The Author’s Corner with Paul Escott

53299415Paul Escott is Reynolds Professor of History at Wake Forest University. This interview is based on his new book, Rethinking the Civil War Era: Directions for Research (The University Press of Kentucky, 2018).

JF: What led you to write Rethinking the Civil War Era?

PE: I was invited to take on this project by the editors of the New Directions in Southern History series at the University Press of Kentucky. As part of the invitation we agreed that this book would have a slightly different format. Instead of writing in an entirely historiographical style, I have used a more personal tone and have thought of each chapter as an essay focused on both the extant scholarship and on questions or interpretive issues that interest or puzzle me.

Frankly, writing this book was not something I had ever imagined myself doing, and the challenge was more than a little intimidating. There are a great many very talented and energetic historians working in the field of the Civil War Era, and to master all the important and recent work is virtually impossible. I have read as widely as possible, within the practical constraints of producing a book within some reasonable period, and I have tried to comment on important new directions or possibilities for research. In the Preface I comment on the immense talent at work in this area and apologize that I could not cite all the deserving recent studies.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of Rethinking the Civil War Era?

PE: This book identifies important questions, issues, and new directions of research in the Civil War Era. Its chapters cover the roots of war, the challenges to wartime societies North and South, the war’s consequences, and important work or questions in African American history, military history, environmental history, and digital research.

JF: Why do we need to read Rethinking the Civil War Era?

PE: The Press and I hope that this book will be useful both to established scholars and to younger historians who may want to survey opportunities in the field and target their own work. Books such as this one often serve a purpose in a rapidly developing field.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

PE: I was in college during the Civil Rights Movement, and the stirring events of that era naturally stimulated one’s curiosity about the roots of our nation’s racial problems. As a result, I entered graduate school eager to learn more about southern history and the era of the Civil War. I was extremely fortunate to have outstanding professors and mentors at Duke University, namely Robert F. Durden and Raymond Gavins.

JF: What is your next project? 

PE: After many years of focusing on the South and the Confederacy, I more recently shifted my attention to the North. I now am working on a study of racism and racial attitudes in the North during the Civil War.

JF: Thanks, Paul!

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “Trump Says He May Exit Kim Talks if They Are ‘Not Fruitful’”

Washington Post: “GOP fears political risk in Senate races as House moves to extend tax cuts”

Wall Street Journal: “Southwest Probe Zeroes In on Fan Blade, Engine Cover”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “Data shows drivers get away with speeding and more in Harrisburg”

BBC: “Trump ‘will quit Kim talks if not fruitful'”

CNN: “Trump decided to ditch more Russia sanctions”

FOX: “Most Californians back more deportations; nearly half support travel ban, poll finds”

Trump’s Support Among White Evangelicals is Growing

Trump court evangelicals

PRRI reports:

White evangelical support for Donald Trump has steadily increased over time. Notably, Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals never reached 50 percent during the 2016 primary season. By the early fall of 2016, however, his favorability among white evangelicals had jumped to 61 percent. By the inauguration it increased to 68 percent, and shortly after the inauguration in February 2017 it jumped again to 74 percent. Over the course of 2017, there were minor fluctuations, but Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals never dipped below 65 percent during this time.

Trump’s support among white evangelicals at this stage of his presidency is strikingly solid. While there are modest differences by gender, Trump’s favorability among white evangelical women is still a robust 71 percent, compared to 81 percent among white evangelical men. And Trump’s favorability is still a strong 68 percent among college-educated white evangelicals, compared to 78 percent among those without a college degree.

Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Trump’s support among white evangelicals is also strong. White evangelical Protestants who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party say they would prefer Donald Trump, rather than another candidate, to be the GOP nominee for president in 2020 (69 percent vs. 23 percent).

Why do so many evangelicals “believe” Donald Trump?  I have actually thought about this a bit.  Just a bit.  Don’t forget to pre-order:

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*Believe Me* at *Religion Dispatches*: Round 2

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Earlier this week the progressive religious website Religion Dispatches ran Greg Carey’s review of my Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.

Today, Religion Dispatches is running Eric C. Miller’s interview with me about the book.

Here is a taste:

In Trump’s speech, these appeals often have racial dimensions. Why are white evangelicals comfortable with this?  

I am hesitant to say that all evangelicals are comfortable with this, but many of them are.

One way to look at this is to observe that evangelicals have always prioritized certain social issues over others, and race has never been one of their priorities. Abortion, they would argue, transcends race. People of all races have abortions and “kill babies.” Traditional marriage, similarly, is an institution that transcends race. I think such a view goes back to one of the defining beliefs of American evangelicalism—that all humans, of all races and ethnicities, can be saved by the gospel. Abortion and marriage are universal, race is particular. This is how many evangelicals see it. Many of them may be uncomfortable with Trump’s racist remarks, but they are willing to look the other way because Trump has the right policies on the issues they deem to be more important.

But we also must remember that American evangelicalism has always been a very white version of Christianity. Evangelicals have always been fearful of African Americans and the threat they are perceived to pose to a white Christian America. For example, much of the Southern evangelical approach to reading the Bible was forged in the context of their defenses of slavery. So there is a long tradition of racism in white evangelicalism, just as there is a long tradition of racism among white Americans writ large. Yet evangelicals claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, a set of moral principles that should motivate them to fight racism.

Read the entire interview here.

Digital History at Messiah College

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Yesterday I was telling the museum professionals at the PA Museum Association annual conference about our Public History Program at Messiah College.  Here is what I said:

As the chair of the history department, I have also been involved in helping to create Messiah College’s public history program.  Our public history students get training in the kind of historical thinking and historical content that all of our history majors receive.  That includes 39 hours of coursework.  But they also take a course in public history theory and practice and enroll in other courses that have substantial units devoted to oral history, local history, history education, public archaeology, and digital history.  But that is not all!  Students also take electives in topics such as web design, event planning, GIS technology, business administration, museum studies, public relations writing, or photography.    Our program is innovative, and I know of several colleges that have used it as a model for their own public history programs.

As I told the museum professionals, digital history plays an important role in our public history program.  We offer a 300-level course in the subject and use the Digital Harrisburg Initiative as a home base for a lot of our work in this area.

Want to learn more about digital history at Messiah?  Watch this video. (For whatever reason, I cannot get it to embed).

Someone Give the Governor of Alabama a History Lesson

We need historians more than ever.  Yesterday Kay Ivey, the Republican governor of Alabama, released this campaign ad:

Ivey says “we can’t change or erase our history.”  She is correct.  But just because a particular community has a past doesn’t necessary mean that the celebration of that past is the best way forward.  Sometimes our encounters with the past should shame us.

She adds: “To get where we are going, we need to understand where we’ve been.”  Again, this is true.  But I don’t think she means that we need to “understand where we’ve been” because “where we’ve been” was racist and because it was racist we must repudiate it. Let’s remember that we are talking about monuments to white racists here.  Ivey is telling us that the best way for Alabama to move forward is to celebrate a history of slavery, racism, Jim Crow, and segregation.  Ivey’s usable past is a past of white supremacy.

After the ad was criticized, Ivey defended it.  According to The Hill, she called out “folks in Washington” and “out of state liberals” for trying to take away Alabama’s Confederate monuments.

Here we go again with the “outside agitators” coming into racist Alabama and trying to change their precious way life.  This is what they said about the so-called “carpetbaggers in the 1860s and 1870s and Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1950s and 1960s.

Someone get Governor Ivey a copy of King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Turns 10 in June. What Comes Next?

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Yesterday I got up early and drove to the American Philatelic Society in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania where I gave the keynote address for the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Museum Association.  The title of my lecture was “Public History for a Democracy.”  Here is how I began:

If you haven’t already figured this out, I am not a museum professional.  I have long defined myself as a “public historian,” but not in the traditional way that the academy defines public historian.  I do not work in a museum or historical society. I teach American history to undergraduates.  But having said that, I have worked hard at trying to bring history to bear on public life—to bridge the gap between academic history and public history and to introduce historical interpretation to the public in a way that is accessible and easy to digest.  I have tried to do this through my books, my daily blog, my podcast, and, of course, in the classroom.  This is my so-called platform.  It is a platform slightly different than the spatial platforms that you occupy, but I think it is fair to say that we are all on the same team.

As I flipped through the radio during my drive, it seemed like all of the public stations were in the midst of Spring fund-raising drives.

We have never asked for money here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog (although we have asked you to consider supporting our work at the podcast ), so rather than thinking about fundraising, I focused on the words of the on-air talent as they enticed potential donors with all the good programming planned for the upcoming year.

It made me think.  What do we have coming-up here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home?  What is on the agenda?  The honest answer:  I am not sure.  This blog turns ten-years old in June 2018.  Most blogs don’t last that long.  Ten years is a good time to reflect and take stock.  Here are some of the questions I am asking:

  1. Do we keep going?  We have built a great audience here, but all good things must come to end.  Ten years is as good a time as any to stop.  I still enjoy blogging, but perhaps I need to start redirecting my energies toward others things.
  2. Or maybe we should keep going, but slow down a bit.  Perhaps we should only post once a day or once a week or simply whenever I have something original to say.
  3. If we do decide to go on, what changes should we make?  Do we need a new look?  Do we need to add more features beyond the Author’s Corner, Sunday Night Odds and Ends, or “So What Can You Do With a History Major?”  What are the regular features of the blog that need to stay?  Which one’s need to go?
  4. Should The Way of Improvement Leads Home be more than just a solo operation?  Would the blog lose something if we added a roster of regular bloggers?  Would the blog be better with such a roster?

I will not make any move until the public relations work for Believe Me has died down, but all of these options are on the table right now as we approach our tenth anniversary on June 24, 2018.

What do you think?

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “C.I.A. Director Met Secretly With North Korea’s Leader”

Washington Post: “CIA Director Pompeo made top-secret visit to North Korean leader weeks ago”

Wall Street Journal: “CIA Chief Pompeo Met North Korea’s Kim About Summit”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “Bon-Ton’s new buyer will liquidate stores, not run them”

BBC: “Trump hails secret mission to North Korea”

CNN: “What went wrong on the Southwest flight”

FOX: “Trump mocks Team Stormy’s sketch of ‘nonexistent’ man behind alleged 2011 threat”

Notre Dame’s Provost Defends the Humanities in a “High-Tech World”

Notre

University of Notre Dame Provost Thomas G. Burish informs us that “only two of the top 50 public institutions for research-and-development spending in the humanities in the 2016 fiscal year devoted more than 5 percent of their overall R&D to the humanities, while 19 of the top 50 private nonprofit institutions did.”

Burish believes this is a problem.  Here is a taste of his recent piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Even at my institution, the University of Notre Dame, which ranked second among private universities in the dollar amount of its research-and-development spending on the humanities, we should do more. Rather than shun the “tyranny of relevance” — a concept within the liberal-arts community that refers to the need to demonstrate tangible benefits of humanities-research funding — we should embrace it. If we, like many others, believe in the vital importance of the humanities in grappling with basic questions of truth, the essence of humanness, and the importance of ethical decision-making, among other crucial issues, we must invest more.

If we do not, the humanities will be marginalized by the false premise that they provide nice flourishes but are not effective in dealing with the exciting and challenging advances made possible by the latest technologies. The humanities are neither opposed to technological progress nor indifferent to it; they are valuable partners in it, and must be adequately supported to perform that role.

Read the rest here.

“Red Evangelicals” and “Blue Evangelicals”

Evangelicals met at Wheaton College this week to talk about the future of evangelicalism in the age of Trump.  We have written about this here and here.  The meeting took place behind closed doors, but we are starting to learn a bit about more thanks to participant Katelyn Beaty‘s twitter account:

Some quick observations based on Beaty’s tweets:

  1.  I am glad to see that Mark Noll is there.  This is a historical problem.
  2. A major realignment of American evangelicalism seems more realistic than ever.
  3. From the tweets, it does not appear that this meeting is about trying to reconcile with the court evangelicals.  It appears that this group is critiquing court evangelicalism and the 81% and trying to move in another direction.

Court Evangelicals: How Dare These Other Evangelical Leaders “Steal the Microphone” From Us!

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Wheaton College

CBN News is reporting that some of the court evangelicals are not particularly happy that evangelicals leaders who do not frequent the court of Donald Trump met at Wheaton College this week.

Here is a taste of Jenna Browder’s piece:

Those at the meeting held at Wheaton College indicated they wanted to make sure political allegiances to Trump don’t get in the way of the gospel message but it didn’t sit well with some evangelicals who support Trump’s policy initiatives.

Johnnie Moore, an unofficial spokesman for the Faith Advisory Council, was among the many pro-Trump evangelicals not invited.

“We don’t take it personally; we just pray for them,” Moore said in a statement to CBN News. “I’ve said it many, many times, but I’ll say it again: we have been honored to fight to protect religious liberty that even extends to protecting the rights of those who disagree with us on religious grounds, even when they are unkind.”

Robert Jeffress is another advisor not included.  

Richard Land also questioned the weight of the meeting given the absence of some well-known names. 

“Any definition of ‘thought leaders’ and any definition of evangelicalism that excludes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Franklin Graham is a pale imitation – anemic and incomplete,” said Land. 

Other members of Trump’s Faith Advisory Council spoke to CBN News off the record, one voicing his concern over what he sees as this group of evangelicals trying to steal the microphone from those who support Trump. He pointed to the fact that many invited to participate are part of the anti-Trump movement and hold more progressive views on public policy than traditional evangelical Christian voters who supported Trump in 2016.

“It’s a meeting that will have very little impact on evangelicalism as a whole,” Jeffress told CBN News. “Many of them are sincere but they are having a hard time understanding that they have little impact on evangelicalism.”

Read the entire piece here.  The response of the court evangelicals speaks volumes.  They seem legitimately bothered that this other meeting has taken place.

As I wrote in The Washington Post on July 17, 2017: “The court evangelicals are changing the religious landscape in the United States. The Trump presidency is only six months old, but it is already beginning to alter long-standing spiritual alignments.”

Possible Paul Ryan Replacement: “I have not heard the President lie”

This is pathetic.  Jim Jordan’s response here explains much of what is wrong with our political culture.

Anderson Cooper is masterful here.  Not only does he get Rep. Jim Jordan to say that Donald Trump never lies, but he follows-up by getting Jordan to admit that he is interested in becoming Speaker of the House after Paul Ryan resigns.

If you listen carefully, at one point Jordan implies that it is OK for Trump to lie because he was elected by the American people.

By the way, as of January 10, 2018 the number was 2000 and counting.

Jerry Falwell and the “Taming” of the Liberty University Faculty

Liberty U

The residential faculty at Jerry Falwell Jr.’s Liberty University were not very thrilled about the fact that an academically-weak online program was funding the traditional undergraduate university, but Falwell was able to “tame” them.

Check out Alec MacGillis‘s piece at Pro Publica: “Billion Dollar Blessings.”  The subtitle reads: “How Jerry Falwell Jr. transformed Liberty University, one of the religious right’s most powerful institutions, into a wildly lucrative online empire.”

A taste:

Students at Liberty often quote a favorite line of Falwell Sr.’s: “If it’s Christian, it ought to be better.” Even those who have misgivings about the university’s conservative culture are quick to defend the education they’ve received on campus. Yet despite its ambitions to become the “evangelical Notre Dame” that Falwell envisioned, Liberty is still ranked well behind that university and other religious-based institutions like Brigham Young and Pepperdine; U.S. News and World Report clumps Liberty in the lowest quartile of institutions in its “national universities” category. Some of its programs have strong reputations, among them nursing, engineering and flight school. But the college is limited in its ability to compete for premier faculty, not only because its politics are out of step with the greater academic community, but also because none of its programs, with the exception of its law school, offer tenure.

In his autobiography, Falwell made virtually no distinction between these students on the Lynchburg campus and those receiving their instruction remotely. All of them, in his telling, were being prepared for the same goal, to be “Champions for Christ,” as the Liberty motto had it. But many students on campus, at least, are openly dismissive of the online experience. They take some classes online, for the convenience of not having to drag themselves to class — and, they readily admit, for the ease of not having to study much. “People know it’s kind of a joke and don’t learn that much from it,” Dustin Wahl, a senior from South Dakota, told me. “You use Google when you take your quiz and don’t have to work as hard. It’s pretty obvious.” (Liberty says using Google during quizzes or exams is cheating.)

Campus students are especially scornful of the online discussion boards that are in theory meant to replicate the back and forth of a classroom, but that in reality tend to be a rote exercise, with students making only their requisite one post and two comments per week, generating no substantive discussion. “It’s very minimal engagement,” said Alexander Forbes, a senior from California. Recently, a satirical campus newspaper, The Flaming Bugle, ran an Onion-style article with the headline “Cat Playing on Keyboard Inadvertently Earns ‘A’ for Discussion Board Post.”

Read the entire piece here.  Then head over to the Pietist Schoolman and read Chris Gehrz’s stinging critique of the “tame the faculty” line.

I know Chris to be a very mild-mannered man (he’s the “Pietist Schoolman, after all), so when he writes that the article made him “sick” to his “stomach about this county’s largest Christian university,” we should listen.

The Junto is Back!

JuntoThe Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History is back with a new look and a new roster of bloggers.

Here is a taste of their first post on the new site:

I’m thrilled to introduce our new batch of full-time bloggers for us. After a very broad search with lots of fabulous applicants—we had far more qualified candidates than we had room to fill—our new “generation” of writers are positioned to take the site in exciting directions. You can find all of their bios in our “Members” pages, but here is a quick run-down:

  • Carla Cevasco, an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and scholar of food, medicine and the body, and material culture in early America and the Atlantic world.
  • Elbra David, who recently finished a PhD at the University of California, Irvine, on economy and law in the early republic.
  • Julia Gossard, an assistant professor of history at Utah State University, who studies the history of childhood, youth, and gender in the eighteenth-century French world.
  • Philippe Halbert, a doctoral student in art history at Yale University whose dissertation examines the material culture of domestic life in French and Spanish colonial Louisiana.
  • Vanessa Holden, an assistant professor of History and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky, who studies the history of gender and sexuality in the antebellum South, slave rebellion and resistance, and same-gender loving individuals in the Atlantic World.
  • Ebony Jones, an assistant professor of history at North Carolina State University who studies the histories of Atlantic world slavery, the transatlantic slave trade, and imperial crime and punishment.
  • Lindsay Keiter, a historian of women and gender in early British North America, who currently works for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
  • Adam McNeil, a soon-to-be doctoral student at the University of Delaware and scholar of nineteenth-century African American history.
  • Jordan Taylor, formerly Digital Projects Editor at the Journal of American History and co-editor of the blog Process, and a PhD student at University of Indiana.
  • Emily Yankowitz, an MPhil student at the University of Cambridge who will be a PhD candidate in history at Yale this fall.

Read the rest here.  Welcome back, Junto!

Edward Ayers on Confederate Monuments

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Last weekend Edward Ayers gave a stirring and inspiration presidential address at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians in Sacramento. (See our coverage here). The title was “Everyone Their Own Historian.”  I was not in Sacramento for the conference, but I followed along eagerly as Liz Covart of “Ben Franklin’s World” fame live-tweeted:

Over at Salon, Chauncey Devega interviews Ayers about Trump, Confederate monuments, and Civil War history.  Here is a taste:

The Republican Party is in many ways the Confederacy and the Jim Crow South updated for the 21st century. There has long been a neo-Confederate element in the post-civil rights era Republican Party. With Trump’s election they have fully empowered. And in the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence, we actually saw the president of the United States, suggesting that there are “some very fine people” among neo-Nazis and white supremacists. How do you make sense of this?

I was in Charlottesville that day. I was going to teach a class that afternoon at the University of Virginia. I would start by explaining how there are people who turn to the symbols of the Confederacy as a native, indigenous rebellion against the power of the federal government. That appeals to a lot of people. But when you see that Confederate flag being mingled with Nazi flags, suddenly that claim upon an indigenous, pure and non-racialized argument about politics and “traditions” is gone. It has been forever entangled with white supremacy.

You might be surprised by the number of people who will come up to me after I give a lecture and tell me, “Slavery was wrong, I would never defend it. But the fact is that Robert E. Lee was a fine man and he was fighting for his home, right? He was fighting for what he thought was right.” You hear that a lot. It makes you realize all the evasions that are built into this defense of the Confederacy.

We have all these formulas that people use to say that they are proud of their ancestors. For example, he was a “good” slaveholder. Two, he didn’t really believe in slavery. Three, he wanted to get rid of slavery. Four, most white Southerners weren’t slaveholders so they could not have been fighting for slavery, and so forth. I listen to these folks and I then say, yes, let’s think about this. Let’s forget about whatever you might think about the character or identity of Robert E. Lee. What if the Confederacy had won? What if those men on horseback had actually accomplished what they set out to do? They would have created a nation explicitly based on perpetual bondage that would have been the fourth-richest economy in the world with a monopoly over the single most valuable commodity in the world. How would world history have been different? Other parts of the world would have looked to the South and said, “Ah, the path to the future leads through slavery.”

If you try to argue with them on the same ground that they form the question on, you will have a hard time persuading them. But it’s also the case that white Northerners and Westerners have a smug belief in the inevitable end of American slavery that is not warranted either.

Read the entire interview here.

 

*Religion Dispatches* Reviews *Believe Me*

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Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump will not be released until late June, but several folks have already received advanced reader copies.  The first substantial review of the book comes from the progressive religion website Religion DispatchesGreg Carey, who teaches New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary, has provided a very fair review.

Here is a taste:

Messiah College historian John Fea has earned the right to author a book on this topic. His research focuses on American Christianity, including his nuanced, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? that book put the lie to David Barton’s Christian nationalist mythology, and his critiques of evangelical writer Eric Metaxas, which earned a blocking on Twitter. Fea’s blog, “The Way of Improvement Leads Home,” enjoys wide appreciation. I consider John a friendly and admired acquaintance.

Fea is an insider who teaches at an evangelical college and attends an evangelical megachurch. When he describes the experience of walking into his church the Sunday after the 2016 election, surmising that most of his fellow believers had voted for a horrible person like Donald Trump, I feel his pain.

Fea begins by setting forth the obvious reasons one might expect evangelicals to reject Donald Trump. Trump’s faults extend beyond personal moral failings and “virtually no evidence of a Spirit-filled life.” Other Republican candidates shared conservative policy values, and with greater consistency than Trump, and possessed far more compelling spiritual bona fides. Yet before Trump defeated Hilary Clinton, he defeated those conservative Christian candidates. White evangelicals still support Trump.

Fea walks a fine line between empathy for his fellow evangelicals and critical appraisal. He believes evangelicals hold legitimate grievances against Democrats. He explains that during the Obama administration evangelicals experienced setbacks at a dizzying pace, particularly with respect to matters of gender and sexuality. Obama’s stance on abortion could be taken as a given, but his change of mind on same-sex marriage—if it was indeed a change of mind—was an unwelcome surprise. Fea perceives attacks on religious liberty in the Affordable Care Act’s requirements concerning birth control and the Obama Justice Department’s enforcement of civil rights for LGBT persons. All of these factors motivated evangelicals to believe that they and their movement were under siege.

But evangelicals will also feel Fea’s sting. In Fea’s analysis, three tropes—fear, nostalgia, and power—primarily account for Trump’s appeal to evangelicals. A sense of cultural disorientation tinged with racism plays into the long-standing conservative strategy—the appeal to fear, nurtured by Trump more effectively than any other candidate. If evangelicals disagreed with his policies, “Obama’s biracialism, single-parent upbringing, and global experiences made him a poster child for the demographic changes taking place in the country.” Fea’s chapter, “A Short History of Evangelical Fear,” is worth the price of the book.

Read the entire review here.

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “Trump Rejects New Sanctions Against Russia, Changing Course”

Washington Post: “Federal judge weighs special master to review seized Trump-Cohen records”

Wall Street Journal: “U.S. Seeks Arab Force and Funding for Northeast Syria”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “Can a city stop pedestrian deaths? Harrisburg is going to try”

BBC: “Macron: EU ‘in civil war’ over democracy”

CNN: “Trump can’t escape his tabloid past”

FOX: “Russia, Syria block investigators from entering scene of deadly chemical attack, report says”

Catherine O’Donnell on Elizabeth Ann Seton

I am really looking forward to Catherine O’Donnell‘s forthcoming biography of Elizabeth Seton.  This weekend she delivered the keynote address at the Spring meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  Here is her fascinating talk:


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/264862672″>Plenary Address, Spring Meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association at Mount St. Mary’s University</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user84031308″>Mount History</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Who is Teaching Your Introductory History Courses?

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I have a month or two left as chair of the Messiah College History Department. At the end of the 2017-2018 academic year I will have completed 2 four-year terms.  I am sure I will reflect more fully on this experience as my tenure winds down in May and June.  But right now I have been giving some thought to where my teaching duties will lie over the course of the next decade now that I am giving up administrative responsibilities in the department.

Lately I have been seeing a lot of articles about senior professors teaching introductory courses.  I have always believed this to be a good thing.  In fact, the 100-level U.S. survey class (to 1865) has always been my favorite course to teach.  While I was chair I taught it once a year.  In my post-chair life it looks like I may be teaching it in both semesters.

I thought about all of this when I saw Becky Supiano’s piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education: It Matters a Lot Who Teaches Introductory Courses.  Here’s Why.”

A taste:

Introductory courses can open doors for students, helping them not only discover a love for a subject area that can blossom into their major but also feel more connected to their campus.

But on many campuses, teaching introductory courses typically falls to less-experienced instructors. Sometimes the task is assigned to instructors whose very connection to the college is tenuous. A growing body of evidence suggests that this tension could have negative consequences for students.

Two papers presented at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in New York on Sunday support this idea.

The first finds that community-college students who take a remedial or introductory course with an adjunct instructor are less likely to take the next course in the sequence.

The second finds negative associations between the proportion of a four-year college’s faculty members who are part-time or off the tenure track and outcomes for STEM majors.

The community-college paper, “Role of Adjunct Faculty in Realizing the Postsecondary Dreams of Historically Marginalized Student Populations,” is not the first to examine the link between part-time instructors and student outcomes, said Florence Xiaotao Ran, its lead author. Several previous papers have found a negative relationship between contingent faculty members and student outcomes.

 

Read the entire piece here.

Morning Headlines

New York Times: “Comey Calls Trump a Serial Liar and ‘Stain’ on Colleagues”

Washington Post: “Trump, a reluctant hawk, has battled his top aides over Russia policy — and lost”

Wall Street Journal: “Trump Bowed to Pentagon Restraint on Syria Strikes”

Harrisburg Patriot-News: “Her job is improving student performance: Has Harrisburg schools chief succeeded?”

BBC: “Fired FBI chief: Trump is ‘morally unfit'”

CNN: “Trump faces Comey’s moral assault”

FOX: “Pelosi falsely implies Mueller was ‘fired’ in bizarre fundraising email”