A commenter writes: I have a question for the mineshaft--I am a mid-career academic at a regional SLAC that is having serious enrollment problems. My SLAC is tuition-dependent, and we have been having problems since the Great Recession started. I can really see the writing on the wall here, and I don't want to wake up 10 years from now and be 55 with no job (as the college has foundered) and no prospect of getting another academic gig. The problem is, as everyone knows, the market is terrible. I am on the job market for another position (my discipline is in the Humanities), but I am quite realistic about not getting one as I am an associate professor at middle age. I am willing to give up my tenure for a new position. I have a few years to get another job, but I also worry that I am reaching the end of the time when I could shift into another career. If I want to leave academia, I should probably do so soon. But I went into academia so I could be on the school calendar and have summers off to look after my children. I have two children, one of whom is special needs (not heavily special needs, but there are needs nonetheless). I need to be able to have a flexible schedule for therapy appointments, and this child just needs more time and attention, so shifting into a regular 48 weeks, 9 to 5 job would be hard My husband is employed, but his job is unstable and precarious; until now, I have been the one with the stable job and health insurance. However, he makes as much as I do, and in order to keep and grow his business, he needs to work long hours. He can't become the child-care parent; he also doesn't make enough for me to become a SAHM. So, here are my options,
1. Just keep trying to find another higher ed gig, maybe start looking at community colleges.
2. Try to become a high school teacher (although I know some places won't want to hire me because I have the ph.d, and am therefore expensive)
3. find some flexible part-time type job that pays pretty well (30-40 grand a year)--I essentially have no skills outside the critical thinking, writing, and communicating developed by the liberal arts. What could I learn to do in a reasonable amount of time? Should I learn how to code? They have a free coding education program in my community (for middle-schoolers!)
4. Is there some other option I haven't thought of?
Paralyzed with Fear and Indecision
Heebie's take: Oof, this feels super relatable. Immediate thoughts:
1. It sounds like the highest priority is something with some job security and reasonable working conditions, as opposed to finding your passion or vocation or something?
2. Given that: how about nursing? There's often a nursing shortage, and you can often do it PRN and have a lot of control over your hours (at the expense of a full workweek, though, I assume.)
3. How are you at statistics? I sometimes think that having a statistics background will open up a lot of doors where they need some competency, but it doesn't exactly have to be a full time statistician.
3. Are there any industries or labor shortages that are specific to your region?
4. A public school job that is ancillary to teaching, but on the teaching schedule? Like administrative support staff or something? Or teaching at the community college, which you mentioned.
5. Elder care or some other sort of shift work that must be rooted in the community?
Dairy Queen writes: Is it just me or is there a klezmer vibe to this tune? Also, glimpse of fantastic coat at 1:37.
The reviews were enthusiastic about the music and production values but said the plot was insubstantial and confusing. I can't decide whether knowing these are relevant criteria for evaluating Bollywood movies is more cause for hope or despair. Will there remain any cinematic tradition free from the strictures of plausibility and logic???
Anyways all the new Bollywood music in the house by way of the dancer has predictability sent me back to old favorites. Ahhhh Muhammad Rafi!
Heebie's take: the first song is super fun.
This is on a high school math worksheet in Texas.
I was super irritated by NPR's coverage of Clinton's non-apology about the emails just now on my way into work. If I had little background, I'd assume that there was a reasonable chance something scandalous was going on.
This is cracking me up. There is a flier posted near my office (specifically, inside all the bathroom stalls) encouraging exercise tips:
Gee that's tiny. What's the exercise described on the right?
So basically...walk up the stairs?
I thought this was a good point:
It seems that the Republican candidates are falling all over each other as they run as fast as they can to the right, trying to trump Trump. One thing that all of them seem to forget is the while the chances that the Republican nominee carries New York are infinitesimally small, New York actually has millions of Republicans and they are represented at the Republican National Convention.
Guess which state sends the most delegates to the Convention? No, it's not Texas, it's California, with 172 delegates. The next best-represented states at the Convention (with delegates) are Texas (155), Florida (99), New York (76), and Georgia (76). If we add up all the delegates from the 26 states plus D.C. that Obama won in 2012 the total is 1210 (out of a total of 2470). In other words, 49% of the delegates to the Republican National Convention come from blue states. Although blue-state Republicans are moderately conservative they are nowhere near Oklahoma conservative or Mississippi conservative. Also, they are much more urban than red-state conservatives, so issues like taxes and business regulation are more important to them than abortion and guns. It is surprising that none of the candidates act like blue-state delegates matter, when in fact almost half the delegates are from blue states.
Clinton spends plenty of time in the southern states. It seems really dumb that none of the major Republican frontrunners are tailoring their campaign to the actual procedure of the nomination, but I suppose that's the least of the dumb. You'd fare that much better in the general election, though.
I also enjoy stories about how much money the Republican candidates are going to spend battling out the nomination. And how Trump is ruining everything.
Witt sends along Barbaric Restroom Policies:
"Students will be allowed to use the hall pass a maximum of 3 times per quarter. However, each use of the hall pass will cost the student 3 extra credit points. You will keep an individual hall pass log which must be presented each time a hall pass is issued. A lost log prevents the issuing of a hall pass and the awarding of any points."
Heebie's take: I think this is just one class out of seven, not a policy for the entire school day.
The author seems...overly outraged. She sort of has a point. But she is rather ignorant about how teachers are right there with the students and probably flexible when they detect any sign of actual distress coming from the student.
Yes, surely teachers become sick and tired of students leaving class to dilly-dally in the hallways. It can be disruptive and annoying, and the kids might miss important lessons during their absences. However, what's more distracting than sitting at a desk, squirming left and right, desperate to relieve oneself.
I bet quite a few things in middle school are more distracting than a full bladder.
I haven't swum in several months, so, being chlorine-free, I decided to try going soap and shampoo free. I think some folks here tried it a while back? Short version: soap is completely useless and shampoo might be completely useless, but two weeks in, I have a bit of dandruff I can't get rid of with just water, so I'll probably give it another week and then try some home remedy like vinegar or coconut oil. (I have short, low-maintenance hair; no idea what it would be like otherwise.)
In the product-free* vein, I also gave up shaving cream, which also turns out to be useless (and, for those who find this post via google, I'm a 100%
heterosexual Middle-Eastern guy with a coarse beard). So I was using warm water and my cartridge razor when, challenging convention left and right, I thought, why not a safety razor? After all, everything, including a new car, is cheaper than replacement Gillette cartridges. A day of research led me to the conclusion that the shaving subculture, like all subcultures, is completely insane and not to be trusted about anything. Of course there's the intense fetishization of objects for purchase and the few people who broached the question of whether you can forego shaving cream with a safety razor were assured, most confidently, that they were courting death.
Trusting the wisdom of the ancients ("You're fucked no matter what") I bought a cheap, well-reviewed safety razor, watched some youtube videos about how to use it, said my goodbyes to my family, and tried it using nothing but warm water to "lubricate" my face. And now I have a nick-free, irritation-free, closely-shaved face.
Next week: Ogged gives up antibiotics.
* I'm still occasionally using deodorant.
Witt writes: So I don't have a beautifully wrought, emotionally resonant response. More a collection of reactions that I hope will provoke some other reactions.
I wonder somewhat whether the time was ripe for TNC to write this book not only because of where he was after the reparations article, but because as he has moved more and more comfortably among various white worlds, his own personal body has become differently-fraught than it was in his growing-up years. Not just because of aging. I can't find the essay (blog post?) where he talks about being among people who eat dramatically less than he does, though I did find a more general post about weight loss.
I know all of the conversation about this book's influences is about Baldwin, but in reading this I also found myself thinking of DuBois. TNC is writing about double consciousness at so many points -- about the lenses that black people are forced to adapt to, the ways of seeing their own bodies, and the contrast of the serene confidence with which white people often refuse to acknowledge that other lenses even exist, instead defining their own lens as "reality," "rationality," "reasonableness."
I found it odd that his entire recounting of Lucia McBath's story did not mention her name. I don't know whether this was at her specific request, or whether it was an artistic/stylistic decision. Either way, it was peculiar to me, in part because of his effective drumbeat of names at so many other points in the narrative. It felt to me like erasure.
I don't know how I would have felt if I had read this book without having first read TNC's 2011 story of his wife's near-death pregnancy. In many ways Kenyatta is absent from BTWAM, which is an strange thing to say about a book that sings (atheist) hymns to its subject's mother. I think if I had read this book without reading that essay, I would have felt frustrated, angry on her behalf that she was reduced to so little of her son's story.
I think the pregnancy story flips my reaction not because of anything it specifically tells us about Kenyatta as a person or a parent, but because of what thinking (and writing, and publishing) something like that about his partner says about TNC.
Like most of us, TNC is strongest when writing about things he knows well. I found myself mentally pushing back against a lot of his claims/seeming assumptions about France, not because I know France but because I have known quite a number of French people of African descent (including immigrants as well as French-born people, those of West African heritage as well as North African).
Then I came across his statement: "The [French] people wore no armor, or none that I recognized," and I forgave him immediately. That moment of self-awareness was far more pointed for me than his ritual name-checking of French colonial horrors elsewhere.
The editor in me feels as though this book was lightly edited. Maybe that is true, maybe not. I would be curious to know what its editor will say about it in twenty years.
If I could distill my understanding of this book into one TNC sentence, it would be this one: "It is truly horrible to understand yourself as the essential below of your country."
1. The south Texas county of Hidalgo has one of the highest rates of poverty and obesity in the country.
Blanca's parents emigrated from Mexico in the 1950s to pick strawberries and cherries, and they often repeated an aphorism about the border fence. "On one side you're skinny. On the other you're fat," they said.
It's obviously a completely intractible problem given the political landscape.
2. The city of Denton, just north of Dallas-Fort Worth, banned fracking. Then the Texas Legislature responded:
Over the next several months the industry bought itself a new law. Known widely as HB 40, it declares that the state of Texas expressly preempts (trumps) regulations written by local governments. Cities and towns can only pass laws that the industry deems to be "commercially reasonable."
Lurker Trivers writes: I don't know if I can exaggerate how weird it was living in Denton in the months leading up to the referendum. There were paid astroturfers in grocery store parking lots for organizations with names like "Denton Citizens for Prosperity". It really kind of spooked a lot of business owner and residents. I'm talking out of my ass here, but I think the shady tactics of the O&G companies may have tipped the ballot against them.
I knew a number of the activists involved when I was at UNT but didn't much participate in the Frack Free Denton movement myself. I rather wish I had. There's an O&G company trying to set up natural gas processing plants near my hometown now. People in the community are rightfully worried about pollution but I know there's really no chance of stopping these people once they've set their sights on something that poor people have. They're willing to guarantee that a grand total of ten jobs will be created. Ten. SpaceX is setting up shop down there, too (and with excessive tax breaks!), so it's only a matter of time before the beaches down there are as gross as the ones in Houston.
1981. I certainly remember this being noncontroversial among sensible people by the time I was doing current events assignments in late middle school, circa 1987.
On the other hand, how many prophesies of equal merit have failed to materialize? I also brought in a current event about the imminent cure for AIDS, using little fake cells which would bind to the AIDS virus or something.
Below is Thorn's response to the last section of TNC's book. I'll append Witt's later on. Enjoy!
Update: Witt's piece is below Thorn's.
Update Update: No it's not.
Thorn writes: Laura Mvula - That's Alright
I see the beauty in your eyes
My friends and I have been reading Between the World and Me and because it is a letter from a thoughtful, loving parent to his black child, I read it through the lens of my love for you. It is not a book for you or about you exactly, but I think as I did you will find yourselves in it when you feel ready to read someday. Mara, your dad has read it and recommends it too, saying it's about "just being black in America, from the male perspective." It is from and for the male perspective and I think that's worth thinking about, as others have done. As you grow into being black women, you'll need to understand the perspectives/worlds/words of black men, and yet I hope you'll find ways to do that without feeling you need to bear an undue portion of the weight of that particular history and experience. I hope you'll see that every history is its own story like this. Coates doesn't and can't tell his story about the legacy of foster care and other systems that break black families, about missing mothers, about how you are able to love me while still not wanting a white mom like me. You are your own experts and your world will be different, just as his son Samori's world is different from his. But as your thoughtful, loving mother, I can't write a book like this because my life as a white woman does not and cannot prepare you for your complicated lives.
And I call myself white because nothing has made me more sure I am white and not just a person who believes myself to be white than becoming your mother. I am decidedly not-black no matter how much time I spend oiling and twisting your hair or talking to you about the first time a white classmate called you by the n-word and the first time a black one did or the time I flipped out in the grocery store and hissed that the police were killing children who looked like you holding toy guns and I would not have you keep pretending to shoot people with your fingers and risk losing you like that, and I am much more myself because of all of it. This is what adoptee activist and educator John Raible calls "transracialization" but I see it more as seeing race clearly and honestly than as a movement or progress in my own racial identity. Last weekend I went to a hub of the Underground Railroad and managed not to worry too much about how nothing I'll ever do in my life will measure up to even a fraction of helping 2000 fleeing slavery reach freedom, not to mention the bravery of escaping an enslaved life or trying to escape. (And all those stories of black families split out of hope or out of tragedy or both, black children delivered into and then out of white hands, escaping sisters who couldn't stop making each other laugh even if it threatened their cover...) And yet I have at least been able to become your mother, which is an act of selfishness on my part rather than charity, and have been able to (maybe?) cease being white in the ways Baldwin writes in his piece about people who believe themselves to be white:
"But this cowardice, this necessity of justifying a totally false identity and of justifying what must be called a genocidal history, has placed everyone now living into the hands of the most ignorant and powerful people the world has ever seen: And how did they get that way?
By deciding that they were white. By opting for safety instead of life. By persuading themselves that a Black child's life meant nothing compared with a white child's life. By abandoning their children to the things white men could buy. By informing their children that Black women, Black men and Black children had no human integrity that those who call themselves white were bound to respect. And in this debasement and definition of Black people, they debased and defined themselves.
I was and am complicit in all of this. I was older than any of you by the time I made my first black friend at summer science camp in junior high, something I could not do at my all-white school. (I found her on Facebook a few years ago, happily settled in a black Mecca community and I couldn't push that friend button even though I have many black fb friends, couldn't wonder whether she'd think you were the reason my memories of her still mattered because you aren't and yet how can even I separate all of that, your place in my life from all that led me to bring you into my life?) I remember as a child reading and rereading and rereading a different Sonia Sanchez poem from the one Coates quotes, one where the speaker says to her father "you you black man" and I didn't know then how she read it and yet I can recite all the still-unsettling lines along with her because I read them into my body deep where I knew it was something not to talk about the way other eventual pieces of my identity got stuck unspoken and unspeakable, now that I think about it. Maybe my greatest parenting triumph was when we saw Val and Alex with their mom after they'd moved on and left our home and their mom laughed and said, "Val told me just the other day that Thorn says it's fine to talk about people's race!" It's fine, yes, but even with my black children there's a stretch to find words for the "people who got brown skin," as Mara identified her larger affinity group, to self-identifying as black. What it means to see me as white has changed for you too, I know, and my whiteness is not neutral but something you're aware of, something we can all at least try to speak about, something we all have to live with even when it feels like one more burden.
Like Coates, I've deliberately made ours a home where there's no hitting. (Well, okay, you hit each other, but you know I'm trying to stop that!) I've done this with the awareness that the world doesn't work like this but with the belief that it's still the right thing to do, to give you a place to feel safe and secure and skills to use in place of your fists. Like Coates, I'm not able to fall back on religion for hope or encouragement on that front, can't do what the women I respect so much at church do in praying for a hedge of protection around you as you head out into the world. I don't want you stuck in a bubble, but surely a hedge that would make it a little harder for the hurts to hack through to you wouldn't be so bad? But no, I'm teaching you to be open to that language and that hope but it is not mine. And yet I'm not truly a pessimist. I expect great things from you, though always with the knowledge that I could be like Prince Jones's grieving mother with her photographs and no real answers. I can't try to reassure you that no weapon formed against you shall prosper because the world is that weapon, but I can do a little work toward changing that world. I can push and I can ready you but I don't have religious faith and I feel good about that, even though at this point in your lives it worries you about me. We are muddling through together and I hope I can show you various paths even though as an atheist white woman the same ones might not be open for me as for each of you.
Like Coates, I expect you to see the world in ways I don't or can't. In visiting Paris, he tells his son ""And even then, I wanted you to be conscious, to understand that to be distanced, if only for a moment, from fear is not a passport out of the struggle." I told myself that the next time you asked when we could go to France I wouldn't just say again "When you speak French." And so now we're working together to plan a France-themed party for Mara's next birthday. When you look back on your childhoods, it will be that and Princess Catwoman for Selah's last party and your first overnight guests for Nia's that are part of being black and being you, right there with the whites adults who mispronounce and misremember your names and your black peers who question your background and family, with the messages you get from many different racial groups about what skin shade, curl type, hairstyle, body shape and size might be most impressive or desirable. You carry so much already, but both culturally and within your own families you come from a people who have endured. This doesn't mean buying into the Strong Black Woman trope just because at three, seven, nine you already identify as strong and brave and beautiful and smart since you are all those things and you will be those and more. You are not limited by them as you dream of going to France, China, the moon, and I hope you can hold onto that openness as you grow.
I think you might like to read this book someday and I know I'd like to talk to you about it if/when you do. I hope that, like me, you'll find it an easy read because it flows so naturally from the conversations swirling around as part of daily life already. But reading isn't your only job. I hope you will write your own narratives in your own ways as you live your own narratives, bring the specificity this book has to let you and those who love you connect those specifics to the bigger stories. I want you to grow up into a better world than this current one even though I can't quite believe you will, but I want to be around to hear about whatever you turn out to be. I don't have Faith, but I have faith in you and in my love for you. There isn't protection or certainty, isn't belief or safety, but you have the strength to get you through a lot and the words to make sense of it all. I don't know how far my love can take you but I offer it fully. You are worthy of that and so much more.
J, Robot says: NYC meet-up Wednesday evening? I'll be in town for the day with my sister, and our train doesn't leave Penn Station until 9 pm.
Update:Tonight, 7:00 pm, American Whiskey. First people there get a table.
Natilo sends this along and says, "So many different ways to go with this one -- seems like a pretty idiotic way to build camaraderie to me."
Heebie's take: I feel like something is missing from the story - sure, college first years have a giant pillow fight. That seems suitably the kind of thing kids like. But it feels like you wouldn't throw an anvil into your pillow unless there was an underlying rivalry that got out of hand. The story omits any motivation. Anyway, this is a really good way for them to learn that escalating conflict is fun and silly.