Monthly Archives: July 2003

bloggers of Maryland


far as I can tell, there are only two other full-fledged faculty bloggers at the

University of Maryland. However, maybe others will come forward, since a Google

search for "University Maryland faculty blog" should now turn up my

site. The others are:

  • Matthew

    G. Kirschenbaum’s blog, which comes from an English professor whose dissertation

    (in 1999) was one of the first in any English department to be completely electronic.

    He "specializes in digital studies, applied humanities computing, visual

    culture, and postmodern literature." His blog is a sophisticated source of

    news and ideas at the intersection of aesthetics, cultural studies, and digital


  • Walter

    Hutchens’ blog, the work of a Business School professor who specializes in

    Chinese security markets and related laws (a huge issue, once you think about

    it). His blog was blocked in China when he hosted it at, so he moved

    it to the University’s server.

research, not documentation


several meetings that I have attended recently, I’ve heard about young people

or poor people who have "documented" some asset, problem, or activity.

It occurs to me that academics and other professional researchers "document"

things only as a first stage in research (if they do it at all). Their real interests

are comparing, assessing, and explaining phenomena, not merely listing or portraying

them. I understand why disdavantaged people stick to documentation; it requires

fewer skills and resources. But much more power comes with assessment and explanation.

I’m starting to think that the rich do research while the poor get "documentation."

The solution is to try to involve young people, poor people, and other disadvantaged

folks in real research, whenever possible.

In this connection: a colleague

of mine has Palm Pilots with database software installed. We’re going to lend

them to high school kids, whom we’ll train to walk around the neighborhood conducting

surveys of physical assets. The data they collect can then be used to generate

maps, which we will post for public use on the Prince

Georges Information Commons site. Later, we’ll help the kids use the data

they collect for genuine research.

The topic that we’re planning to study

is "healthy living," which includes:

1. exercise and "walkability"

security from crime, and
3. nutrition

All of these factors can be placed

on the same maps, so that it’s possible to see, for example, where there are sources

of healthy food that are also safe and walkable.

We’re going to start with walkability and crime. Walkability is relatively

easy because there is a standard survey instrument that kids can easily

use to determine whether each street segment is walkable. It’s very

straightforward for the kids to create a map with the walkable streets

colored in and the unwalkable ones left white (or something like that).

They just walk down a street and fill out a checklist on a Palm Pilot.

We can simultaneously work on crime. One idea would be to try to get

actual crime statistics from the police and add them to the map. Apparently,

police departments do not like to release these data—although maybe

we could overcome that problem. Another option would look like this:

The kids would take digital photos of places that they consider very

dangerous, and very safe. They would compare and discuss their pictures.

They would then show their collected pictures of safe and unsafe places

to experts, such as police officers and criminologists, who would offer

their opinions. Once the kids had reflected on their choices, they would

declare certain areas to be relatively safe and unsafe, and mark the

map accordingly.

rethinking sanctions compared to war

David Rieff wrote an important article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine entitled, “Were Sanctions Right?” Rieff quotes Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who says that the sanctions “worked in the sense that [Saddam] was never able to rebuild his conventional army. When the war started, the Iraqi Army had no more than one-third of the strength it had possessed at the beginning of the first gulf war. But imagine that there had been no sanctions. Is it reasonable to suppose that the weakened Iraqi Army we just faced would have been so weak? I doubt it.”

Continue reading

liberalism and republicanism in the classroom

I’m just back from Chestertown, MD (a really nice colonial town

where George Washington slept a lot). I was there to teach some elementary-through-high-school

teachers about classical liberalism versus civic republicanism. The teachers are

folks who use the "We the People Program" produced by the Center

for Civic Education; this is their state summer institute. They seemed to

be pretty interested in the subject, although like all Americans they find it

easier to grasp liberalism than civic republicanism. This is interesting (to them

as well as me), since many of the motivations behind public education are civic

republican rather than liberal. That is: a pure liberal may worry that making

children into good citizens is "mind control" and represents illicit

state support for a particular form of life, whereas a civic republican says that

good government rests on active, engaged citizens—and civic engagement is

inherently good. Social studies teachers are in the business of making good citizens,

yet they are instinctively philosophical liberals. The tension or irony is not

lost on them.

save Americorps!

Steve Culbertson of Youth

Service America is circulating this message:

If you can

only make one call today, call the White House (202-456-1414) and inform them

what the supplemental funding to avoid drastic cuts to AmeriCorps this

year means to you, your program, and your community.

The House and Senate

have only until tomorrow (Friday) to compromise on the details of the supplemental

legislation before the House leaves for its August recess.

If the House

and Senate conferees do not meet to iron out the details of the FY03 emergency

supplemental (where the Senate included $100 million for AmeriCorps), before they

leave for recess, hundreds of programs will be forced to close their doors.


and nonprofits in every state will lose their ability to serve hundreds of thousands

of individuals in communities across the country. Programs will lose their private

sector support and community relationships that they have built over the past

decade. Thousands of AmeriCorps recruits will turned away from serving their country.


attended a forum today on the same issue, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Many of the nation’s leaders in service-learning attended. Some believe that the

financial crisis of AmeriCorps has a silver lining: the service movement is organizing,

recruiting allies (including friends among conservatives and business leaders),

and learning that it has clout.

Incidentally, I thought that Rep. Chris

Shays (Republican of Connecticut) chose to make a fairly sharp and explicit attack

on Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX), in defending AmeriCorps. (Armey, he said, "simply

hasn’t walked in someone else’s moccasins.") He also argued for more diverse

congressional districts, as a way to increase Republicans’ sensitivity to minorities.