Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What was it that Mark Twain said about being dead?

Sigh. I found this article, "Anthropology without Science," a bit overheated and under-informing, for the reasons that Hugh Gusterson (a cultural anthropologist on the AAA's executive board) writes in a comment to this posting:

I notice that the article does not tell the readers what the new wording is and how it differs from the old wording. (What sort of journalism is that?) Maybe we could dial down the temperature a little if people saw the two sets of wording. The old wording said "The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects, through archeological, biological, ethnological, and linguistic research; and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists; including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems." The new wording says, "The purposes of the Association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects. This includes, but is not limited to, archaeological, biological, social, cultural, economic, political, historical, medical, visual, and linguistic anthropological research."

I grow weary of that old chestnut about science being thrown under the bus of post-modernism. Reading the old versus the new wording, I think the change in orientation seems to be from promoting anthropology-as-a-science (i.e., discipline building, professionalizing, and claiming authoritative knowledge) to promoting the science itself - that is, the research and knowledge itself. It is about anthropologists as a group needing to communicate better what we do and how we think in terms that can be apprehended more easily as relevant to broader publics.

Which I think ought to start with the publics within the discipline. Frankly, I think the subfields are not only not particularly good at communicating with the oft-cited man / woman on the street, but they are pretty bad at communicating with each other. Obviously, there are individuals who are exceptions - primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's work on allomothering is read not only widely across anthropology, but also in other disciplines.

In general, however, archaeologists seem really to write and talk only to each other, and cultural anthropologists the same.

Frankly, I am a little tired of that other old chestnut that the four fields are drifting further apart and the discipline has no direction and so on. I mean, there is disarray also in economics, which as a science really ought to be feeling dismal right now...

Also, I think we ought to give more attention to where we can see communication and collaboration across the four fields - for example, on themes like water, climate change, extinction, and species. In fact, I went to an esp. interesting "experimental" panel (or "innovent") on multispecies called "Swarm." It featured anthros from the four fields, plus coordinated exhibits at art galleries, which engage yet another public. I missed them, but read more at Savage Minds.

'Nuff said :)

College degree - or pedigree?

Today's Room for Debate in the NYT is worth reading - the discussion is on "Does It Matter Where You Go to College?"

Personally, I go back and forth on this issue - I think b/c the question itself is not that straightforward.

Does it matter? No, in the sense that it matters more "what you do," both in your time in school and afterward. Also, no in that graduate school might "matter" more. Not to mention that students will find good teachers almost anywhere.

However. Yes, in the sense that where you go to college can put you into contact with professors and probably even more significantly peers who will affect your own performance or "what you do" at school. Also, where you go to college and as a result, who you know, become important and meaningful forms of cultural and social capital.

Yes, in the sense also that, as one of the bloggers at Room for Debate also notes:

If you attend a highly selective college, the per pupil expenditure is $92,000, compared with just $12,000 at the least selective colleges. The richest colleges require students on average to pay just 20 percent of the total cost of college, compared with 78 percent at the least wealthy colleges.

I think another reason why I go back and forth on this issue is that I personally feel that I have gained, both materially and immaterially, from attending an elite institution - but that cannot justify the unfairness and inequity of the structure as it stands. Or as another blogger at Room for Debate succinctly states the problem:

Elite colleges are economically and personally productive for individuals lucky enough to attend them. The real issue is what this means for those who do not attend, and for the promise of upward mobility in our society as a whole.

It is not that the elite colleges don’t work. It is that they work too well as passive agents for the intergenerational reproduction of elites.

In these times, I think there is a serious problem of misapprehending the conditions that produce an individual's access and ability to attend an elite institution as that individual's merit. "Lucky enough" glosses over the so-called accident of birth intersecting with contrived particularities: I happened to be born in the United States as a result of my parents meeting during the medical residencies in New York City, following changes in American immigration law that themselves resulted from a "shortage" of doctors and nurses. I was raised in a so-called upper-middle-class suburb with "good" public schools where teachers and guidance counselors were familiar with the college application process, and took an interest in me - and so on.

When I think about what hopes I have for Beanie and Bubbie - I hope they will be as "lucky" as I have been. Which means not necessarily that I wish for them to attend elite institutions themselves, but that the promise of living lives of significance will remain in reach. For everyone.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Phenotypical markers

I distinctly remember the day that I was taught that the "peach" crayon was the one for "skin color." It was during a summer day camp that the municipal parks and recreation department ran. There was a cluster of 2nd grade girls sitting around, drawing and coloring, and one of the girls started scrounging through the bucket of crayons, looking for "peach."

When I asked to borrow it, she looked at me and said no - because it was not my skin color.

"Peach" became "white," but apparently, there was no good way to color "yellow" or "red" or "black."

So, on the one hand, I like the idea behind Crayola's "multicultural" markers, crayons, and colored pencils.

On the other hand, I find the "multicultural" label a bit misleading. As StraightMan just said, talking over his shoulder at me: "Phenotypical, not multicultural."


BTW, it is moments like this - when he can say exactly what it is that I am thinking without me knowing how to put it into words - that remind me why I have been married to StraightMan for 14 years (as of tomorrow).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Curtains for anthropology?

Colleagues in my department circulated two articles reporting on the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). In particular, the reports focused on the bleakness of the present and future state of anthropology – which made me wonder whether or not StraightMan and I had attended the AAA in an alternative reality. Tis true that the job market has reached the depths of suckitude. Yet, the amount of engagement seems as high as ever. At the same time, anthropologists seem to be taking to heart the notion that they ought to demonstrating and communicating the relevance of what we do.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported primarily on that old chestnut in American anthropology: The four fields of anthropology (archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, and linguistic anthropology) are so divided that it is threatening the discipline. Presented as Exhibit A of the embattled and embittering state of anthropology: A session featuring graduate students (which no doubt contributes to the sense of embattlement and embitterment…) commenting on the intensity of specialization within the subfields, i.e., how and why archaeologists and linguistic anthropologists cannot understand each other’s jargon.

Inside Higher Ed reported:

It is no secret that these are hard times for anthropology. The discipline claims little more than one-half of 1 percent of undergraduate degrees conferred, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Anthropology departments across the country have been rebranded or threatened with being merged or scrapped; jobs have been targeted.

Hard times for anthropology? As far as I know, the number of undergraduate degrees in anthropology is itself not in decline. Combined departments of anthropology and sociology have been more the rule than the exception at colleges and universities. Unfortunately, it is not only anthropology programs and positions being scrapped or targeted, but to cite the particular example of the University at Albany, classics, foreign languages, and theater. It is not only hard times for anthropology, but in fact, hard times for the liberal arts and for anything that smacks of any intellectual life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day at the Museum

StraightMan and I are visiting my family in northern NJ. We had parked Beanie and Bubbie with my parents for a few days while we attending the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association in New Orleans.

I know: How lucky are we?!

When we arrived at my parents’ home on Sunday evening, the kids were waiting for us. We have not parted company from them since. I know: How lucky are we.

StraightMan and I, not wanting to wear out our (or especially our kids’) welcome, whisked our family of four into the city for a morning at the American Museum of Natural History. My sister, who lives and works in the city, joined us.

“It’s kind of funny to go to the Museum of Natural History with two anthropologists and their kids,” she remarked to me.

To which I might have said: It’s kind of funny for two anthropologists to go to the AMNH with their kids who have watched “Night at the Museum.” When I say “funny,” I mean not funny-haha, but funny-strange. Or more like funny-mortifying.

“Gum-Gum,” Bubbie declares, his treble pitch bouncing around the august halls of the museum. “I want to see Gum-Gum.”

“Is it Gum-Gum,” Beanie asks at similar volume, then lowers her voice, “or is it Dum-Dum?” She lowers her voice because “Dum-Dum” is like saying “stupid,” which in our family, we have tried to teach our children that we do not use this word to describe people. So, Beanie, being a rather kind kid (also, a goody-goody), feels a bit wary about saying “Dum-Dum.” Especially in front of her parents.

We found Dum-Dum in the Hall of Pacific Peoples. Bubbie had a 10-minute conversation with him. No exaggeration.

It turns out that a lot of kids in the ages 3 and up set have seen the movie - and are taking their parents on a "Night at the Museum" tour.

Other highlights from our “Night at the Museum” tour: Saying hello to Theodore Roosevelt, who is neither made of wax nor of Robin Williams, as in the movie. Seeing the dinosaur that in the movie played fetch in the atrium. Looking for the lions among the African mammals.

However, we did not find Sacajawea or dioramas of the Roman Empire and Manifest Destiny that features miniature likenesses of Owen Wilson – or as Bubbie put it, “little people who talk.”

Beanie, who has a keen interest in non-human primates, was looking for Dexter, the capuchin monkey in the movie who caused such havoc for Ben Stiller.

While viewing the stuffed chimpanzees and gorillas, Beanie asked: “Are they real?” So, I explained that back when the museum had been founded, it had been thought acceptable to hunt “exotic” animals, including monkeys and apes. As we walked through the Hall of Primates, Beanie remarked: “It makes me sad to see that the gorillas had to be dead to be in the museum.”


This brings me to the unease that I feel - and that anthropologists today generally feel - about a place like the American Museum of Natural History. For me, the museum is arguably more interesting as an example of the history of science than as a source of "science" itself. It is a place full of relics, but it is itself also a relic of practices and ideas of science in the past.

Yet, if the number of school buses pulling off Central Park West is any indication, the American Museum of Natural History is as popular a destination as ever as a source of "science" for the public. However, it also makes me wonder (or worry) about the state of science education today.

On the one hand, the museum can inspire in kids on a school field trip an interest in anthropology, paleontology, and astronomy. On other hand, how do parents and teachers follow up on a kid's interest, once sparked?

There seems to me a widening gap between what the specialists study (and discuss among themselves in venues like the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association) and what the public learns.

It is not necessarily that the museum provides incorrect information, but I think it is incomplete.

In order for exhibits like the Hall of African Mammals or the Hall of Primates to make sense, there ought to be more contextualization offered: The museum might offer commentary on the museum itself. Like the fact that the "exotic" animals were hunted, stuffed, and donated to the museum. Explaining this past makes the exhibit more, not less valid as an instrument for science education.

Also, I think anthropologists have a stake in a Day at the Museum: Franz Boas, regarded as the "father" of American anthropology, and Margaret Mead, his student and the most famous anthropologist in her time, both served as curators at the museum, so it is a significant site in the production of anthropological knowledge. In fact, there is a rather interesting exhibit on Margaret Mead's career at AMNH in the Hall of Pacific Peoples. It is rather striking that the exhibit includes color photographs of "change" occurring in Melanesia and Polynesia, like a man in "native" dress standing at a fast-food counter. There is otherwise little room in the museum to acknowledge what it means to be, say, Pacific Peoples today. The exhibit is situated, literally, in a passage that leads to the Hall of Pacific Peoples, which I think demonstrates how the architecture of the museum itself can be used to retell the story of the museum and its exhibits.

I think the history of science requires more attention in the American Museum of Natural History, in part because it is part of our cultural history and in part to demystify science as a process not just of discovery, but of revelation that is painstakingly derived, sometimes through reinterpretation.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why we all need recess!

Here is another instance of our conventional wisdom being proved to be quite wise: All work and no play makes us unhappy, unhealthy, and ultimately, unproductive.

Jane Brody in today's Personal Health column in the NYT reports on the benefits of what public health professor Tori Yancey calls “Instant Recess — the title of her new book (University of California Press), in which she demonstrates the value of two 10-minute breaks of enjoyable communal activity as part of people’s everyday lives."

I cheer anytime anyone says that I need not exercise in swaths of time that I simply do not have. Not only that, I actually kind of hate exercise. There. I said it.

Yet, since June 2009, I have stuck to an almost-daily routine of what I call micro-running, which involves dropping off one child (or occasionally, two children) at child-care, school, or summer camp, then running a short "loop" back home. It used to take about 10 minutes to run the loop, but I have surprised myself with how much easier the hills seem to take. Rather than making the loop longer, I have been challenging myself by picking up the pace.

I look forward to microruns as a way to clear my mind and ready myself for work. However, I readily admit to enjoying other benefits of exercise: Ah, vanity. I am now down to my pre-childbearing weight - not just pre-Bubbie, but pre-Beanie.

Re-finding my shape occasioned a visit to H&M yesterday after my sister remarked on the pre-Beanie jeans that I was wearing: "Wow, those are old." Referring not so much to their faded condition, but to their lamentable lack of fashion. Ouch. Because regardless of whether or not we "care" about style, it hurts to know that we do not have it. I mean, I could not even claim that I was being anti-fashion: Got to know the rules in order to break them. Quite the opposite: I had felt so good about being able to fit into them after all this time! It made me feel like the 7th grader who finally is teased to awareness that his mother has been dressing him in pants with elasticated waist bands. Oh, wait. That was StraightMan's story.

Enough about sartorial sense, or lack thereof. As a parenthropologist, I took particular interest in instant recess for kids:

Likewise, she said, 10-minute exercise breaks during the school day could do more to forward the goals of No Child Left Behind than double that amount of time spent trying to stuff math and English into students’ heads. She cited a federally financed study by the University of Kansas conducted at 24 low-income public schools.

The study, which included a matched control group, found that 10-minute activity breaks, usually done to music, led to improved scores in math, spelling and composition among the participants. The students also increased their activity levels outside school, on weekdays and weekends, and gained less weight than those in the schools who did not institute fitness breaks.

This study is especially telling because in schools around the country, physical education classes and outdoor recess have fallen prey to the demands to improve test scores.

Finally. I now have a public health justification for turning up the volume and having a little Pet Shop Boys moment in the middle of my day.

Mine might not be the majority opinion, but I think recess ought to be treated like lunch: All kids need to have it. This means also rethinking recess as a "privilege" that becomes taken away: Based on talk with parents and teachers, it seems like the same kids (especially boys) lose recess over and over again. I understand the aims of adults trying to guide kids meaningfully to understand the consequences of their actions, but it seems to me both that losing recess does not result in real understanding and that any "correction" in behavior resulting from losing recess will be a short-term gain.

I tend to think that the kids who "act out" the most probably have the most need also to be guided toward acting out productively.

StraightMan suggests that instead of losing recess, kids who act out should be required to run laps around the playground.

I say there ought to be mandatory "Macarena."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The national conversation that is not being had

The New York Times reported last week on gaps in achievement - as measured in reading and math tests administered in 4th and 8th grade - that exist between black and white boys:

Only 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys are proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent of white boys, and only 12 percent of black eighth-grade boys are proficient in math, compared with 44 percent of white boys.

Poverty alone does not seem to explain the differences: poor white boys do just as well as African-American boys who do not live in poverty, measured by whether they qualify for subsidized school lunches.

What I find interesting is the prevailing acceptance of the idea that "poverty" is the problem here - and the consternation being churned because "poverty" appears not to be the answer, or at least not the only answer:

“There’s accumulating evidence that there are racial differences in what kids experience before the first day of kindergarten,” said Ronald Ferguson, director of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. “They have to do with a lot of sociological and historical forces. In order to address those, we have to be able to have conversations that people are unwilling to have.”

Those include “conversations about early childhood parenting practices,” Dr. Ferguson said. “The activities that parents conduct with their 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds. How much we talk to them, the ways we talk to them, the ways we enforce discipline, the ways we encourage them to think and develop a sense of autonomy.”

To be honest, I was surprised that the "sociological and historical forces" and the "conversations that people are unwilling to have" referred to "early childhood parenting practices."

From where I perch, the chatter about parenting sounds like a deafening roar.

Has it become more comfortable for we the Nacirema to discuss "poverty" because we will not discuss race?

Back from outer space

Or more precisely from the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association.

Beanie and Bubbie spent the last few days with my parents! So, it was just StraightMan and me in New Orleans. With thousands of other anthropologists. Not to mention Saints fans. Who are even dat much more annoying than anthropologists.


Is it not a truth in life that the time when you are busiest at work is right before a break or a vacation?

It is also a truth that in the higher education-industrial complex in which I work, a break is never a break: Thanksgiving week and summer included.



Finally, here is more evidence that "sucks" might be the new normal. Or is it just evidence of the kind of company I keep?

Friends on Facebook have been sharing the following two links that appear to be making the rounds among faculty: "So you want to get a PhD in the Humanities" and "One professor's fantasy".

I take the popularity of the links as a sign that morale among the professoriate is rather low at this time. When I started teaching, just five years ago, I actually talked about graduate school as an option that motivated majors ought to consider! Not any more.

I am conscious of the fact that I directly have benefited from the expansion of academia / higher education in terms of both my education (having had the privilege of attending an elite liberal arts college and a premier public research university), and my employment (as a tenure-track professor at a four-year public college).

However, I also think it is important and necessary to examine the effects of that expansion critically. We need to ask both whether or not colleges and universities really are prepared for the students that they are admitting, and whether or not the students really are prepared for college or university.

Simply expanding higher education is not the same as democratizing it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seoul sister

As I was logging onto the Web to check my Inbox, the title "Going Korean" caught my eye on the New York Times, which is the home page on my browser.

Kyopos and / or the people who know and live with us might want to read it: To know and live with us with an understanding of why we live in mortal terror of ajooma.

When among acquaintances and casual friends, I am vigilant to string up white lies like police tape around my personal details. But a nod from any woman born earlier than 1970 on our Asian peninsula flanked by the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea, however, awakens pre-programmed behaviors I can’t control. I answer every question to the best of my ability, and make my own polite inquiries, always careful to employ deferential syntax, the doily-lined, dustier version of the language that rarely appears in pop songs or the revenge trilogies I stream from the Internet.

I remember when I worked briefly at a maternity clothes store (as part of anthropological research), a well-heeled Asian woman about my mother's age, carrying a nice purse, came in with her pregnant daughter, who was about my age, and like me, wearing no make-up. Ajooma looked me up and down, addressed me in Korean, and asked me oh-so-sweetly to do a good job taking care of her daughter, who was a doctor, and had no time to shop, but needed new clothes. The daughter looked at me pleadingly: Can we do this quickly? My mother is embarrassing me. Please do not hate me. When I was in high school, I dyed my hair blond and ran around with a white boyfriend with a Flock of Seagulls haircut. My mother, though she never speaks of it, has not forgotten. Or so I thought I could hear her trying to tell me...

Unfortunately, both the daughter and myself were much. too. weak. to counter ajooma. Even the non-Korean store manager was powerless to do much other than fetch additional sizes and colors.

BTW, author Mary H.K. Choi is spot-on about David Chang. When StraightMan and I had my celebratory 40th birthday lunch at Momofuku, part of the enjoyment, I felt, was being "in" on the joke: I liken it to Ding Dongs made "upscale" with molten Valrona chocolate and creme freche. There we sat, eating Korean comfort food made with ingredients whose organicity / sustainability / provenance would register no response from my mother. "Heirloom pig? Who care? Just more expensive," I can hear her saying now. Is she wrong?

As I get older, I sometimes wish I were a bit more Korean because then I, too, could become an ajooma.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Team players need not apply

For both the subjects and writers of recommendation letters in academia / higher ed, this piece (and the comments) in today's Inside Higher Ed is worth a gander:

You are reading a letter of recommendation that praises a candidate for a faculty job as being "caring," "sensitive," "compassionate," or a "supportive colleague." Whom do you picture?

New research suggests that to faculty search committees, such words probably conjure up a woman -- and probably a candidate who doesn't get the job. The scholars who conducted the research believe they may have pinpointed one reason for the "leaky pipeline" that frustrates so many academics, who see that the percentage of women in senior faculty jobs continues to lag the percentage of those in junior positions and that the share in junior positions continues to lag those earning doctorates.

The research is based on a content analysis of 624 letters of recommendation submitted on behalf of 194 applicants for eight junior faculty positions at an unidentified research university. The study found patterns in which different kinds of words were more likely to be used to describe women, while other words were more often used to describe men.

Sadly, while the results are not surprising - the caring, sensitive, compassionate, and supportive candidate is the one who does not become your colleague - the study has me thinking about how I characterize my colleagues and my students, particularly as I find myself writing recommendation letters for jobs and graduate schools.

I suppose that I might rephrase "collegiality" and "consensus building" as "professionalism" and "leadership." However. I hate that the advice is to "stay away from communal words, whether writing on behalf of men or women."

Cue Elvis Costello: "What's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?"

A comment on the comments on Inside Higher Ed:

Predictably, there are comments that this is not really "about" gender, as in women and men, because men now have as equally hard a time being hired.

To which I must retort: How about entertaining the idea that "gender" is not really only about women and men? That it might be about arrangements of social relationships - significantly, inequalities - that both reflect and inflect ideas and practices of "women" and "men" in the first place?

One of the comments called attention to the fact that the so-called communal words refer to ideas that academia has celebrated as its values - and the so-called agentive words refer to ideas that "private enterprise" celebrates.

Unfortunately, I think there is a relationship between the devaluing of academic values and the privileging of corporate values in academia / higher ed - and the gendering of academia as communal / female and private enterprise as agentive / male.


On the bright side: Tina Fey was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for Humor - only the third woman to receive it, and at 40, the youngest ever recipient. Hooray for funny, smart, female, and 40! That is for all my gal pals :)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On why I have not worked on my book revision in about a month

StraightMan and I share the responsibilities of Beanie's and Bubbie's drop-off's and pick-up's at their respective schools. I think it is important to talk with their teachers and the other kiddos and their parents. Also, I just like holding their little hands and walking with them, hearing their little thoughts. Beanie asks questions like why "tissue" can be something you blow your nose with or what your body is made of - I have no answer. Bubbie seems to notice every crack, twig, and drop of water on the pavement.

This morning, I dropped off Bubbie at nursery school, where he seems to be thriving.

When I say "dropped off," I mean that I walked him there, leaving the house about 20 minutes before 9am, after feeding him a "second" breakfast as he hardly ate his first, which StraightMan served around 6:45am, then bundling his reluctant little body in boots, sweatshirt, winter jacket, mittens, and hat after locating his favorite Matchbox car and packing it into his backpack. At nursery school, unbundling Bubbie, accompanying him into the classroom where we have a routine where I bumble at locating his name tag, then sit down and read a story book before I walk him to the table where a teacher is helping other children use scissors and glue sticks to create a craft that fits with the day's lesson, which was, most fittingly, adaptation. (Good luck with that, I think.)

When I arrived home after a micro-run - my almost-daily exercise, which I fit into my day because it requires dropping off a child at school, then returning home to eat breakfast and ready myself for the rest of the day - it was about 9:20am.

In other words, "dropping off" Bubbie is a multi-step process from door-to-door-to-door that requires at least 40 minutes.

I mention this because when I arrived at home, about eight hours later, I found on my desk, a photocopy of the first page of the Acknowledgements to Kay Anderson's 2008 book, Race and the Crisis of Humanism.

No, I have not read the book. StraightMan, aka LuckyHank, is on sabbatical: He has read it. He left me the page, noting that it reminded him of me: This is what counts as romance between two anthropologists married almost 14 years.

I doubt I am alone in sensing over the past 10 years the loss of a profession that once moved to a rhythm that fostered creative surges and pauses. This was a profession that felt alive to its own distinctive disposition - that winged immersion in ideas reigned in by the labour of composition. The challenges in producing this book have had less to do with the pressure of multiple relocations..., plus the arrival at an advanced age of a much-wanted but unexpected child. Mostly the experience has been an interior wrestle with an intensifying regime of academic production that seems increasingly hostile to sustained projects of the kind this one, in intellectual terms, has necessarily been. To be sure, the privileges of a writing profession remain (tenuously) intact. I am thinking of those riveting moments in the creative process when the parts appear to converge in a plot that drives and exceeds them. But, still, there is cause to highlight wherever possible the blindspots in an academic culture that increasingly measures 'output' as if it actually hails, machine-like, from the buried chambers of a mind divorced from all its embodied and circumstantial conditionings.

I might add that what can be said of scholarly writing can be said also of scholarly teaching.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mother's little helper

For the busy parenthropologist on your Christmas list, I recommend the Clarity Agenda ("Planners for Busy Women") from Whomi.

This parenthropologist uses the color-coded lines to keep track of weekly schedules for herself (four classes, four committees, office hours, weekly undergraduate club meetings, every-other-weekly department meetings, etc.), StraightMan (a lot less right now, as LuckyHank is currently on sabbatical...), Beanie (ballet on Monday, after-school pick-up / play-date swaps with her friend Pants on three afternoons, piano on Friday, and swimming on Saturday - I feel lucky that after having given soccer a go last spring and summer, she decided that she does not like it all that much, but I dread the day when she will be able to audition for "The Nutcracker" and join the Y swim team, as she has declared to me that she intends to do next year...), and Bubbie (child care three days a week, nursery school two mornings a week, and ballet and music on Saturday).

Clarity? I admit: More like Insanity. How did we become so apparently over-scheduled? Is the Whomi helping me keep it together? Or is it an enabler?

It is the question that preoccupies me: Shall I go with Folk Foliage, Rings, or Ginko?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First grader as art critic

In previous posts, I have reported on Beanie's development as a literary critic, including her structuralist reading of Junie B. Jones.

It turns out that Beanie also has begun to articulate her ideas about visual art. As evidenced above.

To clarify, the "bad picture" on top (of an airplane with passengers visible in the windows) "needs more detail and a sky." Note that the critic demands that it be "taken down" from a display space on the refrigerator door. The "good picture" below it "has detail and lots of color."


So, the blog fell victim to being overwhelmed with work, and otherwise under-inspired. The two go hand in hand.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sign of the times

Huh. Not sure what to make of this photograph taken at the Jon Stewart / Stephen Colbert rally and posted on Inside Higher Ed. Am I supposed to laugh because I also am supposed agree - or because (to be honest) I find it rather ludicrous?

I think there is a lot more to say about "evidence-based" discourse. Certainly there ought to be more careful and considered study of, say, teaching and prenatal care, to mention two arenas where a need for more "evidence-based" practice is being claimed. However, "evidence-based" discourse seems to be grounded in narrow functionalism, with little interest in, say, ritual.

Yet, rituals accomplish important, meaningful, and necessary work for us as members of communities. I mean, we all engage in any number of apparently unimportant, meaningless, and unnecessary - and unevidenced - practices whose effects might be missed when they become eliminated.

There is a lot more to say. Alas, I am not the parenthropologist to do it at this moment.