Author Archives: drschweitzer

About drschweitzer

Lisa Schweitzer is an assistant professor at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern Calfornia. She studies sustainable cities and transport.

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #26 #ascp2014: Lauren Garott

In keeping with my theme to highlight the work of women who write about urbanism and planning, I have a couple more awards to write about. This year’s Ritzdorf award winner is Lauren Garott from Kansas State University, for her master’s project on physical activity among African American women. According to ACSP’s website, the Ritzdorf award is a student award. I am a big fan of awards for students, unlike most awards, which are, as Sartre noted, always corrupting for the rest of us.

From the ACSP website, a description of the award:

This award recognizes superior scholarship reflecting concern with making communities better for women, people of color and/or the disadvantaged. Submissions may be based on student work submitted in the pursuit of any urban/city/community/town/regional planning degree, undergraduate or graduate, at an ACSP-member school.

You can download a pdf of the report here of Lauren’s award-winning master’s project. Her abstract says:

In the United States, minorities are less physically active and in turn at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The purpose of my study is to examine the factors that influence physical activity in neighborhood parks and to answer: What aspects of park design and programming discourage physical activity participation in African American women? My goal is to identify barriers to physical activity and make recommendations for improving design and programming of a neighborhood park. The results of my research are relevant to the planning profession because planners can use public policy to combat inequality in the built environment.

Many studies have related recreation access to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, age, and gender. While African American women are not the only disadvantaged population when it comes to access to recreation, they do have a higher risk for obesity. In trying to answer why African American women have higher rates of obesity, some studies have found that while willingness to participate in physical activity does not differ in white and black women, duration of physical activity does.

My research employs a mixed methods approach to understand the barriers to physical activity experienced by African American women, in context of a neighborhood park. This study uses a physical assessment of James Mulligan Park and the surrounding neighborhood within Alexandria, Virginia. Following the physical assessment I piloted a survey to gather information on the barriers to physical activity. The pilot guided a final survey of seventeen participating African American women in the neighborhood.
I hypothesized that the perception of park safety will have an effect on the rate of physical activity in African American women. This hypothesis points to a general barrier for all women. Based on literature review, I also expected to find barriers unique to African American women.

The study concluded that African American women in this neighborhood share some barriers with all women and they also expressed some barriers unique to African American women. I found that personal barriers like “exercise tires me” was the most common, rather than perceptions of safety. In addition, I found culturally specific barriers, such as “exercising is not my cultural activity” and “I avoid exercise to protect my hairstyle.” Based on my analysis of the setting and surveys I make several recommendations for the park and neighborhood.

Errrbody needs to follow up on Garrott’s project with reading This Bridge Called My Back , which is an anthology of feminist theory writing from feminists of color.

Black women are tired, and they are tired for good reason, and if the rest of us would like to save money on health costs of obesity and this and that and yada…maybe it’s time to pay attention to the tiredness of black women and start there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

#ACSP2014 Deleuze and Planning

So one of the sessions I attended today came out of a reading group at the University of Washington, which I think is a really cool idea–get your faculty together, have them work with the same texts, and then see where you go. And then, if you get somewhere, go out and give some talks on it so that the rest of us benefit. We had:

Keith Harris: Doing Well by Doing Good: Comprehensive Planning and Seattle’s Kindler, Gentler War-Machine

Cheryl Gilge: Citizen Participation as Microfascism: The Darker Side of Creative Austerity

Mark Purcell and Branden Born: Planning, Deleuze & Guttari and the Food Movement

and

James Potter: Assembling Developmental State Cities: The Oil Crisis, Democracy, and Korea’s Two Million Houses Policy.

To say that I am not qualified to weigh in on these would be a massive understatement as I haven’t read any Deleuze and Guattari, nor have I read the manuscripts, but the presentations made me want to learn more, which is the point. Robert Lake’s discussion also got me excited and interested in the ideas.

Mark Purcell’s paper is done and published at Planning Theory and Practice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #25 ACSP Week: Linda Dalton

This week we are off to ACSP, where I must wear a badge of shame for failing to finish my paper. However, that means that I drop out of a five-person theory session, and that means everybody else gets more time, and that’s needed in a five-person session. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I proposed 5 people in the session, but I am sure I had a theory. Ha! See what I did there? Bad theory.

Anyhoodily, this week the organization is handing out awards and that fits nicely with my #ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 theme. This year’s recipient of the Margarita McCoy Award is Linda Dalton. I can’t find a web page for her; she’s listed in the program as being at Cal Poly East Bay, but I can’t find her on their faculty page. If somebody has a lead on that, please shoot me the link in the comments.

(Ask the internets and ye shall receive. Here is a link to Dr. Dalton’s page.)

From the ACSP website, here is the write up of the McCoy award:

Recognizes individuals who have made an outstanding contribution toward the advancement of women in planning at institutions of higher education through service, teaching, and/or research. The Margarita McCoy Award is made by the ACSP Faculty Women’s Interest Group.’

Here is the committee’s write-up from the program:

Linda Dalton was selected as this year’s McCoy Award recipient due to the exceptional leadership qualities she has demonstrated during her distinguished career and, in particularly, the outstanding mentorship role she has played for many women in higher education in planning. In addition to her own distinguished career in planning, she has worked tirelessly to improve faculty diversity in planning programs and serves as a role model for women in higher education. ~ Hilary Nixon, Chair, FWIG Award Committee, 2014

The paper I thought I’d discuss here is a paper from 1986 entitled:

Dalton, Linda 1986. Why the Rational Paradigm Persists — The Resistance of Professional Education and Practice to Alternative Forms of Planning. Journal of Planning Education and Research April 1986 5: 147-153, doi:10.1177/0739456X8600500302

First of all, we need to comment on the throwback three column format and HOW MUCH I LOVE IT.

That said, the motivating question behind Dalton’s paper is a good one: by 1986, we’d loads and loads of planning theory that had reacted to the mistakes of rational modernist planning, like urban renewal, and had tried to reformulate planning in alternative terms. This created quite a bit of disjoin between theory and practice because rational planning still dominated most forms of practice. I think that’s true today still.

Dalton’s explanation is a good one, too:

Taken together, utilitarian and logical positivist notions of rationality constitute both a process for making decisions and a set of underlying characteristics or assumptions upon which choices are made: objectivity, analysis and efficiency.

The emphasis is in the original.

That is, the question of the public interest is a real thing, and the process of trying to suss it is an important thing, and while the particular methods and values embodied in logical positivism might have problems, the need to explore the public interest never goes away, unless, like Maggie Thatcher, you just up and decide there is no such thing.

Dalton develops this argument by examining both the practice and the profession of planning, noting the various ways in which rationality and its attendant themes drive the market for professionals that in, turn, influences the culture of the practice. Ulrich Beck, Scott Lash, and Anthony Giddens later work through how these themes play out in larger sociological processes way beyond planning in their description of reflexive modernization.

Dalton warned that planners’ adherence to rationalist principles contains the seeds of the profession’s destruction in that despite all the claims and production of technical material, problems persist and undermine the credibility of the claims to technical expertise. In the place of rationality, Dalton suggestions the practice of public reason.

In the decades following, we would have a lot of planning theory that grapples with the problems: Flyvbjerg would connect rationality to power, and the process of rationalization, for one important contribution.

But planners still have this problem: if we aren’t producing technical material, what is the role of the profession? Planning as something people rather than professionals, do, well, that’s a thing, and it does not promise outcomes necessarily. Planner as something a person can be, as a professional who can be paid because they are doing something special in planning…that’s a different idea entirely. The persistence of social ills can hardly be laid at the foot of rationalist planning; modernist planning might have been overly ambitious in its claims, but it’s not like any revision can necessarily solve the problem, as it’s just way too much of a straw man to expect any one approach or profession to alleviate the ‘mirage’ aspects of Enlightenment thought that set up the idea of social perfectibility in the first place. Let’s not plan, then, and let things go, since social ills can’t be ‘solved.’ Or let’s revise the notion of the profession: hands up, who wants to be small and marginal and claim dominion over the easy-to-implement and socially stabilizing things (bike lanes) so that we can boost our prestige as a profession, and forget about things like poverty since that’s hard?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Kant today in justice class

Kant is one of my favorite thinkers to teach. Kant’s major ideas come out in three volumes, all of which he published after he was 60 years old after a long and arduous teaching schedule.

From the Manchester University course materials site, we have a lovely discussion of Kant as a teacher who believed in his student’s autonomy:

Kant noted on numerous occasions that his pedagogical intentions were to teach not beliefs, but rather how to think. In reflecting back to the Kant of the ‘60s, Herder wrote that Kant “encouraged and pleasantly compelled his hearers to think for themselves”; and Borowski wrote:

Equipped with all the knowledge necessary for the discipline in which he was to lecture, he appeared in his lecture hall with the most unassuming modesty — always reminding us that he would not teach philosophy, but rather how to philosophize, etc. [..] To think for oneself — to investigate for oneself — to stand on one’s own feet — were expressions he uttered constantly. [1804, 84, 188]

Mit allen Kenntnissen für das Fach, in welchem er dozieren sollte, ausgerüstet, mit der anspruchslosesten Bescheidenheit erschien er in seinem Hörsaale, — erinnerte immer daran, daß er lehren würde nicht Philosophie, sondern philosophieren u. s. [...] Selbst denken — selbst forschen, — auf seinen eigenen Füßen stehen, — waren Ausdrücke, die unablässig wieder vorkamen.

That said, for his legacy to the rest of us, Kant left some real difficulties for teaching. He is a sophisticated and nuanced writer, and my German isn’t up translating for myself with any real competency. And for the Justice class, we use Michael Sandel’s Justice Reader, where he does an exemplary service in excerpting Rawls, for example, and even Aristotle, both of whom are very difficult to grasp reading in part. But Kant is just impossible to cut down even in the hands of a gifted educator like Sandel, and what we have a hard going and very partial.

Kant’s moral philosophy appears in three works: Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), the Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and the Metaphysics of Morals (1797)
Grounding Presents moral philosophy as falling under the province of a single supreme principle of pure reason, rather than what Kant refers to as empirical reasoning. TheCritique of Pure reason investigates the grounds for justifying such a supreme, a priori principle, Kant’s the categorical imperative. Both works are products of high-levels of abstractions, and they are simply not easy. The Metaphysics of Morals , OTOH, treats the various problems of moral judgment and of choice in more relateable situations, one topic at a time, using cases.

For those of you out there who, like me, struggle with ageism, think your life is over, or that people are washed up once they are over 40, think of this: Kant published Groundwork when he was 61 years old.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

Jacques Ranciere on books

I’ve been talking up Jacques Ranciere’s book, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Here’s a quote:

The book prevents escape. The route the student will take is unknown. But we know that cannot escape: the exercise of his liberty. We know too that the master won’t have the right to stand anywhere else–only at the door. The student must see everything for himself, compare and compare, and always respect to a three-part question: what do you see? what do you think about it? what do you make of it? And so on, to infinity.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

Translating UI President Phyllis Wise’s letter on academic freedom for the uninitiated

By now, you’ve probably read about the controversy surrounding American Indian studies professor Prof. Steven Salaita for angry tweets regarding Isreal and its Prime Minister Netanyahu, in particular. The divide goes along typical political lines, with supporters of Israel on the right nodding their heads and noting how shameful his tweets are, and how it’s about time somebody learned those liberal proffies a lesson, that rich people are in charge and they don’t like things said that upset them any, and people on the left noting geez, these were tweets. On the one side “civility” and other the other…”shit, what do you mean civility when children are dying?”

I don’t like the content of the tweets, and I doubt I’d like Salaita much, but I have to say, I don’t like what I’ve seen of UI President Phyllis Wise, either, largely because her conduct epitomizes the craven corporate “leadership” that has a stranglehold on US universities.

So for those of you who don’t work at a university, let me explain Wise’s letter for you.

The Principles on Which We Stand
Aug 22, 2014 1:15 pm by Phyllis M. Wise

Dear Colleagues:

As you may be aware, Vice President Christophe Pierre and I wrote to Prof. Steven Salaita on Aug. 1, informing him of the university’s decision not to recommend further action by the Board of Trustees concerning his potential appointment to the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Translation:

Um, yeah, I’m going to try to spin this to make it sound like he hadn’t really been appointed with tenure yet so that when he sues (not if, when ) I will at least looked like I tried to cover the university’s ass here.

Since this decision, many of you have expressed your concern about its potential impact on academic freedom. I want to assure you in the strongest possible terms that all of us – my administration, the university administration and I – absolutely are committed to this bedrock principle. I began my career as a scientist challenging accepted ideas and pre-conceived notions, and I have continued during my career to invite and encourage such debates in all aspects of university life.

Translation:
I know some of you little people are worried, but I wanted to reassure you: I’m awesome. Ok? Remember. I’m a scientist. A paradigm-shifting scientist. An awesome scientist am I, and I am looking out for you here.

A pre-eminent university must always be a home for difficult discussions and for the teaching of diverse ideas. One of our core missions is to welcome and encourage differing perspectives. Robust – and even intense and provocative – debate and disagreement are deeply valued and critical to the success of our university.

Translation:
We believe in debate. In theory.

As a university community, we also are committed to creating a welcoming environment for faculty and students alike to explore the most difficult, contentious and complex issues facing our society today. Our Inclusive Illinois initiative is based on the premise that education is a process that starts with our collective willingness to search for answers together – learning from each other in a respectful way that supports a diversity of worldviews, histories and cultural knowledge.

Translation:
We believe in debate. Really we do. Really really. There are no wrong answers, there’s no evil, let alone political evil that should be condemned. Just differing world views. That’s how we seek the truth.

Our university isn’t a corporation predicated on manufacturing young adulthood lifestyle communities centered on beer and football and sweaty incompetent sex or anything. We’re intellectuals! There’s a competition of ideas going on right here. The endeavor! Be awed by our commitment to the endeavor. And your checks can be sent to…

The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy. Some of our faculty are critical of Israel, while others are strong supporters. These debates make us stronger as an institution and force advocates of all viewpoints to confront the arguments and perspectives offered by others. We are a university built on precisely this type of dialogue, discourse and debate.

Translation:
See? I tell you, again, the decision was not a firing. Totally not. Absolutely not. It was a decision regarding him.

What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them. We have a particular duty to our students to ensure that they live in a community of scholarship that challenges their assumptions about the world but that also respects their rights as individuals.

This is what the lawyers wrote, and it really sounds good, doesn’t it, even though I have no idea what I am actually talking about here. Salaita’s tweets were a potential rights violation! That’s the ticket. I clearly have no clue what rights really are, but I know if there is one thing that plays on American’s emotions, it’s the allegation that a right might be violated. Rights! Did you know you have a right not be upset by something somebody says? That’s important. Really crucial.

But you don’t have the right to get upset about war. That’s over the line. We have standards.

Yes, I know, some misguided souls might note that most of our students are getting butt reamed by our tuition and it takes a nuclear warhead to dislodge a sexually harassing professor or a date rapist from our hallowed halls, but we stand firmly against the possibility that our students might see an upsetting Tweet or a have a professor who might not be a compliant, easily managed robot because he pops off at the mouth when he’s upset.

As chancellor, it is my responsibility to ensure that all perspectives are welcome and that our discourse, regardless of subject matter or viewpoint, allows new concepts and differing points of view to be discussed in and outside the classroom in a scholarly, civil and productive manner.

It’s my responsibility to make sure that donors are happy and feel confident that they are supporting an institution that doesn’t upset the social order very much.

A Jewish student, a Palestinian student, or any student of any faith or background must feel confident that personal views can be expressed and that philosophical disagreements with a faculty member can be debated in a civil, thoughtful and mutually respectful manner. Most important, every student must know that every instructor recognizes and values that student as a human being. If we have lost that, we have lost much more than our standing as a world-class institution of higher education.

Translation:
See, I’m just looking out for our world-class status. By warning you about how upsetting tweets might threaten our status within the hierarchy, I accomplish two clever things. 1) I appeal your own careerism; after all, we all know that faculty want to be up, not down, in the universal pecking order of universities and 2) I subtly hint that we currently *are* a world-class institution since we can’t lose something we don’t have. Clearly, I’m running a world-class institution. Yay, me, and yay us! World class, we are.

As a member of the faculty, I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.

Translation:
Remember, I am one of you. Yes, I make six times what you do, and I’ve gotten myself one enormous pay raise after another while..you can’t, but it’s important to me that you all understand that our tenured positions only go to those who have drunk most deeply of the Kool-Aid because those ones can’t be fired, I mean not hired, and we can’t have those ones being too…messy or disruptive of anything. This here is a subtle reminder of everything that my patrons hate about you people with tenure, how they absolutely loathe the very idea that somebody is not an economic slave to them, and it is a reminder not to try them too high because I don’t have the guts to stand up to them.

I am committed to working closely with you to identify how the campus administration can support our collective duty to inspire and facilitate thoughtful consideration of diverse opinions and discourse on challenging issues.

Translation:
Yes, I am so committed to working with you closely by virtue of this ex poste rationale of a decision that I made without you. See how efficient and collaborative I am?

Sincerely,

Snort!

Phyllis M. Wise

Translation:
Did I mention that I am awesome?

[cue finger guns]

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

Arnaldo Momigliano’s time management

Mary Beard, over at A Don’s Life discusses Time Management. I shan’t be giving any tips, only sharing the marvelousness that is this:

Arnaldo Momigliano’s brilliant answer to a similar survey in 1965:

In my 24 hour continental timetable I divide my time each day as follows:

2 hours of pure sleep

1 hour of sleep dreaming about administration

2 hours of sleep dreaming about research

1 hour of sleep dreaming about teaching

½ hour of pure eating

1 hour of eating with research (= reading)

1 hour of eating with colleagues and of conversation on teaching and research

½ hour of pure walking

½ hour of walking with research (= thinking)

12 ½ hours of research with preparation for teaching (= reading, writing or also thinking)

1 hour of official teaching without thinking

1 hour of official administration without thinking

I like to make up all that time on administration without thinking by doing more sleep and gardening. So go away, all you people who want me to run things.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

Wisdom from Escape to Witch Mountain

Ok, so I loved the original movie Escape to Witch Mountain when I was a little kid, and it was a major disappointment in my life that no, I did not have mentalist powers and I was was not going to go off on and live in the beautiful mountains with Uncle Jesse from the Dukes of Hazzard.

I recently had a Netflixing “aliens in our world” movie marathon with both “Starman” and “Escape to Witch Mountain”* and I noticed that Escape was based on YA novel, and I’ve been reading away on it. The novel is much better than the movie, actually. It’s written from Tony’s viewpoint, and Tia is more otherworldly and mysterious than in the movie, and so far I’ve encountered this gem:

It was just like her, he thought, to ignore any money she’d found. She’d always said there must be something very bad about money, because those who needed it most never had it, and so many who already had it would do such awful things to get more of it.

*I also view Escape from Witch Mountain during movie marathons around the theme “Gratuitous Ray Milland Watching”

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Marilynne Robinson on lack of generosity in public life

If you are not reading Marilynne Robinson’s books, you are missing out. Gilead was a life-changer for me, an absolute gem of a novel. The rest of her novels are similarly magnificent. I am teaching Rawls this week in justice class, and I am also reading Robinson’s exceptional collection of essays, When I Was A Child, I Read Books. There is so much wisdom and wonderful writing in this book I don’t even know where to start.

Given that midterm elections are coming, here’s one:

But the language of public life has lost the character of generosity, and the largeness of spirit that has created and supported the best of our institutions and brought reform to the worst of them has been erased out of historical memory. On both sides the sole motive force in our past is now said to have been capitalism.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized

Katherine Perez-Estolano discusses the California High Speed Rail project with USC students

As regular readers will know, I am not a great fan of this project, but Jerry Brown had a moment of clarity when he appointed Katherine Perez-Estolano to be on the California HSR Board, and she represents the project beautifully. Here she is discussing the project and the progress to date in USC’s Urban Growth Seminar.

Comments Off

Filed under Uncategorized