Category Archives: The Radical Seeks A More Perfect Union

January 17, 2015, 1:07 pm

The Mysteries of Facebook: Part II

Anonymous-Mask-01Last night I broke my only New Year’s Resolution: don’t argue, or provoke others to argument, on social media. What I am talking about is what I call “the cycle.” This is a mental feedback loop of incessant open-ended arguing, often with insults and others jumping in and repeating arguments already made.This is accompanied by obsessive checking of Facebook (or Twitter) to see what the latest insult to my personal integrity is. It’s one of several things about Facebook that make me feel bad, just bad. It is also a humungous time waster.

The worst thing is that, when it happens, it is usually entirely my own fault.

Here’s what happens: scrolling through my feed, someone I do not know posts a comment or status update that has elements  that are bound to annoy me. These might include:  a statement that poses as radical, but actually just repeats a well-known political critique; an…

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December 11, 2014, 10:07 am

And The Dead (Fields of History) Shall Rise Up

jefferson-davis-in-a-dress-1865-caricatureFollowing on the public hissies being thrown about the demise of The New Republic, there is apparently another cause for concern about the death of intellectual life as we know it: the history of the Civil War is being miserably neglected.

This will surprise many people. Am I the only one who remembers that some years back the Journal of American History announced that it was no longer accepting everything written about the Civil War for review? This was not because of an unreasoning prejudice against these books, but because they were completely awash in them and there were many other fields that needed the space.

Fact: military histories of the Civil War are staples for some university presses. They are not being published because they are exactly interesting, but because there is a solid and dependable market for Civil War and local history. There are enthusiasts out there who…

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August 30, 2013, 2:53 pm

There’s Nothing That Says I Haven’t Got A Plan….


Just keep saying: Mitt Romney would have been worse, Mitt Romney would have been worse…

…Like President Obama’s new College Affordability Plan.  (For intelligent and thoughtful responses to this announcement, go to the AHA Roundtable on President Obama’s College Affordability Plan and Inside Higher Ed, August 8 2013. For an outraged polemic, keep reading.)

Like practically everything else about what passes for federal education policy today, the Obama administration’s problem-solving  nibbles around the edges of the issue. There is nothing that is a genuinely new idea or even a well-recycled old idea. Reforms consist of a few small financial incentives awarded to institutions that play along, injecting a good shot of standardized testing, and giving “education consumers” information so that they can make…

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December 17, 2012, 10:34 am

Teachers Are Not Soldiers

“Yer paper’s late, dude!”

In only a matter of a few decades, the National Rifle Association has managed to persuade the American policy apparatus that the only answer to rampant gun violence is for innocent civilians to be armed themselves. Recently, Jeffrey Goldberg argued in The Atlantic that gun control has become just another liberal utopian fantasy — like welfare, good public education, and affordable housing — waiting to expire in the face of new realities. In an article so full of bad research and logical fallacies I don’t understand why James Bennet allowed it to be printed know where to begin the critique, Goldberg maintained that because “it’s too late” to retract the millions of guns already in circulation, it’s time for the rest of us to lock n’ load:

When even anti-gun activists believe that…

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September 26, 2012, 3:40 pm

Teaching At The Grass Roots: Registering Voters in North Carolina

Our southern correspondent, who some of you may know from my comments section as Urban Exile, (and others may know better as my sister) has volunteered to register voters in the state of North Carolina. We hear a lot from the national campaigns, but what’s happening on the ground, as campaign workers try to persuade citizens to act on their Constitutional right to choose a President in 2012? I set myself to finding out in an e-interview.

I want to start with a few questions that will help my readers know more about you. What do you do for a living?

I am a former professional musician, but I’ve worked for many years as a Spanish language coach and translator which is what I do now full-time. I have a husband and a dog, and I live in Durham North Carolina. I had lived in New York City for my entire adult life until a year ago.

Do you have a background in politics or organizing? …

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September 3, 2012, 10:51 am

Don’t Mourn, Organize!

These are the legendary last words of Joe Hill — except that they weren’t his last words. According to Peter Carlson’s Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood (New York: W.W. Norton: 1983) this catchy phrase was rewritten from a telegram sent to Haywood in 1915 as Hill awaited execution on trumped up charges in a Utah jail. What Joe really wrote was:

“Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”

But Joe Hill had many more last words. They included a subsequent telegram to Haywood which read:

“Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.”

Utah is a beautiful state, with some beautiful people in it, but here we are almost a century later and I have got to agree. I don’t want to be found dead in Utah either. If you’ve got to bury me, bury me in a Blue state…

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August 30, 2012, 5:11 pm

We Built It: But Who Are “We,” White Man?

In case you have forgotten that marriage is only between a man and a woman, Laura Bowman accepts Bradley Thompson’s proposal on the GOP convention stage. Photo credit.

Remember that old joke where the Lone Ranger and his Indian scout Tonto are surrounded by unfriendly Native Americans? The Ranger says, “Look’s like we’re in trouble,” and Tonto replies: “Whaddaya mean ‘we,’ white man?”

Well, the next time Republican strategists hold a meeting about the gender gap, or any other gap for that matter, they might want to consider reducing the frat party atmosphere of their national convention. I bet that even if you aren’t a Democrat it becomes tiresome to watch a bunch of white people hooting, hollering and jeering as if they were at a football game every time one of their speakers tells a bad and mean-spirited joke …

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July 11, 2012, 3:00 pm

Writing By Hand: the Lost Art

Today the Tenured Radical is feeling like the Tenured Crank, and not just because of the summer cold that has taken up temporary residence between her vacationing ears.

Over at HASTAC, where there are always a ton of great ideas for the digitally inclined, writing prof Teresa Narey highlights the question of whether young people will continue to learn handwriting skills. Given the shift to using computers in secondary school, and curricula geared to a techie world, will subsequent generations even need to learn to write legibly? Cursive writing, she argues in this post, “is becoming an outdated skill.”

Secondary schools are apparently divided on this issue: some still teach handwriting and some do not. Some schools teach handwriting out of tradition, without any real conviction that it is a skill worth having. “Contrastingly,” Narey writes, “many Catholic schools continue to make…

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April 8, 2012, 12:53 pm

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Who Is The Smartest Historian of All?

I am currently operating about a month behind on much of my professional mail because of the job-switch thing.  Therefore, it wasn’t until I was riding the train last week that I picked up on American Historical Association President William Cronon’s article, “Professional Boredom” (Perspectives on History, March 2012, 6-7.)  Without explicitly linking his thoughts to the job crisis, Cronon raises some issues about how we evaluate the quality of historical work, and what the consequences of defining the category of “good history” might be.

Cronon’s piece reminded me of a turn of phrase that irritates me more the older I get, which is characterizing a scholar or a piece of work by that scholar as “smart.” Most of us do it, but it either means nothing (original? well done? fun to read?) or it means way too much (“I have put X in the smart bin and that is that.”) What is worse is to…

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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…)