Always in the jury pool, never a juror

Can you believe that Historiann got a peremptory challenge by the defense for a domestic violence trial?  (When I called to tell Fratguy, he said:  “Are you kidding me?  You’re the defense’s best friend,” which I think is usually the case.  If I have any bias, it’s to the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof being the prosecution’s.)  In voir dire, I volunteered that I am a feminist scholar who once published an article on domestic violence.  I said–quite truthfully–that it would not prevent me from rendering an impartial verdict, but since other potential jurors were talking about their professional experience with domestic violence, I thought that the attorneys in this case should know about my professional expertise in intimate/family violence, albeit in the seventeenth century.

Without improperly divulging any of the relevant details, here are my observations about my 3 hours of jury duty this morning:

  1. It’s difficult to impanel a jury for a domestic violence case, because so many people have experience with intimate or family violence.  I was reminded again what a sheltered and fortunate life I’ve lived insofar as I’ve never been a victim of domestic violence, and I’ve never known any friends or family members to have been victims.  It was pretty disturbing to hear of the number of randomly selected citizens whose lives have been torn by domestic violence.  The woman next to me in the jury box said that she was a witness in a domestic violence case in which her daughter was the victim, and one man said that he couldn’t render an impartial verdict because his daughter was molested.  One woman confessed that her shoulder was dislocated in an incident with a partner, although she described herself as “the aggressor.”  Furthermore, there were at least two people in the initial 12 of us in voir dire who work in family services/child welfare who offered that they’ve seen and heard of many cases of intimate or family violence.
  2. Here’s a question for the rest of you:  are people being crafty liars when they say they’ll hold a defendant’s decision not to testify on his own behalf against him, or are there really that many honest (but incredibly stupid) people who don’t get it that the burden of proof is on the state, not on the defendant?  Continue reading

You historians get off of David McCullough's lawn!

And your music?  It’s just noise.

This interview with David McCullough encapsulates everything that’s silly and contradictory about the Barnes and Noble-style creative nonfiction writer’s complaints that professional historians are ruining history.  First of all, the evidence of course is that today’s young people don’t know nothing ’bout history, with an obligatory nod to that silly study that reminds us of this fact, year after year, as though Americans of yore were some kind of social studies savants and New Left historians are to blame:

‘We’re raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate,” David McCullough tells me on a recent afternoon in a quiet meeting room at the Boston Public Library. Having lectured at more than 100 colleges and universities over the past 25 years, he says, “I know how much these young people—even at the most esteemed institutions of higher learning—don’t know.” Slowly, he shakes his head in dismay. “It’s shocking.”

He’s right. This week, the Department of Education released the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which found that only 12% of high-school seniors have a firm grasp of our nation’s history. And consider: Just 2% of those students understand the significance of Brown v. Board of Education.

Mr. McCullough began worrying about the history gap some 20 years ago, when a college sophomore approached him after an appearance at “a very good university in the Midwest.” She thanked him for coming and admitted, “Until I heard your talk this morning, I never realized the original 13 colonies were all on the East Coast.” Remembering the incident, Mr. McCullough’s snow-white eyebrows curl in pain. “I thought, ‘What have we been doing so wrong that this obviously bright young woman could get this far and not know that?'”

My question is, how can David McCullough play the role of a celebrated “historian” without considering that the young lady in question 20 years ago might have been thinking about the colonial settlements called New France, Louisiana, Kahokia, Missouri, Santa Fe, and the California missions, none of which are on “the East Coast?”  At a “very good university in the Midwest,” chances are that the languages spoken locally 300 and 400 years ago were Algonquian and French, not English.

Next, we have the usual (and usually mutually contradictory claims) of the successful amateur who has no idea what’s actually been happening in American universities and among professional historians for at least 25 years: Continue reading

Don't fence me in

Thanks, Maine!  We enjoyed the fried clams, the beaches, the Dunkin’ Donuts, and the pediatric surgeons.  We’re saddling up to ride out this morning–see you when we’re about a mile higher than Scarborough Beach.  I have to say, living at altitude makes running at sea level feel like I could run forever.  (For the first few weeks, anyway, and then the lungs adjust to the luxurious concentration of oxygen you eastern fops and dandies enjoy.)

You know what I always say, friends:  don’t fence me in.  Continue reading

Saturday round-up: slutty college years edition

Good morning, y’all!  It’s another changeable day here in southern Maine, so just in case I end up spending the day at the beach and you don’t, here are a few items that will keep you entertained indoors:

  • First of all, have you been reading Tenured Radical lately?  It’s difficult to keep up with that woman, but I particularly loved Thursday’s cranky screed, “Question:  Why Do Development Offices Raise Money for Sports When Academics Are Being Cut?”  Excellent question!  As many of you know, I’m opposed philosophically and budgetarily to the free men’s sports farm clubsthat even Podunk Colleges and Directional State U.’s feel the need to provide to the for-profit teams of the NBA and the NFL, but when even sports-loving dyke proffies start wondering about the size and heft of the Athletic Department’s budget, compared to (for example) the Classics Department, somehow I feel less like the vox clamantis in deserto.  (And I don’t actually read a word of Latin!)  Repeat after me:  club sports good, free farm clubs bad. 
  • TR also shares what not to do when pi$$ed off by your colleagues.  (What is it with the peeing, boys?  Seriously?)
  • In “Fat Girl Woes,” New Kid on the Hallway writes, “You know what really annoys me? The way some stores that carry my size online won’t carry that size in the stores. I mean, clearly those stores would like to sell me stuff and take my money, but they don’t want me actually to shop in the store? You know, in public?”  (She’s not just a student-blogger any more–she has finished her law degree and really needs to wear suits pretty much all day long in her new career.)  I’ve noticed over the last several years that the combined forces of vanity sizing (what was once an 7-8 or a 5-6 is now a 4 or XS, for example) plus the fat discrimination New Kid reports means that the range of sizes represented on most store racks is narrower than ever.
  • Joyce Chaplin reviews Mary Beth Norton’s new book, Separated by their Sex:  Women in Public and Private in the Colonial Atlantic World, in tomorrow’s New York Times Book Review (h/t Blake at Down and Out in Denver.)  Chaplin writes, “The materials are rich, but most historians will be surprised that Norton goes after them with the equivalent of a power tool that has lost its edge. [Ed. note:  OUCH!] Continue reading

Jesse Lemisch on "Founders Chic"–on video!

Fat, bald, toothless, and chic?

Via someplace I forget–it might have been the H-OIEAHC discussion groupHistory in the Classroom is really nice website featuring video interviews and panel discussions with several prominent U.S. historians and 1960s political activists given to K-12 teachers.  For example, Robert P. Moses speaking about Civil Rights and his algebra project; Tom Hayden on the Port Huron Statement nearly 50 years later; Blanche Wiesen Cook on Eleanor Roosevelt; Kim Philips-Fein on conservative opposition to the New Deal; Hasia Diner on immigration history; Candace Falk on the Emma Goldman Papers; Carola Suarez-Orozco on the issues facing immigrant children; and Ira Berlin on the Four Great Migrations of African American history, among other fascinating topics. 

Readers of this blog might be especially interested in the second video topic at that link, “Jesse Lemisch:  Historians, Power, and Politics,” a public talk he gave last month on his “classic critique of the historical profession: ‘Present Mindedness Revisited: Anti-Radicalism as a Goal of American Historical Writing Since World War II.’  Continue reading

Call for Contributors: Women in Early America

Thomas Foster, author of Sex and the Eighteenth-Century Man (2006), and the editor of two recent collections of essays in early American history of sexuality and gender, Long Before Stonewall:  Histories of Same-Sex Sexuality in Early America (2007) and New Men:  Manliness in Early America (2011), is looking for contributors for a new volume to be published by New York University Press called Women in Early America.  I’ll let Foster take it from here–this is from an e-mail he sent to me, which I believe was also published recently on h-net:

Women in Early America is an anthology on women in America from contact through the Revolutionary era. Proposals for essays that employ a transnational approach and that rewrite master narratives are especially encouraged. As the volume is largely intended for use in undergraduate courses, essays that are written for that audience and that address major themes in women’s and gender history courses are also particularly desirable.

New York University Press has expressed strong interest in publishing this project. I’m in the process now of soliciting proposals for chapters so that I may put together a book prospectus within the next few months to secure a contract. If you are interested in proposing an essay for this volume, please send an abstract and cv to tfoster4 AT depaul DOT eduContinue reading