Monthly Archives: April 2013

A Cat’s Life

*Just this once I’m breaking my vow and posting a blog about my cat.

Perks to having a cat:

1. She points out pertinent passages in my research

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2. She supervises board games

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3. She reminds me of the importance of hydration

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4. She gets into the holiday spirit

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5. She fights evil

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6. She guards books

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7. She appreciates the beauty of sleep

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Bookworm

Being a bookworm means:

1. Mourning the end of a fabulous novel and needing some alone time to recover: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.

2. Bombarding others with interesting tidbits at social gatherings: Outliers, Malcom Gladwell.

3. Learning to see the world anew: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi.

4. Being annoyed by hunger (and other basic bodily functions) because you can’t bear to put the book down until you know who did it: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie.

5. Delighting in contemplation: Socrates Buddha Confucius Jesus, Karl Jaspers.

6. Feeling utter disdain by absolute bullshit that passes for “good”: Twilight, Stephenie Meyer


The Honeymoon is Over; Getting Through the Mid-term Slump

The air of excitement from the first week of classes has dissipated.  The skip in your step now resembles a sluggish mosey to class, and you are armed with a highly caffeinated beverage at all times just to get through the day.  A count-down to Winter (or summer) break is mentioned in most of your conversations.

How to get over that mid-term blah:

  1. Plant yourself at the library, a study space, or a coffee shop with all of your syllabi.  Review upcoming deadlines and class requirements.  In general, take 20 minutes to reacquaint yourself with the goals of the class.  This will put you back in the frame of mind of the first day when you were more enthusiastic.
  2. Write down the grades you want this term.  Imagine the end of the term and seeing these grades next to your name.
  3. Write down 3 things (per class) you can do next week to make the grades you imagined happen.  List the amount of time and the day you will do these 3 things. The more specific you are the better.
  4. Visit your professors’ office hours.  But what to say?  Here are some conversation openers:  If you are enjoying the class, then let them know (mention a specific reading), ask a question about the material, or ask their opinion about a term paper/ project idea you will be doing for the class.   A recent guest speaker promoting study habits at Cal Poly said to university students: “There is one person in the class who knows how to get an A and that is the professor.”
  5. If you haven’t done so yet, make a friend in your class.  Get to class five minutes early and introduce yourself to the person who usually sits next to you.  When you know someone you are more likely to attend class and enjoy it.
  6. Go somewhere new.  Try out a restaurant, a different coffee shop, another spot in the library, or a place in town (like a museum).  Breaking up the routine re-charges your mental battery.

Good luck!


Men Against Violence

The term “feminism” can evoke strong reactions.  Its basic premise is the assertion that women are equal human beings.  One of the most unfortunate assumptions is that feminism is strictly a woman’s issue and/or that men cannot be feminists.

This past weekend I attended a conference  on Gender and Violence organized by a student group Men Against Violence.  I am currently on the heels of completing lectures for my Philosophy courses on Wollstonecraft and Aristotle, and I couldn’t help but think of their theories in relation to the conference topic.  One of the speakers at the conference, Dr. Thomas Keith, focused on what he calls “Bro Culture.” This “bro-code” socialization of young men, he explained, encourages behavior that manifests risky, life-threatening ways of being and void of empathy.  Moreover, in the matter of violence against women, young men are numb to the seriousness of the violence in part through the media’s perpetuation of viewing women as objects.  Keith noted comedians who have made rape jokes yet retain their popularity.  Quite rightly, he said “No woman ever finds a rape joke funny.”

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Another problem, especially with college life, is that when there is violence done to women, the “bro-code” enforces a silence among the young men who are privy to information of a crime.  Part of the problem is that crimes against women are not seen as actual crimes by young men because they have been socialized to think harassment and rape are funny.

How do we address this?  Keith stresses that men must get involved in the education of men.  His angle in the feminism discussion centers around the detriment to young men’s lives when they actively pursue harming and degrading women.  That is, the character traits emphasized for the “Bro” are exaggerated and cartoonish concepts of being a man which leave out essential qualities of what it means to be human such as empathy and nurture.  Violence against women is the horrific result of this “education.”

To drive home his point that violence against women is not simply a woman’s issue he gave an account of an interview with a young male college student.  The student’s sister had been raped at a college party, and because of the trauma she committed suicide.  Keith said he has heard so many versions of this story on college campuses.  “It affects all of us” he said.

Keith encouraged the audience to not participate in sexist culture that marginalizes women.  Media and the like are interested in profits, so do not allow companies that market by using images of women as objects to profit from you.  The role of culture resides in our hands!  It need not be dictated by offensive stereotypes and corporations’ bottom lines.

Another speaker, Dr. Jackson Katz, author of The Macho Paradox, also emphasized gender training as a central factor in violence.  When news breaks of school shootings, for instance, the media poses all sorts of inquiries but leaves out the obvious, namely boys and men are committing these crimes.  Adding to the discussion of rape, he pointed to a shift in language by the media to report cases.  Normally, he explained, a defendant is referred to as the victim; however, in rape cases the term “accuser” is used instead.  He argued this different term highlights a change in the way rape is reported and viewed.  Empathy for the victim wanes with this label and attaches a negative-active perspective to the victim.  She (although the victim can be male) becomes the aggressor and the “suspect” is the victim or the “accused.” This  shift in language does not occur when reporting on other crimes.  One such case, The Steubenville rape case, where boys video taped the rape of a sixteen year old girl, he called an “indictment on our society.”

As I mentioned, I wrapped up my last week of teaching with lectures on Wollstonecraft and Aristotle.  With Wollstonecraft, she articulated the bold (obvious) assertion that women are human beings with souls (A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792).  She demonstrated the illogical and immoral position against educating women.  By declaring that women are in fact human beings she insisted that their capacity for reason must be developed (since reason is the defining characteristic of human beings).  To deny education is to deny the development of reason, which in turn prevents the ability to be a moral agent (virtuous).  But, a couple lines in particular from her work scream out to me now in light of this conference:

“I may be accused of arrogance; still I must declare what I firmly believe, that all the writers who have written on the subject of female education and manners from Rousseau to Dr. Gregory, have contributed to render women more artificial, weak characters, than they would otherwise have been; and, consequently, more useless members of society” (my emphasis).

And

“…but it is first necessary to observe, that my objection extends to the whole purport of those books, which tend, in my opinion, to degrade one half of the human species, and render women pleasing at the expense of every solid virtue.”

Wollstonecraft here points out the glaring effect of not only training women to focus on being pleasing, but that this creates a sub-human species that negatively impacts the society in its entirety.  It is astonishing to me that centuries later we are still discussing the very real and dark unfolding of her warning.  Underscoring the lack of understanding among “bro-culture,” to borrow from Keith, is that women are meant to be pleasing.  That is why it is difficult for some (but certainly not all!) young men absorbed in such a socialization to fathom violence as wrong or criminal.

How to live well is overlooked as part and parcel to education.  I’m reminded of this when I teach Aristotle’s The Nicomachaen Ethics, and I thought of it when listening to Keith and Katz at the conference.  Happiness, excellence, flourishing are essential means for enjoying one’s life.  Why is that not the focus for young men?  Why bombard boys and girls with restrictive gender roles?  Aristotle tells us that Happiness is acquired not by chance but by habit, learning, and cultivation.  Why do we spend time enforcing hyper-masculinity especially when such a disposition lends itself to the disturbing statistics of higher suicide rates, death rates, incarceration rates, and fatalities in car accidents of young men?

I appreciate the aims of this conference and the project to unearth gender and feminism as more than a woman’s issue but as something that belongs in dialogue about culture overall.  How does gender training impact men?  In turn, how does that impact women?  Violence against women is clearly a serious harm to women, but it is also an attack on families and society.  Investigating causes of violence involves strengthening women and teaching young men that violence does not demonstrate power but actually reveals a lack of power and excellence.


Free Download on Amazon!

Students, Educators, and lovers of the “Advice & How To” genre, my book Tips From the Professor A Guide for College Success is free on Amazon from Tuesday April 2nd-Thursday April 4th!  (Just give the title a click.)

photo-16 9.24.30 PMI wrote this book because I want students to get the most out of their University experience.  I offer easy “how to” steps to boost students’ grades.  If you do fancy a read, please kindly leave a review on Amazon.  I’m starting my second book for university students, so any feedback on this first book would be most helpful.

Some topics Tips From The Professor addresses:

  • How to organize your time.
  • How to be involved in campus life.
  • How to study for exams (alone and with groups).
  • How to give presentations.
  • How to approach professors with questions (some do’s and don’ts from a professor’s point of view).
  • What to bring with you when meeting a professor about a letter of recommendation.

*Book Review by Dr. Wayne Hubert

Tips From the Professor: A Guide for College Success by Dr. Gwendolyn Dolske  is not just another student handbook for successfully navigating undergraduate life.  It is not ponderous, theoretical, and impractical as so many student guides are, but rather it is concrete, experiential, and most of all, fresh in its approach.

Naturally, Dr. Dolske covers familiar and expected topics like time management, strategies for studying, writing papers, classroom presentations, and she illustrates them with specific examples from her own experiences as an undergraduate as well as those of her own current students.  Instead of theory, Dr. Dolske grounds her presentation in real life, her own and her students’.

Dr. Dolske also covers issues that are not usually found in student guides.  For example, she explains to her readers how to talk to their instructors, how to ask for letters of recommendation, how to manage money, how to understand grading, and–without doubt my favorite–how to be fully present during class time.   It is worth purchasing the book if only to read this section.

I also appreciate how  Dr. Dolske speaks to her audience as a mentor, eager to help, encourage, and pave the way for those new to the undergraduate experience.  She has learned much as a student and as a Professor, and she wants her readers to have what benefits she has earned and received.

Though this wonderful handbook will enjoy wide appeal, Dr. Dolske has a particular audience in mind.  She is writing to students who not only want to enjoy college and get good grades, but she is also writing to those students who understand the need for personal responsibility and discipline, those who in the end desire a good education.  With Dr. Dolske’s lively and useful guide, those students can have it all.

Wayne Hubert, Ph.D

Emeritus Dean Of Arts and Humanities

Chaffey College

Rancho Cucamonga, California


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