Jill Lepore Talks “These Truths”

These TruthsThis is a great interview with Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States.  I am really looking forward to reading this book.  I hope to find a copy in my mailbox when I return to the office today.

Here is a taste of Sean Woods’s interview with Lepore at Rolling Stone:

Are there dangers for the historian when you’re trying to make the past relevant to the present?
Yeah. Absolutely. Historians talk about the fallacy of presentism, that is, if you’re too interested in what’s going on in the present, you will adjust your past to justify your preferences about the future. That is a sound caution. On the other hand, if people who are cautious and careful and concerned about evidence and argument and method refuse to talk about the relationship between the past and the present, then the only people who will be doing that will be Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.

So much of popular American history is about the Battle of Saratoga or the Battle of Brooklyn or World War II. And I wonder if that’s because so many of the historical books have been written by men and military history is something men get very jazzed about.
Most popular history is either military or presidential and has little sense of the incredible force and political power of social movements and protest movements, and doesn’t have any way of understanding a politics that doesn’t involve the White House. You wouldn’t write a history of this era and say everything was Trump, although that is what everybody thinks in the moment. Everybody’s fallen into the Trump vortex. But if you pull back, you go like, “OK, well actually there’s a lot of things going on.” And among them we get Me Too and Black Lives Matter. These are a really important part of realignments. Nor would you write a history of the Me Too movement without talking about Trump. Because a lot of Me Too is the proxy war on Trump. And a lot of Trump’s followers are actually engaged in a proxy war on Me Too. They’re inseparable analytically in the world that we live in. So why do we accept a public history that imagines that there’s presidential history and then there’s also a history of political movements. You have to look at them together. And you know, it’s hard and it’s a mess, but it’s also really illuminating.

Read the entire interview here.

*BUNK* Picks “Evangelical Fear Elected Donald Trump” as Best American Religious History Read of 2018

BUNK is a history website founded by award-winning American historian Ed Ayers and edited by Tony Field.  It is published by the University of Richmond.  Read more about it here.

Today I learned that BUNK chose my Atlantic Monthly piece  “Evangelical Fear Elected Donald Trump” as the best American history read of 2018.  (Of course, if you want the extended argument, get a copy of my book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump).

This means a lot to me, especially in light of the other winners.

Here are the winners:

Narrative History
The Train at Wood’s Crossing [Brendan Wolfe, brendanwolfe.com]
The long-forgotten story of a Charlottesville lynching is unearthed in a lyrical and deeply researched piece of writing that twists together strands of personal, local, and national history.

Honorable Mention:
The Counterfeit Queen of Soul [Jeff Maysh, Smithsonian Magazine]

Local History
As Goes the South, so Goes the Nation [Imani Perry, Harper’s]
A Thanksgiving trip home to Alabama occasions this tour de force through the state’s twisted past.

Honorable Mentions:
The Little Mayors of the Lower East Side [Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Lapham’s Quarterly]
In the Hate of Dixie [Cynthia Tucker, Bitter Southerner]

Legal History
Black Lives and the Boston Massacre [Farah Peterson, The American Scholar]
Do you know the story of Crispus Attacks, the black man who was the first American casualty of the Revolutionary War? If so, it’s probably incomplete. In this compelling essay, a law professor explains why, and what the omissions have to do with the struggle for racial justice today.

Honorable Mentions:
Separation of Power [William Hogeland, Lapham’s Quarterly]
No Law Without Politics (No Politics Without Law) [Jedediah Purdy, Law and Political Economy]

Religious History
Evangelical Fear Elected Trump [John Fea, The Atlantic]
Fea, a scholar and practitioner of evangelical Christianity, offers a nuanced take on four centuries of people “failing miserably at overcoming fear with hope, trust, and faith in their God.”

Honorable Mention:
The Fight to Define Romans 13 [Lincoln Mullen, The Atlantic]

Reported History
We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage [Christine Kenneally, Buzzfeed News]
A devastating longread based on years of interviews with alleged survivors of systematic abuse.

Honorable Mentions:
Payback [Natalie Y. Moore, The Marshall Project]
A Cool Dip and a Little Dignity [Erin E. Tocknell, Bitter Southerner]

Labor History
A Culture of Resistance [Charles Keeney, Lapham’s Quarterly]
The teachers’ strikes that sprang up around the country last year caught many observers off-guard. Here, Keeney explains why labor activism in red-state West Virginia is not the anomaly it may seem to be.

Honorable Mention:
Where Did it All Go Wrong? [Gabriel Winant, The Nation]

Watery History
In the Dismal Swamp [Sam Worley, Popula]
As is the case with each of the honorable mentions below, this piece defies the terra firma of historiographical categorization, combining currents of environmental, cultural, political, and local history into a profound exploration of what it means to “drain the swamp.”

Honorable Mentions:
The Water Next Time? [Danielle Purifoy, Scalawag]
The First Floridians [Jordan Blumetti, Bitter Southerner]

Historical Reenactment
Natural History in Two Dimensions [Whitney Barlow Robles, Common-Place]
Another fascinating genre-buster that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know?—?and then some?—?about the lost art of fish-flattening.

Honorable Mention:
Revisiting an Explorer’s Northwest Passage ‘Disappointment’ After Nearly 230 Years [Brian Castner, Atlas Obsura]

Museum Review
Real Museums of Memphis [Zandria Felice Robinson, Scalawag]
A gut-punching portrait of Memphis by a daughter of the city, written from the shadows of the National Civil Rights Museum on the occasion of MLK50. “[W]e have to keep track of how our memories and experiences are being gentrified in a notion of progress that has no meaningful proof or original referent.”

Honorable Mention:
Our Nukes, Ourselves [Kelsey D. Atherton, The New Inquiry]

Debunk
How Social Media Spread a Historical Lie [Jennifer Mendelsohn & Peter A. Shulman, Made by History/Washington Post]
When an erroneously captioned photo of a KKK march went viral, the authors sprung into action, correcting the record and explaining how Google, Wikipedia, and other digital platforms amplify the falsification of the past.

Honorable Mentions:
The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant [Anna Flagg, The Marshall Project]
We’re Never Going to Have Our “Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?” Moment [Rebecca Onion, Slate]

Obituary
An Obituary for Orange County, Dead at Age 129 [Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times]
A clever use of the form to give historical context to L.A.’s midterm election results. “The death shocked everyone who hadn’t bothered to pay attention for decades.”

Honorable Mention:
Larry Eisenberg, 99, Dead; His Limericks Were Very Well Read [Margalit Fox, New York Times]

Reputation Revision
Living With Dolly Parton [Jessica Wilkerson, Longreads]
Wilkerson grew up in East Tennessee idolizing the region’s most famous native daughter. Now a historian, she sets out in this lyrical, personal piece to more fully understand Parton’s enduring appeal in the post-industrial South.

Honorable Mentions:
Why Tamika Mallory Won’t Condemn Louis Farrakhan [Adam Serwer, The Atlantic]
Paul Bremer, Ski Instructor: Learning to Shred With the Bush Administration’s Iraq War Fall Guy [Aaron Gell, Task & Purpose]
My Fellow Prisoners: On John McCain [George Blaustein, n+1]

Origin Story (Culture)
Bad Boys [Tim Stelloh, The Marshall Project]
A fascinating piece that chronicles the unlikely story of ‘Cops,’ one of television’s most successful, influential, and polarizing shows ever.

Honorable Mentions:
How Auto-Tune Revolutionized the Sound of Popular Music [Simon Reynolds, Pitchfork]
The Story Behind the Poem on the Statue of Liberty [Walt Hunter, The Atlantic]
My Dad Painted the Iconic Cover for Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung,’ and It’s Haunted Him Ever Since [Robert Silverman, The Outline]

Origin Story (Trumpism)
How Do We Explain This National Tragedy? This Trump? [T.J. Stiles, Zyzzyva (via Lithub)]
There was no shortage of contestants to this category in 2018. And while no single account can do justice to all the factors responsible for our current moment, I especially appreciated Stiles’ personal, wide-ranging, and not altogether pessimistic approach to the question.

Honorable Mentions:
Trumpism Before Trump [Robert L. Tsai & Calvin Terbeek, Boston Review]
The Religion of Whiteness Becomes a Suicide Cult [Pankaj Mishra, New York Times]
The Roots of Trump’s Immigration Barbarity [Daniel Denvir, Jacobin]

Origin Story (Plastic)
American Beauties [Rebecca Altman, Topic]
Before Americans had to learn to reuse their grocery bags, they had to learn to thrown them away. Behold one of my favorite pieces of the year, chronicling the rise and fall (hopefully not in a tree near you) of the plastic bag.

Honorable Mention:
Disposable America [Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic]

Commentary (Reconstruction’s Legacy)
Today’s Voter Suppression Tactics Have A 150 Year History [Gregory Downs, Talking Points Memo]
There was a ton of terrific writing this year about Reconstruction, but this one stood out. It widens the lens on the story of disenfranchisement, explaining that “though rebels perfected the art of excluding voters, it was yankees who developed the script.”

Honorable Mention:
Citizens: 150 Years of the 14th Amendment [Martha S. Jones, Public Books]

Commentary (Historic Preservation)
The Archivists of Extinction [Kate Wagner, The Baffler]
The said archivists are none other than the contributors to a Flickr page devoted to images of defunct Kmarts. If that seems intriguing to you, I promise you that it is. Come for the Kmarts, stay for the withering critique of capitalist destruction.

Honorable Mention:
The Death and Life of a Great American Building [Jeremiah Moss, New York Review of Books]

Commentary (80s Movies)
In the Dark All Katz are Grey: Notes on Jewish Nostalgia [Samuel Ashworth, Hazlitt]
With what is probably the finest opening line of any on this list, this piece is a poignant meditation on nostalgia, the Borscht Belt, and why Dirty Dancing is actually a Jewish horror film.

Honorable Mention:
Brett Kavanaugh Goes to the Movies [Marsha Gordon, The Conversation]

Commentary (Covert Operations)
Did You Know the CIA ______? [Malcolm Harris, n+1]
In this review of Errol Morris’ latest miniseries, Harris examines the inability of Americans to confront the crimes that have been committed in their name. “If cold war is the name for the third world war that didn’t happen, what’s the name for what did?”

Honorable Mention:
The U.S. Needs to Face Up to Its Long History of Election Meddling[Peter Beinart, The Atlantic]

Commentary (Statue of Liberty)
Sentinel [Francesca Lidia Viano, Places]
To read about the Statue of Liberty’s origins is to become ever more aware of the contradictions baked into America’s most cherished symbols. I highly recommend chasing this read with the Slate piece below, which pushes the story forward into our crazy modern times.

Honorable Mention:
Who Does She Stand For? [Paul A. Kramer, Slate]

Commentary (Futility of War)
A Hundred Years After the Armistice [Adam Hochschild, New Yorker]
A standout in a year full of WWI retrospectives. Among other things, Hochschild tells us that more soldiers were killed after the Armistice had been signed than would die on D-Day in Normandy 26 years later. They died, in other words, for no political or military reason whatsoever.

Honorable Mention:
Remembrance of War as a Warning [Christopher Preble, War on the Rocks]

Commentary (Country Music)
Canon Fodder [Shuja Haider, Popula]
Another fun read from Popula, on policing the genre boundaries of popular music. If you’ve ever winced to hear somebody say that they like all kinds of music ““except rap and country,” then this one’s for you.

Honorable Mention:
Agriculture Wars [Nick Murray, Viewpoint]

Periodical Single Issue
Boston Review, “Fifty Years Since MLK” [Forum V (Winter 2018)]
Just in time for the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, Boston Review published a knockout of an issue that was, in many ways, the perfect antidote to Dodge’s Superbowl ad from a few weeks earlier. Every article is a must-read.

Honorable Mention:
The Baffler, “Tramps and Millionaires” [Issue ?42]

Recurring Series
Overlooked [New York Times]
An ongoing effort by the Times’ obituaries desk to remember the lives of notable women who were left out of the paper of record the first time around.

Bibliography
Confederate Monuments Syllabus [Kevin M. Levin, Civil War Memory]
If there’s one person up to the challenge of keeping track of the latest skirmishes in the Confederate monument wars, it’s Levin. He recently compiled this wide-ranging collection of online resources in an effort to help teachers and students make sense of it all.

Anthea Hartig is the New Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Hartig

Congratulations!  Hartig is the first woman to hold the post in the museum’s 54-year history.  She comes to Washington D.C. with a Ph.D in history from the University of California-Riverside and experience at the California Historical Society and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  From 2000-2005 she taught history at La Sierra University, a Christian (Seventh-Day Adventist) school in Riverside.

Graham Bowley has the story covered at The New York Times:

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has a new director, who will be the first woman to hold the position in its 54-year history: Anthea M. Hartig, currently the executive director and chief executive of the California Historical Society.

Ms. Hartig begins her new role in Washington, overseeing 262 employees and a budget of nearly $50 million, on Feb. 18. She will be the first woman to be director since the museum opened in 1964, the Smithsonian said. In her new role, in 2019 and 2020, she will open three exhibitions that are part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative, #BecauseOfHerStory. She will also complete the revitalization of the museum’s 120,000-square-foot west wing.

Read the rest here.

On Writing the History of the 21st Century

2057c-9-11_statue_of_liberty_and_wtc

How would you write a history of the 21st century?  Historian and Anxious Bench blogger Philip Jenkins just finished such a work and he tells us how he did it here.  A taste:

I have just completed a book titled Rethinking a Nation: The United States in the 21st Century. Yes, that’s 21st, not 20th. The whole project raises some interesting questions about just what history is, how we define it, and how we separate it from (for instance) journalism or political science. This has important implications for how we define and study contemporary religious history, the kind of endeavor that concerns most of us at the Anxious Bench.

What a historian has to do, of course, is to rise above simple reportage to supply broad themes and identify key trends by which the larger story can be told. Often, that means making unsuspected connections between different forms of study – social and economic, political and technological, cultural and sexual.

But writing any history of “Only Yesterday” has potential pitfalls, as it can be difficult to rise above strictly contemporary concerns and obsessions to arrive at a balanced long-term perspective. When today we write the history of the 1850s or the 1950s (say) we know exactly the topics and individuals that demand to be covered, so that to some extent our narrative framework is pre-set. We know where the story is going, and the script is already written. That is simply not the case for the most recent era, where we rely on our individual judgments to determine the critical trends, and the most significant events. In a sense, I really am making it up as I go. Not, I hope, in a bad way.

Read the rest here.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast Needs Your Support!

Podcast

As we enter the end of the year, I hope that some of you might find a space for The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast in your holiday budget!  It’s pretty easy to give a one-time gift or an extended pledge of $1 (shilling), $5 (pound), $10 (sterling), or $20 (gold) more a month.  Just head over to our Patreon site for the details.

Season 5 is well underway.  So far we have chatted with:

  • Historian Robert Whitaker on how the past is interpreted in popular video games.  (Coming next week!)
  • Public historian Chris Graham on race, public history, and religious congregations.
  • Arizona State history professor Catherine O’Donnell on Catholic saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
  • Georgetown University historian Michael Kazin on the history of populism in America.
  • Messiah College historian Paul Putz on “Sportianity
  • University of Virginia historian Nicole Hemmer on race and history in Charlottesville, Virginia.

We already have some great guests lined-up for the rest of the season, including Sam Wineburg and Daniel Rodgers.

And, of course, previous episodes are always available at your favorite podcatcher.  Listen to interviews with:

  • Nancy Tomes on the history of health care in America
  • Annette Gordon Reed and Peter Onuf on Thomas Jefferson
  • Frances Fitzgerald on the history of American evangelicalism
  • R. Marie Griffith on sexual politics and the Christian Right
  • Amy Bass on the thrilling story of the Somali refugees who won a Maine state high school soccer title
  • Erin Bartram on graduate school in history
  • Randall Stephens on Christian rock music

And many, many more!

Thanks so much for your support.  All pledges and one-time donations go directly into the production of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Contraband?

Yesterday I opened the trunk of my 17-year old daughter’s car and found four copies of Alan Brinkley’s United States history survey textbook.  None of them are mine.

Caroline Brinkley

The Author’s Corner with Jay Sexton

41hVxrZVerL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgJay Sexton is the Kinder Institute Chair in Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri. This interview is based on his new book A Nation Forged by Crisis: A New American History (Basic Books, 2018). 

JF: What led you to write A Nation Forged by Crisis?

JS: What prompted me to write this book was a move I recently made from British academia to that of the United States. Soon after I returned to the Midwest after nearly two decades in England, I realized that how I had taught and researched U.S. history would change. I thought that I ought to write something broad on how I taught U.S. history to British students before I forgot it all! Second, this book took shape during the unanticipated political developments of 2016 – most of all Brexit and the election of Trump. Hearing everyone on the news and in the papers holler about how the volatility was unprecedented made me think that it would be useful to write something that reminded folks that our history has not always been smooth.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of A Nation Forged by Crisis?

JS: This book has two arguments. First, it contends that moments of crisis have shaped the development of the United States. Second, it argues that America’s most transformative crises were entwined with sharp shifts in the international system, particularly those relating to national security, immigration, and international capitalism.

JF: Why do we need to read A Nation Forged by Crisis?

JS: This book shows readers that the course of U.S. history was not pre-ordained. Most of all, it highlights the underappreciated role played by foreign powers and the foreign-born within the United States.

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

JS: Though I’ve always loved the study of the past, I stumbled into the profession. A two-year masters in England morphed into a PhD, post-doc, and then a permanent job. The rest, as they say, is history.

JF: What is your next project?

JS: I’ve been working for some years now on a history of steam transport in the second half of the nineteenth century. The book I just finished meant that that project has been idling on the high seas. But I’m looking forward to firing up the coal engines and going full steam ahead again.

JF: Thanks, Jay!

Michael Kazin Reviews Jill Lepore’s New History of the United States

These TruthsI love seeing two prolific historians engage one another.  Over at The New Republic, Michael Kazin (Georgetown) reviews Jill Lepore’s (Harvard) new book These Truths: A History of the United States.

Here is a taste:

Lepore…in her new book, These Truths, declines the temptation either to condemn the national project or to celebrate it. For her, the United States has always been a nation wrestling with a paradox, caught between its sunny ideals and its darker realities. “Between reverence and worship, on the one side, and irreverence and contempt, on the other,” she writes, “lies an uneasy path.” The American Revolution was far more than a mere change of power from one group of well-to-do white men to another. “The United States,” writes Lepore, “rests on a dedication to equality.” Yet throughout her deftly crafted survey, she also makes clear how often citizens and their leaders failed to implement this ideal or actively betrayed it. She borrows her title from the Declaration of Independence, to signal both the standard of reason and equality that Americans profess and how their deeds have fallen short of it.

Read the entire review here.

Tenure-Track Job Opening in the Messiah College History Department

Boyer Hall

This ad will appear in all the usual places very soon, but I thought I would also post it here at the blog. Starting date is August 2019.   Feel free to share and spread the word.

The Department of History at Messiah College invites applications for a term-tenure track position in Public History with expertise in post-1865 United States History.

Applicants must be committed to working closely with undergraduate students. Teaching responsibilities will include an advanced course in public history, upper-division courses in area of specialty, a United States history survey from 1865, and first-year interdisciplinary general education courses. We are especially interested in candidates who could offer one or more upper-division courses in subfields of public history and American social history.

Ph.D. in Public History/United States History, with specialization in post-1865 American history. We seek faculty committed to undergraduate teaching and research in the context of a Christian liberal arts college.

The history major at Messiah College allows students to study a wide range of historical periods and subjects ranging from public and digital history to courses in American, European, Ancient Mediterranean, World, and South Asian history. We emphasize the cultivation of a breadth of historical learning along with liberal arts skills of research methods, critical thinking, and high-quality writing. History majors take a standard sequence of core courses in historical surveys, methods, and historiography, and then have the option of selecting from a range of upper-division classes in American History, Classical and Medieval European History, Modern European, Public History, and World History. History majors seeking careers in secondary education (grades 7-12) have an option of completing the state credentialing program in conjunction with the Education Department. The department also offers minors in history, digital public humanities, and Classical, Medieval and Renaissance studies, as well as many enrichment opportunities, including interdisciplinary study, undergraduate research honors theses; collaboration with professors on research; internships with museums, historical archives, and governmental agencies; study-abroad semesters and short-term trips around the world; archaeological training; digital projects; and service-learning.

We are a department of six full-time faculty and approximately 45 majors. Students are encouraged to think independently, engage in fruitful debate, and become citizens committed to service, social justice, and reconciliation. The department maintains strong collaborations across campus with the Center for Public Humanities, Teacher Education Program, Office of Diversity Affairs, and the Oakes Museum of Natural History, and off campus with the city of Harrisburg, county and state archives, and regional schools. Our faculty work closely with students to consider how a history major provides a set of transferable skills that will allow them to access diverse opportunities for employment. Our graduates pursue employment and graduate school in a variety of fields, including history, public history, religious studies, journalism, communication, education, sociology, library science, business, law, computer science, data analytics, theology, among many others.

Read the entire ad here.

John Wilson’s Brooding Spirit

Wilson

In 1998, John Wilson, the founding and only editor of Books and Culture, wrote a column titled “America the Ugly.”  In that piece, Wilson described how he learned to acknowledge the “complexity and tragedy of American history.”  He thanked Mark Noll for refusing to “settle for rousing tales of the Founding Fathers.”

In a recent piece at First Things, Wilson comes at the issue of American identity from a different perspective:

Now that I think about it, I may need to contradict myself. After all, if large numbers of Americans actually believe that the state of the nation is so dire, despite all the evidence to the contrary, then it follows that we are living in a dystopia of sorts, a country in which a critical mass of the citizenry has lost all sense of proportion. That’s an unwelcome thought. But maybe the ranting voices we hear are not so representative as we’re led to believe. And maybe a lot of the people who are warning that we’re on the eve of destruction don’t really believe what they’re saying. That would be much better, more like business as usual. In any case, the Cubs are playing the Cardinals in a few minutes. It may not be the National Pastime any more, but baseball remains a sovereign remedy for a brooding spirit.

Read the entire piece here.

Evangelicals, American History and Support for Donald Trump

Jeffress 2

The ideas and proposals I put forth in the last section of this piece I just published with History News Network are very important to me.    Thanks for considering them and sharing the piece with those who may need to read it.  I had hoped to publish this with a Christian, evangelical or conservative media outlet, but could not find any takers.  I am thankful to Rick Shenkman for running it.

A taste:

If the Christian Right, and by extension the 81% of evangelical voters who use its political playbook, are operating on such a weak historical foundation, why doesn’t someone correct their faulty views and dubious claims?

We do.

We have. 

But countering bad history with good history is not as easy as it sounds. David Barton and his fellow Christian nationalist purveyors of the past are well-funded by Christian conservatives who know that the views of the past they are peddling serve their political agenda. Barton has demonized Christian intellectuals and historians as sheep in wolves’ clothing. They may call themselves Christians on Sunday morning, but, according to Barton, their “world view” has been shaped by the secular universities where they earned their Ph.Ds. Thanks to Barton, many conservative evangelicals do not trust academic and professional historians—even academic and professional historians with whom they share a pew on Sunday mornings.

Read the entire piece here.

Who is Teaching Your Introductory History Courses?

College-classroom

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.

Write For Us From The OAH In Sacramento

a971a-oahI am a bit late to the game here, but if there is anyone in Sacramento for the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians conference who would like to serve as a correspondent for The Way of Improvement Leads Home we would love to publish your dispatches.

What am I hoping for out of these posts/reports? Frankly, anything. Let the spirit move you. I would love to get general observations, reports on sessions you attend, job market updates, or any other kind of stuff you might have the time or inclination to write about.

Feel free to be as creative and journalistic as you want.  My only requirement is that you write material while the conference is in session.  I will try to get stuff posted here in real time (or thereabouts) during the conference.

Though we can’t pay you for writing, we can introduce you, your writing, and your online presence to a several thousand readers a day and over 14,000 Twitter followers.  Our posts on the AHA are regularly picked up at other sites and blogs as well.

If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail at jfea(at)messiah(dot)edu and we can get the ball rolling.  In the meantime, check out our posts from other conferences to get an idea of what some of our previous correspondents have done:

2016 Organization of American Historians

2016 American Historical Association

2018 American Historical Association

2017 Organization of American Historians

White Supremacy in the History of American History Textbooks

pictoralhistory00goodrichHarvard’s Donald Yacovone has an interesting piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education on the history of American textbooks and their representation of race.  Here is a taste of “Textbook Racism: How scholars sustained white supremacy“:

There it sat on a library cart with 50 other elementary, grammar, and high-school history textbooks, its bright red spine reaching out through time and space. As I opened the book’s crisp white pages, it all came back. My loud gasp startled those near me at the special collections department of Harvard University’s Monroe C. Gutman Library. Exploring the New World — published repeatedly between 1953 and 1965 — had been assigned in my fifth-grade social-studies class in Saratoga, Calif.

As part of a broader study of the legacy of the antislavery movement and the rise of the modern civil-rights era, I wanted to assess how abolitionism had been presented in textbooks. I imagined a quick look. Instead, I found myself immersed in Harvard’s collection of nearly 3,000 U.S. history textbooks, dating from about 1800 to the 1980s. Without intending, I had become engaged in a study of how abolitionism, race, slavery, and the Civil War and Reconstruction have been taught for generations.

After reviewing my first 50 or so textbooks, one morning I realized precisely what I was seeing, what instruction, and what priorities were leaping from the pages into the brains of the students compelled to read them: white supremacy. One text even began with the capitalized title: “The White Man’s History.” Across time and with precious few exceptions, African-Americans appeared only as “ignorant negroes,” as slaves, and as anonymous abstractions that only posed “problems” for the supposed real subjects of history: white people of European descent.

Read the rest here.  To the extent that American history textbook publishing reflected the concerns of the larger society, this should not surprise us.

“America is only three presidents old”

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Very interesting analysis here from Philip Bump of The Washington Post.  A taste:

[George H.W.] Bush was born when Calvin Coolidge was president, who was born when Ulysses Grant was president, who was born when James Monroe was president, who was born when the United States was a British colony. (At that point, Britain was led by George III, who was born when George II was king, who was born when George I was king.)

Read the rest here.

Episode 31: Searching for Christian America in a Boston High School

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The practice of historical thinking requires training. In this episode, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss this crucial habit of the mind, especially within a political climate where historical claims run rampant regardless of whether there is evidence to back them up or not. They are joined by high school teacher Mike Milway, who teaches at the prestigious and socio-economically diverse Boston Trinity Academy in Boston, Massachusetts, as well as three of Dr. Milway’s students, to discuss how they cultivate historical thinking in their classrooms.

The Popularity of American History Podcasts

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According to Khari Johnson of Venture Beat, American history podcasts are “having a moment.”

We believe that The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is part of that “moment,” but we could use your support to keep things going.  We are lining up some great guests for the rest of Season 4.  So far this season we have done episodes on:

  • American Evangelicals with Pultizer Prize-winning author Frances FitzGerald
  • Libertarianism and democracy with National Book Award-finalist Nancy MacLean
  • STAX Records and public history with Jeff Kollath, director of the STAX museum in Memphis
  • The history of Florida and Mar-a-Lago with historian Julian Chambliss
  • Teaching history with Kevin Gannon, the “Tattooed Prof”
  • Thinking historically about race and Charlottesville with historian Kelly Baker

Podcasts take time and money to produce.  We have a great staff at The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and I would really like to keep them for the long haul.  Won’t you consider supporting our work through our Patreon Campaign?  Click here for more details!