“Bully!,” says Teddy.

21 08 2013

History blogging from me? “Bully!,” says Teddy. It’s at the blog of the Historical Society, which remains my favorite history blog even when I’m not writing for it.

Oddly enough, I’ve been reading Heather Cox Richardson’s West From Appomattox for like the fourth time in anticipation of teaching it again fresh out of the starting gate in my 1877-1945 class and TR is the most interesting person in that book too.


This is how they’ll make you teach online.

7 05 2012

California has been at the forefront of the destruction of some really excellent things in this country since 1978. That was the year that Proposition 13 passed, which has led directly to our current obsession with austerity. Today, it’s destroying the Cal State system, which might just be the canary in the higher education coal mine.

Thank God there was a student reporter present at a forum where this dude from Cal State-Fullerton actually laid out their evil plan on the record:

The discussion began with Keith Boyum, CSUF interim executive assistant to the president who gave an overview of online learning in the U.S., with some special reference to the CSUF campus.

“This university, as every university, is embracing online learning, and we simply don’t know where it’s going to go in the future,” said Boyum.

Boyum outlined the different types of education a student can receive. From traditional learning, which includes absolutely no online activity, to online learning, where 80 percent of learning is via the internet.

“It is a great opportunity, we think, for enhancing learning and shedding costs … Online learning is an essential part of our future. It will grow,” Boyum said.

[emphasis added]

His specific example was the library, but yes he also discussed faculty labor costs:

Presently, the delivery of online instruction is not cheaper in the terms of faculty labor costs, it appears to be more expensive,” Boyum said. “At the same time, other costs may be diminished, and we owe ourselves and the taxpayers a healthy investigation of exact ways to do that.”

What does that mean? A sneak attack.

No classroom space? You have to teach online. No money to pay the air conditioning bill? You have to teach online. We spent too much money paying the football coach’s salary? You have to teach online. Don’t like it, then you can teach somewhere else or quit. You think tenure and academic freedom will protect you? You can keep your job and say anything you want in class. You just have to say it online.

Online education is only the future at Cal State and every other school in the country it resembles as long as we let administrators keep saying it is over and over again and go completely unchallenged. I hate to be a downer here people, but rolling strikes aren’t going to stop this trainwreck. If they could, then Boyum wouldn’t have been willing to say anything publicly about what the future holds for Cal State-Fullerton.

In order to fight this, you have to shout to the hilltops that there are alternatives to the fatal combination of online education and permanent austerity. Take higher taxes on the rich, for example. That could allow any state to keep public education public. This seems like the most obvious solution to just about everything that ails us today, but apparently believing in that makes me a dangerous radical these days.

Maybe it’s time for every professor to find their inner FDRs. The job you save may just be your own.

“[T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

15 11 2010

So I came back from the AAUP’s conference on shared governance yesterday. I gave a presentation there on our efforts to improve the budgetary process at my university, but what I really wanted to do is hear what everyone else had to say. I learned a ton, but my favorite part was the keynote speech at the very beginning.

The Inside Higher Ed coverage of the event doesn’t really do justice to AAUP President Cary Nelson’s excellent speech. It wasn’t about hating administrators. It was about fearing them. He didn’t quote FDR, but I couldn’t help think about the parallels as rough economic times have everyone cowering in fear about when the next shoe is going to drop. Our first inclination is to thank our administrators for not furloughing us (and if we are furloughed, to thank them for not firing us) when we should be asking, “What can we do together to make sure that the education we’re providing doesn’t suffer?”

That’s shared governance. If the question is put that way, you won’t get fired for asking it. You’ll likely get a lot more committees to sit on, but that certainly beats sitting alone in your office praying that you can make ends meet. Nelson suggested that fear leads to an exclusive focus on self interest, which isn’t good for education. If individuals and departments fall back on protecting turf your administration will run roughshod over you. Fear lets administrations seize power, and that’s seldom good for the bottom line (think football stadiums and online colleges) or education (see same two examples).

If your attitude is constructive rather than confrontational, you can make your university a better place even in these difficult times. Nobody is going to fire you or defund your department if you fight for the interests of instruction over unnecessary administrative bloat and other pet projects. That practically in your job description. More importantly, if you sit alone in your office thinking “I could do this better” the worst case scenario is practically guaranteed.

Sure, there’s a recession going on out there, but you have one of the better jobs in America if you’re a tenure-track faculty member. Yes, I know you’re underpaid, but nobody else but academics have academic freedom and the privilege of tenure to fall back on if they are ever punished for speaking their minds. Besides, what good is academic freedom if you refuse to use it to make your university a better place?

“We Work Again (1937).”

3 11 2010

The Second Bill of Rights (1944).

22 03 2010

I was watching Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” during the health care vote last night, and was inspired to look for this:

More New Deal redux.

8 12 2009

First Obama wants to use TARP money to start a jobs program. Now some Congressman I’ve never heard of wants to bring back Glass-Steagall. And now if someone would just bring back the Wealth Tax Act of 1935

h/t on Glass-Steagall: Firedoglake.

“[A] second bill of rights.”

6 10 2009

I’ve been running into this speech a lot lately, and this part especially still sounds good:

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

I guess Franklin Roosevelt still has something to teach us.

Mrs. Roosevelt visits a coal mine.

6 08 2009

From the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers project, where they are also kind enough to explain the joke:


Why is the public biased towards colonial and Revolutionary history?

19 04 2009

The publication Historically Speaking has magically been showing up in my mailbox for a long time. I’m not sure,however, if I’ve ever actually read any of it until this month.  If the back issues are anything like the April 2009 edition I just finished than I’ve really been missing something. Unfortunately, it’s not online, but I would still like to thank Marshall Poe of the University of Iowa for convincing me to teach a class on History and New Media. I’ve got about nine months to figure out how to do it, and it will probably take that long so any suggestions left below will be much appreciated.

More urgently, there’s a piece in there by Edward Gray of Florida State with the fantastic title of “We Have Seen the Enemy and It Is Not David McCullough” which really has me thinking, and it’s not just because I like David McCulloch a lot. In fact, the part that’s got me thinking the most has only a tiny bit to do with McCullough:

[E]arly American history appears to be disproportionately represented among the history that most Americans read. A glance at the history titles that made the New York Times hardcover bestseller list during the ten years between 1997 and 2007 is perhaps indicative. David McCulloch’s two books, John Adams and 1776, spent ninety-four weeks on the list. Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers and His Excellency spent a total of fifty-eight weeks there; Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin was there for twenty-six weeks; Ron Chernow’s massive Alexander Hamilton, twelve weeks; Cokie Roberts’s Founding Mothers, eleven weeks, and two books by Nathanial Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea and The Mayflower, together enjoyed a thirty-nine-week run. When Americans read history, it seems, they prefer the history of their nation’s distant past.

This certainly aligns with my experience.  I’ve been joking for years that the Teaching American History Grant program is nothing but a make-work program for historians eighteenth-century America.  The question that I’m wondering which Gray doesn’t answer (and I’m not suggesting he should have) is “Why?”

I have two possible answers, one political and one not:

1)  Conservatives hate Franklin Roosevelt  In the middle of this long but fascinating post by Dave Neiwert I noticed that they’re going after Theodore Roosevelt now.  Maybe they’ll only read colonial and revolutionary history because those are the only figures they respect.

2)  History teachers for the last fifty years have never had enough time to get through all of American history, and since everybody likes to talk about the “Founding Fathers” they all start at the beginning and never make it far enough into the Nineteenth Century so that they’re now book-buying students have other figures to remember.

Other possible suggestions would be much appreciated too.

The stimulus is not at all like Iraq.

15 02 2009

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum (via Political Wire):

“After 9/11, President Bush (supported by me, among others) argued that the right way to respond to a terrorist attack from Afghanistan was by overthrowing Saddam Hussein. We offered a complicated explanation for this roundabout response, and for a time the public accepted it. But as the war went wrong, and failed to deliver the promised results, our plan’s credibility collapsed.”

“Now the Democrats have placed themselves in a similar situation. They are offering an indirect answer to an immediate question.”

So Obama has to fix eight years worth of Bush’s messes immediately?

This actually reminds me of the fake debate over whether the New Deal fixed the Great Depression. I’ve been following the discussion of Eric Rauchway’s book over at TPM Cafe very closely this week, and was glad to see that in this very well-trafficked political venue, Eric struck exactly the right tone:

We know — those of us who aren’t Austrians — that the New Deal promoted recovery, even if it didn’t get the country all the way back to pre-Crash conditions before the end of FDR’s second term; that it laid the foundations for the modernization, at long last, of the South; that it established regulations for banking and securities that proved successful until repealed; that it prevented a nontrivial number of Americans from starving and gave the dignity of work to millions; that its basic provisions for social security — including not only old age pensions and unemployment insurance but established the principle, as Justice Cardozo wrote, that in dire straits “the ill is all one or at least not greatly different whether men are thrown out of work because there is no longer work to do or because the disabilities of age make them incapable of doing it. Rescue becomes necessary irrespective of the cause.”

A longtime favorite historian of mine, Anthony Badger, made the same point even more succinctly:

To accept the strictly economic limitations of what the New Deal achieved before 1940 is not to concede the whole argument to right wing critics…Farmers, the unemployed, industrial workers believed they were better off and showed it at the polls. They may have had a better sense of their own well-being, than later economic historians did.

The reason for that, I suspect, is that the majority of Americans in the 1930s were willing to credit FDR with improving their economic position, even if he didn’t end the Depression to the satisfaction of Amity Shlaes.

Obama can do the same thing. Improve most people’s economic lot in life, without necessary bringing back the prosperity of the late-1990s and still get credit for it. Like the New Deal, the success of the stimulus can be judged as a matter of degree. Iraq was either going to be stable or it wasn’t, and it doesn’t take a lot of terrorist violence to make a country look unstable. Economic questions, on the other hand, don’t have dichotomous solutions.

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