Thursday, May 31, 2007

Pass Go, Collect $200: the Paradox of the Radical or, Where the Grills Are

One of my most popular (ever) posts was on academic debt, unless you count all that negative attention I got from the Southern Cult of Balls (and Sticks): the debt piece got linked everywhere, and it had responses so numerous and interesting that I did a follow-up that also got linked elsewhere. One of my next most popular posts, only a week ago, was on publishing your first book: that has made the rounds big time, and comments keep dribbling in, days later, when everyone knows you get almost all your comments in the first 24 hours after a post.

Clearly I am on to something. What do these posts have in common? In different ways, they address the barriers to success, and the anxiety about whether those barriers are -- or are not -- surmountable.

So before I attack my Writing Work today, I would like to let you know a few things I have noticed about my own life that I would call Signs of Success, or the Paradox of the Radical. When you see them as charcteristics of your life you can begin to relinquish anxiety about certain kinds of defeat, and begin to to focus on the things not in your control (like unexpected debilitating illness, terrorism, the national debt and approaching senility). I have written them out in a meme titled:


You find yourself re-scheduling your shrink appointment to keep an appointment with the dentist. Both visits are paid for by insurance.

You do not reschedule the shrink appointment for Friday, because you must be home all day waiting for the gas grill to be delivered by Home Depot.

You are paying Home Depot $75 to assemble and deliver the grill because it seems like too much trouble to return the truck the salesman offered to rent you for $20.

You buy a shredder at Staples because you are the kind of person whose identity could usefully be stolen.

You think taking a series at the local university theater for next season, without using your credit card, is within next month's budget. You also imagine that this might be a nice way to meet gay people in your new community. As opposed to hanging out in a lesbian bar, where things do not get interesting until long after you want to go to bed.

You buy a three-hundred dollar cell phone rather than renewing your contract with the free phone because you are annoyed by dropped calls.

You pay the bills when they arrive, rather than at the end of the month when your paycheck magically appears.

You have a paycheck that comes all summer when you do not go to work.

You use the dry cleaner that is more expensive because it is right next to the highway entrance and because you would rather spend the money than take the time to make a special trip and because you don't want to iron your own shirts anymore and because you have to wear ironed shirts because you have to go to meetings and look Respectable.

You find yourself sitting on the back porch, as the sun sets and the Confederacy goes down in flames, grasping a bottle of Absolut in your fist, shaking it at the Divine Presence, and shouting "As God is my Witness, I'll never drink Smirnoff again!"

You could have an equally knowledgeable conversation with Martha Stewart about granite vs. Corion, as you could have with Allan Brinkley about the rise and fall of liberalism.

You tell your shrink about the gas grill and he says, "Welcome to the bourgeoisie."

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Passing It On: the Thinking Blogger Meme

The fabulous New Kid on the Hallway tagged me as a Thinking Blogger a few days back, and although delayed by the Memorial Day holiday (I was in the Catskills with no internet connection -- nay, as a visible sign of connection to actual people as opposed to blog people, did not even take my computer) I am now ready to do my bit. The deal is, as I understand it, that you link to the person who tagged you and then name five other bloggers as Thinking Bloggers. And then it goes on....part of what I like about this is that it is an activity that really demonstrates the colleagueship of the blogosphere in its happiest form. After all, we mostly get our readers from each other. So here goes: each of you now has the right to display the Thinking Blogger award (at left). Wear it with pride.

1. Flavia, at Ferule and Fescue. Flavia's was one of the first blogs I stumbled across, and I have been hooked ever since. If I have no time to read anyone else, it's her that I check. Flavia is the mistress of the short post -- a couple of neat paragraphs that can get a serious idea, a funny moment, an ethical problem, or a teaching issue into your head in a way that can make you turn it over all day. She is a sound thinker, and I would say some of my own posts that have captured other people' attention have been the result of Flavia making me think.

2. This is actually a group blog, informed by the Spirit of Siva. Siva and his pals are interested in mass communication, intellectual property, and the various means by which information, ideas, art and culture are passed around the world, regulated, sold and/or restricted. I met Siva years ago when he had just finished a dissertation on copyright (your first response would be, "Uh...copyright?") And our conversation (I was hiring him at the time) convinced me that he is one of those rare intellects that is way ahead of the curve about what is culturally and politically important, the kind of mind that is a great argument for the American Studies Ph.D. as a path to becoming a publicly engaged thinker. And if you read his book, Copyrights and Copywrongs you'll see what I mean. One small gripe: Siva, I am not going to make it through another Stanley Cup season with you. I understand you warned us it would be all Sabres, all the time, but omigod.

3. Gayprof, at Center of Gravitas who, even if campy, incisive critique of the academy, the world, and broken relationships is not your style, will never bore you because of the endless number of Wonder Woman covers he uses to illustrate his posts. Gayprof's adventures this year have included time away from his job, which has allowed him to get away from Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) and acquire a new job that will allow him to really start over -- perhaps not entirely away from homophobia and racism, but certainly away from the Super-Sized Texas variety that makes you think of Paul Newman eating eggs under the watchful gaze of Lee Marvin. Gayprof is among the people who I would like to have living next door, mostly because I know that if I were to gasp weakly, "You wouldn't treat me like this if I weren't crippled!" he would pause uncertainly, then smile brightly and cackle: "But 'cha *are*!" If you don't know what this refers to, start reading Gayprof before it's too late.

4. My thinking blogger list would not be complete without Dean Dad at Confessions of a Community College Dean (the picture is actually of Dean Martin, not Dean Dad, but whatever.) At a small college like Zenith, faculty and administrators are constantly rubbing up against each other and wreaking all kinds of havoc: sometimes one regards other places with "faceless" administrators as restful, so often do conflicts become unnecessarily personal. Dean Dad is, I think, on the youngish side, but is committed to a part of university work that needs smart, compassionate people who care about integrating all their constituencies: students, faculty, staff and administrators. He looks up, down and across with equal skill and displays a genial common sense that makes you want to revisit and rethink relationships to your own deans for what they might offer. Or maybe print up bumper stickers that say: "Have you hugged your dean today?"

5. Boy, this is tough, because there are so many good ones. But I'm going to go to the younger set, and send you to Notes of a Neophyte, who sometimes refers to herself as Mouse, and with whom I think I must be acquainted, but I'll be damned if I can say who she is. Mouse just spent a lot of time in France, and is now applying to graduate school and, whether it is her basic personality or hanging out with the Motley Blogging Crew on line, has a refreshingly wry take on the whole project of higher education. Not to mention politics. Mouse is also author of a number of unforgettable phrases, one of which I have adopted: "Jesus lapdancing Christ." This is to be used as an exclamation. Best of luck in your quest, Mouse. Don't lose your sense of humor.

So now you guys are up: I'm getting back to my book. Good luck, and good reading.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Summer Reading List

Please note that I finished Debby Applegate's, The Most Famous Man in America, and it is a Great Read. It is now out in paper, and I recommend you take it on vacation.

Remember I said in the previous post that gay and lesbian books sell like little hotcakes? Well, the Radical's new featured book (which I am taking on my weekend retreat to the country house of another historian) is a good example. If you are, just now, choosing a dissertation topic, read this book, because it demonstrates how you can make choices (even as a graduate student, the time where it seems all choices have been made for you!) that make your life more pleasant and possibly more lucrative. Karen Krahulik's Provincetown represents the following good choices:

1. Choosing a fun summer resort as the place to do your research. Can't beat that with a stick. It's almost like being a Europeanist, but without having to read bad handwriting in your second language.

2. A queer book topic that queers will buy and read in large numbers. If you can find any of the remaining queer bookstores, you will see a lot of academic stuff on the shelves that will be purchased by non-academics, often by people with no college or high school degree at all who are voracious readers. Speculation on why this is so may appear in another post, but it has something to do with a long period of time when knowing anything about any kind of homosex required research on the part of those coming out, since all information about perverse sexuality was withheld by the state, and by those agents of the state, schools and parents. And don't forget that bookstores, even post-Stonewall, were one place where queers of any age could meet each other and have actual sex. Then maybe read about it too.

3. A book about a summer resort which anyone who lives in, summers in or visits will want to buy and/or give as a house present and/or take home as a souvenir. You could probably extend that to all of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. And when you think of the number of academics who summer in those places, what a way to get a book into the hands of people who might learn to appreciate you. I mean, wow.

4. A book about a place that most cultural and literary historians know is important, but that no one had yet devoted the time to write a community study of.

5. A short book. Thank you, Karen. Would that other people were more like you.

If you like Karen's book and want to get email from her regularly, go to the Committee on Lesbian and Gay History website (CLGH) and join this affiliate of the American Historical Association. Karen is the chair and corresponding secretary. A lifetime membership is only $150: you can buy a yearly membership for a piddling amount that, annoyingly, you will have to renew every year for another, less-piddling amount. But $150 is a steal, when you consider that a lifetime membership to the Organization of American Historians costs ten times that sum.

Or less of a steal, when you consider that last year the lifetime membership cost $100, but how could you have known? Stop berating yourself and write the check, for God's Sake. And *do not* compare this sum to the fact that in 1885 a lifetime membership to the AHA cost $25, and an annual membership cost $5. One imagines that the Founding Fathers weren't sure the AHA would last. Imagine how clever people like Frederick Jackson Turner felt by 1900! Well, you can feel the same way by joining CLGH now.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ever Wondered How to....Find A Publisher?

I had this conversation with one of my favorite untenured colleagues the other day, and at the end of it, s/he said: "Everyone tells you how important it is to get your book out before tenure, but no one has ever given me advice on how to find a publisher before." Shocking, but true. And this is at Zenith, where people publish a fair amount.

So this is what I said. Please add comments that are field-specific, that respond to things you see I have left out or that amend my errors.

1. Simplest advice first: map the publishing terrain of your field. Who is well known for its list and publishes books like the one you are writing? Which presses are considered desirable by others? With whom do the people you admire in your field publish? This should give you a short list of 5-7 presses on which you focus your efforts, always allowing for other presses to make themselves known to you. Go on the web, find their websites, and explore. Get a sense of which ones are a good fit for you.

2. Ask your senior colleagues at your own institution who they publish with, and whether they have an editor they like. Don't limit this query to your own department: I got to my first press, Rutgers, through a sociology colleague far senior to me, whose office was across the hall. She had an editor who she thought was intelligent and aggressive. Furthermore, when this colleague said she had been treated well by the press I took it seriously since she was well-known for her diva -- I mean, discerning -- personality.

3. Whatever presses you approach initially, get a personal connection. University presses are far more responsive than commercial presses (which aren't, unless you've got an agent, and even then....) When you write to the editor -- and you can send an email, but don't paste your book proposal into the body of the email -- mention this person in the first line. "Professor Famous thought you might be interested in my book," is something you wish to say right up front. Don't be shy. The editor will agree to talk to you (who are perhaps Entirely Unknown) *because* you appear to be a protege of Famous's, or someone who has merely impressed Famous in passing, because s/he wants Famous to come back to the press with her next book. Or s/he respects Famous's judgement and knows Famous wouldn't pass on a lemon.

4. Let's assume that two or three presses have written back and said they are interested. How do you winnow the list? One of my top categories is, who does the prettiest book? After all, you are a book lover, otherwise you wouldn't do this for a living, and it is your dream to publish. So your book should have artifact quality. This criterion is followed by, does the press have a reputation for quick turnaround and Getting Things Done? This includes the category, does the editor have a reputation for getting the projects out that s/he is behind? Then there is marketing. Do they take out a lot of ads in professional publications, the Nation's spring and fall book issues, and conference programs? Do they actually seem to get their books in stores where intellectuals shop? In other words, friend, you want to sell books -- and not just for the money, which is usually insignificant, but for your Reputation. You desperately want to be Read By Others.

Ok, so you have chosen your top press, and now you have to send them the manuscript. Make sure you --

1. Do *not* send an unrevised dissertation to a press. There is a little fad nowadays of young (and not so young) scholars sending off unrevised, or frankly rough, work to presses so that they can get free advice and an advance contract. This is advice you should be getting from your friends and colleagues, not readers for the press who are doing their work for peanuts. And this is how many peanuts we get: between $75 and $150 in cash, or double the sum in books. And it takes at least a day to review a manuscript properly. So these are sweatshop wages. Don't take advantage of us: better you should ask one of us to read your work out of the goodness of the old ticker, as Bertie Wooster would say.

2. Send a CLEAN revised manuscript. Proof it thoroughly, don't have those annoying footnotes that say things like "What book is this? Burden mbe? chk." The first time my second book went out, thinking that having been published once before earned me a little flex, I completely pissed off one of my readers who was, by the end of the review, not just angry but demoralized, and a little repentent for how vile s/he had been in the two page screed that spoke of endless frustrations with -- you guessed it -- my beautiful mind that seemed to be firing on too few cylinders when I imagined the manuscript was ready to be viewed. The other reviewer didn't seem to care, thought I was smart and worthy of his time despite the typos and occasional chronological issues. Go fucking figure. But since you do not know who the reviewers are (and guessing is a losers game) I now know that there is someone out there who thinks I am the Phyllis Diller of the historical profession. And you have more to lose -- I, after all, actually have tenure, and you don't yet.

3. DO send your revised, clean manuscript to a press before you know it is perfect (because in the end, you will have to revise it again) but send it to only one press. I have to tell you, unless you have a reputation or an agent already, making university presses compete for your first book is kind of cheesy. And the biggest bump in the advance you are going to get is maybe $5,000. And only then if you are doing something widely marketable, like gay and lesbian history, that sells like little hotcakes to gays and lesbians without Ph.D.'s. If you do insist on multiple submissions, you must inform all presses that this is what you are doing. And you should probably inform the person or people who gave you the introduction in the first place, because many people consider this practice rude.

4. Do not make an advance contract a deal breaker. Fewer presses are giving them out nowadays, because they are stupid, and everyone knows that such a contract is binding to you but not the press. As Susan Ware (who has had many book contracts) once told me, "An advance contract is like a training bra -- there's nothing in it." Say it, sister.

Need advice from the Radical? She's full of it. Send your questions to tenuredDOTradicalATgmailDOTcom. How else am I going to procrastinate?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Few Little Things, All Important, But None Important Enough for A Post of Their Own

What I had really decided to do today was work on a little talk I am supposed to give on Saturday about teaching Queer Studies for Zenith alums and parents of graduating seniors. In order that this not go into the category labeled No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, I determined a while back to use this presentation as an opportunity to write a short, pleasant article about building queer studies as a concentration in American Studies at a liberal arts institution that is unlikely to dedicate more than a line or so to any interdisciplinary field. Such fields rely on people trained in something else entirely switching over and becoming, shall we say, Transscholarly.

I don't emphasize Zenith's limited resources to be churlish: it is simply a Fact, and a Fact to be Dealt With as creatively and cheerfully as possible lest there be research I am unaware of concluding that griping is a major cause of gum disease in academics. As part of the power of positive thinking, said article will, I hope, go off to some smallish, likeable journal such as Radical Teacher, or perhaps a large-ish likeable journal that wil raise my profile in the field, like American Quarterly. Who knows? But the summer will start off with a bang, as the article goes whisking off into the ether, to return in six months as something foreign, destined for revision.

But now what I have done to myself is this. Instead of going to this event and doing it more or less off the top of my head -- or more accurately, from a set of notes jotted down that morning -- I have become ambitious, and hence, mulish about actually sitting down to work on it. Things fly in and out of my brain a mile a minute, things I could imagine finishing in a shorter period of time: submitting the project grant I had decided not to do; finish reading what I have come to call "my Beecher book" (see book advertised on the left), a project stalled by grading, but which will take only a little focus to accomplish; rip up the asphalt path to the front door and see if we have lovely nineteenth century stone underneath as others in the neighborhood do. Or blog.

So here are a few little things that have been rattling around on my virtual desk, with appropriate links:

Undine, at Not of General Interest has a great post comparing participation in conferences to broccoli. I agree with her completely, but would substitute parsnips for broccoli, as I have grown to love the latter, having become convinced by Dr. Andrew Weil that I would not get cancer if I made broccoli a regular part of my diet. I believe that parsnips prevent cancer too, and I like the way they taste, except that the house always smells faintly of urine after I cook them, so I buy them, put them in the fridge, and let them rot slowly instead.

Oh -- and no vegetable really helps you fight cancer in my world if it isn't organic. And conferences, as far as I know, are sometimes annoying but entirely non-carcinogenic.

I have been quite remiss in calling attention to this, but Tony Grafton had a nice piece in the AHA's monthly newsletter, Perspectives, about history bloggers. It includes some links to historians' blogs, including yours truly. Thanks, pal.

If you have no time to read the international news, and you want someone else who is smart and progressive to do it for you, check into this blog by a Zenith colleague of mine, Jonathan Cutler.

And while you are cruising about, check out this post about joining the AHA by squadratomagico. Probably the other medievalists know why she chose that name, but it's a great post in a great blog. Which reminds me: although I have some of the ambivalence about history's status as a discipline that squadratomagico does (based in part on my own interdisciplinary nature, and modern history's own professional past as an interdisciplinary mix of political economy, law, narrative history and economics) part of the reason I don't like belonging to the AHA is that it costs so damn much, and I only find about a third to a half of what is published in the American Historical Review relevant. Hence, I recycle it almost immediately, as I do all journals now because they are easily obtainable on the web.

BTW: I am sure the rest of the articles are relevant to other scholars in other fields. Or people who simply have More Time. Like graduate students or expectant mothers ordered to bed rest.

Sometimes I just throw the damn AHR away after skimming the book reviews, reading book reviews being the main way those of us with no graduate students keep up with what is being published. This makes me wish I could just read the AHR on the web in the first place and never have it come into the house at all. Perspectives, the AHA monthly newsletter, I am less ambivalent about because it is very short, but I would read that on the web too if they lowered my dues and my carbon footprint by witholding paper copies of everything they publish. Just saying.

Now I am going to save oodles of time, thus reserving those hours for productive work (on this topic, see a continuing series by Lumpenprofessoriat on the use-value of blogging) by just putting this post up without looking for amusing pictures.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bye, Bye Bertie: A Meditation on Political Theater

The title of this post is my witty response to George Bush, your president, who has said that a vote of "no confidence" in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be "pure political theater" on the part of Congress. For the full story from NPR reporter Don Gonyea, go here.

Now, I don't know about the "pure political theater" part. What seems to me to be pure political theater are the Whitewater hearings and/or Monicagate. Or pretending to fly a fighter jet and then pretending to make an aircraft landing and then standing under a sign that says "Mission Accomplished," in an airman's suit, when the mission is not in the least accomplished. Political theater is what happens on Fox News political talk shows where administration lackeys who work for the network scream at guests *they* invited to the show, call them stupid and tell them to shut up.

Personally, I don’t think Alberto Gonzales belongs in that class of performer. I'm not even clear he is such a bad attorney general, except for using the Patriot Act to violate the civil rights of citizens and non-citizens alike, which was bad, you must admit. Oh yes, and promoting the idea that non-citizens have no rights a white man must respect. That too was bad. But I'm not sure about the firings of those federal prosecutors. One of the things I love about the scandal of the Eight (or the Nine, depending on if you count the fella who resigned before he could be fired, and not to be confused with the Three, who used play lacrosse for Duke) is that Republicans *and* Democrats are acting as though this has never happened before in living memory. Fire a Federal employee because s/he initiated an investigation that could be politically compromising? Who would do such a thing?

So acting in my capacity as a professional (I like to pronounce that "perfessional" just like the President does) historian, I have come up with a list of Attorneys General who did worse things and/or were more corrupt than Alberto Gonzales. My idea is that this piece of political theater could be a musical. The plot would revolve around poor Bert, trying to decide whether to resign, and AG's from the past would come back, tell their stories in song, and give him advice. In true Thornton Wilder style, Arlen Specter and Patrick Leahy could be "the stage managers." George Bush would not appear, but occasionally his voice would boom into the audience: "This is pure political theater!"

The other characters would be:

Edward Bates, Abraham Lincoln's attorney general between 1861 and 1864, who looks in this picture like the former owner of the Bates Motel, but this was actually pretty conventional for the mid-nineteenth century and no one was frightened by it. Bates was the man who told the President it would be perfectly ok to suspend habeas corpus. It was not perfectly ok. And we are living with the consequences of it today in Guantanamo prison and various secret CIA hellholes around the globe.

Attorneys General Amos T. Akerman, George H. Williams, Edwards Pierrepont and Alphonso Taft, who were appointed by Ulysses S. Grant and presided over two of the most corrupt administrations in the history of the United States, except perhaps for the current one. The high point, perhaps, was the Credit Mobilier scandal, which was uncovered by the New York Sun in 1872 in a vain attempt to prevent the re-election of Grant. Credit Mobilier was the Halliburton of its day and was exactly what it sounded like: money (in the form of Union Pacific stock) moving around Washington in suitcases and ending up in the hands of Congressmen who voted to sell the American West to the rail road for peanuts.

Alexander Mitchell Palmer, appointed by Woodrow Wilson, and responsible for the infamous Palmer Raids, in which the civil liberties of immigrants and radicals were abrogated in the name of national security. Remind you of any other period in history?

Harry M. Daugherty, appointed by Warren Harding in 1921, and acquitted of charges of trying to defraud the government during the Teapot Dome Scandal in 1924. And yet – why were Department of Justice operatives delivering money in suitcases for the administration and burgling congressional offices in their spare time? And how was it that the party that pushed Prohibition elected a President who kept an openly “wet” White House without the man responsible for enforcing Prohibition knowing about it?

John Mitchell and Richard Kleindienst appointed by Richard Nixon. Enough said. Icky, icky, icky.

Edwin Meese appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1985. Does the word “WedTech” mean anything to you? This was the Credit Mobilier -- or the Halliburton --scandal of the 1980’s. One or the other. And Meese also wasted millions of U.S. dollars investigating the distribution of pornography as cover for Ronald Reagan's inability to do the two main things he had promised the evangelical right wing: presidential acts banning abortion and establishing school prayer. Oops.

Now, imagine all these fellas on stage, singing their advice to Alberto Gonzales at the top of their lungs. I want Tony Kushner to write the book with me, and maybe Stephen Trask, of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” fame, to do the music and perform it live on stage. This would all give it a truly queer twist.

Now that’s political theater, friends. George Bush ain’t seen nothing yet.

Friday, May 18, 2007

More On Credit Card Nation: Perspective from A Student Who Is Now One Of "Us"

I often get great comments, but if you don't go back to older posts to see who has checked in, look at comment number eight on my last blog entry. It is from a former Zenith student, who I am happy to say, has finished graduate school and has a job. It offers a thoughtful perspective on all of the issues my post, and the comments, raised about student debt. It also discusses the ways faculty can assist students in need without stigmatizing any individual who is underfunded. I particularly like the part where she uses the teaching of economic history to help students think about the ethical dimensions of being in a debt relationship, and her mentoring of students trying to become more powerful and knowledgeable in relationship to debt. But as she also points out, faculty need to take an ethical stance in the debt situation as well, and we can make choices in our teaching, without compromising high-quality pedagogy, that support students who are trying to keep to a budget. We can also be alert to how student services of various kinds are, or are not, actually meeting the needs of underfunded students and, in the spirit of a queerer analysis, not presume that the "normal" student is able to meet the financial obligations of an education without formal and informal help.

And the part about not having enough food is something that I had honestly never thought about. If that is true -- and I have no doubt it is -- then I would add that another thing department chairs like myself can do is make sure that when we have receptions, make sure the food is good quality, so that students in need are not living on potato chips, soda, cookies and pizza. Always make sure students are invited to take extra food home with them after events. And be very aware that it is at the end of term, when students need their energy most, that the money for food may be running out.

One of the issues this comment also raises implicitly, which I did not talk about in the earlier post, is that students can be very focused on the present, and have very little concept about what it means to repay a debt that is larger than a mortgage, perhaps larger than the income their parents see for three or four years running. They are, in other words, sitting ducks for predatory lenders.

Very smart, and a very highly developed ethical sensibility. And if I am not mistaken as to who this former student (now colleague) is, you should have your own blog, Girl. The Radical glows with reflected joy at your obvious accomplishments as an intellectual at this stage of your career.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

College in Credit Card Nation

Having just made it through one college admission season in Credit Card Nation, I am bracing for the next. One of the down sides of being involved in the Higher Ed Biz is that people with college-age children believe or hope that we who are on The Job can give some kind of useful advice about how to get into a great school. This often leaves the Radical in a tough spot. For example, I honestly don't know why people do or do not get into Zenith, since I imagine, like everything else, it changes from year to year and I haven't seen a first-year file for four years. And even if I had, I still couldn't tell you. Different applicants fill different instutional desires, and those desires are not always predictable. My students exhibit a range of talents and abilities about which I cannot generalize in any useful way, or translate into a "good" application. Some write well; others write poorly. Some are good at managing school; others might be better off renting a loft and creating art full-time. Some seem like unusually original thinkers, others are as conventional, and as successful, as Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. But I have no idea *why* any of them got in. Or why other talented students whose heart's desire was to climb Zenith's heights did not.

And of course there is that nice lady at MIT who could get other people into college, but didn't go herself. Maybe that's the ticket: work your way to the top instead of going to college, like Horatio Alger.

But I digress. This summer, the aspirants will begin to descend again: the children of friends; or the children of friends of friends; or the children of colleagues at Big Research Institutions, people who would never want to work at anything but an R-I school but who are clear that their children will get a better shot at a good education at a small school. And at least half of those who actually come to Zenith will be paying the bill with borrowed money, something they will try not to think about now.

I will admit that I do know some things about the choices available in higher education: for example, why you would choose a place *like* Zenith rather than an equally selective big university. I can also offer my view on, specifically, what the specific strengths and weaknesses of Zenith are at this moment in time. But honestly, much as I do think we offer an excellent education, I don't know why anyone would choose a private school over a public school nowadays, when the bill for a student entering Zenith and its peer institutions in the fall will be close to $200K for four years. And when they are going to pay up to 9% interest on at least half that money for several decades.

Note: this is one reason why some of us don't have children. If I had that much money, I would want to spend it on myself. And now that I have seen Julie Christie do the mental dissolve in front of her husband's eyes in "Away From Her" I also know I wouldn't spend that money on assisted living either.

I'm thinking Paris. Or early retirement. Or early retirement in Paris.

Anyway, back to colleges. Thanks to the muck-raking Andrew Cuomo and the string he pulled in New York state that is unravelling the national sweater, I would advise everyone who is sending a child to college to shop for a student loan like they would shop for a gas grill or a car. How about those Republican bastards, having cleaned out the elderly, the sick and the poor, going after students too? The latest bunch of criminals to fall into the net are Sallie Mae and JP Morgan. Of course, the name Morgan should all make us think "robber baron" anyway, so who's surprised? And Sallie Mae, in addition to making loans to captive audiences that will never make a nickel without a B.A., also issues a credit card, which should cause people to smell a rat. Presumably, you can also charge your books and airline tickets at up to 30% interest, now the highest legal commercial lending rate permitted by -- you guessed it, a Republican Congress that repeatedly raised the ceiling on interest rates.

Come to think of it, why have we made student loans a for-profit industry at all? Sorry, I forgot. The free market. An end to government supporting the weak, the poor and the oppressed. Better to be Credit Card Nation than Wimp Nation.

Well wait -- back off the cynicism a minute, Radical. I guess we *were* surprised that the colleges and universities themselves, non-profit institutions all, were actually getting paid to allow education lenders to rip off college and graduate students. Who knew?

Surprise! As it turns out, the Department of Education in a Republican Administration knew at least four years ago, although this is a story that has not been particularly well covered except on National Public Radio, where you can listen to part of the hearings. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings who, like everybody else in the Bush cabinet now spends her time either testifying before a congressional committee or preparing to do so, was unable to respond adequately last Thursday when George Miller (D-California) asked her why the Department knew about the "gifts" (aka, graft, or kickbacks) given to financial aid officers and did nothing to stop it. You can also read about it here, thanks to a link to the Guardian's story from Anya Kamenetz's excellent blog Generation Debt (methinks there is a book too, but start with the blog.)

You will be glad to know the Democratic Congress has just passed legislation to stop this gift-giving, although they have not yet taken action to end the gifts they and their re-election campaigns receive. Another day, perhaps.

You will also be glad to know that, luckily for the students who are already saddled with these loans, there is a built-in way to pay them back in less than twenty or thirty years. You can join the military and earn from partial to full repayment of your loans by getting parts of your body shot off in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Truly Amazing Observation About College Drinking That No Research Could Have Predicted!

There is a Zenith college blog I read regularly, in part because they once linked me and in part because, in addition to its role as a bulletin board for campus events, it has very funny posts from time to time, and is an excellent example of how well students write when they are allowed to do things that please them. Sometimes I think I should teach a class where, instead of turning in papers, students all do blogs instead, except if I made them do it, it wouldn't be their choice anymore and I would ruin blogging for them too.

Anyway. Previous to a live band event traditionally held after the last day of classes called Spring Fling, there was a post on this Zenith blog explaining how Public Safety was going to police student drinking and smoking through a system of barriers and wristbands. It also explained that it would be difficult to impossible to evade the ban by burying kegs, since Public Safety would also have metal detectors to locate them (unless they were made from plastic) previous to the start of festivities.

I thought they were kidding. I really, really thought they were kidding. But it turns out, unless they are pulling our leg, as you can see from the picture on the left the Zenith bloggers were not kidding, and the little scamps do bury kegs in the designated area to evade the drinking regulations. These rules, for those of us in the overaged audience who may not comprehend, mean you can't drink if you are under age and don't have a wristband; or if you do have a wristband, not bringing in a greater volume of alcoholic beverages than one person can reasonable consume. Which would be, frankly, two or three beers. Unless you drank those beers in an hour or less, in which case that would not be reasonable. Or if you drank them over six hours in which case it would be less than reasonable. Or unless you were on acid, in which case (if I remember correctly and of course, I couldn't, could I?) you could really drink a lot of beers for about twelve hours and it wouldn't affect you much at all, in the scheme of things, as long as you stayed in one place. You figure it out.

And like squirrels, apparently students sometimes forget where they have buried the keg. I'm only glad Public Safety did find it, otherwise wouldn't kegs start exploding as they froze over the winter and then began to thaw next spring? One can only imagine the carnage. And the waste of cheap beer.

Now I am sure this is my opportunity to piss off a number of people at Zenith who are tasked with policing the students' moral habits, people who do not wish to be mocked for merely doing their job. But -- and I will say this in the most neutral way I can -- I think that policing student drinking is a huge waste of time and is probably responsible for students drinking more, and less safely, than they have since the nineteenth century because they learn to drink by sneaking around and getting blasted in private. Which makes college a lot like high school. Or being Judy Garland, minus the Dexedrine and the crowds of adoring gay men.

And it is worth pointing out, as I am a professional historian and my social role is to remind people of why they do things, that these drinking rules did not come about because we believed in them as educators. No, no, no. In fact, we liked going out for a beer with our students after seminar to keep the conversation going in a less formal way, something we are no longer permitted to do, even as we are exhorted to spend more quality time with our students. Student drinking as a respectable way of whiling away the hours (and, I might add, activity to be done sometimes with adults who could model restraint) was ended as part of a general attack on "the counterculture" and higher education that acompanied the conservative counterrevolution of the 1980's. The only reason we police student drinking now is that in his first administration, Ronald Reagan forced states to raise the drinking age to 21 or risk losing their federal highways money. And then in the second administration, Reagan forced institutions of higher education to adopt strict drug and alcohol policies or risk losing *their* federal money. And this meant that colleges like Zenith became responsible, and culpable, for student inebriation and chemical indulgence.

I am sure Zenith's policies are no less incoherent than anyone else's, but isn't it time to ackowledge that policing student drinking has failed miserably? That it is a sham? A finger-wagging Potemkin Policy that stands in for real engagement with the young?

Not that conservatives think the state should interfere in anyone's private business you understand. Which is good because, according to government sources, it appears that the implementation of all these new rules have almost exactly correllated with a dramatic increase in substance abuse on college campuses.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lifting As We Climb (with all due respect to Anna Julia Cooper)

Today's thoughts are about Leadership.

Dean Dad has a new post up about mediating an emotion-laden disagreement between a faculty member and a fellow dean. It is an extremely lucid account of how he became aware of the conflict in the first place, how he collected information about it, and how he came to know that the two people had misunderstood each other and had acted on that misunderstanding, thus setting up a contest over authority. He then describes the actions he took to set everything straight. Because students were involved, and graduation requirements at stake, it was potentially quite messy (and even messier, I can imagine, at a community college where, unlike Zenith, students are often juggling a full work schedule, the college schedule, course availability, and graduation requirements.) The kind of conflict he describes is one that everyone will recognize having participated in at some point, regardless of where they work, and the description of it demonstrates that every bad situation offers an opportunity for leadership, as well as less good choices which are often easier to make. Or as Charlie Brown used to say, "You can be the Hero. Or you can be the Goat."

To translate: you can be a Leader or you can watch two people fight to the death. Dean Dad chose to be a Leader.

It is quite a graceful post, and I recommend it to all, particularly since Dean Dad argues that one criterion for someone becoming a department chair is the capacity to contain the impulse to go nuclear at imagined, or even real, slights. This is a particularly good moment for me to muse on this topic, since those individuals currently in charge of the Program and the Center to which it is attached are getting ready to hand their jobs over to me, and that process begins today at lunch. Coincidentally, before I logged into Dean Dad, I had been driving home from my rowing club and listening to Morning Edition on NPR. One of the segments addressed cynicism in the workplace (another informed us that wearing flip-flops and clothing that reveals your underwear to work is inadvisable. Take note, Zenith grads: no visible boxers or bras.) The segment offered a number of useful pieces of advice: encourage colleagues to speak up and ask people for solutions, rather than cultivating their criticisms and complaints, were two of them. What particularly stuck for me was this advice to what business people call the "team leader," but what we in academia might call the chair, the divisional dean, or the President: "Don't convey cynicism or pessimism yourself. Leaders of teams can have a strong positive or negative influence on team morale."

Followers of this blog know that, directly and indirectly, the Program has taken some hits this year (yet another landed in our laps yesterday) and may take more before the year is out, hits that endanger a carefully built and nurtured curriculum to which we are very committed. We have gradually seen those gains eroded, although probably not permanently, and rebuilding is a daunting, discouraging and difficult task. My recently established blogging ethic forbids me being specific about what has happened but to characterize, while our current leadership has ably guided us through a difficult year, it is I who will have to pick up the pieces, with very few faculty (because of leaves and losses) to help.

But this is where I have to take to heart some of the advice I have received by chance today. First, the loss of faculty when they do not get tenure and you don't agree with the decision may make you want to roar out of your office and start (metaphorically, of course) knocking heads, but I have come to believe that acting on that kind of rage is very stressful for me and accomplishes little. And of course the hiring of temporary faculty to cover losses is time-consuming and often unsatisfying (when was the last time you tried to supervise between two and four more or less novice teachers at the same time as running not one, but two, administrative units?) so if you really think about it, that is enraging too. But that we actually have the faculty available to us is one ray of light or, as my financial advisor would say, "Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick." Furthermore, it signifies that our dean recognizes our plight and has helped us staunch the flow. And I have to take the perspective that it is *his* budget that is on steroids at this point, not either of mine. Here I would extrapolate, both from Dean Dad and the NPR piece, and say: this is the time to go visit the dean, acknowledge how he has helped us so far, and ask for his further help in staying on top of this situation and conveying its gravity to the provost's office. To not do so risks him believing that his efforts to date are underappreciated; to do so incorporates him, his resources, and his intellect, in my -- our -- struggle.

So after I finish lunch, I shall do just that: make an appointment for my next lunch. With the Dean.

But I would like to make another point too: it is wise, I have found, to disaggregate administrators one from another in everything one says and does when in a faculty leadership position, and to do otherwise is inevitably polarizing. So if you are annoyed about a policy or a decision, target the person who actually made it if you must, but do not curse "the administration" as a whole. This is not only strategically quite imperfect, but it alienates a lot of people who aren't responsible for your problem and feeds a resentment of faculty by administrators that is pretty intense on its own. One feature of this I have noted is that, as my blog is more widely read on my own campus, I have heard from a number of my administrative colleagues about ways they feel slighted by various posts -- not as individuals but, as we might say in Radical-speak, a *class.* I think this is quite telling, particularly since these have not been posts which were critical of administrators (as opposed to my posts on the T & P, a body which I criticize openly, relentlessly, and without remorse. Disaggregate yourselves, why don't you?) But the criticism was inferred all the same. Furthermore, the people who have had the courtesy to write and say what they are thinking are those people with whom I would say I have good relationships. So if those folks are on edge, Goddess knows how many other administrative colleagues are fuming about your beloved Radical.

To return to cynicism and leadership: if ever there was a moment for the director of the Program to be cynical, this would be it, I've got to say. So it was very helpful to be reminded that if I lose my common sense, so goeth a great many other people who will be better served next year by some confidence, no matter how thin, that I, and we, are doing something constructive to repair the damage and move on. Because really, unless we are going to sacrifice the joy in what we do, it's the only choice.


For those of you who didn't know, Michael Berube is back and bloggin'! Welcome home, Professor B.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

For (Some) Other Things, There's VISA

Tuition for a year at Zenith: $36,000

What forty students each paid in cash and loans for my lecture course: $4,500

Average sum spent on books for the course: $100

Look on my students' faces when I told them that I knew how hard they had worked all term and the final was optional:


Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Dreaded Annual Report

One of the great chores of the year is writing an annual report. What makes this necessary at Zenith is that hideous phrase: “merit pay.” I will get back to the concept of merit pay in another post, but let’s begin with the task at hand, since when I am not grading or watching "The Tudors" or handicapping the Kentucky Derby, I am dreading the moment when I must write the Annual Report. The only thing worse is being a chair or a dean and having to not just write a report, but read everyone else's.

Writing an annual report begins with the notion that you can actually remember what you did in the previous academic year, and why it was important. This is an art in and of itself, and the only reason I am half good at it (since I have a horrible memory) is that my father, years ago, possibly when I was a teenager, impressed upon me the importance of updating one’s curriculum vita regularly. Therefore, when I do something, or when there is a change in the status of something I have written, as it floats from desk to desk out there, I try to go back into my vita and alter that entry, noting the date on which said change occurred. This means that theoretically I can go back and track my scholarship and committee assignments simply by looking at the dates and noting down everything that occurred after July 1 of the previous academic year.

Are we done? Not so fast. How about teaching? Well, should I have taught a new course (which I did this spring), it would be noted in the report, with special emphasis if my efforts responded to a curricular need articulated by someone else -- an outside review committee, a program, or (ahem) the chair or the dean. Teaching the same old course, even in a revised form, isn’t necessarily so meritorious, in my view. How about number of students taught and advised? Well, that is tricky. I have never noticed that the extraordinary number of students I have taught and advised in the past has moved Zenith to give me a bigger raise, although I did once get a teaching award that came with a nice check. In fact, past salary letters have tended not to mention teaching and advising except in passing, and there is a real reluctance at all levels to discuss the fact that some of us teach a great deal more than others of us. So then you have to say to yourself, Will emphasizing my teaching cause people to take me *less* seriously as a scholar? I know this is hard cheese, but my answer is, under most institutional circumstances, yes. So I make sure that, while my teaching is fairly represented, that this section isn’t any longer than the scholarship section.

But don’t puff up the scholarship section with your aspirations. One thing I am absolutely clear about is that going on and on about works in progress is not worth the time, and projecting when articles and books will be finished, while important to you, is something that anyone in authority will take with a grain of salt. Yes, you should count up your research trips, describe them briefly, and say what they have contributed to ongoing projects, in part because reassuring both your chair and your dean that you are using your research money to good purpose is probably the least you can do to ensure a healthy research budget in the interim years before the next book comes out. But anything that has not left your house (book proposals, drafts of manuscripts, conference proposals) – and worse – anything that has not even been begun, should not be part of the report. It looks – well, desperate, in a way. All of us, if we are being honest, know how many slips there are between a great idea and actually sitting down to do the research and write a draft that can be sent to readers.

So here are some Do’s and Do not’s, drawn from my experience as a chair: other chairs, former chairs, and administrators should feel free to add their own in the comments section for our greater edification, particularly when my advice is less applicable to institutions different from Zenith. Or wrong.

DO say what your class enrollments were, particularly if you over enrolled and there is a great demand in your field. There is no point in hiding it if you are working very hard in the classroom and, particularly if you are not yet tenured, alerting your chair to how popular (or overextended) you are is not entirely wasted.

DO NOT expect anyone to reward you for this. My experience is that over enrolling is something that younger teachers (or faculty who see teaching as a political commitment) do because it is flattering to be appreciated, because it is work that has immediate payback and because sending students away is an emotionally difficult task that people only learn to do more easily as they age and as they are allowed, post-tenure, to deploy their energies in a more self-conscious and self-protective way. Over time, particularly post-tenure, it is not unlikely that you will come to be regarded as a masochist (and not sufficiently scholarly) for over enrolling. You will not be seen as you see yourself: as someone who is taking one for the team and putting your students first. Most of all, in your annual report – DO NOT compare your teaching load to those of other colleagues who seem to be teaching less. Even if you are right to be aggrieved, this isn't the way to address it.

DO note down every single piece of committee work you did.

DO NOT overemphasize the importance of committees that met once or twice, that did not require any kind of intensive work, or were purely symbolic in nature.

DO call attention to all talks and scholarly presentations you gave.

DO NOT list the brown-bag lunch you gave for the majors committee in your “scholarship” section. No matter what you may have learned from students about your work in progress, this is a co-curricular activity similar to teaching, not an exchange with scholarly peers.

DO make sure that every manuscript currently active and on its way to publication is noted with accuracy. For example, “forthcoming” means that it has been accepted, there is a publication date, and the next time you will see it will be in what passes for galleys nowadays. “Accepted” means that the journal will print it, pending minor revisions. “Resubmitted” means that you have been invited to make revisions, that you have reader’s reports in hand that were the basis of those revisions, and that you do not know if it will be accepted. “Asked for revisions,” means that you have readers’ reports in hand but have not begun to redraft the piece. And “submitted,” means just that. You don’t know what the heck is up.

DO NOT, intentionally or unintentionally, mislead or obfuscate any of the above categories, even if a journal editor has given you a verbal cue that everything is going to be ok. Not only do you not know what casual conversation your work might come up in between a colleague and someone outside the university, but just because you have all the best intentions of submitting that article right after you finish your annual report, doesn’t mean you will. My father also told me that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

DO be clear on where you are with your book, whether there is research left to do, and what your current timetable for finishing is.

DO NOT go on and on about a project for which no book or grant proposal has been submitted. It may be a really good idea, but you get paid for books and articles, not ideas that haven’t taken shape yet. And you don’t want to become known for being a person who spins yarns about projects that may or may not come to pass. Unless you are Charles Tilly, who really does publish constantly and must have multiple projects in the hopper at all times, there is something that seems mildly demented about listing three or four projects that are just a gleam in your eye as "works in progress."

DO report on the conferences at which you have presented. You may also wish to mention the conferences you have merely attended: this is called Being Engaged, and particularly if you are at a public university with a high teaching load, this can often represent a significant commitment of your limited time and energy even if you didn't give a paper. You should also note where you have submitted panels or presentations, and when you expect to hear about them.

DO NOT brag about famous people on your panel. “Gave paper at the Blah-de-blah Meeting on panel chaired by Dr. Fabulous” is just cheesy – and we all know that Dr. Fabulous didn’t agree to chair just because you were on the panel. In fact, resist the tendency to include famous people in your report *period*, unless you have actually been working in a formal partnership with that person. "Gave talk at the Institute for Advanced Study" is dignified; "Invited by Joan Scott to give a talk at the Institute for Advanced Study" is undignified.

And finally, when you get your raise, whatever it is:

DO put a portion of it in your retirement fund, unless you are basically living on your credit card already. My father's advice was half. But you might want to ask your own father.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

How Funny is This?

Yesterday someone left a comment on my review of the second episode of "The Tudors," which was -- if you go look at it-- about certain sex acts supposedly characteristic of the French, and the consequences of said acts on European political history. Except, of course, the comment is in German, and I can't read it. My first response was (naturally) how ill-educated I feel when confronted with German, since like many people I tried to learn it in graduate school and then switched to Spanish, a language I was more likely to use as an Americanist anyway. No matter, I thought; I'll print it out and take it to today's history department meeting, where I am sure my newly-tenured colleague in German history will do a rough sight translation for me.

Fortunately, however, embedded in the comment was a hyper-link to a website. I clicked on the link, and although I still can't read German, the pictures and the few words I do understand lead me to believe it is a site for sexual aids. Which gives me some idea of what is in the message after all. Any reader of this blog who can correct this impression is welcome to do so, of course.

And I think I will restrain myself from asking said colleague to translate the comment in a public place, although I am sure it would get the meeting started on a peppy note.

If it is what I think it is, dear reader, I wouldn't order any of that stuff if I were you, even if you do understand German. You could, however, try watching an episode of "The Tudors" and see if that does the trick.


Update: As I understand from the more linguistically adept who took up my invitation to coment, the Germans are trying to sell some kind of oil. But why on this blog? Another blogging mystery......

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Past Revealed: Why Sex Matters to Political History

I am doing my best to catch up on all the television I have TIVO'd, but it won't really be possible until I have finished grading the set of papers on my desk. And perhaps not even then, given that classes do not end until next week and I have not even begun handicapping the Kentucky Derby.

However, everyone has to eat dinner. So last night I got to the next episode of "The Tudors," where I learned an astonishing fact: the wheels of fate began to turn for Henry the Eighth only partly because of his urgent political need for a son. Indeed, in episode two he gets a son by Lady Thingumajig, Henry Fitzroy, who could have been made legitimate down the line if necessary. This convinces the lusty monarch, as he says at the top of his lungs while galloping back to court from the lying in, that Katherine of Aragon's difficulty conceiving "Is Not My Fault!" This is arguable, of course, since he doesn't seem to have sex with the Queen very much, and frankly, she was a lot nicer looking than than anyone said, though a bit longer in the tooth than all her voluptuous attendants, so this would not have been such a chore. But it was also pretty well established in episode one that Katharine lied about whether her marriage to Arthur, Henry's elder brother had been consummated, a fact which Henry seems to have suspected was pretty much not true to begin with. This has clearly been a nagging thought, as many years of marriage had produced only a daughter and a dead son. If you don't get why this is significant, the theory was that because the marrriage was incestuous, the royal pair had incurred God's wrath. But because of Baby Fitzroy, the kernal of a thought forming in Henry's mind in this episode is that God is punishing Katherine and not him.

Well, as we should have learned during the Monica Lewinsky business, there is more afoot than meets the eye. One woman's sorrow is another woman's opportunity, no? Do you remember that episode one ends with Thomas Boleyn, the French ambassador, telling his daughters Mary and Ann that they will have the chance to meet the King at the Val d'Or summit to be held with the French King? Well. Episode two reveals that Boleyn suspects that his daughters have learned more than the French language during study abroad. They have also learned (ahem) "french ways." This is best said with a gentle leer: perhaps raised eybrows and a smile playing around the corner of one's mouth. The mouth, of course, being key.

It is Mary who first dons the royal kneepads, having been previously the mistress of the French king. We know this because as Henry is staring at Mary during a state dinner, Francois, the King, leans over and says "Eye call hair my Inglish mayre b'cause eye ryide hayr so offen." This inflames Henry, irrationally to be sure, but he determines on the spot that he must possess the girl. Initially he sees to it that Mary is called to his tent, where -- to his surprise and ecstasy -- she performs the foreign act with skill and finesse. But his irritation is so great that even the unexpected novelty of Mary's French ways do not mollify him, and the seed has been planted in his mind (so to speak) that he doesn't want a French alliance after all, a political disaster that is complete by the end of the episode, when he repudiates the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in favor of a more bellicose treaty against the French. This negotiation is completed with one of Katharine's cousins, Charles, King of Spain, otherwise known as the Holy Roman Emperor. This, of course, will put the formation of the EU off for 500 years. And it will only compound the insult and injury a few episodes hence when Henry tries to explain to Charles that the Spanish Katherine is cursed by God and needs to get herself to Vegas -- I mean Rome -- for a divorce.

And it began with those French ways. No wonder the Anglicans are sensitive on the gay issue.

But back to Mary Boleyn, and this is the point of my story: apparently Henry the VIII had never experienced this particular sex act before! I understand that this is hard to believe, as it is now commonly performed in truck stops and high school locker rooms, but there you go! And while he tires of Mary quickly (would you date the French King's ex? Not likely. You would just want to show that you *could*) all is not lost for her scheming family. Luckily for the Boleyns and, as it turns out their relatives the Norfolk bunch, who will pony up yet another wife for Henry a decade or so down the line, Mary's younger sister Ann is prepared to step up (or down) to the plate. And she has the same skill set. We know this because her father suggests she make herself available to the King, and says to her with a highly incestuous grin, "I presume you learned the French ways when you were at court."

Indeed. And they will take her far. Although someone needs to remind Henry that doing it the English way (No, not THAT way! THAT way! There you go!) is more likely to result in conception.