Father Junipero Serra is OUT at Stanford


Here is the Stanford press release:

Stanford will rename some campus features named for Father Junipero Serra, the 18th-century founder of the California mission system, but will retain the Serra name and the names of other Spanish missionaries and settlers on other campus features, based on the recommendations of a university committee of faculty, students, staff and alumni.

The Stanford Board of Trustees accepted the committee’s recommendations to rename certain campus features and also accepted a recommendation by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne to use the opportunity to honor university co-founder Jane Stanford. As a first implementation step, Tessier-Lavigne is initiating a process seeking approval from Santa Clara County and the U.S. Postal Service to rename Serra Mall, the pedestrian and bicycle mall at the front of the Stanford campus that serves as the university’s official address, as “Jane Stanford Way.”

The Serra dormitory and small academic building with the Serra name also will be renamed, with the new names to be determined. However, Serra Street on campus will retain its current name, and the university will pursue new educational displays and other efforts to more fully address the multidimensional legacy of Serra and the mission system in California.

After extensive research and outreach, the committee applied a rigorous set of principles that a previous Stanford committee had developed for considering the renaming of campus features named for historical figures with complex legacies.

Serra’s establishment of the mission system is a central part of California history, and his life’s work led to his canonization by the Roman Catholic Church in 2015. At the same time, the historical record confirms that the mission system inflicted great harm and violence on Native Americans, and Stanford has several features named for Serra even though he played no direct role in the university’s history.

Read the rest here.

Want to learn more about Serra?  I recommend Steven Hackel’s Junipero Serra: California’s Founding Father.

Jill Lepore on the Ironies of the Free Speech Movement


Check out her piece at The New Yorker.  Both the left and the right have been on the side of “free speech.”

Here is a taste:

In the half century between the elections of Governor Reagan and President Trump, the left and the right would appear to have switched sides, the left fighting against free speech and the right fighting for it. This formulation isn’t entirely wrong. An unwillingness to engage with conservative thought, an aversion to debate, and a weakened commitment to free speech are among the failures of the left. Campus protesters have tried to silence not only alt-right gadflies but also serious if controversial scholars and policymakers. Last month, James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, was shouted down by students at Howard University. When he spoke about the importance of conversation, one protester called out, “White supremacy is not a debate!” Still, the idea that the left and the right have switched sides isn’t entirely correct, either. Comey was heckled, but, when he finished, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. The same day, Trump called for the firing of N.F.L. players who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. And Yiannopoulos’s guide in matters of freedom of expression isn’t the First Amendment; it’s the hunger of the troll, eager to feast on the remains of liberalism.

Read the entire piece here.

Wendell Berry’s California Sojourn

Berry Farm

Matthew Stewart is a Ph.D candidate in American history at Syracuse Univesity.  In his recent piece at “Boom California,” he explores the agrarian writer Wendell Berry‘s decision to leave his home state of Kentucky for the creative writing program at Stanford.  As Stewart writes, “The fact remains that Berry spent a meaningful part of his life in California, and we might not have Wendell Berry Kentuckian, without Wendell Berry, Californian.”  Sometimes the way of improvement leads home.

Here is a taste of “Wendell Berry in California“:

At the age of 24, the farmer, novelist, and poet Wendell Berry packed up and left Kentucky for California to join the creative writing program at Stanford in Palo Alto. What he did not pack for the journey was plans to return to Kentucky. Berry had absorbed the notion that homes—particularly homes in the dying rural communities of Middle America—were for leaving, and that, as the novelist Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” Berry would later dispute this received wisdom in several essays and limn the contours of it in his fiction, but it took him careful reflection to get to that point.  From the distance of several decades, these reflections are surprising to revisit since he is so closely tied to his place and has been since 1964. But what if Wendell Berry had just stayed in California like countless Americans before and since?

In a national literature marked prominently by restlessness, roads, and waterways, Berry has written eloquently about placed people, about those who have returned home or never left. Some American escapes have been romantic adventures, some desperate necessities, and some have been both. If the American past has encouraged and even demanded a national literature filled with stories of escape, at times making a romance out of a necessity, Berry has tried through his writing to open up possibilities for an American future that includes not just escapes but returns. Escapes may be riveting, but, whether the perception is accurate or not, an escape implies something deficient about the place and people that caused it. Escapes are not just adventures but fractures.

By rendering wholly, concretely, and imaginatively one place, Port Royal, Kentucky, through both history and fiction (“Port William” in his fiction), Berry has imagined for his readers the possibility of families, communities, and places that make a return more fulfilling, more joyful, and possibly even more romantic than an escape. But he has not just lectured Americans about why they should return to their places, as he did to his. His story is not simply about a return. It is about building places that inspire returns, where duty and desire coexist. He has lived and imagined a return to a place worth preserving; he has practiced an art of return. As readers of his work know, this is not because his place is better than other places, but because it is his, by both birth and choice. To care for a given place does not demand the denigration of other places: “There are no unsacred places / there are only sacred places / and desecrated places.”

Read the rest here.

Not familiar with the work of Wendell Berry?  You should be.  Start here.

The National Endowment for the Humanities Funds a Seminar for Teachers on the Transcontinental Railroad


Donald Trump’s current budget proposal will eliminate government funding for the humanities.  This means that local communities and American citizens will need to come up with other ways to fund programs like this:

This summer K-12 teachers from around the country will convene in Sacramento to study the history of the Transcontinental Railroad.  The seminar is titled: “The Transcontinental Railroad: Transforming California and the Nation.”

Here is what those teachers can expect:

Using the railroad as a common point of reference, this workshop will expand your understanding of Gilded Age history and culture. We will explore how the Transcontinental Railroad inaugurated a national transportation and communications network, a truly national marketplace for the passage of goods, a much larger-scaled industrial capitalism than ever before, and a larger-scaled labor movement to oppose it. Lives were transformed and in some cases destroyed by the railroad: immigrant railroad workers and settlers of the West, Plains Indians, bison, and captains of industry. The rail line made possible the mass settlement of the West, and, as those who conceived it may have predicted, it changed the course of American history. We will come to see the railroad as the connection between economic, social, environmental, and cultural systems, and as a useful device for teaching the era.

Each session of this NEH Landmarks workshop will begin on a Sunday evening with a reception and tour of the Sacramento History Museum and conclude Friday afternoon after a week of stimulating workshops, talks, and field work. Over the course of the six days, academic historians, museum professionals, and educational leaders associated with The History Project will lead NEH Summer Scholars on an investigation of the transcontinental railroad from its conceptual origins, through feats of labor and engineering, and on to its social, political, and economic impact during and after the Gilded Age. Historic Old Sacramento, a unique 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park located along the scenic Sacramento River, provides an incomparable backdrop for our workshop. The California State Railroad Museum will host much of our work. Other sessions will be held at the Crocker Art Museum and the Leland Stanford Mansion. We will also take two day trips: the first following the tracks of the first transcontinental railroad into the Sierra; the second to the San Francisco Bay Area with visits to Stanford University and San Francisco Maritime National Park.

Although we’ll use an online learning platform to collect, share, and discuss resources, no previous experience with educational technology is required. Consider this an opportunity to experiment online in a supportive environment. Together, we’ll assemble a collection of images, text, video, and your own writings. This archive will become an increasingly valuable as you work to transform the workshop experience into curricular activities using materials and concepts from the workshop. You’ll leave Sacramento with these plans well underway and then polish them in the month that follows.

Learn more about this NEH-funded project here.

For other posts in this series click here.

Did the Purpose of College Change on February 28, 1967?

Ronald Reagan is to blame.  On February 28, 1967 the Governor of California announced that he was going to remove certain “intellectual luxuries” from college campuses in the University of California system.  In doing so, he sent a clear message that the purpose of college was less about intellectual curiosity and more about finding a job.

At least this is the argument of Dan Berrett in a recent piece at The Chronicle of Higher Education.  It is a compelling one.

Here is a taste:

As his second term and the 1970s began, demographics, economic uncertainty, and world events reinforced Reagan’s ideology. Two philosophical shifts, toward social egalitarianism and free-market orthodoxy, took hold.

Higher education felt those shifts. Professorial authority diminished. The unraveling consensus on the curriculum accelerated. Colleges increasingly viewed students as customers. Economic inequality and insecurity rose, as did the wage premium of a college degree. And that became one of higher education’s main selling points.

The long postwar boom, for both the economy and for higher education, was ending, and the oil embargo, in 1973, further strained the economy. Enrollment data showed students fleeing from the liberal arts, disciplines commonly associated with a liberal education, and flocking to professional and pre-professional programs.

Higher education became more of a buyer’s market. Overall enrollments dropped. As that trend continued, colleges sought out new customers, especially adults and first-generation students, many of whom wanted their investments to pay off in jobs.

Read the rest here.