Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pre-trip pics

We haven't left yet, but here's my first trip post. Here's some of our students, getting to know one another and exploring the still-under-construction home of one of the professors on the trip. More pictures on my flickr.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

And One More

I just want to post this one so I can find it for my own reference. Often, when I explain to my students that I expect their writing to tell me not just WHAT they think, but their reasoning in reaching those thoughts I will exclaim, in the voice of a seasame street cowboy "I wanna know why!" And then I'll end up explaining this sketch to them, and looking like a dork. At least now I know I remembered the sketch properly.

Not on the road yet

Just sitting at home, watchin' the youtubes. Here's a classic seasame street sketch.

I suppose the appropriation of reggae and the use of a faux-Carribean Black dialect "de" for "the" makes this part of America's long history of minstrelsy. Muppet-face, shall we call it? But, on the plus side, Ernie has the whole neighborhood in the bathtub with him! Pretty transgressive sexuality that.

I mean think about it. This was a mid 80s early 90s sketch if I remember correctly. Certainly part of the Sesame Street line up of my generation's youth. What was the fad of our college years?

Yeah, you guessed it, foam-dance parties... coincidence, I think not!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Watch This Space

I'll be on the road from June 30-July 15, driving a van for an undergraduate class taking a trip to the southwest. Stay tuned for pics and text (and maybe video) on my roadtrip.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Useful Exemplar

In my Ethnic Studies class, I teach my students that "Race is a social construct." That's basically all I try to teach them. It takes most of a semester to explain those five words. Mostly they mean that society tries to use biology to explain differences between people that are actually imposed on them by the social structure itself. Getting the student's to believe that and see how it happens is what takes the time. In a commencement speech this weekend, Gloria Steinem provided a useful example of the socially-constructed nature of the related concept of Gender. I think its a pretty good one.

"In my generation, we were asked by the Smith vocational office how many words we could type a minute, a question that was never asked of then all-male students at Harvard or Princeton. Female-only typing was rationalized by supposedly greater female verbal skills, attention to detail, smaller fingers, goodness knows what, but the public imagination just didn’t include male typists, certainly not Ivy League-educated ones.

Now computers have come along, and "typing" is "keyboarding." Suddenly, voila! --- men can type! Gives you faith in men’s ability to change, doesn’t it?"

---Gloria Steinem at Smith College:

I especially like her use of the term "public imagination" here. Shows how the way a group of people's shared means for imagining the world has a real impact on how that world happens.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Problem With June

This was not, as they say, a productive weekend. That's the problem with June. Finding motivation. A month with fair weather is a month with contentment too close at hand, easy peace too readily available. I've spent the last four days reading easy, fun books of no academic use to me whatsoever (namely, Philip Pullman's excellent "His Dark Materials" series) listening to music (often Richard Buckner's "Dents and Shells"), riding my bike, and staring up at the sky. Quizzes have gone ungraded, research projects have stalled in their forward progress. Instead, I watched a turkey vulture and a pair of swallows circle into the sky on the updraft from the parking lot, and followed the story of a young girl's adventures with witches and armored bears. It felt good, but I know there's so much more I have to do if I want to make a difference, or even a living.

In any event, the upside is this, I am reminded again that anyone who needs more than a meal, a book, a sycamore tree and a decent sunset to feel happy is just stark nuts. Which is important to remember, as it suggests the world is currently being run by people who are absolutely batshit insane.