Category Archives: The Radical Seeks A More Perfect Union

January 14, 2010, 2:50 pm

Playing The Blame Game: Or; How Should Graduate Schools Respond To The Bad Job Market?

Over at ConfessionsOf A Community College Dean your favorite administrator and mine, Dean Dad, asks: “Why do people still go to grad school in the liberal arts?”

Good question. Although I have no former undergraduates making the leap into a Ph.D. program this year, the bigger picture is quite different. As Dean Dad notes, “the adjunct trend is so well-established at this point, and the economic irrationality of grad school so screamingly obvious, that it’s fair to wonder why many departments are actually experiencing record applications.” While he explores various irrational explanations — love for learning, self-delusion, and hiding out until the recession is over — there is, he argues, some rationality to the choice:

academia still offers a surface legibility. Yes, the odds are daunting, but good students have spent years rising to the top of academic competitions. There’s still a…

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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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August 24, 2009, 1:02 pm

The Case Of The Scottish Pardon: Or, Extremism in Defense Of Liberty Is Becoming A Little Tiresome

Forty-five years ago this summer, while accepting the Republican party’s presidential nomination at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Barry Goldwater thundered: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” The party’s newly visible right wing exploded in cheers while liberal delegates headed for the nearest bar. Although Goldwater was soundly hammered that November by Lyndon Baines Johnson, the Goldwater campaign is considered by many historians to have been a turning point in the process of recrafting right-wing extremism in America as “the mainstream.” Numerous regional conservatisms, organized around everything from white supremacy, to reversing progressive schooling trends, to opposing all forms of taxation, began to federate in a concerted, and ultimately successful,…

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July 25, 2009, 2:14 pm

This Post Is Not About Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s Attempt To Enter His Own Home In Cambridge, MA

As news about Professor Gates’ confrontation with the Cambridge Police Department was breaking — or was it shortly after the President spoke so forcefully about it? — a friend turned to me and said: “Do not blog about this.”

That may be some version of what Michelle Obama was thinking as she saw her husband embark on what I thought was a humorous, candid and incisive commentary on the events surrounding a wealthy Harvard professor, his friend, being schooled by the police. (As an aside: if Obama were a blogger, he would have known not to use any derivative of the word “stupid.” Feminist bloggers know the content of what they are trying to say dissolves as (male) conservatives leap to censure them for disparaging such noble whitemale institutions as American policing or the Varsity Sport That Must Never Be Mentioned.) If there had been a thought bubble over Michelle’s head, it…

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July 14, 2009, 3:02 pm

“Sincerely Yours, The Department Of Miserable Bastards”

“The partly filled lifeboat standing by about 100 yards away never came back. Why on Earth they never came back is a mystery. How could any human being fail to heed those cries?” Jack B. Thayer, a survivor of RMS Titanic, April, 1912.

Thanks to my colleague Margaret Soltan at University Diaries, I have acquired a link to this letter. It is signed by Andrew Scull, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at the University of California, San Diego and twenty-two of his fellow chairs, including John Marino, the chair of history. English, in my experience often the home of gentler folk, is not a signatory. I don’t see any of the chairs of interdisciplinary programs like Gender Studies or Ethnic Studies either. So that tells you something right there.

Read the letter for yourself and see what you think. True, higher education in California is imperiled by the state …

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June 14, 2009, 2:35 pm

What, Exactly, Is The Gay Agenda? And What Part Should Repeal Of The Defense of Marriage Act Play In It?

I had missed it that the federal Department of Justice (DoJ) had filed a brief supporting the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) until my Facebook friends went berserk over it on Friday. DoMA, for those of you who have been living under a rock, withholds federal recognition from any marriage contract not enacted between a man and a woman (read Jennifer Finney Boylan here on the application of that idea to transpeople), and licenses states to void gay marriages contracted in other states that are illegal under their own laws.

Many queers see Obama backpedaling on GLBT issues, and point to a campaign statement where he explicitly objected to the provisions of DoMA. I suppose it isn’t worth it it to point out that Attorney General Eric Holder is not the President: he is only the President’s right hand. My capacity for outrage is currently taken up with other things, such as: why paying …

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June 8, 2009, 2:03 pm

If President Obama Supports the Culture of Death, Then I Do Too


Those of you who do not get the New York Times may have missed the feature story describing the confusion and uncertainty abortion protesters in Wichita, KS have been afflicted with since the murder of Dr. George Tiller shut down all the women’s health clinics in the city.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” said Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, one of the most well-known anti-abortion organizations. Seven years ago, Mr. Newman moved his organization’s national headquarters, its leaders and his family from Southern California to Wichita to focus a national spotlight on Dr. Tiller, whom he described as “the flagship” of the country’s abortion business.

“I think it’s too early to say what comes next,” he said.

Although Operation Rescue worked for years to close down Dr. Tiller’s clinic, his death was never the outcome Mr. Newman wished for, he said. Of …

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May 31, 2009, 2:10 pm

Remember the Alamo? Texas Conservatives Won’t Jump On The Latina-Bashing Bandwagon

As the Dallas Morning News reported yesterday, prominent Texas Republicans are not jumping on the racism bandwagon being pulled by extremist conservative Republicans over the Sonia Sotomayor nomination. Republican Senator John Cornyn has come out strongly against this smear campaign driven by stalking horses Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh (who, by the way, have not been elected by anybody to anything lately. Just saying.) Cornyn’s colleague, Kay Bailey Hutchison, said to be running for governor of the Lone Star State in the next cycle, has chimed in as well, trying to limit the damage to the Republican Party that these dumb-asses with fat media contracts are doing (and by the way, who cut off Dick Cheney’s Zoloft supply?) Today on CNN’s “State of the Union” she separated herself from the lunatic fringe by saying clearly that the debate should be based on Sotomayor’s record, not on …

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May 14, 2009, 12:52 pm

If You Try Sometimes, You’ll Get What You Need: How To Think Like An Administrator

Gary Olson’s recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, hilariously titled “How To Join The Dark Side” (hence my choice for an illustration) is a useful take on how to think about becoming a university administrator. What I like best about it is that it avoids a common stereotype (administrators are failed academics, or worse, not intellectually inclined at all when lacking a Ph.D.) and takes university administration seriously as a career that intelligent people train for and enjoy. Furthermore (and this is the kind of thing no one talks about in academia) it suggests that an academic career might entail several stages, in which one’s life could be plotted as ambitiously as a Jane Austen novel. A career might begin with the majority of one’s efforts devoted to establishing one’s credentials as a scholar and a teacher, really learning those jobs inside and out as well as…

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February 23, 2009, 2:06 pm

The Radical Opposes Boycotting Israeli Scholars In The Name Of Peace

I have received numerous emails from progressive colleagues in the last three weeks about a proposed boycott of Israeli scholars. This move is intended as a protest against the recent, devastating illegal Israeli incursion into Gaza. Several messages I received this weekend cited this article by David Lloyd, professor of English at the University of Southern California. As Lloyd reminds us, the boycott strategy is not only a response to the long history of illegal Israeli interventions in the region and the Israeli government’s continuous undermining of the peace process, but a response to the vicious attacks from the American right on U.S.-based scholars who question or oppose Israel’s self-perceived national destiny in the region. Lloyd writes:

It is on account of this climate of intimidation and the lockdown on political discourse that we resorted to calling for a boycott of Israel…

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