And if I had academic freedom, what good would it do me?

Loyal readers may have noticed that I haven't been writing much lately. Maybe it's the weather, but I seem to be in an all-around writing block. I'm doing fine at amassing information in the library (except today when I couldn't manage to drag myself in and did internet research instead) but I'm having a hard time wrestling any piece of writing, no matter how short, into a shape I like. This is kind of a problem, since I need to get some things written, and soon, for presentations I have to make in September and early October.

Maybe I should blame it all on Zinedine Zidane. The disappointment, you know, sapped my energy. I was going to write about that, but I couldn't even manage. I was going to write about the new Chicago big box store living wage ordinance and its opponents, but it was all too depressing. (It's not depressing that the ordinance passed. But all the rhetoric on the other side is depressing.) I wasn't going to write about Lebanon. That's too depressing even to contemplate.


Academic Freedom: It's About Consumer Choice

In the New York Times on Sunday, Stanley Fish reduced academic freedom to consumer choice:

"Academic freedom means that if I think that there may be an intellectual payoff to be had by turning an academic lens on material others consider trivial — golf tees, gourmet coffee, lingerie ads, convenience stores, street names, whatever — I should get a chance to try."

(If you don't have a nytimes account, try bugmenot for a user name and password.)

When I saw the byline--a law professor at Florida International University--I thought this must be some other Stanley Fish, not the author of Is There A Text In This Class? But no, it's the genuine article. He actually claims that academic freedom is 1) about studying gourmet coffee 2) not about having opinions about anything. That one should not be allowed to bring one's political views into the classroom might surprise the professors I had in college who argued, let's say, that capitalism was the best way to develop poor economies; that philosophical ideas should not be considered in their historical context; that Marxist analyses of literature always left something to be desired; that the scientific community accepted Darwinism readily because it was correct. (I survived these notions, by the way.) Any introductory economics in this country class expresses an opinion, implicitly. The choice of the object is itself a value judgment, and how could Fish forget that?

I always thought the justification for tenure was that it freed professors to have and express unpopular opinions. I thought that's what was wrong with McCarthyism.

But I guess if the only freedom we have left in America is to be consumers of the objects of our choice, it would make sense that the only freedom academics should have is to be consumers of admittedly trivial intellectual objects--but of their choice. Because, you know, academic freedom could have meant the freedom to choose objects others don't consider trivial (democracy, sexuality, Guantánamo, Shakespeare). But it's not that. It's just about protecting the right to be a consumer of odds and ends like everybody else. But be sure you don't express any opinions on anything -- not even on those odds and ends! Because to have an opinion is so, you know, uncool. It might expose you to the risk of a discussion or a disagreement--philosophical, historical, or aesthetic. And, gosh, our universities can't handle that.



Score one point for me

Here's a link I won't explain, but some of you may be able to guess why I included it.

(By the way, I only say "score one point for me" because I fully expect there to be many, many, points for..."them.")



Well, that was disappointing

Why did he do it?




Today I should have gotten "real" work done, but instead sorted and prepared old clothes I'm getting rid of, picked up our newly repaired vacuum cleaner and vacuumed, mowed the lawn, and did some cooking. Here's one of the things I made:

Courtesy of Delicious Living Magazine, Kale-Almond Pesto and White-Bean Pasta (a recipe originally given to me by anonymous). I doubled the recipe, substituted apple cider vinegar for the lemon juice (no lemons); used a lot of vegetable stock to make the blender work more smoothly; cooked up dried beans instead of canned (always a mistake--takes forever!); and added some parsley and basil to the kale pesto mix. It turned out fine, though a bit on the almondy side. Anyway, it's supposed to be a stress reliever. As I pointed out to a student today, now that I'm on leave, it's stressful to have to decide which project to work on, rather than knowing that the 15 minutes I have for my own work each week has to go to whatever was due three weeks ago, as opposed to whatever was only due yesterday.

So, without further ado:

Kale-Almond Pesto and White-Bean Pasta

Serves 4 / This delicious dish bursts with stress-soothing nutrients, including calcium and vitamins A, C, and E. Almonds add a healthy dose of magnesium, and white beans supply zinc, potassium, magnesium, and thiamin.

1 bunch kale, washed and drained
4 ounces dried penne pasta
1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted
1-1/2 tablespoons garlic
(about 5 large cloves)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of two lemons, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin
olive oil
1 19-ounce can white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut lower stems from kale. Steam kale over 2 quarts boiling water for 5–7 minutes, until tender. Transfer to a colander to drain. Do not discard water. Add pasta to water on stove and return to a boil, stirring. When pasta is al dente, drain.

2. Meanwhile, place almonds in food processor and process until well chopped. Add garlic, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and juice of one lemon. Carefully squeeze water from steamed kale and remove leaves from stems; discard stems. Pat leaves dry with paper towels and chop roughly. Pat dry again and add to food processor. Process until all ingredients are finely minced. With motor running, add 2 tablespoons olive oil in a stream until a thick pesto is formed.

3. In a medium bowl, toss beans with juice of one lemon and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

4. In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes and fry for about 1 minute. Add kale-almond pesto and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. If pesto seems too thick, thin with a small amount of water. Add pasta and beans and toss gently until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve immediately.



Bush Is A Lying Sack of Shit

Goatdog and I decided to give our President an appropriate welcome today as he visited the Museum of Science and Industry, Hyde Park, Chicago. I rounded up as many people as I could, which was one. But a few others heard the news and showed up:

Neighborhood folks greeting the Commander-in-Thief; I'm not in it because I'm taking the picture. But I would have been holding the "Bush Kills Kids" sign.

CPD, always effective at crowd control.

And, of course, the Secret Service, rifling through the bags of small children with American Girl dolls, but failing to check out the bags of any of the protesters.

While there we were serenaded by a small child with a violin, and joined by all the people who'd planned to go to the science museum today but couldn't because it was being occupied by the man whose administration does everything it possibly can to squelch any scientific findings that don't support its corporate and/or fundamentalist Christian masters. (See: Global Warming; Condoms/HIV; Morning After Pill; etc....)



Les Bleus vs. Gli Azzurri

That's about all I have to say for now.



Sweet Home Chicago

I'm back in Chicago and have been unpacking and getting myself organized and so I have not posted photos of my trip, or anything about France's miraculous victory over Brazil on Saturday, or about my readjustment to American living. I'd like to post a link to a news story about the Taste of Chicago Seven, the seven people who were arrested at the Taste of Chicago for handing out leaflets against military recruiting, aka "protesting without a permit." But -- that's funny -- there are no news stories about it.

OK, wait, there is this one: you have to register to read it, so use bugmenot if you need a login and password.

I always thought that if you were in a small group and not blocking traffic, you didn't need a permit. But apparently now political speech is only free in "free speech zones," as Daley takes a page from Bush's playbook. Hm. I wonder if it would be acceptable to stand in the same place handing out flyers for something you want to sell?

Passing out political leaflets at the Taste of Chicago is truly a heroic, self-sacrificing act. The Taste of Chicago is a yearly event where, in the heat of summer and in the company of millions of others, you are given the opportunity to eat overpriced samples of food from Chicago restaurants when you could eat at the same places more cheaply while seated in an air-conditioned restaurant. It's a sweltering mess of flesh (human and otherwise). To me, it always seems calculated to increase the total quantity of misanthropy in the world. But some heroic souls see it as an opportunity to reach others with their activist message.

And of course, the city of Chicago can't have that.

P.S. This just in. Here's a link to the story on indymedia.

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