Feb 17, 2010


The five people who so who actually follow this blog may have noticed that's it has been rather quiet lately. This is partly due to the fact that I've been incredibly busy, but mostly due to the fact that over the last 18 months or so, I've been contemplating some big changes.

Those of you who know me personally know that I'm currently working on a a PhD in English Studies with an emphasis in Children's and Adolescent literature. When I began contemplating this degree I was recently engaged. I didn't have a child. I lived in an apartment on the edge of a sinkhole (not joking). 4 years of PhD program later, I'm a very different person.

That doesn't mean I don't want a PhD, but it does means that my life is more complicated than it was when I first envisioned this process. So for the 2010-11 academic year, I have requested and have been granted a leave of absence.

This means that the university has granted me a year of no dissertation hours(although I plan on continuing) and they will hold my assistantship. The following year, I will then have the option to come back full time and continue my assistantship or to continue part time until I finish.

This is not a decision I made lightly. This is a conversation I have been having with my advisor and handful of people for the last 18 months. I have put off making this decision for a variety of reasons because I knew it carried major implications. I did not want to make this decision in the heat of the moment, or while I was pregnant, or while I was dealing with the sleep deprivation of a newborn, but ultimately over the last year and half I have returned to the same conclusion. I need to finish my PhD for me, but my goal is not to teach in a high pressure academic environment. This does not mean that I will not continue teaching, but it does mean that I will not sacrifice my family for a teaching job that does not allow me to achieve the balance I desire.

I plan to use this next year to figure out what is best not just for me, but also for my family. I would have loved to have talked to many of you about this decision, but due to a complex process and some administration changes, I was not able to discuss it until it was officially approved by the Graduate College. My apologies to those who are caught by surprise by this decision. Academia is a politically charged world and while I would have loved to have told you all this personally, I had to ultimately ensure that I did not burn any bridges.

Sep 9, 2009

Lessons from Our President

I originally published this here because it started out as a post about buying Al Capone new books. It got picked up in a trending topic on Twitter last night and I got a couple hundred hits in ten minutes, 3 pieces of hate mail (two were really nasty, but my favorite was "You call me ignorant for keeping my child home and you named your kid Al Capone."), lots of positive comments, and probably some really confused people who ended up on my other blog thinking it was about censorship, Obama, children's literature, etc and discovered that really it was an isolated post buried among 1 million reasons I think I have the cutest baby on the planet. So I'm reposting here as well...

Those who know me, know that I feel very strongly about discussions of appropriateness and children (and their books). I write about* children's books for a living. I can honestly say that I have one of the best jobs in the world, yet on days like today I get very frustrated.

This morning President Obama spoke to school children directly. Our local newspaper ran an article about the speech and posted the entire text of the speech online and still parents went ballistic. They called school board members, they kept kids out of school, they declared it propaganda, they demanded alternative assignments, they filled the newspaper comments section with hateful and racist comments. All of this name calling and hate speech because the President of the United States wants kids to stay in school, pay attention, live up to their potential, ask questions, watch less tv, work hard, and never give up. If this is brainwashing, I'm okay with these messages.

What I'm not okay with is parents who try to take over the schools because they don't like the President. I'm not okay with teaching kids that it's okay to skip school if you don't like the person who is talking. I'm not okay with teaching kids that you don't even have to listen if you don't agree with a person. I'm not okay with teaching kids that it's okay to make up your mind before you know the whole story. I'm not okay with teaching kids that it's okay to disrespect the President, their teachers, or other adults role models. I'm not okay with teaching kids that there is only one right way of thinking or one right answer to a problem. I start every semester by telling my students that I will never ask them to agree with everyone's point of view, but I will ask them to listen and treat each other with respect. It makes me sad when I see parents who use children as an excuse to perpetuate intolerance, disrespect, and hatred.

If Al Capone was old enough to understand and watch television, I would have hoped that he would have watched in school and we would have watched again as a family after school. Since he's not old enough and won't be any time soon, I went online and bought books that are often banned or challenged by people who feel that they have the obligation to protect children from the harmful ideas like diversity. Unfortunately, he won't be able to grow up and say that he remembers when he listened to President Obama at school, but maybe he will grow up being open minded enough that when classmates or their parents try and close down conversations with narrow minded, ignorant rhetoric, he will fight back. Hopefully he will never call our President by hateful slurs because he doesn't agree with his ideologies. Hopefully, he will never make fun of a classmate who's skin or family or religion or ability is different from his own.

We can't afford to buy Al Capone all of the books that I would like him to read, but today I added a few more to his library. Here's what I got him in honor of all of the ignorant parents who think it's okay to breed hatred and intolerance in children.
  • The Family Book--because families come in all different shapes and sizes
  • And Tango Makes Three--because some of those families have two mommies or two daddies
  • The Lorax--because recycling is a good thing and we should take care of the environment
  • In the Night Kitchen--because naked baby butts are not bad
  • Halloween books--because Halloween is not the work of the devil
Obviously, this is a mishmash of books. Diversity and tolerance cannot be taught in a single book, but when children grow up with images of diversity, hopefully they do not turn into close minded adults.

*For those who don't know me well I do NOT write children's books, I write about them. I teach critical analysis of children's and adolescent literature to future teachers.