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Friday, February 25, 2005



About ten years ago, I happened to run across an anniversary report on the first generation of women Rhodes scholars (elected in 1976, went up to Oxford in 1977). A frighteningly high number of those who participated in the report, something like fifty percent, were homeschooling. WTF?!

I'm an ABD history student and unemployed overeducated faculty wife who plans to get the damn PhD and figure out whether it still works as soon as the kids hit kindergarten. They'll go to public school, at least until/unless it proves to be disastrously ineffectual for them. What's the point of paying for university-town real estate if you're not going to attend the public schools? (Luckily, in this burg, the thriving and growing homeschooling movement hasn't yet had a tipping-point effect on the schools.)


First, I really enjoy reading your blog. Second, the Larry Sanders thing is frustrating. It's as if there is a refusal to recognize that discrimination doesn't have to be pat on the ass, calling you "honey," or telling you that you're being paid less because your male colleague has a family for it to be in play. I practiced law in Texas for several years before moving to the East Coast and it's weird, but, I think there was less discrimination in Texas. Actually, discrimination is not at all the right word. Perhaps expectations? It's incredibly hard for me to articulate, but there was an acknowldegement from the men that the women were talented and successful and it wasn't because they were imitating men. We're good lawyers, there's no lack of intelligence. And on top of that women that work at and succeed at law firms are by and large very personable. Clients like us and trust us because we are honest with them. In Texas, this was seen as an asset, but where I am now it doesn't seem like it is as much. On the East Coast I still see the mindset that you have to be like the men to be successful.

And that seems to be what is happening in academia to some or a great extent. A refusal to acknowledge that a different approach might be valid. Well, that and my age old theory that women will achieve the same success as men once we insist that they truly share 50% or more of the household duties. As far as I know no one had every asked a man if he worries about balancing his career and children. Trite, but true.


Re: the displaced faculty wives/home schooling. I've often had the same thought. And, as the PhD (almost) in our family with a husband who is no longer able to work, I'm frankly envious of those old-style wives...I want one! The whole what-to-do-with-my-child's-care-while-I'm-pursuing-intellectual-fulfillment-and-feeding-us is a terrible dilemma. I so deeply believe in public schools, but don't know that I'll have the energy as an almost-single parent to put into them what needs to be put in. And the dearth of childcare programs at universities is laughable, if it didn't reduce me to tears. Here's one area where lots of even relatively strapped public universities seem light-years away from my relatively flush liberal arts college, which repeatedly turns down the suggestion that good quality childcare might be a real plus in recruiting and retaining *productive* faculty. They seem stuck on the idea that even the youngest faculty hires have wives at home....this, despite the fact that some 7 of 8 recent hires have been young, married women--several of whom began immediately to procreate!


"In any case, it seems like there has been an expectation, in some recent posts, that the blogosphere follow the same kind of etiquette some bulletin boards strive for: don't say anything, if you can't say anything nice."

I've noticed that too. I think the culture of blogging is becoming more like the culture of bulletin boards--instead of blogs being about individuals writing what they want to in their own individual space, some bloggers (and their readers) see blogs as communities, where a post is the start of a thread. Regular commenters are community members, while occasional drop-ins are seen as outsiders and granted approval (or not) based on their comments.

...says the first-time commenter on your blog. ;-)

Anyway, I personally don't like that particular view of blogging, but I've watched the same thing happen on listservs and other forums as they reach critical mass. I know the prevailing opinion on this is that things are usually going along quite well until a group of newbies who don't understand the rules comes along and starts breaking all the accepted conventions of the medium. However, in my experience--dating from the days of dial-in BBSes and listservs populated entirely by people reading their e-mail in Elm--things are usually going along quite well, with negligible levels of enforcement, until a certain percentage of natural rule-makers joins up and decides to enforce their perception of social norms on the group. So people who have been posting mild differences of opinion with no problem for a couple of years are suddenly criticized for being too critical and not respecting others' rights to speak their opinions. At that point I usually leave the forum. :-)

And Melissa: I know exactly what you're talking about. I saw less in the way of *actual* gender bias in higher ed in Oklahoma than I see in the northeast--at least, in my area of it (which has a lot more in common with the Midwest). At the school where I work, they talk a lot about non-discrimination, but fewer women have any real power, and there's a subtle difference in the way we're treated by our male colleagues and bosses. I can't quite put my finger on it either.

It was also easier to be a liberal there, oddly enough. I suspect that may no longer be the case. :-)


I believed in the public schools, too, until I had to put my kid in one in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which was infested with Levitican Christians. We don't home school, but I've moved her to a Montessori school we can't quite afford because I got tired of explaining to her classmates and her classmates parents every single day that no, we did not want to "visit" their church this Sunday, thank you. And even at the Montessori school we're still having problems with the kid being threatened with hellfire by her fundie classmates. (We're Jewish, so she's damned, of course.)


Hey, no making fun of the fabulousness that is Anne Lamott!

Ok, but just her hair.


I also work in higher education. I haven't read Warner's book (only been witnessing the discussion in various blogs) so I may be off the mark here, but I feel like we've seen a huge change in our students in the past few years and I chalk it up to parents who are both having to work so when they can they're focusing all of their attention on their kids. We're so focused on getting our kids in activities and then the parents trot around the state watching all of the soccer games and indulging the offspring to make up for all of the daycare when they were little. By the time they land in their small midwestern liberal arts college they've developed an attitude that the world spins around them. Of course that isn't all of our students, but I'm continually amazed by the expectation that we're all here merely to serve their needs.

A friend just pointed your blog out to me last week and I've read the whole thing over the weekend. Thank you so much for sharing.

Emma Jane

Dorcasina, oh boy, do I hear you on the almost-single-parent thing. I don't know how far we are from that, and it's one of my biggest fears in this whole game. And what is it with these institutions the rest of the world thinks are so horribly progressive, once you start looking at actual policy? Granolan's maternity leave policy (two months paid leave) makes sense for neither mothers nor institution.

Delagar, my head would explode if I lived in your town. Oh my g...ack. Granolaton, and its woes, seemed peculiarly complex when I first moved there. But, is every small place unhappy in its own way?

Cecily: whose hair should I make fun of? (I had a surprisingly hard time finding people to abuse, and did feel at least a little bad about two of them.)

Rachel, um, wow! Thanks for reading! (And doesn't the world spin around students at little liberal arts colleges?)


I do not think it is true that 30 years ago, a lot of intelligent women would choose schoolteaching. That is going back more than 30 years, and they often dropped out after the first child came. There was always a lot of turnover of female teachers, since more women stayed home as housewives.

I think there is another reason that intelligent people of any gender shun schoolteaching these days: they have no control or authority over the kids as they once had. Their word was once law, and they were to be feared, with the kids getting double whammy if they went home and admitted that they had been bad enough to get a whack from the teacher.

Imagine the power and certainty those teachers once had! The kids could not help but know that what that teacher said counted, no "ifs, ands or buts".

These days? Kids are trained to challenge and question his/her words, to give charges of racism or sexism, and to have to give only liberal party lines on all nontechnical subjects.

Today in San Francisco, where I work as a tourguide, there was a gaggle of private school 1st-graders taking a walk in Pacific Heights, amongst the $30 Million mansions on Broadway near the Presidio. One loud girl was declaring proudly over and over, to a pregant exercising woman, that she had two mommies. My group of tourists, trying to appreciate the view, could not help but stare at this dynamo of free speech. Finally one lady, an actuary from Quebec, said to the girl, "Well, you have a father somewhere!"

The girl was astounded. Her mouth literally dropped open, speechless at last.

I quickly beat a hasty retreat back to the bus and loaded the folks before the teacher, Higher Powers forbid!, got wind of this remark. Oh Lordy, liberal SF!!!

Perhaps she has several daddies, come to think of it.

But it is the teachers of yore who would never have allowed such remarks in public. A slap would have done it.

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