What We’re Reading: July 19, 2012

Today’s roundup of interesting articles and links from around the web includes a discussion of the implications of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for faculty employment, the fate of university presses, a look at a remarkable Freedman’s letter, and more.

Education News

Nebraska Social Studies Rewrite Brings Back Famous Figures
Efforts to revise Nebraska’s social studies standards will apparently “restore” America’s Founding Fathers, as well as other historical figures and dates, after an initial draft was criticized for focusing “instead on broad concepts and themes.”

Defending Gay Studies
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette offers a new minorin LGBT in the sociology department, which has come under attack by the Louisiana Family Forum and others.

Liberalism and Liberal Education
Eva Brann (St. John’s Coll.) reviews Martha C. Nussbaum’s book Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities at The Imaginative Conservative: “Nussbaum follows the current custom of identifying the humanities with the liberal arts (as distinct from liberal education), with the usual consequences.”

The Online Course Tsunami (2)
In a thoughtful piece, Mills Kelly (George Mason Univ.) ponders the implications of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for faculty employment. While this is not the only issue to consider, it clearly has important implications for PhD programs.

Discussion Points

The Inadequacy of Berlin’s “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”
Richard Brody at the New Yorker writes, “The title doesn’t say ‘Holocaust’ or ‘Shoah’; in other words, it doesn’t say anything about who did the murdering or why … . The reduction of responsibility to an embarrassing, tacit fact that ‘everybody knows’ is the first step on the road to forgetting.”

What Can University Presses Do?
Historian Marshall Poe offers a few suggestions on how to sustain a critical part of the publishing industry for historians, but receives a mixed response in the comments. The news on university presses over the past week has been decidedly mixed as the University Press of Kentucky merged “administratively” with the library, and the closure of University of Missouri Press stirred up some anger.

The Bookless Library
David A. Bell (Johns Hopkins Univ.) discusses some of the imminent challenges for libraries and publishers caused by the rapid shift toward e-books.


Liberals’ Huge Blind Spot Regarding Conservative Intellectuals

Mark Bauerlein at the Chronicle’s Brainstorm blog: “I don’t believe that liberal critics consciously omit conservative thinkers and academics from their evaluations. They don’t even know they exist.” To remedy this, he provides a list.


We See All Immigrants as Legal or Illegal. Big Mistake.

The United States is a nation of immigrants, but also of sojourners. “Between 1908 and 1915, about 7 million people arrived while about 2 million departed,” writes Roberto Suro. “Today, we are much more rigid about immigrants.”

American Egyptologist: The Life of James Henry Breasted and the Creation of His Oriental Institute
In the July 2012 issue of History Today Joyce Tyldesley reviews American Egyptologist by Jeffrey Abt (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2011). Tyldesley provides a brief look at the life of the AHA’s president for 1928, who, among other things, worked with Howard Carter and helped to identify Tutankhamen’s tomb. Breasted outlined the evolution of the Oriental Institute in his AHA presidential address—entitled “The New Crusade”—in which he also set out his views about the origins of civilization and the nature of history.

Miscellaneous

The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson
A former history PhD turned fantasy novelist talks about how knowing the past helps to create good fiction.

Exploring the History of a Remarkable Freedman’s Letter
A look at the authenticity of Jordan Anderson’s letter to his former owner, in which he responds to a request to return: “we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you.”


Local: A Quarterly of People and Places on Kickstarter

A “a band of writers, editors, and designers with a passion to narrate the overlooked America” is seeking funds to launch a magazine that will explore one town per issue.

History Carnival 111: Environmental History Edition
Stillwater Historians hosts the History Carnival this month, honors the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring, and rounds up environmental history blogging, from animals to mapping.

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