In May 1942, historian Allan Nevins (see his bio and presidential address) created a national controversy about American students’ lack of knowledge about the facts of their nation’s history. Pointing an accusing finger at history teachers in the schools and colleges, he charged that “it is distressingly true that our young people are all too ignorant of American history when they leave high school or even college” (“American History for Americans,” New York Times (May 4, 1942), SM6). Nevins and the staff of the Times followed up with a series of investigations that reinforced this perception that American history was being squeezed out of school and college classrooms, setting off a mini-firestorm of controversy in newspapers across the country and even into the halls of Congress.
“Stop fidgeting” is just one piece of advice in Linda Kerber’s recent Chronicle Careers article, our first link in this week’s edition of “What We’re Reading.” The article is about giving better conference presentations. We also link to Scott McLemee of Inside Higher Ed, who is perplexed by a recent Harvard University Press publication. And speaking of print, Eric Alterman of the New Yorker writes an obit for American newspapers. At the Association of College and Research Libraries blog, Brett Bonfield looks for histories of the library community’s past, and is disappointed by what he finds.
The National Archives has produced a series of “American Conversations with the Archivist of the United States,” and has more planned for the future. In these “conversations,” Archivist Allen Weinstein sits down historians, scholars, politicians, First Ladies, and others who have “ shaped the dialogue about the interpretation and use of American heritage.” These talks are free, open to the public, and held in the William G. McGowan Theater in the National Archives building. The most recent conversation was with film producer Ted Leonsis, on March 5, 2008, and followed a screening of his film Nanking, from 2007.
To begin this week we point to a number of articles that feature historians talking about the history profession and historians themselves. Then, sit in on a class led by James Sheehan when you watch the podcast of “History of the International System.” This past weekend the Smithsonian announced their new secretary is Georgia Tech’s current president; we link to three sites’ coverage on the news. Also, hear from Stan Katz on liberal education and the history major, read a critique of the new John Adams series on HBO, and check out a webcast of oral histories.
At the General Meeting of the 122nd Annual Meeting this past January, Barbara Weinstein gave her presidential address: “Developing Inequality.” The full text of the address is now available in the February 2008 issue of the American Historical Review, recently made available online (AHA members should login for complete access to articles and book reviews).
In her address she called for a return to considerations of the "developmental paradigm" in historical analysis, but without reverting to what she termed were "discredited discourses of modernization and progress." Focusing on the unequal developments in Brazil, especially in the state of Sao Paulo, Weinstein presented a compelling critique of current scholarship while providing guideposts for future research (as explained in a February 2008 Perspectives on History article).
Following the award presentation at last night’s General Meeting (see previous blog post), Barbara Weinstein gave her presidential address, titled “Developing Inequality.” Here is an excerpt from that address:
For historians of Latin America, as well as for those who study Asia and Africa (a.k.a., the "developing countries"), the historical trajectory of "development" and "underdevelopment" and its implications for poverty and inequality had been, until recently, a theme that animated much of the research on the region. However, the very notion of development has fallen on hard times among historians as postmodern and poststructuralist critiques have made scholars across the disciplines skeptical of discourses that rely on linear notions of progress and on contrasts between the "modernity" of the West and the "backwardness" of the rest.
Barbara Weinstein, president of the American Historical Association, kicked off last night’s “Opening of the 122nd Annual Meeting” by presenting Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (see image to the right), with the fifth Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Public Service Award. This award is given “to honor a public figure or other civil servant who has made extraordinary contributions to the study, teaching, and public understanding of history.” Both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were historians who served both as presidents for the United States and as presidents of the American Historical Association.
Tomorrow, Thursday, October 11, AHA President Barbara Weinstein will present a talk on “Academic Freedom in the Age of Homeland Security,” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s sixth annual Carrol L. Pauley Lecture. Her lecture will be followed by a reply from Waskar Ari, who now teaches at UNL as an assistant professor in the history department. Ari had to fight for two years to gain a visa to teach in the U.S., and we devoted several blog entries following his cause and the AHA’s advocacy for him.