24 September 2008

Please, God, Shoot Me Now

I just spent 8 hours trapped in a car.

For the last three of those, I had a two-year old talking constantly:

"Mama...memember went to car wash? Memember soap bubble? Green bubble. Pink bubble. I see towel. Mememeber see towel? 'ellow and bean towel? Memember?

Seriously folks. For three frickin' hours.


Non. Stop.

He's still not in bed.

He's still talking. Standing here next to me. TALKING.

I thought this whole talking thing would be cute.

Not so much.

19 September 2008

Job Market Blues

I bought a big old box of envelopes. I figured it would be more economically frugal, since it cost just over twice what two small packets cost.

I bought the big box because I had expected to wake up on the morning of the 12th and sign into the magic database and see before my eyes a long list of places that I might someday work. I expected to need to send out 40, 50, 80 applications if necessary.

But on that morning, I was greeted with only about 15 places to apply for next year. Two of those are far out my league, and 3 or 4 of them having teaching loads that look downright dreadful. That leaves, so far, maybe 10 places where I have a shot.

It was disappointing, to say the least.

Every week the list is updated. Every week there might be more jobs.

Guess how many there were today?

2-- and those are both a stretch.

This could be a very, very bad thing indeed. I'm out of funding this year. I graduate this coming spring. And I really, really don't want to be an adjunct somewhere.

14 September 2008

And Now A Word From My Resident Economist

[Yeah- he's really an economist. Really. Like with advanced degrees and everything.]

The following is a guest post from J-

3 Simple Reasons to Vote for Obama

(All of which have NOTHING to do with Sarah Palin.)

1. For your own personal gain.
Obama’s tax plan will provide a larger tax cut for a majority of Americans. That means if you make less than $111,000 a year, you will get a BIGGER TAX REBATE under Obama. Meanwhile, the big winners in McCain’s tax policy are people making over $2.8 million a year. Obama’s plan also includes a $1,000 Emergency Energy tax rebate IN ADDITION to the tax cuts for next April. Unless you are a multi-millionaire, a Democrat in the White House is more cash in your pocket, which will certainly help to cover those rising energy and food prices.

2. To preserve your livelihood.
Ok, maybe this one is just for the teachers. In the realm of education policy, there are two ways to encourage better performance from our public school system: the carrot and the stick. McCain, with his strong support for vouchers, prefers the stick. If schools don’t perform they lose students, and more importantly, they lose money. Obama provides the carrot. Pay incentives for teachers who help to improve test scores as well as more of a focus on training and retaining good qualified teachers. The plan is comprehensive and effective, and the National Education Association agrees saying that when it comes to education policy Obama “gets it”. When thinking about our public school teachers, ask yourself, which would you prefer to face when you go to work—the carrot or the stick? And which ones would you want teaching your child?

3. For the future.
I could talk about a lot of things here. Obama has a superior plan to help protect the environment for future generations. He also has a well thought-out approach to foreign policy to ensure future stability and peace for this country while minimizing the harm to our youth in the military. But I think the most important issue facing us and our children is the issue of health care. Obama understands that government intervention is necessary to ensure greater access to health care. McCain believes the market can solve the health care crisis. Given these two approaches, I can say without reservation that McCain is wrong (and I can line up a whole bunch of economists and health policy experts to back me up on this). When relying on the market, individuals depend on employers to provide health care coverage. When I think about my child’s future, I want to know that he does not have to pick his career based on health insurance benefits. I want him to pick a job because it fulfills his dreams and aspirations in life and not because it is the only way he can provide health care for him and his family. Only with Obama’s health care plan is this vision for future generations even remotely possible.

So there you go, three simple reasons to convince anyone who is still on the fence, and I did not even mention Sarah Palin once---err. . .oops.

10 September 2008

Call Me an Elitist. No, Really, I Want You To.

The campaigns are spending a lot of time talking about "small town values" and people who are "real." The Republicans jump at any chance to call Obama an elitist, even as Bill O'Reilly took him to task in a recent interview for "stealing from the rich to give to the poor" when he talked about giving tax cuts to 95% of people. Doesn't sound all that "elitist" to me, but apparently there's something about arugala that I missed...

The whole draw to Palin is that she's "just like me." She "understands what I'm going through," because she's just a regular person. One pundit (I'm put the link up when I find it again) took Obama's camp to task for critiquing the fact that she went to 5 different colleges before finally graduating from one. See-- a regular person, just like you and me... oh, wait. Not like me at all.

Anti-intellectualism has been a cultural truth in our country for at least 100 years. They were already writing books about it back in the 1930s. Intellectuals were regarded with suspicion-- they couldn't be "real men" because they didn't make their living doing "real" work. Reading and writing and thinking didn't constitute the type of work that allowed someone to fashion himself as a self-made man--the epitome of American Manhood.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and not much has changed in terms of the American imaginary. But a lot has changed in practice. Since the end of WWII, an unprecedented number of people have attended and graduated from American Universities, but in many ways the degrees they've attained are not the same degrees given out 80 years ago. Rather than this new population rising to meet the challenges of a rigorous Liberal Arts education, University's changed to meet the needs of their new graduates.

Take English as an example--at one time, students were expected to know the classics, in their original languages, and understand how those classics informed literature. With the 1950s came a push for the "New Criticism." Suddenly, all you needed to know was in the text itself. It wasn't a straight causal relationship, but there was a relationship between that transformation. Don't get me wrong--I'm fairly happy that I don't need to know Greek and Latin to do what I do, but the overall effect of the influx of new students wasn't to make a more intellectual population. Instead, it made college into job training.

I see it in my own students every semester. They're not taught to see college as a learning experience for the good of their intellects or characters. Students most often pick majors that will make them money-- that's why business colleges are so huge in Universities. They give out practical, real-world information. (Except that they don't.)

This is a very personal issue for me. My family seems to be proud of the fact that I'm getting a Ph.D., but really only in an abstract way. For them, being a college professor will never really be any different than being a High School teacher. Actually, some of them think it makes me less qualified to be a HS teacher--less important than they are. They won't see a distinction between them, especially since I probably won't be getting paid that much more than one--at least at first. They won't understand that getting a Ph.D. in English doesn't prepare me to read a textbook--it prepares me to write them. They already don't like it when I talk about things that I know, because a HS english teacher shouldn't know any more about politics or history or culture than they do. It makes me into a know-it-all who doesn't know anything. Except that now, I really actually do know quite a lot.

But the ambivalent reaction of my family to my chosen profession is mirrored in the entire country's reaction to the Obama campaign and Palin draw. They forget that it should mean something to have gone to Harvard, to have been a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. That Palin's stupid quip about not knowing what a VP does should make her look ridiculous--especially since she has a polisci minor.

Instead, we live in a country where we strive to get our children into colleges--4 year, of course, because nothing less will do--but where we don't place any actual importance on those degrees. We live in a country so obsessed with the appearance of equality that we food ourselves into thinking that one type of education and knowledge can't be more important than another. How dare Democrats say that Palin's education isn't good enough?!? Obama must be an elitist. Except that the President is supposed to defend and uphold the constitution, wouldn't it be nice if they understood the history of Constitutional Law??

So call me an elitist. Because we've already had 8 years of a "just like me" president who barely passed his way through business school. Because that didn't work out so well. Because I don't want the average Joe-shmoe to lead our country. Because I want a president who has an extensive education that has trained him or her to think well and deeply about the complications of the world we live in, rather than relying on us v. them arguments. Because I believe there is value in intellect and silly chants like "drill, baby, drill, leave me cold and disgusted. Because I want my leaders to be better than me, smarter than me, more intellectual than me--not less.

Our founding fathers weren't everyday Joes. They were brilliant, learned men who had a specific distrust of the masses. It's why we have the electoral college; they just didn't trust that the average mass of people could really be trusted to make the best decisions for the country. I used to think that was fairly narrow-mined of them, but more and more I'm starting to think they were right.

In the end, though, wanting a candidate to be educated and intellectual isn't wrong. Sure, education doesn't make someone a better person than someone else, but it can and should prepare them for things in ways that "average folk" just aren't prepared to deal with.

Your Happy Baby

I don’t have a baby anymore. Little Man is resolutely beyond the stages of babyhood, so I really don’t pay much attention to parenting books about infants as much anymore. Recently, I found a book that I couldn’t resist picking up....

Continue Reading...

09 September 2008

Random Bullets

  • I *heart* the new piano bar in town. J and I had a birthday date night on Saturday and we checked out the new dueling piano bar. The drinks could be stronger, but the bar itself was so much fun! The crowd was a little old at first--and not the fun old, the sit- on- their- buts- and- don't- even- bother- to- clap old. But it picked up as it got later. Can't wait to go back.
  • Speaking of birthdays, J made me this flourless chocolate tart for mine. mmmm.
  • The job search is on! and I'm absolutely freaked out by it. Because now I have to send out my materials, which are fine when they're just files on my computer. Once they're sent out, though, I have to just sit and hope. I'm really not the most patient person.
  • J is getting obsessed about the upcoming election. He's really worried that McCain will win. I just can't find any emotion to worry with. Not after 2004. The whole 2004 election completely confirmed to me that the vast majority of people in this country are either too lazy or too stupid for their own good. It confirmed that Americans, in general, are unintellectual and ill-informed, and gosh-darn-it, they like it that way. How else can you explain the fact that W won? So I can't even be worried. I'm just assuming that the Republicans will pull out some slimey scare tactics to play on people's fears (they're good at that, you know). And Americans will buy it, because it's easier to be afraid and to listen to someone's oversimplifications than to actually go out, learn about the issues, and THINK FOR YOURSELF.
  • Speaking of which, I'm currently in the market for a "My mama's for Obama" t-shirt for x to where around my family when we're back in Ohio in October. hee hee.
  • Speaking of Ohio- J may be taking an emergency trip back there this week. There's something up with his grandfather's health, and he's getting worried that no one is taking care of it because of family politics. J's not the most assertive guy, so when he starts raising his voice on the phone to his mom, you know that something is totally out of whack back there. I'm just hoping that someone takes care of something before his health gets any worse-- such a sweet old guy.
  • It all makes me realize just how formidable my own grandma is. She took care of her own father and father-in-law for so long. It must have been hard--very, very hard. Stay at home mom, high school grad, and republican--and she's probably more formidable than any feminist out there. Much stronger than I'll ever be, I'm sure.
  • Did I mention that the job market it starting up??

04 September 2008

Would the real Dick Cheney Please Stand Up

Dear Ms. Palin and republic cronies everywhere,

In last night's caustic speech, you criticized Barack Obama by claiming:

"Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America ... he's worried that someone won't read them their rights?"

Let me just say that if this is a country where we stop worrying about reading people their rights, I want out...immediately.

The moment we forget that our enemies are human, the moment we treat them as though they do not breathe and hope and hurt just as we do, is the day we become something truly evil. I do not want to live in a country where we are so weak, so afraid, so hateful that we cannot afford the most basic human rights to even the most despicable human.

That my dear Ms. Palin is what used to make us better than whatever it was lurking out there. That is what made America a land of promise--that we saw all people as...people. Humans that deserved the same treatment as any other human.

But when we strip away rights-- in the name of fear and of "protection"--we do not make America stronger or more safe.

We simply become one of the bad guys.

And that is unforgivable.

02 September 2008

Let the Mommy Wars Begin

I was watching Meet the Press on Sunday and I was struck by how much emphasis that certain journalists were putting on Palin's role as a mother. Specifically, DAvid Gregory, NBC's chief White House correspondent told the panel, "This is a woman who's got five children and is the governor of Alaska. I think she's figured out the work-life balance that a lot of women struggle with....She went into labor and got on an airplane to go back to Alaska. That's pretty cool. "

I did one of those double takes you see in cartoons.

First-- not "pretty cool." That's what I would call extremely, extremely stupid. What person in their right mind who thinks they're in labor and has a hospital nearby chooses to board a plane for a long flight to Alaska? Especially if this is your 5th child. Not cool-- stupid. Very, very stupid. It shows a complete lack of judgment about the safety of herself and her child--a child she already knew had medical complications. You're not supposed to fly your third trimester-- airlines won't let you on the plane without a doctor's note. You're definitely not supposed to get on a plane when you are in LABOR.

Her lack of judgment aside, though, Gregory's analysis is a lot like much of the statements I'm hearing about Palin right now. The one woman on The View this morning actually said that her being a mother of 5 was the only preparation she needed to run the country. It's very, very surreal to me.

Because here are the facts--in this country, at this moment, having a child--in most occupations--does not mean you get a promotion. It means that you are seen as a liability. I know this personally. I know that I need to keep any pictures or mentions of my little guy off of my web pages and out of interviews because, at least in my line of work, having a kid might cost me a job. In my line of work, where jobs are hard to come by, having a kid might send the wrong message--that I'm not serious about my work, that I won't be a productive part of the department, that I'll want to someday stop the tenure clock, that there are a lot of other candidates out there with similar qualifications who are more "stable" in terms of productivity.

It's not just my occupation that puts mothers at risk. The statistics don't lie. Women with children make even less than men than women without children do.

So I'm torn. Because part of me loves that finally the general consensus is that a working mother can be better suited for a job-- smarter, tougher, harder working. That her ability to balance work and family can be an asset rather than a liability. But I also know that rhetoric can be very, very empty.

News services can't exactly question her ability to perform her duties because she's a mommy. It's not PC. Sexism is bad.

But just because the media seems to be portraying working moms as the country's answer to everything doesn't mean that it changes the reality of working mothers.

Enter the mommy wars. It's already starting, as evidenced by this NY Times Article about mothers' reactions to Palin's candidacy. On one hand, mothers identify with her and admire her. On the other, mothers are speaking up and out about her decisions and the way she balances work and family.

I had many of the same reactions. Because the truth is that balancing work and family means making sacrifices. It has to. There are not enough hours in the day to be the kind of full-time mothers that women could be in the 1950s and the kind of full-time careerists that men have always been able to be. Maybe there is a superwoman out there that can do it all and never flinch. From my own experience, I doubt it.

I do good work-- I know I do. But I also know I could have graduated a year ago if I hadn't had my son. I also know that I don't--not can't, but won't--work as much as some of my peers because 3:30-8:30 every day and all weekend is family time. Period. I also know that I'm missing something by bundling my little guy off to daycare everyday. That someone else has a knowledge of his secret life that I do not. I only see the evidence of it later--things he says and does that I know I didn't teach him.

I'm not saying that Palin can't do it. I'm not saying that I don't want her to be able to do it (balance work and family, that is, not get into the White House). I'll be honest- I have serious, serious doubts. At only 4 months after delivery, she's still at risk for post pardum. With a child with special needs and a teenage daughter who is also expecting, one would thing that she'd want to be there for them first. Those are her choices- fine. But it disturbs me that one woman's political rise has suddenly made millions of other women's daily struggles seem eviscerated. As though they don't even exist.

I think that's the real reason the mommy wars are beginning. This Cinderella story is just that--a story. It may be Palin's reality, but the reality for women across this country is that it does matter if you have a child, but not in the way that journalists and the political analysts are spinning it.

Trust me on this one. Not a single person is going to be impressed if I tell them that my dissertation was completed with a two-year-old in the background. It's not a job qualification for anything else--why should it be for the Vice-Presidency?

Or maybe it should be a qualification, but I don't think that a single woman's rise is going to do a single thing for the rest of us.