Friday, May 18, 2018

Keep Shaming Racists

Shame is definitely a social act that can get out of control and lead to unintended consequences. It's good to have these discussions. What's not happening, though, are the elite white pundits (Weiss, Ioffe, Friedersdorf, Chait, Haidt, the FIRE folks, that prof from VA who keeps writing the same op-ed, etc) thinking through the consequences of not shaming racists.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

"Animals and Der Jude Kriminell" - Immigration and Rhetoric

President Trump called some immigrants "animals." He said:
“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them,” Mr. Trump said in the Cabinet Room during an hourlong meeting that reporters were allowed to document. “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.”
The debate is now predictably to descending whether we should place the animals comment in context of just the MS-13 members.

Here's what I have to say about that:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

On GOP Nazis

There are Nazis doing well in GOP elections. There's always been a radical fringe, but they seem to be doing better this year.

The CA GOP kicked theirs out of the convention. I'd like to see more of this. Explicit rejection of Nazis is important.  And it's the job of the GOP to deal with their own Nazis, not for Democrats to be nice to them about it.

Now if only the GOP would reject its anti-semitic evangelical preachers instead of inviting them to Jerusalem.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Whiteness and Power

My colleague, Katharine Gerbner, a brilliant historian of the Carribean, wrote this for the Washington Post:
Although many today consider race to be an immutable characteristic, that wasn’t always the case. Before the 17th century, whiteness didn’t even exist as a racial category. It emerged for the worst of reasons: slave-owning politicians invented “whiteness” as part of a political strategy intended to restrict the voting rights of free black men. Lawmakers subsequently refined “whiteness” by developing a “one-drop rule” — the idea that one drop of African blood would make a person “black.” In other words, race isn’t just connected to voter suppression; black voter suppression created whiteness.
The modern invention of race (as opposed to medieval thinking about race, also complex and important and about forms of power), has always been about this kind of power.

Monday, May 14, 2018

How to Apply for Graduate School

I get this question a lot. Eve Ewing has published a guide to the "personal statement" that is brilliant and useful. She writes:
The personal statement is a slightly misleading title for this document. It is not primarily about you holistically in the way your college personal statement was. It serves ONE MAJOR PURPOSE: to demonstrate to a department that you understand how to formulate and pursue a research question, and that there is a good fit between your question and the department.
She then outlines the major elements of the statement.

There are many ways to write this document, but its function, as Ewing says, is the aspect to keep in mind and the piece that's often most mysterious to undergrads.

Disciplines differ, but I think this is tremendously useful.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Kochs on Campus - An Overview

On Monday, Dean Moneta went into a campus coffee shop for tea and a vegan muffin, was offended by the lyrics of a rap song that came up on the shop's Spotify playlist, and promptly had the two employees on duty fired.
In this case—as in other recent cases where professors were fired or threatened with firing for criticizing elite figures, or when legislatures attempt to criminalize protest—we see once more how the real threat to free expression on campus has always come from the abuse of power. Power belongs to administrators, donors, and, in the case of public universities, lawmakers. Anyone serious about defending free speech and promoting ideological diversity should focus their critiques on those who wield that power to crush dissent. This Duke dean's abuse of power, especially given his hypocrisy, is merely the latest example of a much bigger problem. 
A few other notable examples have come to light over the last few weeks. The hard work of a student group at George Mason University has exposed how the right-wing Koch brothers have used their billions to sway faculty hiring. An ex-professor at Arizona State University has written about the Koch-funded creation of a shadow university—a mandatory ideological bubble—within that institution. At the University of Montana this June, a 39-year-old executive from General Electric was named president. His first move was to cut the humanities, especially targeting the independence of interdisciplinary programs like gender or environmental studies. Finally, a new survey of religious schools reveals that administrators routinely exercise approvals over what can and cannot be published in student newspapers, creating cultures and systems of campus censorship.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Conservatives on Campus: General Principle

Whatever it is that conservatives accuse liberals of doing on college campuses are things they themselves are trying to accomplish.

Today's case: Censoring student newspapers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

On Silencing: You're Not Being Silenced Bari Weiss (et al.)

Bari Weiss has been writing the same "I'm silenced" essay for a long time, joined by a huge range of rich, powerful, connected, folks. She came up with this latest "intellectual dark web" piece about people who are well known, rich, powerful, and connected in order to assert ... what? I think her thesis is that fearless "pursuers of the truth" are being silenced, but it turns out they are the opposite of oppressed or silenced. How do I know? Because Bari Weiss also wants to tout their fame.

She has nothing to write about but culture wars. In this case, the NYT gave her the services of a Pulitzer Prize photographer, spending some thousands of dollars to create a weird photo shoot.

What  didn't seem to happen with this piece was an edit through the inherent contradictions of the piece.

How can these people be so exiled to some "dark web" when they are hyper visible? Raking in the millions?

It's just another case of dominant people wanting all the power but also to take the discourse of marginalization, as they think it would exempt them from certain kinds of criticism.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Texas "joke" and the Cult of Compliance

A Texas principal joked to her staff that the next time a black disabled child tried to leave the school grounds, she'd call the cops and tell them he had a gun. NEW at Pacific Standard
"Swearingen's "joke," if that's what it was, tells a story about the state-sanctioned killing of one of her students. It's good that there's no evidence she actually was planning on calling the police, but it's also a sign of the ways that the criminalization of disability and race permeates our schools."

Monday, May 7, 2018

Surveillance Pedagogy: It's what EdTech Sells

Don't spy on your students. Build pedagogical approaches premised on trust and respect.  Maximize the best practices rather than letting potential bad actors frighten you into building your teaching approaches around scaring students, spying on them, stopping cheating, etc.

I wrote about this in The Atlantic:
Back in reality, technologists are largely focused on the Internet of Things in which all the objects with which people interact on a daily basis—Google Glass and Apple Watch, for example—are gradually becoming computers, robots, and phones. The technologist Bruce Schneier calls it a “world-size robot.” The upshot? Quotidian objects that are actually computers will soon enter classrooms. It's still fairly easy to spot students using their cell phones in class—but when the smart pen or smart textbook sends messages directly to the contact lenses of students, teachers aren’t likely to even notice.
If the simple banning of devices from classrooms isn’t possible, then what? One option is to assert rigorous control over all information flow—a practice that could be described as panopticon pedagogy. As the education writer Audrey Watters has shown, ed-tech companies are all-in on surveillance, eagerly promoting models that capture every website, click, and time spent working. But students would inevitably find workarounds—using cellphone hotspots, for instance. More critically, controlling data use in class runs counter to optimal pedagogy.
Ultimately, we can spy on our students or we can trust them. I don't think we can only sorta spy on them.  And while the tools to spy on them can potentially be useful in a culture based on trust and respect, they make it harder to create that culture.

Teaching is hard. Tech won't fix it. Tech can break it.