Monday, January 29, 2007

Walk on the Dark Side

I just accepted a part-time administrator position in exchange for a course release. Why do I suddenly feel dirty?

It is an administrator position that gets to work primarily with bright and hard-working students - so maybe it isn't really like taking the "Dark Mark" and becoming a Death Eater. But I still feel a little weird/guilty about it, especially when I had to decide which of my upper-level classes I would have to stop offering.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Wikipedia Book Summaries - Will It Ever End?

So do you think if professors assigned students to read book summaries, rather than entire books, the students would find some why to avoid reading summaries too?

According to the web site: will provide free book summaries that anyone can edit, including information on character profiles, detailed chapter summaries, study questions, important quotes, analysis of metaphor and symbolism, etc.

The Spanish American War is Over, Time to Stop Being Taxed for It has a nice article about how Americans have been paying on the phone bills for a tax instituted to pay for the Spanish-American war in 1898.

If you have access to the Historical New York Times you can read about the debate over the bill to fund the war. Apparently, members of the House agreed that a new tax would be required to pay for the war (what a concept), but debated over what form the tax should take. The Republican Party favored the a tax on consumption and business transactions, while the Democrats and Populists favored an income tax. The Democrats ended up being out-voted.

Public-Domain Image Links

Progressive Historians has a nice list of sites where one you can find public-domain images online.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Excuses for Missing Class

Three days into the semester I've already gotten two excuses from students about why they had to miss class. One of them had some sort of retreat connected to their job and the other was going to visit a graduate school. I just *love* hearing about what students consider to be more important than coming to my class. I especially liked the kid who told me he was going to miss class because the 5 year-olds at the Child Development Center were getting married and he was going to video tape it.

Thank goodness I don't have night classes, I would hate to know how many shows (House, Desperate Housewives, etc.) were more important than learning about the Industrial Revolution. If you think that no student who thought a TV show was more important than class would be silly enough to actually tell that to the teacher than you probably haven't had your idealism crushed out of you by hundreds of general education students. I remember years ago for a U.S. Women's History class at the the same time the O.J. Verdict was announced, I probably received a half dozen emails from students informing me that they wouldn't be making it to class in order to find out he was convicted or not.

I hate listening to student excuses so much, that I specifically give my students a number of *free* absences. They can skip class for whatever reason they want and it won't affect their grades. I do this primarily to save my own sanity and so I don't have to know just how far down on their list of priorities history class ranks.

Despite this fairly permissive attitude, I still get a ton of stories about why students had to miss class - especially on a test days. Car wrecks, flat tires, illness are all common place excuses. An old favorite is the death of a grandparent. It is likely, hard to disprove (bring me a copy of death certificate -seems a bit cold), and only a heartless professor would refuse a make-up exam to a student who just lost his grandpa. One year, I swore that someone must have put a curse on me because almost a 1/3 of my students grandparents passed away in a single semester.

Although Joseph Palladino's and Mitchell Handelsman's contention that "There is no relationship between the validity of an excuse and its apparent creativity/outrageousness" is probably true, I do hold a soft spot in my heart for those student's who have the wildest/weirdest excuses for missing class. Like the the kid who couldn't make it because he had to go to court because he was going 50-miles-per-hour over the speed limit on I-75 (I was surprised that anyone even noticed). Or the student whose dad was being evicted from his apartment and had to help him move all the stuff out before it ended up on the sidewalk. Of course, my all time personal favorite is the girl who couldn't make it to the exam because she had gotten her first pap-smear that day and was traumatized by the experience (I am certain this crossed some sort of line).

If I didn't teach at a small college, where we are supposed to notice if the students aren't in class, I would probably not have an attendance policy at all - just to avoid the excuses.

Note: A colleague just sent me a link to an article at The Chronicle on professors' favorite student excuses.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Post-World War II Newsreel

There is an interesting newsreel on google video show how the War Assets Administration disposed of drums of Sodium in 1947. Did they bury it? Nope. Did they store it in a warehouse for the next 60 years? Nope. Instead they threw it into a lake in Washington State. See the spectacular results here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

AHA - Sunday Notes

Despite my good intention to go to a session today (because I've presented on Sunday's before and it sucks when just 3 people show up in the audience), instead I went down to the book exhibit to see what I could snag cheap or free.

I ended up bringing home (for a total of $11):

1. Laskin - The Children's Blizzard
2. White - Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long
3. Millard - The River of Doubt: TR's Darkest Journey
4. Stole - Advertising on Trial
5. Flood - Grant and Sherman
6. Walker - Shockwave
7. Ambrose - D-Day
8. Ambrose - Citizen Soldiers
9. Ware - Title IX
10. Moran - The Scopes Trial

Saturday, January 06, 2007

AHA - Saturday Notes

I *love* a southern breakfast. I've noticed that everyone north of Virginia and west of Louisiana thinks of breakfast as a danish or bagel or cold cereal type of affair. At the 'Le Cafe' in Atlanta's Hilton hotel, however, they were serving a southern breakfast buffet that included bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, grits, and potatoes. I was in heaven, until I got the $15.00 breakfast bill.

There are way too few chairs in the lobby of Hilton and Marriott. I saw a ton of people leaning all day. People leaned against walls, against big planters, on pillars, and anything else that wasn't moving. I finally scouted out a couch on the fourth floor hidden behind the elevators where I could sit and read in between sessions.

There should be some sort of warning in the Marriott that there are at least 2 lobbies. I was suppose to meet my major professor at 11 a.m. and she never showed. I found out later that the little lobby area on the ground level across from the Hilton WAS NOT the main lobby of the hotel, instead the main lobby was two stories higher!

I participated in a focus group about textbooks and basically argued for a textbook that worked like Wikipedia, but with accurate information. I don't think anyone was very impressed with my suggestion.

The only session I attended today was one on balancing work and family. The panelists made a big deal about trying to go beyond stories or anecdotes about the difficulties of raising children, etc. while being a full-time faculty member and instead tried to present some concrete suggestions for ways that individuals could build coalitions on their campuses and organize for family friendly policies. Most of the suggestions were ideas that would make it easier for women and men to meet their family responsibilities and their work responsibilities. What I didn't hear was any demand for a reconceptionalization of what it means to be a productive faculty member. Why is there never any discussion about the norm of a faculty member is a 60 hour work week for the 15+ weeks of the semester and then spending an unpaid summers doing research so that he or she can get tenure, promoted, or raises?

Is it just me or is alcohol in Atlanta extremely expensive? I had to pay 6.00 for a draft mug of Bud Light! Pitchers (of slightly better beer) cost $17.00! It almost made me want to go back to grad. school where for a $3 cover, I could get a pitcher for $5. I think we should demand that the AHA start planning to hold its conventions in college towns so that cheap beer is easily attainable.

Friday, January 05, 2007

AHA - Friday Notes

Some of the most interesting quotes heard at the AHA today.

  1. The last Republican National Convention was more diverse than the history profession.
  2. 75% of all history teachers listed in the AHA directory of history departments are not members of the AHA.
  3. On average each attendee at the AHA goes to one session (so if you go to 2 you are just paving the way for someone else to not go to any).
  4. There are 5 times as many brunettes as blonds in the AHA.

Atlanta irony - the restaurant named 'Max Lagers' doesn't have a liquor license.

Biggest disappointment of the day - one of my undergraduate students went to the Careers in History Workshop and walked out of there thinking she had to go to graduate school to get a job doing history. The session was suppose to be for high school students, undergraduate students, and beginning graduate students to find out what opportunities there were for history majors on the job market. I had hoped that it would demonstrate the wide variety of things history majors can do with just their B.A. I didn't want to send my students to a graduate school recruitment forum.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

13 Photographs that Changed the World

Ransom Riggs posted 13 photographs that he believes changed the world in the January - February 2007 issue of Mental_Floss Magazine. Many of the one's he chose, I would also argue helped change American history - including the Migrant Mother photo, the Brady photo of the dead at Gettysburg, and the photo showing the killing of a Vietcong in a Saigon street during the Tet Offensive.

I was trying to think of other photos that were important to the direction of American history and the first one that sprang to mind was the photo of the bodies of the women who jumped from the Triangle Shirtwaist Company to avoid being burned alive inside the factory

This photo and the incident it represented not only led to improved fire safety laws, but also strengthened the labor union movement and the desire of middle class progressive women to protect the safety and health of working class women.

I think there is something powerful about images that burns some incidents into our memory that the story or explanation of a situation by itself fails to do.

Monday, January 01, 2007

War Debts

Great Britain has made the final of its World War II war debt payments. The U.S. loaned England 4.33 billion in 1945 at 2% for 50 years (apparently there were 5 years that Great Britain had to defer payments because of economic hardships). World War I war debts have still not been repaid.

I wonder how long it will take for the U.S. to repay the money it is borrowing to fight the insurgency in Iraq?