Friday, December 30, 2005


Mabye I'm odd -- but I seem to have more e-friends than face-to-face friends...not sure why, but maybe my crazy-ass schedule makes it easier to send e-mails than actually SEE these people.

One of my e-friends is having a hard time right now... I'm doing counseling via e-mail, which I've done before.

I think I do like to do some things this way, I can be sure of what I've said and can think before I reply, hmmmmm

Think good thoughts for Friend, she's a super person who has overcome many challenges. I'm sure she'll handle this one as well.

My favorite West Wing line...

From "Red Haven's on fire"

Previously, Josh to Abby: "At the end of the prize fight, you look for the guy who is dancing around..."

Abby to Amy: How did you live with Josh
Amy: we didn't live together
Abby: (in essence) He told me "At the end of the prize fight, you look around..." how can you stand it when he says things like that.
Amy: My problem is that I want to jump him when he says thing like that.

yea Amy

Amazing students

I spend plenty of time thinking about how "challenged" my students are... but, I also have had some pretty good students this semester...

Here are my reflections on them and my wishes for them in the New Year...

L: who always had just enough attitude and was a good, honest barometer of what the class was or was not understanding. Had her in my 3rd class this semester and I'll miss her... maybe she'll do debate?? My wish for you in the New Year is for you to get the heck out of this state... go out of town -- and don't stop at the border states. See the mountains, oceans, deserts and the strange, flat places in between. Also -- go to THE BIG CITY, it really isn't murder-ville... and, mabye in 2007 you'll venture into Canada.

D: Hang in there... I'm so proud you finished the class after having your mom died suddenly, so you had to go to Africa for 4 weeks. I didn't need to see a copy of your airline ticket or anything... I trusted you not to be scamming me. I wish you peace and tranquility this year.

BJ & C: You two are a bundle of fun -- keep saving the world one dog or cat at a time. Your energy is infectious, keep it up. My wish for you is family tranquility. I know the siblings are a challenge... as is mom -- but you can handle it.

J: Thanks for the humor -- some profs may take your bluntness the wrong way, but it workes for me. Feel free to take another class, although it may be hard because I won't be teaching many nights... My wish for you is a semester of teachers who get you, you are much smarter than you think-- which is a refreshing change from some of your peers.

A year of travel

It seems that I can't go a month without leaving the state I love --- I wonder if that is why I love it... hmmmm

Here is the list for 2005

January: Washington DC
February: San Diego and other debate travel
March: Lubbock (eek)
April: -- I may have stayed home this month -- I don't recall -- maybe we went to Wisconsin for pie at Norske Nook...
May: Madison with the family/clan
June: Colorado, Teach for a Change...
July: Florida with Mom
August: Missouri, debate camp
September: Washington DC, again -- YEA!!
October: Debate, Debate, Debate (i.e. Missouri x 2, & NE) AND Chicago
November: Nebraska, Walzer
December: California....

What I anticipate for 2006
January: California, Missouri, Nebraska -- all debate
February: Washington State -- debate
March: Oregon, twice -- more debate, nationals this time...
April: Wisconsin, NFA...(yep, debate)
May: vacation???? Canada???? honey? (I love Canada...)
June: Teach for a Change in Utah
July: Drive to Florida with mom and Pat???
August: debate camp in Missouri
September: -- probably some debate travel
October -- I know there will be some debate travel
November -- shocker... debate travel anyone?
December --- maybe vacation someplace warm?? or, snowed-in in the UP....

good thing I love to travel.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hubby and cats, preggers??

Just now, I walk by hubby's desk. He's eating kosher dill pickles and dip...


Also, cats are all stranger than usual today. Maybe they are all pregnant...

I will not...

Just for today, I wil not...

Spend the day reading blogs..

Read Net Benefits


Forget to take my Prilosec

Postpone folding the laundry and doing dishes

Avoid finishing my projects

Worry about what ex-debaters who want to be lawyers think, about anything.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Big Red gets bigger

Watching Nebraska lose to Michigan in the Who Cares Bowl -- they announce another stadium expansion in Lincoln. WTF, the last one wasn't enough?

Farmer Genes

No, that isn't supposed to be "jeans" above...

I inherited something awful from my Grandpa Marv, the inability to sleep past 6:00 AM. Like most good farmers Grandpa can't stay in bed when the sun is up.... when we have family gatherings in hotels, he'll be down in the coffee shop eating his first breakfast. It is usually something healthy. I know this because I get up then too....

I call this problem my "farmer genes" -- no matter when I go to bed, I wake up between 5:00AM and 6:00 AM. It is really inconvenient--- especially since I have often had to work evenings and nights.... It also makes me a terrible roomate to anybody but hubby, he understands and sleeps anyway ---sometimes moving onto my side, stealing my pillow and making it harder for me to go back to bed later.

That is the good thing, I can usually go back to sleep about 7 or 8 --- and sleep for another hour or so...

damm farmer genes

X-mas report...

I generally hate the term "X-mas" -- but, it works in reference to the materialistic side of the holiday season...

So -- to answer the "what did you get for Christmas" question...

1) My Anniversary-birthday-Christmas present was huge this year... a PowerBook G4. love it, a lot... it came in October, just in time for debate travel and it has an amazing battery. It is also small and light. yea. Hubby got one last week as well... now we are a two-Mac family, who'd have thunk it.

2) Free stuff: the ipod Bose docking station / speakers from American Express for the dissertation chamber and the tiny DVD player hubby bought with his poker winnings.

3) Actual gifts -- some money (always nice, always fits.. not sure where to spend it, although some was spent at Blue Fin bay on the way home from Mom's)... A book, the biography of Queen Noor -- excellent and an interesting perspective on the troubles in the Middle East. A gift card from the body shop (I think...) -- someplace in the mall that sells bath stuff -- warm sox, a turtle neck sweater and a bread machine --- warm and yummy.....

4) hubby on a cleaning binge -- wonderful... it is also nice that I got him battery operated cleaning tools for Christmas and he didn't take it the wrong way...

and -- getting to watch "A Christmas Story" -- priceless...

Staying in Grad School

I've been reading some grad student's blogs about their decisions not to stay in grad school. I suppose it is a bit odd to read a whole series of blog posts, but I find it pretty interesting... kind of like reality TV, only the "characters" are real people I like and I care about.... so i really want to know how it comes out.

As I read, I think back (seems sooooo long ago) to my coursework. I didn't really recall a time at which I thought seriously about quitting -- instead, for me, it was a low-level wondering why I kept doing it and going to class.

Oddly enough, I think one of the main reasons I stayed in school was because of the sexism of my graduate advisor. He was a complete ass, who didn't take me seriously and pretty much asked if I had hubby's permission to be in grad school. I wanted to show the asshat he was wrong... so I finished.

It is a bit sad to say, but I outlasted the jerk in the department---as he had a heart attack an retired and I was still there.

On the other hand, I can say that I completely understand the decision of the bloggers I've been reading. One of them writes very honestly about not being a good writer and feeling as if she had nothing to contribute in class. I can easily say that I know the feeling. Hubby is such a good writer compared to me, he could easily make us all feel inferior in that regard -- welcome to the club :). I do think it might have helped if the bloggers I've been reading could see hubby's writing process... lots of procrastination, lots of nashing of teeth and plenty of playing of video games whlie he "thinks" -- it really isn't as easy as he may have made it look in class... and, not to out him (he's a fourth year, so it seems pretty safe) -- but he had some of those same insecurities in his first year or two as well -- maybe parli just made him better at BS than policy made some of the rest of y'all :).

It is nice to be upright again

Just before Christmas my back went out... and stayed out until today.

It is nice to be able to stand upright again, not looking like a little old lady.

I went to the office today (finally) -- I planned to go yesterday and just couldn't do it..

I also collected my Indian food deal with hubby (he got a PowerBook G4, I got Indian food at India Palace). It was pretty good, but not as good as Indian Oven in Lincoln. Not much here isn't as good as Lincoln, but that is one thing.

Bad news is that I also lost several rounds of SuperPuzzle Fighter to hubby, so now I have to go bowling... aargh...

Monday, December 26, 2005

A good thing about Iowa...

Next month we'll drive Iowa at least two weekends in a row---- and maybe more and I'm sure I'll have something to whine about Iowa then..

but, for now --

I love it that Iowa has free wireless internet access at all the rest stops on I-35. That rocks.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Trees

We are big procrastinators around here...

We went to get a Christmas tree yesterday (Dec 23...) and found nobody with one to sell..

After a discussion about not getting one at all -- in which we decided it was just too sad not to have one -- we went to Target and got an artificial tree (on sale, by the way -- 30% off).

I've always been someone who ranted and raved against artificial Christmas trees. They are FAKE, don't have that great smell and contribute to the pressure we put on ourselves to have the perfect Christmas.

I'm kind of astonished to say that I love the thing. It doesn't set off my allergies, we don't have to sweep up needles and worry about the cats drinking the tree water. The best part is that it came with the lights already on it -- so, the nasty part of decorating the tree is done -- all we had to do was add our ornaments, and we were done.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Concordia kid's mom talks to Pawlenty

The gist of the story is as follows...

Background: Student at Concordia College (I assume Moorhead, although could be St. Paul) needs to pay for college. He joins the Minnesota National Gaurd in 2004 (or so... well into our fiasco in Iraq). Recently he gets notified that he'll have to do training next semester and then go to Iraq.

Now: Mom gets irate -- goes on MPR saying things like "all he wanted to do was to pay for college, not go to war" and, "Concordia is expensive, we are a middle-class family who can't afford to pay tuition, that is why he joined" and "he didn't think he'd actually have to go to Iraq"'.

She demanded --and got -- a meeting with Govenor Pawlenty... she also spent time protsting the war on the capitol steps.

I am amazed and appalled at her ignorance and gall.

First of all -- her ADULT son decided to join the MN National Gaurd, at least two years AFTER we started fighting in Iraq. Sure, his motivation was to pay for college -- but, you don't think that they just give that money out for nothing.... for cripes sake, if he didn't wan't to go to war he should have taken out student loans like the rest of us. He chose to go to an expensive school, he didn't want huge student loans, he may have to go and fight.

Second -- what the fuck makes her kid so special? All across the nation young men and women get mobilization notices every day. Many of them leave wives, children and good paying jobs to do so. Others joined the active duty military because they didn't have the choices your son has. It is hard to leave your college without finishing... but, the contract he signed didn't have an education exemption.

It sounds to me like she is feeling guilty that she couldn't pay her kid's college tuition. That is sad, but it is also a fact of life for many people. Her son made a decision to serve, she should honor that decision. I hope he comes back, and when he does I'm sure he'll be a different person than when he left. Perhaps this is what she's worried about...

I am sure this mom is worried about her kid. That makes her the same as every military mom out there. Being from north-central Minnesota doesn't change all that. I hope meeting with the Govenor didn't change that.

I can't say that I think the war in Iraq is just... in fact, there are excellent arguments against it being just (which is huge for me, as I hope to be a just war theorist sooner or later..) -- but the fact of the matter is that this woman is demeaning her son's adult decision to serve. I think she should protest the war all she wants, but don't claim that her son was somehow tricked or coerced into joining...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Debate habits of thought

This is a warning...

It isn't too late to change
your mind

(some) debaters seem to think
that a change in mind
is somehow a sign of weakness

that's bull
it is a sign of strength
it is a sign of character
it is a sign of intelligence

to be able to..
admit you were wrong
to hold two seemingly contradicting positions
is a sign of a complex mind
a human mind
a real person

a mature person
sees themselves in flux, always
because they are in flux

a mature person
allows others the chance
to change their minds

a mature person
gives a little
forgives a little and
understands that others aren't perfect
no matter how much you'd like them to be
like you

Merry Christmas

I am really divided on an issue that comes up during the holidays... which is, more or less, what to call them.

On one hand, wishing my Jewish colleague "Merry Christmas" is insensitive, because I know she's Jewish. I can also see that some object to the way Christianity is pervasive in the US, and that the winter holidays are special for a variety of faiths.

On the other hand, if I am a Christian (mostly, that is another post..) why is it so wrong to wish someone Merry Christmas? In a way, what I'm doing is to say that I hope their holiday is as good as the one I have planned...

Happy Winter Solstice --

Only in Minnesota

Today, southwest Minnesota, a school board voted to allow students to ride their snowmobiles to school -- AND created a designated snowmobile parking area.

I'm not sure if that is scary or not -- but only in Minnesota...

Up North

Hubby and I went to my mom's in Isabella to celebrate Christmas this weekend -- it was an interesting trip, filled with the normal family things... Mom, Ron, the TV, cigarette smoke, dogs, cats etc...

On the way up the following happened -- it is a kind of typical up north situation -- and necessary in a place that is cold and dark for much of the year...

Hubby and I were driving the Jeep up highway 1. We see flashing hazzard lights on the other side of the road and people moving in front of them. We stop to help -- turns out they had a flat tire and need a ride into town (where we just came from... about 15 miles back toward the cities..).

To give them a ride we needed to pull off the road so we could move stuff to the cargo area from the back seat... hubby pulled a bit too far off the road, and we were in a snowbank... and slipping... every time he would try to get us out, we'd go farther in the ditch.

We tried to get out of the ditch for a couple of minutes, until the next vehicle down the road also stopped. Thank God it was a snowplow with a tow strap...

They pulled us out of the ditch, we turned around and gave the flat tire people a ride -- and all was well.

I do love the north woods.

A softer version of Ode to a Law Student

I hope you....

I hope you are working hard in law school,
many people have contributed to your ability to get there
and many people are counting on your success.
Those groups are not the same.

I hope you continue to dream of a a better world,
many people need your vision, passion and excellence
and many people could benefit from your work
Those groups are not the same, and it is likely that those groups don't include you.

I hope you are ready to face the facts
many people are working hard to make it more difficult for you to achieve your dreams
yet many others could benefit from your work

I hope you are ready for the sacrifices of public interest law,
many times your kids will ask why they can't have the ipod of 2035
and it will sometimes be hard to pay the rent,
and getting a mortage will be impossible on your salary
and the hours will be long
and your clients may not have a shower to shower in
and your hours will be long
and you'll see your spouse less than you'd like
and you'll decide most night s to sleep and hope to dream of sex
and you'll wonder why you didn't choose to make money
and you'll curse the facts of a country that pays crooks and starves saints
and you'll curse the law school that set it's tuition high, assuming your salar will be high

I hope you are ready to do it all again tomorrow
saving the world is hard work

I hope you'll go easy on your law-school classmates
many times they worked late to make more billable hours
and they wished they were doing something they believed in
and they think about you in your apartment
and they wonder how you hold onto your values
and they wonder if they could have done more

and maybe, because of you, they'll do some volunteer legal work

Friday, December 16, 2005

People I admire, and those I don't...

This time of year makes me consider my values. Lately, I've been thinking about characteristics I admire or don't admire in people. I'm going to make the negative stuff pretty general, so if you see yourself here -- think about that -- and, don't assume that is how I see YOU... maybe your reaction is an indication of how you see yourself.

Admire: people who are passionate and actually DO things to make the world a better place.

Great example... I have a couple of students, who may end up to be close friends -- these people are actively working to improve animal welfare. They go to great trouble and personal expense to help animals who can't help themselves. They don't sit around and complain about the world, they go out there and change things IN the world. She is going to school for a law enforcement degree so that she can be an animal welfare officer. God help the person she finds abusing or neglecting animals... she'll kick their ass.

Don't admire: people who plan to change things later -- when it is convenient. Sometimes I can be that way -- but I want to be more like my animal saving friend.. I should spend more time with her, and less with those who complain but don't act.

Admire: people who are loyal and who are good friends.

Hubby is very loyal. It takes a while for him to bond, but when he does it is permanent. The time is necessary because he's trying to make sure you really ARE worth his trouble. When he makes that decision, he'll think and fight for you to the end.

Don't admire: people who attack on behalf of others, even when it isn't necessary. They are pretty busy looking for offense so they can come to the rescue of the people on their list and perpetuate the us/them dichotomy. I suppose if this makes them happy, they can do it -- but they should realize that blind loyalty is stupid -- and not worthy of time and effort. Keep me off that list...

Admire: people who are honest -- with themselves and others. I have several friends and colleagues who are honest -- and diplomatic at the same time. They can and do tell the complete truth, without hesitation or apology for telling the truth. I can't be friends with people who can't hear me tell the truth. I decided a long time ago that a lie to a friend isn't an acceptable part of my life, and I won't do it. This doesn't mean that I'll go out of my way to hurt people, but I also won't pull punches or apologize after telling them what I think.

People who are honest with themselves are also able to look around and decide that what they are currently doing isn't a good idea and they need to change things -- they do this for themselves and while they consider the impacts on others, they also know themselves well enough to be sure of their decision and not apologize.

My friend DJ is like this. She is a great teacher and has a reputation for being a hard grader. She is only being honest with students when she tells them that she thinks they can write better. God love her, she needs all the support she can get.

Don't admire: People who play games with themselves or others. In most situations, it doesn't matter that some people are being dishonest with me (as long as their lies don't impact my decisions..), it is those who are dishonest with themselves that bother me. Maybe I'm seeing more self-deception than is really there -- but, when it is clear to me, it is bothersome.

Admire: people who set goals and reach them. Those goals may be to make money, do good hair or start a new organization to fix an existing problem. All of these are acceptable goals. As long as they can do so while maintining the other characteristics above, they are good in my book.

The list here is way too long to post, suffice it to say that I know people like this from all sections of my life.

Don't admire: people whose goals are always changing, or who make excuses for not achieving them. Sure, life changes your plans or you realize that isn't your gig -- fine.. but if it is a pattern or habit, think about what you really want.


I've been thinking about the concept of what it means to have some level of privilege... and I think my concept of it is much broader than others. In order to explain my concept better, I think I need to explain how I see myself as having a pretty large dose of it myself.. so, here goes --

This post is more about how I got some things I clearly haven't deserved or worked for. It is exactly this sort of stuff Rawls is trying to compensate for in Theory of Justice -- and, although I admire him for trying to make things more equal, I don't necessarily think it can be done without causing more harm.

I often make this comparison in my classroom, while teaching about affirmative action. I think it speaks as well to the ways in which I have enjoyed a privileged position in society..

I think about myself and my family's opportunities compared to those of a black woman of similar intelligence (whatever level you think I have or don't.. this mythical woman is similar to me in that way..). Call her "June"... she's college educated and pretty well informed etc... she has a comfortable middle class life and no kids -- only 3 aging cats --. She could be my neighbor or the woman I stand behind at SuperTarget.

In order to get where she is now, she's had to work a hell of a lot harder than me... I'm not talking about doing an extra year or two arranging education at a beauty supply or working at McDonalds (both of which I've done..) rather, from the start she's had a harder time of it than me. Did I deserve this boost -- hell no. That is privilege.

So -- the more cynical of my students may ask at this point -- how is it that she had it so much harder than you??

Well, to start -- in the mid 1800s, my family was in the class of the working poor in Sweeden and Scotland (mostly..).. My ancestors were poor, but they understood and promoted education in their children. Those children brought their children to the US sooner or later...

We weren't owned by a family in Georgia... June's grea-great grandparents were slaves.

Two of those children were my mother's grandfathers. Both brought as infants to the US, to settle in the northern US, poor but free. Their parents had farming skills. They had some money and bought some land and were off to the races.

We weren't prohibited from owining land, we weren't treated like slaves even when we were free. June's ancestors didn't have any money, so even when they became free people, they were share-croppers, which is nearly as limiting.

One of my great-grandfathers went to college and was the engineer at a mine in Michigan's UP. He married, had three girls and then his wife died... he insisted his girls all get college educations. My Aunt Kay went to Cornell (and did debate, way back then..) my Aunt Bobbie went to Michigan and my Grandma Joy to Iowa... where she met my grandfather.

June's grandmother and great aunts had to ride in the back of three busses to clean some white person's house, because that was the best job they could get. Her great uncles worked manual labor jobs in the north. They felt as if they'd "made it" when they moved to the north to get away from the rampant racism.

The other great-grandfather stayed in Iowa and had 5 kids, 3 boys and 2 girls -- 1 girl and 2 boys went to college as well... the girl went on to get a graduate degree and teach at a community college in Madison...

June's grandfather was smart, he could read and write well for a black man. He was prevented from going to college because of his race. There wasn't really any question that he'd go to college. June's mom didn't have the family influence my mom did.

One of the boys was my grandfather, who decided that he had to keep up with my grandmother and finished his degree in psychology and plant sciences. She finished her degree in Home Ec and had a career as a social worker in Des Moines. He ended up working for the state of Iowa, developing the techniques to do land reclamation for coal mines. When you think about people out to save the world, my grandparents are amazing role models.... (and, Republicans... hmmm).

June's grandparents couldn't get stable state jobs in the early 1960s, letting them have nice house in a small town in Iowa. In fact, they probably would have been treated with hostility if they'd moved to that small town.

My grandparents had 4 kids, all of whom have degrees. One is a nurse (mom), another a degree in Art History, a third in business and the youngest has a law degree. The lawyer works for the Small Business Administration backing loans... another generation pretty much out to save the world.

June's grandparents faced a hard choice, send June's mom to a sub-standard "separate but equal" school in their neighborhood, or send her across town to integrate and put their daughter at ground-zero in the fight for integration.

In my generation, all of us (save one in-law we love anyway :) ) have at least one degree, or are in school at the moment -- or both (me & hubby) in-laws included. 5 of the 12 of us have taught or are TAing, -- at all levels from special ed to University. Among the other cousins I have an award winning actor and someone who works in a group home for the developmentally disabled. None of us have chosen to make money -- although I kind of wish at least one or two of us would... it would be handy to have a rich cousin --

June and her cousins have been overtly and covertly discriminated against in many ways from being denied housing or employment to the hassle of being stopped for driving while black. They are too busy making sure their kids are in diverse but not dangerous schools to worry about saving the world. June is worried about saving her 10 year old nephew from the worst the society has to offer. She went to college because she saw that it was the only way she'd ever get ahead. Sometimes she wonders if it was worth the time and trouble.

The point of all this is to say that all of my grandparent's children and grandchildren have privilege. We are privileged to have been born into a family that values education and made sure we were all educated and able to support ourselves... and, take it from someone who left college for a while before getting her BA -- that isn't a situation my family takes lightly. The phone calls, the Christmas and Birthday cards, not to mention every family reunion started with "are you back in school yet".

We have been privileged due to our race and relative position in society. None of us are wealthy, nor is our family. We are privileged none the less.

Student writing, someone should have told her

I occasionally complain about students and their inability to write clearly. While I am reading their papers, it is a source of frustration. When the semester is over, it is a source of sadness. This is one of those situaitons.

I had a student in one of my classes this semester who was generally a good, kind and smart person. She's also very strong and a single mom who works way too much. In other words, she is generally the kind of student I like. I'll call her "Jill" -- since I have about 200 students and no "Jill", I'm not spilling the beans..

The problem is that Jill doesn't write well. In particular, when she started my class, she didn't know when to put in paragraph breaks. In my class she turned in a paper that was about 5 pages long, but only one paragraph. The rest was also pretty poorly written, but that isn't unusual in my classes.

I returned the paper to her with a note saying that I could not grade it because I could not understand it. I asked her to revise it by putting in paragraph breaks and I would be happy to grade it. Without a grade on this paper, she couldn't pass the class.

A week later I get another version of the paper back. It is single-spaced, no paragraphs. I realized that she may not know what the term "paragraph" means. At this point, I knew I needed to talk to her -- that a note on her paper wouldn't do it.

After I explained what I wanted and showed her an example of what her paper should look like, she came back with a sample of the first page... and she had made progress. I told her to turn in the revised paper by the end of the semester and I'd grade it as if it were the first version. When she turned in the final paper, I gave her a hug and told her it looked good. Jill told me that she'd never been taught that she needed paragraph breaks. I believe her.

What angers me isn't that Jill didn't write well in the first place, but rather that she wasn't required to learn how to write before getting to college. She's a minority student with a sharp mind and amazing presentation and acting skills (they had a presentation in class, did a skit -- I nearly cried she was so convincing). Without someone to teach her to write, she'll never get access to the excellent schools she should have.

Imagine an over-worked admissions person getting an application essay that is all one paragraph. They wouldn't even read it. The middle of the essay could give a free cure for AIDS and homophobia, the end could propose a free and workable solution to peace in the Middle East, and the admissions person wouldn't even get that far.

Jill told me part of her story --- she is from a poor neighborhood, had a child early in life and has been working to support herself since she was 15. Her parents were no help and while her mom babysits while she's in school, her mom thinks school is a waste of Jill's life. Jill took my class because she wants to be a nurse. She's smart, compassionate and driven -- I'm sure she'll make it.

Jill didn't have the luck to have someone help her. I did, and although helping her isn't really my "job" it is my duty to pass it on.

A related experience also shocks me.. a student who reminds me of a movie character wanted to argue with me when I wrote the following on his two page, one paragraph paper, "This paper is poorly written. You may have greater knowledge of this topic, but I can't see that because you do not break it up into paragraphs" -- he wanted to maintain that it wasn't poorly written for that reason... I didn't feel like fighting with him, and frankly -- he can get his help from someone else.

Some people don't agree... so what?

When I was a little girl in Orono, we were the "poor" family. Mom was a nurse, dad a cop. Respectable occupations and decent salaries -- except that we lived in a wealthy neighborhood -- really wealthy. I went to school with the kids of the "Daultons" of "B.Daulton books", the kids of the GM of the Vikings, the grandchildren of the founders of US Steele and the kids of the richest guy in Minnesota.

For that reason, I learned a thing or two early...

First, making money doesn't make you a good person or a bad person -- it just makes you wealthy or not.

Second, people will disagree with what you are saying or doing. It isn't the end of the world. They have their viewpoint and you have yours. You can still like one another and disagree.

If you've read the blog so far, and read the comments, you'd see that a few people found it and were upset by my views. I really am sorry I upset them. I'm not sorry I said what I said or that they may see themselves reflected in the posts. I am sorry enough that I edited the originals so future readers won't see the direct references to a couple of people I actually do respect and like (and -- hope they will change the world... ).

The thing I don't understand is, why do they care what I think? I don't see why it matters to them. I don't understand how one of my blog posts from almost two months ago really matters enough in the scheme of things to cause hurt or pain. I never lied to them by telling them the opposite of what I posted then... i simply didn't find it necessary to go out of my way to tell them what I was thinking all along. They are my thoughts, get over it.

General College vs. Community College

Where I live, in a northern city -- I teach at what is often (depending on moment-to-moment enrollment) the biggest community college in the area. There are two others that are right up there with us... but, once in a while we can say we are the biggest... so I'm going to claim it.

Also in this northern city is a Big 10 university (sorry I don't know how to use the features that would make the word blink, twirl or give off fireworks -- as they tend to think of themselves that way....). This university is trying to become more elite. I'm happy with that, as hubby goes to school there and the more elite the better for our future...

As University (blink, twirl, fireworks) tried to become more elite, they noticed that they weren't accepting as many minority students as they'd like. They also noticed that, in order to fix this, they'd have to change their standards and didn't want to do that -- as it would compromise their "elite" goal... so, they started General College.

The idea behind General College is that students will get a chance to prove themselves worthy of being admitted to the University (blink, twirl, fireworks) proper. This situaiton went on for quite a while, with two populations on campus... the larger University (blink, twirl, fireworks) and the General College. Several administrators tried to kill General College, but none succeded -- until now.

It is pretty much official, GC is dead -- it is losing it's status as a separate "college" and is now being rolled into the school of education.

This has sparked protests and other rants on behalf of the good liberals at University (blink, twirl, fireworks) --

Now-- you may be thinking that I'm going to say that the University is wrong (ok.. i'll stop the blink, twirl, fireworks bit, as it is getting old)... or that they are being racists/classist etc... but, you'd be wrong.

The thing is, the main complaint of the good liberals at University is that -- wait for it --- those poor students will have to go to COMMUNITY COLLEGE -- oh, the horrors... so sad... I really feel for them...


The thing about GC that many miss is that at least 70% of the students admitted there to "prove themselves" worthy never transisiton to University proper. They stay there, in college (maybe playing sports -- who knows..) -- helping the University's diversity statistics, but they don't end up doing what they intended when entering GC.

The students of GC should be at a community college. That is what their education has prepared them for so far -- a place with the infrastructure to help them escape their sub-standard high school education via remedial reading and math courses. A place that expects you to leave in 2-3 years. A place that will help you transisiton to a school that fits you. A place that says it is ok to leave school with a certificate or an AA/AS.

Frankly, from the student's perspective, they can say they are in school at University -- they can get used to the hassles of going to school on a HUGE campus etc... but, are they really being served by GC in the way it was intended.. probably not.

This isn't the fault of the faculty there -- I know at least one amazing former GC faculty member whose passion and dedication to teaching probably hurt their career -- I think it is the fault of the system itself and for that reason the GC should be closed down.

If I were to check the transcripts of the good liberals who are doing the protsting, I'd guess that they don't have community college classes listed. Until you go to a community college, or teach at one (my first exposure --- I went to University..) you don't understand them, nor could you.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Go ahead JDs, prove me wrong

So -- on an uber cynical day in October, I wrote a post questioning how much some idealistic 1Ls (first semester..) were really going to change the world. Some were upset by this, and for that I'm sorry. (note -- original post was edited so as not to be as personal -- that was wrong of me)

I would love to be proven wrong. It isn't as if I don't think you CAN change the world. It isn't as if I don't think you WANT to change the world (now) -- it is simply my experience that most people who start law school with those ideals are slapped in the face with the real world and the financial challenges that face those who want to change the world. It is also the case that I think you could probably be more effective changing the world doing other things than going to law school-- I also think that law school is attractive because of the potential to do good -- but terrible in the real life of a lawyer and the debt that most law students have to incur.

So -- go out there and do it. Send me an e-mail when you've been in the trenches doing good with your degree -- tell me I was wrong. I'm very open to being proven wrong, and I'm happy to be wrong when the world is a better place to live-- I'd take that any day. I would love to hear about how you've been doing public interest law for a few years and are only getting more interested in saving the world. I would be thrilled to hear that you've spent the last 20 years suing the housing authority on behalf of "dirty, stinky old men" -- and loving it (a direct quote from a lawyer friend who has done just that..). You'll be able to find me teaching freshman philosophy in the philosophy factory...

Don't blame me for being cynical -- it is what comes from seeing and being in the real world for a while longer than y'all. It is what comes from teaching people who are as smart as you, but not nearly as fortunate. There are real life injustices, I see them impact my students on a daily basis.

Don't get defensive when I think there may be a different way to solve the problems and that I think that for most law students, going to law school is a default choice, not a choice out of passion for the law. I think this is sad and even if you aren't one of those people -- many in your class are and it is these people who will diminish your credibility in society.

Show me you are wrong -- make the sacrifices necessary to do good -- or, at least be honest and admit that making some money is an acceptable goal and something you've worked hard to be able to do. That is fine-- I don't think you have a unique duty to change the world -- just don't fool yourself if that is really how it is going to end up.

Also, don't look down on your classmates who have to make the choice of making money over saving the world.


Grades are in -- God love the internet!

I am finished for the semester and pretty much set-up for next semester...


I think I'll go take a nap, read a book or maybe go Christmas shopping before we go back to 1989 in Isabella...

What they don't teach you in grad school..

This time of year we have a lot of hallway talk at my school--- as in, instead of facing the mountain of grading, we stand in the hallway and talk about stuff... our students, whatever.

A lot of what we discuss comes down to a quesiton about how to teach X type of student Y thing... which is what they don't teach you in grad school.

Teaching college can be the most intense job you've ever had to learn on the fly--- The assumption is that, because you know your subject area, you must know how to teach it... just tell them everything you know and then ask them questions to see if they learned it, then grade them.

yea -- if only it were that simple.

There are several things a college prof has to figure out...

First is what to put in the course -- we all know much more than we can teach our students in a semester --- so, what to leave in, what to leave out and how much reading can we reasonably expect students to do are significant questions, for which there are no good answers.

Problem is, this is a high stakes set of decisions -- and can make or break a semester....

Teaching your own course, that you made-up from scratch, is VERY different from being a TA -- or even teaching your own section at your grad school. There you've probably used a syllabus from the time you TA'd the class to write yours... you know the basic characteristics of the student body and you have the weight of the department behind you.

None of this is true the first time you teach a section at a new school. The problems are compounded when you have to teach 5 sections in that first semester -- as the mistakes and the resulting stress are multiplied by 5 --

The second problem is how to deliver the content --A simple decision about whether or not to use PowerPoint can mak all the difference... and, add to your workload etc... and, along with this, how much of the current educational trend do you include?? We are all about "active" learning at my school -- but, trouble is that then you have to somehow not only deliver good content but develop group exercises to do that -- huh??? much of this is simple BS.. and other parts of it smell like "I don't want to lecture" --

Next you have to figure out how to asses the little buggars...

As a philosophy prof, I used to think the only way was for them to write papers. The problems with this are many..
1) If they write it, I have to read it -- 45-50 times per section. eek.
2) Many of them have very poor writing skills. They may understand the material, but cannot write about it.
3) Many of them have very poor critical thinking skills -- so, when an assignment includes criticism of the work they don't have the tools to do it.
4) Generally, they love to plagarize and paraphrase to the point that they don't even know or admit that it is wrong.
5) Papers don't allow students to share in the good work done by other students.
6) Many will decide their paper topic early and tune out a large portion of the class.

So -- I'm moving to a model of 3 tests, 1 paper and a presentation..

Next problem: writing good tests.

The issue here is one of vocabulary. Theirs is smaller than mine -- especially when it comes to philosophy. Using a simple word like "stuff" has a huge difference in connotation between regular use and philosophy use. The problem is to make the test an accurate assessment of their knowledge, the questions themselves have to be written in words they understand.

Final problem: organizing and assessing the presentation.

This semester, I had a pretty loose idea of what I wanted and most groups gave it to me. Next semester I'll have more knowledge about what I want and thus more grounds to give less than A grades.

and, none of this is covered in grad school. Hubby is in year 4 of his grad school -- his "professional development" class is all about putting together the prosepectus for his dissertation. I wonder what next semester will be?? I'm pretty sure it isn't going to be "syllabus writing, effective lectures, active learning and assessment techniques" -- which is what they'll need.

The thing is that most people with PhDs in non-science fields will end up spending most of their time teaching. Since 40-50% of the undergrads are in community colleges... they'll be teaching a lot.... I teach 15 contact hours per week, ("normal"load elsewhere is 9-12) -- I have very little time to use the research and writing skills I learned in grad school... surprise, surprise. Instead, I use the self-taught teaching skills I learned as suvival skills as an adjunt in Omaha.

The problem with the way grad schools are focused is simply that most of their students don't finish (another rant, for another day..) and when they do, most of them will spend most of their time teaching and not researching. If they can't teach, then they end up spending MORE time and energy on teaching and have less for research etc... as figuring these things out on your own is hard.

Maybe i should teach for a while longer and then set up a consulting firm for other teachers... I should make some money on this stuff --


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

PhD vs. JD

Since this is my blog, it is my place to speak my mind on a variety of subjects and rants...

If you are one of my friends with a JD or a law student -- you may want to skip this post. It reveals much more about what I think of lawyers and the academic system in general than you may want to hear. It also doesn't apply to any of my friends, as I think y'all should have gone to grad school instead, because you are way too smart to be lawyers and you are not fulfilling your intellectual capacity.

Many lawyers think that a JD is about equal to a PhD. I think that is crap.

Sure, a JD is a "terminal" degree - probably because lawyers make those kinds of rules and they'd put up a fuss if they weren't included...

I think a JD is more like an MA... the classes (at least in my program) are of similar difficulty. The exams and papers are of similar length and they generally take the same amount of time to complete. While you are doing them, you wonder about your career choices EVERY day (my favorite options were truck driving school, prostitution and selling drugs -- never did any of them, but I seriously considered the truck option..). You generally go through the "why did I think I was so smart as an undergrad" phase etc...

At the end, to use your JD you need to take the bar exam. That is much like the comprehensive exams needed to ENTER the PhD program. Some ignorant people (I don't use that word lightly) think passing the bar is like writing a dissertation.. they are wrong. Passing the bar requires a few months of study and two days of testing.

To finish a PhD you need to write a BOOK. Your help for this book will be a committee of people you selected, but wonder why you did so... you have no classes to help, either too much or too little guidance from your supervisor-- and many of us have to do it while holding down a full-time job.

At the end, the last thing you want to do is write some more... so you end up teaching in places like the Philosophy Factory.. .which isn't a bad job overall, but way underpaid for the level of schooling it requires.

i also think that there are way too many brilliant people in law school. These people are smart, passionate and innovative, and law school will grind all of that out of them.

Hubby had really good LSAT scores, excellent grades and good extra-curricular activites -- plus unique military experience. He could have been accepted at most of the top law schools. The trouble with law school is that, in the end, you are a lawyer... although, on the other hand -- he'd be done by now -- hmmm--- making money --hmmmmmm, but, I wouldn't see him -- ever ==== and it wouldn't be worth it. For sure, he'd be one of those people on the road to work by now, in the snow and traffic, hating every minute of it. Instead he's working on a paper that is due later and asking if I'm going to make oatmeal. I think I'll do just that.

Love the academic schedule

One of the best things about "academia" is the flexibility in the schedule.

It is finals week.
It is snowing -- a lot --

Instead of leaving an hour ago to get across town to some office so that I can answer a phone or file some TPS reports, I can sit here with the cats and do my work until things get better. I don't have to be at school until noonish...

Sure, we are generally underpaid for our level of education (PhDs making $48,000 -- most lawyers don't do that and they don't have to write a BOOK to graduate..). The payoff is that they don't have the level of freedom we do..

I guess I'm someone who trades money for time,
good choice on a day like today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Domestic Bliss

Clean kitchen
Cats sleeping on the ottoman
Chicken for dinner

The hazards of teaching

Generally, teaching philosophy isn't physically dangerous... sure, there is the risk of a nasty papercut, a caffene overdose or some other academic hazard -- the worst it gets is when I teach logic and have my chalk allergy flare up... not exactly a risky occupation.

Teaching can be emotionally dangerous. We teach students, who do dangerous things and have hard lives.

This semester I've had a student in my class who has a unique perspective. I'll call him "Joe". Joe spent much of his childhood in South Africa. He is white. He's also pretty smart, articulate and generally a good student for me to have because he likes to object and challenge -- and he does so in a respectful manner.

On Monday, "Joe" had an 8-10 page paper due -- but he didn't come to turn it in. i thought he might have been confused by the final exam schedule (it is confusing for his class time.. he isn't easily confused). I figured I'd give him until class time on Wednesday to get it in before I decided he was going to fail the class. I hate to do that to an otherwise good student..

I'm glad I waited.

Today I checked my voicemail. There was a message from "Joe". He sounded terrible... I could hardly understand most of his message, but it was clear to me that he wasn't well and that I should call him. This got me worried -- I like "Joe", he's a good hearted person who is in college to get an education AND to get a better job. That is kind of rare in the philosophy factory, so I appreciate "Joe" as a student.

I called "Joe" back, he answers and sounds really out of it. He told me he'd been snowboarding, fell and seriously hurt himself. He says the doctor says that he should be in bed for at least two weeks to heal, and as long as he does heal all will be well later.... if he doesn't, his injury could be fatal.

"Joe" and I worked out an incomplete arrangement, although he was on percoset -- so I hope he remembers the deal.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Cozy Saturday

Friends over
Cats eating paper
West Wing on the DVD...

good way to spend a Saturday.

We'll work tomorrow,
right sweetie??

Friday, December 09, 2005


I teach philosophy, and I try to teach my students a level beyond the slogan -- which means that they read the real Mill, the real Kant -- some Ross and Rawls. This also means that I reject calling utilitarinism "the greatest good for the greatest number of people".... which, has put me into a kind of play dispute with a colleague... especially when a common student made my argument against their formulation in Intro to Philosophy. I kind of think she was actually a bit irritated and surprised --- although she both knew that he was in my class AND that I taught utilitarianism as "the greatest good, all persons considered".

Yesterday she was so sure that Mill's formulation was "greatest good for the greatest number of people -- and when I told her that Mill's whole theory is contradicted by "greatest good for the greatest number of people" and the resulting ambiguity -- I also challenged her to find me someplace where he actually says that.

Thing is, I knew I was right -- I'd read Mill all the way several times, I also had logic to say that it wouldn't make sense to formulate it that way. Underlying the whole thing is a kind of attitude that, somehow because I don't have a PhD -- or, that my classwork is from NE, not MN -- that I just don't quite know what I'm doing. This whole sub-text could be my own insecurity, as I'm the only MA in the department.

Funny thing is that I actually did start to review Utiitarianism -- and so did she -- and, she didn't find her formulation at all.


Dumb stuff I hear on TV

On one of those TV home shows, a homeowner says "we have a large amount of books" -- I see two short bookshelves.... sure, they are full, but I have more books out from the library than they have... eek

dumasses, they don't know a "large amount of books" until they look at my home office, my work office, Jason's office and the Dissertation Chamber (spare bedroom, done as a library.... 6 tall IKEA bookcases in there, plus 3 other tall bookcases and many shorter ones around here.... bitch, we have a "large amount of books"...

go lay down by your dish.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

two more days

Two more class days to the end of the semester ... and lots of stuff to do.

This semester is better than most, but it still seems endless.... this is compounded by the fact that my birthday is tomorrow --- end of classes, on my birthday, yea!!!!!!!!!!

What do I get for my birthday, from my students -- crap to grade... hmmm, not quite fair, but, I didn't get them anything.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

"California cheese"

OK -- so, California has everything, mountains, ocean, avacodos, movie stars and nice weather...why the hell do they think they have to steal cheese from Wisconsin.

Let's be honest, Wisconsin has cheese--- and that is about it.

I'm tired of seeting the TV commercials about California cheese, somehow being better because it comes from "happy cows" -- how do they think their cows are any happier in Californa than in Wisconsin?? Mabye cows like cold weather and living in a state that sells a lot of fireworks and beer.

Here is to a boycott of California cheese.

Last week of school

yeA!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm pretty tired of the whole semester...

I see the virtue of a quarter system. There is less time for the professor to get sick of the little twerps.

It is snowing again, which I love. Especially since we don't have to shovel, plow or scrape our cars to go someplace...