Category Archives: it gets better

January 27, 2015, 4:52 pm

Ending It All; Or, Why Not Retire?


Write all morning, surf all afternoon. Oh yeah.

A dear friend and collaborator has just entered a well-deserved retirement. When I wrote to congratulate her and express my senior envy, she replied: “Do the math, Radical. It’s closer than you think.” I hope so. Of course, she was always better at math than I.

I am, like many people, more ambivalent about retirement than that sounds. I love my work, but I love some aspects of it more than others; I find some activities more rewarding than others; and there are other things, that I used to love, that make me grumpy. I can never tell from year to year what those things will be. For example, here’s a big yuck for you: I think committee service has its appeals. Certainly as someone was hired as a mid-career prof by a large urban university, it had been one of the few…

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August 21, 2013, 10:50 am

The Ten Commandments of Graduate School

reality is overratedSo you are starting graduate school, eh? Against all of our best advice here in the blogosphere, you are determined to embark on the scholarly life.  Well, you know what I have to say about that?

Good luck and godspeed! Keep your feet dry and your spectacles up to date! Cover your head when the sun is too bright! Don’t fly with ballpoint pens in your luggage! Get a cat!

As you make your way through this first year, finally acting on that sense of purpose that coalesced in your undergraduate years, know that there will be times of frustration and sorrow, but that many of us have found this to be a good life all the same. There are, as the foundations say, deliverables. There is the reading. There is the teaching (that sense that you have just taught a really good class? *Priceless*!!!) There is the blogging. There are the friends. There are the ideas. And there is the emerging…

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April 5, 2013, 11:48 am

Good News Friday: Teaching is FUNdamental

It’s rare that you hear anything good about educators nowadays. If they aren’t huddled in the closet boosting students’ standardized test scores with an eraser and a number 2 pencil, teachers are pulling the Miss Jean Brodie thing, being charging little kids with assault and battery, or being arrested themselves for organizing extended, unnatural nap times.  Oh sure: every once in a while there’s a magazine feature about a hero teacher in a burned out district of a major American city who teaches sends former gang members on to MIT  by running his advanced calculus class as a hip hop poetry jam, but the next day we are back to  stories about middle school teachers who are so despised that their students conspired to poison them with hand sanitizer.

So imagine my surprise and…

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January 18, 2013, 10:23 am

The 900th Post: Sex, Lies and a Sarcophagus

Why celebrate 900 posts? Because by my estimation, at 3 posts a week, it’s going to take me the rest of the year to get to 1000. Between now and then I could win the lottery, be rolled over by a bus, or asked to run the Department of Education because President Obama so admires this blog.

I need gratification now! So let’s celebrate 900 posts with some news about campus sex.

No Sex, Please, We’re Irish. One of the more puzzling stories in the news this week features a star football player, Manti Te’o, from Notre Dame, who had a long-distance romance with a woman he never met. The woman claimed to have been diagnosed with leukemia and then “died.” It turns out she was an imposter, and the case is being investigated as if all of us — and not simply Te’o — are owed an explanation.

I am far…

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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 4, 2012, 10:26 am

To Market, To Market: The Job Fairy Helps You Land Your Next Job

Clap your hands if you believe in associate professors! Photo credit.

Is going on the job market as a tenured person a loser’s game?

Today’s crie du coeur  is from hist1969, an associate professor who is itchin’, as I was a couple years back, to put on the travelin’ shoes. I edited the question slightly to give more space for a response.

What do you know about the experiences of historians who returned to the market as tenured associate professors? I have looked around, but it seems that in my field people who are moving to other universities have been personally invited to apply. I have received some invitations to apply for positions in the last two years. However, the searches were canceled, or I ultimately felt that such invitations were only intended to “furnish” the searches. By now, I think it’s…

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September 19, 2012, 6:08 pm

Should the Syllabus Evolve During the Semester?

This piece of pedagogical advice is for all you faculty out there who are well into the semester and feel as though things are not going as well as they could be:

It’s OK to change your syllabus once the semester has begun. In fact, I recommend it. You can’t change everything, but you can change some things, and it might result in a better class.

Most people feel committed to the syllabus they handed out on the first day of class. I understand this. You worked hard on that syllabus and it represents your mastery of a field. It is a symbol of your intellectual authority and autonomy. Finally, even if you want to change it, you may not think that you are allowed to change it. Many faculty and students regard a syllabus as a contract between teacher and student that should not, and cannot, be changed.

But syllabus isn’t a contract: it’s a guide, and a set of appointments you keep…

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August 8, 2012, 5:06 pm

The End of Summer Blues: Is It Back To School Already?

“What’s the point of trying to finish my book now!!?!”

It’s getting to be That Time of Year.

That’s right: it’s back to school and whatever isn’t done, isn’t done.  That long lovely summer you were looking forward to in May? Over. Or nearly so. Except for those of you who are still watching ribbon gymnastics and beach volleyball in preparation for your research sabbatical, summer’s ending. What to do, what to do? How to break out of that nasty transition stage where you are just shuffling paper around your desk but unable to to accomplish much — whether it’s your own work or anything remotely connected to starting school — because in a few short weeks the students will descend?

I can’t do anything about the calendar, but let’s try to cheer up with a few Radical solutions to the end of summer blues!  For …

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July 2, 2012, 2:14 pm

We Are Everywhere – But So What? A Response to Anderson Cooper Coming Out

Photo liberated from Tina Brown

One good reason to maintain a Yahoo email account is that the opening screen is chock full of useless information that you wouldn’t acquire just by sticking your nose in a book or reading Tenured Radical. Today’s news is that Michael Jordan’s son was arrested for some kind of misbehavior at the Olympic basketball trials; and Rupert Murdoch tweeted something nasty about the Scientologists (a struggle between a behemoth conservative corporate media empire and a behemoth conservative corporate church should be fun to watch.) Last but not least (drum roll): Anderson Cooper, the CNN anchor, has come out as gay.

Awesome.  I always like it when someone comes out, particularly older people like Anderson Cooper, who is 43.

I always thought Anderson Cooper seemed a little…

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March 21, 2012, 3:13 pm

In Which Tenured Radical Ponders The Twists of Fate That Can Mean Everything To An Untogether Student

Photo Credit.

When I was an undergraduate at Oligarch University I, and I suspect many of my peers, had three desires that were utterly in conflict: to be invisible, to be free and to be special.

Against the advice of my mother, who wanted me to go to a liberal arts college where faculty would pay attention to me, I wanted to attend a school that was so big that no adult could exert any authority over me whatsoever.

I got my wish.

Soon I discovered that a major research university where undergraduates were expected to be autonomous had possibilities I had never imagined. Not go to class? Who knew if there were 500 people in the room? Sit in the back of a dark lecture hall as one Great Masterwork after another flashed up on the screen and take a little snooze?  Why the heck not?  Turn in all th…

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