Theses on Academia, Academic Scholarship, and Their Critics

I'm no Luther, not even a Posner. But here are some thoughts prompted by several years in academe, and by exchanges on this blog and Twitter over the last year or so. Many criticisms of "academic" scholars from outside the academy reveal a poor grasp of the workings of (a) research and teaching; (b) academic … Continue reading Theses on Academia, Academic Scholarship, and Their Critics

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The Dead Grandmother Business

Let me start by saying that by far the best take I have read on this now-notorious Chronicle piece (Shannon Reed's fictional contract requiring a student whose grandmothers keep dying at exam time to perform various embarrassing tasks for the professor to agree to "buy" it) is this blog post by Acclimatrix at Tenure, She Wrote. Among other … Continue reading The Dead Grandmother Business

Giving Rare Books to Undergraduates

Not a great idea? I tried it this week in my seminar on historical research, in the course of trying to move beyond the idea of primary sources as disembodied texts to see individual books, letters, and manuscripts as objects whose physical properties and fates could be as or more interesting, if harder to trace, than their contents. I … Continue reading Giving Rare Books to Undergraduates

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

I, University

We are, like so many public institutions, in the midst of austerity. Some of it is up-front, such as the "voluntary departure" schemes encouraging staff and faculty to take themselves off the payroll for early retirement -- and leaving academic departments chronically understaffed. Much is coated with an icing of rhetoric about strategic planning or buried amid myriad … Continue reading I, University

Lessons of History: Stop It

  History shows that there is a God. History teaches that free and open commerce is beneficial to all. History shows that children are no asset for a Prime Minister. History teaches us to hope. History teaches us that confronting antibiotic resistance requires stronger global collective action. History teaches that the Roman Catholic religion has … Continue reading Lessons of History: Stop It

Why Team-Teach History?

Historians, historically, are lone wolves. In contrast to most STEM and social-science research, the typical product of a historian's efforts is a single-authored article or (better) scholarly monograph, most likely supported by individual grants and researched and written alone during individual sabbatical or research leave. As far as funding goes this has begun to change, perhaps especially … Continue reading Why Team-Teach 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