• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Tips of the Cap

Appreciations of an article, a guitarist, a genius and colleagues.

October 7, 2020

With so much stress in the air this week, it seems like a good time to break format and just go with some tips of the cap.

To Mary Churchill at the "University of Venus" blog at Inside Higher Ed. Her piece on “How Might I Be Wrong?” deserves much wider readership. It’s relevant, readable and relatable. And the underlying impulse is humane in a sense of the word that seems almost quaint, but shouldn’t.

To the late Eddie Van Halen. I was never much of a Van Halen fan, but he always exuded a sort of goofball charm, as if saying, “Can you believe I get paid to do this?” That and an apparent sense of humor were enough even to get me to forgive -- though not to forget -- one of the worst lyrics ever written: “only time will tell if we stand the test of time.” Ouch. But still. Even now, every single time I hear “Hot for Teacher” and David Lee Roth deadpans “I don’t feel tardy,” I laugh. Well done.

To the MacArthur Foundation for recognizing Tressie McMillan Cottom as an official genius. They’re right. She’s a skeptic of credentialism, but pragmatic enough, I hope, to enjoy the ride. And if you haven’t yet read Lower Ed or Thick, I really can’t recommend them highly enough. (My reviews of each are here and here.) They’re incisive, grounded, vivid and funny. People who can pull off that combination consistently -- and make it look easy -- are vanishingly rare.

And to my colleagues at Brookdale who are going above and beyond to make this semester work. Nobody asked for 2020 to be what it is, but they’re turning lemons into lemonade at a furious pace. Yes, it can be exhausting, but it’s good and necessary work.


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