Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bérubé on Academic Freedom

Just finished listening to Michael Bérubé’s talk at Penn State last week. I am seriously challenged by long blog postings, so I elected to listen to, and watch, the streaming video from the website. I particularly liked how he pointed out how the radical right violate the principle they seek to uphold, academic freedom, by seeking to have a balance on the faculty. He also points out how attacks on academic freedom coincide with attacks on liberalism, and how the discussion of controversial issues is part of the job of a university professor, whether he or she be liberal or conservative. The stats he quotes on composition of the faculty and such went by quickly in audio, but can be examined more carefully in the blog posting. To us in state universities, Bérubé’s comment that as state support declines (where state funds provide only about 10% of Penn State’s operating budget), calls for state accountability increase, certainly rings true. Ironies abound in this latest round of attacks on academic freedom. And do read or listen to what Bérubé says about Sidney Hook and Ward Churchill.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Brokeback Reflections...

Brokeback Mountain finally came to our burg last week, and Rita and I saw it on opening night, with enough members of my department to almost make a quorum for a faculty meeting. I had read the Annie Proulx story in the New Yorker the week before, and had been eager to see the film.

I wasn't disappointed, and found the film moving and absorbing. Just a couple of items I wanted to comment upon, and thanks to Rita Rud for sharing in developing these insights:

-the way Ennis finds out about the fate of Jack was masterfully done in the film. You already knew how Ennis had been shown what happens to gay men by his father in a vivid flashback earlier in the film. When Jack's wife tells Ennis over the phone about the tire blowing up in Jack's face and killing him, what flashes in Ennis's mind is a scene reminiscent of what he saw as a young man. But you don't KNOW if that is what happened to Jack from the film. The fact that it is strongly suggested, but plays out also as what was Ennis's big fear (recall what he said earlier to Jack that if they were caught, they would be dead) is masterful directing.

-the scene where Jack's family is having a holiday meal (Thanksgiving?) when his father-in-law insists on keeping the football game on TV for his grandson to experience...after all, real men have football on when a big meal is served. Jack turns it off, and in doing so supports his wife, who has labored over the meal. He dresses down his father-in-law, insisting on his place as the man of the family. He thus straddles being a sensitive man (sympathetic to his wife's labors over the meal) and an assertive man (standing up for what he believed was respectful behavior in his house). Again, masterful direction: the father-in-law, rather than blow up at Jack then, holds his anger within, but you know he is seething. You almost get the feeling that he won't dress Jack down in front of his daughter and grandson, but that Jack's retribution is coming.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Uh, wuzzat you say, Maggie?

The education president, via Maud Newton.
Update: Dubya's response on student loans to Tiffany in Kansas.

Monday, January 23, 2006

"Jimmy Carter and the Culture of Death"

My exposure to Jimmy Carter's new book has been limited to glancing at the cover in the display at Sam's and hearing Carter interviewed briefly by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Thus I found this review by Garry Wills to be absorbing, and I especially liked the way Wills talked about Carter's Christian beliefs.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A good laff...

The blogoscenti have been pecking away furiously about the UCLA group that is supposedly "outing" radical professors. I agree with Kieran Healy over at Crooked Timber that the website UCLA Profs is poorly written and conceived. But I can't help but laugh at this portrait of their numero uno target, complete with their highest "rating" of five fists below that groovy picture. And the text, hahahahaha, here are some tidbits:

-While he’s cool with the gay folks, Peter McLaren is no fan of the white man. How could he be, when the white man, or whiteness in general, is the font of all terror, all capitalism, all hegemony, all whatever-the-academic-scapegoat-word-of-the-moment-is.

-The only thing that stops McLaren from being the next Noam Chomsky is that his academic output, while unbelievably prolific, is often insufferably abstract, riddled with words that send even college-level readers running for the dictionary.

And this is my fave:

-With most UCLA professors, the C. V. (essentially an academic resume) is a somewhat lengthy document that can run upwards of 20 pages. McLaren puts them all to shame with a bloated C.V. that weighs in at an astounding 129 pages. One. Hundred. Twenty. Nine. While admittedly bulked up at some intervals by six-line entries for a single speech (down to the location and time, in proper Euro-notation), it also reflects the monster that is Peter McLaren.

Hey, you go Peter!

Update: An unusually short post on the UCLA outing topic from Michael B.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wake up...the semester is starting!

First class in higher ed in film and fiction, the sophomore version of the mother of this blog. Here is what we did:

Higher Education in Film and Fiction
A. G. Rud

Introductory Exercises

Each group will take a few of the books assigned, and read the cover materials. Then discuss what issues you think may be covered in the book. Come up with 2-3 issues to discuss among yourselves and present a short descriptor of the book and what these issues are to the larger group. The books this time are a bit different. Lucky Jim and Changing Places are both still there, as is Moo and Straight Man, but May Sarton is out as is Roth's The Human Stain. In its place, I Am Charlotte Simmons, which I found utterly absorbing.

Think back to fall of your freshman year in college. What expectations did you have of college, and were they met? If not, what did you find out about your chosen school and yourself at that time? What advice would you give to someone going off to college now? I showed the first 6 minutes of the Felicity pilot here, where Felicity decides to defy her parents and go off to NYC based on what a boy wrote in her yearbook. While a bit farfetched, it is not entirely off the mark of how youth makes decisions...or not-youth for that matter.

Take a piece of paper and write a paragraph on the most influential person for you at college or graduate school. Then list 3 or more characteristics of that person that you find admirable. Skipped this one. In retrospect, seems a bit college applicationy.

Break into two groups, A and B. Take the words listed below for your group and create a scenario, skit, description, or story using these words

Beth Davis
Dean of Students
Football Team
Department of Economics

John Jones
Study Abroad
His roommate
Pizza King

This was a hoot, everyone was ready for some wild flights of fancy. I think we are off to another good semester!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I so wanted Charlotte's grades to be wrong!

Up for air, after scattered and infrequent posts this past month.

I just finished a marathon read of I am Charlotte Simmons, which I will use this semester in my higher ed in film and fiction class. I found the sports sections totally absorbing, and the character of Charlotte Simmons just about heartbreaking (I've lived in the hollers of western North Carolina, eaten at plenty of Sizzlin' Skillets, and can imagine how a family there might give a Christmas present of a rebuilt Kaypro computer). I admit I set myself up for the ending, hoping that Wolfe would rescue Charlotte, but no, and it tore me up.

Now finishing Elaine Showalter's Faculty Towers, a nice little job, and I don't mind the indulgent Princetoning within, as some have.