Category Archives: history departments

May 26, 2013, 2:15 pm

Could Flipping the Curriculum Lead to More Jobs and Better Educated Students?

history fanAnother school year ends, and the MOOC people are happily planting stories in the media about a teaching model that, if it succeeds, is likely to kill off full time work in the liberal arts forever. How do we fight this, and the concurrent view that liberal arts BAs are simply a thing of the past?

Here’s my idea: let’s flip the curriculum. Kill the survey courses and start teaching history as applied knowledge, and as a set of skills that can tangibly enhance the careers that most of our students will actually have.

As a profession, we have, to date, mounted few successful counter-arguments to those who wish to shift resources away from teaching, and jobs, in the humanities and social sciences. One of the reasons that MOOCs may be doing so well is that they represent practically the only big idea that the academy has had in the past several decades. Many of our colleagues in the…

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December 19, 2011, 1:05 pm

History and the Politics of Scholarly Collaboration, Part I: Or, Why Anthony Grafton Is a Rock Star

Meet Anthony Grafton, the AHA's Jonathan Swift

Have you followed American Historical Association president Anthony Grafton’s serial meditation on how graduate schools might respond to a bad academic job market? A market that has, since the the 1970s, been either stagnant or getting worse? A market with whose effects the blogosphere is obsessed?

If you haven’t, you need to catch up.  For “No More Plan B” (October 2011) and “Plan C” (November 2011), both co-written with Jim Grossman for the AHA newsletter Perspectives, go here and here. For an article about “Plan B” by Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed (October 3 2011) go here; and for a response by graduate student Dan Alloso (UMass-Amherst) go here. (more…)

June 2, 2011, 3:07 pm

As The Department Turns: What Causes Conflict, Drama And Other Energy Sapping Dynamics

Things can explode when you least expect it!

 This week’s Chronicle of Higher Education features a blog post by David Perlmutter entitled “It’s Not Your Fault.”  Aimed mostly at helping assistant professors and graduate students understand how they might have unintentionally become the target of a senior person’s anger or jealousy, Perlmutter explores six factors that might cause unwelcome behaviors by senior people.  While it is sometimes the case that a younger person’s actions might have provoked the incident or ongoing dynamic, it is also likely that it didn’t. The project of figuring out what went wrong can be just as agonizing for a younger person as the reprisals and criticisms themselves. 

As Perlmutter notes wisely, “sometimes the quickest relief comes from merely figuring out that a single tussle or a longstanding feud is not your fault but rather originates in the minds,…

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October 27, 2010, 1:15 pm

And Now For Something Completely Different: History Department Hosts Skull Session

According to a Salt Lake, Utah, television station, yesterday a package was received by the History Department at the Brigham Young University Campus in Provo.  Upon opening it, an unlucky employee found two skulls packed in bubble wrap.  Sent via USPS Priority Mail, and addressed to “historical department,” there was “no explanation why two skulls were being mailed to the university.”  The police were called, and the skulls have been shipped to the office of the state archaeologist for forensic analysis.  As KSL reports on its website,

The leading theory now is that the skulls are likely those of Native Americans and someone may have decided that possessing the skulls was a bad idea, especially with the recent artifact possession indictments in southeastern Utah. Investigators believe that by sending them to a university, the person thought someone on campus would know what to do with…

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October 21, 2010, 3:21 am

Weird History Department News: Thad Russell Has The Last Word

Angry young man? Photo credit

Today’s HuffPo has a blog post by former Barnard adjunct prof Thaddeus “Bad Thad” Russell who, by his own account, was kicking a$$ in History and American Studies on the Upper West Side of Manhattan until his colleagues finally found out what he was teaching.  The story is a little murky, it’s true.  Russell, who took his PH.D. at Columbia, describes himself as an “eccentric” and claims to have been highly influenced by his counter-cultural upbringing and education.  He gave a job talk which horrified his colleagues and their counterparts at Columbia and, after four years of impermanent work at Barnard, was not offered a tenure-track position.

If Russell’s job talk was anything like this post about the job talk, I can see why.

What kind of a teacher/scholar is Thad Russell?  Again, not clear: some of his work is terribly conventional, some aggressively…

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