The Week in Early American History

TWEAHI’d like to start this week’s roundup by reminding everyone that the Junto March Madness begins tomorrow. In case you live under a rock (or—shudder at the thought—have a life outside books and blogs), we here at The Junto are combining two of our favorite things: basketball and historiography. On Thursday, we asked readers to nominate five books each to help fill out NCAA tournament-style brackets. One three-hour Google Hangout later and the brackets were set. Check here for a full explanation of Junto March Madness  and here to download the brackets. Voting in Brackets 1 & 2 begin tomorrow and will continue through subsequent rounds into next week (see John Fea’s predictions here).  I cannot stress enough that this should not be taken too seriously (particularly the “seedings”). The primary purpose of it—unlike the actual NCAA tournament—is not to find a winner; it is to spark discussion between the blog members and our readers.

It seems Americans’ penchant for scandal over history curricula and standards has spread to England (Times Literary Supplement).

A commentary piece in The Onion ponders an alternative route to winning the Bancroft Prize in American History.

At the S-USIH blog, Christopher Cameron discusses the methodology as it relates to intellectual history of Francois Furstenburg’s WMQ article on George Washington and Atlantic anti-slavery networks. Meanwhile, at Religion in American History, Elesha Coffman ruminates on Catherine Brekus’s Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. Also, Boston1775 posted this link from which reports that Warner Bros. has paid close to a million dollars for the movie rights to Nathaniel Philbrick’s Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution as a possible directing vehicle for Ben Affleck. The real question is: Can anything they do satisfy Ken Owen?

Earlier in the week, The Atlantic ran a piece by Jordan Wiessmann, which was based on a very depressing report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities released the day before, detailing state-by-state per-student funding cuts of higher education since FY2008. Eleven states have cut their spending per-student by over one-third, with the average being roughly between twenty-five and thirty percent. Both Arizona and New Hampshire have cut their spending per-student by half since the onset of the recession. The article appeared in The Atlantic‘s Business section.

A few days before that The New York Times ran an interesting piece (with an accompanying infographic), based on a study by two Harvard education researches, about the class disparity at the nation’s “better colleges.” They found that “only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges.” As a first-generation college graduate from the bottom half of the socioeconomic ladder, I did not find the study’s results surprising. The article (and study) attributes this disparity in large part to low-income students’ unawareness of the availability of financial aid at these colleges, i.e., they don’t apply because they think they’re too expensive. But this ignores the fact that the hierarchy of academia (perpetuated by annual college rankings) filters down to undergraduates and even high schoolers, making it so that even exceptionally bright, high-achieving students at urban public high schools and public universities see the “most selective colleges” as outside the realm of possibility.

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education from early in the week detailed a Faculty Senate Council vote at New York University which denied voting rights in the Council to non-tenured faculty, who constitute 58% of NYU’s faculty. Finding themselves a minority, NYU’s tenured professoriate reasons that they perform different duties than their teaching-focused non-tenured colleagues, which means they have more at stake in the university in the long-term. They also argued that non-tenured faculty’s tenuous status means they could be subject to coercion from administrators. Needless to say, many have criticized the decision as elitist, self-interested, and reactionary in the face of the now-majority and ever-growing presence of non-tenured, part-time, and adjunct faculty.

The Times Higher Education ran an article this week about faculty in US history faculty in Florida fighting back against Gov. Rick Scott and the state GOP’s proposals to charge higher tuition for majors that they deemed less useful than others in preparing students for the workforce. Scott is quoted in the piece saying, “If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education, then I’m going to take that money to create jobs. Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.” Sadly, this attack on the Humanities in higher education is neither new nor unique to Florida as the Republican governors of Wisconsin and North Carolina have openly mused about similar possibilities.

3 responses

  1. What would the “Big Dance” be without controversy over those which didn’t make it into the brackets? How could Wood’s Radicalism of the American Revolution not get a single nomination? Why no works published before 1968? Why were the economic, legal, and diplomatic “conferences” snubbed?

    Concerning the Onion’s track record for predicting future events, future award winners will forever be subject to increased scrutiny. BTW hats off to the composer of the twitter feed for this posting. Best historical writing of the week.

    • HA! Thanks! As for the nominations, we had a one-book-per-author rule, but, that said, no one nominated “Radicalism” anyway. I think the main reason for any “deficiencies” in the nominations is that we had only one day dedicated to nominating books. I’m sure if we had given it a couple of days more earlier classics would’ve been nominated as more recent books were already nominated. These nominations came from a small sample of the field, i.e., people who happened to read The Junto that day before 5pm (at which time we closed off the voting in order to have enough time to create the brackets.

  2. Pingback: “Just imported in the last ship from London”: Early America in the News | UD History of American Civilization Ph.D. Program Blog


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