Thursday, April 26, 2018

Friday Fragments

A note to my administrative colleagues at Southern Illinois University:

We administrators are constantly portrayed as cartoonish villains, somewhere between Dr. Evil and Scrooge McDuck.  That image does real damage, as it undermines the trust we need to make positive progress.

Putting out a call for faculty to work for free is not helpful.  It reinforces the stereotype at a level I honestly thought was a parody when I first read it.

Drop it.  Drop it now, and apologize to everyone involved.  You have no idea the damage you’re doing, not just to faculty and students, but to your counterparts elsewhere.  Teaching is work, and work should be paid.



As if in confirmation…

The end of the NY Times story on public employees sliding down from the middle class really says it all.  A teacher whose pay has been stuck for years finally gets a small raise. She asks her brother how he feels about it.  He responds that she deserves it, but he shouldn’t have to pay for it. To which she responds, where do you think it comes from?

The missing term, of course, is the relative distribution of taxes.  


This piece about mis-remembering Captain Kirk is uncommonly long for a web essay, and it assumes some comfort with cultural studies, but it’s well worth the read.  

The short version is that we remember Kirk as a blustery womanizer, but the “womanizer” part is overstated, and we utterly forget his strong ethical compass.  Rewatching the old shows now, the ethical compass comes through as clearly as the bluster.

Shatner himself may have devolved into parody, and the movie franchise may have become another interchangeable set of explosions, but the original show had a strong moral center that made for a compelling contrast with the zipper-backed aliens and styrofoam rocks.  

If you never watched or cared for Trek, go ahead and skip it.  But if you grew up with Trek, it’s worth the read.


Sometimes, the karmic scales balance quickly.

On Wednesday, as I prepared to fly to Kansas to speak at the National Higher Education Benchmarking Institute (at no cost to Brookdale), all manner of stuff went wrong at Newark airport.  My first two choices of parking lot were both closed, without warning; rain was coming down in sheets; the United check-in area was chaos; and the TSA line stretched roughly to Pennsylvania.  By the time I got to and through screening, it took an act of will not to get crabby. I reached for my phone to text TW and let her know that all was relatively well, when I realized I had left the phone (and keys) in the screening bin.

As if to pay me back for the hassle, the gentleman working the TSA line had put the phone and keys aside when he found them, and returned them to me politely and quickly.  The sense of frazzle quickly gave way to gratitude.

So, a tip of the cap to the TSA screeners in Terminal C of Newark airport on Wednesday.  They took the extra step that prevented a personal catastrophe.


On a sad note, it was tough to hear that Bob Dorough died.  He was the writer and singer of several Schoolhouse Rock classics, including “Conjunction Junction” and the poli sci classic “I Am a Bill.”  (The line about dying in committee is pure genius.)

He was a jazz singer of some note, but for my generation, he was the avuncular voice of some Saturday morning educational earworms that most of us can still recite from memory.  

I heard a brief tribute to him on WBGO, the public jazz station out of Newark.  The dj asked a young boy if he had heard of Schoolhouse Rock. The boy replied “you mean School OF Rock.”  


Thanks, Bob Dorough, for some beloved childhood memories.  Nothing against School of Rock, but you made a mark of your own.