The Winter of Our Discomfort: Speech, Debate, and Learning on Campus

November approaches, and with it thoughts of #snowflakes. I was called one not too long ago, for arguing that a history magazine should not have published a letter promoting a debunked myth and defaming one of its debunkers. The use of editorial discretion in such a venue, I was told, would be "censorship". As I've … Continue reading The Winter of Our Discomfort: Speech, Debate, and Learning on Campus

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Don’t Make Graduate Students Freak Out about Publishing

Sometimes the title tells you all you really need to know. But I did write a little more on this than just the one line, and the piece -- a draft of which I tried out here -- is now in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in the Chronicle Review. I'd like to thank the Chronicle editors for vastly improving … Continue reading Don’t Make Graduate Students Freak Out about Publishing

Crisis and Elitism in Graduate Education

When I started this blog, late last March, I was just wrapping up a three-year term as Graduate Program Director in a middling-to-smallish history department at a large, urban, public university in Canada. Many of the problems associated with that kind of job, and with graduate training more generally, were fresh in my mind. Joining … Continue reading Crisis and Elitism in Graduate Education

Historians under Trump

We are witnessing -- more than that, experiencing -- events that seem certain to be remembered as a turning point in the history of the United States, part of a series that is changing the political horizons of much of the world. Our knowledge is partial and the future unwritten. But the collapse of a familiar (and flawed) order, the destabilization … Continue reading Historians under Trump

Branding Is Not An Academic Priority

Again: university branding is not an academic priority. And to the extent that the improvement or broadcasting of a university's reputation is pursued as a matter of promoting a brand rather than reflecting or substantive academic achievements, university reputation -- including institutional rankings -- is not an academic priority either. This is not to say universities have no need … Continue reading Branding Is Not An Academic Priority

Truth, Freedom, and Productivity: When PR usurps scholarship

No one wants ill-advised assessment regimes imported into higher education. No one wants to see a single-minded, narrow emphasis on quantifying value. No one desires deeply flawed metrics being used to compare institutions and individuals. Nevertheless...[1] Quoting the above out of context is a little unfair -- the authors are talking about the need for … Continue reading Truth, Freedom, and Productivity: When PR usurps scholarship

Is Our Historians Learning? Popular, Academic, and Political History

Last Thursday, PhD student and amateur historian Rebecca Rideal published a book about London in the very busy year of 1666.[1] Written for "the general reader", it's entitled 1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire. As is not unusual for authors of trade books to do -- when the chance presents itself -- she gave an interview in … Continue reading Is Our Historians Learning? Popular, Academic, and Political History

Social Media and the Serious Academic

Should "serious academics" make time for social media? At least two recent commentators (I'm guessing there are more out there, but it may be hasty to speak of a silent majority) think not. Many -- naturally including a slew of "twitterstorians" and academic bloggers -- have responded, detailing the ways social media facilitates their work and lampooning their … Continue reading Social Media and the Serious Academic

Flipping the Course Evaluation

Student course evaluations have taken a well-deserved beating recently, most notably thanks to studies showing their endemic gender bias, but also for their broader unreliability as measures of teaching and learning. These findings add significant empirical weight to an older set of somewhat more anecdotal, philosophical or speculative criticisms: Were the teachers who taught you best the ones you liked … Continue reading Flipping the Course Evaluation