Anthony Grafton: Wisconsin: The Cronon Affair

[Anthony Grafton is president of the American Historical Association and professor of history at Princeton.]

...Two points are striking. First of all, Cronon is not only a political moderate, he’s a passionate Wisconsin patriot. He moved to Madison as a child, did his B.A. at the University, and learned his environmentalism as an explorer of the Wisconsin landscape and a reader of a local hero, the naturalist Aldo Leopold. In 1992, at a time when academic stars had begun to flee strapped public universities for richer private ones, Cronon, by then a professor at Yale, left to go back to Madison. An independent, he has expressed his respect for the past traditions of the Wisconsin Republican Party. If the current officers of the party were really acting in the interest of their state, they wouldn’t be going after Cronon, who is one of its treasures. (Given that they misspelled his name in their complaint about his response, they may not know or care about any of this.)

Second, the Republicans seem remarkably fragile. A professor writing a blog post gives them the shivers. It’s a good thing they chose politics, and not the kind of career where the going can really get rough. Professors, for example, teach their hearts out to surly adolescents who call them boring in course evaluations and write their hearts out for colleagues who trash their books in snarky reviews. These Wisconsin Republicans may never have survived ordeals like that. Happily, Cronon has been toughened by decades of academic life. He’ll be blogging—and teaching and writing—long after Wisconsin voters have sent these Republicans back to obscurity.

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John a Wilson - 4/3/2011

"Cronon has been toughened by decades of academic life." Thia is quite a striking statement. We might have to test him for steroids as well as ask legally for his emails.

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