Monday, October 31, 2005

Enough with the "be positive" already

This may be the type of thing that some job seekers in the library world may want to read. Then again, it may be the sort of thing others in the library world may want to look over as well, even if it ruffles a feather or two. The biblioblogosphere has written extensively about the librarian shortage, mythical or otherwise, so I am not adding more to that. Readers can run a Technorati (or other blog search) on the topic of librarian shortage and get all sorts of results. What made me think about this was an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich I recently read. Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of Nickel and Dimed, and more recently, Bait and Switch. In the interview, she discusses the myth of having a positive thinking attitude. She specifically looks at how people buy into what is in essence a "blame the victim" situation. From the article:

"EHRENREICH: There is a tremendous American theme about positive thinking. We have a hard time dealing with truly bad news and discouraging information. Throughout my experience trying to get a white-collar job, I was encouraged to think positively. You are supposed to see your job loss as some great break, your chance to move on to something bigger and better. The reality is that 70 percent of people who lose their jobs and do get rehired, are rehired at a lower pay. But to criticize the system, or to be negative is considered 'un-American.'"
And she also says,

"What's so offensive about that insistence, whether in relation to illness or job loss, is the implication that the victim is at fault. If you don't get better or you don't find a better job, then there must be something wrong with your attitude. The government (or the doctor, or the employer) doesn't have to take responsibility for providing for you, because if you aren't doing well, it's your fault. And of course it's an outlook that's enormously satisfying for those on top, because it implies they deserve to be there because of their winning attitudes."
This led me to think of library schools and those seeking work after graduation. Any library school graduate undergoing the job hunt knows it is one of the most grueling processes anyone can undertake. Searching for a tenure track job in humanities is probably worse. I know: I went through the library job search gauntlet last year, and I have the horror stories to prove it. We are often told to remain positive, to be optimistic, that if you did not get that one job, another will come along. Those sayings only go so far. After a while, the reality shows that such sayings are empty platitudes to console the victims, a way to keep them coming back to the grind. And it is a way for library administrators and others, such as library schools and the ALA, to absolve themselves of any responsibility. In librarianship, this may be worse because it is librarians doing it to other librarians.

Case in point is Michael McGrorty's recent post in his blog about starting salaries. He is discussing the article he wrote in collaboration with Thomas Hennen for the October 2005 issue of American Libraries. His indictment is very clear:

"The reason that the situation hasn’t improved has less to do with the perception of librarians by the public or by elected officials as it has with the refusal of library administrators, themselves librarians, to insist upon higher pay levels for starting librarians—pay levels that would act to lift all salaries, from the bottom on up. Make no mistake about it: the problem of lower starting pay is largely created by librarians to be suffered by librarians. "
The emphasis is in the original. He discusses how easy it is to cut down on potential hires in terms of a decent living wage. McGrorty makes a connection to what Ehrenreich mentions in her work when he writes,

"The astonishing thing is that there has not been more of a ruckus put up about this in the library world—astonishing, that is, until you realize how the library world operates. Those who complain about such things are told that they should move to another area or wait until a better position comes along, generally with comment the ‘everybody has it tough in the beginning.’ "
It is a perfect example of blaming the victim, or at the very least, shifting the blame of the problem to those who suffer it. Having a bad situation is just part of the status quo. If you can't tough it out and deal with it, you must not be good enough for this profession. I actually heard a variant of that line in graduate school (before I went to library school). Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately nothing will change until it is denounced, and until some serious changes are put into place.

Today, many library school graduates have other options besides library work, even if they are not as well advertised in library school (the subject of another post maybe). It was part of the reason I got my MLS, the flexibility. McGrorty points out that many librarians exercise this option, but that certainly can't be the only solution. Down the road, it gives administrators an excuse to further deprofessionalize the profession and lower salaries. It makes them feel good to pay low salaries because they can say, "hey, don't like it, go elsewhere. There is always some desperate graduate willing to come in and do it." Many graduates don't want to exercise that option, or they can't for various reasons. It is shameful that our own, librarians, are so willing and ready to mistreat those who come after them seeking the opportunity they were once given. It is worse when it is justified as "paying your dues, so think positive, your time will come."

The time for empty words and passing the buck needs to end. It is not the fault of new library school graduates that they can't find work or that they have to settle for a job that pays less than a living wage. Yes, during interviews, put your best foot forward. Be positive and confident, and make sure that you have a broad range of skills to make you marketable. In other words, you do your part. The profession should do its part. The least the profession can do for those seeking work is to actually fight for them in a way other than bemoaning the low salaries or promoting a librarian shortage that clearly does not exist, or at least, does not exist to the extent it is being portrayed. And the least those of us fortunate enough to have found work after surviving the gauntlet is to help those who come after us in any way we can: advice, networking, references, contacts, writing, and so on.

Update note (10/31/05 3:27 PM): I had a feeling that article by McGrorty would get some people talking, and sure enough. The Librarian in Black picked up on it in a small rant. I am sure that won't be the last.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Looks like I am a Humanist

Well, it is a slow Friday afternoon at the Information Desk, and I am at the last stretch of a two hour shift before we close. This makes it a good time to do something for amusement. From P.Z. Myers's Pharyngula blog, a quiz to see what religion you fit in with. Actually, in a way, it is scary how close to accurate it is, well at least the part about making the world a better place. At any rate, if so inclined, feel free to try it out yourself.

You fit in with:

Your ideals mostly resemble that of a Humanist. Although you do not have a lot of faith, you are devoted to making this world better, in the short time that you have to live. Humanists do not generally believe in an afterlife, and therefore, are committed to making the world a better place for themselves and future generations.

20% scientific.
80% reason-oriented.

Take this quiz at

Tequila Reference Sources, or Learn about Tequila

I recently discovered The Liquor Snob blog, which describes itself as "news and tips on all things alcoholic, including beer and wine, breathalyzers, cocktails and spirits; plus drink recipes, booze reviews and more. All the news that's fit to drink." They actually have reviews on books about drinking or drinks, for instance a review on On the House. They also recently posted a note about a vodka made in Texas; their review of Tito's, the Texan Vodka is here. Yes, who would have thought you could find someone making vodka in Texas of all places? They basically have all sorts of interesting things. Personally, I am a wine person myself, but I do enjoy the occasional liquor like tequila or bourbon. I also enjoy trying out new recipes and experimenting, and my better half usually is a good sport for trying a new cocktail. So we do keep a small stock at home in addition to the wines.

This time, the blog featured a very nice Tequila Tasting 101 that has all sorts of links and resources about tequila. Yes, there is more to tequila than mixing a good margarita or doing shots (nothing wrong with doing that). Some tequila is meant to be sipped and savored. Not sure what is the difference between blanco and reposado? Find out here. What is the deal with mezcal? Find out here. Does tequila have to have a worm? No, it does not. Actually, the worm comes in mezcal, and it is a marketing ploy that was born in the 1940s to impress the gringos. You can learn that through the links as well. So, if this interests readers, even if it is to get some ideas for a new margarita recipe, go take a look. And please, if you do choose to enjoy your favorite liquor or spirit, do so with some responsibility.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Keeping up with the biblioblogosphere

(Cross posted from the Gypsy Librarian blog)

The 12th edition of the Carnival of the Infosciences is now available at Frequently Asked Questions. Also, This Week in LibraryBlogland for the week of October 23rd, a weekly featured by Bentley presented in LIS News, is also up. These are both excellent sources to keep up on thinking and conversations in the biblioblogosphere, so go take a look.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Australia New Place to go for Foreign Students, and other thoughts

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article, for October 14, 2005, reporting that Australia is now the new destination of choice for fee-paying foreign students. The article is written by David Cohen. This conclusion is based on a study commissioned by the British Council. The study is based on interviews with 332 undergraduates in 10 leading Asian markets for higher education, according to the article. An explanation: "'The difference today,' said a JWT partner, Allison Doorbar, who presented the study's key findings, 'is a widespread perception that the United States is simply not as welcoming as it once was.'"

This is not surprising to me given the current climate in this country. The Chronicle itself has reported on how the United States is becoming an unwelcoming place for foreign students. I wrote about such reports back in June of this year. One of those reports was about measures to restrict access to lab and research equipment to foreign researchers. It seems the evidence is slowly stacking up.

The article about foreign students choosing Australia does not suprise me, and I don't think it should suprise many people with common sense. Getting a visa to study in the United States has become a difficult and at times humiliating ordeal. Here are some examples to illustrate, which I found doing a quick search on a search engine:

  • From the DesMoines Register for October 3, 2005, a report on the formation of a new board for cooperation between the FBI and colleges. This seems to create more questions than to reassure foreign students that it is a a board to demistify the FBI's screening procedures to campuses. The report points out that "foreign student enrollment has declined since 2002 at the University of Northern Iowa, the University of Iowa and ISU."
  • The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, in its publication YaleGlobal, presents an article from The Miami Herald for March 31, 2004. In the introduction to the article, YaleGlobal points out that "foreign students and scholars have historically made substantial contributions to US-based research and industry and are amongst the most important investments in America's future prosperity and vitality." The Miami Herald article itself includes some numbers showing declining enrollments of foreign students at Florida college campuses. The newspaper article also summarizes the short term effects: "in the short run, the decline of foreign students reduces campus diversity and interaction, impairs research programs that rely heavily on international students and scholars, and even has a financial impact on state schools, which charge nonresidents as much as five times the tuition paid by residents."
  • Readers can also look at an article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette for August 19, 2004. The headline is "Foreign Students Facing More Hurdles." It has some good examples of the ordeals many of these students face to get here. Keep in mind the students that persevered and managed to get to the United States. A lot of their peers simply chose not to tolerate excessive bureaucracy and outright mistreatment. They simply chose to go someplace else, along with their tuition money, for an education.
Now some people may argue that this is not important; it is not significant they may say. Some extremists who advocate completely closing the nation's borders may even celebrate this kind of news. But what happens eventually is that this leads to the nation losing its vitality, its character, its essence. The United States has been built by people from other nations coming to its shores (or airports or ports). In other words, the nation was built by foreigners. People from around the world have come here and have made great contributions. Now this idea is at risk if those bright minds simply decide it is not worth it coming to the U.S. And I can hear some more critics saying that the U.S. will just make its own scholars and experts. Well, given the current climate of derision and denigration of sciences over superstitions, and the fact that a lot of American students are simply not interested in math and science, this "homegrown" scenario seems a little less likely to occur. Again, here are some more illustrations:

  • CNet News for April 22, 2005 discusses a report from the Computing Research Association. The report cited by CNet says, "the percentage of incoming undergraduates indicating they would major in computer science declined by more than 60 percent between the fall of 2004, and is now 70 percent lower than it was during its peak in the early 1980s."
  • A Washington Post article for May 29, 2004 cites reports from the National Science Foundation. The article discusses the lack of poor math standards in the U.S. despite all of the standardized testing. In addition the article notes that, in March, "the Post reported that because of the lack of trained Americans, urban school districts across the country must now rely on international recruitment and generous visa rules to find any high school math and science teachers at all."

This post has gone a bit longer than I planned. I just see a situation of missed opportunities due to fear, ignorance, and some outright racism. What I found as I was writing this is that the issue has a lot of ramifications. There are various issues to confront. It has given me further ideas to write about in the hope, infinitesimal as it may be, that it may educate and inspire others to some action. Yet I know that not much will happen unless some people get some guts and actually move to solving problems in a constructive way. Writing and bringing this and other issues to the light are ways to start.

Update Note (11/07/2005): Inside Higher Ed reports on a recent study just released by the Council of Graduate Schools that says "enrollment of first-time foreign graduate students was up 1 percent this fall, following successive declines since 2002, according to a report being released by the Council of Graduate Schools."The article goes on to discuss other details from the report such as where are the students coming from the most. The increase is minimal, but experts see it as a positive turn. However, "given those increases [from places like China, Korea, and India for instance], first-year enrollments are obviously down from some other countries and regions."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

An easier way to understand Intelligent Design

Pharyngula says that this would be how a debate with a creationist should go down. The humor is that the post actually ilustrates the sophistry that a creationist usually uses to advance their agenda, which is less than scientific to put it mildly. In case anyone is curious, yes, I have done my homework and know by now that ID or however you want to call it is just a religious agenda trying to pass itself off as science. Anyhow, go over and read. In addition, some of the comments that The Abstract Factory, author of the post, got are at times interesting and humorous as well.

Again, not like I am selling or anything

I figured since I tried it out on my main blog and ran the price check on Gypsy Librarian that I would try it out for this one. I expected the value to be much lower, if indeed the calculation is based on some factor of linking and conversations. This blog gets a lot less traffic than my main blog. In a way, I think it is meant to have less traffic here because this is my more personal blog, which I tend to use for meandering a bit more. At any rate, here is the result for Itinerant Librarian:

My blog is worth $1,129.08.
How much is your blog worth?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Go ahead and buy that paper, the state sponsors it

This little piece of news is definitely to file under "just when I thought I had seen it all. . . ." From the Education Wonks, who is holding the Carnival of Education Week 37, an item about plagiarism and schools. Apparently, if you are a school student in Rhode Island, and you forgot or plain did not write a paper you had assigned, the state has help for you. Under their homework help page, they have a prominent link for (no, I am not linking to it), a well known paper mill where you can buy papers online for about $9.00. And then we wonder why they don't do as well when they get to college. I have to wonder if the folks from the state of Rhode Island who run that site actually checked out what is, or if they just linked to it because it sounded good. True, the mill site claims to provide help with ideas for writing a paper and other assistance, but it provides links and places to buy papers on various topics in a very prominent way.

By the way, for readers interested in education topics, Education Wonks hosts this excellent carnival, which is well worth a look. I highly recommend it.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Carnival of the Infosciences 11 is up.

(Cross posted from the Gypsy Librarian blog)

The Carnival of the Infosciences, 11th edition, is up at Christina's LIS Rant. Find some interesting reading and get details for how to submit to the next one over at Frequently Asked Questions.

Pleasure Reading Declining Amongst Teens. Teen Read Week Counters.

The Independent (UK), for October 14, 2005, has a report on the decline of reading for pleasure among kids. The culprit? Testing. This item seemed timely to me given my recent posts about Jonathan Kozol's work. One of the issues Mr. Kozol brings up is the fact that teachers do not have the time to read to their children because they have to follow the scripts to prepare for exams. Well, it seems things are not different across the pond when it comes to the issue of standardized tests. According to the article, reading is seen by children as nothing more than something you need to get a job or pass the exams, not something you do for pleasure. It is interesting to note that schools over there often require students to keep journals of what they read, according to the article. This is not too different from the United States where public school teachers often have similar requirements. The result of this decline in reading is that the quality of the content of those journals has declined as well. The issue does not only affect the students. It also affects the teachers because they "struggled to find the time to keep up with the latest children's fiction and so schools were forced to rely on the same books year after year."

This caught my eye, especially because the American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) is sponsoring Teen Read Week this week, October 16 to October 22. According to the website's FAQ section, Teen Read Week is "a national literacy initiative aimed at teens, their parents, librarians, educators, booksellers and other concerned adults. It began in 1998 and is celebrated the third week in October." This year's theme "read for the fun of it" with a look at nonfiction. Rey Mysterio, the WWE professional wrestler, is this year's spokesperson for the campaign. Many public libraries across the nation will focusing on activities to promote recreational reading for teens. It seems that librarian have their work cut out for them given the way that the education "professionals" (read here "bureaucrats") have done their best to extinguish recreational reading in favor of their tests which actually stiffle critical thinking and creativity. However, I refuse to just give in to "those folks." So, let's continue celebrating the freedom to read, and let's continue to nurture a love of reading in our children. So, go on, read a book, read to a young person or with a young person, spread the word, visit your local public library. What else can you do? You can join a book discussion at your local library. You can just read what you want for fun. Keep on reading and learning, and having a great time doing so. Just because the kids are forced not to read at school does not mean they cannot do it outside of school. It does not mean you cannot be reading with them as well.

On a final thought, one of the interesting things that YALSA does is sponsor the ALEX Awards. These awards recognize the best adult books for teenagers. It is a known fact that teens will often read adult books. I have always tried to read books from those lists, mostly because they tend to make good selections, especially in nonfiction.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

My RPG Class, or , well another quiz on a slow day

Got this originally from Pharyngula, who apparently now and then takes a little quiz between explaining science and evolution to the rest of us. Anyways, here are my results. Kind of cool, huh? Combines a bit of everything, much like librarians do. At any rate, just a little fun:

Mystic Theurge
37% Combativeness, 26% Sneakiness, 58% Intellect, 66% Spirituality
Brilliant and spiritual! You are a Mystic Theurge!

Score! You have a prestige class. A prestige class can only be taken
after you�ve fulfilled certain requirements. This may mean that you�re
an exceptionally talented person, but it probably doesn't.

The Mystic Theurge is a combination of a cleric and a mage. They
can cast both arcane and divine spells, and are good at both, making
them pretty terrifying on the battlefield. They have more raw
spellpower than just about any other class.

You're both intelligent and faithful, but not violent or deceitful. I guess that makes you a pretty good person.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 14% on Combativeness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 44% on Sneakiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 16% on Intellect
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 85% on Spirituality
Link: The RPG Class Test written by MFlowers on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Happy Dictionary Day

(Cross posted from the Gypsy Librarian blog)

From, Jessamyn's blog, a note that today is Dictionary Day. Dictionary Day is a a celebration of Noah Webster's birthday; he was born in 1758. I am sure a few people in their younger days got told by an adult when asking about a word, "go ask Mr. Webster." The link to Dictionary Day goes to a press release from Oxford University Press that gives some suggestions on how to celebrate. Jessamyn is celebrating by subscribing to a podcast. Me? I am at work today, so I will be celebrating by doing what I do best: helping patrons and meeting their information needs, which may include pointing them to a good dictionary.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Which Tarot Card Am I?. . or, can I draw another card?

From Mark Lindner's blog, . . . the thoughts are broken, this small quiz on what card of the Tarot deck are you. He pulled the Fool, which he thinks may be mistaken for him. I think based on the description he got, many librarians may fit that, at least the part about disregarding conformity, which I think many librarians do on a daily basis, including Mr. Lindner. At any rate, I decided to take the quiz myself, and my results are:

The Hierophant Card
You are the the Hierophant card. The Hierophant,
called The Pope in some decks, is the preserver
of cultural traditions. After entering The
Emperor's society, The Hierophant teaches us
its wisdom. The Hierophant learns and teaches
our cultural traditions. The discoveries our
ancestors have made influence the present.
Without forces such as The Hierophant who are
able to interpret and communicate traditional
lore, each generation would have to begin to
learn anew. As a force that is concentrated on
our past and our culture, The Hierophant can
sometimes be stubborn and set in his ways. This
is a negative trait he shares with his zodiac
sign, Taurus. But like Taurus he is productive.
His traditional lore can provide a source of
inspiration for the creatively inclined, and
his knowledge provides an excellent foundation
for those who come into their own in the
business world. Image from: Morgan E.

Which Tarot Card Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I have to wonder a little as well. On the one hand, the teaching part fits me to a "t" as they say. The stubbornness, hmm, maybe a little. Maybe the results came out closer than I am willing to admit? I think I like the idea of communicating and interpreting for others. In my case, I will expand it to facilitate and to opening doors. Anyways, go give it a try.

Finally, this may be a bad segue, but using my card (the Pope), I will also point readers to Mr. Lindner's very thoughtful post on Librarianship as penance. Not what you think from the title, go read it.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Censoring the Search Engine Results?

Search Engine Watch points to an article from the Guardian about chatrooms used by suicidal people making death pacts. If you decide to read the article, it may be a bit disturbing to some. The comments on the forum at SEW are interesting as well. If asked, my answer is no: search engine results should not be censored. Does this mean I condone or advocate suicide? No, it does not (I am not talking physican or assisted, that is another debate), but I do not think it falls to search engines to be doing this, or for the government to be telling them to do it. It is a form of censorship, and when I do a search, I want to get all the results, not just the filtered stuff. Now, some reader may ask, "but do you not agree that something like child pornography should be censored?" I abhor child porn, and the fate that such people that exploit children like that should be worse than anything Dante dreamed up. But again, it does not fall to the search engines to do so. It falls to law enforcement to find those sites and shut them down for good; the problem has to be excised at the source. As for youg people and children finding their way to the chatrooms to talk about killing themselves, this is something that falls to parental supervision. Every time I hear that kids were doing such and such, you will find me asking "where were the parents?" The supervision is their responsibility. And I know, it is not perfect. Someone out there may argue, "but hey, what if they want to commit suicide because their parents abuse or molest them?" I would probably answer that such an example is an extreme example not as likely to happen as they person posing the question would like to believe. Overall, I do not want search engines dictating morality. I think common sense can prevail. We can agree that young people committing suicide is not a good thing, and we can then find ways to better prevent it without resorting to censorship. Add to it that some researchers may need to find information on suicide (fiction, counselors trying to prevent it, etc.), so censoring would actually hinder them as well. The solution is not to have a hysterical response of "let's censor and remove all of this so no one can see it." When you do that, you take the easy way out. You fail to address the problems at their root by trying to cover the sky with a hand. More importantly, when you take this slope, it becomes easier to censor other things. That is not the answer. Just a thought.

Do you blog too much? This 12-step program may be for you

Through The Education Wonks, a link to Fred's World's post on Blogoholics. Some of the symptoms include: calling in sick to blog, having more than one blog, and telling your partner "I have a headache" so you can blog. Go take a look, get a smile, and see where you stand. Me? I am sort of borderline by the symptoms. I have not called in sick to blog, but I do have more than one blog and toying with the idea of another one. At any rate, I am still blogging.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Toys you just have to have

Through Jeff Jarvis's Buzz Machine, a link to Blog Revolt, who comments on the toy, and to the Playmobil site. When I read about it, I had to admit I thought it was some bad joke as well, but what do you know? The Airport Security Check-In is a very real toy. I think for this one I am just letting the bloggers and the toy speak for themselves. I will say though, the toy is definitely not accurate. They all look way too happy for an airport security checkpoint.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Another note on Kozol and his work

Shortly after reading the Harper's article, I saw that has an interview with Jonathan Kozol discussing his new book. In the interview, Kozol talks about his book and expand on some of the ideas I saw on the Harper's piece. In the interview, Kozol says that "people are more decent than the people they elect." On initial impulse, I would agree with that. Yet after seeing how events have turned over time, and given my years in education (public and higher), I have to wonder if his faith is justified. Kozol calls for a revolution, for radical change. This is an issue of human decency, no more and no less. So, my question, if those people are really so decent, why do they keep electing such indecent people? How long before their indifference makes them as indecent as, or worse than, the politicians they elect? Some may say that had good faith when they voted for so and so the first time. But, as the old saying goes, "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Do people really lack a sense of shame? Kozol says in the interview, "American segregation has been created by men and will only be undone by the acts of men and women." He says he hopes to see the upheaval. I can only wish I had his faith. As a final thought, Kozol remarks that many white schools tend to assign his works. He has met many students graduates from the finest schools who have read his works who go on to feel like their educational victory was tainted by the existence of the apartheid educational establishment. I was fortunate to meet Kozol when I was in graduate school before library school. I am not the product of $20,000 preschools or Ivy League schools, but my middle class parents provided me a good education as much as they could. As I shook his hand after the talk he gave that day years ago, a part of me could not help but feel shame, like there was so much more I wish I could do. And another part of me was inspired when he told me to continue the fight, "la lucha" as he wrote in the book he signed for me. Maybe that is what I can do: continue the fight, for it will be a fight if we are to educate all of our children. Not a few, not just the ones we select, but all of them.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It was Porn Sunday, and I Missed It

Through Pharyngula, a note that last Sunday October 9th was Porn Sunday. Apparently this is an event promoted by Christian ministers concerned about the "problem" of porn. Pharyngula's author is a professor of biology, and he writes about evolution and other biological topics. In his response to the figures that the ministry of Porn Sunday provide, the blogger provides some interesting questions and things to consider. For instance, he writes:

"If we assume their numbers are somewhat accurate, though, what is that problem? What they tell us is that people like sex. This is not a surprise. We're fascinated by sex, we're curious about our bodies, and we also have curious monkey-minds that are attracted to the forbidden. When I see that pornography is such a huge industry, and given that it doesn't and shouldn't harm the viewer, I think the proper response is to embrace it, not tell people they should shun it or feel guilty or take action to shut it down. Why not be open about it, and work to alleviate genuine problems within the industry, like the exploitation of women, its potential as vehicle for sexual harassment, and the psychological problems of viewers who are obsessive about it?"

As part of the post, he does provide links to various clips and places to see, well, animals "going at it" so you can celebrate too with"some variety." He also adds that "If you didn't already know, Pharyngula does try to promote a healthy, sex-positive image of carnal activity, with the occasional explicit description of animals going at it." My readers can just consider this post as my small way of helping to promote some of that healthy sex-positive image of carnal activity. Hey, it's a natural thing, so why repress it? Just be safe and healthy, in my humble opinion. Anyways, go take a look and ask some questions as well. Some of the comments he got from readers are interesting as well.

Jonathan Kozol sees American Education as Apartheid

Reading Jonathan Kozol's work always angers me. Not because of him; I happen to think he is an excellent writer and a dedicated educator. I have been reading his works since I got my degree in education, and I had to read Illiterate America for an adult education class. At the time, I was also working as a volunteer tutor at an adult literacy program. It was one of the best things I have done, and I only wish I had the time these days to volunteer like that again. That book stayed with me as have the rest of his works. Kozol is a writer and thinker who belongs in the company of other educators like Paulo Freire. In reading Kozol's work, I get angry because of the truths he exposes. It angers me because of the indifference and neglect of this nation towards its children that he shows through his writing. Mr. Kozol has a new book out, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. An article that is an adaptation from the book is featured in Harper's Magazine (September 2005: 41-54; I read the article in print) with the title "Still Separate, Still Unequal." To my readers, this is probably going to be a post more angry than usual. And if a reader out there is one of those people looking to justify or excuse the situation, he or she is likely to hear from me as well. I am not one to tolerate excuses, especially from hypocrites who decry the situation from a distance while actually being part of the problem. Anyhow, let me get on with the post.

In the article, Kozol reports how segregation in public schools has gotten worse in recent years. He provides statistics to illustrate the isolation of children in the poorest school systems in the nation. One of the problems in addressing the issue of racial segregation in education is language. The media basically prefers using "linguistic sweetness, semantic somersaults, and surrogate vocabularies" (43). The word "diverse" applied to a public school pretty much means anything but that. Let's be blunt: it refers to a predominantly minority school, namely Black or Hispanic. Kozol goes on to discuss visits to various schools, looking at their demographics and then contrasting those numbers with documents provided by the school districts to proclaim their diversity.

A reason that I find Kozol's writing so moving is his interactions with students. He talks to students and sincerely seeks to find how they think and feel. He often let's their own words be the strongest indictment against a society that clearly refuses to educate all of its children. Much of this situation, Kozol suggests, is going back to the "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). In a sign of how the situation has worsened, inner city schools come to hope, not for equality, but for adequacy. Kozol writes, "higher standards, higher expectations, are repeatedly demanded of these urban principals, and of the teachers and students in their schools, but far lower standards--appear to be expected of the dominant society that isolates these children in unequal institutions" (44).

Often, the situation is blamed on economics: times are bad, so cuts are needed. However, as Kozol points out, "the fact of economic ups and downs from year to year, or from one decade to the next, could not convingcingly explain the permanent shortchanging of the city's students, which took place routinely in good economic times and bad. The bad times were seized upon politically to justify the cuts, and the money was never restored once the crisis years were past" (45). If we apply this today, given the variety of "crises" going around, money is not about to be restored to education or for these schools anytime soon. And before some reader out there points out there was a hurricane or two recently thinking I may be dismissive, I am fully aware of those very real crises (not to mention I have lived through a hurricane or two myself), and I will point out that the way such have been handled simply add evidence to Kozol's arguments of apartheid.

In the Harper's article, Kozol also looks at the issue of high stakes tests and the hypocrisy behind the movement when some children have all the economic advantages, and others don't. I bet this is the sort of thing that really irks some teachers in those segregated schools, assuming they can even take a moment to think about it. On accountability, Kozol states, "there is something deeply hypocritical about a society that holds an eight-year-old inner-city child 'accountable' for her performance on a high-stakes standardized exam but does not hold the high officials of our government accountable for robbing her of what they gave their kids six or seven years earlier" (46). One other thing I would like to see: some of these politicians take the tests, especially those high school exit exams. Or maybe, since they like to push so much for teacher certification while letting just about anyone without any credentials into a classroom, for those politicos to take some of those teacher tests and see how they do. After all, to them, anyone can do it, right? It would be very accountable if we made their scores public as well. But I am disgressing. Kozol is referring to those wealthy people who pay $20,000 a year for private preschools. But this is not really the issue. It is not the wealth; it is the way the society actively chooses in the most callous way to value some children and not others. Very often, these refined and very educated people claim that simply putting money into education will not solve the problem; it is necesary to look at "other factors." Really? So why then do they spend those exorbitant amounts of money to buy for their children the education that they claim money cannot buy? It is truly hypocritical. If money really cannot buy a better education, let them put their children in those inner-city schools they condemn. Do readers out there really think any of those parents, which include government officials, would actually go for that? Of course not. They will get the best education money does buy. And yet these are the ones who cry loudest about property taxes needed to fund schools for everyone. Kozol wonders about this. So do I. Many teachers and children wonder too while society's choice is one of racial inequality.

To add insult to the injury, many of the schools Kozol speaks of are more like prisons in their use of conditioning theory (a la B.F. Skinner) and industrial efficiency concepts (think Frederick Taylor). The vision of a factory striving to produce kids able to pass an exam at the expense of a true education is appalling. In a way, it is Orwellian, totalitarian. Kozol does a good job describing how these use Skinnerian curriculums; I suggest readers take a look. As an educator, this was a part of the article that infuriated me and that I found hard to read because such visions represent everything I have fought over time to avoid and counter. What Kozol shows are places where teachers are forced to teach at the most primal survival level because society has abandoned them and their children. The only thing I will say is that this gets close to the way you may train your dog. See the label on page 49 if you think the dog label is mine (it's not, but I concur). The truly sad thig is that even the children know they are being trained.

Further in the article, the writer discusses a school in California in the context of a lawsuit versus the state regarding the conditions of public schools. A child talking to Kozol, afterwards in that passage, talks about the bathroom issues. The unsanitary conditions are bad enough, but the rules that limit bathroom use to only between class periods are terrible. Keep in mind there is no bathroom use allowed during the 30 minute lunch. If you have two classes at extreme ends of the school building, you can't use the bathroom and make it to class on time. If you choose to make it to class and hope the teacher will give you permission to go during class, the teacher won't give you permission to go because you had your chance to go between classes. So,

"'This is the question,' said a wiry-looking boy named Edward, leaning forward from his chair. 'Students are not animals, but even animals need to relieve themselves sometimes. We're here for eight hours. What do they think we are supposed to to?'" (52).

By the way, it is not that much better for the teacher who may also ask what he or she is supposed to do given the schedule and the workload. The article is a call for change. It is not an easy change. It will require a high price: moral, financial, ethical. Society owes those children more than the false appeasement they have received.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Visit the Carnival of the Infosciences

(cross posting from the Gypsy Librarian blog)

On the "file under public service announcements," I urge readers out there in library and information sciences (or just anyone who wants to know more about libraries and what librarians do) to visit the Carnival of the Infosciences, now in its 9th edition and hosted this week by Mr. Mark Lindner over at the thoughts are broken. The Carnival of the Infosciences is the brain child of Greg over at Open Stacks, who provides details on how to submit as well as a schedule of where the Carnival will be stopping next. The idea for this great service is to get library and information professionals to submit their blog posts "related to the myriad of topics that fall under the Library and Information Science umbrella." It is modelled and inspired by the myriad of other blog carnivals on the blogosphere. For readers who may not be sure what a carnival is, it is basically a place that gathers the best of the blogosphere on a given topic. These gatherings are usually done by a blogger, but they can also be collaborative works like the Carnival of the Infosciences where submissions are welcomed and encouraged. Often, in collaborative ones, the host (editor or moderator) will add his or her choices as well. I tend to find blog carnivals to be excellent resources to keep up on what is good in the blogosphere, to provide great examples of good writing, and to be a nice place to find ideas for my own writing. The Carnival of the Infosciences is no exception. It always features great writers, and they always provide great food for thought.

For the Carnival of the Infosciences, writers are encouraged to provide original thoughts and opinion rather than repetition or listing. So, bloggers out there, if you have a really good post that fits the Carnival's scope, or even if it is not perfect but rather a work in progress that can foster some conversations, go right ahead and submit it. In terms of submitting, the way it works you would submit your posts to the host for a given week. Details are on the links. Jane at A Wandering Eyre will be hosting the 10th edition. I understand they are looking for future hosts, so if you are a little brave and want to help continue this excellent service, go right ahead and drop Greg a line. And keep on blogging.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Men and Marketing: Are they missing something?

Through Docuticker, a link to a press release about the Leo Burnett 2005 Man Study. While readers can only see the press release, the document does provide some highlights of the study's results. The Web page also has a link to a section of surprising facts. The survey basically shows that men are not as simple (or simplistic?) as they seem to be. In fact, their (or our) attitudes can be conflicting and complex. For purposes of the study, four male segments are defined:

The Four Segments Examined:

The Metros

  • Much-hyped modern man who has adopted more feminine traits
  • Adapting to new societal roles

The Metros are more likely to agree that men should share domestic chores and be taught how to cook. They believe it is alright to show their feelings and a more feminine side to their personality. They are concerned about their appearance.

The Retros

  • Entrenched in old-school, stereotypical male behavior
  • Rejecting new societal roles

The Retros believe it is important to be the breadwinner and the boss of the house. They would be bothered if their wives earned more money than they did. They don't see their wives as equals and don't tend to share parenting duties.

The Patriarchs

  • Struggling with what makes a man successful in the eyes of other men
  • Personal motivation is home life

The Patriarchs believe that having children and being a father are the most important things in a man's life. Everything they do, they do for their family. While they don't shun career advancement, it is not what makes them tick, and they struggle to find work-life balance.

The Power Seekers

  • Struggling with what makes a man successful in the eyes of other men
  • Personal motivation is career

The Power Seekers play to win and chase after career advancement. They admire men who can push themselves to the limit, and hate to show signs of weakness.

All these men share a view of the world that is distinctly masculine. However, the way marketers speak to them—and with them—depends on the way these individual segments view their world and what is important to them. Throughout the study, it became apparent that most of the men we spoke to had become both aware and informed by the social and cultural forces shaping their lives.

This is where I get to wonder what happens to guys who do not quite fit into one of the four molds. For instance, I highly value doing things for my family, which according to the scheme would make me a patriarchal male, but I also believe in sharing the chores and the household (I had a mom who made sure her three boys would know how to cook, iron, etc. because, in her words, "no woman would come do it for you."), which would make me a metro male, though I am not exactly very keen on personal appearance (I am a jeans and tee guy). Maybe me wondering about this reflects about the complexity of male identity, or I am just a bit messed up? Or maybe I ask too many questions. In my case, I think males are a bit more complex than just four molds. Then again, some guys fit those molds perfectly.

Do keep in mind this study is addressed to advertisers and marketers, so read accordingly. It does make for an interesting glance at what makes guys tick. I found interesting some of the selected quotes from guys. By the way, they also have a link to a survey. One of the questions in the survey bothered. It asked me if I would rather be a good partner/spouse OR a good father. It was one or the other. I had to ask why does it have to be one or the other? Why can it not be both? I think I would consider myself to have lived a successful life if my wife can say I was a good mate to her, and my child can some day say I was a good parent to her. I think both can coexist, and actually, they probably should. I mean, how is a child to learn about relating to others, maybe to a mate someday, if they do not see a good example of spouses relating to each other in their parents? I am not saying parents should be engaged in heavy PDA's, but they certainly should model affection and love as partners in front of their children. Fathers should also model good and positive ways of how women should be treated and how men should behave. Mothers play their part too in this. Do I sound a little old-fashioned? Hmm, maybe, but it just seems like common sense that the answer to that trick question should be both. At any rate, readers go and have a look.