Enough is Enough

From today's Columbus Dispatch:

"Marion Sen. Larry A. Mumpers "academic bill of rights for higher education" would prohibit instructors at public or private universities from "persistently" discussing controversial issues in class or from using their classes to push political, ideological, religious or anti-religious views.

Senate Bill 24 also would prohibit professors from discriminating against students based on their beliefs and keep
universities from hiring, firing, promoting or giving tenure to instructors based on their beliefs.

Mumper, a Republican, said many professors undermine the values of their students because "80 percent or so of them (professors) are Democrats, liberals or socialists or card-carrying Communists " who attempt to indoctrinate students."

So, who gets to define "controversial," or "political," "religious," "anti-religious" (does that leave ANYTHING to say) or "persistent"? The Government? A so-called proponent of "Small Government" wants to set up a monitoring station in Columbus to measure what gets said on campuses? What's next--building a Red Square in Columbus for military parades and calling him our "comrade"?

Mumper seems like the only card-carrying Communist in this debate. As far as I can tell, I haven't heard about one legitimate hiring, firing, protion, or tenure based on this trumped up bias.

You can give our fair representative an email by looking up the address on Mumper's homepage.


Saw a Bald Eagle Today

Driving up past the snowy fields, a bald eagle skimmed across the highway directly in front of me. Had to unsnap all of the snapping "doubt sensors" that told me not to believe that I had seen something so cool here in Northwest Ohio.

Nope...it was a bald eagle about 50 feet in front of me...


Two Incredibly Disturbing Stories

From CNN today...

""No Name-calling Week" takes aim at insults of all kinds -- whether based on a child's appearance, background or behavior. But a handful of conservative critics have zeroed in on the references to harassment based on sexual orientation.

"I hope schools will realize it's less an exercise in tolerance than a platform for liberal groups to promote their pan-sexual agenda," said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute.

"Schools should be steering kids away from identifying as gay," Knight said. "You can teach civility to kids and tell them every child is valued without conveying the message that failure to accept homosexuality as normal is a sign of bigotry.""

Um...telling the world to "steer kids away from identifying" as anything is bigotry. I especially like the fact that the director of "Concerned Women" is named Robert. Perhaps the "Pan-Sexual Agenda" has erupted inside their organization.

From the Christian Science Monitor today...

"Mr. Gruener was raised in a devout Christian family near Seattle and attended a Baptist high school and a Christian college, where he studied business. His passion, however, was literature, and so he was excited to begin a master's program in English at Sonoma State University. But during his first semester, a classroom incident put a damper on Gruener's ardor.

While lecturing on James Joyce's rejection of the church, a professor drew two mountains with a valley between them on the chalkboard, explaining that Joyce's church believed one mountain was man and the other mountain was God.

Next he drew a cross in the valley, touching both peaks - a visual metaphor Gruener knew from childhood - and explained that this was Christ on the cross connecting man to God. Then the professor broke into peals of mocking laughter. The rest of the class joined in."

If this is true, the teacher should be severely reprimanded.

Bigotry, bigotry, bigotry...

Hitting the Wall

I'm mostly just writing this down as a personal milepost. Week three is when the class honeymoon is officially over for me. I feel like the piles of snow I see outside--frozen and deeply buried. As a Co-director, I am now worried about graduate recruiting, undergraduate enrollment in our program, and about a million things that need doing. I can't believe that I feel this busy this early.

It makes for pretty lame posts.


Power of the Web

Websites like CollegeRPI seem to demonstrate the power of the web best to me. Combine free information with the power to project it into the future and we'll be cooking with gas. This Purdue math grad set up his website a few years ago to simulate the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) and the RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). He spent a crazy amount of time replicating all of the formulas and polls to let people see how the NCAA DI-A football and basketball touranment/bowl teams are selected by their various cronies. During the process, he discussed with anybody out in cyberspace the various ins and outs of the systems. He even managed to catch some of the chicanery of the various pollsters (called Jeff Sagarin on his formula switching and even called the BCS committee to the carpet). Unfortunately, Jerry Palm now charges money for details on the men's basketball and football information, but he does the basic men's RPI and women's complete information for free. Fascinating combination of database programming, commentary, and net "commons capital."


What can be done with blogs

If you follow the link on the title, you'll get to Jenny Edbauer's blog "Stupid Undergrounds." She got the Kairos journal award for "Blog of the Year" as a graduate student at UT Austin. She's got a pretty interesting assortment of personal, political, and local posts. Worth a read...


Sitting in the Panera in Suburbia

I'm holed up in a Panera in suburban Toledo (Perrysburg to be exact) trying to get my work done. I love Wi-Fi, but I'm starting to question the sanity of a person who seeks coffeeshops during winter storms for Internet connectivity (that's my sanity that I'm questioning, for those who are paying attention).


Charette Update

The Albuquerque East Downtown Organization Charette was one that my Graduate Technical Communication class used as a model. The above-linked story gives an update about how it is progressing (and it IS progressing). The types of things that Jeff Grabill describes in his scholarship are unfolding. It's interesting how Byron Hawk's notions of "post-techne" apply to these situations. A plan has to float through the civic space (rearranging the forces, trajectories as it goes), allowing for people to attach, disattach, and re-attach at different points. People describe how space and identity connect (neighborhood associations forbidding alcohol sales near a church while the church defends said alcohol sales--both taking positions relative to property values and not "morality" stands. Meanwhile, the city council representative who is running for mayor takes the force out of the bourgeoisie argument by forbidding sale of "singles" and fortified wine. Always a class dimension...).

Hope it passes in the end.


Good Column in Chronicle about Networking

If you follow the link in this post title, you'll get to a pretty interesting two-person interview about job networking. The short version of the column is that a young English PhD from Princeton lost her job at Motley Fool and takes a serendipitous networking journey down to Baltimore that yields a job a year or two later. This is the kind of serendipity that almost had me taking a job in Austin at IBM writing manuals for their UNIX server division. This is the kind of story I try to impress upon my students--networking is about optimistic hustling and constant professionalism. After reading this, though, I kind of get the same cynical glaze that my students do. Part of me reacts viscerally: "Yeah, it sure is easy to be *professional* when you have 'Princeton PhD' behind your name ["let's play squash sometime..."]." I wonder if my "University of New Mexico PhD" behind my name [or more likely, just "PhD"] blows my entire story out of the water. I tend to alternate between my story and those of my friends who have made it in the business with M.A. and B.A. degrees.

Are we all that cynical?


What about Creativity?

I've seen Richard Florida take a beating in the press, but for my money, he's the economist who best makes the case for maintaining inquiry as an attitude because it makes good business sense. His three Ts (tolerance, technology, and talent) all center around the difference between inquiring and acquiring.



Pretty cold here in Northwest Ohio. (about 15 and going down) I'm trying to get ready for a grant workshop tomorrow in Columbus, and all I can think is that I hope my car doesn't break down on the way to Columbus.


Serious Back and Forth with an Editor

After reading the above-posted editorial from my home-town newspaper, I had a seriously heated back-and-forth email exchange (apparently, the editor didn't want to publish this:

"Your January 7 editorial "Campus Freedom" alleged an American university "liberal bias" in hiring, firing, and grading practices. Of course, you merely quoted editorials from radical right publications and offered ZERO quality empirical evidence (other than pointing to a number of said right-wing think tanks and ideological pundits who point to unnamed "studies"). This is clearly a transparent attempt to divert attention away from a Presidential Administration that bribed a supposedly "independent" press columnist to push its educational policies to the tune of a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars. Please stop asking academics to adopt the unbiased practices that we already practice and do your own job. I have been involved in several job searches and we follow strict nondiscrimination procedures respecting religious, military, race, gender, and sexual diversity. Perhaps the blinding log of bias is in your own eye."

At the end of a long exchange, the woman I interacted with maintained that, even though there is no peer-reviewed scientific study of this "liberal bias," it is "fact." The sum total of evidence is the party registration of tenure-track faculty members at select universities (nevermind that universities are made up of far more staff, administrators, adjunct faculty, and students) and stories of student harassment collected by ideologically right publications. I understand that news publications often take their marching orders from hate-pundits, but I am disturbed that editors in newspapers will admit that they base their definition of "fact" purely on personal belief devoid of empirical evidence. After all, I teach science writing...

Perhaps I should have a symposium on the lack of any objective journalistic standards.


Online Docs First Class

Yesterday, the fit hit the proverbial shan. I prepped a completely remediated first class where the students would show up in the computer classrooms and have to accomplish a set of tasks via electronic mediation (a sort of remediated scavenger hunt). I made an intro video that served as a useless avatar and pointed to the empty position of the "instructor" in these situations. Students then would have to use the pdfs, emails, and web photos, etc. to accomplish the tasks and eventually network their way to me in the Student Union (with me there waiting to "take attendance" on my laptop).

One Problem--the wireless connectivity I was relying upon the Student Union Building was down. I don't know why, but I'm blaming the construction to convert the local coffeeshop into a Starbucks.


I had to trudge across campus right before class and walk the students through the usually-boring tasks in meatspace.

In some ways, it is a perfect illustration of how new technologies can disrupt ethos constructions. Instead of *teaching* students about the technology, a new lesson *asserted itself* on the class, and mostly me.

Completely painful.


Wikipedia is growing up

Seems that the politics of fact are again making themselves visible. This should send George Will running for his meds.

Feel the Rumor Mill

I've been a mac geek for quite awhile, and the buzz that greets "Steve Jobs--International Man of Mystery" every time he takes the stage never gets old.

I would love to sit down to a lunch of bottled water and tofu dogs with the "master of the reality distortion field" and pick his brain just once...

Ah well, just have to enjoy the new goodies that will be popping up at 11:30 e.s.t. tomorrow


Adam L. Penenberg unloads on the FCC (sort of)

A decent look at possibly dismantling the FCC. A bit confused, but certainly understands the centrality of the fact that the PEOPLE own the airwaves (theoretically and in law, if not in practice), "the FCC has become so politicized and beholden to big business, it has ceased to be protector of the airwaves, which are supposed to belong to the citizens of this country (but most believe they belong to big business). "


Cool Community Design School

If I make it to my sabbatical, I may make the trek to Chicago and enroll here (IF I get in to this school).



Just saw Michael Mann's (a.k.a Miami Vice guy) "Collateral." Couldn't help but make connections between that movie and J.G. Ballard's novel Crash. Ballard's book deconstructs our popular/contemporary notion of psychological depth in a very straightforward manner. While the movie seems to retain more of a traditional feel of psychological depth, the same elements seem to accumulate. Main difference is that the Jamie Foxx's character Max develops an ethical code building upon Cruise's "overman" character (adaptive mastery), folding in a certain self-interestedness, and in concert with his surroundings. The moment with the coyote(s) illustrates the difference between the two characters. Vincent maintains a hermetically sealed egoism (represented by his briefcase--as well as his inability to function outside of that sealed/created identity) while Max allows a certain permeation (like his cab--he keeps it clean, but depends upon interaction). Association with Vincent is death and association with Max means life. Circulation requires interaction and continually re-relating to your surroundings. Just like a coyote living in the midst of 17 million suburbanites, Max creates his "Island Limo" not as a separate reality, but as an affective relation to, an affirmation of, his surroundings. Max is the true coyote character.

The notion of endless circulation (especially in Vincent's foreshadowed death on the subway/train) parallels that of Ballard's book. I imagine reading Crash and Nietzsche's "Truth and Lying in an Extramoral Sense" in concert with this movie would pretty much illustrate what I believe makes up the core of postmodern/postindustrial life.

Surface, night, circulation--all of the stuff that make Baudrillard the poet of the postmodern.