Thursday, December 30, 2004

It. Has. Beee-gun.

It. Has. Beee-gun.

Yes, the new quarter hasn't even started, enrollments are still abysmal (but that's a whole nother story that has to do with a truly incompetant college president and her administration and their wise decision -- based on a marketing study done by a freshman marketing class on high school students in our catchment area -- to not send out any course schedules), and yet, I do have student issues to deal with. For example, I got a phone message from a student who disappeared from class, really needed an incomplete, but disappeared from that and turned her work in well into the quarter, rather than during the summer, as I agreed, asking where her grade was. Sorry, chum, but you will have to wait. You couldn't manage to turn in your work on my schedule, you will now have to learn what it feels like to be slightly inconvenienced. And then, there's this e-mail:
Dear Ms. ADM [points for not calling me by my first name, no points for not using my academic title],

My name is Student who wants to start the quarter on the wrong foot and i will be a student in your
class. But i will be unable to attend the
first week of class due to a prior engagment. And i
know that the teacher is able to drop a student after
missing two classes. But i will come to class after
the first week, so please email me if there is
something else i have to do other than notifing you of
my absence. If there is nothing else i need to do then
i will see you the second week of class.


Student who wants to start off on the wrong foot.
[some editing done to protect the student's privacy]

Um... Ummmm....WTF??

DON'T scare the FTE away! Don't do it!

So I e-mailed the student back, did not correct the student on forms of address, spelling, etc., and told the student they still had to get online and do the hybrid work and keep up with the reading, because there was no way to make it up. But really.

But on the really cool side -- the survey with the really cool students from last quarter picked up 2 more today, which makes me hopeful that there will be enough people registered to let it go. I wouldn't really mind cancelling it, because a survey class with eight students is just not going to hit critical mass, but these four students from last time are really neat people and bright and make teaching a joy, so I really want the class to go.

Also, I am now having serious doubts about the book I ordered for the 19th c. class. I really wish I'd ordered the one from Oxford UP, because I hate the organization of this one, but I just had no time to look for anything better, since my own book reps (and for pity's sake, they plague me like flies, but never have anything I want) didn't have anything better and I didn't think about the English presses ... Oh well.

Regarding the Tsunami

And in case there are conservative bloggers out there keeping tabs, this is all I have to say. It sucks and I still am having trouble getting my head around it. What else are we supposed to say?

Update on AHA Blogfest

So far, colleagues have suggested The Elephant and Castle, Fado, and McCormick's Fish House. I'm checking into other places as well. I know a couple of really nice bars, but drinks in Seattle tend to be pricey (high liquor tax) and I'd like to find something fairly central (don't forget it's a rainy place) and in a price range suitable for all of us -- and as Sepoy said, one not overrun with AHA attendees! A couple of these are on the AHA "For Grads" supplement in the December Perspectives, but I think that there are only a couple. How do these sound, and what evenings are good for people? I was thinking Thursday or Friday evening or Saturday early evening?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Survivor's Guilt

Survivor's Guilt

New Kid is anxious, and suffering from a combination of first-year performance worries and survivor's guilt. From what I know of her, both things are silly. She's a clearly bright and dedicated teacher who came out of a solid program and managed to get her first job while ABD. She has a research agenda that she follows. And now, she's on her second T-T job. How cool is that? Mixed up in her worries are her feelings about giving up a decent job that many of us would really like, because it didn't quite "fit" her aspirations:
Nonetheless, it was not a job that was going to make my peers swoon with envy (other than through being a job at all. But it was not one of the "sought-after" jobs in that year) or that was going to make people at conferences look at my nametag twice.

And you know what? That's pretty much ok. Even looking at it from the other side of the picture -- the job hunter who would be most likely be fine with the job at Rural U., I get it. We are trained to see ourselves as failures if we're not at the top of our profession. For NK and Ancarett and me, I think that means that we should be teaching at Research I schools and padding our CVs to become Fellows of the Medieval Academy, as well as leaders in whatever our particular subfields are. Any job we take at a lesser place is only because of the dismal job market, and should probably be seen as a stopgap.

But most schools aren't Research I schools. And I doubt whether those aspirations are realistic -- or even meaningful. Some people really are cut out to be publishing stars, but most of our students aren't taking our classes because of that, nor do they really care until they are seniors or grad students. What bothers me about the whole "correct aspirations" myth is that it tends to ignore the needs of the undergraduates (and sometimes, graduate students too) and it plays on our own insecurities. If we don't get the good jobs, we're clearly not goods enough. If we get the 'lesser' or not so sought-after jobs, we probably just gamed the system -- because we clearly aren't good enough to have jobs in the dismal job market. Or maybe, we got the jobs we almost deserve, but we can't trust the places who hired us because, well, they hired us! What were they thinking?
It gets more interesting when you throw Comunity Colleges into the mix. Generally speaking, Community College job descriptions in History are very vague and require very little. Many simply ask for an MA in History or a BA in History plus graduate work in another Social Science. It's a very non-competetive type of job description, compared to the numbers of unemployed History PhDs out there. So, if a PhD takes such a job, there's little to show for it in terms of being the best for the job. It's therefore easier to discount the whole thing as a "luck of the draw" occurance. I've been very lucky in my CC job, in that the interview process was pretty rigorous, and it was clear that the breadth of my teaching fields and my teaching evaluations were really important. Moreover, I work with a lot of really bright, giving, talented people who have chosen to teach in a CC because they think it's important. They also have no reverse snobbism aimed at colleagues who try to keep a scholarly career going. And most of my colleagues can make me feel really dumb, but insist that half the time they don't know what I'm talking about, so I can be realistic about my insecurities. But it's still a hard place to be, in some ways.

The upside to CC life is that it's great for dedicated teachers. You get to work with students who generally want to be there and, because most CCs have an open-door admission policy, you get to make a real difference in students' academic development, although sometimes it's just in seeing them hit actual college-level work. On the downside, though, it's all about the survey courses you can fill. Even if you're lucky enough to teach a specialty course (oh, I would LOVE to teach a course on just the Republic, or the Early Middle Ages, or Popular Piety and Heresy), it's not that specialized. Basically, it's a 200-level survey. And if you don't have the enrollments, it's back to Western- or World Civ for you! The big trade-off is that tenure is not that difficult to get, and if you teach required courses, you'll get the FTEs that allow the specialties. Everything else is gravy. Throw in location, etc., and it's enough.
Except that we need to do better. We need to be allowed to push ourselves. And so, people like me look for jobs at Rural U, with a teaching load and emphasis that puts students first, but also where scholarship is expected, so that we don't stagnate. And I guess this is for me where the problem lies. I know I'm good at what I do. I have both student and peer evaluations that say I'm a great teacher. I also work in a field where there are very few of us working in English. Anything I work on is therefore pretty new -- especially because I don't necessarily agree with the only other person working with the same group of sources. I'm also not a bad writer -- after the first two chapters of my thesis, I only had to revise each subsequent chapter once, and my committee was made up of people who know what they're doing! But the jobs at Rural U? Or Private Liberal Arts College (the dream job)? Sometimes it seems like they're just stepping stones for the people just out of the Ivies and Research Is-- people who aren't happy, because they expect more of themselves. So they take the 'lesser' jobs and move on in a couple of years, and the jobs open up for a new crop of students.
In the meantime, the people who might once have been great fits have left academe or fallen so far behind while trying to cobble together a paycheck and move on with some kind of normal life that they're out of the running. And some of the Rural Us and PLACs will go on to hire more #1 draft picks, not realizing that they won't stay, because, after the initial joy of getting any decent job, those stars will want to leave for better libraries, a better chance at being a "somebody," or maybe (as happened at our school) because the wages don't pay enough or there isn't a job for their also-academic spouse.
This might sound a bit snarky, I know. But there are two sides to the imposter syndrome, and I would much rather be on the side that wonders how they managed to get the job than on the side where I wonder if I'm an imposter because no one wants me. That's the side that's hard to argue, after all. If you've got the job, you should know that there were probably other qualified candidates (hence the survivor's guilt), but you can also think about the fact that you're probably a pretty good fit. You can look at peer reviews and student evaluations and hopefully find tangible evidence of scholarship. If you aren't getting the job interviews, let alone the job, and still have plenty of external evidence that you are good at what you do, it's far easier to see yourself as unworthy and undeserving, just as it's far easier to discount those externals. And you know, I think that's worse, because then you're not just doubting yourself, but also the underpinnings that have held you together as an academic since you began grad school. From there, it's very hard to justify going on.

Ok -- that came out differently than I expected, but I'll leave it, I think. As you may have guessed, no one's offered me an AHA interview yet (although there is a week to go). More annoying is that only one place has actually rejected me, which means that 7 places are letting me drift in the wind. Also, on the plus side, I did just realize that one very well-known medievalist was an adjunct for around 15 years before getting a T-T job. And there are still the January apps to get out. So that's my post-holiday blues. I'd rather be suffering survivor's guilt than wondering if I'll survive.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Past Done

Past Done ... on with the Hols and the New Quarter

Grades were due at midnight last Friday. I turned mine in 23 hours early!!!! A new record, made possible by the fact that all my finals were early in the week and a couple of marathon grading sessions. Now, I can think about how my classes went.

First -- no more overloads if I can help it. Or more than two sections of the same prep unless they are all on the same schedule. It's far too confusing otherwise. Plus, I just couldn't prep as much as I would have liked. I don't think the students suffered -- Ancient/Medieval surveys are pretty much my "blindfolded with one arm tied behind my back" courses -- but as a whole, I want my courses to be more coherent.

Second, I don't know if it's me or what, but my grades were consistently lower this quarter. I worry that I don't get my expectations across, but then I look at the assignments and see that they are clearer than ever, with fairly precise steps, expected outcomes, and reasons for why the assignments should be important to the students and their learning. I also give the students copies of the grading matrices I've started to use, so that there are no surprises. Could this level of detail also mean that I must keep my grading standards at a certain place? I think so. It's amazing how a list of things like, "Essay states a thesis that answers the assigned questions," and "Thesis is supported by argument and interpretation," and even, "arguments and interpretations are supported by appropriate use of primary sources," can affect one's overall grades. I look at the matrix and realize that much of what I'm looking for is structural -- and should be easy for the students to do. Yet they don't. I do think that using the matrix and giving fair warning for what I expect not only makes it easier to grade on the same standard for all students, but makes me a harder grader. So the question is, do I change the matrix?

Third, in response to the question above. NO. History is about what happened and why we think things happened the way they did. Doing History is about learning to use sources and find the argument within them, I think. There's a horrible dichotomy here. I teach mostly surveys, the intro courses that are for many students check boxes on a list of required courses. I think they want and expect to learn History, but don't expect to have to learn to do History. It may be a problem with the field. In Math and Science courses, students have to learn how to do the work. In fact, much of what the students learn is necessarily method. That is not so true in History, in my experience. But why? Because a bunch of men decided it? No. I have just realized that I am espousing the Buffy theory of History. I am there to share my fabulous pseudo-Slayer powers -- which are not nearly as cool as real Slayer powers. What are those powers? Why, I can read primary sources and glean useful information from them! I can read secondary sources and identify the thesis and critique the arguments and use of evidence that support the thesis! I can remember basic chronology, people, places, etc.! I can construct an essay (and, by extension, an article or book) that holds water while arguing a point! I can transfer these skills to other realms of daily life, both academic and non! And I will give these powers to my students who want them.

The problem: students might not want these powers. Some students run screaming. Others drift away, saying, "but I don't know what I'm supposed to do ... there's so much work!" This, by the way is true. Students are supposed to prepare the readings in advance and bring answers to a set of questions to class. But the not knowing what to do part I don't get -- except that they don't want to believe me when I tell them I don't want them to read and synthesize -- I want them to read and pick apart, so we can synthesize in class. It's my biggest dilemma -- how to convey my wishes to the students when those wishes go against what the students think they are supposed to do. This quarter, the first assignment for the survey class will be to read Magna Carta. It's a little early for where the class starts, but I want them to see the difference between reading it and using it to illustrate arguments about individual rights that they've heard before (they will insist on doing this) and picking out things like scutage and saying, "there was something called scutage and I looked it up and it's like a kind of tax, I think ..." The former is not a learning experience, IMO. The latter leads to discussions about what kind of society this is, assumptions about taxation, tensions between different social cadres ...

That's one class. I think. Maybe two sections, but that's up in the air. Enrollmenst are down by 900 this quarter. According to our brilliant administration, this has nothing to do with the fact that we don't send out course schedules in the mail (the only CC in the area not to) and nothing to do with rising tuition and a policy of dropping people who don't pay by a certain date -- I assume there will be more adds as the quarter gets closer, since many students seem to wait for the holidays to be over to register. But then, many take the Winter quarter off to work at the ski areas to make money for Spring. SO, there's a good chance I'll be teaching one new prep I'm planning (a 19th c. course -- don't ask my why I thought that would be a good idea) and, if my surveys don't fill, one section of an online survey I've never taught before. I dread the online class, partially because my laast online class suffered 65% attrition. I think it's because I expect the students to function as an online community. Those who did, did well. Those who didn't, failed. Online presentations (3) and discussion of the readings made up 50% of the grade, yet over 45% of the students never participated in the discussions, and a few of those students still turned in the required essays, etc. I don't get it.

Oh well, three classes, three separate preps, two of them new. That means I have to be ultra-productive over break. Here's what I need to do:
  • Find a place to meet with other bloggers for the AHA
  • Get out the rest of the job apps due in January
  • Walk the dog every day
  • Do my Christmas shopping (online and late)
  • Write the book review that I've been putting off
  • Set up the Blackboard site for the 19th c class (hybrid)
  • Re-read the novels for the 19th c. class (Jude the Obscure and Fathers and Sons), which Norton has not yet got to me
  • Revise the Blackboard site for the hybrid survey I think will go (enrollment is in double-digits)
  • Wait with 'bated breath to see if I have to prep an all-new online survey or revise the other section of the survey I am supposed to teach -- not to mention, "What about a last minute book order?"
  • Bring some organization into my office
  • Finish commenting on a colleague's ms.

I keep thinking that one of the chief advantages of a T-T job must be getting paid through the summers so that more of the prep and writing can be done then. I do hope that, if you are reviewing my application, you do not see this as a lack of organization, but rather as an impressive list of goals and the ability to adapt to different academic situations.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Grading Avenger

Grading Avenger

This is me in grading mode. This is also me in "must. not. blog. must. grade. eeeeviiiiiilllll. papers." mode. Back after I'm caught up to talk about AHA, etc. Posted by Hello

Had to edit: OK -- the sword in my hand? I would like to use it on students who don't read the assignments and possibly on one or more of my bloody cats, the bastards. Someone peed on my desk. I think she (I'm pretty sure it was one of the girls) missed all the important papers, but got the pedestal and bits of the new LCD monitor I got for my birthday. Perhaps not coincidentally, the inside of my screen appears to be sprouting red and yellow inky streaks (about a pixel in width, but some that are a bunch of pixel-widths all packed together) from the top and the bottom of the screen. They seem to be spreading, but also fading after time. Does anyone know anything about what might be happening? could it maybe have to do with cleaning the screen in a strokes-not-just-in-one-direction manner? Does anyone want my cats?
And yes, I will now be covering the desk and all computer peripherals when they are not in use. Bastards.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004



Office Visit Annual: $42
Ultrasound Cystocentesis: $41
Urinalysis Complete: $38.85
Clavamox 62.5 mg Tab x 20 $22.30
Administer Fluids SubQ Level I $31

Knowing that the lovely Lily will not die of a massive bladder infection, dehydration, and their complications: $175.15 plus sales tax Priceless.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Knowing Stuff

Knowing Stuff

I came out of today's classes feeling really good. I've been behind all quarter, the students have been recalcitrant, to say the least, and I've had to cut content I think is important. Not good. But anyway, today, on our way to the
Song of Roland, I had to tie up a ton of stuff we've fallen behind on and make it fit into a picture that worked. And it did -- the students, with some prodding, were able to recall details from 7th century Germanic laws, Frankish royal genealogy, Muslim invasions, Einhard, fidelity oaths, and Vikings to help me tie it all into an overview of Early Medieval Europe. From there, we talked about the changes from partible inheritance to primogeniture, and a semi-concurrent shift from appointed office to inherited titles replete with land. From there, and the kind of weaker-king, stronger nobles, outside invaders and internal social tensions, we moved on to the dreaded F-word. Except that, this time, it wasn't dreaded. Somehow, this desperate attempt to review and make sense of what we'd been doing made it possible to talk about how there was no F-system, because look at Eastern Francia and how it changes after 911. Nothing like what's going on in the west, right? On the other hand, move forward several generations after that nice document with Rollo and Charles the Simple, and we can see something that looks like a system, because that bastard William takes over England and imposes it from above, more or less. But that's different, isn't it?

The upside is that this went really well. The downside is that it was somewhat serendipitous. It made me realize that I give myself over to the gods of coverage more than I'd like. This quarter, what with teaching an overload and burning out on three sections of the same class, applying for jobs (4 more apps in this week!), serving on a governance committee and trying to keep up with an assessment committee, and still trying to get those bloody reviews finished (and don't ask about the upcoming 19th c. class -- that's a blog for later), I've really focused on concepts and methodology and hitting a few really important themes hard in class, while leaving a lot of the larger discussion to Blackboard. It's not completely satisfying, but there are advantages. It definitely makes me want to rethink some of my approach and exactly why I assign some documents and not others. Typically, it's been the same way most sourcebooks do it -- pick documents from the period and use them to illustrate certain aspects and make them more "real" to the students. Have the students try to use the sources as evidence. I suppose what I realized tonight was that, in the back of my head, I've been tying these things together pretty well, but have probably never articulated the long-term interconnections in a way that sticks. Now that I've articulated it to me, I think I should be able to improve what's already a pretty good set of courses.

Of course, in the car on the way home, I started thinking about the class, and wondered to myself, "How do I know this? Am I just talking out of my ass? I'm sure that I've read, heard assimilated this knowledge before, but I am not able to put my finger on where." I mean, some of this is so basic, and I'm sure comes from a combination of Brown's "Tyranny of a Construct," Reynolds' Fiefs and Vassals, Ganshof, Marc Bloch, etc. But still, it would be nice if it weren't quite so assimilated. This, my friends, is why we need to keep up on our scholarship -- if for no other reason than that we forget things and need to remember not just that we know things, but why we know we know them. Or maybe that's just me and other people who do this for a living don't forget why and how they know stuff?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Not an academic post

This is so not anything academic

So if you want to know about the Blogfest I'd like to have at the AHA,
click here!

Now, for those of you who are feeling girly today, can I just say, I broke down and the annual Sexy man edition of People. Damn. And again, Damn. There are some pretty boys out there. Slightly scarey that the oldest ones are all about my age, though. And I don't get the Jude Law thing at all. But Colin Firth made it.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Procrastination Quiz

Procrastination quiz

For more interesting and important stuff like Blogger get-together at the AHA, look below.

Via Rana, I am this kind of quiz-taker:

temptation pic
You may take a lot of quizzes, but really, it's no
big deal. Just harmless fun. Go on, take
another. One of them's bound to sort you into
Ravenclaw, if you just keep at it.

What Kind of Quiz Taker Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Otherwise, things are much the same in ADM-world. Still working on job apps and panicking. Piles of grading coming in, although I've got a new matrix I like. Morning class has me very worried. About half the class stopped coming last week on the day the paper was due. Haven't seen them since. I know I have a "no late papers" policy, but I also make it clear that I understand that shit happens and as long as they have a good excuse, we can talk about extensions. As far as I can tell, they don't read the syllabus anyway, so why is it they only seem to get that part. So anyway, I've had only 6 out of 19 students for the past three classes. It's an 8:30 class, so it's really depressing to only have a couple of people there. Papers were due in my afternoon class today (they all got an extension, because they also aren't behind and asked as a group if they could have another weekend), and about 5 people didn't show. Do they think I don't notice or that, if they don't show up, their papers are magically not late?

I so hate it when what I think are sensible rules end up forcing me to feel like a bad guy because the student don't have their shit together. Oh well. They didn't really seem to like Einhard much either, until they started to put it together with the stuff we've been talking about for the past couple of weeks -- Rome's successors, Germanic inheritance laws, Tacitus, Islam, rivalry between the Pope and the Patriarch -- then they seemed to think it wasn't a total waste of time. I despair. Really. It's like it doesn't occur to them that I have a method to my madness. It's not coincidence that we are going to be reading Roland next week. Argh. Job applications.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Feh, I'm Spiderman

For more interesting and important stuff like Blogger get-together at the AHA, look below.

Feh. Spiderman. Not any of the superheroes I'd want to be. Buffy. I could get behind that. Ok, not really Buffy, 'cause she always falls for the trap, but a Slayer. Or Mrs. Peel. Or Batman.

Quiz courtesy of New Kid

Monday, November 15, 2004

Who's going to the AHA?

Going to the AHA?

Hey, all -- got way too much to do, but was wondering ... are any of my fellow bloggers planning on being at the AHA in January? If so, is there interest in meeting up in an honorable fashion that allows us to keep our pseudonymity if we desire?

Addendum: If people are interested, I can try to reserve pub/dim sum/some other space in advance. An ex-student actually opened a nice little pub near the Space Needle a while back, for example. A friend on Local Arrangements might also know what restaurants have been approached for discounts ...

Pseudonimity-wise, I was just thinking people could put a pseudonym name tag over their badges if they so wish?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

In Memoriam

In Memoriam Posted by Hello

Photo found at They also have a music link.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

New Party

New Party?

I think we should form a new party, because the Dems and Reps aren't really doing it for us any more. I think we should call it the American Values Party. Our party platform could have things like:

  • Freedom of Speech, Religion, Press, and Assembly
  • Right to bear arms in ways that don't impinge upon the safety and freedom of others -- and regulated, as militias are regulated
  • No quartering soldiers in private homes (I'm thinking this won't be a big one)
  • No unreasonable search and seizure, unless by warrant granted for probable cause
  • Right to a Grand Jury for capital crimes, protection from double jeopardy, and self incrimination
  • Right to due process and a speedy trial
  • right to trial by jury
  • protection against excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment
  • the right to have rights and privileges not specifically mentioned herein
  • the right of the states and people to decide on laws and rights not specifically in or against the US constitution
  • freedom of speech and religion being granted to all, all citizens, regardless of race, creed, color, or sexual orientation, have equal rights and protections.
  • all military action expected to last more than one week must be ratified by the Senate
  • No bill shall pass through Congress that has more than one topic; sub-topics must relate directly to the letter AND spirit of the main topic.

Just an idea. The party would also devote itself to fighting for a more moral society by encouraging family values, especially among those whose economic situations make it difficult, but building a better safety net and a tax and child-care credit that allows people to only work one job to support a family; to combat unwanted pregnancies by prevention (including, but not limited to, abstinence education in the schools, because it's a good option for a lot of people) -- and by offering more afterschool and pro-education options for K-12 because hell, a lot of it is dumbass kids who are bored and have low self-esteem. Better pay for entry-level jobs and greater restriction of working hours for teens, because really, they are not gaining in the long run by having disposable incomes, little sleep, and crappy grades. A return of the sex and violence watershed, and a reduction in commercials for that period. Protect our children and their values by not treating them as consumers. Greater access to parks and green areas, with hands-on nature experience for all K-12 kids. More arts education for our kids -- it makes them smarter and gives them creative outlets for their emotions. More PE -- it makes them healthy and they learn better.

Like I said -- just an idea. It's for the kids.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Not about the election

News not about the election

Just in case you're all election, all the time, I thought you might want a break. Let's hope that the next POTUS does something about this. Of course, we'd have to have people to send over in a multilateral coalition, but I think maybe even W could work that.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

My Own First Person

My Own "First Person"

Ok, I have no time to blog, and I'm feeling snarky ever since reading Mary McSmugness' efforts and knowing that the Chronicle liked her better. Snark snark snark. Actually, there are probably pleanty of good reasons I didn't get chosen, just like the job market's kind of a crapshoot. But you know what? I got me a blog, and I can publish my own stuff. So there. Without further adieu, I give you my own "First Person."

The ads have started. So far, it’s not looking too promising. Two jobs I fit really well, and a few more that I could fit pretty well, but won’t apply for. I won’t apply because my advisor has two candidates on the market, and he quite rightly doesn’t want to write letters for more than one candidate per job. It cuts down on the openings, but I trust him on this. I’ve known people who were in departments where the reigning expert and advisor would choose one candidate a year to receive his patronage – at least for any jobs he thought worthy of his students. That one candidate would put in for all of the jobs in the field – even if they weren’t really suitable. Needless to say, the advisor had a very high placement rate, since pretty much all of the ‘chosen ones’ got jobs. I like my advisor’s way better. The three of us sit down and decide which jobs are most suitable for which candidate and work together scouting the ads. Still, I do wonder how long this can go on. How long will my advisor be my advisor? There’s a good answer to that, because really, he’s more of a Doktorvater – now a colleague, but always a mentor. This is my second year on the market, though. The reality is that, as my advisor’s students finish up, his patronage will be more and more divided

I’m lucky in some ways. Last year, I applied for about ten positions and got one conference interview, which went well, but not well enough. I’m currently employed on the second (and last) year of a replacement contract at a community college. That means that I’ll have both full-time (albeit contingent) and part-time teaching experience at several colleges. The full-time work has given me the opportunity to demonstrate my collegiality and flexibility in developing new classes. I’ve served on committees, collaborated on program assessment reports, and can get good recommendations from colleagues and administrators with whom I’ve served. I’ve also asked for peer teaching evaluations almost every quarter, to add to what are really pretty stellar student evaluations. On the other hand, teaching a new prep every quarter with a three-course teaching load, in addition to serving on committees, has meant that I’ve done very little in the scholarship area. I can only hope that I can explain myself well enough to get an interview – and then impress the search committee.

You see, I’m not so sure I look that good on paper. In some ways I do (Ph.D. complete, coursework and teaching experience in a fairly broad range of historical periods, plus a non-Western field, prestigious dissertation fellowship), but in others, I’m lacking. My publication record is not what I’d like – a couple of book reviews in e-journals (peer reviewed, at least) that I’ll be turning in this summer, and a dissertation that is complete, but nowhere near book ready. I’ve got some really good ideas for articles, but nothing more than outlined. No conference papers. The desire is there, but as a contingent faculty member, I haven’t been able to make the time to do all the things that a person with a single job takes for granted, if difficult. What I have done is expand and improve my teaching abilities. It’s something that’s very desirable in an adjunct, but I’m not sure how it plays out for the tenure track. I’ve also spent some time out of academe and come back. On the one hand, the jobs were in hi-tech start-ups, and I’ve got the web- and other software skills many institutions now want: I’ve designed and taught online- and hybrid classes. On the other hand, the, “We needed to eat and so I made a conscious decision to put my family’s needs above my own desires for a time, but now I’m back, because this is what I love,” rationalization for leaving and returning to the academy is one that many search committees don’t buy until they meet me.
So I admit it. I’m nervous. I’m writing a column about looking for a job, knowing that friends and colleagues will most likely read it. I’ll be fodder for comments on weblogs, because these columns and their authors always are. I’m okay with that, because maybe, just maybe, someone on a search committee will see this and think, “This is someone we can work with. This is someone who cares about being a good faculty member on all levels. This is someone who won’t give up. This is someone who deserves a chance.”

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Short update

Short update -- dogpaddling through the rapids ...

  • still hugely a little behind on reading and commenting on all 4 discussions' posts. Shit.

  • Job apps starting to be due. 101 done, but 3 new, so I think that's 12 distinctly different cover letters to write.

  • Book Reviews still waiting

  • I think I set up the first subcommittee meeting today

  • One other committee -- assessment stuff that will be great, but requires output.

  • Actual work for the classes -- Finish updating assignments on surveys for the last 4 2 weeks. Finish assigning primary source presentations for the online class (add/drop FINALLY over and I know who's in the class no, NOW it's over. Forgot about the drop w/ permissions). Grade a different two weeks of survey discussions and three weeks of online discusssions. Actually re-read what I've assigned. Write first exam for early-beginning survey. Prepare for peer observation in same.

  • Phonebank for Dems on Saturday morning. (postponed due to conference)

  • Next week -- go to lecture by visiting scholar on Thursday. Paper was really interesting, but ultimately unconvincing. Too many extrapolations for one anomalous document. Mostly useful for introducing said document and for giving some insight as to how other disciplines use evidence.

  • Go to State Historians meeting in town 5 hours away on Friday night for Saturday meeting. With boss. Possibly after lunch w/ said scholar. Went up on Saturday morning. Really a great group. Met someone I knew from blogging under my real name.

  • Two job apps should be in by now. But only one is. At least one to go out tomorrow.
  • Meet with Academic Revue Committee Tuesday to set up peer review schedule at place of main employment
  • Meet with Peer Reviewer at Religious U, to debrief after last week's observation

lather, rinse, repeat

Sunday, October 17, 2004

fingers crossed

Keep your fingers crossed, pray for me, whatever ... please!

Just finished the letter for The Biggie. Job application for job 30 minutes from my door at a liberal arts college in Really Cool City (if you bother to take the time to check it out). School has a great reputation, an OK library, although they don't seem to have the MGH. That's fairly tragic, if true, but Flagship U has it in the circulating collection, and it's only a couple hundred bucks a year to get a card. Anyway, there are many many many reasons I want this job: TT in my field, no move required, great campus, good students, possibility to get my career back on track properly and maintain the friendships I've been building ... I'd appreciate your good wishes. If you're also applying for the job, good luck -- maybe you could just wish for me an interview, and I'll do the same for you.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Just kill me now

Just Kill Me Now

Well, I had it all explained, and then blogger ate it. I'll tell you all tomorrow. Let's just say that it helps to explain yet another reason why junior faculty get cranky and impatient. On that front, let me just say that one of the hardest parts about teaching history is convincing people that knowing a lot of shit about history doesn't make you a historian.

Just kill me now

Just Kill Me Now (Not Really)

Ok. I am dumb. Or maybe just a Junior Faculty Member trying to Do It All. This is what my plate looks like:

  • Four classes on Quarter system -- three sections of survey, so semi-easy in prep terms, except that I get confused, because they're all on different schedules. Those are hybrids, so online discussions to grade, plus a 200-level online course I've never taught before and I'm hugely behind on reading and commenting on their posts. Shit.
  • Job apps starting to be due. 10 distinctly different cover letters to write.
  • Book Reviews still waiting
  • One advisory/governance committee (would you please choose three sub-committees and by the way, would you take lead on one of these?)
  • One other committee -- assessment stuff that will be great, but requires output.
  • Actual work for the classes -- Finish updating assignments on surveys for the last 4 weeks. Finish assigning primary source presentations for the online class (add/drop FINALLY over and I know who's in the class). Grade two weeks of survey discussions and three weeks of online discusssions. Actually re-read what I've assigned. Write first exam for early-beginning survey. Prepare for peer observation in same.
  • Phonebank for Dems on Saturday morning.
  • Next week -- go to lecture by visiting scholar on Thursday.
  • Go to State Historians meeting in town 5 hours away on Friday night for Saturday meeting. With boss. Possibly after lunch w/ said scholar
  • Two job apps should be in by now.
  • lather, rinse, repeat

Note I have not included exercise, dog, fence (yeah, still not entirely painted. It's rainy), ADHusband

(quick and undeserved grading break, via Rana):

If you see me, please remind me I have to go.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

No way!

No way!

Via Cheeky Prof

You are Form 1, Goddess: The Creator.

"And The Goddess planted the acorn of life.
She cried a single tear and shed a single drop
of blood upon the earth where she buried it.
From her blood and tear, the acorn grew into
the world."

Some examples of the Goddess Form are Gaia (Greek),
Jehova (Christian), and Brahma (Indian).
The Goddess is associated with the concept of
creation, the number 1, and the element of
Her sign is the dawn sun.

As a member of Form 1, you are a charismatic
individual and people are drawn to you.
Although sometimes you may seem emotionally
distant, you are deeply in tune with other
people's feelings and have tremendous empathy.
Sometimes you have a tendency to neglect your
own self. Goddesses are the best friends to
have because they're always willing to help.

Which Mythological Form Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Makes me want to giggle, but it's kinda cool!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Mentoring, pt 1

Mentoring, pt. 1

I wasn't planning on blogging, but realized a comment I was leaving here at profgrrl's blog was really a blog entry itself. The subject of mentoring comes up fairly frequently, and the more I teach and look for a tenure-track job, the more I realize how lucky I've been. Today, I'll focus on undergrad mentoring and how good it can be.

Except that I lost my post. Damn.

Ok, so I was really lucky. As an undergrad, I went to Beachy U, where there were two big names in my field (and others, too, but I'm concerned with Ancient and Medieval here). FOr reasons still unclear, although I expect that it had something to do with the fact that I was bright, interesting, and clueless, I was summoned to the Names' weekly grad student office hours at the end of my junior year. Just me, the names, and a bunch of grad students who joked about how the Names held court, and how we lowly peons (yes, mixed metaphor) attended or else. Those grad students were amazing. They accepted me into their group (or a subgroup of the non-cutthroat ones did. I got to learn about grad students in long distance relationships with professors at other schools, grad students who had dated and broken up and still worked together, grad students who got together and knew they were condemning themselves to an abysmal job search, and grad students who just refused to put their personal lives on hold. I learned even more about patronage than I had in my Rome classes. I learned the importance of blowing off steam without going so far that I couldn't get up and study in the morning. Most of all, I learned about collegiality firsthand. Even before these people submitted their chapters and fledgling articles to their seminar group, they talked things over with each other. They shared sources and ideas. They helped me organize my senior thesis!

Meanwhile, the Names talked me into applying to grad school. They helped me in applying. They wrote me letters. One even suggested I apply to his alma mater -- they had lots of money. I wish now that I'd asked for more suggestions, but that one was enough. I got the 4-year ride at Semi-Southern U, and a whole lot of funding above and beyond the call of duty. My grad student friends sent me off with a lovely gift, and I'm not sure what I ever did to deserve them. I am in touch with a couple of them, and know people who know others, but am sorry to say I lost track of others between grad school and research and marriage abroad. I constantly hope I'll see them at conferences. The Grad U hooked me up (no, not in that way) with a student a year ahead of me and, when I arrived, he brought me into the fold of older students. But that's another story.

If nothing else, that experience has taught me the importance of being a mentor. I hadn't realized how much until I read profgrrl's post, though. It's also one of the things I cherish most about my teaching at a community college. I have great opportunities to get to know my students well, I get to write letters of recommendation, and I get to talk to them about eventual plans for grad school and warn them about the realities while letting them know I'm behind them, if that's what they want. What I hate is that I only get them for the first two years, and then, they're gone. Or not. Two of my students set to go to Flagship U this fall got deferred, so they're coming to me to check in anyway. I just hope I'm providing them at least a bit of the help and support I got.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Laura's Conference

Laura's Having a Conference!!

Laura at 11D is hosting a work/family blog conference! I have to say, it sounds really cool. Check it out, if you're interested.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Not Really Blogging

Why I'm not (really) blogging

My List, in honor of Mel:
  • Finish updating assignments on Blackboard for all three survey classes (D'oh!)
  • clean up office
  • read ahead for classes for at least this week
  • finish the damned book review book
  • write the damned review
  • send the damned review to editor
  • update the bit about having finished the review to my CV
  • begin writing cover letters for job hunt
  • paint more of fence
  • walk the dog at least on Wednesday woohoo! RAN with the dog!!, Fridayand Again! (by 'ran', I mean that I moved in a running manner for most of the 1 1/2 mile x-country track -- baby steps, I know), Saturday and Sunday
  • go to the gym
  • grade the first week's discussion boards
  • finish assigning presentations to 200-level students
  • drink more water

Friday, September 24, 2004

I am a wolf

I am a Wolf

What Is Your Animal Personality?

brought to you by Quizilla
c/o Rana.

I have to say -- I'm surprised.

And apparently, I can't change the spelling. Damn!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Opening Week

Opening Week

Aargh. It's Thursday of Opening Week, a time where those of us who were really looking forward to getting classes together and meeting new students instead get to see colleagues and catch up for about 15 minutes, only to spend most of the rest of the week listening to bullshit and having our morale surgically removed with a jagged piece of glass.

Day one: Division Meeting and potluck. Food good, division people good, weather nice. Division meeting stuff useful and over quickly -- got elected to be a division rep on the Senate Council. VP visit to meeting ok, but questions met with curt answers -- VP isn't good with changes to plan, and expected to deliver top-down message. Still, we most of us like her, since she's 'our' VP and is the only thing standing between us and utter chaos. She has our good at heart, but also has NO people skills AT ALL. President (who is under discussion by faculty for a vote of no-confidence after wangling herself and the other execs big raises --$25k for the pres alone -- for the last two years running) gives us her amazingly Bush-like, super-vague goals for the year. Senior faculty member asks why dealing with morale problems isn't on the list -- and is accused of "negative thinking." Not only that -- "you all teach so much critical thinking, all you can do is criticize." President explains that optimisim is how pres faces the world, and if others choose not to do that, that's their problem.

Day two: All campus meeting. President tells us about optimism again. "we're not going to focus on what's wrong -- that's negative. We're going to focus on what we do right." Lots of praise for the professional-technical programs. Nothing at all on academic transfer. We don't count. Course schedules not sent out to prospective students this year, because they were trying to save money. Enrollments ridiculously low. FTEs may not reach what we need for biennial funding. Oh -- new dual-enrollment program with satellite campus of Flagship U. Big thing, will attract students. Pres is pleased, because it looks good for her. Doesn't seem to realize that it means we need to keep academic transfer strong, or we lose the deal. Makes a couple of comments about a very few people being negative, then ties it in to "we are not a university. That's not our job." Yet another slap at the academic transfer people who demand that our classes must be at the same standards as 100- and 200- level classes at 4-years. Board member breaks law and tells us how to vote on an initiative, but thinks it's ok, because he claims he's speaking as a private citizen. Arrogant SOB.

Day three: No meetings in the morning -- got a bit of work done. Faculty Senate meeting to discuss vote of no confidence tabled from last year. All non-faculty persons asked to leave via a vote to go into Executive Session. VP leaves, free discussion begins, a couple of the President's cronies start taking down the names of who says what, make accusations of underhandedness, and leave. Actually (I know because I read my e-mail from my division rep and go to the two Senate meetings every year) everything being discussed, including a document produced at the request of the Faculty Senate at the Spring meeting, listing specific causes for no-confidence, with examples, has been public knowledge for at least 6 months. Suddenly, VP, who had left with other non-faculty, walks in, unannounced, and informs us that we have no procedural grounds to exclude anyone from the meeting, and parks herself. Several faculty members leave, saying they feel unsafe expressing their views. Others waiting in line to make comments suddenly are willing to waive their time to let others speak. Yours truly does speak, since ADM has little to lose -- unlikely to be fired, since it would rally people against pres and the union wouldn't like it, not on tenure-track, and none of the admin people will be writing me recommendations for the job search. Highly respected faculty member speaks, says that the job search is on, many other faculty members get really teary-eyed. Other highly respected faculty member chides VP for lack of respect in an incredibly strong, yet kind, way. Readers, I'm sparing you the really ugly stuff.

Day four: starts in an hour. gotta run. But the levels of incompetence and total bullshit allowed by the state are amazing. They make me really question wanting to teach at a community college. I love the idea of an open door, but it's increasingly clear that open door means remediation for what students didn't learn in K-12, and job training. An open door to the non-privileged person wanting to be a doctor, or lawyer, or teacher, for example, doesn't exist. We're not about education -- we're about training drones. The academic types on the staff are merely window dressing to maintain accreditation.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Whose Middle Ages?

Whose Middle Ages?

I was reading my newletter from the Medieval Academy and one of the articles really struck me. It struck me because i've been trying to articulate why I have serious doubts about World History as a substitute for Western Civ. The article (sorry -- I think it's only available in print) discussed an experiment in a World History course for grad students, team-taught by people who specialized in many different areas and focusing on cultural interaction. I admit that it sounded like everyone in the class found it enjoyable, and perhaps even fulfilling, but I wasn't really convinced that it had been useful.

You see, I've always found the cross-cultural studies interesting, and have always brought up the ones that really fit into the storyline, if you will, for my Western Civ. classes. The problem for me is, how much connection is a connection? Does the fact that the Europeans are getting material goods from, say, Muslim traders who may have gotten the stuff from sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia mean that there's a valid point of study in the connection between medieval Europe and Southeast Asia? I'm not so sure, if it's mediated, even if it's mediated by a somewhat 'western' culture. (I hope that last does not offend the Islamicists out there -- I mean it only in that I tend to see at least the first 500 years of Islam as being more connected to the Mediterranean west and Rome's successors -- since it is also a successor, in many ways -- more than a particularly non-western phenomenon).

Mediation aside, one of the things that I just can't get my head around is periodization. It's kind of a big thing in History; it's one of the harder things for many students to understand, in the sense that periodization traditionally relies on a bundle of factors, not least (but really, not greatest) of which is chronology. When we speak of the Middle Ages, we are talking about the West. It's the middle part -- between the ancient and the modern. Heaven knows, we medievalists have enough of a problem trying to define them chronologically, and we continue to debate the whole Early MA (or is it Late Antiquity? or is late Antiquity a period of its own, followed by the Early MA?) - high MA -- Late MA thing. But if World History is in some was a way of addressing or redressing the dominance of western culture, isn't it problematic to define the period to be studied in terms of the West?

Say we all accept that the Middle Ages were from roughly 476 (unless late Antique is sepaate) to roughly 1400 on the continent and 1500 in England. For simplicity's sake, pretend that England does't rate the exception, or we'll never move on. Is there any articular reason to think that this same period is valid for Medieval Africa? Is there such a thing as Medieval Africa? It's a pretty big place, with more than a few different peoples, religions, governmental systems, etc. Do Africanists see Africa as a single (if having manifold variations) culture in the way that Europeanists see Europe or Western Civ people see the west? I honestly don't know, but I'm not sure why they should. The same is true for Asianists: despite various clear cross-cultural influences via conquest, trade, or travel between China, Korea, and Japan or between India and Southeast Asia, or the Steppes and pretty much anywhere those Khans could get to, do area specialists see any truly valid reason for studying the World in the MA that doesn't include the MA having been defined in the traditional, West-based manner?

I mean, just thinking about Japan and China, I suppose one might say that Japan's Middle Ages could range from the 1100s (by Western reckoning) to 1868. Maybe. In which case, would we say that Japan missed out on the Early Modern period? Was Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate Medieval (there's that whole 'F'-word thing and all) or Early Modern? After all, Reformation and Counter-reformation Christianity, mostly the latter, hit Japan at about that time, and Europeans did bring in firearms, which are more Early Modern and Modern than Medieval. What about China? Are the Mongols Medieval nomadic conquering tribesmen? What about the Ming? If we measure periods by any standards other than time, the dates cannot hold across the cultures.

I don't really have anything more than questions at this point, so I'm open to suggestions. A World Middle Ages class just seems to me to be a pretty artificial and problematic construct at best, and a continuation of the imposition of Western standards on other cultures -- supposedly one of the things World history is supposed to help do away with -- at worst.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Other F Words

Some other F Words in my life

Fence and Fear. It's the end of the Summer, and I still haven't written my book review. Classes start in two weeks. I have to go out of town for most of one of them, family obligations having reared their ugly heads. So I am finally painting the fence. It's a big fence, since it encompasses fully half of our lot -- more than a quarter of an acre. It's pickets, so it's a pain in the ass. It does need doing, and I'm paying the girls across the street to help. But really, I think I'm choosing the fence over fear.

It's only in the past couple of days that I clearly realized that the fear was there. Sharon over at Early Modern Notes kindly linked to me, and we've had a nice conversation going in the comments about perceived differences in the way Medievalists approach History as compared to the way Early Modernists approach it, and why. It's something I've thought about a lot, and want to blog on -- after the review. Ralph Luker at Cliopatra then linked to the Early Modern site, and all of a sudden, it hit me: these people seem to be treating me as a colleague. Wow.

For people who know me beyond the pseudonym, this probably isn't surprising -- or at least, I hope not. People who have met me at conferences, people I know from grad school, people I teach with now, seem to accept me as one of their number. Still, I'm never sure I belong. I don't come from an academic background, and have made 'life' decisions that kept me out of the loop for several years while I finished my dissertation and then stayed in non-academic employment for a couple of years after that. Teaching as an adjunct got me back into the life, but left little time for being a scholar. Consequently, I feel like I'm always playing catch-up. And, in my less admirable, often quite lengthy moments, I seem to try to insure that I am. And so, the book review.

First, it's on a topic I'm just not very familiar with. I mentioned this when asked to do the review, but basically, of the people around to do it, I'm the least unqualified. I don't even have to read the book in the original language, but in translation, and I feel pretty confident about what I have to say on that subject. It's an interesting book, too -- so far. It contains a historiographical essay to die for, in the sense that it opens a window on over a century of German scholarship on the subject and its tendency to fit into German political ideology. Not only does this give the non-German reader some insight into a subject that really hasn't been widely available to them, i.e., the importance of national- and nationalist ideologies in framing historical questions, but I also think it opens the way for more research into my own area. That is, I think that many of the ideologies driving German historiography on the subject of the review are also pertinent when looking at the Carolingians. I even mentioned this in my dissertation, but more as something that needs further research. Yet, despite the fact that (reading what I've just written) I seem to have some cogent ideas on the review for what I've read, I'm stalling. I'm stalling because I'm afraid you'll think I'm an idiot. Unfit to join your ranks.

I feel this way at conferences, too. Every time I ask a question or make a comment, I'm sure someone mock my ignorance. It's never actually happened, mind you. Often I end up at the coffee intervals chatting with really nice people I've just met because they wanted to tell me they liked my question and discuss it further. Last conference, I discussed this whole syndrome and being on the job market with just such an acquaintance -- a Name in his field who told me I underrated myself and needed to aim higher than I was. It felt great, but the minute I begin to do anything that will open me up to my peers, I freeze. (As an aside, the rejection from the Chronicle didn't help, either). So I'm off to do the fence. And to mull over the fact that some of you seem to think I should be in the club. And then I'm going to finish the book and write the damned review. Just to find out for sure.

Monday, August 30, 2004

The F Word

Talkin' 'bout something Medieval -- the 'F' Word or, Splitter vs. Lumper

A few days ago (seems like yesterday), Kieran Healy used the dreaded 'F' word. He used it twice -- at Crooked Timber and at his own site. I generally like Kieran's stuff, but dammit, how many times do medievalists have to go through this? Feudalism. The 'F' word. Not actually a term used during the Middle Ages, but a description made up in, IIRC, the 18th c. Since then, defined and redefined as we know more and more about medieval society.

It isn't what most people think it is. Mel Gibson and Randall Wallace proved that. Hell, even historians debate it. But still, sociologists and economists continue to use the term in an increasingly anachronistic (in the sense that so much work has been done on the topic since those fields took up the then-current working definition) sense. What I dread is that I will get these students (well, not exactly Kieran's students, although I now have a colleague who teaches with Kieran who probably will), and will have to fight tooth and nail to explain to them that the 'F' word isn't what they've learned, and instead is many things and nothing in particular. I'll have to explain the nuances of historiographic debate, and then go into much longer and more complex examples from England, West Francia, East Francia, France, and Germany (not to mention various Spanish kingdoms and Portugal), over a very long period, to demonstrate that what they think of as Feudalism never actually existed in the way it's been explained. It will take up a lot of time from my survey classes. It annoys me. It's why I have a deal with one of my colleagues in Economics. Bob never defines the 'F' word and I don't mess around with the 'C' word -- Capitalism.

Kieran will be speaking about both:
These are the people I have to interest in the transition from Feudalism to Capitalism.
Why, specifically, am I concerned about this? Because, as I commented at CT,
... there is no such thing as a transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, since the former is a very loose term that covers a set of political and social relationships, while the other is all to do with economics. Perhaps you mean manorialism? [ ... ] there’s a reason lots of medievalists (the people who kinda know a little something about it) call it “the ‘F’ word.” I don’t think Brown is completely right about it (Brown, Elizabeth A.R. “The Tyranny of a Construct: Feudalism and Historians of Medieval Europe,” AHR 79 (1974), pp. 1063-1088), but I also would argue that most of us don’t completely buy Bloch’s interpretation, or at least might say that he’s often misinterpreted in terms of what the actual feudal relationship is.

I would also suggest that people read both Ganshof and Reynolds to get an even more complete picture. Those are just some of the basics -- and I'm not even going back as far as Maitland.

Why, you might ask, does this matter so much to Another Damned Medievalist? It's just a word, after all. And in some ways, I agree. Except ...

I really think that the misuse of and misconceptions attached to this word have done more to present a false picture of the Middle Ages than perhaps any other single concept. For many people, it forms the foundations for a wonderfully romantic (in the small 'R' sense) picture, beloved by the SCA, RPG-ers, etc. It ties into the idea of the entire Middle Ages as "Dark Ages," even though the period once so described never included the later M.A. It supports a mythos that includes a set of Us vs. Them, West vs. East, Christian vs. Islam social, political, and economic dichotomies that provide fodder for explanations and justifications for the furtherance of those antagonistic relationships up to and including the present. This saddens me, because the truth is so much richer than the fiction. Understanding that richness, and the complexities of the interactions between peoples and cultures in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages forces us to reinterpret a lot of what we see in the news. It makes us look again at Spain's patron saint, Santiago Matamoros (talk about anachronism) and Italy's recent attempt to 'recognise a "historical truth" and refer explicitly to the "Christian roots of Europe" in its new constitution' from a new perspective -- just how true are those "historical truths"?

It's only a few steps from such misinterpretations to the deliberate kinds of historical revisionism condemned by James McPherson in the September, 2003 issue of Perspectives, a journal published by the the American Historical Association. McPherson was goaded into speaking out against the misuse of the term "revisionist historians" by the Bush administration. One of the examples McPherson gave was the administration's arguments for the invasion of Iraq:

The administration's pejorative usage of "revisionist history" to denigrate critics by imputing to them a falsification of history is scarcely surprising. But it is especially ironic, considering that the president and his principal advisers have themselves been practitioners par excellence of this kind of revisionism. Iraq offers many examples. To justify an unprovoked invasion of that country, the president repeatedly exaggerated or distorted ambiguous intelligence reports to portray Iraqi possession of or programs to develop biological, chemical, and nuclear "weapons of mass destruction" that posed an imminent threat to the United States. In his State of the Union message on January 28, President Bush made clear his acceptance of a British intelligence report that "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" to develop nuclear weapons. This assertion was "revisionist history" with a vengeance; the U. S. government knew at the time it was received that the intelligence was unreliable and learned soon afterwards that it was based on forged documents. Yet not until July did the administration concede its gaffe—and then tried to blame the CIA. That agency took the fall, but with respect to another administration justification for the war—Saddam Hussein's alleged ties to Al Qaeda—the CIA refused to provide any aid and comfort. An official in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research offered (in the New York Times of July 12, 2003) a pointed description of the kind of revisionist history practiced by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et al: "This administration has had a faith-based intelligence attitude: 'We know the answers, give us the intelligence to support those answers.'"

I hate to put forth a "thin end of the wedge" argument, but this much is true, at least in the U.S.: as a discipline in K-12, History is given far less attention than it was 20 or so years ago. It is seldom taught by people with discipline degrees, and frequently by people who have taken as few as two undergraduate courses in the subject. It is taught much as a collection of names and dates to remember, and the critical thinking and analytical skills absolutely necessary to thinking as an historian never make an appearance. It it therefore arguably easier to convince the public that a particular interpretation of history is correct, because frankly, a large number of the public hated History in school because it was badly taught and, if they remember anything, it is either a few unconected events or their particular teacher's interpretation. They are comfortable with the lumpers, and see the splitters as troublemakers.

[ADM finds that the argument has taken on a life of its own in a place entirely unexpected and thinks, "what the hell ..." but goes with it]

Bush is a lumper of sorts. He relies on people not to be splitters. I will not comply. It is our responsibility as teachers to make sure our students know when to lump and when to split. The debate on the 'F' word is a teaching opportunity. Use it wisely ;-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Anyone surprised?

Anyone Surprised?

Lord of the rings
J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are
entertaining and imaginative, creating whole
new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you
have a whole league of imitators, none of which
is quite as profound as you are. Stories and
songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your
eternal battle with the forces of evil.

Which literature classic are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I was. I don't think I've really got many imitators, although I have what the spouse calls my acolytes. The first set are getting ready to start their transfer year at Big State U this quarter -- I'm incredibly worried that I haven't prepared them well enough. What if I've let them down??? The rest is kinda true, I think -- especially the song thing. Oh, and the fighting evil. My heroes have always been fighters of evil -- although not necessarily evildoers.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Shoot the Whole Day Down

Shoot the Whole Day Down

Didja know that Rhapsody has no Boomtown Rats? Not that I'd normally mind too much, but there are times I'd like to start my day with "I don't like Mondays," and the Tori Amos version isn't quite the same (although Tori Amos kicks ass). Here's why I don't like Mondays:

The Quarter Approaches

I'm behind as usual. The spouse still can't understand what I do with my day -- although when the spouse asks, it's not, how's the book review going? or how's the new class coming? but rather, when are you going to re-finish the deck? I admit I am the world's worst procrastinator (although my student with the incomplete is pushing that -- two weeks overdue, they're shutting down the Blackboard site on Wednesday, and she's now dumping all this grading on me just as my crunch is is hitting crisis level. Still, I know that, if I'd got my act together a bit earlier, this would not be a problem. On the other hand, this is my first year as a full-time, no running from job to job, academic, with a summer where I can justify not working as a waitress or something. How can I learn how to do this right, if I have to fight the, "but you have the Summer off!" battle?

Proud Extremely Embarrassed to be a Murcan

Paul Hamm is an embarrassment. Paul Hamm is a big, fat (well, really, little and muscular) LOSER. Really. Paul, you little whiner, you DIDN'T win Gold. You weren't good enough on the day and it sucks, but get over it. Dude, aren't you ashamed of yourself? Look at this!
“I shouldn’t even be dealing with this,” Hamm said Sunday after failing to win medals in event finals for pommel horse and floor exercise.

or even, much worse in my opinion,
Hamm simply wants the dispute to be over. He doesn’t feel his gold medal has been marred.

“I personally feel I was the Olympic champion that night,” he said. “If you’re going to open the door to changing the rules, you’re going to open the door to doing everything. That’s why we have those rules in place.”

Paul, you won on a math error. You weren't really the Olympic champion. But here's the deal -- you got to feel that you were for a while. You got to feel that you were really lucky, too, because ... um ... remember the vault? It should have taken you out. It didn't. But you didn't give a championship performance, and you must know it. No one had a clean night.

So please, Paul, be a man. Be a mensch. Be a sportsman. I'm not the only one who thinks you should give up the gold with grace and dignity (although it's a bit late for that, isn't it, you twit). Mike Celizic thinks so, too, although Not for the same reasons:
He [Hamm] may already have missed his chance to show the world that Americans still believe in sportsmanship and to generate the kind of goodwill that this country will never recover, no matter how many times the White House issues statements about how much better off Iraq is now than it was before we brought peace, harmony, democracy and full employment there.

That's a bit hyperbolic -- clearly it's wrong to even imply that Hamm has the ability to make a difference that could right the wrongs wrought by the latest war against Iraq. He's unfortunately right in that Hamm's actions will probably play badly in Korea after the Apollo Ohno fiasco, but that shouldn't be a concern for Hamm. He shouldn't give up his medal for international relations. He shouldn't give them up to make the US look less arrogant, either -- although he should know he's an embarrassment to a lot of us already, and will only begin to retrieve his reputation by giving back the medal.

But dammit, he should give it up because ... well ... it's the right thing to do. It saddens me that this is even a question for him. It's not like the Koreans are asking for a change because the cameras caught something that the judges didn't. I can see how winning a protest on those grounds would rock the sports world.* But that's not the case here. The judges goofed on the math and Paul Hamm should act like a man, not a baby. 'Cause as much as I believe that we shouldn't force our athletes to be international relations experts, they do represent the country. Our tax money (I believe) helps to give them prizes for winning. They have an obligation to make us proud, not to win.

*Just think what might have happened in the 1998 World Cup, had the referees had access to Simeone's attack on Becks, or in 86, when England went down to the Hand of God. And look at what happened to Beckham when England came home. He was in the right, but still not the hero. Just to remind you, Paul Hamm is in the wrong.

I love Ali G -- Spoilers coming up

So last night, we were watching Da Ali G Show. For those of you unacquainted with the show, it's a piss-take on everything. The hugely funny Sascha Baron Cohen, in the guise of characters Ali G, Borat, and Bruno, interactswith and interviews real people. Ali G is the best, because Cohen clearly does some research so that he can deliberately misunderstand his hapless interviewees -- people like James Lipton, John Gray, Naomi Wolf, and last night's Andy Rooney.
The funniest moment last night was when the Bruno character -- the best gay Eurotrash character I've ever seen -- went to Daytona Beach for Spring Break and got these college wrestlers to "teach him to wrestle", scream at the cameras, and show off their nether cheeks, only to find out they were being filmed for "Austrian Gay TV." The saddest was when Ali went in to talk to Andy Rooney. Rooney came off as a cranky old man who thinks far too highly of himself. He started in on Ali for slaughtering the English language, and then, when he could have taken the piss right back, he got up and terminated the interview. Another crybaby. The sad thing was that Ali G gave Rooney the opening to say something both true and useful. He asked Rooney if it wouldn't make more sense to write the news in advance, so that people could avoid all the terrible things that happened. Rooney got all pissy, and then, when Ali G asked if it had ever happened before, had the newspapers ever got it wrong by writing something in advance -- perhaps over an election? -- Rooney, the experienced commentator, chose to have a hissy instead of taking the "Dewey Defeats Truman" option. Pathetic little man. Da Ali G Show is in the worst possible taste (although I still think it ranks behind South Park), but I think some of the satire is brilliant. It's a good note on which to end the week.

Lordy -- is that the time? I have an online class to prep!

Friday, August 20, 2004

Explanation, please?

Explanation, Please?

Haven't had a chance to check on the blogosphere today, and have much in the way of else to do. But I just saw this and am both pissed off and confused. Pissed off, because it seems a really lame reason to deny a person communion. Confused, because presumably the communion wafers are transubstantiated anyway -- so why does it matter what they started out as?? I mean, really. If we are to believe that the miracle of transubstantiation exists at all, why wouldn't it? It's not a spell where a practitioner of magic has to have the right ingredients or it all goes pear-shaped -- it's not supposed to be magic at all, is it? It's supposed to be bloody miraculous. I thought there was a difference, but apparently there's a limit on what miracles can be performed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

My favorite season

My favorite season

At the moment, it's now. Forget that spring thing (although I really love it by the end of winter) -- now is the good season. Football season is here!. Ok, I admit that last link was to Chris Bertram's invite to play BBC Fantasy Football, but that's part of the fun. Even more fun is this! Hee hee hee! To be fair, though, I think the frequently dodgy Mike Riley should have given Everton a penalty -- Cygan committed a blatent foul in the box, and it's a miracle neither the linesman nor the ref saw it.

The other great thing about this time of year is that I start gearing up for school in a big way. It's like there's a switch, somewhere between excitement and panic, that gets thrown when the kids in the neighborhood start talking about going back. It means I have about six weeks to take care of far too much stuff, but I love it. Apropos of that, I've turned in my submission to the Chronicle for consideration to be one of the job-hunt First Person people. I'd love it if anybody can think of a pseudonym for me to use -- ADM is almost as specific as my real name, in terms of the job market!

Also, I just read this really good article by Jonathan Dresner of Cliopatra on grade inflation and the need for faculty to take ownership of assessment before assessment takes ownership of us.

For now, I have to read a student paper (finishing up an incomplete -- interesting, since I'm still a contingent person and not actually employed until the quarter starts (and even then, I haven't yet received my letter of intent) and clean up my office.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Another fine mess

Another Fine Mess

New rules for the rest of the summer:
  • Don't forget Bill Maher is back
  • Stop taking on projects like, uh ...everything! (see below)
  • Put a time limit on time spent in the blogosphere (note: this requires that Rana, Steve Krause, profgrrl, and ProfB (among others) stop the pseudonym discussion)
  • get the old stuff done before the new stuff (see above!)

Dumbass projects and why I'm doing them:
  1. Refinishing the floors. All of them. Dog destroys carpet on landing, ADM rips up carpet to find hardwood beneath. ADM takes carpet off stairs. ADM and spouse decide to refinish all floors where hardwood is under pet-stained carpet. ADM and spouse fortunately return to partial sanity and decide to call in pros for actual refinishing, but are now committed to pulling up carpet, nails staples, padding, kenneling pets and staying in a hotel for a couple of days.
  2. Finishing fence. Actually spouse's job,. but must help with trenching and gravelling below fence line. Oh, and staining.
  3. making spouse a gift before next Monday's birthday -- which means buying unfinished gift and painting it creatively.
  4. making handmade invitation's for spouse's birthday party.
  5. giving shower for colleague -- meaning much weeding and cleaning in next few days.
  6. working on late review so I can write review I just agreed to do -- plus the usual "getting ready for the school year and market" stuff.
  7. Writing something to send to the Chronicle in the next two days.

Jane, stop this crazy thing!

Oh well -- I think it's taught me one thing about academic summers. If I'm not teaching Summer Quarter, I should just devote the first six weeks of summer to household projects. That way, I'll be so happy to get back to academic stuff that I'll be able to focus on it. Now, off to the shops and the garden.

Monday, August 09, 2004



Messing with Code

Whew -- I think I finally got the stupid comment thing figured out. Ugh.

Who'd have believed it?

I agree with
Condi Rice on something! According to the New York Times, she says:
the United States and its allies "cannot allow the Iranians to develop a nuclear weapon"

but then ...
warned that President Bush would "look at all the tools that are available to him" to stop Iran's program.

Ummmm ... no. We've seen what happens when Bush looks at his tools. You know what, George and Condi? It's like, not your job. Or it is, but not just yours. Here's a thought -- maybe it should be a multilateral decision. In my book, Iran + Nukes = bad news. But then, in my book, almost anybody + nukes = bad news.

Yes, there could be problems with that since, like Iraq, Iran has trading partners less willing to put pressure on them. But maybe, just maybe, my tax dollars would be better spent on getting rid of actual terrorists preparing to attack actual people, and we let the IAEA do their jobs. Call me a flip-flopping pessimist, but I'm more worried about hard-to-track cells with portable weapons or flight training than I am long-range nukes. Of course, we might have to crack down on our own trading partners who harbor terrorists and/or practice terrorism themselves.

What would Condi and George suggest, I wonder, if the Saudis acquired significant nuclear capability and aimed their weapons at Israel?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Changing comments

Changing Comments

Well, Squawk Box flaked on me again, and blogger now offers its own comments, so I've switched over. If you left comments on the previous post, I hope you'll re-post them. Meanwhile, I'll try to figure out how to retrieve the stuff that was already on the comments pages. Pardon our progress, as they say in retail remodeling. Why they say that beats me.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Good (Academic) Wife

The Good (Academic) Wife

The pseudonymous Julia Goode offers an interesting column in the Chronicle this week discusses academic summer schedules. As with many of the Chronicle's offerings, it has its downside. (Note to self: try not to do what you are about to criticise when submitting the audition "First Person" column ... ) The author seems to imply that her problem is one more limited to legal scholars than to all of us, especially those whose families don't have a tradition of academic employment.

So I try to explain that even though I'm not teaching, I am still "working" and that I need to do research and write an article during the summer. That obligation never sounds substantive enough for a nonacademic to understand that I might not be available for weekly park outings on Thursday mornings.

Other moms seem surprised and dismayed to learn that even though I'm not teaching this summer, my children are signed up for camp five days a week. So I fill my answers with more disclaimers about how my schedule is very flexible and how we're always available for an afternoon here or there. Then I rob Monday night to pay for Monday's trip to the zoo with a playmate and her mom. Or more accurately, I rob January, nearly killing myself trying to finish my article for submission March 1, to pay for the June that I will spend with my kids in the park.

Lady, you're not alone. Really. It's not just a mom thing, either. Granted, this particular professor is perhaps feeling the pressure more than many of us do, since she has a couple of small children and a tenure-track job wherer she is expected to produce a substantial article a year. My hunch is, though, that most academics, especially those whose partners are not academics, have to cope with the same problems. It's true even during the academic year, I think. There seems to be a perception that we only work when we are teaching classes, and maybe grading papers. In my house, it was only after my spouse found out that lots of my colleagues work 10-12 hours a day (I can think of one who puts in more, but he's head of the Faculty Senate Council and Professional Development Coordinator) that he stopped thinking that I was just hopeless at time management. I'm not good at it, but teaching at least one new prep a quarter in writing-intensive classes takes a bit of time to do even reasonably well.

For those of us who have been employed as contingent faculty, I think that it actually gets a bit stickier. For those who find summer jobs (something I thought would go away after I finished college), there is little necessity to justify to others how the summer is spent. For those who are fortunate enough to have the financial wherewithal to "take the summer off," though, it often comes at the same price that the author of the Chronicle piece pays. At our house, for example, summer is a time for projects. Gardens must be tended, yards weeded, decks cleaned and re-finished, interiors painted, and there's a general expectation that the house will be cleaner than it is "when I'm working." The problem is, of course that all of these things take time away from catching up on reading, writing new lectures, prepping new classes, and getting book reviews and articles researched and written. And, of course, landing a tenure-track job is less likely unless those things get done!

All that whingeing aside, I do sometimes wonder how much of this we bring upon ourselves and how much it might have to do with the expectations society still holds of women. Goode says:
Admittedly, summer outings and my pathological need for social acceptance among peer mothers aren't the only suspects in the case of my missing time. Because my husband has clients and other lawyers demanding his attention at specific times and intervals, most interruptions in the schedule fall on me. Whenever our children are too sick to go to school, whenever they have dentist appointments or whenever the heater breaks, I'm the person who stays home to handle the unexpected. Carpet cleaning, furniture delivery, car maintenance, school holidays -- those 8 a.m to 5 p.m. intrusions fall to me.

Individually, the division of labor makes sense. If someone has to take the dog to the vet, my husband's absence will be noticed at his law firm. My absence will not make the piles of unread law-review articles even raise an eyebrow. But in the aggregate, the individual diversions can take a huge bite out of my course prep and research time.

What she says makes sense, but does that have to do more with having a flexible schedule or with her work being perceived as less important? Or indeed, with her own perception of her work as being less important in the grander scheme of her family life? I don't mean that I think Goode is not entirely dedicated to her career -- far from it. I do wonder, though, if women are more likely to make those flexibility compromises than are men. One of the things I like about being a full-time (if contingent) faculty person is that I have an office, and I'm expected to be on campus and available for most of the week. I commute an hour each way to get there -- so I can't just run home to wait for a repairman and go back to the office. I can justify a certain lack of flexibility and get more work done. Before, either when working or in grad school, I'd always been the person who took care of such things, as well as the vet, school appointments and kid things when there was a kid at home. And like Goode says, it makes sense. Sort of.

Why sort of? Because I think part of the problem is that when we are willing to be that flexible, we run the risk of robbing Peter, but paying Paul with exorbitant late fees. Scholarship is actual work. It may not be as tangible as other work, but the more I think about that, I wonder how tangible any white collar work is. Does a programmer have to justify his time at work by saying, "I wrote x number of lines of code today?" When we treat is as something that can be shifted around and put off, we run the risk of devaluing it in our own eyes and thus in the eyes of others. Looking at my male colleagues, I don't see that happening nearly as much. There seems to be much more of an innate sense that whatever they do, their time is worth something. Not worth more, mind you, but of value.

For those who are reading this, thinking that I've not proven the male-female point well at all, I agree. It's just something I'm wondering about. It could also be something to do with how non-academic society sees academics -- or maybe how that translates for people from non-academic backgrounds make a transition to a life of teaching and scholarship. With nothing to compare to, and with no one in the immediate family to understand that in many ways, academe really is another world (although no more so than medicine, law, internet start-ups or restaurants) with different expectations, it's easy to understand a willingness to allow one's work to be undervalued. I knew a couple of guys who dropped out of grad school because of that. So, it could be neither, or both, or some of each ... what do you think?