Support The Way of Improvement Leads Home!

As more and more of you are checking-in during this crazy moment in American history, I want to remind everyone that if you like what we do here–-both in terms of the daily blogging and the podcast–-please consider supporting our work. We always need good American history, but we need it more than ever in tumultuous times.

Stay tuned, we have some surprises in 2021! In the meantime, we have some great podcast episodes lined-up. Episode 80 drops on Sunday night with historian and public intellectual Claire Potter, author of Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How Alternative Media Hooked Us on Politics and Broke Our Democracy.

Click here to become a patron. You can support us for as little as $1 a month.

And yes, mugs and signed books are still available for patrons!

And for our loyal patrons: THANK YOU for your ongoing support!

Episode 74: An Independent Woman in Revolutionary America

In this episode we talk with historian Lorri Glover about Eliza Lucas Pinckney, a woman who lived through the American Revolution in South Carolina. Pinckney’s story sheds light on gender, agriculture, politics, and slavery in this era and unsettles many common assumptions regarding the place and power of women in the eighteenth century.

Listen at:

Apple Podcasts

Stitcher

iHeartRadio

Spotify

Podbean

Podchaser

And other podcatchers!

If you like what you hear, or perhaps you are new to the work of The Way of Improvement Leads Home blog, please consider supporting our work.

Click here to become a patron.

We have some big changes in the works for 2021. I can’t say anything yet, but it’s going to be huuuuge!  Stay tuned.

If all goes well, we will drop an episode every Sunday between today and mid-January 2021. We have some incredible guests lined-up!

And yes, mugs and signed books are still available for patrons!

Did I mention you can click here to become a patron?

And for our loyal patrons: THANK YOU for your ongoing support!

Episode 73: Cowboy Evangelicalism

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What does it mean to be a man in white evangelical Christianity? In this episode we talk with historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez, author of Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation. We discuss definitions of masculinity, the Gospel Coalition, Beth Moore, Donald Trump, the 2016 election, the differences between White and Black views of Christian manhood, and how the thesis of her book might be applied to American evangelical culture during the COVID-19 pandemic.

https://playlist.megaphone.fm?p=ADL7692401175
You can also listen at your favorite podcatcher, including Apple Podcasts

Episode 68: The History of the Presidential Cabinet

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The members of Donald Trump’s controversial cabinet are regular features of the 24-hour news cycle. He has fired members of his cabinet who challenge his thinking on a host of foreign and domestic issues. Just ask Rex Tillerson, James Mattis, and Jeff Sessions. But how did our first president, George Washington, imagine the role of the cabinet? In this episode, we think historically about this important part of the executive branch with historian Lindsay Chervinsky, author of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution.

https://playlist.megaphone.fm?e=ADL7730217358

Chervinsky

Episode 61: Impeachment 101

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Are you watching Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial?  Are you trying to make sense of it all?  We want to help.  In this episode we talk with CNN presidential historian and Southern Methodist University professor Jeffrey Engel on the history of impeachment. Engel sheds light on the debates over impeachment in the Constitutional Convention, the historic meaning of “bribery” and “high crimes and misdemeanors,” and the inevitable political and partisan nature of American impeachments.

The American History Podcast *Backstory* Will End Production in 2020

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The original Backstory hosts: L to R: Peter Onuf, Ed Ayers, Brian Balogh

Here is the announcement:

Charlottesville, VA— After more than three hundred episodes that have reached millions of listeners over the last twelve years, BackStory, the American history podcast produced by Virginia Humanities, will record its final episode this summer. The last episode of BackStory will publish on July 3, 2020.

Over the years, BackStory has looked at pivotal points in history with a fresh perspective and revealed lesser-known historical moments with journalistic curiosity and scholarly rigor. Hundreds of guests and listeners have contributed their voices to this conversation, while thousands more tuned in every week.

“When we first tried to find a radio voice for history, none of us would have predicted three hundred episodes of BackStory,” said BackStory host Ed Ayers. “Virginia Humanities has been a wonderful ally throughout our adventures. We’re grateful to them and our loyal donors for having faith in this twelve-year experiment.”

BackStory began in 2008 as a monthly radio show. Created by Andrew Wyndham and somewhat styled after popular radio show “Car Talk,” BackStory then featured noted historians Peter Onuf, Ayers and Brian Balogh as its hosts. In 2017, Onuf retired and historians Joanne Freeman and Nathan Connolly joined the team. Together, Ayers, Balogh, Connolly and Freeman continued to make history engaging, accessible and often, downright fun.

Read the rest here

Teaching History With Podcasts (#AHA19)

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I am happy to have Matt Lakemacher writing for us this weekend from the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago.  Matt is one of the most engaged middle school teachers I know.  He teaches at Woodland Middle School in Gurnee, Illinois and is a veteran of numerous summer history seminars and institutes.  Here is his first dispatch:

Can podcasting help to stem the tide of declining enrollment in history departments?  For the panelists and audience members in an opening American Historical Association roundtable today on “History Podcasting as Graduate Students,” the answer was a resounding, if qualified, yes.  Producers and hosts from two historical podcasts, Sexing History and The Way of Improvement Leads Home, gave brief remarks on their experiences with history podcasting and then opened it up for audience members to share the ways that they’ve used podcasts in the classroom and with students.  In the end, it became clear that while podcasting (as well as blogging) might not be the silver bullet that saves history education, it can be another tool in the history teacher’s arsenal to make the subject relevant, keep students’ interest, and in jargon that all K-12 educators know their administrators want to hear: promote 21st century skills.

Two dual themes emerged from the panel: podcasting is good for history and history is good for podcasting.  Each panelist related in one way or another how working on a podcast actually improved their work as grad students and as historians.  According to Saniya Lee Ghanoui, podcasting with Sexing History taught her the importance of story-telling and has greatly improved her dissertation writing.  In a similar vein, Devin McGeehan Muchmore shared how blogging for Notches and working on Sexing History got him to think about ways of narrating the past outside of the traditional historical monograph or journal article.  And Drew Dyrli Hermeling credited his work on The Way of Improvement Leads Home with getting a job at the Digital Harrisburg Project. As a whole, the panel embraced the role that podcasting can play in public history – bringing the past to those outside of the academy (although it was conceded that podcasting is still very much a niche medium and can be somewhat of an echo chamber).  Ghanoui offered some advice to her fellow grad students: “It does take away time from your dissertation . . . but it’s a welcome distraction.”  She added, “I love how collaborative it is . . . it is worth it.”

Hermeling set the table for the audience discussion that followed and the pivot to history being good for podcasting, by sharing how he had students in his J-Term class on indigenous culture at Messiah College create a podcast as one option for a project assignment.  He, as well as the audience, made clear that audio quality and production values should not be heavily weighted on any rubric used for grading such an assignment.  But Hermeling was surprised by the quality of the research and sources that students used in their podcast.  “It’s a good way of tricking them into using a lot of citations.”  One audience member admitted that compared to other assignments, grading student podcasts was a pleasure.  Another said that Wisconsin Public Radio was looking to possibly use some of his students’ short pieces on the air.  And everyone who shared during the session had positive experiences doing a podcasting assignment in class, thought the students were engaged, and plan on doing them again.

So, can podcasting turn around sagging interest in history as a K-12 subject and as a major?  Perhaps the jury is still out.  But if it provides another way of getting students to apply historical thinking skills to a (relatively) new technology and opens another venue for bringing historical literacy to the public at large, then it’s an effort well worth pursuing.  As the roundtable’s chair and host of Sexing History Lauren Gutterman stated, “graduate students are at the forefront of history podcasting,” and for that this history teacher and fellow grad student is grateful.  Of course, as Hermeling put it in one final word of advice for potential history podcasters, “At the risk of being flippant, I’d go the Sexing History route.”

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast at Harvard’s “Sound Education” Conference

Podcast Conference 2

The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast co-host and producer Drew Hermeling is in Cambridge, Massachusetts this weekend.  He is doing a presentation on the podcast at Sound Education: A Conference for Educational Podcasts and Listeners.  Harvard University is hosting the event.

Here is a description of his session:

Seeing Early America Everywhere: Connecting Eighteenth-Century History to Unexpected Places with Andrew Hermeling (The Way of Improvement Leads Home)
@ Divinity Hall, Room 106

Colonial Puritans and Colin Kaepernick. Mount Vernon and Mar-a-Lago. Eighteenth-century midwifery and Obamacare. These may seem like odd connections, but in their efforts to prove that #everythinghasahistory, early American historians and podcasters John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling regularly demonstrate that today’s hot-button issues have eighteenth-century antecedents. If you look close enough, you can see early America everywhere.

There are some great podcasters at Harvard this weekend.  Here are a few that caught my attention:

Nate DiMeo of The Memory Palace.  (Listen to our interview with Nate in Episode 6 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Ed O’Donnell of In the Past Lane

Blair Hodges of the Maxwell Institute Podcast

Marshal Poe of New Books Network

Liz Covart of Ben Franklin’s World (Listen to our interview with Liz in Episode 24 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast)

Dan Carlin of Hardcore History

We will try to get Drew to write a report of the conference and post it here.  Stay tuned.

Podcast Conference 1

It looks like Drew is playing to a good crowd

Episode 39: Returning to Charlottesville

PodcastThe legacy of August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville haunts America. The precipitating event, the removal of Confederate monuments, continues to be debated in southern cities and on college campuses. This is a conversation that warrants sustained historicization. Host John Fea lends his thoughts to the recent toppling of “Silent Sam” at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. They are joined by University of Virginia-based historian and podcaster Nicole Hemmer (@pastpunditry) who recently dropped her own serial podcast, A12, in response to her experiences during the violence of the “Summer of Hate.”

 

Season 5 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast is Right Around the Corner!

We are in the studio this week recording episodes for Season 5 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Like Season 4, we have some GREAT guests in the queue.  As always, we NEED YOUR HELP.  Learn how you can support high-quality American history podcasting here.   All supporters are eligible for a The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast mug or a signed copy of one of my books, including Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Here are some pics:

Podcast on stage

A shot from our first live episode

Ally Podcast

A fan on the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Mug in Florida

Florida during Hurricane Irma

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I believe this is in Richmond, Virginia

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bta-students

Some of these students from Boston Trinity Academy were guests on Episode 31

Lowrie

Season 4 studio producer Josh Lowrie has graduated.  We will be announcing his replacement soon

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Don’t forget our intern, Nilsa

Shannon

We interview some great authors!

Stephens Book

fun

Sometimes Drew gets very excited about our episodes

Moral combat

Drew and Josh

Drew and Josh doing their thing

Fitz

Occasionally a Pulitzer Prize-winner shows-up on our airwaves

XM

People love listening to the podcast on road trips

Brenda

It’s always great to meet TWOILH patrons when I’m on the road.