Category Archives: The Trouble With Normal

November 14, 2014, 10:10 am

I Want To Borrow Gobs of Money for College (Said No One Ever)


How are educational debt and assumptions about student borrowing related to other forms of financial fraud perpetrated under deregulation?

In “A House is Not A Credit Card,” Bethany McLean of The New York Times points out the obvious: encouraging people to take money out of their home equity for consumer spending was a major factor in a foreclosure crisis that is not yet over. “A sizable percentage of mortgages — including most of the risky ones that were made in the run-up to the financial crisis — are not used to buy a home,” McLean writes. “They’re used to refinance an existing mortgage. When home prices are rising and mortgage rates are falling, many homeowners choose to replace their mortgage with a bigger one, taking the difference in cash. In other words, mortgages are a way to provide credit.”

Well here’s the news: people also take a lot of money out of their…

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December 27, 2012, 5:23 pm

Kid Knowledge: An Interview With J. Jack Halberstam (Part II)

SpongeBob SquarePants, a veritable font of gaga kid knowledge, debuted on the Nickelodeon channel in 1999.

Halberstam and I planned part II of this interview about Gaga Feminism: Sex Gender and the End of Normal (Beacon 2012) around the topic of taking the observations of children seriously. History then intervened.  In Sandy Hook, CT, 20 children and 7 adults were shot to death by a young man barely beyond adolescence himself; suddenly, this post became difficult and poignant. However, as Jack pointed out in an email, “perhaps it is even more appropriate” to talk about what children know, and what they care about, at this time.

I agree. We at Tenured Radical honor all of the deceased in Sandy Hook by reminding ourselves of why adult teachers, six of whom deliberately sacrificed their own lives for their…

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July 11, 2012, 3:00 pm

Writing By Hand: the Lost Art

Today the Tenured Radical is feeling like the Tenured Crank, and not just because of the summer cold that has taken up temporary residence between her vacationing ears.

Over at HASTAC, where there are always a ton of great ideas for the digitally inclined, writing prof Teresa Narey highlights the question of whether young people will continue to learn handwriting skills. Given the shift to using computers in secondary school, and curricula geared to a techie world, will subsequent generations even need to learn to write legibly? Cursive writing, she argues in this post, “is becoming an outdated skill.”

Secondary schools are apparently divided on this issue: some still teach handwriting and some do not. Some schools teach handwriting out of tradition, without any real conviction that it is a skill worth having. “Contrastingly,” Narey writes, “many Catholic schools continue to make…

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February 5, 2011, 3:00 pm

What The Radical is Reading This Weekend: Ice-Breaker Edition

Lenin subscribes to Pravda:  so why don’t you?

It’s not that I actually have any time to read, since I am also writing, teaching, and most days, trying to figure out how to release one of our cars from snow and ice.  But:

Just in case you thought there was nothing new to say about Mad Men, here comes Daniel Mendelsohn in the most recent New York Review of Books.  In “The Mad Men Account” a seemingly needless review of the series occasioned by the upcoming release of Season 4 on DVD, Mendelsohn comes up with one key insight that is worth the price of admission.  Like Historiann, Mendelsohn is not a fan, but admits that he is drawn to the series anyway for “deeper, almost irrational reasons[.]“  He sees it as all style and no substance, and he isn’t a fan of the style.  But, as he points out, vast numbers of people love to Mad Men themselves:  look at the number of people using Mad Men

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December 20, 2010, 3:13 pm

This Is My Weapon, This Is My Gun: A Gay Primer For Worried Straights In The Military

“Simply because you’re near me, I’m in the mood for love!” Credit.

This is my rifle, this is my gun;
One is for fighting, one is for fun.
The Rifleman’s Creed, 1941

Want to know whether repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is good policy?  Why listen to the generals or the Secretary of Defense?  Go ask an expert — an 18 year-old boy in South Carolina.

In today’s Grey Lady, James Dao goes to Jacksonville, South Carolina to do just that.  Although a few young soldiers offered indifferent or positive responses to the question, “Would you want to share a foxhole with one?” (another version of, “Would you want your daughter to marry one?”) others are worried.  Among the memorable quotes are:

From an 18 year-old soldier who says he is socially comfortable with gays: “They won’t hold up well in combat.”

From a 22 year-old soldier who has served a tour in Afghanistan: “Coming from a combat unit, …

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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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October 2, 2009, 10:57 am

Discriminating Tastes: What People Who Are Not Normal Might Know That You Don’t Know

One of the things that prompting my last post about the restructuring of institutional benefits during a period of budget cutting was not, as some people assumed, that I think cutting faculty compensation is a viable way to save higher education. I don’t. Rather, my concern was that the failure to address compensation inequities already in place means that in a period where we might potentially rethink and repair such inequities, many people, in the name of radical opposition to The Man, can only draw the wagons closer around what already exists. More progressive change, they argue, is unrealistic in a crisis, and must be put off to a distant future, when utopia will be possible. This is the pattern of debates over national health care, and it is a belief currently prevalent at private institutions that have done for the select few what the state refuses to do for everyone (hence…

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September 5, 2009, 3:17 pm

Just Say No (But Not To Me): Achieving Balance in Your Work

I wish I had a dollar for every time in my career at Zenith that, upon noticing or being told pointedly how many responsibilities I have, a senior colleague or administrator has said: “You just have to learn to say no.”

It makes me want to punch them. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Sometimes it is said in a genuine attempt to be helpful: “Perhaps,” my colleague is thinking, “TR doesn’t know that she isn’t expected to respond to every last living human being who asks her for something, and I need to reassure her that it would be OK to say no to many of the things people are asking her to do.” Sometimes (and the older you get, the more likely it is that the message is delivered in this spirit) it is patronizing. The colleague is saying some version of, “No wonder you haven’t finished that book yet — don’t blame the rest of us if you haven’t learned time management skills, and if you …

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June 11, 2009, 12:09 pm

Let’s Run Away From The Girls! And Other Strategies To Make History Relevant To A Twenty-First Century Liberal Arts Education

Did Linda Kerber, Emily Rosenberg, Penny Von Eschen, Elizabeth Borgwardt, Nancy Cott, Joan Hoff, Marilyn Young, Ellen DuBois, Mary Dudziak and Mary Frances Berry die when I wasn’t looking?*

I was a little concerned about this when I picked up my New York Times this morning and saw that none of them were quoted in Patricia Cohen’s article, Great Caesars Ghost! Are Traditional History Courses Vanishing? I guess they just weren’t answering their phones yesterday when they weren’t called.

Tradition, as you guessed even before reading the article, would be represented by diplomatic, military, economic, constitutional and intellectual history. These fields a, the article asserts, are being crowded out of university history curricula by (you’ve guessed already, haven’t you?): the history of gender, and that other feminized field, cultural history. “Job openings on the nation’s college…

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April 15, 2009, 2:52 pm

Notes From The Archive: Some Of Those Nasty Rumors You Heard About Some Feminists Are True

Every once in a while, as I plug away at my ongoing research on second wave feminism and anti-pornography activism, I come upon a piece of evidence that the rifts in women’s liberation were far uglier than the accounts of them that have survived in many secondary accounts of the movement.

Not infrequently, some of these startling moments cause me to re-think central themes from the 1970s: racism, homophobia and what would come to be known as transphobia, among them. As one example, I realized today, while taking notes from one of the feminist memoirs I am reading, that I have underestimated the anxiety triggered by masculine women among some old-guard second wave feminists who were critical to the early years of the movement, anxiety that seems to have survived intact into the twenty-first century. In her autobiography Not One Of The Boys: Living Life As A Feminist (2000), activist at…

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