Category Archives: higher education

February 17, 2013, 1:51 pm

President-Palooza Sunday With Tenured Radical

It’s been a robust week at Tenured Radical: the stats just came in, and we topped 16,000 hits for the first time ever. Some of them weren’t very nice, it’s true, but nevertheless you came to this site from all over the world to watch the verbiage fly. Thousands of lurkers got an eye full of academia at its finest. So with that, let’s begin our President’s Day Celebration!

Tenured Radical Live — with a President! Didn’t know I was a Friend of Bill, didja? I’m talking Wisco historian Bill Cronon, that is. The Presidential Plenary from the American Historical Association — with me, (now past) President William Cronon, Edward Ayers (also a university president), Mary Louise Roberts, Nico Pfund and Michael Pollan — is now up! It cannot be embedded, but you can go here to see it on CSPAN-3. Upon…

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December 29, 2012, 11:46 am

Guns Do Kill People, You Nitwits: The Bizarro News Of The Day

Despite the obvious fact that guns have to be activated by people in order to kill other people, it is also true that without a gun, a person cannot kill another person in the most efficient way possible — particularly when that person is running away or cowering in the corner.

Therefore, counter to the assertions of the fun with guns crowd and their trade organization, the National Rifle Association, guns do kill people. More guns kill more people. To believe otherwise you would have to be capable of believing outlandish things like — well, that Mitt Romney also won the election in November; or that the Clintons’ murdered one of their old friends; or that Oliver North is a persecuted hero…..


But why does anyone in the national media take anything the NRA or the gun industry says…

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November 24, 2012, 11:25 am

My Fantasy Job, A Year Later: What I Did and Did Not Know

That can’t be my story. That’s only a start. I’ll say that a ZEBRA was pulling that cart! And that is a story that no one can beat, When I say that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

                               Dr. Seuss, 1937

This time last year, I was getting ready for the big change that brought la famille Radical to the People’s Republic of South Brooklyn. I was finishing up an almost twenty year tenure at Zenith University and getting ready to sell our house during one of the worst real estate markets since World War II (fun fact: not one home in our Shoreline neighborhood had been sold in 2011.) I was preparing to relinquish practically everything I knew to embark on my fantasy job/adventure, a future which I could only partly imagine at the time.

So how is it going? Very well, thank you.  Here are a few observations about the experience of the last…

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November 11, 2012, 10:23 am

The Tributes To Darrell Royal Avoid An Uglier History

Lyndon Johnson congratulating QB James Street in 1970. Royal (center) credited Johnson with changing his view about integrating the Longhorns (the first Black Longhorn lettered in 1970.) Photo credit.

As the nation goes all dewy-eyed over legendary Texas football coach Darrell Royal’s death from cardio-vascular disease last week, I find the historian in me curious about the many memorializations to his legacy that either fail to mention, or equivocate about, his brutality and racism. No, instead of curious, make that really offended.

If one more journalist describes the man as “folksy” I will discharge my breakfast.  And I would like to point out that, despite the love that is being showered on his memory by the fans, few obituaries quote any of his former players. Those that do seem to have been unable to…

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October 24, 2012, 10:40 pm

Right Here in River City? Mitt Romney’s Higher Education Poli$$y

Well, either you’re closing your eyes
To a situation you do not wish to acknowledge
Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
By the presence of a pool table in your community.

“Ya Got Trouble,” The Music Man (1957)

Dick van Dyke as Harold Hill, 1980

I’ve seen this several times on the news: some proffie in a swing state who believes that Barack Obama has failed to deliver.  So said proffie is going to register his disapproval by staying home on election day.

I don’t disagree with many reasonable leftists’ reluctance to endorse the President — drones, torture, Guantanamo, his use of phrases like “clean coal” (????) — I agree, and I had strong reservations about Obama’s support for the left agenda before I voted for him the first time. However, I also believe that voting is a…

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October 17, 2012, 2:32 pm

Calling Mary Poppins: Should Colleges Teach When Parents Don’t?

Should these books be on every dean’s shelf? Photo credit.

Now that I no longer teach at a residential campus, I rarely think about what used to be called in loco parentis, otherwise known as “parietals” or “colleges acting like parents.”

Mary Poppins was the original in loco parentis, but her university life descendants had titles like Dean of Women and Dorm Housemother.  You have to be sixty or older to remember what these remnants of Victorian England were like: they enforced a set of rules, the most odious of which purported to control campus sexuality by controlling women in particular. Women signed in and out of dorms, and had to be in at a certain hour. Men were allowed in the women’s dorms in the evening, but only in parlors. Any man visiting a woman’s room required an open door so that patrolling…

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September 28, 2012, 2:48 pm

A Cheating Heart: There Are Reasons, But No Excuses

Did Bernie Madoff’ cheat on tests in high school?

I am in Ithaca for a conference honoring a distinguished scholar. This conference began — as many do — over an evening of drinks and informal chat as we awaited the proceedings that would commence today.   After the usual introductions (this includes assurances that one has met before — which is likely among historians, even if neither of us is sure where we met) folks got down to the business of launching conversations and extracting wine from cunning banks of mechanical dispensers.

One topic was the prevalence of cheating among college students.  Specifically we discussed this article in the New York Times (9/26/2012) in which students at Stuyvesant, a prestigious New York public high school, opened up to a reporter about how they cheat and why…

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June 22, 2012, 6:32 pm

Should College Admissions Be Done By Lottery?

If you haven’t opened your July/August issue of The Atlantic, please do so and flip to page 65. In a section devoted exclusively to ideas, Swarthmore philosophy professor Barry  Schwartz suggests that a way to lower the pressure for seats at selective colleges would be to draw the class by lottery.

Everyone who teaches at a selective school can tell sad stories about the wonderfully qualified children of friends who were not admitted or left to languish on the wait list.  There are so many kids who, as Schwartz notes, “worked hard and played by the rules” but are left feeling that they have failed. All of them would surely have capitalized on the opportunity to go to the school of their dreams.

What many students and their parents understand as a purely competitive process is, of course, artfully rigged in so many ways. An admissions staff crafts a class out of the many…

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June 13, 2012, 3:45 pm

Why Would We Want A Less Educated Nation? Defending the PhD

Clark Kent wouldn't really give up. He would DO something.

You who are beginning doctoral programs in the humanities and social sciences in the fall: listen up.

In September, you may have an experience similar to the one Nate Kreuter, now an assistant professor of English at Western Carolina State University, described last fall at Inside Higher Ed (November 21 2011.)

Kreuter’s “cohort was led into an auditorium….After the typical messages of welcome and run-downs of various logistical need-to-know, the graduate director delivered a very somber warning.” Of the cohort of more than thirty, “only perhaps 40 percent of us would complete our degrees and secure academic appointments. That 40 percent, he warned, would be lucky to find any sort of academic job, even off the tenure track, and even fewer …

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May 9, 2012, 9:45 pm

Let’s Go To The Videotape

In case you missed this on April 14 2012 (which you did if you weren’t one of about 200 people at TEDx Connecticut College, “Rethinking Progress”) my talk just got posted to the TED site by the fabulous students who put on this event. Enjoy. And admit it: like me, you’re grading. You don’t want to read anyway.