Archive for January, 2011

January 5th 2011
“History Under Attack:” Tony Grafton is spoiling for a fight.

Posted under American history & class & European history & jobs & students

Anthony Grafton

Incoming 2011 American Historical Association President Anthony Grafton, the distinguished early modern European intellectual historian at Princeton University, has published a stemwinder of an article in the January 2011 issue of Perspectives, called “History Under Attack” (sorry–subscription required!  I’ll do my best to capture its essence here:)

It’s not easy to think straight—not easy to think at all—when you are under attack. And we historians—like many other humanists—have been receiving more flak than flowers over the last few decades. . . .

For all their disagreements on detail, almost all of these critics agree, not only on the symptoms but also on their causes. They have met the enemy, and he is us. We professors have shed our basic responsibility, teaching, in favor of research. Instead of grounding eager young people in the liberal arts, nine or twelve or fifteen hours a week, we barely enter the classroom. Instead we are off-campus, secluded at home or in a library or archive, pursuing specialized research. Every year we write more and more about less and less, filling libraries with unread books and articles and babbling at pointless conferences. And every year we are rewarded for this dereliction with higher salaries and more privileges.

(Oh, if only!)  As I have argued here before, premier dailies like Kaplan Testing’s house organ and the New York Times write as though all universities are run like the Ivies or top-ten flagship state unis.  They only publish op-eds from people who are affiliated with those top institutions, and those are the disciplinary experts they like to quote in their stories.  But of course, that’s not the life of most U.S. American faculty.  A lot of you readers are in fact in classrooms nine or twelve or fifteen hours a week, and you’re sure as H-E-double-hockey-sticks not enjoying “higher salaries and more privileges” for your troubles!  Grafton continues: Continue Reading »


January 4th 2011
DePaul University: safe for white male scholars only?

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

We’ve gone over this here before, friends–in “DePaul tenure process takes a turn for the . . . ” last May, and in “Women in Catholic higher ed:  do we exist yet?” last January, it sure looked like DePaul University was in the running to beat even Baylor University’s record of discrimination in advancement!  (I know–daringly ambitious, isn’t it?)  We read this morning that DePaul University is back in the news at Inside Higher Ed, which reports that last year, race was clearly a factor in the outcomes of tenure cases there: 

In the 2009-10 academic year, all those who were denied tenure were minority faculty members, and all white candidates won tenure. Of 43 applicants, 10 self-identified faculty members of color went up for tenure, but the University Board on Faculty Tenure and Promotion – the final committee to review candidates and, DePaul’s president said, the one with the most weight – voted to deny six of them (despite previous reports of more applicants and more approvals). The president ultimately signed off on an appeals board’s recommendation to reverse one candidate’s denial, meaning that in the end, 100 percent of white candidates got tenure, compared to half of minority candidates.

Of course, sex discrimination appears to have been operative in many of these cases too–the reporting over at IHEis a little difficult to follow, but it’s clear in the case of Philosophy Professor Namita Goswami that sex bias was a part of the package.  (How else to explain comments and opinions like these?) Continue Reading »


January 3rd 2011
Standards, stress, and sneetches: how can poor kids win?

Posted under American history & childhood & class & Gender & race & students & wankers

In yesterday’s LA Times, Doyle McManus wrote of the “upward mobility gap”that divides college-educated America from Americans who never went to college or finished high school, and says that schools are the key to bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots in the U.S.:

That leaves education, which is the most promising ground for government action, in part because most Americans agree that fixing public education is the government’s responsibility. Haskins and Sawhill say there’s still plenty that can be done to increase access to higher education for low-income kids, including relatively easy things such as simplifying the application for college financial aid, which is an intimidating 127 questions long.

But perhaps the most important thing the federal government can do to promote opportunity, they say, is to expand its current efforts to improve public schools. The focus, Haskins said, should be on giving low-income students “more order, more work and more recognition for achievement.”

Yet at the same time, a backlash is coming in many high-income, high-achieving school districts, where parents believe now that their children are overscheduled, burdened with too much homework, and subjected to too much pressure to succeed.  I’ve been sensing a growing revolt in the same socioeconomic group of parents who twenty years ago were leading the charge for standards, accountability, and more homework.  For example, we have this from the Denver Post yesterday:

The Boulder Valley School District has made an effort to address overstressed students. Continue Reading »


January 2nd 2011
The U.S. Constitution and “health” “care” “reform”

Posted under American history & the body & unhappy endings & wankers

We the for-profit corporations?

This editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine’s Health Policy and Reform blog pretty much sums up my thoughts on “health” “care” “reform” for the past three years, only it’s much smarter than anything I could write on the subject because the authors (Wendy K. Mariner, J.D., M.P.H., George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H., and Leonard H. Glantz, J.D.) are lawyers with specific legal knowledge of the jurisprudence on the Commerce Clause and important stuff like that.  (H/t to Lambert at Corrente.) 

Here’s the nut of the problem, which is that “[t]he [Affordable Care Act] was designed both to provide an affordable means of financing health care for all Americans and to preserve the private, commercial health insurance industry. This latter goal is the source of conflict.”  They review the legal issues at stake, but then focus on the innovation of the ACA, which is that Congress has required every American citizen to purchase a product from a for-profit industry:

The third and most important reason the question is so hard is that it’s difficult to decide whether not having insurance coverage qualifies as an activity that affects interstate commerce. ACA opponents argue that Congress has no authority to penalize people for inactivity — for not buying a product. One lower court in Virginia has agreed, and during oral arguments in a Florida case, Judge Roger Vinson appeared likely to agree as well. The Obama administration argues (and two other lower courts in Virginia and Michigan agreed) that the failure to purchase something is an economic decision with potentially broad economic consequences — a dynamic much in evidence during the current recession. Therefore, decisions not to buy a product should count as economic activity affecting interstate commerce. Yet this argument may prove too much. If the Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to penalize people without health coverage in order to sustain the private health insurance industry, then it might also authorize requiring people to buy cars to sustain an industry vital to the U.S. economy. If the Obama administration is to prevail, it must provide a persuasive limiting principle to convince the Supreme Court that ruling in favor of the individual mandate would not create a precedent for unlimited federal authority to require citizens to buy goods from private sellers to sustain important industries

That’s a dilly of a pickle, ain’t it?  Maybe, just maybe, extending health care to all Americans isn’t really compatible with propping up a for-profit industry that profits only by refusing to guard people’s “health” and denying “care?”  But, to return to the Constitutional issue at stake: Continue Reading »


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