Every Type of Email College Faculty Send to Anyone

It’s been awhile since I’ve appeared in these parts. The first three weeks of classes + my new position + brain-dead Kevin at the end of the day = no blogging. I know the tens of people out there who read this humble blog have been waiting with bated breath for a new post. Or that’s the fantasy I entertain, at least. LET ME DREAM.

Last week, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of links to The Toast’s hilarious piece, “Every Type of Email College Students Send Their Professors.” The best satire is that which rings of truth, and this piece was no exception. Gems like “hey professor i have 97 grandmothers, all dead, i will not be in class for the rest of the semester” hit pretty near the mark, based upon my experience (all students begin emails with “hey” for some reason). But then I got to thinking…there’s one group that is worse in the aggregate than students at email, and that group is FACULTY. Face it, colleagues, we’ve got precious little room to laugh at students’ online foibles. Because we suck, too. In that spirit, drawn from the sometimes-humorous, sometimes-depressing, always-unique trove of experience, I present Every Type of Email College Faculty Send:

Continue reading “Every Type of Email College Faculty Send to Anyone”

“American Exceptionalism,” Teaching Patriotism, and Other Lazy Fallacies

So I’ve been reading a lot of pushback against the new AP US history curriculum lately, much of it from the political right, and almost all of it lamenting the lack of emphasis on “American Exceptionalism” or “what made the country great.” A  good amount of it is the standard hand-wringing along the lines of  “Where are all the famous white people? George Washington was more important than Harriet Tubman, for Crissakes!” and “We’re the good guys [and it is always ‘we’ in these screeds]! Democracy, freedom, and [insert platitude here] are our gift to the world.” Most of this stuff is easy to ignore because it’s so predictable, and it descends into unintentional self-parody quicker than you can disprove the Laffer Curve.  Continue reading ““American Exceptionalism,” Teaching Patriotism, and Other Lazy Fallacies”

Escape from Grading Jail: Back-to-School Edition

Hey look! Another batch of exams to grade!

Every semester, I do it.

I plan on comparing my syllabi to make sure that I spread out exams and papers between my various classes so the assignments aren’t all dumped on me at once, and EVERY DAMN TIME I screw it up and get bombed with exams and papers on the same day. Then I drag them all home in an oversized publisher’s tote bag I got from some conference, muttering and cursing about my inability to perform such basic tasks as comparing calendars. MATH IS HARD, OK? QUIT JUDGING ME!

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Ferguson, the Eighteenth Century, and the Weapons of the Weak


Like many of you, I’ve spent the last few nights on Twitter, watching with a mixture of shock, outrage, sadness, and disbelief as the events in Ferguson, Missouri, unfolded on my timeline. There’s no two ways about it: this was a police occupation, or as a Philadelphia newspaper called it in an alarmingly accurate phrase, a “police coup.” In addition to my sadness and outrage, though, I encountered the occupational hazard of being a historian: I was struck by the parallels between the past and today. Specifically, I thought about the ways in which events were unfolding in real time on social media and an eighteenth-century equivalent to Twitter during a similar period of military occupation in an American urban area. Continue reading “Ferguson, the Eighteenth Century, and the Weapons of the Weak”

How I Learned to Love the Calendar

I stare back at you…silently mocking your good intentions.

In my undergraduate years, I took pride in never using a calendar, planner, or other sort of organizational method to keep on top of my work. Of course, I also took pride in such dubious feats as skipping 67 classes the Spring semester of my freshman year (We had a competition; I won going away), failing Calculus (not once, but twice!), and numerous engagements in petty larceny.  So “things I was proud of as an undergraduate” is not a list of academic success items, to say the least.  Continue reading “How I Learned to Love the Calendar”

They Shackled Children.


They’re on display in the “1863” half of the 1863/1963 exhibit in the African American History Gallery on the second floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In a display case, next to the ads for a slave auction and text describing the ways in which humans were bought and sold as chattel in the American South, they sit: a petite-sized set of cast-iron leg shackles, the spare, stark description reading “shackles used for slave children.” Continue reading “They Shackled Children.”