Esther, encore, and farewell to the U.S.A.

Yale University Press. 2016

Friends, I know it’s been a quiet month on the blog.  What can I say?  The news moves at the speed of light these days, and it’s difficult for me sometimes to conceptualize anything to add to the frantic online conversations.  I wrote up a short article, “The Captivity of Otto Warmbier:  Outsiders, Insiders, and Mad Kings,” for Public Seminar a few weeks ago, just before his death in Cincinnati was announced.  I try to put his ordeal into context with the long centuries of North American captivities locally and globally.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Esther Wheelwright, c.1763 (oil on canvas) 55.7×45.5 cm; © Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA, USA

I thought I’d also check in today to let you know that I’ll be in Boston this Wednesday night, June 28, at the Massachusetts Historical Society to talk about my book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright (Yale University Press, 2016).  I’m really looking forward to my visit to the MHS again, because that’s where the portrait of Esther on the cover of the book now resides.  The talk starts at 6, but come for the reception at 5:30 to say “hi” and have a drink–both the reception and the talk are free for members, and only $10 for non-members.  You can register online here.  I’ve got lots of beautiful, full-color slides of images that I could only reproduce in black and white in the book, so come for the wine, and stay for the polychromy. Continue reading

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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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

Alert the Media: Spring & summer book talk dates!

Yale University Press. 2016

For your convenience, here’s a list of my spring and early summer North American book tour stops. I hope to meet more of you in person, finally!  Most of these events are free and all are open to the public:

Thursday March 30–tomorrow night!–I’ll be at the Longmont Public Library to give a talk about The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright at 7 p.m.

Thursday April 13 I’ll be at Bryn Mawr College to give a talk about the book.  Stay tuned for more details as they arrive–as you might imagine, this trip will be a sentimental favorite, as it’s my own college and therefore a special honor to be asked to return as a guest.

Thursday April 27, I’m one of five invited authors to participate in a book reading at the opening reception of the Western Association of Women Historians in San Diego, California.  The Strawberries and Champagne Book Launch runs from 7-9 p.m. at the Town & Country Resort and Convention Center.

Saturday May 6, I’m doing a book talk at the Morrin Center in Québec.

And finally, on Wednesday June 28 at 6 p.m., I’m going to present my book talk at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.  Come early for cocktails and snacks at 5:30, and stay to get your book signed afterwards!

 

Does history matter, Part II? What historians bring to the table

From the frying pan into the fire!

Although as I explained yesterday I feel somewhat alienated from my discipline, there are things that historians bring to the table that no one else does.  This is by no means the dernier cri–it’s a document that I invite you all to critique and add to.  It’s about time for me to add another page to this blog for disheartened historians young and old to remind us of what it is we can do and why what we do is important.  Let’s call it “Why Historians Matter” although again, that’s just a suggestion.  I’m certainly open to catchier titles–and ones that don’t appear to plagiarize Judith Bennett quite so much!

So far, I’ve tried to focus on the key elements of historical research (collection, analysis, and evaluation) and one aspect of teaching history (citizenship).   Continue reading