitting the ground.”

I am, of course, referring to the grandparent holocaust that strikes around midterms and finals, grandparents whose sudden death causes their grandchildren to be unable to take their exams or turn in their papers. Some students have been known to lose more than one grandparent in a single semester; others seem to have more than four elderly rellies who slip in and out of comas, are sometimes miraculously healed (Praise the Lord!) or suddenly take a turn for the worse — just when we thought that paper was going to come in.

OK, I’m being mean.

And I…

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