Category Archives: students

July 14, 2012, 2:19 pm

Bringing Up Les Etudiants: Food and the College Experience

Annenberg Dining Hall at Harvard University

I have just begun reading Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting (Penguin: 2012), and I must confess that I am hooked on French social engineering.

The best child rearing manuals and adolescent psychology books offer serious reflections on the young that a college teacher is unlikely to encounter in graduate training or in the workplace. Bringing Up Bebe is an entertaining, intelligent and well-written version of something you might call “Developmental Psychology for Dummies.” Aimed at the parents of young children, it offers surprising insights on the teaching challenges many of us face with young adults. Students can lack of patience for simple tasks. They often need to be entertained or…

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May 26, 2012, 2:04 pm

Should Someone Who Has Been Harassed By A Faculty Member Sign A Confidentiality Agreement?

The answer, in short, is no.  Never. And if an administrator tells you that you must do so in order for the university to act, that person is bluffing.

I am moved to address this question because I stumbled upon a blog post written by a student I used to know.  I am not going to comment on the specifics of this case because I know absolutely nothing about it beyond what is alleged in the post.  But I do know that I have heard this story more than once, and it sounds familiar.  I also know that it is routine on college campuses to remand charges of sexual assault and sexual/racial/gender harassment made against faculty to secret administrative processes which have little or no legal standing except in the (important) sense that institutions must act on violations of their own rules.  What is too often the case is that the person harmed by a faculty member is asked, and agrees, …

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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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January 16, 2012, 9:41 pm

Happy Birthday To You

I present to you the radicals without tenure:

Happy Birthday, Martin.

January 12, 2012, 11:15 am

Teaching, Creativity and Interpretation; Or, What I Learned from D.W. Winnicott and Nell Irvin Painter

Donald Winnicott, 1896-1971

One of the many reasons I was happy not to go to the American Historical Association annual meeting is that I am starting a new job at a very different institution than the one at which I have worked for two decades.  More than I usually do, I needed the time between terms to put together courses for students I have never met and who may also be very different from those I have known. I have had help in making my transition:  new colleagues have sent me their syllabi, and they have been generous in critiquing drafts of mine, as well as answering the specific questions that help locate us as teachers. How much will the students read?  Is the syllabus understood as a contract?  Where is the writing workshop? What kinds of writing assignments work best? What type of guidance a…

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September 5, 2010, 2:16 pm

Cultural Studies; Or, The Perils Of Mislabeling Campus Problems

One of the things I have noticed, probably because I live with an anthropologist, is that academics tend to use the word “culture” to describe a variety of things that, actually, are not cultural at all. It is true that “culture” has a great many meanings, depending on the context in which it is being used, the historical period or thing that is being described, and the intellectual tradition (if any) that is being referenced: here are a few. For social scientists, most centrally anthropologists, “culture” is far more likely to invoke a set of usefully contentious questions and methodological choices than an answer to any given problem.

In a college or university setting, however, when someone starts talking about “culture” it is too frequently the end of the discussion, an explanation for why things must be as they are and/or a way of distancing from something nettlesome. You will…

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August 23, 2010, 12:56 pm

The Annals of Anxiety: Constructing Velcro Parents As A “Problem” For Higher Education

This morning I have been thinking about what kinds of criticisms are attached to warnings about cultural decline, and why. For example, our friend Historiann asks today why older people are always so critical of the young. Yeah, why is that? Particularly given the fact that generation after generation, young people seem to grow up into functional workers, consumers, artists, writers and financiers, no matter how much Facebook they do; how many video games they play; and how much/little they read.

Historiann’s emphasis on why cultural critique dominates, at the expense of a more relational view of cultural change and material outcomes, is an interesting corollary to William Julius Wilson’s 2009 reassessment of a sociological school of thought, of which he is a prominent architect, that highlights cultural explanations for Black poverty at the expense of structural analysis. In More…

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April 21, 2009, 2:57 pm

How Many Administrators Does It Take To File A Department Of Education Report?

Two. One to file the report, one to respond the barrage of stupid newspaper articles written about the report after the data is crunched by a non-profit conservative think tank.

This half-assed joke is a response to an article by Tamar Lewin in today’s New York Times that ran under the headline “Staff Jobs On Campus Outpace Enrollment.” The data, taken from Department of Education reports filed by 2,782 colleges and analyzed by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, shows that public and private colleges have about the same ratio of staff to student (8 and 9 per 100, respectively) and have bloated at about the same rate since 1987. Lewin writes,

In the 20-year period, the report found, the greatest number of jobs added, more than 630,000, were instructors — but three-quarters of those were part-time. Converted to full-time equivalents, those resulted in a total of 939,…

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April 12, 2009, 11:40 pm

Writing An Honors Thesis: It’s A Big Frakkin’ Deal

I just finished editing the last senior honors thesis chapter I have, although I imagine a few conclusions may come my way in the next 48 hours. My three seniors are pretty much on their own now. I have located as many split infinitives as I can find, and written primly in a comment for each somewhere along the line: “Never use a ten dollar word when a five dollar word will do” (where did I learn that? My grandfather? The Andy Griffith Show?) When I edit the same habits come up over and over again: at a certain point I hit one repetition, one misplaced semicolon, one odd word choice too many. “Eliminate this word wherever you find it!” I hiss from a red comment bubble; or, “History is written in the past!!!!!”

Editing theses at this stage is about the trees, not the forest; it is about wanting all the hard work to be shown to its best advantage; it is about teaching writing…

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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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