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Jan 2, 2006 10:37 pm

Additionally Noted

Jonathan Salzman,"UMass Teacher Blasts Colleagues on Hoax Story," Boston Globe, 29 December. A student's little lie-heard-round-the-world continues to reverberate in Massachusetts. Thanks to Manan Ahmed for the tip.

Bob Thompson,"A Painting's Story, Told Stroke by Stroke," Washington Post, 29 December, tells the fascinating backstory to Caravaggio's"The Taking of Christ" and Jonathan Harr's The Lost Painting.

Jeffrey Hart,"The Burke Habit," OpinionJournal, 27 December, is an assessment of how American conservatism has changed over the last half century by an important longtime supporter. It's provoked considerable discussion among Ross Douthat, Jonah Goldberg, Ramesh Ponnuru, Andrew Sullivan, and Matt Yglesias. In my conservative mode, I think that Hart defines that American conservative tradition quite well. I share his belief that the current leadership of my Republican Party has"retain[ed] the same outward name and aspect while transforming their substance entirely." Would that they understood the meaning of" conservation,""prudence,""restraint" ... the finest conservative values. Thanks to Edward Schmitt of the University of Wisconsin, Parkside, for the pointer.

Karen W. Arenson,"When Scholarship and Politics Collided at Yale," New York Times, 28 December, looks at the case of David Graeber, the very talented young anthropologist and anarchist who was denied contract renewal at Yale.

Andrew Sullivan hands out his Poseur of the Year Awards. [Please, please, dear Lord, keep me from such pretentiousness.]

Finally, yes, the smiley face in this picture belongs to Glenn Reynolds, but the handsome little guy on his shoulders is William Glenn Uti Reynolds, the son of our colleague, Jonathan, and his wife, Victoria, Reynolds. Young Reynolds is almost 14 months old now and has grown up quite a bit since these pictures were taken with mom and dad when he was a newborn.

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Ralph E. Luker - 1/3/2006

The classic ivy league case had to be the Americanist side of the history department at Harvard. For many years, the sacred half dozen regarded themselves so highly that they neither tenured any younger colleagues nor did they hire anyone from outside with tenure. Thus, into his seniority, Stephen Thernstrom was its youngest tenured American historian. My impression is that the administration concluded that the half dozen would simply have to die off and then the history department at Harvard could begin rebuilding process the Americanist side of the department.

Jim Williams - 1/3/2006

Yale indeed does not regularly offer tenure to junior faculty, and political issues may affect decisions. An interesting case happened with Straussian political philosopher Tom Pangle in the 1970s. Pangle was a great teacher and a highly productive scholar, but the Political Science department voted against tenure, perhaps because they didn't want a Straussian underfoot. When furor erupted, Yale "reconsidered" the decision but stacked the deck against Pangle so well that the decision was foreordained. Pangle was compared to the top 3 scholars in the world, regardless of whether those scholars were willing to move to Yale. Pangle landed on his feet, however, moving to a prestigious institution elsewhere with a tenured full professorship. (No; I am not a Straussian. I don't see how a historian can be a Straussian.)
Did political issues affect either decision? It's hard to say; the tenure bar at Yale is extremely high, and most untenured faculty don't get tenure. It is not clear to me that Graeber is so brilliant that Yale normally would offer him tenure. Pangle appeared to clear that bar easily to folks outside the political science department, but.......

Russ Reeves - 12/31/2005

For handing out Poseur Awards, I hereby name Andrew Sullivan the winner of the Irony Award, complete with a statue of a pot calling a kettle black.

Ed Schmitt - 12/30/2005

Thanks Ralph, for including this in your discussion here. I find Hart's observations fascinating, but I am struck by a couple of the internal contradictions in his piece. The glaring one is his description of "Soft Utopianism." In one breath he's calling it soft-headed, naive, Kum Ba Ya idealism, and just a few paragraphs later he claims that it has had the tendency of promoting war. Which is it? (For idealistic goals, but not rooted in the misapplied faith in human nature that he wants to attribute to this bunch?) He also suggests that the conservative disposition in American politics, as woven by Russell Kirk and others, is evolving, but at the same time he calls it a "permanent achievement." I'm not sure Hart's piece is as useful for his analysis of history (intellectual and otherwise) as it for what it suggests about the internal divisions within conservatism today.

Robert KC Johnson - 12/30/2005

The Arenson story was a very interesting one. I would have liked to have known more about Yale's general policy of tenuring junior faculty. If, as Linda-Anne Rebhun implies, Yale has a general pattern of not tenuring junior faculty, then the significance of this story lessens.

I was struck by the article's undertone that Graebner seemed to be regularly late to class--I wonder whether that's customary at Yale.

Marc A. Comtois - 12/30/2005

If you'll indulge me in a bit of self-promotion, I did a little experiment and attempted to "live-blog" the debate in an attempt to provide a synthesis of the main points. If interested, check it out at:

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