A bunch of stuff you know already if you don’t have your head up your a$$

Call this the sky is blue/grass is green/water is wet edition of the news:

On the Mitch Daniels/Howard Zinn issue:  a commenter on the linked Inside Higher Ed story wrote that “Zinn basically saw American democracy and capitalistic economy as a sham while . . . he made a good living tucked in the loving bosom [of] its higher education institutions.”  I  happen to know exactly how much money Zinn made back in the late 1980s, and it was far from “a good living.”  Here’s the comment I wrote in response to this classic right-wing diversionary tactic.  (It’s a shorter version of the story I shared about Zinn when he died three and a half years ago.):

You are wrong that he “made a good living” at Boston University. The president of the uni in the 1980s and 1990s, John Silber, was ideologically at war with Zinn, and he and his minions prevented Zinn ever from getting any merit increases since before he even published “A People’s History.”

How do I know? I worked in the summer of 1987 in the Office of Faculty Actions, and it was my job to Xerox tenure & promotion files and to mail out faculty contracts. I remember opening Zinn’s returned contract and seeing that he had signed it but had also included a note to the effect that “I see once again you refuse to pay me any more money, but I don’t care!”

The princely sum he made in the 1987-88 academic year? $41,000! For a full professor, a WWII vet, a Civil Rights stalwart, and someone who was among the few faculty willing to take a stand against John Silber. As a college sophomore interested in going into higher ed myself, that sure made an impression. It’s a miracle I decided to go to grad school anyway.

FWIW, I don’t think “A People’s History” is great history, but it served a purpose in its time and place, and it got more people interested in learning more about American history than most high school or college textbooks.

I hope he made bank on A People’s History, because he sure wasn’t making it at B.U.  I’m sure he would enjoy this dustup over Mitch Daniels, whom I’m sure he would regard as merely a lesser (and even dumber) version of John Silber.

5 thoughts on “A bunch of stuff you know already if you don’t have your head up your a$$

  1. My favorite (from the SF Chronicle story on the SJSU/Udacity debacle, behind a paywall) is this:

    “Despite the high failure rate, Thrun said valuable data and experience were gained from the effort, which will help improve future classes.
    “We are experimenting and learning. That to me is a positive,” Thrun said.

    Officials say the data suggests many of the students had little college experience or held jobs while attending classes. Both populations traditionally struggle with college courses.
    “We had this element that we picked, student populations who were not likely to succeed,” Thrun said.

    So what we’ve been saying all along is true: that the students who need the most help, actually need a PERSON. When this was shared by a colleague, I wondered whether the students would be paid for participating in Udacity’s R&D; but apparently Thrun is really saying “We can do remedial education better and cheaper if you give us smart kids who don’t need it that badly”.


  2. “…it got more people interested in learning more about American history than most high school or college textbooks” It’s funny you say that; that’s exactly what it did for me in junior college. That book lit a fire in me that will probably never go out.


  3. Glad to see academic integrity is not being undermined by the MOOC:

    “In fact, San Jose State students using edX are outperforming students who do not. Junn said the university is preparing a paper on that project and hopes to have it published in a peer-reviewed journal.”

    Right, so we’re going to sweep the bad results under the rug, but the good results we’re going to turn into academic articles and submit for peer review. Wouldn’t want to be biased after all.


  4. I’ve loved that delicious anecdote about Zinn’s “fortunately for me I’m independently wealthy…” signing statement that he included with his contract, and telling badly mis-remembered or even apocryphal versions of the story ever since you told it to me years ago, Historiann. It almost makes me wish we could decertify our union, so I could go through the yearly ritual of giving my literary “consent” to a unilateral salary tender from our president, and try to come up with something half as witty and hopefully true. I wonder what the rock hard facts were? Did he really make a bundle on the People’s History? My favorite part of the essays in the Oxford DNB is the “wealth-at-death” feature, where essayists manage to count every last lowing kine or merino sheep in some addled duke’s water meadow, or every crusted paintbrush in a starving artist’s garret.


  5. If Thrun and his ilk are using MOOCs to “experiment” on students then where are their forms for experimenting on human subjects?
    (I also hear there is gambling at Rick’s)


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