Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “May 1, 2011”

>Favorite Female Characters, Anybody?


It is a commonplace in literary criticism that female readers tend to identify with male characters because female characters are so unattractive as to make any identification with them impossible. Finding a female character who is not one-dimensional, pathetic, silly, weepy, boring, and/or sexless is next to impossible even for a very well-read person. Honestly, I can’t think of any such female characters.
Except, of course, Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte’s fiercely feminist novel has a protagonist who is complex, conflicted, and strong. She is neither a perfect little Madonna who never speaks above a whisper and sacrifices herself with a beatific smile for everybody else, nor a sinner always ready to repent and debase herself in payment for her sins in the last pages of the novel. Jane Eyre feels insulted by the suggestion that her husband should keep her. She relies only on money that is her own. She doesn’t marry her love interest until his is completely broken down and dependent on her for even the most basic things.
So this is pretty much the only attractive female character I can think of at this moment. Am I forgetting anybody? Any suggestions?

>Money Can’t Buy Taste

>Forget about the Royal family being a waste of money and resources. It turns out that things are a lot worse than that. They are vulgar, too!

Do Economic Considerations Influence People?

If economic considerations had any influence on people’s actions, the following would be true:

1. The poorest states in the country would vote Democratic and hate the Republicans for championing the interests of the rich at the expense of the poor.
2. People would care about other folks’ abortions and homosexuality a lot less than they care about not losing their house, benefits and paycheck.
3. Nobody would use credit cards which make things bought with them cost a lot more than they actually do.
4. There would be no competition for academic positions which pay very little for the kind of work they require.
5. People who are directly responsible for causing the economic collapse of 2008-9 would be in jail instead of in the White House.
6. Whether you have a nice personality would not be a single most important factor in whether you get employed.
7. Companies and universities would not hire people for high-paying positions of great responsibility based on nepotism.
8. Sweden would not have a higher suicide rate than Mexico.
9. Women would not give up their financial independence for the dubious privilege of washing some guy’s underwear and hoping not to get dumped by him in later years.
10. Nobody would have children.

>Philosophers: Two for One

>It never occurred to me to inform my students that Ortega y Gasset was one person, not two. Now I'm realizing that I really should have mentioned it. Two of my students have tried to figure out in their final exams which of the ideas in Ortega y Gasset's work were contributed by Ortega and which by Gasset.

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>I Keep Inventing the Wheel


So I just discovered that if you get up at 7:30 and write for two hours while sitting behind a beautiful, well-organized, pristine desk in front of an open window, you manage to fulfill your writing goal for the day and then feel free to do anything else you want without worrying about the writing that needs to get done but isn’t progressing.
I wonder why nobody told me sooner.

>Where Do Students Plagiarize from the Most?


I just found a list of websites that inform most of the student cheating. It’s almost enough to make you lose faith in the younger generation to see where students mostly plagiarize from: 

Over all, the top eight sites for matched content were Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers,, SlideShare,, Scribd, Course Hero, and

 If they think that Wikipedia and Yahoo Answers are legitimate sources of information for college essays, this means we have been able to teach them nothing. Of course, if instead of churning out more idiotic paperwork, our bureaucrats occupied themselves with punishing plagiarism, the problem could be eradicated pretty fast.

>Bureaucracy Breeds


Whenever yet another set of bureaucrats needs to make its existence and its huge salaries justified, universities bend over backwards to accommodate. The amount of time we, the academics, waste on filling out paperwork that has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the quality of instruction is unconscionable. With nothing to check this disturbing trend, it will only continue to grow. Take, for example, this new policy adopted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that will make paperwork proliferate to the delight of the school’s resident bureaucrats:

Starting next fall, transcripts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will include information about the median grade in each course a student takes, along with students’ rankings by percentile against their peers in every class. The move to adopt “contextualized transcripts” was approved a year ago by the university’s Faculty Council. On Friday, the council approved additional legislation that defines what data will appear on the new transcripts. Beginning in 2012, each student’s transcript will include a “Schedule Point Average” both for individual terms and cumulatively. That number represents the grade-point average for the average student taking the same courses. The Schedule Point Average will give an idea of how rigorous a student’s schedule is and how that student performed compared with others in the same courses. (Think strength of schedule for academics, not just basketball.) Transcripts will also include a breakdown of how often a student has scored above, at, or below the median grade in a course.

Bureaucratic flights of fancy like this one abound, and I wouldn’t bring you this particular one so early on a Sunday morning, had it not been for the last sentence of the article which is too hilarious for words:

Graduate and professional schools at Chapel Hill gave their input about what statistics would be useful on transcripts, Mr. Perrin said, but the university didn’t consult any employers for feedback. He said he’s not sure how­—or if—employers will use the data, but he expects that the new system will show them that the university is “serious about maintaining and increasing educational quality.” 

I can just imagine those employers who have absolutely nothing else to do with their lives than to pore over a huge stack of paperwork trying to figure out how a schedule point average is different from grade-point average. Once you get infected with the bureaucratic insanity, you begin to believe that everybody else in the world also considers many confusing numbers on a transcript to be more valuable than the actual skills that an employee brings to the workplace. 

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