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 »