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I am currently in the process of reorganizing and updating this blog, but it is mostly a space for me to post commentary and reviews of articles and books of interest plus the occasional academic or professional musing. Topics you're likely to see include discussion of: anthropology, education (both research and teaching), public policy, race/ethnicity, class/socioeconomic status, gender, literacy/linguistics, and urban issues (primarily in the U.S. and Canada, but possibly elsewhere as well).

Come on in! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Who are the team members in your professional life who never get enough of the credit? Assistants? Admins? Office managers? Tell them thanks today!

April 7, 2013

Who are the team members in your professional life who never get enough of the credit? Assistants? Admins? Office managers? Tell them thanks today!

This is a great reminder to appreciate the assistants and other too often overlooked team members in your professional life. The program and office admins in the Anthropology department at UChicago are phenomenal and understandably award-winning. I have no idea how they accomplish so much and keep it all straight! We are truly lucky to have them and I hope that one day I have amazing people in my professional corner who are equally diligent and helpful on that awe-inspiring level. Anne? Sandra? You’re amazing! Thank you!

Teaching Fellow Millennials: Structured Flexibility and the Immediacy Question

July 16, 2012

Last month, while others who had just finished coursework were eagerly (or anxiously) awaiting their grades, I was eagerly (and a little anxiously) awaiting student course evaluations. I even checked the evaluations site every few days to see if they were available yet and then they finally were!

Read more…

Johnny Depp as Tonto without Health Care?: Re/presentation, Re/appropriation, and Re/action

June 19, 2012

Recently, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian tweeted a link to an article from the Alaska Dispatch titled “Johnny Depp plays Tonto in ‘Lone Ranger,’ but he’ll have hard time saving American Indians from Paul Ryan’s budget.” I admit, the title immediately drew me in and I clicked the link. In addition to being confused (and concerned) by the complex racial positioning of Tonto and Johnny-Depp-as-Tonto, I couldn’t help but wonder both how much money “Paul Ryan” was devoting to the movie and how that would affect American Indians. Of course, once you read the article, you’ll likely understand the various layers referenced in this post’s title.

The article only talks about Johnny Depp (whose ancestry has been discussed by him and others as being alternately English, Cherokee, Navajo, Creek, etc.) and the film for about two paragraphs, after which it discusses the problematic budget proposed by Congressman Paul Ryan (R) and the dire state of health and related services in many American Indian communities. Read more…

Five Key Elements for Coherent and Convincing Essays

June 4, 2012

In working with college students on their writing (at various levels), I’ve found that many who struggle do so in similar ways. To help, in addition to the professor’s noted expectations, I wrote up a (hopefully at least partly entertaining) list of five key elements to keep in mind when writing an essay: 1) position/argument, 2) overall organization, 3) organized evidence, 4) sources as resources, and 5) counterarguments. Note that while this was initially written for public policy students, it likely applies well for most essay writing.

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Are Certain Job Sectors in Need of “Talented” Job Seekers? (More than just a question of labor statistics!)

June 3, 2012

Talent Shortage?: “The problem, according to the survey, is a shortage of talent in certain areas.”

What is interesting here is not the article (many have stated similar analyses at various times over the past several years), but rather the comments to it (also not without common refrains, but important still for the presentation of counter-narratives). How can we gain a more nuanced understanding of job market dynamics? Are there any multi-level studies of both employers and potential (and possibly “let go”) employees? Ethnographies of job fair circuits? I know that geography is a part of this – e.g. people may find more work in their field if they move to another state or another city – but is that the crux of the rather divergent experiences? If so, are there organizations working to address this crucial dilemma, perhaps in a “Moving to Opportunity” for professionals and tradespersons sort of way?

Some responses theorize otherwise.

Read more…

Whatever it Takes (on Educating in the midst of Concentrated Poverty)

June 3, 2012

“Canada’s objective was to create a safety net woven so tightly that children in the neighborhood couldn’t slip through. It was an idea both simple and radical …” ~Paul Tough, author of Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America

The book primarily explores and examines both Geoffrey Canada, as a fascinating, charismatic leader seeking positive social and economic change in the most challenged communities, and the Harlem Children’s Zone, his epic, multifaceted community uplift effort. It is, at times, difficult to read about all the uncertainty and struggle that so many people encounter while trying to improve their own lives and that of their children and other young family members. One of the strengths of the book, however, is not merely this intriguing journalistic aspect, but rather its collection and integration of a wide swath of the most relevant literature of the past several decades on issues like class/socioeconomic status (esp. poverty), child development, intelligence and brain development, early childhood and elementary education, and the complicated policy/political environment in which all of these topics are being analyzed and addressed. If nothing else, this book is a great place to start, the first of many breadcrumbs.

There are, of course, critiques of this model, particularly considering the way in which it relies on massive amounts of financial backing and its literal “uplift” orientation, which aims to prepare marginalized youth to function in explicitly “middle class” (and, possibly, Euro-American) ways.  Yet, it remains compelling as a project – a collaborative, holistic initiative striving to address education and poverty all at once.  It is not THE solution (the silver bullet or anything else that some might wish it to be), but I’m not sure there can even be a singular solution to the myriad concerns affecting the educational achievement and economic stability of children and youth growing up in areas of concentrated poverty.  Canada’s model offers us some ideas and, it seems, it has also offered some parents hope.  That is very much worth acknowledgment and respect.

Pick up your copy here:   Amazon link.

The Defining Decade

May 30, 2012

“The future isn’t written in the stars. There are no guarantees. So claim your adulthood. Be intentional. Get to work. Pick your family. Do the math. Make your own certainty. Dont be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. — You are deciding your life right now.” ~Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of It

The collected wisdom of a clinician and her clients is, in some ways, “common” and, in others, very much obscured in the contexts within which 20-somethings most often find themselves. I remember speaking with my mother once, worried about a friend, and I said, “It’s like she’s come to a fork in the road and, having decided that she doesn’t know which way to go, she has been encouraged to just sit there until knowledge somehow comes to her in order to provide a nudge in the right direction.” Jay does a great job of articulating the ways in which the wait-and-see approach just doesn’t work while showing methods for moving forward that really can work.

Pick up your own copy here: Amazon link

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