Category Archives: the Progress of the Radical

January 30, 2011, 7:47 pm

If A Student Essay Falls In The Woods And No One Is There To Read It, Does Anyone Care?

They’re B-A-A-A-a-a-ck!

A while back, I assigned two papers in one of my classes.  In the first, I gave a straightforward “assignment” that asked students to think more deeply about the reading they had done up to that point and use what they had learned to analyze a primary document.  In the scale of things, this is a standard history assignment. I gave the class three documents to choose from, and awaited the papers.  When I began to read them, one thought came to mind:


Now, let me emphasize:  they weren’t bad papers.  Many of them were A-worthy; only a few received grades thought ought to have been worrisome to the recipients.  And yet, as I paged thorugh them, I dreaded grading them.  Why?  They were dull.

Subsequently, I did a little informal research among the students, and most of them admitted that they, had been uninspired and uncertain about the point of the paper. …

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January 2, 2011, 3:47 pm

I Killed My Book: And Other Highly Personal Thoughts On Writing To Begin the New Year

What would life be like if you started over again?

Sometime last fall I made decision to kill a book that I had worked on for a long, long time, a book that people still ask me about.  This is how it went.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I began Tenured Radical back in 2006 because I was in a Bad Way and trying to Work Out $ome $hit.  At the time,  I had gone through a major institutional trauma and survived it, just barely, and at a high cost to those close to me.   Central to this institutional trauma was a rather profound and vicious trashing of The Book.  Blogging became a way of returning to the book, a project that had become so utterly soiled by its use as a vehicle for expressing contempt for me that I couldn’t look at it without becoming enraged or suffering a profound sense of loss.

For a time, blogging worked to jump start what constituted a rescue operation rather than …

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September 3, 2010, 9:10 pm

The Best Laid Plans; Or, Waiting for Earl

We were going to go to the beach for Labor Day weekend but have decided not to drive into the hurricane zone after all. Although Shoreline will get the edge of the system, meriting Tropical Storm status unless something changes, our Back To School destination was (is) about twenty five miles to the west of where Earl is destined to pass tomorrow afternoon. Everyone is talking about Bob, a Category 2 hurricane which, 19 years ago, took out power lines and trees from Long Island to Hartford, killed eighteen people and caused almost $3 billion in damage. At last report, although very wide, Earl had been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane. It’s nothing to fool around with, and it will hammer eastern Massachusetts — but, although we are battening down the lawn furniture, we should have less trouble here.

That same 19 years ago, the Radicals were in the last two weeks of a summer-long…

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July 15, 2010, 8:46 am

Well If It Ain’t Vacation: Tenured Radical Hits The Road

“But I reckon I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.”

(Don’t worry: we’ll be posting from the lake in northern Minnesota.)

November 10, 2009, 2:18 am

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

I walked into the second section of my U.S. History survey (1865 to the present, don’tcha know) at Baruch College on November 9, 1989. I taught two sections in a row for $2,000 each which, with the $5,000 I made from the New School, and an occasional donation from my new girlfriend was enough money to live on for a semester. And I was hoping to God that I would get one of the jobs I had applied for.

I didn’t get the big tenure-track job (note to my public: the Tenured Radical has the distinction of losing more jobs to more interesting and highly successful people than anyone else I know.) I did get the one-year job, which was actually supposed to be a three year job, which catapulted me into my current post with Zenith University. But that’s another story for another day.

So I was standing at the lectern in the second section of my U.S. History survey that night after completing my no…

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March 31, 2009, 1:49 am

Patriarchal Equilibrium Anyone? Judith Bennett Responds

Over at Notorious Ph.D., Judith Bennett caps off Women’s History Month and the the blogfest on History Matters with this wonderful rejoinder.

I’m still recovering from the flux, as well as five days away from my various desks, so I don’t have anything smart to say in response. But who needs to be smart when Judith Bennett is around? And girlfriend, you are darn tootin’ — 58 is not the older generation — not from a Radical perspective, at least. Daughters of the ’50′s in solidarity forever — not to mention thanks for being a good sport and coming out to play.

Please note: there is a new widget to the left entitled “Farmer Radical’s Garden News” which will be periodically updated with various newsflashes about local food. Although I have gardened since I came to Zenith lo these many years back, if Alice Waters and Michelle Obama want raising food to be a national project, dammit, I…

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March 25, 2009, 12:08 pm

Radical Travel: To The OAH Annual Meeting and Beyond

I hope to be filing regular updates from the Seattle Sheraton Hotel over the next five days during the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians. So far the trip has been uneventful. In other words, I am still in Big Regional Airport, but my plane appears to be on time and Dunkin’ Donuts was not out of cinnamon raisin bagels. The only glitch was mine. Coming through security it appeared, for an unpleasant few minutes, that I had lost my driver’s license in between the desk where I had presented it for examination and the station where luggage is searched and X-rayed. Clearly I would make my plane in plenty of time, but returning from Seattle without identification could be an issue. As I frantically rifled my pockets and waved people ahead of me, the TSA guard on duty snarled, “Move along!”

“I can’t,” I explained. “I seem to have lost my identification.”

“Well, what …

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January 1, 2009, 3:16 pm

It’s A Radical New Year!

I awoke this morning, read a couple June Jordan essays (now there’s a woman who could be a blogger), and opened my email to find that:

Tenured Radical has won the Cliopatria Award for Best Post of 2008! The post was published on June 19, and is entitled What Would Natalie Zemon Davis Do? A Few Meditations on Women’s History and Women in History.

Wow! OK, I’m not going to embarrass you by doing a Sally Field. But sincere thanks go to the judges for including me in a group of prize-winning bloggers I couldn’t admire more. And a special thanks and Happy 2009 to Ralph Luker and all the guys at last year’s AHA Cliopatria dinner who were so welcoming in 2008.

December 17, 2008, 3:20 pm

So You Want To Be A Blogger: A Few Thoughts On What A Blog Is Not

Are you a lurker? Are you someone who has an RSS feed, or some such mechanism, that delivers posts from your favorite blogs every day? Are you someone who thinks, “Gee, if that clueless Radical can find an audience for her inchoate ramblings, I could really be a star?

Well baby, if you are thinking of starting your own blog, this post is for you.

At some future date I might hazard a meditation on what a blog is, but one of the interesting and appealing things about blogging right now is that it seems to be a genre that defies categorization and has many uses: journaling, dissemination of news, political organizing, advocacy, or the creation of an audience for a wonderful new book by a well-established author. My guess is that as genres develop definition within blogging, and other utilities like Facebook and Twitter carve out niches in the “I need to be in touch constantly” market,…

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November 27, 2008, 4:04 pm

A Radically Different Thanksgiving: Revolution, Terrorism and Pies

I’ve never been a great fan of Thanksgiving, except for the part attractive to all academics — a big break before we start the Christmas push. When I was a kid, it was one of those endlessly long days where my reading was repeatedly interrupted for the sake of dreaded family activities. N and I usually celebrate it by staying home together, or by going to the movies. Rarely do we spend this holiday with any member of our very extended family, although I do remember one large, memorable Thanksgiving dinner where a small nephew wept inconsolably when the turkey was presented. “I wah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah-hah- ant chicken fingers,” he hiccoughed wetly, at the top of his lungs.

But this year N is abroad working on a project. En route to her final destination, she got stuck in Bangkok, where protesters have launched an all-out effort to dispose of their current form of democracy and…

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