In Australia, fees for history courses will rise by 113% to encourage student to enroll in STEM

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 The national office of the Department of Education (Canberra, Australia)

What is going on in Australia? The government plans to increase university tuition for humanities, social sciences, and law because they apparently do not make students “job-ready.” Here is a taste of Anisa Purbarsari Horton’s piece at the BBC:

Australia’s government recently announced some bad news for prospective university students planning to take subjects in the humanities, social sciences or law. To enrol in courses like history and philosophy, they’d have to pay more than their peers studying the sciences, maths or healthcare. In the case of history, for example, the government proposed that course fees would rise by 113%. The cost of many science-related courses would fall by 20%, with the biggest drop visible in mathematics and agriculture – where fees would drop by 62%. 

The announcement came as part of a higher education reform package entitled “Job-Ready Graduates”, which contains complex changes to funding structures and still needs to be passed by parliament. The element that has stirred debate is the plan to reduce student tuition costs in fields expected to produce the most job growth and increase them for courses seen as less vital to the economy.

In a speech to the National Press Club, Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government wanted to “incentivise students to make more job-relevant choices”.  The next wave of graduates would have to power the post-Covid economic recovery, he stressed. “A cheaper degree in an area where there’s a job is a win-win for students.” 

Tehan’s plans, with a proposed start in 2021, generated a wave of headlines. Many in the higher education sector wondered whether the change would really lead to more places in “job-ready” courses, whether it was the latest battle in a continuing attack against the humanities and whether it would exacerbate existing inequalities within higher education

I understand why this is happening, but it is not based on any solid evidence. The skills taught in humanities courses are absolutely essential to a thriving economy and robust democratic society. And it seems that we need these skills now more than ever.

An Australian Christian Reflects on Religion and Politics in the United States

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A recent Washington Post op-ed by an Australian observer of the American religious scene should serve as a wake-up call to United States Christians. Michael Bird is a professing Christian and New Testament scholar at Ridley College in Parkville.   Here is a taste of his piece “Jesus isn’t interested in America’s two-party division“:

As a scholar of the New Testament and a professing Christian, I simply do not recognize the plethora of American “Jesuses” spawned by the political left and right. What I see is neither the Jesus of Nazareth I know from history nor the Christ of faith that I know from my church.

To begin with, I am not remotely convinced by the Jesus of American conservative culture. A Jesus who sounds like a deified version of Ronald Reagan. A Jesus who believes that God helps those who help themselves. A Jesus who rejects biological evolution but ostensibly believes in an economic contest of survival of the fittest.

Then, among progressives, their Jesus is often described in ways that would probably best fit the long-lost love child of Lenin and Lady Gaga who grew up to become an Antifa activist. The industry of progressive politics trades in a secular Jesus sanitized of anything that sounds too religious.

I understand that everyone wants Jesus on their political side. In fact, I find it heartening that Jesus is still the endorsement that everyone wants! But there are immense costs being paid when politicians and pundits claim Jesus for their own side.

The primary problem is, of course, the absurd anachronisms.

Read the entire piece here.

Ana Stevenson: Dispatches from the Poster Session

We are happy to have Ana Stevenson writing for us this weekend from the floor of the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Atlanta.  Stevenson is a visiting scholar in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh. Here is her first post–JF

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Today marked the exciting beginning and conclusion, which came all too soon, of the poster sessions for #aha16. Across the day, there were three sessions which revealed a range of historical research topics, from the medieval Ottoman empire to the history of food and Arizona’s suburban retail landscape during the 1970s and 1980s.

Many of the posters prioritized imagery and even used material culture to engage people in their discussion.

Various posters pivoted their research around historical maps and cartography. Jamie Mize’s (UNC at Greensboro) presentation, “Contested Cherokee Gender in the Early Nineteenth Century,” arranged its entire discussion around a detailed map. In contrast, “The Historical Map as a Geodatabase: Creating a Geographic Information System (GIS) from a Data-Rich Seventeenth-Century Map,” by Nicholas Gliserman (University of Southern California), matched one particular historical map to a contemporary map of the same region.

Other posters looked toward historical images that had circulated in the popular culture of social movements. In “Lives Abroad in Romantic Interest: Debate over Marriage in the American Woman Suffrage Movement,” Jessica Derleth (Binghamton University, SUNY) used postcards to depict antisuffragists’ fears about the way women’s suffrage would negatively transform the institution of marriage. My own poster, “The Transnational Visual Culture of Women’s Suffrage in the United States and Australia,” used pro-suffrage cartoons to discuss previously overlooked parallels across the Pacific.

Particularly fascinating was the use of material culture to accompany the poster. Lisa Munro’s presentation, “Indigenous Textiles and the Construction of Popular Ethnographic Memory in 1930s Guatemala,” was accompanied by some beautiful Guatemalan textiles.

Following an enduring theme at the conference more broadly, a number of posters engaged with digital humanities methods. The aforementioned poster by Gliserman signalled the beginning of a project hoping to collate many colonial maps together in a larger geodatabase.

Other digitally-informed projects included: “‘Commentaries’ in Migration: A Digital Humanities Examination of Literature, Law, and Practices across National and Chronological Borders,” by John Nathan Blanton (CUNY Graduate Centre), Micki Kaurman (MLA), and Nora Slonimsky (SUNY Graduate Centre); and “Commonwealth Slavery: Digital Studies in the History of Slavery at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities,” by Susan Perdue, William B. Kurtz, Laura K. Baker, and Brendan Wolfe (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities).

Unfortunately, as a participant, I was only able to get a selection of photographs from the poster session, but do check the twitter feed #AHAposter to see some others. And if you’re thinking about making a historical research poster in future, check out the wonderful AHA resource, Effective Poster Presentations.

For those who managed to drop into the poster sessions, make sure you vote for your favorite poster by tweeting #AHAposter!