Thinking About Paula Deen

I have to say that I am fascinated by the fate of Paula Dean, mostly because the media seems obsessed with what boils down to a kind of corporate myth, a public relations narrative. I have no evidence beyond videos and interviews and the like– the same stuff everyone else has seen– but Dean seems like a pretty ordinary American white supremacist. I suspect she is smart enough to avoid racial slurs in her professional life–most of the time, anyway– and she surely knows how careful she has to be if she is going to continue to make millions being Paula Dean. Still, I suspect she is also confident in her own racial superiority.

My generation– the Baby Boom– believes that it has overcome racism and that, as Justice Roberts might say, times have changed. Our parents and grandparents, well, that’s a different story. It’s a myth, of course, because at bottom, despite the many changes in the U.S., we still live in a society in which wealth and power are unevenly distributed along racial lines. We haven’t undone the historical legacy of slavery yet, and we won’t until we begin to seriously address some of the persistent inequalities in wealth endemic to U.S. capitalism. At the very least, we need a national health care system that makes medical care a human right and not a commodity.

I think this myth of the end of racism lies at the heart of Dean’s troubles. It’s not the public that is driving Paula Dean out of the spotlight and into an early– perhaps temporary– retirement. In fact, if restaurant and book sales are any indication, the pubic seems to be supporting Dean. The idea that the pubic is outraged is a part of the corporate myth; it’s the corporations, in the end, run by the Boom Babies, that are so outraged by Deans’ dream of a slavery themed wedding and her apparent former use of racial slurs. This is the real story. If racism is over, why does corporate America believe that it has to be so racially squeaky clean?

Sound as Earthquakes and the Solar System

Here’s some good news, in the form of a definitive statement on climate change from the American Meteorological Association. It is good news and not old news, of course, because the disinformation campaign has been so extensive. Still, after weeks of horrible, violent weather, it’s good to be reminded of the ongoing dangers we face. There’s no chance of responding effectively to climate change without this sort of scientific push-back and students need to be educated early and often. The AMA’s review of the climate change science is here.

The Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS) developed in collaboration with 26 states and several scientific organizations is a transformative set of guidelines for teaching science in the United States. For the first time, climate change is recommended as a core concept for U.S. science curricula, including an emphasis on anthropogenic or “human-caused” effects. As an association of scientists and science-based professionals, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) affirms the inclusion of climate change in the NGSS. Climate change science is firmly rooted in peer-reviewed scientific literature; as science, it is as sound as other NGSS subjects such as earthquakes and the solar system.

Climate Science is Core to Science Education” adopted by the AMS Executive Committee, 23 May 2013

Keeping it Real

“Language is very important, and we need to be very careful about the language we use,” said Kevin Hovland, a senior director with the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “How do we reframe the conversation about technology not so much as a threat but as an opportunity, at the same time recognizing that there are real threat elements, and that those concerns are legitimate vis-à-vis the changes of higher education and faculty roles in that?”

Reframing the Conversation,” Carl Straumsheim

This is the sort of thing that drives me batty. The Republicans have become a reactionary, hateful party, so they decide that they need to “speak differently.” They don’t need to become less hateful and reactionary, they just need to find a way to talk about hateful, reactionary ideas in a way that appeals to more people. They are not really clueless racists, they just sound like it. See Ran Paul’s recent speech at Howard University.

This plain speaking thing always has limits. It’s fine to talk about unmaking the university and resistance to technology and the like but it is not proper to summarize our recent history as the dismantling of a profession by an administrative culture more interested in mimicking what they feel are ‘best-practices’ in business (never mind that these practices crashed the world economy). That, it seems, cannot be unmade.

Cathy Trower of Harvard, the writer notes, wants “to end the divisiveness between faculty on and off the tenure track.” I suspect that there is so much talk about technological change because it lends itself to a kind of naturalization. Technology changes the way the weather changes; there’s no person or group to blame. Mentioning he real historical agents–administrators and their administrative policies–that’s being divisive.