President-Palooza Sunday With Tenured Radical

February 17, 2013, 1:51 pm

It’s been a robust week at Tenured Radical: the stats just came in, and we topped 16,000 hits for the first time ever. Some of them weren’t very nice, it’s true, but nevertheless you came to this site from all over the world to watch the verbiage fly. Thousands of lurkers got an eye full of academia at its finest. So with that, let’s begin our President’s Day Celebration!

Tenured Radical Live — with a President! Didn’t know I was a Friend of Bill, didja? I’m talking Wisco historian Bill Cronon, that is. The Presidential Plenary from the American Historical Association — with me, (now past) President William Cronon, Edward Ayers (also a university president), Mary Louise Roberts, Nico Pfund and Michael Pollan — is now up! It cannot be embedded, but you can go here to see it on CSPAN-3. Upon review, I think it’s very good stuff, and reflects some of the excitement of Bill Cronon’s high focus on the digital world this year.

I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing: Well, actually, on some days I would like it if folks just got their history right. Emory University President James Wagner has caused a stir everywhere Coca-Cola is sold by pointing out that enslaved people being written into the Constitution as 3/5 of a person each is an excellent example of how racist the Founding Fathers really were political compromise. In “As American as….Compromise,” Emory Magazine, (Winter 2013), Wagner notes that:

One instance of constitutional compromise was the agreement to count three-fifths of the slave population for purposes of state representation in Congress. Southern delegates wanted to count the whole slave population, which would have given the South greater influence over national policy. Northern delegates argued that slaves should not be counted at all, because they had no vote. As the price for achieving the ultimate aim of the Constitution—“to form a more perfect union”—the two sides compromised on this immediate issue of how to count slaves in the new nation. Pragmatic half-victories kept in view the higher aspiration of drawing the country more closely together.

Some might suggest that the constitutional compromise reached for the lowest common denominator—for the barest minimum value on which both sides could agree. I rather think something different happened. Both sides found a way to temper ideology and continue working toward the highest aspiration they both shared—the aspiration to form a more perfect union. They set their sights higher, not lower, in order to identify their common goal and keep moving toward it.

This is a useful example of a statement in which the historical facts are basically correct, but the interpretation is so wrong (or perhaps superficial in its relationship to said facts) that it renders the statement as a whole incorrect. I mean, really. If you look at it this way, other good political compromises might include:

  • Passing the Nineteenth Amendment, but not outlawing grandfather clauses and literacy tests;
  • United States containment policy after World War II, which gave up half of Europe to totalitarian police states in exchange for making the other half prosperous enough to buy United States goods;
  • Preserving Roe v. Wade but leaving abortion coverage out of federal health plans and viewing laws that make it impossible to get an abortion in much of the country as a reasonable exercise of states rights;
  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

You getting the drift here? Political compromises which include dealing away other people’s lives and freedoms do not count as good compromises. Hat Tip.

Vassar 10, Obama Administration 0: Catharine Hill, President of Vassar College, has written a killer rejoinder to the Obama Administration’s “college scorecard” idea (you go see if you understand how this app will help anyone find a college.) This latest no-fix for higher ed, revealed in SOTU last week, would supposedly provide the information necessary for parents and students to know whether they were getting value for their dollars.

Except, as Hill points out, it doesn’t, and probably can’t. The scorecard places a high emphasis on the first job a student gets after graduation, and that is a poor indicator of what a lifetime work trajectory will look like (look at Barack Obama!) It also compares apples and oranges: people who major in fine arts may have a difficult time establishing a well-paying career compared to those who major in economics, but that does not make an education in fine arts any less worthy. “We love to measure things, but sometimes it is difficult to do so,” she writes. “We need to be careful not to give too much weight to those things we can measure, just because we can measure them. This could be very misleading to students and their families.” Go here for the whole  article.

But What About Finishing Your Book? It’s not the only thing to do with your sabbatical, after all. Rutgers professor of planning and public policy is using his to run for President of Iran. He tried to run in 2005, but Iran’s Council of Guardians said no. This time it seems like they will say yes. Currently he seems to be campaigning in the United States.

Kick the Can Down the Road: At a February 1 Town Hall meeting the presidents of all six Washington public universities agreed that the state’s higher education system needs more money. As The Stranger reports,

when asked if they supported raising taxes to hold down skyrocketing tuition, University of Washington president Michael Young shrugged off the question. “It’s above my pay grade,” weaseled Young, whose $550,000 annual salary climbs to $802,000 when deferred compensation and other bonuses are figured in, making him the highest taxpayer-paid official in the state.

An accompanying graphic shows that, at $802 K, Young makes twice as much as Barack Obama and over four times as much as Governor Chris Gregoire, perhaps making “the problem of higher education funding officially unsolvable” in Washington, as there is no one above Young’s pay grade.

And Last But Not Least: Feeling a little tight in your jeans? Courtesy of blogpal Historiann, you might want to be “Losing Weight the William Howard Taft Way.”


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