What We’re Reading: May 24th, 2012

Today’s roundup of interesting articles and links from around the web includes reactions to AHA President William Cronon’s latest column, news of the uncertain future of the American Community Survey, Silicon Valley’s need for humanities students, Manuel Lima’s The Power of Networks, and more.

News and the Blogosphere:

  • USIH article on CrononAnalysis or Synthesis?
    Andrew Hartman at the US Intellectual History Blog questions William Cronon’s recent column: “Do we really live in this world of hyper-specialization? This is not my understanding of recent historiographical trends.” Meanwhile, David Weinfeld at the PhD Octopus relates the column to his concerns about whether the PhD has prepared him for teaching. Next, Katherine O’Flaherty at Stillwater Historians wonders if the need to balance analysis and synthesis means “Maybe we don’t need one standard, maybe a portfolio of work that engages various audiences could be assessed.”
  • The Beginning of the End of the Census?
    The New York Times reports on the vote in the House of Representatives to eliminate the American Community Survey, which “may be the most important government function you’ve never heard of.”
  • Russian History Blog discusses Barnes’ Death and Redemption
    A wide-ranging discussion about Steven Barnes’ recent book Death and Redemption: The Gulag and the Shaping of Soviet Society is taking place at the Russian History Blog, drawing in a number of scholars working in related fields. It is a model of what the blogosphere is capable of for historiography.
  • Tax History: Why U.S. Pursues Citizens Overseas
    The case of Eduardo Saverin, the billionaire co-founder of Facebook who recently renounced his U.S. citizenship, prompts John D. McKinnon of the Washington Wire blog to briefly delve into this side of tax history.

Education

  • The Radical New Humanities Ph.D.
    A new reform proposal at Stanford University, presses humanities PhD programs to do a better job of tracking and mentoring their students, while encouraging them to think about a wider array of career options and finish their studies in less time. Our Robert Townsend dissents, particularly on the last point. L.D. Burnett offers up a few additional concerns at the U.S. Intellectual History blog.
  • Silicon Valley Needs Humanities Students
    Vivek Wadhwa in the Washington Post: “A history major who has studied the Enlightenment or the rise and fall of the Roman Empire may be more likely to understand the human elements of technology and how ease of use and design can be the difference between an interesting historical footnote and a world-changing technology.”
  • Multiple Choice
    Kaustuv Basu at Inside Higher Education writes about Professor Mika LaVaque-Manty, who “is letting students choose the kinds of assignments – be it posting on a class blog or commenting on blog posts, a group project or a conventional essay – on which they want to be graded for 60 percent of their grades.”
  • Chronicle article on Elite CollegesAs Elite Colleges Invite the World Online, Questions Remain on Their Business Plans
    At the heels of Harvard and MIT announcing a 60 million dollar platform for online classes, Jeff Selingo from the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses the new trend of elite institutions offering free online courses.

Miscellaneous

  • The Power of Networks
    RSA Animate illustrates a lecture by Manuel Lima on the inadequacy of hierarchical thinking and visualizations. The underlying complexity and interconnectedness of the universe requires network thinking.
  • The Olympic Torch Relay’s Surprising Origins
    With the Olympic Games commencing in London on July 27, the Olympic torch has already been lit and is currently making its way across the British Isles. History.com’s Christopher Klein reports on the surprising history of the Olympic torch.

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