Love is a Drug

It’s a variation on a theme that has developed alongside “quit lit”—the notion that the humanities Ph.D. is a multitool, and it will serve its holder well in any number of nonacademic jobs. The idea that frustrated humanities Ph.D.’s should abandon the broken adjunctification of higher education in favor of the alt-ac path is even picking up institutional steam: The American Historical Association recently received a $1.6 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support its efforts to expand career tracks for history Ph.D.’s.

Encouraging people to think creatively about their career paths is, of course, just fine. And humanities Ph.D.’s can and do find jobs outside of the academy all the time. But we shouldn’t start pretending that that’s what we’ve been training them for all along. Turning a solution that may work for some individuals into a systemic fix isn’t easy—and it’s not necessarily appropriate.

“Alt-Ac Isn’t Always the Answer,” Jacqui Shine.

I suppose it’s a sign of aging or something but I really dislike “Alt-Ac.” It’s one of those ugly instant clichés that obfuscate far more than they reveal. Let’s hope it dies a quick and well deserved death. That said, I think this is a nice piece. My only issue with it is that it– or the writer– seems to have no sense of teaching as a compelling vocation. Perhaps it is simply that she doesn’t want to seem sentimental or soft.

Many of us stick to teaching, not simply because it is what we have trained to do, but because we love it. It’s our great strength as teachers and our great political weakness. The U.S. higher education system works because there are so many of us– the majority– who are willing to fight one difficult uphill battle after the other, again and again, year after year, to pursue what we feel we were born to do.

The National Moment of Remembrance

It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays…

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day History,” Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

My Dad is buried at the Veteran”s National Cemetery in Houston. Dad was proud of his service, for good reason. I think, though, that we need an expanded idea of service that includes nonmilitary service, too. I think that we sentimentalize the military when we try to make it the most important kind of service to community and nation. We need a day to memorialize all service, from soldiers to labor organizers.

A Nut’s A Nut

The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, scientists reported Tuesday, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects.

“Wide Impact of Climate Change Already Seen in U.S., Study Says,” Justin Gills

On Sunday, Germany’s impressive streak of renewable energy milestones continued, with renewable energy generation surging to a record portion — nearly 75 percent — of the country’s overall electricity demand by midday. With wind and solar in particular filling such a huge portion of the country’s power demand, electricity prices actually dipped into the negative for much of the afternoon, according to Renewables International.

In the first quarter of 2014, renewable energy sources met a record 27 percent of the country’s electricity demand, thanks to additional installations and favorable weather. “Renewable generators produced 40.2 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, up from 35.7 billion kilowatt-hours in the same period last year,” Bloomberg reported. Much of the country’s renewable energy growth has occurred in the past decade and, as a point of comparison, Germany’s 27 percent is double the approximately 13 percent of U.S. electricity supply powered by renewables as of November 2013.

Germany Sets New Record, Generating 74 Percent Of Power Needs From Renewable Energy,” Kiley Kroh

Here’s is what I am afraid is going to be the new normal. On the one hand, we watch the weather shift and change in dramatic ways, and the evidence for climate change’s impact on our current climate will continue to grow. On the other hand what can only be called right wing nuts, like Senator Rubio, will continue to claim that the facts are not facts. The emperor, they will say, is fully clothed. I think it is important that we stop saying that this is cynicism, or that it is courting the right, and start calling this behavior for what it is, no matter what its ultimate origins or purpose might be. Its’s nuts. (Idaho just set the bar to a new low.)

People who say that climate change isn’t real are denying facts and people who deny facts– especially facts concerning real immediate danger–are not qualified for public office. Simple. If someone declared that that bullets bounced off their chest, we wouldn’t give them a second thought if they wanted to run for President. Once it becomes normal to disqualify the counter-factual gang then we might be able to follow Germany’s example (perhaps in labor law as well) and start dealing shutting down the fossil fuel industry before it shuts us down. If the German example shows us anything it is that real change is possible.

Wiki Academia

The study provides some interesting findings regarding academics’ view of the benefits of Wikipedia-style peer review and publishing. Most respondents (77 percent) reported reading Wikipedia, and a rather high number (43 percent) reported having made at least one edit, with 15 percent having written an article. Interestingly, as many as four respondents stated that they were “credited for time spent reviewing Wikipedia articles related to their academic careers” in their professional workplaces. The more experience one had with Wikipedia, the more likely one would see advantages in the wiki publishing model. Most common advantages listed were cost reductions (40 percent), timely review (19 percent), post-publication corrections (52 percent), making articles available before validation (27 percent) and reaching a wider audience (8 percent). Disadvantages included questionable stability (86 percent), absence of integration with libraries and scholarly search engines (55 percent), lower quality (43 percent), less credibility (57 percent), less academic acceptance (78 percent) and less impact on academia (56 percent).

Survey of academics’ view on Wikipedia and open-access publishing,” Wikimedia Research Newsletter, Vol: 4 • Issue: 4 • April 2014

I’ve always thought that the only way for Wikipedia to build its credibility is for it to become a part of academic writing and research. I don’t think encyclopedias will ever replace peer-reviewed articles, but Wikipedia can only benefit if academic scholars are involved in the writing, reviewing and editing of articles. I wouldn’t want Wikipedia to be swallowed by academia; everyone should be able to contribute. I tell the teachers that I teach that the best way to understand Wikipedia, and develop a policy on it, is to participate.

Too many academics are suspicious, even openly hostile about the online encyclopedia. One professor I knew used to plant false information in Wikipedia and then ask students to research this information for homework. When they came back to class with his answer, he’d scold them for using Wikipedia. This is a professor, by the way, who sailed through tenure, despite his very open– even proud– advocacy of dishonesty towards students. The good news is that I don’t think his nasty little lesson would work anymore.

A New Review of “A Taste for Language”

A growing number of composition theorists (Hooks; Peckham) have noted the relative lack of discussion of social class in our field. James Ray Watkins Jr.’s A Taste for Language: Literacy, Class, and English Studies provides a theory of “middle class” language production for post-WWII education and reformulates a responsible cultural capital in the 21st century world outside the university. Watkins provides a multigenerational family autobiography to construct a revisionist history of composition studies that supports the proposed 21st century forms of cultural capital. To his credit, Watkins also provides a pedagogy to achieve this new cultural capital, although his “writing in the wild” pedagogy may not be as groundbreaking as a theory pressing for new cultural capital would demand. That said, A Taste for Language is a welcome addition to the discussions of social class in composition and the future of English and composition studies.

Book Review: Watkins’ A Taste for Language,” Liberty Kohn, 2014

It’s a nice review, positive but not fawning or anything, and I think his criticisms make a certain amount of sense. It’s worth reading in full.