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 (∞)
Notably, however, this one isn't a grump-fest about the (well established) failings of the Wikipedia. Rather, it is an unusually constructive discussion about how Africanists can help improve the Africa-related material available and thus utilize the popularity of the Wikipedia to help get accurate African info into the hands of students and lay-readers.
More so, there is also an interesting discussion of how faculty can assign students the task of researching and writing/rewriting entries, as well. Timothy Burke has previously made some very smart suggestions here on Cliopatria about how to use the Wikipedia as a teaching tool. Having students actually contribute (under a suitable degree of supervision, of course) strikes me as a very good idea.
Reminder: I'm hosting the next History Carnival on Thursday: dresner[at]hawaii[dot]edu for submissions!
Non Sequitur: Angry Professor has charted the relationship between grades and post-semester e-mails from students. It's a frighteningly straight line.
France’s National Assembly as been debating a bill (loi du 23 février) to create a curriculum on France’s imperial legacy. The proposal, part of an effort to reconcile with Algeria, when UMP deputy Christian Vanneste insisted on an amendment (article 4) that confirmed "the positive role of the French presence overseas, notably in North Africa." The otherwise innocuous proposal caused a firestorm throughout French academia and into its oversees territories. Consequently, the intelligentsia of Martinique refused to meet with the minister of the interior on the first high level tour of the French Carribean in many years because his party refused to abrogate the amendment.
Both de Villepin and Chirac have walked on eggshells around the issue. Last week, de Villepin said, "There is no one French memory, but memories. Some of them are lively, hypersensitive, and ailing. ... There is the memory of those who were thrown into the holds of the galleons. ... It is not up to Parliament to write history, that’s not its role."
Of course, France has legislated and ruled as if there were one official history, at least one that descends from the Enlightenment and the Revolution – one that depicts a unitary nation bringing civilisation to the world. The history of progress determined how French imperial rule unfurled throughout the world, especially when it came to injecting officials and entrepreneurs with arrogance.
France must have given something to the people who were colonized – the skeleton of state administration and enoough impetus to allow resistance to emergeand a national identity to form. However, no former French colony matches the success in the contemporary world of Britain's India, Netherlands' Indonesia, or Portugal's Brazil. No one reaching for world power, or at least a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. France's contributions oftentimes look generic. It created a Francophonic elite that related to the general population with difficulty; it outlawed slavery, but only on paper; and in most cases the socio-economic structures were too directed towards the Metropole to be serviceable. Moreover, some of its post-imperial endeavors have been troubling as well (for every intervention in Côte d’Ivoire, there is a Rwanda.) Algeria, if it could be called a success, cannot outweigh the political and social problems in other former colonies.
The attempt to make an official judgement on French imperialism can only inflame passions on both sides, and it is not clear that such a judgement would be helpful. There may be a positive balance, but demanding that it be accepted will in the end be divisive. The controversy, however, enlightens in a small way one of the fundamental problems of French history: the insistence that the nation is the civilizing, progressive force par excellence. Any multicultural policy would be greatly weakened by France, one and indivisible.
Unit assessments must also reflect the dispositions identified in its conceptual framework and in professional and state standards. Often team reports do not indicate any connection between dispositions specified in the conceptual framework and dispositions that are assessed. For example, if the unit has described its vision for teacher preparation as ‘Teachers as agents of change’ and has indicated that a commitment to social justice is one disposition it expects of teachers who can become agents of change, then it is expected that unit assessments include some measure of a candidate’s commitment to social justice.
Second, reporter Robin Wilson revealed that last month, NCATE"sent a bulletin to the 614 programs it accredits, saying that education schools should not evaluate students' attitudes, but rather assess their dispositions based on 'observable behavior in the classroom.' It also said it does 'not expect or require institutions to attend to any particular political or social ideologies.'"
The question now: will NCATE enforce this new guideline?
The Tennessee senator contended that the academy's lack of intellectual diversity is hampering efforts for sustainable public funding."When I go to talk to people about funding for higher education," he noted,"the single biggest pushback I get is from elected representatives who think that higher education is too one-sided."
Even those not concerned with the current state of staffing patterns in the academy might wonder whether the self-interest of the professoriate might be better served by making a token effort at greater pedagogical and intellectual diversity among the faculty.
Carnivals: As Sharon Howard notes, it's also carnival season for history bloggers. The Asian History Carnival will be up today at Munnin. But there's still time to nominate posts for the History Carnival at Frog in a Well/Korea and the Teaching Carnival at New Kid on the Hallway on the 15th; the Carnival of Feminists on the 21st; and the Carnival of Bad History on the 22nd.
It turns out that David was talking about my call for him or his"Professor X" to tell the readers at Front Page Rag that Professor William Bradford of the Indiana School of Law at Indianapolis has resigned and that misrepresentations of his military experience were at the bottom of that resignation.
As usual, discussion with David exploded into diffusing side-bursts of counter-accusation – in this case, about the credibility of an Indianapolis Star columnist, the identity of"Professor X," my incivility, etc. Like, David's calling me"snotty" and"scummy" teaches me to be civil.
I have to admit that I am curious about the identity of"Professor X." He (or she)initially identified himself (or herself) thusly:
I am a full professor of History (since 1994), with 25 years experience at the flagship campus of a major state university. I have served on numerous promotion sub-committees at my institution (cases both of promotion to associate professor with tenure, and of promotion to full professor), and I have personally chaired three such sub-committees. I have won awards from the LGBT organization on my campus for my public championing of gay rights, and from the Asian-American faculty on my campus for my public championing of the rights of minority faculty (especially in promotion cases). I voted for Kerry in 2004."Indian Hunt in Indiana," Front Page Rag, 10 August 2005.
Subsequently, between 12 August and 28 September,"Professor X" published six articles at Front Page Rag in defense of William Bradford and critical of the review process at the Indiana School of Law. Then, the voice of Professor X fell silent. It fell silent just as Bradford's own case began to come apart, as Bradford was forced to admit to the use of sock puppets on the law school's private listserv and to misrepresentation of his military service. For all we know, then,"Professor X" might have been just another of Bradford's sock puppets and all the identifiers of him or her just made up.
I disagree with both of my colleagues at Cliopatria, Tim Burke (and scroll down) and KC Johnson, about what conclusions we draw from the Bradford case. KC seems unchastened by Bradford's subsequent resignation and the reasons for it. He does not back down from his earliercriticism of Bradford's colleagues and the process at Indianapolis. On the other hand, Tim suggests that we ought to be chastened by it – that we ought to acknowledge the possibility that Bradford's senior colleagues had some intuition of his duplicity and that the confidentiality of the process prevented them from a public defense of their actions.
I disagree with KC because I do think that we ought to be chastened by the Bradford case. We didn't know all the conditions that led to this result and should be cautious about uninformed pronouncements. On the other hand, I disagree with Tim because there isn't the slightest bit of evidence, even now, that Bradford's colleagues had any more intuition of those conditions than any of us did. Moreover, if Bradford's colleagues were bound by confidentiality, they certainly didn't abide by it. His most prominent critics were quoted at great length in the articles at Front Page Rag. Although I'm sure that there are academic people as deeply ethical as Tim, who observe claims of confidentiality, I am in general skeptical of such claims. I suspect that they are often cited only when it is advantageous to the person citing them. After six months of loud accusations, Bradford, for instance, is now citing claims of confidentiality.
Which brings me back to the point of my e-mail exchange with David Horowitz. Front Page Rag devoted at least seven articles to Bradford's case in August and September. Its readers still have not been told that Bradford has resigned. Horowitz, himself, denies that the resignation had anything to do with Bradford's misrepresentation of his military service. If"Professor X" is a historian, he or she should demand that Front Page Rag's readers be told the truth. If he or she doesn't set the record straight, it's another embarrassment to historians.
That's the conclusion of a survey of 354 American history professors undertaken by the Siena College Research Institute (SRI). Asked to rank eight"trying times" in American history-- The Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, Great Depression, World War II, Cold War, Vietnam/Cultural Revolution, and the current War on Terror, the War on Terror came in dead last.
The Civil War, my own area of specialization, topped the list. For the other rankings, see the complete story.
At The Elfin Ethicist, Jonathan Wilson finds both the expected disturbing and some surprising things in Mrs. M[arinda] B[ranson] Moore, The Geographical Reader for the Dixie Children (Raleigh, NC: Branson, Farrar & Co., Biblical Recorder Print, 1863).
In case you missed it, Scott Jaschik,"The Culture Wars of 2005," Inside Higher Ed, 8 December, is a very thoughtful review of the year's issues.
Finally, Joseph C. Miller is an expert in African history and the slave trade, holds an endowed chair at the University of Virginia, and is a former president of the American Historical Association. Like many academics, he was grading student papers last Saturday. Miller was sitting at his home computer in rural Albemarle County, Virginia, when there was a crash and he was covered with shards of glass. Initially, Miller thought that a window had shattered as the family's modern house settled, but he was shocked by the sight of the window's perfectly round hole, surrounded by radial fractures. It was a bullet. On impact, the bullet split in two, with one half of it landing on either side of him. Albemarle County officials are continuing to investigate what appears to have been a hunting accident. Thanks to Margaret Soltan at University Diaries for the tip.
Yesterday, at Tulane, the decline in student enrollment following Hurricane Katrina had its first dramatic impact: the university is eliminating 230 tenured faculty positions. Most of the cuts came in the medical school, though 50 engineering positions were eliminated. The university's engineering and overall graduate programs also will cease to exist as a distinct entity. Implied but not stated is that more cuts might yet occur: the university is anticipating that 85% of the pre-Katrina student body will re-enroll in January, but admits that it lacks the facilities to house these students. According to the Times-Picayune, the university plans to accomodate students through a combination of temporary housing and placing 1,000 students on a"Greek cruise ship."
As Tulane pleads for more students, a group called"Faculty Democracy" is doing everything possible to drive undergraduates away from NYU. With a membership of more than 200 professors, the group recently passed a resolution condemning NYU Pres. John Sexton's demand that all spring TA's actually agree to show up and teach their sections before being hired. (An"undemocratic" requirement indeed, fumed the FD.) According to the resolution, unless Sexton bows to the group's demand that NYU recognize a graduate student union, the faculty will consider such" consequences" as"withholding grades, implementing a moratorium on the graduate admissions process," and canceling all discussion sections, so that such a section could not"legitimately be held to have failed to meet owing to the absence of a TA or preceptor."
This set of demands suggests that a good portion of the NYU faculty has lost its way, substituting the mission of educating students with a vision that urges faculty to hold undergraduates hostage to the professoriate's ideological whims. Having declared war on their undergraduates, the members of"Faculty Democracy" might want to reflect on the Tulane experience, and remember that faculty at a university with no undergraduates will need to find other lines of work.
Update, 2.03pm: To answer a reader question, Inside Higher Ed reports that 65 of the fired profs were tenured.
Before I went public in my tenure case, I was told frankly that every possible negative thing about my background would come out, and therefore I needed to make sure I had no skeletons in my closet. I didn't, and so had no problems with going public. Bradford, clearly, did--and therefore got what he deserved. Since he lied about a serious matter on his resume, he had to resign.
The broader issue about this controversy, however, remains unchanged: according to the testimony of a member of the personnel committee, Bradford's lying about his background was not known when the reappointment vote occurred, and therefore wasn't an item considered by the committee. The Law School has never offered an explanation as to why five faculty members voted to fire someone whose scholarship and teaching were considered first-rate but who had disagreed on highly charged political and social issues with the department's two most prominent left-leaning members, who then turned around and voted to dismiss him. Unfortunately, because of Bradford's own misconduct, his five critics will not be forced to explain their bevahior. If I were on the law school job market, I'd steer clear of IU-Indianapolis.
The Post, by the way, has my nominee for the best new blog of 2005--The Fix. Written by former Roll Call reporter Chris Cillizza, it's updated 5-6 times daily during the week, and has the best inside info on congressional politics other than what's available at the expensive Cook and Rothenberg sites.
This morning's Times, meanwhile, has a fascinating piece on the Dem primary for the central Brooklyn congressional district that includes, among other areas, Brooklyn College. The district is around two-thirds black and one-quarter white, with a small percentage of Hispanic voters. The incumbent, an African-American congressman named Major Owens, is retiring this year, and four black Dems quickly jumped into the primary to replace him. They were joined by a white member of the City Council, David Yassky. As the article points out, a considerable number of prominent African-American politicians (and some"progressive" whites) have argued that Yassky shouldn't run for the seat because of his race, since it's critical that majority-minority districts be represented by a minority.
As far as I know, no majority-minority congressional district in the country has been represented by a white congressman once the district passed under black or Hispanic control, and I doubt that, in the end, Yassky will interrupt this trend. (There are famous instances, such as Lindy Boggs in LA and Peter Rodino in NJ, representing majority-black districts that became majority-minority because of redistricting or demographic trends after the member began service.) Nonetheless, the black leaders' complaints would be a little easier to take seriously were it not for the fact that: (a) Owens has been all but inert as a congressman, and it would be tough to argue that the district wouldn't have been better served by a talented white, Asian, or Hispanic over the past 20 years; (b) the leaders are not pressuring any of the African-American candidates to withdraw, even though a black candidate likely would prevail if only one minority rather than four were contesting the primary. Moreover, the line of argument made by some prominent Brooklyn African-Americans--that, as Owens put it, because of his race, Yassky has"has no compatibility with the district"--is a dangerous one. An African-American state senator, Kevin Parker, responded to Owens by noting,"The moment we start indicating that seats are designated as black, white or Latino, we do a disservice to our constituents and society in general."
Indeed, the Owens argument could be used against Jon Corzine's new appointment to the Senate, Robert Menendez. It will be interesting to see how this appointment plays out. Menendez clearly has enormous assets--he's the first Cuban-American Democrat ever to serve in the Senate, is a great fundraiser, and is a talented legislator. But Corzine won in 2005 partly by portraying himself as not tied down by the party bosses--an argument that Menendez, a county party boss himself, can't really make. My sense is that Corzine would have been better served by going with one of the two state politicians he reportedly considered--Nia Gill or Cory Booker. Both are African-American, and therefore would have neutralized complaints from Menendez forces that Corzine had elevated a white over a minority. Yet, unlike Menendez and the other most prominent possibility for the seat (south Jersey congressman Rob Andrews), both had impeccable credentials as good-government reformers.
Tim Burke,"Unbelief and Imagination," Easily Distracted, 8 December, on Narnia as a Christian narrative or a religio/mythical potpourris.
Jamie Wilson,"Nigerian Church Puts Texans' Love for their Neighbors to the Test," The Guardian, 5 December, asks whether Klan Kountry kan accept modernity. Wilson may be asking the wrong question. Can the Nigerians convert Texas to Christianity? That's a much bigger challenge, I think. Thanks to Ben Brumfield at Horizon for the tip.
Laurie Goldstein,"When Christmas Falls on Sunday, Megachurches Take the Day Off," New York Times, 9 December, puts the lie to the whole"Merry Christmas"/"Happy Holidays" fru-fru. The mega-churches have traded Christmas in for a Holiday. Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois will send home a DVD with a"heartwarming contemporary Christmas tale" for its congregants to play on Christmas morning. Why not routinize the whole thing? You could send out bottled water, fruit juice, and airline snack kits as do-it-yourself sacraments.
Joseph Epstein,"Forgetting Edmund Wilson," Commentary, n.d., in which Epstein doubts Wilson's lasting significance, even as a literary critic;
Scott McLemee,"Thinking at the Limits," Inside Higher Ed, 7 December, on Louis Althusser; and
Margaret Soltan,"No Field, No Future," Inside Higher Ed, 6 December, on the lost sense of what being an English Department is.
Mark Grimsley has returned to his"Counterfactuals and Contingencies" theme at Blog Them Out of the Stone Age.
Caleb McDaniel is at work on his presentation at the American Historical Association convention and invites your comments.
I'm not much interested in his" critical whiteness studies," but there are some interesting issues in Seth Sandronsky,"An Interview with David Roediger," Political Affairs.net, 7 December.
Cliopatria lost interest in most of the other awards after The Cliopatria Awards were established. But she noticed that some of her friends are competing in Wizbang's The Weblog Awards. Among the history bloggers, Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo is competing for Best Blog, Orac's Respectful Insolence for Best New Blog, Pepys' Diary for Best UK Blog, Frog in a Well for Best Asian Blog, Belmont Club for Best of the Top 250 Blogs, and Political Theory Daily Review and ZenPundit for Best of the Top 1751-2500 Blogs. These are not endorsements, you understand, because Cliopatria also has friends among the non-historians. But, if you have time for such things, you are free to cast your vote anew every 24 hours until 15 December. Thanks to Ahistoricality for the tip.
As we noted in our last job market report, a sharp drop in the number of new history PhDs in the 2002–03 academic year was followed by a sizeable increase in the number of PhDs reported the following year. Nevertheless, the number of graduate students in history doctoral programs and the number of students reportedly working on dissertations has fallen steadily over the past five years. [Emphasis added.]
If the number of students reportedly working on dissertations has fallen, presumably the number actually working on dissertations has really plummeted.
Our colleague, Alan Allport, staffs the AHA's Local Arrangements Committee for the Philadelphia convention, assuring me that Cliopatricians move in the highest ranks of the profession. His article,"Philadelphia for the Poor and Thirsty," Perspectives, 43 (December 2005), 42, suggests that the ranks may not be too exalted, he understands our condition very well, and he knows what the priorities are. We'll expect to adjourn from the session on Saturday to the Cliopatricians' Third Annual Banquet. [ more ... ]
I feel obliged to say something about the odd case of Professor William Bradford at the Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis. Several of us here at Cliopatria, myself included, were inclined to take up his cause when it first became known in June. In many ways, he seemed like a strong candidate for tenure. He had excellent teaching evaluations and more publications than a number of his senior colleagues. After the still-unresolved Ward Churchill fiasco at the University of Colorado, the cause of a real native American with degrees from very strong institutions seemed like a worthy one, and his argument -- that he was being discriminated against because he is a conservative -- seemed plausible.
And all of those things may yet be true. But his story began to come apart when he, like John Lott [ed.: Why is he still at the American Enterprise Institute?], was forced to admit the use of sock puppets in internet exchanges. He has resigned from the Law School faculty after it became known that his claims for his military service were false. He saw no more active duty than George Bush did. He did not earn a Silver Star; and he did not retire as a Major. His story begins to sound like an odd blend of John Lott's and Mt. Holyoke's Joe Ellis. Once questions were raised, it was all too easy to show that both Joe Ellis and William Bradford doing their academic thing when they claimed to have been on the battlefield. That a major part of his self-representation was false helps, I think, to explain some of the frenzy about Bradford's campaign for tenure. Behind it lay the fear of exposure.
Some of the claims that Bradford made for himself were false, but some of his charges may yet be true. There is no evidence that those who opposed his being tenured had any intuition that his claims about military service were false. Still, I'm a little unnerved by how easily I might have been used as a spokesman for his cause. Smart conservative legal scholars, like Eugene Volokh, were not. But I challenge "Professor X" of David Horowitz's Front Page Rag, who took up Bradford's cause with such zeal, to give us a final article about the discrimination against this" conservative" legal scholar – one that acknowledges that his hero was, in part, a fraud. Given the recent revelations, however,"Professor X" may have been William Bradford. Yet another lie brought to you by David Horowitz.
For both carnivals, please put"history carnival" or something like that in the subject line. Or you can use the handy carnival submission form.