Archive for November 2nd, 2003

The Dowbrigade Mourns


Regular readers and friends frequently ask where I came up with the name
for my blog, and I still haven’t found an elegant or adequate way to explain
the importance, or the personal impact on my life, of Anne Dow.

Anne Dow founded the Harvard program in English as a
Second Language in the mid-70’s, and by the time she hired me in 1989
had established the program as the preeminent program in the field.
I worked for Anne Dow for five years. During that time I learned what
means to be a professional, and experienced for the first time the
excitement of belonging to a group that was exploring uncharted territory,
new trails, and doing important work that could potentially benefit
thousands of others.

During the time she headed Harvard ESL, Anne put together a group of
some the most talented and creative teachers and researchers in the
field. She
used the allure of the Harvard name and her own reputation to attract
professionals from around the country and the world. She took advantage of the fact that since most academics
work on 9-month
academic year contracts, they are free to teach elsewhere in the summer.

Every June, Anne’s team, the original Dowbrigade, would assemble, flying
in from Florida, California, Texas, England, Japan and Jakarta, to
a 3-day
live-in start-up
at a rambling resort in Littleton, Mass, that was a combination professional
conference and summer camp. Freed from our "main" jobs, mostly at universities
around the world, unconstrained by department politics or faculty feuds,
we felt free to discuss the issues that mattered most, to bounce ideas
off each other and revel in the company of first-rate minds, who were
also a company of scholars and educators.

All summer long, our teaching would be punctuated with brown bags,
panel discussions, paradigm debates (process or product?) ongoing
presentations and wacky social events. The intellectual eccentricity
for which ESL is
know had never been on such flamboyant display. Anne commanded the
unquestioning respect and loyalty of this diverse group through
her insightful intellect,
inspirational leadership, and unpretentious compassion. She was a living
example of how all of us wanted to live our lives and exercise the

From Anne, I learned about professional responsibility, about how to
get a cantankerous and contentious group of talented people to all
pull in
the same direction at the same time, about caring for the people you
work with and those you teach, and about loyalty. All of us who were
to be part of that scene developed an incredible sense of loyalty to
Anne and to each other, which exists to this day.

We are scattered now, once again off around the globe in the peripatetic
way of ESL professionals. We meet at conferences, publisher’s events,
occasionally at parties. Many of us have gone on to head programs of
our own, and I
am sure that each of those programs reflects traces of the lessons
learned in Littleton and Sever Hall. The Dowbrigade
Web Page
and the
idea for
the Dowbrigade News were attempts to keep that network alive.

Anne left Harvard in 1994, in a major shakeup that completely changed
the nature of the program and the experience of teaching in it. Most
of the
original Dowbrigade, including this correspondent, left at the same
time, although there are still a few holdovers from Anne’s era. We
left not
out of rancor or in protest, but because just being there was a painful
of how wonderful that which had been was, and that which was now was
not. We will be forever united by our shared epiphanies, and our abiding
to Anne.

I heard this afternoon that Anne Dow died yesterday following a long
fight with cancer. All of us who knew her and worked with her feel
her loss deeply.
When details of the memorial service are set I will post them here.
Thank you, Anne, for forming the part of me that I am proudest of.

Monkeybrain at Work


DELHI – In a capital city where cows roam the streets and elephants plod
along in the bus lanes, it’s no surprise to find government buildings
overrun with monkeys.

But the officials who work there are fed up. They’ve been bitten, robbed
and otherwise tormented by monkeys that ransack files, bring down power
lines, screech at visitors and bang on office windows.

"Please do not feed the monkeys," implores a
sign at Raisina Hill, the complex of colonnaded buildings that includes
the president’s
residence, Parliament, and Cabinet offices.

To no avail. Hindus believe that monkeys are manifestations of the monkey
god, Hanuman, and worshippers come to Raisina Hill every Tuesday handing
out bananas.  from

Got His Mojo Working (Just Don’t Work on Me)


(Reuters) – Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he does not know whether
or not he has lost his mojo, as a leading news magazine
suggested, because he doesn’t really know what mojo is.

"Is Rumsfeld Losing His Mojo?" was the headline in Time magazine
above a story about Rumsfeld’s recent difficulties concerning Iraq policy
differences with U.S. lawmakers.

"Have you lost your mojo?" a reporter asked Rumsfeld during a
Pentagon briefing.

Rumsfeld said he did not consult a dictionary — as he has for words like
slog about which he has sparred with reporters — but he spoke with an
aide who had. "And they asked me that, and I said, ‘I don’t know what it means.’
And they said, ‘In 1926 or something, it had to do with jazz music."’