Know anyone at Evergreen State? I have some thoughts, but want to know more.

WANTED: MORE INFORMATION!

Did anyone else see this article from the Wall Street Journal last night: “The Campus Mob Came for Me, and You, Professor, Could Be Next?”  Some flava:

Racially charged, anarchic protests have engulfed Evergreen State College, a small, public liberal-arts institution where I have taught since 2003. In a widely disseminated video of the first recent protest on May 23, an angry mob of about 50 students disrupted my class, called me a racist, and demanded that I resign. My “racist” offense? I had challenged coercive segregation by race. Specifically, I had objected to a planned “Day of Absence” in which white people were asked to leave campus on April 12.

 Day of Absence is a tradition at Evergreen. In previous years students and faculty of color organized a day on which they met off campus—a symbolic act based on the Douglas Turner Ward play in which all the black residents of a Southern town fail to show up one morning. This year, however, the formula was reversed. “White students, staff and faculty will be invited to leave the campus for the day’s activities,” the student newspaper reported, adding that the decision was reached after people of color “voiced concern over feeling as if they are unwelcome on campus, following the 2016 election.”

In March I objected in an email to all staff and faculty. “There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and under-appreciated roles . . . and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away,” I wrote. “On a college campus, one’s right to speak—or to be—must never be based on skin color.”

My email was published by the student newspaper, and Day of Absence came and went almost without incident. The protest of my class emerged seemingly out of the blue more than a month later. Evergreen has slipped into madness. You don’t need the news to tell you that—the protesters’ own videos will do. But those clips reveal neither the path that led to this psychosis, nor the cautionary nature of the tale for other campuses.

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Coats of Arms are bullcrap. We all know this, right?

Look what I made in 3 minutes with Google translate & the internet!

Liberal and left-leaning news orgs are happily publicizing the latest evidence of the dishonesty by the Human Stain (and his family).  He has allegedly ripped off another family’s coat-of-arms and rebranded it (you guessed it) as “TRUMP.”  I have a few thoughts that may prove unpopular, but here goes:

First, this seems to be a pretty venial sin compared to the heights of grifting and inept spycraft that he and his administration have reached in just 125 days in office, but okay:  more evidence of unscrupulous douchebaggery.  We get it!

But second, and my real point here:  historians know that coats-of-arms are all bull$hit, don’t we?  We know that all titles, knighthoods, and the like are all made up at some point or another, so who cares?  Someone was knighted or ennobled because he agreed to fight with the king, or let the king screw his wife, or loaned him money, or performed some such base and ignoble service to the crown, and that’s it.  That’s all titles and coats of arms mean!   Continue reading

History will repay your love. You don’t have to be a jerk.

Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1973), Republican U.S. Senator from Maine from 1949 until her death and the subject of numerous biographies.

Peggy Noonan’s column in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, “Why History Will Repay Your Love” (sorry–paywalled!) is an extended advertisement for David McCullough’s latest book, and only secondarily an advertisement for McCullough’s totally original observations about history and its importance. (Get this! John Adams and Thomas Jefferson lived in their present, not our past!  Also, “nothing had to happen the way it happened,” and “knowing history will make you a better person.”)

I pretty much agree with all of McCullough’s bromides, but this one set off my B.S. detector:

We make more of the wicked than the great.  The most-written about senator of the 20th century is Joe McCarthy.  “Yet there is no biography of the Senator who had the backbone to stand up to him first–Margaret Chase Smith,” a Maine Republican who served for 24 years,

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You cursed brats, look what you’ve done! Or, why does the Wall Street Journal hate America?

The editorial page of the Wall Street Journal is at it again this weekend.  Hilariously, the ed board and many of its readers honestly believe that the fate of the republic rests on a few undergraduate students at Berkeley, UCLA, Middlebury and Wellesley Colleges just shutting up.

In a column putatively against the “soft totalitarianism” of “student thuggery against non-leftist viewpoints,” Heather Mac Donald drops the veil of her allegedly principled stand against “campus intolerance” by–wait for it!–complaining that students published articles in campus newspapers and made comments on Facebook that she doesn’t like.

Go ahead:  read that again.   And tell me who is it who’s really the special snowflake here:  the woman with WSJ editorial page real estate, or the writers for college newspapers?  This is a woman who is monitoring and complaining about the Facebook pages of undergraduate students whose politics she dislikes.  No member of the East German Stasi or Cultural Revolutionary could outdo comrade Mac Donald for her dedication to eradicating decadence and ideological impurities among our young people.

Here’s a catalog of MacDonald’s hatred of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in her own words.  She’s clearly hostile to the expression of any ideas on any college campus anywhere with which she disagrees: Continue reading

Neil Gorsuch is a plagiarist.

Neil Gorsuch, plagiarist.

I was alerted to this via a Storify that Kevin Gannon posted this morning. Here’s the original Politico article–you be the judge, but I agree with Kevin that it’s “theft and erasure, full stop.”

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch copied the structure and language used by several authors and failed to cite source material in his book and an academic article, according to documents provided to POLITICO.

The documents show that several passages from the tenth chapter of his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” read nearly verbatim to a 1984 article in the Indiana Law Journal. In several other instances in that book and an academic article published in 2000, Gorsuch borrowed from the ideas, quotes and structures of scholarly and legal works without citing them.

The findings come as Republicans are on the brink of changing Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch over the vehement objections of Democrats. The documents could raise questions about the rigor of Gorsuch’s scholarship, which Republicans have portrayed during the confirmation process as unimpeachable.

.       .       .       .       .

However, six experts on academic integrity contacted independently by POLITICO differed in their assessment of what Gorsuch did, ranging from calling it a clear impropriety to mere sloppiness.

“Each of the individual incidents constitutes a violation of academic ethics. I’ve never seen a college plagiarism code that this would not be in violation of,” said Rebecca Moore Howard, a Syracuse University professor who has written extensively on the issue.

Elizabeth Berenguer, an associate professor of law at Campbell Law School, said that under legal or academic standards Gorsuch’s similarities to the Indiana Law Journal would be investigated “as a potential violation of our plagiarism policy. It’s similar enough to the original work.”

“I would apply an academic writing standard,” said Berenguer, who teaches plagiarism and legal writing. “Even if it were a legal opinion, it would be plagiarism under either.”

Wait–what’s this about “under legal or academic standards?”   Continue reading

“Complete with lasagna!”

From the Washington Post reportage on the failure of Trumpcare by Robert Costa, Ashley Parker, and Philip Rucker, we note this peculiar detail from the Human Stain’s outreach to Congress:

He cajoled and charmed uncertain members, offering flattery and attention to some and admonishment and the vague threat of political retribution to others. He invited members to the White House for bowling sessions, gave others rides on Air Force One (complete with ­lasagna) and grinned for pictures in the Oval Office, where he reminded lawmakers of his margins of victory in their districts.

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Does history matter? Part I

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Grab a cup and join me!

That’s the question for today:  what are we historians doing, and does it matter?  I wonder if it’s possible that 20 years after earning my Ph.D. that I might have chosen the wrong academic discipline.  Most historians are way too methodologically conservative for me.  Why has it taken me half a career to figure this out?  Is it history, or is it me?

I always preferred history to literature.  I always took at least one English literature course per semester in college, and toyed for a time with majoring in English, but I never got the hang of writing a literature paper.  You historians can probably guess the kinds of papers I wrote for my English classes, papers that explored the historical context of whichever text or author I was supposed to be writing about instead of the text itself!  I worked with loads of lit students in graduate courses in cultural theory, which were a big deal in the early 1990s at Penn.  I appreciated its insights for history, but was a bit dazed at the thought of applying the ideas just to one or two “texts,” instead of loads of “primary sources.” Continue reading