deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2017-02-03 09:30 am

Information literacy: No, Trump did not craft White House policy that "women dress like women"

A story from International Business Times went viral last night: Donald Trump White House Dress Code Policy? Female Staffers Must ‘Dress Like Women,’ President Says. It's terrible, and confirms everything we believe about Trump. It spawned a hashtag, #DresslikeaWoman. It's also not true.

It hurts the fight against Trump to share false stories about Trump. It makes us weaker.

Information literacy -- the ability to recognize when you need to acquire information, and the skill set to locate and assess the quality of that information -- is one of the most important skills we can have in this #AlternativeFacts, #FakeNews era. While the Trump administration has used the fake news label as a pejorative against any story with which he disagrees, or which has any facts which are contradicted by other sources, we know better. Fake news is the reporting of false stories, or true stories reported with hyperbolic, overblown, or outright false context. In the social media snippet era, in which all of us are guilty of sharing stories we haven't read or investigated based on headline, a tweet, or a brief Facebook post, we are all responsible for being more careful.

There are a lot of ways librarians teach information literacy. One of them ("trust sites that end with .gov") is getting seriously rethought in the Donald Trump era. One of the other important ones is both assessing whether or not something that appears to be a news site actually is a reputable news site. Advanced information literacy techniques include understanding the different kind of sources of information even reputable news sites use, and understanding how to assess their likely truth value. Note this is not a way of addressing the question of whether sources lie or disagree with one another. That's going to happen, and that much harder to address. But we should be able to understand when a story is flat out, on its face, total garbage.

So what's wrong with the "Dress Like a Woman" story? Everything.

how to see the story is false )

One of Trump's methods for success in 2016 was that he accomplishes six outrageous, inhumane, and occasionally illegal actions before breakfast. How can you cover a man whose every pronouncement is ridiculous? It leaves us unable to focus on any one of them to the extent that we should. So much as happened in the last 48 hours that people have already forgotten that he casually threatened to invade Mexico. He's a fire hose of hate and incompetence.

(ETA: An anon in the comments points out that I got not played myself in this piece about being careful about not being played. Although the original allegations about Trump's threat to send troops to Mexico was reported by the Associated Press, both the White House and the Mexican government deny those allegations.)

This means two things:
  1. Getting outraged about things that didn't happen is a distraction from being outraged about that far worse things that actually did happen.
  2. There is literally no purpose in making up fake stories about crappy things he is doing, because there is a mountain of crap that is actually happening.

In this era, a responsible citizen must read beyond the headline, read beyond the lede, read beyond the tweet or the Facebook repost.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2017-01-25 05:57 pm
Entry tags:

It's important to have a list of one's favorite Nazi-punchers

My favorite Nazi puncher is my 91-year-old cousin Arthur, who, at 65, got arrested for punching Salem, Massachusetts's least favorite hometown Nazi at a protest against a Holocaust denialist.

Arthur was fined $1.

May we all look at Cousin Arthur as our role model in these dark days.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
2016-11-17 11:55 am
Entry tags:

Protecting ourselves online in a hostile age

I'm seeing a lot of people post about how, in light of current political shifts, everyone should increase online security. A few points on this:

  • Yes.
  • This is always true.
  • Most of the advice going around is a mix of good, reasonable, difficult, and bad. (eg. One list going around says Gmail is totally safe because it won't get hacked. Google (and Facebook, and Apple, and others) explicitly cooperates with the CIA, the NSA, and other governments around the world.
  • There is a conflation of different concepts of online security: protecting your data from theft, protecting your data from government abuse, protecting your accounts from hacking. There's no point in getting paranoid about Internet security if you don't know which of these dangers is most important to you, how much you can assess risk, and what measures specifically apply to that danger.

Don't take the advice of activists about security. Take the advice of professional Internet security experts (I am not one). Start with Brian Krebs ([ profile] briankrebs) and Bruce Schneier ([ profile] schneierblog). A lot of what they have to say is aimed at security experts and you can ignore it; focus on the pieces that are obviously relevant to you, such as Brian Krebs' Tools for a safer PC. If you are the kind of person who likes to look for the work of women and people of color when you are looking for expert opinions, don't hold your breath when you are looking in research for computer security. That is not to say that there are not security experts who aren't white men, but infosec has notoriously always been so misogynist and such a cultural cesspool that it appalls even the rest of the tech industry.

When it comes to protecting your accounts and your own devices from hackers, the tips you get from experts are only somewhat inconvenient and a great place to start.

However, when it comes to protecting your information from the panopticon, whether corporate or government, I've got some bad news for you:

If the advice sounds easy or socially convenient, it's false.

  • Cloud services put you at risk. (Twitter, Gmail, Facebook, and technically Dreamwidth, though the scale of Dreamwidth allows many of us to have a relationship of trust with the site.)
  • Credit cards put you at risk, whether or not you have ever purchased something online in your life.
  • Using an email address in multiple places put you are risk.
  • Having ever given your telephone number, email address, or Social Security number to a business puts you at risk.
  • Having friends who know your email address or your phone number puts you at risk.
  • Not knowing the underlying tech infrastructure of the online services you use puts you at risk.
  • Browsing the web puts you at risk.

If you are going to be engaging in the kind of activism that will put you in a government's crosshairs, and you have a sincere, evidence-based belief that you are going to be targeted by a government because of your activities, and you want to protect yourself, you need to do some serious, hard-core curation of your available information online. You are not going to fix your problems by installing Tor and using two-factor authentication on your Gmail account. You are not going to fix your problems by any tip sheet that is currently being circulated around Twitter. And you are not going to fix your problems easily. It is difficult to address this kind of situation without a major life change. For most of us, resources would be better spent on lobbying the companies we do business with to mitigate the damage from these kind of practices writ large. That is to say, not necessarily helping ourselves, but trying to diminish the surveillance state as a whole.

Here's a very brief summation of the problem. Okay, not so brief. Be Afraid. )


If you are seriously worried and have good reason to be exceptionally careful:

  • Encrypt everything.
  • Only use cloud services where you explicitly trust the host and know their policy about government requests for information, third-party vendors, and their third-party vendors' similar policies.
  • Only use throwaway cell phone numbers, email addresses, and credit card numbers to do business.
  • Never, ever use social media.

For the rest of us, well. Here's what we can do.

  • Take a deep breath and acknowledge that any reasonably competent government and sufficiently well-off corporation already knows anything about us that it wants to.
  • Protect our devices and our accounts from explicit hacking.
  • Lobby for institutional change in the surveillance state and the industrial panopticon.
  • Stop panicking.

And seriously, folks. Install 1Password, KeePass, or some other locally hosted password manager, and switch to unique and difficult passwords for every account you have. And then install Ghostery on your browsers.

And don't panic about this. Be concerned, and be careful, but panicking is counterproductive; the cat is so far out of the bag for most of us that there is not even cat hair left. We have a lot more to panic about than whether the government can find us.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2016-01-28 11:07 am

accessibility job opportunity in DC

It's a good thing I don't live near DC, because I would apply for this job in a hot minute.

Department: Executive Office of the President
Job Title: Accessibility Officer

Duties )

Step one: teach the people running the job board that you don't use all caps for headers, you use regular capitalization and style to caps with CSS if that's what you want. :D

Do people in jobs like this get fired when the administration turns over?

...Now I'm imagining the accessiblity officer in the Trump administration.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2015-04-28 11:13 pm
Entry tags:

Inventing fake job requirements is illegal

Kudos to [ profile] tikva for raising the issue of the Watertown Public Library's posted position for a Circulation Supervisor (Wayback Machine link). Tikva brought the illegality of the posting to the attention of the Watertown Public Library on 24 April. As of tonight, 28 April, here's an excerpt from the posted job:

  • Moderate physical effort required in carrying and shelving books, computers and other equipment and in performing other typical library functions
  • Frequent standing, walking, bending, reaching, and climbing
  • Ability to operate a keyboard at an efficient speed
  • Frequently required to sit and talk or hear
  • Must occasionally lift and/or move materials weighing up to 50 pounds
  • Vision and hearing at or correctable to “normal ranges”

Now, I always get mad about ADA violations. But in this case, I'm not just my usual disabled jackass who's angry about ableism. I'm a disabled jackass who:

  • has worked many a circ job, and knows exactly what is and isn't required for the job

  • is deeply over-qualified for this job, which I could knock out of the park (not that they'd be willing to pay someone with an MLS for this position)

  • could not, nonetheless, meet three of their six "Physical Requirements", even though two of them could be adapted with minimal adaptation and the third (listed as "occasionally") with a mild reshuffling of work requirements

  • knows the ADA backwards and forwards, and is well aware of how blazingly illegal this posting is

  • and, oh, has a recently bereaved kindly busybody of a mother who lives in Watertown and is a frequent patron of the Watertown Public Library. This is a woman threatened to sue her own condo association if they didn't build a wheelchair ramp. (Spoiler alert: they folded.)

So I think on this one I'm not going to write up a long angry Illegal Job Requirements 101. I'm going to call in the cavalry.

I'd duck if I were you, Watertown Public Library. Right now the cavalry hasn't got a whole lot of patience for anyone who makes life harder for people with disabilities.
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
2015-03-17 12:42 am

Kirkus, my darling, my life and my bride

Let me talk briefly about one of the many reasons I love Kirkus Reviews and my editor.

I've reviewed for many journals over the years, but Kirkus is the only one I've stuck with. Kirkus is also one of the only two major review journals with anonymous reviews. Kirkus claims to have an editorial voice, which is why the unsigned reviews, but while the Children's and YA Editor, Vicky Smith regularly grooms my words, she almost never modifies the thurst of the content without discussing it with me first. Sometimes she asks me for a clarification, a polish, or -- if I've crossed the line from the necessary honesty of which Kirkus reviewers are proud, to the brutality of which we're sometimes accused -- textual support to justify a surfeit of negativity. Sometimes she gives me context I didn't have (such as a publisher's indication they've changed some wording) and asks me to rewrite. Maybe once or twice in my years at Kirkus, at most, she's simply disagreed with me and rewritten in that light.

All of which is far more than she need do, because I am a writer-for-hire both legally and artistically, and while I craft reviews of which I'm proud, my job is to create reviews in the Kirkus editorial voice.

Years ago, I reviewed for another source which did have the reviewers sign the reviews. Each of those reviews was signed with my name. And every one of those reviews was edited extensively. Those edits were comprehensive in word, tone, and thrust, sometimes completely changing my judgement and analysis. As one point I wrote to the journal asking for more feedback about what they wanted me to be writing in the first place, explaining that I felt uncomfortable having my name on "work which has been so greatly modified from my original as to be scarcely recognizable," which was putting it mildly. They misunderstood, explaining they were grateful to get the sense of the reviewers' opinions, even on reviews they just then rewrote.

I began to get very uncomfortable when I realized how often they were mellowing out my negative reviews (or flat out making them positive), which happened most frequently when I complained about racial stereotypes in books. Tonight, I happened across one such review from many years ago. It was one of the only reviews I ever wrote where they kept the word "stereotype," though they made the assessment of the book much more positive than I did. I assume they kept the word because I provided textual support: six quotations, including awful representation of Native Americans, East Asians, and indigenous South Americans. One of those quotations was a massive othering of the protagonist of color starting from the book's opening pages, while several others were repulsive depictions of a non-Western country's everyday elements as being nasty, superstious, and like unto gothic horror.

Eventually I realized that I was simply unwilling to have my name on the reviews as they were rewritten. Honestly, there was a part of my brain that said "if Debbie Reese critiques something said under my name, am I willing to stand behind it?" [1]

So here's why I love Kirkus:
  • If I can provide textual support for an assessment, my editor has my back.
  • Vicky has never once suggested I'm too sensitive to representation issues in fiction; she's only asked me for textual support.
  • If the judgement is changed in a review, she usually tells me why and I trust her decisions.
  • She's asked me for a second opinion when she wanted a confirmation on a review that mentions a group I'm a part of, and I assume she does it with reviews I write as well, which adds to my confidence.
  • My name's not on the reviews anyway, woohoo

In short, Kirkus++.

[1] I second-guess my reviews all the time. I still regret reviews in which I was, in retrospect, overly concerned with a social justice analysis which was inappropriate for the length of the review and the depth of the problem. I also regret reviews in which I let deeply problematic elements of a book slide. It's a perennial balancing act. To anyone who thinks reviewers shouldn't address social justice concerns in their reviews, I obviously think you're profoundly mistaken, and I can write about that later if anyone wants, but that's another story for another post.

I also second-guess my reviews for other reasons. Was I too kind to a bland waste of paper? Was I overly influenced by an author's fame? Did I conflate my taste with quality (in either direction)? Did I ignore the value a book would serve to its readers despite all its problems? Do I need to stop reviewing when I'm battling migraine aura? That's why I recommend trusting more than one professional review source, especially if you're buying on a budget for a collection (eg librarians, teachers). Personally I recommend Kirkus and PW, but YMMV.

deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
2013-05-20 10:49 pm

drive-by tab closing

  • "So You Want to Read YA?", a guest post by Amy Stern at Stacked. Everything she says there is completely worth reading, except for how I think Rob Thomas' later statements about his work have poisoned everything he wrote earlier in his career, to the extent that I find it impossible to talk about his earlier work in any non-negative fashion.[1]
  • "Specimens: Figurines, fishers, bugs and bats – how things in the world become sacred objects in a museum": I want to understand how things come to take their place — especially in museums and collections — as embodiments of knowledge, artefacts out of time and nature, provoking curiosity and wonder. How they become objectified.
  • "Fist-clenchingly poor science": But every time such fist-clenchingly poor science as the current paper is published, the prejudice is reinforced and the cause of open access publishing undermined. Thus, while I’m sure everyone involved is dedicated and scrupulous, it is paramount that PLOS works harder to increase its editorial standards to reduce the chances of such embarrassingly weak science being published.
  • "Colleges Leaving Low-Income Students Behind": Schools have gone from helping to make college more affordable for those with the greatest financial need to strategically awarding merit aid to students who can increase their standings in rankings like U.S. News & World Report and bring in more revenue.

1. But then, I'm still capable of saying positive things about Ender's Gamer and Speaker for the Dead, and I'm sure plenty of other smart people feel the way about Orson Scott Card that I feel about Rob Thomas. Apparently I draw the line somewhere after "gay marriage is destroying my family" and before "women who make rape accusations are lying liars who lie." Or possibly I think Ender and Speaker are good enough books to get me past my anger at their creator; certainly I can no longer read lesser Card with any pleasure. And the highest quality Rob Thomas surpasses the quality of the worst OSC, but doesn't even come close to the best. [back]
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2013-04-09 11:51 am

3 links: records management & exercise; children's lit & race; damaged archival documents & science

Brynt Johnson is a records manager in the clerk's office of the District of Columbia's federal court by day, and a personal trainer to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan by night.

"Hot Mess", children's author Zetta Elliot's post about trauma (particularly African-American trauma) in children's books, estrangement, privilege,and race in the industry.

I read a lot of science blogs, and I'm always excited to see archives show up in science blogs. Here's one we probably wouldn't have expected: "Wormholes in old folks preserve the history of insects". An evolutionary biologist from Penn State has used insect holes in prints made from old wood blocks to study the spread of particular wood-boring beetles. The prints, rather than the blocks themselves, show an accurate timestamp of when the beetles emerged and where, because the texts usually contain the information about when they were printed and where they were printed. The power of old metadata, people!
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2013-04-07 07:16 pm

a highly qualified blind professional in a bind

My friend Jeanette needs your help. This is a letter from my friend Jeanette Beal, a blind Assistive Technology Specialist. Repost, link, let us know if you can help with publicity/media or legal aspects. If you do repost, please repost in full without cutting or summarizing.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
2013-04-01 02:18 pm

accessibility and appropriation

[personal profile] sanguinity / [ profile] sanguinarysanguinity recently reposted Chrystos' "Those tears," and it got me thinking about how differently derailing and appropriation plays out when it comes to the quest for accessibility. In disabled spaces, of course derailing and outsider claims of authenticity & knowledge happen. "I'm myopic so I understand blindness," "Oh, I get obsessive compulsive as well, I totally have to check that the oven is turned off before I can leave the house," "Man, my boss was a jerk today, and I am so out of spoons," "I'm sore from typing I totally get it," "I'm such a napper; I totally get CFIDS," "I just love signing, we should talk so I can show you how much I've learned!"

(The management refuses to state how many of these she personally has said on the grounds that doing so will incriminate her.)

(Also I am not intending to disability police with those quotations. PWD can say those exact same words, and if somebody says they have a disability than they do. My concern is not with trying to police people who say they are disabled, but with people who will willingly say they are not at all disabled but also insist that the general wear and tear of being a human being in the world makes them completely understand what it is to be disabled.)

But the weird thing about disability is that because of the very nature of human bodies, their frailty that makes some people choose to use the label "TAB", meaning the "Temporarily Able-Bodied" when referring to people who do not have disabilities, it means that in some senses the outsider intrusions can actually be useful. Whenever upper management breaks a leg, offices suddenly start seeing automatic door opener buttons and cleared paths to elevators. When entitled brogrammers get sore hands and have to take a break from mousing, they often become more respectful of the need to use alternative input devices (except for those who are privileged enough they can afford to hire typists and think everyone else with RSI should do the same grr argh). When I had a vitreous detachment bad enough to impress my optometrist but still a normal side effect of aging, I started to appreciate the difference between correctable and uncorrectable vision problems in a way that walking around without my glasses could never explain to me (because I can always just put them back on).

Of course, it can go the other way. "Well, I had the flu, and I still came to work [EDITOR'S NOTE: oh please no!], so I don't see why you can't work with CFIDS." "I broke both my legs and still never needed a seat on the bus, so I don't see why you need one." "I can get around my house with my glasses off, so why do you need a dog to get to work?" Not all people are willing to put any effort into empathy.

But still, I see how that outsider invasion can have some utility when it comes to disability, in a way that doesn't apply when you are talking about, say, white women inserting themselves into spaces for women of color, or cis straight folks inserting themselves into queer spaces. In a disability space you can potentially draw on that claim that human physical frailty creates connection in order to push (temporarily) able-bodied folks to change their physical spaces. They still might be invading spaces which ought to be safe spaces for PWD, but some utility can be found for that. Meanwhile, if I, as a white woman, insert myself into a WOC space, I don't see how the women of color can extract any utility from my invasion.

This is me thinking aloud, and I'm not sure my thoughts have boiled into anything useful as yet.
deborah: Kirkus Reviews: OM NOM NOM BRAINS (kirkus)
2011-08-25 03:42 pm

Guilt and Pleasure: you'll have to do the morality for both of us

I like to start off my semester by talking to students about how you can love media you find deeply flawed; part of learning to think critically is being willing to put aside your affection or dislike for a text for a little while. (And then you need to be able to take your emotional reaction back, and see what happens to it when informed by critical thinking. I'm all about multilayered response.) The examples I use are usually texts which are deeply flawed vis-à-vis some axis of political oppression which touches me personally: feminism, usually. There are plenty of movies I love that have deeply ingrained misogyny. On another axis, there's Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy, a fabulous book with the despicable Jewish moneylender.

But it's easy to talk about the the books you love when you're in the group under attack; not so easy when reading the book makes you into an attacker-by-proxy. Over at the Kirkus blog, Vicky Smith writes "Guilt and Pleasure":

Do you ever love a book that you feel you shouldn’t? I'm not talking about a typical “guilty pleasure” sort of book--legions of smart, emancipated women find themselves tucking into Twilight and its spawn as if they were chocolate-covered nougats. A little shamefacedly, they confess that they find the sexual politics of so many of these books utterly retrograde but nevertheless hugely enjoyable. But that guilt is a light one, not the kind that a person really feels, well, guilty about.

And then Vicky talks about what it feels like, both as a reader and as a reviewer, to have enjoyed 13th Child. It's an interesting essay, I think. As a reviewer, I share the worry she addresses:

A colleague at another book review asked me that summer, "What are you going to do about Thirteenth Child?" Of course, we had already done it. Because of our ferocious pre-publication schedule, we had gone to press with a starred review before I ever became aware of the controversy. Certainly, I was a member of that presumed non-Native audience, and I lapped the whole book up without thinking twice.

I'm not sure I know anyone who deals with books -- whether reviewers, authors, teachers, or readers (and I assume folks in publishing, although they have tighter constraints on what they can say in public) -- who doesn't occasionally have deep regret over the public or private reactions they had to a work they later realized was deeply problematic, or about problems in their own fiction. And I'm not sure I know anyone who doesn't love some deeply troubling fiction. I tell my students that you can love something and find it troubling, as part of your job as a critical thinker is gaining the ability to reconcile those. But it's a lot easier for me to reconcile my feelings about great books with despicable Jewish moneylenders than it is for me to reconcile my love for, oh, A Horse and His Boy or A Little Princess. It's easier to forgive (the book? myself for loving the book?) when I'm not reading from a position of privilege.

This goes beyond Wrede to so much of our literature, both great and not-so-great. Every year children devour the Little House books despite their terribly hurtful depictions of Native Americans, for instance. Some of us give Laura Ingalls Wilder a pass of sorts, saying she was a product of her times, a forgiveness that we cannot extend to Wrede—and, depending on the reader, to ourselves, when we enjoy her series.

Read the piece, it's thought-provoking.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2010-09-19 04:54 pm
Entry tags:

Anglo-Saxons, Judaism, race, and passing

It's been years now since I've learned to put down the "I don't consider myself white" I used to use in discussions of race, and back away slowly. I own my white privilege, and I am slowly learning about how and when (white, German and Eastern European) Jews became white in America, and the demographic explanation of why I was raised believing I'm not white even though the dominant paradigm treats me as white. (I haven't had time to read The History of White People yet, although I've seen some interesting clips of Nell Painter speaking.)

And yet when discussing fantasy in a classroom, it becomes very weird when talking about how the generic fantasy tropes tend to be not just European but Northwestern European. My students talk about "our history" and "our mythology" in reference to the generic fantasy tropes, and it's always this odd moment when I say "I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't have any Northwestern European ancestry." (Well, not unless you count a couple of generations in the 20th and probably late 19th centuries as "ancestry".) I suppose my ancestors spent long enough in the Pale of Settlement that I could lay some claim to the rare modern fantasies that use Baba Yaga as a source, except, just, NO. My ancestral mythology is either shtetl myth (e.g. Chelm, golem stories, or the kind of folklore that later got turned into literary fairy tales by the likes of Sholom Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, or Cynthia Ozick) or Mishna-type tales of Lilith and the demons, or of Judea and the Babylnian captivity.

I grew up around enough immigrants that I tend to assume an first- or second-generation background when in crowds of white people, even though my adult experience should have taught me by now that first instinct is just wrong. So when I look at a classroom of my students (more students of color than I've ever had before, hooray, but that's still not many), and I say "I can't speak for the rest of you, but King Arthur is not my ancestral myth," I think I have a false perception that more of the students will want to say "No! Nor Mine!"

And once again, I absolutely don't want to call out any students in particular and ask them to Represent for Their Culture. If a student wants to volunteer that he or she does or doesn't come from a particular background, I'll certainly encourage that as long as it enriches the discussion, but I don't want to point to any students and ask them to talk about their personal background.

So in any case, whenever I say "I can't speak for the rest of you, but King Arthur is not my ancestral myth," when I face up to the sudden barrage of startled, somewhat disbelieving looks, it's this odd moment of choosing not to pass, which is a weird thing to say in a blog post I began "I own my white privilege."

Many years ago, I got in an argument with my high school biology teacher when he insisted that everyone in the classroom had some particular northwestern European genetic code. I don't even remember what it was. When I said that none of my ancestors had lived in northwestern Europe (again, disregarding the last couple of generations), he casually informed me that I was wrong. In retrospect, I can't have been the only student in the class about whom that statement was nonsense. There must have been at least a couple of Russians in the class, although I assume he wouldn't have said it if any of the few PoC in my freshman class had been in the room. But it comes back to this same issue, this idea that all whiteness is the same, that all whiteness comes back to King Arthur.

I don't know how to challenge this without falling back into that festering sinkhole which is people from other whitenesses (including white Jews) refusing to acknowledge white privilege where we have it. I want to be able to have this conversation about assumptions of whiteness -- what I'm starting to call in my mind the Camelot problem -- while knowing that it isn't going to degenerate into a conversation about the horrific oppression of having your biology teacher in high school assume that your ancestors include northwestern Europeans, Oh Noes.

Clearly I need to read Painter's book, don't I?
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2010-09-19 04:26 pm

teaching moments, pro and con

My students all appear great this semester: thoughtful, provocative, and engaged with what one another say. I've had some good teachable moments in class so far, including a moment when a student responded to a critical article's claim that ethnic Americans have seemingly no mythology inherently their own, by saying "well, there was a mythology, but we came here and we wiped out everyone, so then it was gone". (I paraphrase what the student said, and the critical article was Celestine Woo, "Toward a Poetics of Asian American Fantasy: Laurence Yep's Construction of a Bicultural Mythology", Lion and the Unicorn 30:2, April 2006. To be fair to Woo, though the quotation is provocative both in and out of context, she is using "ethnic American" to mean... well, I'm not entirely sure, but I think she is talking about non-immigrant WASP culture. And I should emphasize that the student is one of the smart, thoughtful types who occasionally provides teachable moments because high levels of student engagement sometimes mean that such things get said if we are operating at the pace of a discussion class. Moreover, the student responded thoughtfully to the follow-up discussion.)

I thought I did okay in engaging the students with thinking about that one (apart from some teaching/race fail on my part where I said "Anansi" and meant "Coyote", and what does that say about my brain?), and then came home and read [personal profile] sanguinity's essay "...the native peoples had the most troubles with the immigrants...". And... I know I am absolutely guilty about what she is discussing, and I'd never thought about it in those terms before. I shall have to think back about the conversation in class and see if that conversation carry the same connotations.

Class was loaded in all kinds of ways, actually. We were discussing a book by a PoC which was based loosely on non-Western myths, and one student in the class came from a similar but hardly identical background as the author. She did volunteer that she knew a version of the myths. I haven't yet had enough experience navigating the minefield of not wanting to ask that student to Represent On Behalf Of Her Culture, but also not wanting to speak as an expert about something for which one of my students might have substantially more in-depth knowledge that I do. (It wasn't a set of myths for which I am a subject expert, not even an outsider subject expert.)

It makes me think, though, that whenever I am teaching and talking about some culture which is not my own, I should always act as if one of my students might be from that culture. For all I know it's true, anyway. (It's related to how I started to confront a lot of my own internalized racism; always assume that somebody standing behind me in any conversation is a member of a group I'm discussing. When I realized how much I was self-censoring, that made me realize how much I was saying that needed reeducation.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2010-08-30 05:23 pm

"educating" parents about books

A friend to whom I will refer as Jules Léotard recently pointed me towards this lengthy video which is the product of Focus on the Family's "True Tolerance" program.

Direct URL / Video in accessible player

The video points parents towards the stealthy methods those "sneaky" homosexual activists are using to get into the schools, such as devious, wicked anti-bullying campaigns. (The fact that 23.2% of students who have been bullied at school because someone perceived them to be queer attempt suicide is apparently irrelevant to these people, who provide a [PDF] "model anti-bullying policy" which is not intended to prohibit expression of religious, philosophical, or political views. Presumably including "you're going to hell for being gay.")

Anyway, their list of [PDF] devious homosexual agenda books you might find in your school makes me sad, because the only thing in there that counts as fantasy or science fiction is Uncle Bobby's Wedding. Is that really the state of homosexual agenda children's and YA books in F&SF? Hero, Cycler, and some albeit adorable queer guinea pigs? (I'm exaggerating. Somewhat.)

It doesn't work that way in my mind, where I forget that Tally Youngblood never hooked up with Shay; that it was just subtext in King of Shadows; that none of those gay best friends in paranormal romances are the main characters. This is a good time of year to remind myself that for all I am used to seeing the intense social conservativism in fantasy, I mustn't discount the strong strain of it in science fiction.

Also a good time of year to make the time to read Ash. *goes to request from interlibrary loan*
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2010-07-28 03:45 pm

20 years of the ADA: Accessibility good and bad

Two links today which were both partially inspired by the 20 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

First, the depressing one: Via Jennison Mark Asuncion, Dennis Lembree identifies several accessibility gaps on the home page of the new web site. The site was launched partially in celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the ADA, and some of the accessibility gaps Lembree finds are whoppers: overly styled text instead of heading tags, for example. As Jennison said, what does it say when the chief US gov agency promoting IT
accessibility is not where it needs to be with their own site?

But let's follow with a much more inspiring post: [personal profile] jesse_the_k: "20 Years and a Day for the Americans with Disabilities Act". This essay inspires me to see all the good we've done in two decades. From [personal profile] jesse_the_k:

So, thanks for my life, ADA: many mundane things, and a few great big ones.

The law is not enough; as Cal Montgomery taught me:
Discrimination is always illegal; only activism makes it unwise.

And something I don't say very often, because I'm still pissed off about certain comments about atheism, But thanks, George H. W. Bush, for signing the ADA into law. Because of that law, I have a job.
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2010-03-01 10:26 pm

(1) digital discovery (2) meritocratic myth

In "Descartes Letter Found, Therefore It Is", I learned that a long-lost stolen letter of Descartes' has turned up in my alma mater's archives:

If old-fashioned larceny was responsible for the document’s loss, advanced digital technology can be credited for its rediscovery. Erik-Jan Bos, a philosophy scholar at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who is helping to edit a new edition of Descartes’s correspondence, said that during a late-night session browsing the Internet he noticed a reference to Descartes in a description of the manuscript collection at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He contacted John Anderies, the head of special collections at Haverford, who sent him a scan of the letter.
Scholars have known of the letter’s existence for more than 300 years, but not its contents. Apparently the only person who had really studied it was a Haverford undergraduate who spent a semester writing a paper about the letter in 1979. (Mr. Bos called the paper “a truly fine piece of work.”)

Guys, this is awesome. This is why I do what I do! Putting collection guides online is a royal pain (ASK ME HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE EAD STANDARD), but this is the kind of story that makes it all worthwhile. Archival collections are full of hidden treasures the archivists themselves don't know about. It takes a dedicated scholar to find these lost and hidden (and rarely digitized) gems, and digital collection guides, followed up by e-reference, followed up by spot digitization, solved the puzzle.

Viva la Ford!

On a more somber note, from "Why diversity matters (the meritocracy business)":

Now, whenever I screen resumes, I ask the recruiter to black out any demographic information from the resume itself: name, age, gender, country of origin. The first time I did this experiment, I felt a strange feeling of vertigo while reading the resume. “Who is this guy?” I had a hard time forming a visual image, which made it harder to try and compare each candidate to the successful people I’d worked with in the past. It was an uncomfortable feeling, which instantly revealed just how much I’d been relying on surface qualities when screening resumes before – even when I thought I was being 100% meritocratic. And, much to my surprise (and embarrassment), the kinds of people I started phone-screening changed immediately.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2010-02-08 03:35 pm
Entry tags:

Custer Died for Your Sins

I promised [ profile] sanguinity that if I read books based on recommendations from her I would share my opinions of them. Somewhat frustratingly, they keep getting recalled. I guess I am happy about this, because it means somebody else at the university is interested in reading the same topics, but I would have liked to have read more than the introduction to Andrea Smith's Conquest: Sexual Violence and the American Indian Genocide before I had to return it.

Because of recalls, I am rushing through all but the first couple of chapters of Vine Deloria's Custer Died for Your Sins. So take all of my impressions with a grain of salt; this book needs more time than I am able to give it. Most notably, with the exception of the final chapter, I have skimmed the entire second half of the book. Custer died for your sins )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2010-02-04 03:26 pm

social justice and controlled vocabularies

We are actually having a conversation with commenters on the DCA blog! Hooray for commenters!

If you are the kind of nerd who thinks about how controlled vocabularies influence and are influenced by our perceptions of social justice, go over and weigh in on Veronica's excellent post, "The trouble with subject headings".

In a nutshell, Veronica asks how do we cope with tagging photographs with a controlled vocabulary, given:
  • the historical baggage of Library of Congress subject headings, given that the LOC is an organization as subject to systemic racism as any other
  • our need as people concerned with social justice to be aware of what materials in our collection represent historically underrepresented populations
  • the essentializing of straightness, whiteness, maleness, able-bodiedness, etc. inherent in tags such as "Blacks" and "Women". (Admittedly, "Men" Is a subject term as well, but we seem to only use it for historical images, while we use "Women" for photographs of students and faculty.)

Now, Veronica didn't use any of that language, because I am obsessed with academic jargon and she knows better, and I can't even talk about these issues without using words like "essentializing". You should be glad I edited out "normativize"! So go read her post, and comment.

OMG! Illustration found in gathering the links above: "Beating hemp, flogging a woman".
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
2010-02-03 02:42 pm

government documents: an update

My office at work in the most pleasant of locations (notwithstanding its windowless and freezing environments). Situated in the stacks, surrounded on all sides by LOC E-P, so practically every nonfiction book I decide I want to read is right there around me.

My favorite walk to my workspace ("favorite" here meaning "I only have to use my hands once") goes right to government documents, and because our government documents section uses compact shelving, my route is slightly different every day. When I see an interesting looking book or pamphlet, I often grab it to bring back to my desk.

Some of my recent perusals:

Bulletin of the Department Of Labor: Volume VI, 1901 )

Report on the Introduction of Domestic Reindeer into Alaska, with Illustrations, by Sheldon Jackson D.D., General Agent of Education in Alaska. 1896 )

Coastal-change and glaciological map of the Northern Ross Ice Shelf area, Antarctica: 1962-2004, Geological Investigations Series Map I-2600-H, 2007 )

US Support for the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. The Secretary Of State. April 11, 1979 )