Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I just submitted my twentieth job application. I have only a few more to go. This effort has paid off; I have an interview, which was my highest expectation heading into the process the academic job hunt.

I've noticed that as the job hunting season heads into its twilight the application requirements are becoming more and more strange. The earliest applications were straight-forward and predictable: letter, CV, writing sample, maybe a teaching statement. Now, I encounter requests for a statement of scholarly philosophy, employment forms, and on-line applications (not to mention proof of membership in the Lutheran Sanhedrin - I couldn't apply for that one). The forms and on-line application are particularly tedious since they appear designed for the hiring of staff ("list your employment history for the past ten years") and the CV I submit with my applications is always more detailed than I could be in the form/ap.

But only a few more weeks of unusual requests, (*sigh*) for this year.

Friday, November 13, 2009

insanity by degrees

1000 words.

That is what I still need to cut from my article manuscript in order to meet the miserly guidelines of the review committee. And don't think that these are reasonable guidelines. I am supposed to submit a 7000 word essay (including footnotes)!! Who writes journal articles like that?! 7000 words is graduate-seminar essay length; it begins to tell a story but can't do it justice. Still, I think if the reviewers read the beginning of my story, they will be so enthralled that they'll want to read the full 13,000 word version. Let's hope so! Cross your fingers for me.

(This must be driving me nuts because it prompted me to update my blog!)

Friday, October 9, 2009

meeting the standards

California grade-schoolers work all year in preparation to pass the state standards exam. Here's a sample worksheet that is supposed to help them meet those standards.* Click on the image for a better view.

*and it passes on the tradition of ethno-racial stereotyping

Sunday, September 27, 2009


"Blend." That's the new word in trend-setting California for locating a new low in public education.

Last week, during the third week of instruction, one of the second-grade classes at Local Elementary School was "blended" with a third-grade class. Now, second and third grade students share the same classroom, instructor, and instructional time even though they are both held to two different sets of standards. Everyone I know who teaches at post-secondary institutions is familiar with the general notion of a "blended" classroom. We get a diverse array of students with different backgrounds, abilities, and experiences, who respond at different rates to the material that everyone gets in class. We meet them and their needs and work to expand their skills and knowledge.

Based on my limited observation, this is also the case in a traditional grade school class. Every classroom has kids who read or crunch numbers beyond or behind their peers; others have stayed up late playing video games, and others just daydream. Because of No Child Left Behind and its implementation through State Standards Tests, the grade-school teachers that I know work to get each student to some abstract grade level that is presumably measured by those tests but they also work to expand the skills and imagination of students in ways that can't be measured by tests.

"Blended" classes are not these traditional classes that unite students approximately based on age and ability. In fact, "blends" are not new to California but there are a lot more of them this year because state-lawmakers have proved themselves totally unable to comprehend fiscal and social responsibility. Thus, my local second-grade became a 2/3 blend a couple of weeks after the school-year had started. And, to clarify further, a blended class does not track each child individually, mapping their progress and teaching them how to self-motivate and take charge of daily and weekly assignments. This is not a Montessori-style of blended classroom. Instead, one teacher is responsible for teaching two different, state-approved, grade-level curricula to two different sets of students in one class every single day (until they take their State Standards Test in the Spring). In other words, "blending" is a great business model; when measured in raw numbers we California residents get more grade-schoolers through our public institutions while we spend less educating them. But, as we're all well-aware, business should never be allowed near education.

We learned last week, after nearly a full week of "blending," that the 2/3 teacher is "excited" by the coming year. She will scurry between second and third graders throughout the day, shift the third grade to another classroom for social studies, and get the windfall of having an "aid" (read: part-time, no benefits, minimum wage). She will now have students in her class who range in age from 6 to 9 years old. And she has a bigger class too. Twenty-four second graders this year and six third-graders
(she had a total of 17 second-graders last year) . But she is still held to the grade-standards set years ago for smaller classes. This "excited" second-third grade teacher offered the very telling explanation that (degree-carrying and certified) teachers "are a luxury" in California's public education system.

Before the current school year California was ranked 51st in the nation for its spending on public education (behind all other states and Puerto Rico). We thought California had hit the bottom before we discovered that the bottom had fallen out of the state economy. Now, California is probing the depths beyond paucity as it "funds" public education, and teachers, we discovered, have become a "luxury."

I can't help but worry over where this is headed: how will California continue to secure federal funding when its students fail to meet federal standards because the students simply cannot pass the tests? How many times will those students who stick with it have to repeat grades? Will all California public school graduates be 22 or older when they finally finish? Where can these "kids" go to college (at similarly strickened California Universities)? And what kind of professions could they possibly enter? Has K-12 education in California become something that only the rich can afford (through private schools)?

Grade-school teachers are a luxury that California has to force itself to indulge.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Taking a hiatus is nice, but it's a difficult thing to come back from.

I took a blogging hiatus this summer. I took hiatus from a lot of my routine. The four weeks I had planned to spend in Montana grew to six. This was a hiatus from home, not from work. And, as it turns out, I accomplished a lot. I finished a chapter that I had been struggling to complete for months. It became monstrous - in terms of size, not content. Now, Adviser tells me that it is two, not one chapter. Which means one more chapter - the denouement - will suffice for a dissertation. (This, despite the fact that I have grand visions for an additional chapter. It can wait.) I am enjoying a few brief days of levity; it's as if an incredible weight I've been carrying feels a bit lighter. No doubt, I will grow weary under its weight again as I turn to revisions and to the introduction, but I plan to remember this fleeting levity which I'm enjoying at the end of my hiatus.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

plugging away

I'm still writing. Always writing....

Here's a maze game I found amid my research documents that I though I would share with anyone who happens by my blog. It's from the Daily Worker (November 1934) and was published under the "Our Young Readers" section. Can you help the angry worker find his nemesis, "Mr. Boss."

And in other news, I get to visit New York next week (for work, unfortunately, so no time to sight-see).

Friday, May 22, 2009


Years ago, when I began to learn a foreign language, I recall hearing that one of the milestones of language acquisition would come to me in my dreams. That is, when I started dreaming in French (for example), then I was really getting somewhere. The premise, I think, is that the sounds and symbols and concepts would become so familiar that I could use them even in my sleep. I used to dream in French; I don't anymore. Now, I dream in dissertation. I wouldn't say that all aspects of the stories I have learned and retell are absolutely, crystal clear to me (just like a foreign-language learner can never shed her accent). But I do think I've achieved some sort of fluency in my dissertation. The strange thing is that now I have no one to talk to.

One of the clearest signs of my emerging fluency is dreaming. But what I welcomed in language learning, I dread with the dissertation process. I don't want to work out the issues I'm struggling with - like state versus federal forms of colonial citizenship - while I sleep because doing so keeps me from sleeping. So, I've been looking for ways to cut the stream of thought and leave my dissertation only to waking hours. I've been lucky to find not one, but two great histories that I can read before going to sleep that allow me to leave everything behind while resting. They're so good they're worth recommending because both are histories that tell engaging stories. Peggy Pascoe and Glenda Gilmore use different styles to tell their tales but they provide enough personal and contextual detail to make for a very engaging read. I like how What Comes Naturally connects the seemingly simple and personal process of getting married to the policing of racial, gender, sexual, and economic boundaries that shored up white supremacy. Laws, lawmakers, and administrators worked hard to make the racial order seem so effortless. Defying Dixie is equally as fascinating because Gilmore connects a vast web of revolutionaries throughout the South to the rest of the U.S. and beyond. Then, she connects that to the modern CRM and shows how it was made possible but also stymied by a radical past. How could I not enjoy reading about a hushed-up revolution? I will take months more to finish these great histories but I am not hesitant to add to my list. I welcome all recommendations for other ways to temper my burgeoning fluency.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Mind-reading can be a good thing. Like most gifts, it should be assessed on the "Fabulous-to-Frightening" scale. This time, I'm going with Fabulous.

How amazing is this: two University of Wisconsin professors read my mind and wrote a book for me. Actually, it's a collection of essay, but, again, I'm sure they did it for me after reading my mind when I was thinking "there is no concise monograph on the different incarnations of aggressive U.S. imperialism and its impact on the state." (Fortunately, they weren't reading my mind when I was thinking 'what can I do with leftover Pho?'") Wasn't this publication nice of them?

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I've started several posts that I couldn't finish over the past few weeks. My brain power is ebbing and I have deadlines to meet - so whatever I have must go to the chapters. In my flurry of writing and reading, though, I've met with some wonderfully snarky comments. So, with the hope of reading updates on all my far-flung colleagues, I offer this measly post. (Appropriately, Marx gets the last word.)

"There is no justification for sentimentality about the Insular Cases. They were designed for the convenience of the conqueror[s]." ~Gerald Neuman

"Mainland Americans can be divided into two groups: those that know that 2,100,000 American citizens reside in Puerto Rico; and those - perhaps the majority - who remain unaware of this fact fifty years after the war with Spain." ~Carey McWilliams (1946)

"The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living." ~Karl Marx

Sunday, March 29, 2009

flying home

I'm back from Seattle and a wonderful conference. I got to see advisor, B., and Cabiria and meet S. Together, we had a great panel. One (exceptional) audience member commented "Your panel was beautifully organized, your papers were beautifully written, and it was a pleasure to listen to them." How's that for encouragement!?

I also met established and up-and-coming scholars and saw some good sessions - one was even great. And the only malady I suffered from was fatigue (which, I discovered, was getting off easy). There were just a few talks that I painfully regret missing but thanks to the magic of the internet, I will get to listen to Mary Ryan's talk on the future of women's history (and I look forward to the day when more sessions are on-line like this).

This visit to Seattle was bittersweet, too. Seattle was my home ten years ago; that is where I met R and where we first became a family. I love that city and its many nooks and crannies that remind me of a time that seem like another life. Such reminiscences, though, made me look forward to my return home, a place where awaits six-year old balloon games and a computer with chapters aching to be written.

Friday, March 20, 2009

education on a shoe-string

I peruse the "help wanted" sections of h-net and other academic job markets from time to time. Even though I'm not officially "on" the job market, the prospect of applying for a job is exciting. Actually, I should say, the prospect of there being a job that I can apply for is exciting - particularly since I live in mightily-bankrupt state (as opposed to the newly-bankrupt states). I wondered how deeply the new state "budget" would effect the job market for higher education and then I saw an ad for CSU Northridge. It can't be that bad if Northridge has posted an ad, right? Then I read the ad. The generic search for adjuncts ends by saying:
Given the condition of the California budget for the CSU system this year and the current entitlements of part-time instructors, it is very likely that we will have few if any openings. We are, however, required to advertise.
Puzzling. They have to advertise for positions that, in all likelihood, they don't have.

Well, if I'm not going to adjunct then I will put that energy into my dissertation. So, I head on over to the library website for my neighborhood California university to see if it can help me find that obscure study, only...
If the state university systems are a public service, then the outlook for California, over the next generation, looks pretty bleak.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ruminations on government, money, and work

In the past week I finished our taxes and, technically, I made the most money per hour that I've ever made in my life. Amid the glee I felt over our expected refund were pangs of concern: can the government really afford to give me back this money? While I ponder this question, I won't hesitate to take it.

My bankrupt state also passed a budget last week - in record time (they have tended to straggle over the finish line in late-September), and today I saw city work crews out en force. Coincidence? No. I need to remember these men and women in a few months when I begin to kvetch about the state's cutbacks. At least someone is at work. Sadly, this may not include the lunch lady, librarian, or recess attendants at young S's school. Rumors have it that in order to met the "budget" in my bankrupt state, these positions along with school lunch programs and busing will be eliminated. And while shaking my head at the extreme short-sightedness of nearly eliminating funding for public education, I will remind myself of directions the state has not gone yet. We dodged a bullet by picking the California job over the Georgia one. Georgia's state assembly is debating how to suspend funding for faculty who do "unnecessary research." How does tenure work again when you have no paycheck?

My final scrape with government and work in this past week was as that of spectator to the particularly vicious sport of immigrant labor. My neighbor - International Academic - moved to the US in the OC last fall to begin a tenure-track position at Nearby College. Now that Dr. IA and famille are settled, Nearby College dropped the bombshell: "you need to get your green card right now so we can continue to employ you, it costs $7000, oh, and by the way, we canceled all your summer teaching because we have no money - our state is bankrupt." Dr. I.A. is fresh out of grad school, so the fees associated with buying a U.S. job are staggering. Dr. I.A.'s Mrs I.A. has waded into a similar morass. She got a special work permit that will allow her to take the job she was offered and work in the U.S. for one year. The only catch is that she can't leave the country during that time. The family and research of both Dr. I.A. and Mrs. Dr. I.A. are all located outside the U.S. The obstructions this country has established between non-citizens and "legal" domestic work are draconian. This is nativism enshrined in government.

Friday, February 13, 2009

[deep exhale]

I recently finished (and sent off) my third chapter. I am please, but not as pleased as I expected to be. It took me months longer than I scheduled to finish it and I'm still tired (though relieved).

Grossly missing my deadline isn't the only thing I didn't anticipate. I wrote a lot more than I expected, 54 pages before I trimmed it back to 43 (but before I added the spacing). More important, though, the story didn't turn out as I expected. It is still really top-down, which makes it oppressive and disheartening. Discussing citizenship for a minority (and subject people) requires top-down analysis, but one of the contributions I'm still claiming is bottom-up. So, this is my target when I get to revisions (provided Advisor agrees to such targets).

Ah, I can't wait for the revisions stage, when the whole thing is drafted. Completing this chapter gets me just over the half-way point. And I did have a lot to say. I'm also excited to get to the next chapter (oh, good stories there). So, I should be able to muster up some excitement to carry me through a couple of conference papers and into the drafting of chapter four. (Of course, I welcome all external means of excitement mustering!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Last week I did a bit of review in preparation for a class I joined on the New Deal. In light of recent events, I have to say, I was astounded by the similarities. I know, I know, every commentator that can get your ear has been making the same points, but they don't offer details like this. What really surprised me was in the details. Here's some of what I read (courtesy of one of my favorite historians, Eric Foner) with the addition of my commentary (just what you wanted, I know).

"The stock market crash [or credit crisis] did not, by itself, cause the Depression. Even before 1929 [September 2008], signs of economic trouble had become evident. Southern California [Nevada,] and Florida experienced frenzied real-estate speculation [check] and then spectacular busts, with banks failing, land remaining undeveloped and mortgages foreclosed [check, check, and check]. The highly unequal distribution of income [check] and the prolonged depression in farm regions [ok, no parallel here] reduced American purchasing power. Sales of new autos and household consumer goods stagnated after 1926 [October 2008]. ... A fall in the bloated stock market, driven even higher during the 1920s [early 2000s] by speculators, was inevitable. But it came with such severity that it destroyed many of the investment companies that had been created to buy and sell stock [AIG, Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, etc.], wiping out thousands of investors, and it greatly reduced business and consumer confidence. Around 26,000 businesses failed in 1930. Those that survived cut back on further investment and began laying off workers [over a half million just in first six months from September 2008 to February 2009]. The global financial system, which was based on the gold standard [or a market of pure credit], was ill-equipped [had no clue how] to deal with the downturn. ... Millions of families lost their life savings [retirement accounts]."

But wait, there's more: "Between 1929 and 1932, the price of a share of U.S. Steel fell from $262 to $22, and General Motors from $73 to $8. [or a "high" of $13 in September, 2008, to a low of $2.50 today] ... William C. Durant, one of the founders of General Motors, lost all his money and ended up running a bowling alley in Flint, Michigan. [fat chance now - tax-sheltered, off-shore accounts mitigate against such "adversity" for the obscenely wealthy] ... congressional investigations revealed massive irregularities committed by bankers and stockbrokers. [yes, and?]... Richard Whitney, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, was convicted of stealing funds from customers, including from a fund to aid widows and orphans. He ended up in jail. [we should be so lucky, instead they're relabeling their bonus system to make it seem like legitimate pay or maybe this is Madoff...]"*

In the class, we did not discuss such details, but there was significant discussion of the similarities and differences between then and now. Someone complained that we no longer "produce" things in this country, but, I would say, that the consumer economy is our economy and it can crack just like an industrial one can. One thing students noted was that no one has lost all of their savings (thanks, New Deal!) but that everyone's retirement was in jeopardy.** But having retirement savings to worry about is a something that the New Deal helped make standard.

And one last comparison that I have to make myself. After the class, I spent the week reading the Daily Worker which offered very clear criticisms of the markets, employment, wealth disparity, and global economy that created this crisis. Therein lies the biggest difference between now and then. No one is questioning the big picture just the details and these criticism of lending or extravagant spending is aimed at fixing the problems within the framework of a broken system. There doesn't seem to be any thinking beyond it.

*E. Foner, Give Me Liberty: An American History (Norton, 2005), 800-802.
**Maybe, I should note that these were "lifelong learning" students; they were all currently living on their retirement savings.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

new year

I'm finally ready to start the new year. I tried to hold off because my albatross of a chapter is still not (yet) written (and my self-imposed deadline was Jan 1), but I can't hold back any longer. The chapter will get done regardless of the date. This realization offers me a new beginning (in that, I can't write a dissertation by force of will; I have to do it patiently and consistently). I'm also not-really trying not to watch the inauguration and parade. Having a new president - and this one, in particular - is a great new beginning. (Did anyone else exhale when the chopper finally took GW away from the Capitol for the last time? We made it.)

And the new year - of the ox - begins on Monday. The ox is supposed to prosper through quiet (perhaps isolated?) and persistent hard work. So, I've decided that the year of the ox will be good for me. My year to wrap things up and move on. And it will lead up to great things during the up-coming year - my year - the Tiger. So, I'm ready now for the year to begin.