Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
Caplis and Silverman, who have gone through a good number of Churchill’s remarks, have concluded:
Churchill has made things up to put himself in a position to incite and actively advocate violence against the U.S. and its citizens.The newly discovered quotes uncovered by Caplis and Silverman include Churchill asking in 2003, “Why, by the way, did it take Arabs to do what people here should have done a long time ago?”; his contending that terrorists “must” deliver the United States a"dose of medicine" through a chemical, biological, or nuclear strike; his asserting, in reference to the illegal “colonization” of the United States,"Killing the colonizer is a figurative proposition, it is a literal proposition, but either way, and by all available means, the proposition has to be fulfilled”; and finally, when asked by a white man in a Q+A session in Seattle during 2003 about how to most effectively carry out a terrorist attack against the nation’s financial centers, his responding,"You carry the weapon. That's how they don't see it coming. You're the one. They talk about 'color blind or blind to your color.' You said it yourself. You don't send the Black Liberation Army into Wall Street to conduct an action. You don't send the American Indian Movement into downtown Seattle to conduct an action. Who do you send? You! With your beard shaved, your hair cut close and wearing a banker's suit."
Churchill stands credibly accused of ethnic fraud, grade retribution, falsification of the nature of his military service, academic fraud, plagiarism, selling other artists' creations as his own and falsely accusing Denver Post columnist Diane Carman of inventing incendiary quotations.
All this provides ample justification for termination pursuant to accusations of incompetence and lack of integrity. But it is Churchill's instructions on violence that demand immediate suspension followed by termination. Due process must be provided, but unless this accused can somehow suppress his own statements, he should ultimately lose his job.
“The ongoing employment of Churchill,” the attorneys conclude, “is a catastrophe for CU,” since, while “some issues are a matter of left vs. right,” the “Churchill controversy is a matter of right vs. wrong.”
I continue to believe that dismissing Churchill would do more harm than good (assigning him to teach classes is another matter), and feel that the CU administration should use the affair to investigate the university’s personnel policies to determine exactly what criteria the relevant faculty committees have been using. Along these lines, Colorado chancellor Betsy Hoffman probably sealed her fate with awkward public comments Thursday (I bet she wishes she had waited until the Caplis/Silverman article came out) comparing Churchill’s critics to McCarthyites, remarks that have the state’s GOP legislative leadership demanding her dismissal and which the Rocky Mountain News strongly and properly censured in an editorial today.
The most troubling aspect of the Churchill case—and the related (and far more serious) MEALAC crisis at Columbia—involves the response of the faculty on campus. This Monday, 199 professors at Colorado signed a public statement denouncing the inquiry into Churchill’s conduct, suggesting, in effect, that because figures from outside the university have condemned Churchill, the university itself has no right to even inquire into serious allegations of academic fraud and (if the Caplis/Silverman story is correct) possible legal liability to CU for inciting violence. At Columbia, by my count, only three professors on the entire arts and sciences faculty have publicly condemned the conduct of the MEALAC professors, creating the (hopefully false) impression that personnel bias and in-class intimidation are standard fare at Morningside Heights.
The faculties of Columbia and Colorado have justified their positions by citing academic freedom. Yet the doctrine arose, as Scott Jaschik’s recent piece in Inside Higher Ed reminded us, in a period when professors were regularly fired for their political views—but also in which professors were expected not to bring their political views into the classroom. (The 1915 AAUP statement on academic freedom and the since-repudiated University of California academic freedom policy, drafted in the 1930s, were explicit on this point.) Therefore, it was correctly reasoned, professors shouldn’t be fired for saying controversial things in public (even if their remarks were intellectually dubious), because these comments had nothing to do with their academic qualifications or how they taught their classes.
Of course, the line between political and classroom speech was never as clearcut as the California or AAUP resolutions implied. But the defenders of Churchill and MEALAC have argued that there should be no line—that political speech is perfectly appropriate in the classroom, if this is how a professor wants to teach his or her class. I don’t agree with that proposition, and I think that many in the academy don’t agree with it. But, having taken this approach, there seems to me a tension between arguing that professors are free to bring their political views into the classroom and contending that academic freedom protects a professor’s out-of-class utterances on the grounds that a fundamental distinction exists between such remarks and what the professor does in the classroom.
Perhaps the positions of the Colorado faculty who have condemned the inquiry into Churchill and the Columbia faculty who have defended MEALAC would be more defensible if they attempted to resolve this tension.
I'm a military historian. Sure, I could tell you that one of my specialties is the ethics of war, and that my current research deals with such trendy, left-leaning subjects as counterhegemonic resistance or the influence of war upon race formation in the United States. It sounds very cool, very fellow traveler. But then you read my c.v., and it says that I wrote part of the standard military history textbook at West Point, and that I've interned at RAND Corporation, lectured at the Army War College, and participated in a conference sponsored by the Marine Corps University. It sort of blows the image. If the "technocrats" of the Twin Towers were "little Eichmanns," as Churchill puts it in his now notorious essay, I'm a little Himmler.
It gets worse. Look deeper into the c.v. and you'll find that I've written 25,000-word magazine biographies of, among others, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and--shudder!--Nathan Bedford Forrest. I suppose you could desperately imagine that these are searing exposes of four white racists, but I'm afraid not. They were critical enough to irritate a few Sons of Confederate Veterans, but most readers would characterize them as respectful; even, in the case of Lee and Jackson, admiring.
Of course, I wrote them years ago, before I presumably drank the kool-aid and became a tenured radical. Let's face it, if you're an ideologue of the right, and you really need to see me as one of Churchill's defenders, you'll find a way to do it.
So let me make it easy for you.
I love Ward Churchill.
There! I said it, and I feel better. And so do you, if you're a warrior of the far right. You've got your proof. Now you can feed it to your readers, who will chortle over it with you. They won't think, as I would think, that you're playing them for fools, feeding them quotes out of context or hiding in plain sight the equation of engagement with agreement.
It's all good, because I love you too, David Horowitz.
I love you guys because you help me think. There's really nothing like a radical perspective to make you reconsider basic premises, and for someone in my business, for whom ideas are playthings, this is all great fun. I realize that for you ideas aren't playthings, but blasting caps, and you have a point. Ideas indeed have real world consequences. The ideas expressed in Ward Churchill's "roosting chickens" essay have angered many. The ideas expressed in the statement of principles of The Project for the New American Century have killed, to date, some 1,500 American service personnel as well as 16,000 to 18,000 Iraqi civilians, directly or by opening the door to a bloody insurgency. They may also have opened the door to democracy in the Middle East. I'll believe that when I see it, but your point is made. Ideas are powerful. I can see why they scare you.
But while I appreciate your concern that an idea may fall into the wrong mind, I have to say that I'm an adult, and I would also appreciate the common courtesy of your letting me think for myself. My students, incidentally, feel the same way. I brainwashed them. Sue me.
A challenge to those on the right: bring it on. Savage me all you want. Trust me, a military historian can't get enough of your scorn. In the academy it's like a badge of honor. It gets me in the club. People stop thinking that I'm probably a CIA plant. Of course, I've never been much for clubs, so . . .
A challenge to those on the left: don't try to play me the way the far right plays its own supporters, goading them with sound bites and crude propaganda. I've seen you do it, too. Knock it off. Sure, I'm a registered Democrat, but don't take that for granted. Don't think, for instance, that because I find FrontPage magazine lopsided and unfair that I will not detach the substance of its argument from its tendentious presentation--just as I've been doing with Churchill. If eighty percent of university faculty members are really politically left of center--and that squares with my own observations, at least within the humanities--then how come? Is there a political gate-keeping within the academy? I've seen no overt evidence of it, but it's plausible that choices made according to other criteria have the consequence, unintended but perhaps congenial, of keeping a lid on conservative voices. I mean, it seems to me that you can accomplish quite a lot of political gate-keeping just by denigrating the fields most likely to attract conservatives as being "traditional," "old-fashioned," and "overrepresented" (without checking too closely to see if this is in fact the case).
So let me repeat: I love you, Ward Churchill. I love you too, David Horowitz. You tortured, angry, lovely men--you guys invigorate my life. Churchill helps me figure out what would happen if Tom Barnett got to implement the national security plan outlined in The Pentagon's New Map. (Hint: ka-boom!!) Horowitz helps me figure out what would happen if I asked my colleagues, here and elsewhere, why so few academics in the humanities are Republicans? (Hint: Hollow jokes about how it's because academics are smart. Yeah, so smart the other guys control all three branches of government.)
Recall the famous slogan in the "war room" of the 1992 Clinton campaign: It's the economy, stupid. Well, for people in the academy it's the ideas, stupid. We like ideas. We need ideas. We play with ideas, the bigger, the bolder, the better. Sure, they're not just playthings, they're blasting caps; and now and again we lose a finger (or, who knows, even tenure). But we can never have enough of them.
But I'm thinking of a moment just prior to that when Will Herberg, my favorite teacher at Drew, my rabbi, got into the front seat of my car for me to take him into Jersey City, where he was also teaching at St. Peter's College. Herberg was an awesome intellect. I write about him often here and always with great affection and admiration. Growing up in a secular Jewish family, he had become a leading intellectual influence in the Lovestonite faction of American Communists. They were named for their political mentor, Jay Lovestone. Like many radicals of his generation, however, Herberg grew increasingly disillusioned with Marxism. In mid-life, he turned to study historic Judaism and became a professing conservative Jew. He was the author of two books that helped shape the public life of the mind in mid-20th century America, Judaism and Modern Man and Protestant, Catholic, Jew. By the time I knew him, Will had grown increasingly conservative and was publishing in William Buckley's lively new periodical, National Review.
So, as I say, one day Herberg gets in the car for our regular trip into Jersey City and our conversation turned to the civil rights movement, then churning in my beloved Southland. I was fresh from the movement and full of its hope that"We Shall Overcome." Har-rumphf, grumbled Herberg, lawless, ignorant troublemakers. (I paraphrase, but that was the substance of his reply.) As always, he soon had me on the defensive, because Will gave no quarter in intellectual combat. Casting about for some respectable defense, I cited the fact, after all, that Martin Luther King had a doctorate in philosophical theology from Boston University. Herberg replied that he had friends on the theological faculty at Boston and that he'd inquire into King's academic credentials. I doubt that he ever did. Even if he had, King's mentors at Boston would have given glowing accounts of the brilliant record of their most famous student.
I recall that moment when my rabbi sat beside me on the way to Jersey City and questioned Martin Luther King's academic accomplishments for several reasons. I think about it often because subsequently, as Associate Editor of the King Papers, I directed much of the research that exposed a remarkable record of plagiarism in King's academic work, including his dissertation. Undoubtedly, if it had been exposed in King's own lifetime, his earned doctorate at Boston would have had to be revoked. But, I think about that moment on the way to Jersey City also because shortly after Will Herberg's own death, we learned that he had fabricated every one of the three academic degrees that he claimed to have earned. He claimed to have a B.A. from C.C.N.Y., when he'd actually been expelled from the place for getting into a fight with the instructor of a required ROTC course. The M.A. and Ph.D. that he claimed to have earned from Columbia were simply wholly fabricated. He'd never been admitted there. Beyond that, apparently in order to postpone the day of his retirement, Herberg had regularly pushed forward the date of his birth in reports to Who's Who. I've often thought, what if I'd known all of that in that moment. What if I'd said to my beloved teacher:"Yes, King is an academic fraud; and so are you."
Of course, I didn't know those things then and they continue to puzzle me now. When the subject of someone like Ward Churchill or intellectual diversity on our campuses come up, they puzzle me in ways that cause me to say: I agree with everything you say; and I agree with nothing that you say. The man who I sometimes regard as the greatest moral authority in the twentieth century, my revered Martin Luther King was, undoubtedly in some ways, an academic fraud. And the man who I revere as the greatest teacher I've ever known, Will Herberg, my rabbi, was, both a conservative and, undoubtedly in some ways, an academic fraud. But every one of us at Drew conceded that Herberg knew more than any one of us and more than most half-dozens of us put together. Struggling in the midst of the McCarthy era against a personal history of Marxist-apologias, with no academic entitlements, and knowing that an academic community was his true home, Herberg affected entitlements that were expected of such people. In some ways, I love and admire him all the more for having successfully exploited the vacuity of our credentialing processes. A university that could not find a place in it for a conservative so learned and so devoted to teaching as Will Herberg is unworthy of the name.
So, yes, you're damned straight. Our universities must be places where conservatives are welcomed on their faculties. And, no, academic fraud is not definitive. Martin Luther King's academic plagiarism undoubtedly shades his moral leadership. And, yet, how many of us who are altogether innocent of plagiarism have ever risked our pristine hides to give moral leadership about anything? And, no, academic fraud is not definitive. Herberg was the greatest teacher I've ever known – an encyclopedic mind, with a tough, combative style. If Ward Churchill had any of his intellectual heft, he'd be worth defending.
Yesterday's Pasadena City College Courier reports on the new Internet filters that have been installed on our faculty computers. Amusingly enough, the student computers in the library and other computing labs have unfiltered access to the Internet.
In an attempt to curb recreational use of the Internet, a filtering system has been installed on staff and faculty computers to eliminate visits to pornographic, adult gaming and adult gambling sites.
Computers used by students and computers in the library are not affected by the filter.
Okay, I give. What's the difference between adult gaming and adult gambling? I thought "gaming" was just a euphemism for gambling. Did the reporter make an error, or are they really two entirely different things?
"We're trying to define to what extent Internet use is permissible," Hardash said. "We do not wish to block their ability to do their job."
In September, the college began monitoring staff and faculty activity online to determine the amount of time spent visiting websites not used for institutional or administrative purposes. Filtering was turned on in November to block a narrow portion of websites, said Dale Pittman, director of management information services.
Teachers who wish to gain access to a blocked site for educational purposes will be able to talk to a division dean, Hardash said.
Although an acceptable use policy regarding the Internet is in place for faculty and staff, the college wanted to do everything it could to avoid inappropriate use of publicly funded computers, according to Dr. James Kossler, college president.
Once the software was installed, "we saw there were abuses," said Kossler.
Note: we were never told that our Internet use was being monitored, though I just assumed it was. One of the reasons why I tell my students to contact me via Hotmail and not via the campus e-mail is I don't want an administrator snooping about.
However, faculty members are concerned about restricting certain websites, said Kay Dabelow, president of the Academic Senate. (And the senior historian at PCC and a good friend).
"The faculty technology committee felt that a blocking of Internet sites on faculty computers represented a violation of academic freedom and recommended to the senate board that the board take a position opposing such blockage," Dabelow said. "The matter has also been referred to the senate academic freedom and professional ethics committee, which will also make its recommendation to the senate board."
Honestly, I'm of two minds about this. If I put on my "civil libertarian union member" hat, I'm with Dabelow. Though I understand the desire to want to block porn and gambling sites, part of me resents the notion that the college doesn't consider its own faculty capable of exercising discretion when using campus computers. I'm especially troubled by the fact that non-teachers (those who design these filters) have decided for themselves what does and does not have an academic purpose.
But frankly, as much as I hate to admit it, I'm leaning towards siding with the administration on this one. It is conceivable that porn and gaming sites might have a proper academic use, particularly for someone (like myself) who teaches courses on gender and sexuality. But the filter we have is very good about distinguishing real porn from sites that deal with sexuality from a more humane, non-commercial perspective. (For example, two feminist publications I often read, Bitch and Bust, aren't blocked -- something I was pleased to discover. Playboy, on the other hand, is. Smart filter.) I'm also happy that we are able to access blocked sites by making direct requests to the administration. I've done so for one site, and within 48 hours received access to it. I did not have to explain my rationale, beyond saying it was needed for my work.
As much as I celebrate the freedom of tenure (and when I teach courses like Lesbian and Gay history, which I will in the fall, I use that freedom for all its worth), I recognize that even tenured faculty live in communities. We aren't utterly autonomous -- what we do in our campus offices on campus machines is not merely our own private business. Porn and gambling sites have, in most cases, little connection to what we do as professors. For those in our community who struggle with porn or gambling addiction, the fact that access is now blocked may well be a relief. In some sense, the work computer becomes a safer place. The chance of inadvertent embarrassment or even a sexual harassment problem is also minimized.
When I first joined the PCC faculty in 1994, there wasn't much on the Internet that was of use to most folks. My first couple of years, I logged on for e-mail and nothing else. It was only about 1997 that I began to explore the wide range of possibilities on-line, and found that the web was a terrific resource (and a great way to spend idle time.) But I am aware that the Internet has its darker side as well, and I suspect that for some, that darker side can be immensely seductive.
Heck, I welcome the administration -- or anyone else -- to monitor my on-campus Internet use. You'll find out I read a couple of dozen blogs a day, return an extraordinary number of student e-mails, and am obsessed with chinchillas. You'll also find that I'm interested in issues of evangelical faith and human sexuality, and I haven't the slightest embarrassment about the sites I visit in pursuit of that latter interest.
This ringing endorsement of intellectual diversity heartened me. If I were a UNC administrator, I would immediately accept the group’s demands—contingent, of course, on a broader assurance that all search and curriculum committees, and not solely those regarding Western Civilization, were intellectually diverse.
Looking through the backgrounds of the signatories, I must admit I was a little surprised to see the Group of 71 hail intellectual diversity so resolutely, since it’s hard to find even one of the 71 who had previously endorsed the principle. In 2002, for instance, UNC witnessed another high-profile controversy, when it required all incoming first-year and transfer students to read and then write an essay on Michael Sells’ Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations. Conservatives attacked the book for deliberately downplaying the violent elements of Islamic writings; Sells, a sharp critic of the administration’s Middle East policies, fired back by describing the philosophy of Middle East scholars such as Bernard Lewis as the “’Let’s be colonialists and do it right’ faction.” (Sells added that as American “Muslims are also now harassed in airports and encounter extreme prejudice,” they “also feel that the United States is an aggressor power and that Western powers are still aggressor powers and occupiers in the Middle East.”) In response to the selection of Sells, the North Carolina legislature threatened to defund the summer mandatory reading program.
A leader of the Group of 71, former faculty senate president Sue Estroff, didn’t seem too concerned with upholding intellectual diversity during the Sells controversy: she said that UNC should mandate the Sells-only program “come hell or high water." Dismissing calls to couple Sells with an offering from the Lewis school of interpreting Islam, Estroff defended the selection as “a terrific choice,” and described the controversy as “just bolster[ing] the case of why we have to do this. There is such a lack of knowledge about Islam.” Estroff denied that the assignment could be construed as indoctrination, since the reading wasn’t really “required” even though the university sent out letters to all incoming students saying that they had to read the book and submit a one-page paper in reaction to it."I understand what ‘required’ means on campus," she reassured one reporter. “If we had said that it’s required and if they don’t do it we will take away their admission, that’s a different matter. But it’s not a law, it has a very different meaning on campus." Hmm.
The Group of 71’s membership overlaps with that of a campus organization called the Progressive Faculty Network. PFN member and Group of 71 signatory elin o'Hara slavick (an art professor who capitalizes only the “H” in her name) has attracted controversy before: as part of a controversial “teach-in” six days after the 9/11 attack that opposed retaliation against Afghanistan and seemed to blame the United States for the attacks, o’Hara slavick showed slides of her artwork,"Places the United States has Bombed.” The sketches, which she claimed provided a “history lesson on U.S. foreign policy,"(!) depicted what she termed the devastation and destruction caused by past U.S. aerial raids.
o’Hara Slavick is joined in the PFN and the Group of 71 by Anthropology professor Don Nonini, another strong critic of the administration’s foreign policy. Shortly after 9/11, Nonini asserted,"To prevent further acts of terror, wherever they occur in the world, also requires confronting some unpalatable facts of the history of U.S. foreign policy and military intervention." This, of course, is one interpretation of the causes of terror, but I’m not sure it’s the most compelling one. Nonini has articulated some strange views in the past. In what could be termed a parody of political correctness, he hailed the non-reporting of income for tax purposes by “the working class, poorer blacks, and other minorities” a “most effective means of tax evasion,” indeed “another arena of resistance” against the “corporate economy.” To deem such actions illegal, Nonini scoffed, is “the view of the IRS and of academics servicing the business community.”
The Group of 71 includes not only the far left among the UNC faculty but also former Romance Languages chairman Frank Rodriguez, who seems to have more personal reasons for attacking the administration: he was removed from his chairmanship in the middle of the academic year after an external review committee reported that there was"bitter infighting" and"unprofessional behavior" in the department and that the faculty was"unproductive.”
What sort of curricular initiatives have the Group of 71 supported in the past? Expanded ethnic and gender studies programs, of course. And during her tenure on the faculty senate, Estroff came out for expanded coverage of tourism, which she termed “a large, active, and multidisciplinary academic area.” “Tourism yes, Western Civ no” is probably not the slogan that UNC wants as its curricular mantra. “It’s not that we shouldn’t be offering classes that deal with Western civilization, but we also need to be concerned about other perspectives and other cultures,” explained Group of 71 member and Education professor Dwight Rogers. The Pope Foundation’s"lens is very much a Euro-centric, Western civilization focus, and they don’t seem to be open to other ways of knowing.” Yet as there’s nothing in the proposal that says UNC needs to eliminate offerings “about other perspectives and other cultures,” Rogers’ complaint makes little or no sense. Is this the approach he carries to all curricular matters: that any offering that doesn't demonstrate sufficient concern"about other perspectives and other cultures" is not"open to other ways of knowing" and therefore should be rejected?
All of these professors, obviously, are entitled to publicly articulate their viewpoints on U.S. foreign policy as frequently as they desire. But their opinions about international affairs could also be described as shrill and reflexive—adjectives that characterize their response to an expanded Western cultures program at UNC. It is distressing that such faculty members regard the study of Western civilization as in and of itself anti-“progressive,” and seek to deny UNC students even the option of enrolling in additional courses about the topic, regardless of the quality of these offerings.
THE ALAMO, TROY, KING ARTHUR, ALEXANDER and THE AVIATOR will compete for the seventh annual HARRY AWARD. This year's nominees were selected from among all the historical films of 2004. The HARRY AWARD, named after Herodotus, Greek Father of History, is awarded annually by The History Channel® to the film of the previous year that contributed the most to the public's understanding and appreciation of history. The winner will be announced on Sunday, March 6thWhat was the competition like the year The Last Samurai won? Never mind. The question is: is there any reason why any of the above films should win? Not one of them got a decent review from an historian that I'm aware of. I haven't seen any of them, so I'm just going on reviews and reactions from people who have seen them, but should an award require that a film have enough merit to be, say, used in a history classroom for purposes other than satire and debunking?
The History Channel criteria for selecting the winning film encompasses:
The film with the highest ranking is given The Harry Award. The Harry Award recipient is selected by The History Channel committee led by our History Channel historian.
- Historical Accuracy
- Public and Commercial Criticism
- Educational Value
- Audience Response
The recipient of the first HARRY AWARD was"Saving Private Ryan". Previous winners include:"The Pianist","The Last Samurai" and"Blackhawk Down". [via HNN; emphasis and bullets added]
It's a strange ‘n wondrous thing that Cliopatria is Recommended in prime listings, just below the paid advertising, by Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit. Many thanks, Glenn. While I'm thinking about it, Cliopatria welcomes Margaret Soltan's University Diaries to our blogroll. Many of us have been reading Soltan's blog for a long time and it's time we made it a regular thing.
It's a strange ‘n wonderous thing that tenured historians are discovering bloggery, some of them long after their best graduate students did. Still, we can count the tenured ones on our fingers: Tim Burke, Mark Grimsley, KC Johnson, and Hugo Schwyzer, of course; but there's also David Beito, Juan Cole, Deborah Lipstadt, and Jon Wiener. That's not counting people like Victor Davis Hanson and Martin Kramer, who are at Think Tanks, and others, whose tenure status I don't know. But, soon, we won't be able to count them all. Eugene Volokh makes the case for blogging in"Fresh Produce in the Marketplace of Ideas" for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
It's a strange ‘n wondrous thing that ShermanDorn finds himself targeted by one of David Horowitz's drones, but it's a good thing that Dorn shares their e-mail exchanges with us. On that whole scene, follow the links from Wealth Bondage's"How to Write Like a Liberal Sack of Garbage," to Adam Kotsko's"A Request" at The Weblog, and Tim Burke's"Down in the Dumps" at Easily Distracted. I'm with Burke on this one. Now that we've established that I am a Liberal Sack of Garbage, Where Do We Go From Here?
It's a strange ‘n wondrous thing when Tom Bruscino's essay,"Cultures of War," gets prime facetime at the Claremont Review of Books, Victor Davis Hanson's Private Papers, and Wren's Nest News: The Latest in Witch/Pagan and Mainstream Religious News. Nay-sayers may claim that the alliance of Victor Davis Hanson with America's witches and wizards is a natural one, but arguing with it is imprudent. Just go read the essay. And, if you haven't read it yet, have a look at David Ignatius's column for the Washington Post,"Managing a Mideast Revolution." Tom's mentor at Ohio University, Alonzo Hamby, has been touting the column on Richard Jensen's Conservativenet. Ignatius is a moderate Democrat and the son of Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of the Navy.
It's a strange ‘n wondrous thing when, two days before my 65th birthday, I discover that a) Hunter S. Thompson is my second cousin; and b) he's just blown his head off in Colorado. There is the internal family debate: are his drunkenness, drug addictions, love of guns, and suicide sources of shame? So far, I'm losing the debate. How do you tell a family of successful Rotarians and failed academics that here was a guy, one of us, who actually did something? How can you be so inside or under the box not to see it? My internal discussion is about why I didn't know him and whether there's some relationship between our human failures. I don't know the answers. But the birthday wishes from the Cliopatriarchs and Mr. Sun made it easier to think about the questions. Many thanks.
The Pope Center is clearly a conservative organization, and it has been critical of UNC's" cultural diversity" requirement. But there's no indication, based on the comments of UNC administrators, that the foundation intends to influence the content of courses offered--only to sponsor additional faculty lines and new courses in the subject.
The faculty protesters, who represent around two percent of the professors at UNC, have offered two lines of criticism. First, they claim that they have not been consulted about the provisions of the grant. As it seems that few, if any, have expertise in the grant's subject matter, it's not clear why they would be consulted at this stage. Second, they object to the topic. According to the wire report on the controversy, Sue Estroff, a professor of Anthropology, Psychiatry, and Social Medicine, noted that there was"no need for more emphasis in Western studies" in UNC's curriculum, and termed the grant a threat to academic freedom. This seems to me to be a remarkably broad conception of academic freedom, but at least Estroff is candid."The cohort of people who are [senior faculty members] now on most university campuses are people like me," she boasted a couple of years ago, professors"who went to college in the '60s and were part of that upheaval, who cut their teeth on a different kind of political activism and some radicalism." In a remarkable assertion, Estroff claimed that in the post-9/11 era,"universities were probably the only places where differing views of what 9/11 meant and what our responsibilities should be were actively aired."
Legitimate concerns exist about this initiative, which appears to be in its preliminary stages, and clearly UNC would need to take steps to ensure that the curriculum would be one charted by the university and not the Pope Center. Yet, on the surface, the position of Estroff and her cohort is hard to defend, since they seem to be saying that the university would be better off with fewer courses in a subject matter that is clearly worthy of study.
Christine Caldwell Ames' article in the latest AHR [AHA membership required] tackles a very interesting question of disciplinary boundary and historical self-definition:
The Catholic Church's recent frank apologies for inquisition—its blunt assertion that the office"sull[ied] ... the face of the church"—have reversed centuries of defensiveness that likewise sprang from sixteenth-century, interconfessional polemic. They have also detached medieval inquisitions from the religious moorings constructed carefully throughout the premodern period. This self-reflection, the admission of"errors," approximates, ironically, a venerable Protestant charge that inquisitors were ignorant of the"true" Christian message. It gestures, then, toward the very dynamic that underlay inquisitions, as well as reactions to them, in the Middle Ages: the elusiveness of truth, its fluid congress with error, and the instability of religion itself.She cites Foucault as a component of the discontinuity, one of many scholars who"have placed religious violence and the repression of religious minorities under the rubrics of power, authority, society, and politics" [para. 4] rather than theology. Part of that scholarship depends on denying the evidence of the sources:
Yet the endurance of inquisition's"irreligious" reputation in historiography indicates that this matter does not merely affect scholars of medieval Europe or persons with confessional loyalties. That dynamic of instability raises for all historians, regardless of specialization or background, a problem of historical construction. For inquisition's claimed and controversial juxtaposition of repression and piety, and interpretations of it, ask us broader questions: What is"religious"? How do we align our definitions with those of the persons we study? Where do we draw the disciplinary boundaries of"religious history"? Historians have been traditionally reluctant to consider inquisition—this persecution of suspected religious deviants through methods that included violence—as a project of belief. ... And this reluctance to link persecution and belief is instructive, as that continuity betrayed historians' assumptions about the content and character of"religion." Inquisition has long appeared not only"irreligious" but also, therefore, beyond the history of religion. [paras. 2-3]
The segregation of inquisition and belief has resulted perhaps from the presumption that sincere belief cannot coexist with (let alone produce) such repression. In the dark light diffused by the dominant historiographical vision of a"persecuting society," any religious rhetoric present in our sources may seem cheap, strategic veneer to be polished away in order to discover the"real" rationales for repression and violence. [para. 7]Ames herself believes that an authentic reexamination and reconstruction of the mentalité of the medieval churchmen and laity involved will produce an understanding of the authentically religious roots of the inquistorial movements and the theological role which inquisitorial violence played. [paras. 9-10]
It is a bit surprising to me that she has to make this argument: I've been teaching the Inquisition as an authentic act of faith in my World and Western surveys since the beginning (granted, that's only six years ago), and I'm sure I must have gotten the idea from somewhere. There is a great deal to say about the Catholic Church's will to maintain power, but since the theology of Roman Catholicism includes the idea of the Church as a (the) conduit to the divine, most of the anti-institutional heresies (including individual mystics) pursued by the inquisitions seemed to have a perfectly sound theological foundation, as well as a power dynamic. The Inquisitions' insistence on investigation and renunciation of error, rather than simple eliminationism or excommunication, has always struck me as evidence that faith, and the desire to protect and instill faith, played a strong role in its activities.
Ames' argument supports this view, distinguishing between sin and crime, and presenting the inquisition as more of a personal journey than adminstrative procedure:
Contrition should manifest itself in a confession that was more sacramental than juridical, a beginning of reconciliation rather than an end to investigation. To inquisitors," confession" in the modern, legal sense (that is, admitting an action) was inefficacious; a confession without apparent contrition and an abjuration of heresy meant recalcitrance, and the consequent ejection from inquisition's office of repentance. [para. 13]Even the punishments, which are more properly considered penance than penalty, had roots in the community of faith:
The most serious penances assigned by inquisitors, flogging and imprisonment, were an importation to laypeople of monastic practice and of its conviction that bodily suffering both atoned for past sins and trained the soul to shun future ones. This flogging of heretics was explicitly liturgical and penitential; parish priests were to perform the beatings during masses and processions, praying that God welcome again one who had turned from his church through sin. [para 15]It was the Reformation, drawing on the humanism of the Renaissance and the political diversity of Europe, which redefined inquisition as"irreligious" but the idea of freedom of faith really doesn't develop clearly until the Enlightenment (and yes, I know all these ephochal terms are ontologically sloppy, but they'll do for now). Ames' argument is that the separation of inquisition from theology has to do with our own spiritual/political milieu. The really interesting twist in her argument comes in the examination of anti-inquistorial violence in the 13-14th centuries (a hotbed of heresy, including the Albigensians) which was cast in very similar terms to the inquisitions themselves: protection of the community of faith (and they firmly believed themselves to be good Catholics, not heretics) from dangerous and evil ideas:
Bernard Déicieux's sermons, then, adopted exactly the themes and strategies that inquisition had long used publicly to justify itself and to cultivate the agreement that its tasks were holy works, the reconciliation of sinners, the establishment on earth of God's own justice. ... Violence against inquisition could thus constitute a thoughtful, righteous usurpation by laypeople of the inquisitorial office and of its putatively divine mandate to correct the errant and to punish the incorrigible [paras. 30-31]Ames concludes with some thoughts on the reintegration of faith into our understanding of power and on the unstable nature of"religion" which means that scholars need to examine contexts and contradictions and"shocking" aspects of religious history with care and an open mind (including a warning about falling into the teleological trap of narratives of progress).
Very interesting stuff. I'm reminded of the discussion of the meanings of jihad....
There are more shocking facts about the lack of intellectual diversity at Stanford University. Thanks to Belle Waring for the tip.
Sepoy at Chapati Mystery offers"10 Habits for a Hightly Successful Job Talk." Words to and from the wise.
The Lionel Gelber Prize for the"world's best book on foreign policy" has been won by the Washington Post's Steve Coll for Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.
The New York Public Library's Digital Library is now on-line and searchable. It's a collection of 275,000 prints, maps, photographs, posters, sheet music covers, dust jacket covers, menus, and other texts. The New York Times's Sarah Boxer gives the site a mixed review. It's better than a card catalogue, but not altogether user-friendly, she says.
It's Carnival season at Cliopatria. The Early Modernists' Carnivalesque #4 is up at Philobiblion and several of us appreciate the broad definition of"early modern." Go have a look and enjoy it. The Carnival of Bad History, #1 is still up at archy. Someone slyly suggested that he doubted that it had exhausted the possibilities. It's a field ripe unto harvest. And, the Carnival of Education, Week 4, is up at the Education Wonks.
Finally, I want to mention two reviews that you may have missed:
In Sunday's New York Times, Michael Kazin had an excellent review of Ted Widmer and Arthur Schlesinger's new biography, Martin Van Buren, the"Rodney Dangerfield of presidents." I keep wanting to steal some of Kazin's language for Cliopatria, but go read Kazin, himself. Thanks to Andrew Ackerman for the pointer.
Adam Gopnik's"Voltaire's Garden" reviews Ian Davidson's new book, Voltaire in Exile for the New Yorker. The focus is on the last part of Voltaire's life, when he becomes a leading spokesman for human rights.
In any event, I do think Douthat has a point about the relative internal incoherence of the vast majority of curricula at elite universities and colleges, that it is possible even for a well-intentioned, dedicated student to find it a struggle to connect their courses and find some kind of knowledge that is shared or general through them. In my last posting on this issue, I observed that constructing a new core curriculum would be genuinely difficult, both in general and in terms of the role of my specific area of expertise, modern African history.
There’s another strategy that occurs to me. Perhaps rather than trying to shoehorn the busy hustle and bustle of the typical curriculum into a single unified and highly structured core, faculty could take what they’re already doing but add explicit linkages for the students. The best way I can think of to accomplish this would be to eliminate the conventional departmental major across the board and instead construct linked sequences of already-existing courses where a student would be required to take all parts of a sequence and where a certain number of completed sequences would be required for graduation.
I’m thinking a bit here of how I went about my own undergraduate studies. I double majored in English and History at Wesleyan University. Each of those departments allowed a significant amount of flexibility in the way they constrained a major: English majors needed to take a pre-1800 course, while History majors at that time had to choose from one of (I think) five subject tracks to focus on. Basically, I think I got a lot of added value out of the curriculum by pursuing an enormous number of courses in related subject areas—the developing world, colonialism and imperialism, and so on—both in and out of my departmental majors. Yes, I also got value from courses that were outside of that topical focus—a course I did with Stephen White called Law in Medieval Iceland was one of the best methodological courses in history I’ve ever had, for example.
The benefit of this strong topical linkage between the lion’s share of my courses is that I graduated with some sense of a coherent competency in a few highly focused areas as well as the conventional “critical thinking” skills that a liberal arts education is supposed to impart. Douthat’s concern is that there are Harvard undergrads and undergrads at similar institutions who may get the critical thinking experience but who lack any sense of a coherent mastery of some particular concrete subject.
Let me use my own department as an example of both the problem and the possibilities. A student has to take nine credits to complete a history major. Two of those credits can be AP credits. One can be earned abroad. Our upper-level Honors seminars count for two credits. So it’s possible, let’s say, for a major to have two AP credits, a credit in the history of Spain picked up while abroad, my course The History of the Future, my colleague Bruce Dorsey’s course Murder in a Mill Town, my colleague Lillian Li’s survey of modern Chinese history, a double-credit Honors seminar in the history of fascism from my colleague Pieter Judson, and our senior research seminar required for majors. I feel very comfortable saying that this student will have been exposed to the methodology of history, a variety of approaches to the discipline, some very challenging examples of critical thinking, and some really great teaching from the various professors. A really gifted student is going to be able to forge some powerful linkages between those different subjects and make them “speak” to one another. Most students, though, are going to end up very capable critical thinkers who have a hodgepodge of specific knowledge.
So let’s fix this without mandating a core curriculum and making me get rid of my favorite course (History of the Future) or making Bruce Dorsey get rid of his amazingly cool Murder in a Mill Town, and so on. Instead of saying, “Ok, you can choose what you like for your nine credits”, we offer instead sequences such as “The United States in the 18th and 19th Century” in which the student must take the following existing courses:
History 5a United States to 1877
History 7a African-American History to 1877
[the student would have to take these both first as introductions, then in any order:]
History 46 The Coming of the Civil War OR History 48 Murder in a Mill Town OR History 42 The American Revolution
English 51 Fictions in American Realism
Pols 17 American Political Thought
Religion 2b Religion in America
The student taking that would still get all the exposure to critical thinking and historical methodology, but they’d also have a competency, a depth, in a single subject. It’s 7 credits, so most Swarthmore students could easily be expected to do 3 or 4 such sequences in their time here.
If I look over our curriculum, I see at least four such sequences that I could comfortably fit all my existing Africa-related courses in. One would be “Modern Africa”, which would link my courses to related courses in economics, political science, and literature. Another might be “Culture and Consciousness in Africa and the African Diaspora”, which could encompass my courses with courses in dance, religion, music, and literature. A third could be “The Atlantic System and Slavery in Africa and the Americas” which would link my courses with those of several of my colleagues in the department and to colleagues in religion and elsewhere. A fourth might be “Globalization and Comparative History”.
This approach has the disadvantage that it defers any discussion of curricular changes where we might have to ask whether we have too little or too much of certain topics, or whether there are core issues and subjects that are relatively excluded from our curriculum. It would also require a lot of changes to departmental programs which are highly sequential and extremely demanding at Swarthmore, primarily in the sciences. It would be experienced as a frustrating constraint by many students. There's also the problem of what to do with creative, interesting courses that don't really fit any easily defined sequence: I don't know, for example, what one would do with my History of the Future course.
But it strikes me as a much easier and ultimately more fertile strategy than trying to take the often wonderful curricular variety now available and shoehorn it into a tightly prescriptive core curriculum.
"In November, when the UN Security Council met in Nairobi to push the IGAD process towards a swift conclusion, the regime sensed an extraordinary opportunity. By agreeing to sign a deal by the end of the year, Khartoum effectively held the carrot of peace in front of the noses of the international community while it wielded the stick in Darfur. In effect, the government had a free hand in Darfur in late November and throughout December, which it used for offensive military operations. The extension of this state of impunity was sought successfully through the signing of the CPA. The regime hoped for and received a measure of international goodwill, and has used its new breathing space to increase attacks in Darfur and to further undermine the activity of opposition groups throughout the country."
The facts seem simple enough. A rather hum-drum late nineteenth century novelist, Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins (1863-1938), finds late twentieth century cachet when she is identified as an African American author. Identified as such as early as 1955, she was known only for Megda (1891). Early in the 1980s, when Henry Louis Gates, the African American literary scholar, found a second novel, Four Girls at Cottage City (1895), it inspired him"to edit a collection of reprints of these works and to publish them as a 'library' of black women's writings, in part so that I could read them myself." It became Oxford University Press's 40-volume Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers, published in 1988.
Holly Jackson's discovery shows that Emma Dunham Kelley-Hawkins was white. Her family knew that all along. Her novels included no people of color. Only the scholars believed Kelley-Hawkins was an African American writer and that her novels betrayed no race consciousness became a matter for interpretation. But why would scholars not have taken the relentlessly white novels of Kelley-Hawkins as a signal that she was white? Did we read them and do the archival research about her or did we simply rely on an earlier authority's word for their author's ethnicity?
Whispered behind this discussion is the fact that this may be the second time that Henry Louis Gates has identified the literary work of a white woman as that of an African American woman. Two years ago, he published The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts, a Fugitive Slave, Recently Escaped from North Carolina to great fanfare. Its publication was featured on the front page of the New York Times; it was excerpted in the New Yorker; and Warner Books promoted it as"the first known novel written by an African American woman who had been a slave." As John Bloom has shown, the problem is that all of the research by Gates and his staff to identify Hannah Crafts and prove her authorship of the text was fruitless. It simply was more likely that the text was written by a white female abolitionist. Gates rejected that conclusion out of hand. There are at least ten novels written by white authors who pretended to be African American slaves, but he argued that there was no commercial advantage to be gained by the pretense, considerable stigma assumed by it, and, so, it was safe to assume that a writer who claims to be African American probably was an African American.
The discussions at the Boston Globe, Inside Higher Ed, Crooked Timber, Easily Distracted, Begging to Differ, and The Reading Experience pose interesting and important questions, but in this case I think that it's fair to ask:"Who is signifying who?" Gates is at Harvard and has a powerful presence in American academic life, but who is the trickster? Who asks the obvious, hard questions and allows the research to speak for itself? Is this HenryLouisGate? We've seen all the hype. Where's the beef?
On a Lighter Note: Don't miss Discover Your Momma's Network, a proper answer to David Horowitz's Discover the Network. Alas, the Cliopatriarchs didn't get listed by either of them. We're just out of the loopy, I suppose.
.. is up at archy. Apparently, in the absence of other nominations, everything I submitted made the cut. Because there was no" cut" to speak of.... The other articles are worth reading, though. McKay's post on the bad analogy between post-invasion Iraqi insurgents and post-Hitler"Werewolves" is quite good, and Orac's post on Holocaust denial is a classic. Bora Zivkovic's post on Lysenko's"science" and its devastating effects is long, but very substantial, particularly for its discussion of the way in which scientific discussions can unintentionally become political. Check 'em out!
One Man Carnival of Bad Historicism is also available at Tim Burke's place. Burke tackles the questions of authorial identity and literary historicism, and seems to want to draw a firmer line between literary and historical study. But that's like drawing a firm line between"history" and" culture"....
In Defense of Heresy: I'm not defending heresy here. I'm defending the idea that there are some claims that are just so wrong that they ought not be tolerated in the community of faith. I long ago gave up on my own particular sect, the United Methodists, who have grown so mushy in matters of doctrine that we have no principle of exclusion. You believe in re-incarnation? Welcome to the fellowship of the United Methodist Church. You think Jesus was one of many little pixies who periodically come from outer space to sprinkle fairy dust on human history? Fine. Welcome to our fellowship.
But there are some things that are just so wrong that they ought not be uttered or tolerated in the community of faith. The latest blasphemy heard in my community came from Representative Sam Johnson (R, Texas) who spoke at a veterans' celebration at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas. According to the Carpetbagger, Brother Johnson was bragging about a recent conversation he'd had with George Bush on the porch at the White House.
Johnson said he told the president that night,"Syria is the problem. Syria is where those weapons of mass destruction are, in my view. You know, I can fly an F-15, put two nukes on 'em and I'll make one pass. We won't have to worry about Syria anymore."Brother Carpetbagger asks:
The crowd roared with applause.
Which of these is the most outrageous part of this story?All those questions bother me. Why am I not re-assured that he was speaking to another United Methodist when Johnson delivered this wisdom to President Bush? If we Methodists had a principle of rejection, neither Brother Bush nor Brother Johnson would be among us. The cross would have fallen on poor Brother Johnson right there on the spot at Suncreek United Methodist Church in Allen, Texas, and delivered him unto his eternal reward. As it is, my Methodist face turns red with embarrassment when I read Atrios, Crooked Timber, Dark Bilious Vapors, Kevin Drum at Political Animal, Matt Yglesias, or Fontana Labs at Unfogged. And it's a damned good thing that Adam Kotsko and Anthony Smith at The Weblog are so down on the Nazarenes or they'd be raggin' my sorry Methodist ass about it.
* That a sitting member of Congress is bragging about his desire to drop nuclear weapons?
* That Johnson has shared this idea with the president?
* That Johnson's favored approach to non-proliferation is an unprovoked nuclear attack?
* That this speech was delivered in a church?
* That Johnson's audience"roared with applause"?
Sic et Non: While I'm waxing theological, I want to go all Peter Abelard on David Beito and CharlesNuckolls at Liberty & Power. They have been railing at the University of Alabama's Faculty Senate for passing a speech code that they claim smacks of the kinds of speech restrictions favored in deep South states during the early years of the civil rights movement. They have been celebrating the fact that the Student Senate at the University of Alabama has unanimously adopted a resolution in opposition to the Faculty sponsored speech code. In doing so, they've gotten widespread support from: Robert Shibley at FIRE, Mike Adams at Townhall, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, QD at Southern Appeal and Randy Barnett and Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy. That's a mighty sic and I agree with them. Speech codes are offensive to the free exchange of ideas in academic communities.
But there is also a non, as well. As Kevin Drum at Political Animal points out, it is deceptive to claim that the speech code controversy at the University of Alabama had its origin in the administration's objections to students hanging American flags in their dormitory windows. It is even a little deceptive to claim that the speech code promoted by the Faculty Senate is like the restrictions on speech promoted in the deep South in the early civil rights movement. The controversy arose when some students insisted on displaying Confederate flags in their dormitory windows. And, lest we forget, the Confederate flag flew in defense of some very severe restrictions on human freedom. It defended the bondage of most of the South's people of color, but as Clement Eaton taught us two generations ago it defended severe restrictions on the freedom of everyone in the South. Simply put, the Confederate flag is not just deeply offensive to a large part of the University's student and faculty community. It represents an offense to the idea of a university. We have a teaching function here and education may necessarily entail the possibility of offense at some point or another. But this is Alabama, where slavery and segregation once, in the not too distant past, reigned supreme. Faculty members have an obligation to teach what that means for civil behavior.
Update My friend, David Beito, objects in comments to my characterization of the situation at the University of Alabama. For the record, he has paid his dues and is correct on the facts. The errors, which I believe to be minor, appear in posts that simply support his position.
Finally, your senior Cliopatriarch has a birthday today and it is one of those proverbially big ones. If I'm not here for discussions, it may be because I'm off in my cups somewhere celebrating.
I should say, to begin with, that while FIRE has emerged as a more effective organization in recent years, I believe that the AAUP is usually on the right side of academic freedom battles, and am a big fan of its 1940 and especially 1915 declarations regarding academic freedom. That said, the Hollinger piece, which accurately reflects the AAUP viewpoint regarding intellectual diversity, suffers from two severe shortcomings, one structural, the other intellectual.
The first, and most serious, problem in the AAUP’s response to the intellectual diversity crisis has been the organization’s failure to acknowledge its own conflict of interest. The AAUP, quite appropriately, represents the interests of the current faculty, not the applicants to jobs. Yet it is prospective faculty—those professors in, say, political, diplomatic, legal, or military history not hired by a University of Michigan when the department decides to craft a line to bring in its 11th Americanist dealing with issues of race while it lacks even one US diplomatic historian—who are most often the victims of the effort to create an ideologically homogenous professoriate. And it is the current faculty—those deciding that their department can’t go without that 11th Americanist dealing with race when their department covers other types of US history sparsely or not at all—that are the victimizers. There’s nothing wrong with people like Hollinger, on behalf of the AAUP, defending the status quo. But to do so without admitting their conflict of interest is disingenuous.
This conflict of interest perhaps explains the almost laughably low bar that Hollinger sets when determining whether a department is intellectually diverse. In Hollinger’s formulation, or what might be called the Michigan Rule, “To be balanced is simply to do an academic project professionally. To be imbalanced is to leave out of account something that the academic norms of evidence and reasoning in the interest of truth require you to take into account.” Carried to its logical extreme, this approach would hold that a department with 20 Americanists is “balanced” even if all 20 were specialists in women’s history, provided that each was viewed as having done their “academic project professionally” (presumably by the department’s other 19 women’s historians). Hollinger might see nothing wrong with an academy staffed according to the Michigan Rule. I do.