Why I Felt Out of Place at the World History Conference


Mr. Furnish, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor, World History, Georgia Perimeter College.

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Two weekends ago I managed to attend some of the panels at the World History Association (WHA) conference, in-between grading for my three summer world history courses, working on a book proposal and--most importantly--pulling Mr. Mom duty for our two small sons.

Since I teach at a community college, it had been a number of years since I last attended a WHA gathering. Sifting through the program, and aiming to optimize my attendance, I finally decided to attend panels on Islamic Art, Literature and Travel, Edges of Premodern Christendom, Gandhi in World History and a more methodological offering, Conceptions of World History.

I must confess I pointedly skipped presentations with titles such as Coding Cattle and Revising History, Marx, Gurdjieff and Mannheim: Contested Utopistics of Self and Society in World-Historical Context, Different Markets: the Divergence of the U.S. and French Bicycle Markets, 1894 (1899)-1910 (you mean Franco-American differences started before Bush became president?) and Are We What We Wear? Clothing and World History. (Actually, I think a good guideline for academic conferences is to eschew anything with "postmodern," "gender," "subaltern" and/or "Said"--as in Edward--in the title.) But to paraphrase J.R.R. Tolkien: some who attend academic conferences find my preferred topics "boring, absurd or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similiar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer." Perhaps that makes me a Neanderthal (albeit an educated one) in the eyes of many of you readers, but I'm too busy teaching my students about what actually happened in world history, and grading their essays thereupon, to obsess about arcane topics and theory.

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There were some very interesting and worthwhile papers presented at the panels I attended: Stephen Gosch's (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire) on Muslim travelers before Ibn Battuta; A.J. Andrea's (University of Vermont) on the Crusades as global phenomena; Deborah Smith-Johnston's (ABD, Northwestern) on conceptual frameworks for teaching world history. And for the most part my sensitive (some would say borderline paranoid) conservative antennae detected only the faint static of political correctness and lefist cant.

Until I went to hear about Gandhi.

The paper presentations on the great Indian nationalist leader were informative, particularly Howard Spodek's (Temple Univeristy) on "Gandhi: From Gujarat to the World," which explained how Gandhi built on Gujarati traditions, especially that of shaming those in power when they were lording it over others, to confront the British. After this discussion, and one by Ane Lindvendt (McDonough School, Baltimore) on a survey of online sources about Gandhi, the America- and Bush-bashing began.

The august chair/discussant of this panel, Dr. Mark Gilbert of North Georgia College and State University, segued from "Eight Ways to Use Gandhi in World History" into the following absurd analogy: like in Gandhi's time, opponents of the American administration are "being beat into submission" and "called anti-patriotic [sic]" by a "hegemonic opponent." (OK, now I have another buzz word to avoid in panels: "hegemonic.") I hurriedly reviewed my program, thinking I had inadvertently stumbled into a Howard Dean campaign stop, or perhaps an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board meeting. Beat into submission? I let it pass, theorizing to myself that perhaps Professor Gilbert, living even farther north in Georgia than me, had become, against his will, a Dixie Chicks fan and thus unable to differentiate between actual censorship and the market reaction of livid country music fans out there in red America (the parts that didn't vote for Al Gore).

A bit later, however, a discussion of volunteerism in Gandhi's ideology sparked the discussant to opine that American students should be apprised of this element "because our government, in the future, will be less interventionist, and more libertarian." Less interventionst? Can someone say Iraq? Liberia? As if the Bush Adminstration, being pilloried by conservatives for increasing domestic spending to new heights, hopes to bring back soup kitchens? And just what does this have to do with Gandhi, anyway? Last time I checked, my church was doing a fine job of enlisting its youth membership to volunteer for every cause under the sun. What say we stick to Gandhi's place in world history, and how best to communicate that to our students? Is that too old-school?

The panel wound down with a debate over which lefist icon Gandhi most resembled: Che Guevara? Marx? Nelson Mandela? Susan Sarandon? (OK, I'm kidding about the last one.) Wishing to put a bit of stick about, I finally spoke up, addressing a serious (but admittedly provocative) question to Professor Spodek: "isn't it possible to see anti-Soviet activists such as Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel in a Gandhian vein, too?" No sooner had the words left my mouth than a grad student (easily identifiable by his glaring sartorial ignorance, manifested by a fetching socks-and-Birkenstocks motif) butted in with "Well, they became millionaires and Gandhi didn't, HAR HAR HAR!" Leaving aside the rudeness of butting (and I mean that literally) in, what was the relevance of such a remark--even if true? The point, I have little doubt, was simply to belittle my contention and to keep Gandhi purely as the property of the Left--or at least the left attending that panel.

Much ado about nothing, you say? Perhaps. But I, for one, wish academic conferences could be venues for debating ideas free from the casual, and arrogant, assumption that all present must share a distaste for a Republican administration. I yearn for a day when history panels (and their attendees) are judged by the content of their presentations (and comments), not the correctness of their ideology.

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Mara Shalhoup - 2/13/2007

Hello. This is probably a long shot, but I'm wondering if anyone knows how to reach Jennifer Schlacht (one of the posters in this thread) -- or might have taken a class with the professor she mentioned, Dr. Ken Hockman. I'm writing a newspaper story about Dr. Hockman and would love to talk to students who enjoyed his teaching. Please email any leads you might have to mara.shalhoup@creativeloafing.com. Thanks for your help!

Lorraine Paul - 2/5/2007

Another bit of advice from me. Never, ever open your mind to new concepts or new ideas. Never, ever be prepared to look at an alternative viewpoint. Never, ever be prepared to argue "for" that point of view. Never, ever try to learn something 'different' to what you have always believed to be true.

If you do all of the above, you WILL have wasted your money.

How do you think humanity progressed? By sitting around and admiring what they already knew? K

I advise you to keep well away from any higher learning establishment because if you are going there to have reinforcement for what you already believe, you could be in for a dreadful shock to the system..

Lorraine Paul - 2/5/2007

Ummm The real Cato wasn't anything to do with TV.

I hope Dr Furnish isn't teaching you Roman History!!

Lorraine Paul - 2/4/2007

Not only a nice riposte, but a factual one! LOL

Carrie Jean Richardson - 12/5/2006

I resent that. I'm also a student of Dr. Furnish's and he does not teach for children- he's a college professor. (Spare me the "I'm trying to round up the bleeding liberals and everyone else who might hate this guy just because by throwing out the "Think about our kids!")
I'm far from being a child, a few good years over "being legal", as well as a person that holds down a forty hour a week job and still manages to attend class- full time for both. SO. The next time you come to the board with the agenda to slay somebody, do your research on who the person you are slaying is. I also wouldn't feel a whole heck of a lot of pity for his students, we are just fine thanks, and learning a lot.

Mechelle Nunya Bizzness - 8/3/2005

I have read a few of Mr. Furnish's articles and I have to say I am amazed.

Amazed that this man is supposed to be a role model and teacher for our children and he presents his opinions laced in name calling such as "ignorameous" and "idiots". How mature....*tongue in cheek*

It could be that the reason most colleges seem to lean towards the "left" is because studies have shown that most intellectuals are liberals. Maybe there just aren't enough conservatives that measure up to Ivy League or collegiate standards.

Jennifer Schlacht - 5/7/2004

Dr. Timothy Furnish is an awesome history teacher over at Georgia Perimeter college and I am actually in his class this Spring 2004 term.

Some other great teachers who have influenced me greatly there have been Dr. Ken Hockman (teaches American) Literature and Dr. Christian (teaches Philosophy).

So any of you who think Dr. Furnish is whining about attending a WHA conference are full of blaaaaaaaaaaaah!!


mark ainslie simons - 2/5/2004

why not? I'm pretty sure Gandhi would be up for some Bush bashing...

mark ainslie simons - 2/5/2004

"I saw a Republican administration in the U.S. equated with a colonial British one in India 60 years ago. And do you honestly think that if we were living under a Gore administration the same sorts of comments would have been forthcoming?"

do you think if we were under a Gore administration that America would be occupying iraq like a colonial power?

Tim Furnish - 9/23/2003

Prof. Gilbert,
I never said that the panel on Gandhi was not useful or informative; it was, very much so. But I just get tired of the subtle and not-so-subtle Bush- and conservative-bashing that goes on in the academy, and I thought a panel on Gandhi was not exactly the most appropriate venue for such.
Tim Furnish

Marc Gilbert - 8/28/2003


Cato - 7/27/2003

Give me a break. First you claim to detect a problem, and then you stomp around with outrage when I respectfully suggest that you, and not somebody else, might help solve it. Next, you announce that you just might try to contribute to a solution. Now you claim that your five classes per semester (would that be about 1 class every three weeks or so?) is more important than the problem about which you yourself whined at the start of this. A union grievance officer couldn't do better than this. In case you did not know, it turns out that hard work actually involves working hard.

Derek Catsam - 7/27/2003

Tim --
But how quickly the right forgets. I recall equal meanspiritedness against Clinton for eight years from ideologues as blind in their hatred of Clinton as many on the left are blind in their hatred of Bush. Did this happen at history conferences? No. But it happened in other areas, at other conferences, where the skew was more right than left. Perhaps a return to civility, a move away from politics as ad hominem attack, might make the American political dialogue a little more palatable, and might make for some actual cooperation between left and right. In many ways Bush is paying the price for what many of his colleagues on the right spent eight years doing to Clinton.

Tim Furnish - 7/25/2003

Cato, I teach five classes per semster. Some history professors don't teach that much in two years. And frankly teaching is much more honest work than putting together panels.

Cato - 7/24/2003

I am glad to see that you decided to act on my recommendation that you stop your whining, put together a panel of your own, and do some honest work for a change.

David Salmanson - 7/23/2003

Well, you know us northerners. We're quick to take offense at everything. I'd totally groove on doing a panel with you, how about "Western History: World History what can they teach each other? or something like that but catchier.

Tim Furnish - 7/22/2003

I wasn't "snippy." Sarcastic, maybe. Even droll. But snippy?
I thought that was a Mick Jagger quote.
Oh boy, my head nearly explodes at the thought of WHA-types in Vegas. But come to think of it, my in-laws live there so I just might go.....maybe we could put together a panel on Elvis as the Mahdi (the Islamic "messiah")?

David Salmanson - 7/22/2003

I have a sense of humor. And I spent ten years in grad school and never landed a tenure track job. As my mother always told me, "If they can't take a joke, [expletive deleted] 'em." Mom still has a foul mouth even though she is a woman of a certain age. But you kind of undermined the sentiments of the Tolkein with the snippy "I'm only interested in important things" spiel. The other WHA (that is the Western History Conference) is in Las Vegas in 2005. Now that's gonna be a fun conference!

Tim Furnish - 7/21/2003

Wow.........more disrespect toward Georgia colleges....I'm shocked, shocked.......
I'm not the arbiter of anything, other than when my kids go to bed; didn't I point that out in my Tolkien quote?
Next year I'm doing a panel of the lack of a sense of humor among academics........

Jonathan Dresner - 7/21/2003

Prof. Furnish,

You're right that conflict predates the nation-state (which really isn't much older than the 18th century anyway, at least in clear conception). But the essence of the progressive distate towards the nation-state is the idea of progress: we should be able to outgrow the tribalism, of which the nation-state is one of the most firmly institutionalized version (outside of religion, I suppose), which is the basis for so much irrational conflict.

Nation-states do not "cause" warfare. But they promote unity based on ahistorical mythology and psychological manipulation which promotes conflict with "others"/"outsiders", i.e., other nation-states with different mythologies and internal minorities who don't share the dominant mythology.

It is a pathological model. Just because it isn't the *only* cause of problems doesn't mean that it isn't problematic.

David Salmanson - 7/21/2003

Look, I'm your typical raging leftist academic but even at conferences that are hotbeds of leftist discourse, (think American Studies Association) I'd be happy to go to as many good panels as Furnish saw. The fact of the matter is, that Furnish saw three good panels, five good papers and one jerk and one grad student were snarky and stupid. Comapred to your average day of watching television that's a great day. Compared to reading academic books and articles that's still a pretty good day.
I'm also surprised that Furnish dissed the bicycle industry panel. While he might find it boring, business historians might be aching for some of the insights that a comparative study of a small industry might provide. Perhaps the sources there are really good and the author was able to develop some new ideas as to state funding vs. private enterprise or relationships with labor unions. Not having attended, I can't tell, of course. But then, neither can he. Why he is the arbiter of what people should find interesting?

Let's remember that the offending parties were a) a grad student (and since when is there a dress code for non-presenters?) b) the person with the least prestigious and worst job of any he mentioned (IMHO teaching at a really good independent school in the Baltimore area is better than North Georgia whatever).

David Salmanson
PS The Dixie Chicks sold out in Philly and remain hugely popular despite the fact that Clear Channel Communications the corporate owners of the only country radio station here have had a ban on playing them without any outcry from the local populace demanding it. But then, they needed to be in bed with the Bush administration to get further deregulation of the radio industry accomplished.

PPS All that said, I agree (as usual) with Ken H. I get to go to one conference a year (if it is not in Philly) and I pick them based on where it is and which of my friends are going. My favorites are the Western History Association and American Historical Association-Pacific Coast Branch. Nice folks, usually good cities (WHA Lincoln was pretty much a loss, see Ken's rules above)and a guaranteed fun time for all.

Josh Greenland - 7/21/2003

"He demonstrates that man's inhumanity to man long predates the European creation of the nation-state."

Does any seriously argue that it doesn't? I thought everyone knew that the time of city-states was a time of wars, empires and slavery.

Tim Furnish - 7/21/2003

For those political scientists and historians enamored of "transnational progressivism" and who seem to think that nation-states cause warfare--I suggest you take a look at Steven LeBlanc's "Prehistory of Warfare" in the May/June issue of "Archaeology." He demonstrates that man's inhumanity to man long predates the European creation of the nation-state.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/21/2003

I'm not convinced that "transnational progressivism" (whatever that is) is really what drives the WHA, but it is true that political scientists, historians and activists have been declaring the end of the nation-state for decades, if not a full century, now. The concept of the "nation" as the basis for the state has serious problems, historically (there are not now, nor have there ever been, any pure nations) and it seems rationally doomed.

What do they want? Peace, which seems highly unlikely as long as people draw highly artificial lines between themselves and others and cling to historical prides and hurts that have no relevance in the present but which serve to make peace, even coexistence, unlikely. Utopian, yes. I'm one of them, but I know that the "endgame" is a long way off.

I could quote all kinds of thinkers and activists over the last century talking about the atavistic and unstable nature of nations and nation-states. And they're right, but that doesn't mean that it isn't still a powerful, very real, force in history.

I'm not sure the US qualifies as a nation-state: it does have a powerful binding mythology, but lacks the ethnic unity to make it a nation in the technical sense. More often, the US and EU are cited as examples of the path beyond nation-state thinking.

Josh Greenland - 7/21/2003

"As for the particular bias at WHA, it is the bais of transnational progressivism, as John Fonte terms it. A belief that the field's duty is to denigrate the nation-state, in particular THIS nation-state. No matter that the nation-state is still the only real game in town, for good or ill"....

If the transnational progressives are against the nation-state, what would they see in its place? Or do they have any idea what they want?

Jonathan Dresner - 7/20/2003


I certainly know what you mean about studying history later in life: older students are my favorites because of the greater perspective and concrete understanding of the world they bring to the classroom. Plus, they are usually there more or less voluntarily, not because mommy and daddy said "go to college and we'll pay for it", so they have an investment in their own education. They understand how long a decade is, and they get more of my jokes. Almost every teacher I've talked to has said the same thing.

Frankly, if our institutions of higher education are "breeding grounds" of left/liberalism, they're doing a miserable job of it. There certainly seem to be plenty of conservative students, faculty, administrators and graduates around. There are really only a few fields in which there is much leftist politicization possible, though history certainly is one of them. (the most popular major at the schools I've taught at is Business/Economics, where the profs are very rarely leftists) But that doesn't mean that you should give up.

Caveat Emptor: let the buyer beware! Check your potential professors' book lists (you're looking for Zinn: avoid him), and ask their students what kind of teachers they are (if your school has a conservative students' group, they'll probably let you know exactly where your prof stands and how they teach). Don't be put off by the first "PC" terms: many of them make important new distinctions that clarify and complicate the oversimplified "march of history" of decades past.

But I just want to say that there are a lot of us liberal/lefties who actually distinguish between teaching and public discourse. I tell my students that, aside from basic facts, there is a lot of room in history for interpretation, and it is the power of your argument and completeness of your evidentiary support that determines the quality of your history, not whether or not I agree with your conclusions.

Shannon - 7/20/2003

Well Tim, it's a pity I'm in Texas. I would happily attend your class. :o)

Tim Furnish - 7/20/2003

To quote once again a former prez, "Ah feel your pain." But...if all of us anywhere to the right of Ho Chi Minh abandon the field, the other side wins the day and gets to totally indoctrinate our youth. Join the fray!!!

Shannon - 7/20/2003

Tim, I would like to Thank you for restoring my hope in academia. For many years I considered going back to school to take a few courses on History. As one gets older one actually begins to find history an interesting topic, unlike in youth where it's just another course to to get through High School. I believe you know what I mean and take no offense at my words. But I have been relunctant to do so because of the very thing you pointed out in your article. I could be wrong and would delight in being so, but I am beginning to see our Colleges and Universities as a breeding ground for the indoctrination of liberalism. I resent our places of higher education being used as 're-education' camps for the left fringe. Am I wrong to feel this way? I would appreciate it of Professor Dresner would add his thoughts on this as well.

I certainly don't want to give my hard earned money to a College or University whose over all philosophy is to promote subversive and progressive politics by using characters in history to support their own agenda. My underlining fear is that the moment I noticed the first 'politically correct' term in a history book, I may walk out of the class room and demand my money back.


Tim Furnish - 7/20/2003

Well, I think we historians are sometimes qualified to draw (or demolish) historical analogies--not just the poly sci folks. But I agree with your larger point. Not to beat (or exhume) a horse, but my larger point is that said analogies at academic conferences are, in my experienc, almost exclusively delivered from the left side of the plate (as we baseball fans would say), never the right.

Herodotus - 7/20/2003

I meant apolitical, not neutral. I don't think that a presenter who is talking about Ghandi need speak about contemporary political affairs unless the historian is actually a political scientist drawing comparative analyses between something in the past and something in the present.

The worst offenses in this regard are when people giving papers on subjects that are not remotely connected to the present (medieval religious history, to pick out of the blue) feel that they have some platform and some obligation to pontificate on current affairs. The audience is there for the history, not the contemporary.

Tim Furnish - 7/19/2003

Prof. Markell,
Thanks for your comments and next year, if geography and travel budgets allow, I shall per your advice endeavor to chair and present a panel at WHA (or, God forbid, an even worse warren of leftist politicization masquerading as scholarship: the Middle East Studies Association).

Tim Furnish - 7/19/2003

Mr. (Prof.?) Catsam,
Well, to paraphrase a former chief executive, "that depends on what your definition of 'apolitical,' is." I of course agree with you that apoliticism is not tantamount to ethical relativism. I'm glad we destroyed Hitler's reich (and Saddam's, for that matter, and we should probably do the same to Kim Jong Il's). But that's not what was going on at the WHA; there, rather, I saw a Republican administration in the U.S. equated with a colonial British one in India 60 years ago. And do you honestly think that if we were living under a Gore administration the same sorts of comments would have been forthcoming?

Elia Markell - 7/19/2003

I am with Professor Furnish on this, but I think the arguments here about politicization miss the point. In my view, political passion and the quest for the truth are not inherently incompatible. In any case, I have never met or read a single historians who is without some political point of view -- as long as we all recognize that a tone of neutrality is one of the more powerful, if deceitful, political stances one can take. Political passion can lead to shoddy work, but it need not, in any case.

What I find objectionable about WHA from Professor Furnish's account (and my own many encounters with similar left-dominated professional organizations) is the insufferable institutionalized entrenching of a single point of view and a failure to ensure an enclusion of a full range of them. That's how a healthy academy would function. At the age of 60, I am finding fewer and fewer people with any memory of such.

As for the particular bias at WHA, it is the bais of transnational progressivism, as John Fonte terms it. A belief that the field's duty is to denigrate the nation-state, in particular THIS nation-state. No matter that the nation-state is still the only real game in town, for good or ill -- as comparing events inside Iraq now, where democracy is taking root, with events inside Congo, where UN troops cower in bunkers and chaos reigns. (I realize this last remark is provocative, and goes against the grain of the BBC-CNN-NYTs Axis of Drivel take on events in Iraq. So just read Amir Taheri's accounts of actual events on the ground there to see my point, please). In any case, the WHA ought to be INVITING folks like Prof. Furnish (or even me, for that matter) to conduct sessions and open a few windows in their stuffy loft.

Derek Catsam - 7/18/2003

This depends on what you mean by "apolitical." Surely you don't mean "neutral"? Would you also expect such "neutrality" on Nazi Germany or Apartheid South Africa or Stalin's purges? One of the jobs of an historian is sometimes to pass moral judgments. In so doing, there are inevitable political issues that will emerge. Once one assumes that Ghandi was right, that Mandela was right, that Hitler was wrong, that Stalin was wrong, they are, in some ways politicizing their history. In my mind, as long as they still do justice to the documents, to the truths that are out there, to the facts as we know them or as we learn them, some politicization is not only fine, it is good and necesary and in any case unavoidable. I certainly don't trust those who claim to do utterly apoliticized work or utterly neutral or objective work -- I think it is impossible, and usually those who claim to be depoliticized are the very ones with the agendas to watch out for.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/17/2003

Prof. Furnish,

Actually, I think there are three different kinds of politicization, two of which are defensible and one of which is not.

I think it is entirely reasonable to attempt to learn from history lessons that are applicable to the present (there are participants in HNN discussions who go so far as to proclaim that it is the only saving grace of our discipline), and that does entail, at times taking political positions.

The second politicization, a powerful component of the historical process, is the investigation of the past based on new categories and concepts which come out of contemporary politics. The rise of gender, class and race/ethnicity as analytic categories has greatly enriched (mostly) our understanding of the past.

The third politicization is far more common here and, probably, at the panel you describe, is the highly selective use of facts to justify one's predetermined positions: As John Kenneth Gailbraith said, "Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof." That's less defensible, and causes most of the arguments here.

And it is a bit naive to expect complete purity from human beings, but it is something towards which we can strive in our scholarship, in our teaching, and in our internet discussions.

I had a very similar experience, actually, at my most recent conference: a panel on Indian politics degenerated rapidly into an interminable apologia for the BJP (which the presenter insisted should be referred to by its translated name, "Indian People's Party" rather than by its convenient "Hindu nationalist" label) and its increasingly fundamentalist positions and fascistic methods, including communal violence. I certainly learned something....

Tim Furnish - 7/17/2003

Professor Dresner,
There is more than a BIT of disingenuousness in my piece.
Thanks for noticing.
But in all honesty I like to HOPE that these panels, even one on Gandhi, could be a bit more apolitical. Is that naieve of me?

Tim Furnish - 7/17/2003

They pseudonymous Cato calls me "parasitic" and then upbraids me for "intemperate name-calling?" Ah, consistency.... And to elevate this discoure back above the junior-high level, my dear Cato, perhaps you could focus on the SUBSTANCE of what I was getting at in that article--the unneeded politicization of WHA conference panels--rather than on the adiaphora of just how many classes I teach?
And while you're at it, attempt to find a sense of humor.

Herodotus - 7/17/2003

Why can't the study of Ghandi be apolitical? What's wrong with that? What's wrong with scholars that they think they have to inject contemporary political affairs into studies of the past? It spoils their work.

Cato - 7/17/2003

Rebuked? I give up. You guys are just like the doctors and lawyers when it comes to defending your own. What a racket! It is a good thing that nobody has to depend on your work for anything real. Sheesh.

Jonathan Dresner - 7/17/2003


While I don't agree with Prof. Furnish's conclusions in the article, I want to commend him (and rebuke you) because it is increasingly rare for scholars to even attend conferences without having a paper to present or other resume-bulking opportunities. Moreover, there is a great deal of work involved in actually listening to and absorbing the material presented at one of these conferences. Presentations are short, which is good, but that means that they are usually dense and fast-paced. It requires a fair bit of concentration, not to mention a strong background, to make sense of the material presented. It is work-related, as teachers of world history are expected to know, well, everything, and be current on "cutting edge" scholarship to boot. And it certainly is work.

On the other hand, there's a bit of disengenousness in Furnish's article: did you expect Ghandian scholarship to be politically neutral?

Cato - 7/17/2003

OK..workload...let's see ...maybe it was your complaint that you were soooo busy "grading for my three summer world history courses, working on a book proposal." I did not even bother to speculate about how many times you had to show up to class during the academic year....why did you imply that I did?

As for your intemperate name calling....it is a nice way to try to change the subject, but it rarely works. The fact remains that you did not bother to organize a panel; instead you decided to complain about those who did put out the effort and take the risks. Gee...I wonder if your definition of the word "coward" would apply in such a case. (Perhaps "parasite" would be the more appropriate term. I really don't know.)

Tim Furnish - 7/17/2003

Dear Cato,
I'm curious as to where in my article you can glean any info on my workload? (If you really want to know, I teach five classes per semester in the autumn and spring and three in the summer, in addition to publishing, attending conferences and--this past spring--presenting a paper in Israel.) As for your claim that I'm "whining"--well, that charge is, in my experience, the usual refuge of a coward. Like someone who posts comments on HNN without revealing their real name.

Cato - 7/17/2003

You might want to actually do something instead of whining about the panels and panelists (and complaining that you actually have to do some work to keep your job). It may well be that you are somehow prevented from putting together a panel focused on a subject agreeable to you, but I DOUBT IT.

Maybe it is time to quit your whining and get to work.

Ken Heineman - 7/17/2003

Tim, you have expressed in print what many of us have been saying to each other privately for years. I have concluded that the reasons to attend an academic conference are, in order of importance:

1. Will some entity other than yourself pay for the freight?

2. Does the conference city have great bars, food, and music?

3. Can you arrange to meet with friends at the conference to enjoy point 2 and who have point 1 covered?

4. You can put the conference on your activity report--especially important if you are not tenured and largely irrelevant if you are since few universities believe in real merit pay.

5. There might be a presenter worth listening to. An entire panel would be exceptional and if you get up to half of the presenters being worthwhile, well that still won't interfere with points 2, 3, and 4.

Keep the faith.


Jane Steele - 7/16/2003

I agree. These conferences can be very interesting but also a show place for mean-spirited attempts to make many attending feel bad. This is one reason that I no longer attend some of these.

Chuck Heisler - 7/15/2003

I wish you luck on your quest Mr. Furnish but what would these folks do for a smile, ok, a sneer if it weren't for a Republican Administration and Bush? You know they passed up the most potentially humorous Administration since Grant's, with all of it's gutter behavior, by taking Clinton and his "capabilities" and trials oh, so very seriously.
I do appreciate your comments and call for discussions of content.