Archive for January, 2010

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People who want to be accountants, chemists, and sociologists aren’t the only ones who go to college.  College Humor has dug up the college schedules of video game stars Mario, Link, and Fox McCloud.  I am glad that the course on “Woman Studies: Vulnerability and Frequency of Capture” includes an attempt at prevention, though this seems to be a prime example of blaming the victim.

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Every time I write “2010” on something I feel like the future has arrived.  Maybe I just don’t remember the way I felt ten years go, but I don’t remember any of the previous “new” decades* I’ve witnessed feeling like the future.  At any rate, we are now so far into the current century that the events of Back to the Future Part II are only five years away.  I rewatched Marty McFly’s adventures in the Hill Valley of 2015 over break and although we don’t have hoverboards, flying cars, or Mr. Fusions, there were a surprising number of things that will either be possible or outdated in five years (check back in five years for the final tally).

Perhaps the strangest thing about the future as depicted from the late 1980s is the lack of computers.  For example, there is talk of dust-resistant paper but nothing about e-books.  I’ve talked about e-book readers (and their competition) in the past, and I hope to see the day that textbooks are digitized.  Today, Apple unveiled what they surely hope will carry students further down that road, the iPad (no, not that iPad).  It seems somewhat pointless to criticize an Apple product (after all, the reveal was preceded by more hype than money can buy and Apple paid no money at all for it) but the hype may have worked against the iPad, resulting in a collective “a big iPod Touch?  That’s it?”  In 2015 I’ll probably look back at this post from my own iPad while my students complete the course readings and take class notes on their own iPads and laugh at how foolish I was.  For now, though, the future doesn’t seem quite as cool as I had hoped.

*Memoirs of a SLACer does not care that there was no year zero.

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I’ve talked about sex and sales in the past and today I came across the blog of an anonymous auto show model via her post at Jalopnik.  Of course, auto shows aren’t the only place where “booth babes” are on display.  Other notable industries that employ them include video games and consumer electronics, though given the history of car magazines that feature scantily-clad models, the auto industry may have a deeper connection to them than others.  A highlight from the Jalopnik post:

Despite our appearance (which is dictated head-to-toe by the marketing department of the manufacturer we represent, including wardrobe, hair and makeup) most of us are not just there to be your eye candy. We have extensive training from the very engineers that design these vehicles. We have piles upon piles of confidential and public industry information we spend months studying before we take a single step onto the show floor. If we don’t know the answer to your question it isn’t because we’re dumb, as you too often imply, it is because there is not an answer available to us.

Also, because we’re not dumb, we know that one of the reasons we’re there is exactly because we’re attractive and direct your attention to whatever we’re standing next to. I don’t object to being a sex symbol. I object to objectification. When you ask me, even in jest, “Do you come with the car?”, do you know what you are implying? Let me fill you in: that I am nothing more than an accessory to be bought, like 20-inch rims or a stereo upgrade. It’s not cute, it’s degrading.

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Sometimes, life imitates art (the relevant part starts at about 1:08).

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On Saturday, Kevin Huffman, a Washington Post opinion writer, discussed the “keys for success” in our education system, arguing that they go beyond “funding and families” (the former is a topic I have mentioned before).  The article opens with the story of two Teach for America educators who started a series of charter schools in the Rio Grande Valley.  They argue that the success of their students – the first class graduated this year and 100% of them are going to college – was based on:

“the thinking around the problem. I have no control over what goes in on in the kids’ Colonia. But we can create a culture. Kids here feel part of a family, part of a team, part of something special.”

This is in line with the argument that some sociologists (and non-sociologists such as Jonathan Kozol) have made.

Strangely, I expected Huffman to argue that they keys to success were related to creating this type of culture in poor areas, even in schools without high levels of funding.  Instead, he argues that we need to focus on “people, policies, and parents.”  (It is interesting that we can control “parents” but not “families.”)  In fact, none of his keys focus on creating a nurturing school culture.  I agree that we need to get to work on the issue of education, but it would help if we could recognize that giving incentives to good teachers in poor districts will not change the cultures of these schools.

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