Wednesday, July 28, 2004

 

Oh, yes, I know "liberals" like this.

This Onion "opinion" column is hillarious.

I'll try to write something more substantial soon. The dissertation is close to being finished, but moving time is fast upon me. Excuses, excuses, I know.



Wednesday, July 21, 2004

 

Okay, My Brain's Really Tired--Dammit!

Just accidentally erased the rest of my post--d'oh! I'll try to recreate it, but of course it won't be as brilliant as the original (ahem).

There's been an interesting discussion over at Asymmetrical Information about bias in bookstore displays. One thing I'd like to reiterate here: One doesn't need to subscribe to any conservative conspiracy theory to notice and find objectionable the ideological imbalance evident in many bookstore displays of political titles. I don't think there's some sinister plot afoot to influence consumer politics and nudge them ever further left; what does disturb me, though, is that for the people who typically arrange such displays (usually no higher than assistant manager types, sometimes just a general employee--what we're talking about here is not the freestanding cardboard display units sent by publishers for new releases that are expected to be a big hit, but display tables created by whoever happens to be in charge of a section--I worked in both independent and chain bookstores for seven-odd years, so I do know somewhat whereof I speak) it doesn't seem to occur to them that they might want to choose titles that represent a range of ideological perspectives. This not only makes good business sense--those who share one perspective might want to check out the opposition, if only to muster counterarguments, while others might buy books to help bolster their own positions--it also represents the kind of intellectual integrity that I expect from those in an industry that at least partially claims to promote thoughtful inquiry and the broadening of horizons. Or maybe I'm just naive. But check out the comments on Jane Galt's blog and make up your own mind.

 

My Brain is Tired

In response to some gentle prodding from Photon Courier, I'll take a break from packing, calorie-counting (amazing how much time a diet takes up when you do it right), and frantic dissertating (three weeks left to complete a working draft--eep!)and post a bit of something, just so everyone knows Winston and I aren't dead.

If I ever have kids (an event that becomes more doubtful as the years pass and financial security for me and my husband is still elusive), I want them to go to the Trinity School. Their curriculum is essentially based on the trivium and the quadrivium, the medieval concept of the liberal arts: music, history, mathematics, science, literature, art, and language. Hell, I wish I had gone to this school.

Monday, July 12, 2004

 

Being Forced to Teach Ehrenreich: A Plea for Help

First, my apologies for not having blogged since the end of May. Finishing the dissertation is providing me with just about all of the writing practice I need, and since my dissertation is so far afield of the things I write about as "Winston" (since I am engaging in traditional literary criticism), most of what I am reading does not feed into blog entries that the general public would necessarily find interesting.

But, as the summer fades away, I am being forced more and more to think about the job I have taken for the 2004-2005 academic year, the poorly paid adjunct position I mentioned a couple of months back.

While I object strongly to the fact that I will be making about twenty cents on the dollar to an assistant professor, I object even more strongly to the fact that I am being required to teach this university's version of the infamous freshman indoctrination course, and that I have absolutely no freedom to choose what texts I will be teaching in my own class--it is all decided by committee.

As you may imagine, the reading list is chock full of left-wing favorites. Much of it is multicultural (a good 1/3 of the works are by African-Americans, about the concerns of African-Americans), some of it good, much of it further evidence of affirmative action in the canon.

One book really bothers me, though, and that is Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed. First, I am bothered because of Ehrenreich's blantant socialism and the fact that having students read this book--particularly since there is nothing else on the reading list to balance it out--may constitute an endorsement of Ehrenreich's position. Second I am bothered because she is really no kinder to the working class than their employers are, and has indeed profited from them to an even greater extent than their employers; she is, in all respects, a limousine liberal, and as someone who comes from a working class family, I find the attitude of the limousine liberal extremely abhorrent. Finally, I am bothered by the fact that her book contains glaring inaccuracies as well as simply solutions that do not take into account the complexity of the problem she wishes to solve; the institution at which I am employed and other institutions which use this book as part of their initial indoctrination efforts generally fail to address these concerns in their lesson plans.

So what has been keeping me up nights as of late (and God bless Ambien) is a deep concern with how I'm going to go about "teaching" this book.

Beyond the social, political, and economic concerns I have with the book is the simple fact that this university has assigned one arm-chair economist to teach a book by another arm-chair economist. This fact alone gives me ethical hives. Ehrenreich is an investigative reporter, and her book reveals her knowledge of economics to be both impoverish and ideologically conditioned. I took micro- and macro-economics as an undergrad, but that was at least fifteen years ago; since then, my exposure to economics has been a daily reading of The Wall Street Journal and that's about it. And even in the Journal, it's not like I'm reading it cover-to-cover.

Ethically, I'm required to give myself a crash-course in economics--which I'm going to try to do--but that's really no substitute for actual training in the field, and I do have a lot of other things on my plate right now.

So I want to ask you all for help, and I'd appreciate if other bloggers would mention my plea on their own blogs, to try and attract as much advice as possible. If you've taught this book before (and you've taught it critically--lockstep leftists needn't reply), I'd like to hear about it. If you have suggestions as to how I might make myself more knowledgeable before teaching this book--including reading recommendations--please let me know. And if you just want to tell me how you think you'd handle this situation, I'd love to hear that as well.

One last thing--it had occured to me that I might use my own situation as a teaching tool. While I'm not getting paid hourly, my yearly "salary" is at the minimum wage level, and I'm obviously helping the university and the department to balance their budgets. And I have no benefits. Yet here I am teaching a book about how evil the business world is, and how underpaid its employees are, as if the ivory tower is somehow better and in a position to pass judgment. I find that a little ironic.

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