Monthly Archives: September 2015

Vicente Rafael

When I teach the modern Latin Amercan survey again, I will include even more than usual on nations, nationalism, and revolutions — including politics in Spain and the Philippines.


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Kareem Abdul Jabbar

For many Americans, education is about feeding students certain factual information, then testing them to make sure they retain it. The higher they climb on the educational ladder, the more specialized that information becomes as we train them for their eventual professions. That makes sense. When you’ve got surgeons hovering over you, ready to mess with your internal organs, you want them to remember where everything goes when they’re done, not thumb through Wikipedia on an iPhone.

The attack on education isn’t on training our youth for whatever careers they choose, it’s on teaching them to think logically in order to form opinions based on facts rather than on familial and social influences. This part of one’s education is about finding out who you are. It’s about becoming a happier person. It’s about being a responsible citizen. If you end up with all the same opinions you had before, then at least you can be confident that they are good ones because you’ve fairly examined all the options, not because you were too lazy or scared to question them. But you—all of us—need the process. Otherwise, you’re basically a zombie who wants to eat brains because you don’t want anyone else to think either.

That means this is a war on reason.

Read the whole thing.


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Filed under ALFS presentation, Resources

Grace Jones

“I was female, and they decided that I was rock ’n’ roll insane. Had I been a man, they would have considered that I was merely retaining control, or professionally fretting about the details. Once they start treating you as though you are losing your grip, it becomes kind of true – in reacting to accusations that you are paranoid and incapable of acting responsibly, you end up seeming to confirm that you are paranoid and reckless. They wore me down. They sabotaged me.”

Read the whole thing.


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Dear colleague

You cannot say we have a language program because we have a common textbook and departmental tests, and then say that you will teach how and what you teach in a multi-section course regardless of book, and at the same time refuse to articulating departmental goals and benchmarks for student progress except to say the goal is “to cover the book.”


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Filed under Banes, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Words of wisdom for today

Tenured faculty are the only thing that can stand up to an increasingly cynical administrative team. (Strangely, A seems to be the exception to this, but she is fighting years of organizational culture and the entire machine that B carefully crafted, e.g., the dean of C.)

Someone said that, and I want to find out more about what they mean.

We are considered a teaching institution but college-level teaching that is not based on an active and busy research agenda is not serious teaching. It’s a scam.

Clarissa said that.


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Filed under Da Whiteman, What Is A Scholar?


Do you think blogs are over? Some of the ones that existed when I started in 2006, are still going, but many of those I used to read are gone — and so many have become so quasi-professional, so official. I have thought of stopping sometimes, but really what I would like is to get back to posting every day.

This was a poetry blog that became a therapeutic and political blog, and then an academic one. Mostly, though, it is therapeutic. I started seeking therapy for what I later learned was a form of child abuse when I was 17. I had thought about it before, obviously, but not been in a position to seek.

About ten years after that I had a psychoanalyst in Brazil — that is to say, I interviewed one, tried her out, before deciding that cultural differences and extreme Freudianism meant she was not the one for me. I did tell her, though, that I had worked hard as a child, knowing I was liable to pick up traits from each parent, to discern which traits of each I wanted to emulate and which I must avoid absorbing if I wished to survive.

She said, what about thinking less about other people you might want to resemble, and more about resembling yourself? I said I was doing that in daily life, but also wanted to understand who and what I was also imitating, so as to cast off some patterns that were inhibiting my doing what she recommended.

I was thinking about this now. More and more I can see what I imitated, it is endless. But it does not really deeper analysis than it has had, and now is the time to take up the Brazilian analyst’s advice. That is the reason I am nostalgic for northern California now, the place where I was doing that earlier in life, before I had even met that analyst.

One of my students says that the typical Louisiana woman is entangled in an extended family and with a boyfriend or husband who also limits her, and does not know what she wants to do. I realized: that was the person Reeducation wanted me to be, or to become.



Filed under Theories

On my glorious past

I was asked to name my most inspiring professors ever, and here is the list that came to me offhand. It does not even include many very good ones, or really famous ones who were differently inspiring, like Julio Cortázar and José Emilio Pacheco (people I would include on a list if I thought about it). Just offhand, I said I had had some very erudite professors:

Leo Bersani
Peter Brown
Phil Damon
Natalie Zemon Davis
Denis Hollier
Leon Litwack
Luis Monguió
José Miguel Wisnik

The reason these come to mind is that I took their classes without knowing ahead of time who they were — they just happened to be the person teaching the class I was required to take, or had decided I should opt for. I therefore walked in without expecting to meet such singular people. Wisnik, for example, in professor mode starts talking here at minute 30, but is also a rather well known composer and musician.

The meaning of it all is that I should realize that these are my ancestors, so to speak, this is the tradition I come from — and that I should not let Maringouin separate from me.



Filed under What Is A Scholar?