Wednesday started as a fairly normal day. I got out of bed bleary-eyed, stumbled down the stairs, and walked outside to get The Bloomington Herald-Times. As my eyes scanned the front page, an Associated Press story headline grabbed my attention: "Daniels Targeted 'Propaganda,' Critic." Frankly, I wasn’t too surprised to see that, given the multiple recent revelations of government spying. Nor was I shocked, as I started reading, to learn that Mitch Daniels, former Indiana governor, was virulently opposed to the writings of the late left-wing historian Howard Zinn. But as I read further in the article — based on e-mails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act — something else stopped me in my tracks: one of those opponents was me.
Let me explain.
In the summer of 2010, I taught a one-week module on the history of the labor movement as part of a three-week institute for high school teachers at Indiana University in Bloomington, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was called "Social Movements in Modern America: Labor, Civil Rights, and Feminism." Along with Professors Jeffrey Ogbar (University of Connecticut) and Jennifer Maher (Indiana), and supervised by Professors John Bodnar and Ted Carmines at Indiana, I worked with a highly motivated, talented and diverse group of high school and middle school teachers from around the United States.
In my section of the course, I focused on the history of labor organizing in the meat-packing industry. The week culminated with a field trip to a unionized slaughterhouse in Louisville. It was an intense week — with five hours of instruction per day — but also one of the most rewarding of my career. These were ideal "students" and they really appreciated the opportunity to expand their horizons. At the end of the week, they handed me a card with notes of gratitude from all participants.
Three years later, I still look back fondly on that experience. But I will never think of it in quite the same way, now that I know that Big Brother, aka (then) Governor Daniels, was watching.
It was February 9, 2010, a few weeks after Howard Zinn had passed away. Governor Daniels had just sent his staff an e-mail denouncing Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, and asking staff if they could assure him that "it is not in use anywhere in Indiana." In short order, Scott Jenkins, the governor’s education adviser, e-mailed his boss with the URL to our institute website, prefaced by the comment: "Oh, and this is why my children will not go to IU." He added, "Zinn along with other anti American leftist readings are prominently featured." He also quoted from our site, which contained a detailed schedule of readings, and which informed teachers that they could earn professional development credit for attending.
Three minutes later, Daniels fired back the following: "This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. No student will be any better taught because someone sat through this session." It's unfortunate, to say the least, that Daniels viewed our curriculum about three social movements that transformed the lives of millions of Americans for the better to be "crap."
But in a sense, it was precisely to combat such attitudes that we offered the institute in the first place. Despite the changes that have taken place in the teaching of U.S. history — most obviously exemplified by Black History Month — most American students still get the message that the real movers and shakers in history are the wealthy and powerful; or if they learn about grassroots activists — such as Rosa Parks — they learn about them as heroic individuals, not part of a movement.
Now, it is true that there was an excerpt from Zinn’s People’s History included in the readings for our opening session, a roundtable on the theory and history of social movements. It was a chapter on the civil rights movement entitled, "Or Does It Explode?"
But the reason I put it there illustrates just how misguided and harmful it would be to try to censor Zinn’s ideas. In designing that session, my aim was to help teachers appreciate the challenge of explaining how and why social movements develop. In addition to reading Zinn, the teachers were assigned a wide range of pieces based on social movement theories, some of which actually challenged aspects of Zinn’s account as romantic and misleading. (I found Zinn inspiring when I first read him, but now, for my money, Zinn is actually not left-wing enough.) So, by including Zinn, my aim was not to shove his views down teachers’ throats — precisely the opposite. Which is also why I included both pro-union and anti-union websites on the syllabus. After all, the purpose of education is to help people think for themselves. That is why censorship strikes at the heart of the educational mission.
Finally, in regard to Daniels’s claim that no student would benefit from their teachers having sat through our institute, I can’t prove that we had a positive effect on the "end-users" in cities all over the country. But I can let the teachers speak for themselves. Here’s what some of them said on my thank-you card:
“What an amazing informative week.”
“You have turned one of the ‘boring’ chapters into a relevant & interesting theme in U.S. history.”
“I have learned so much and been truly inspired.”
“You successfully ‘changed’ me and the way I see the world.”
“Your enthusiasm is contagious.”
“I learned a ton. This will be very useful for me in my teaching.”
So, despite his disparagement of the value of what my colleagues and I taught, I want to thank Governor Daniels and his associates for reminding me of how much I enjoyed that summer institute and why I love teaching.
Carl R. Weinberg is senior lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences and adjunct associate professor of history at Indiana University at Bloomington.
The American Historical Association on Friday released a statement criticizing the way Mitch Daniels (when he governor of Indiana, prior to becoming president of Purdue University) exchanged e-mail messages with staff members criticizing the work of the late Howard Zinn. "Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of Howard Zinn’s text, and whatever the criticisms that have been made of it, we believe that the open discussion of controversial books benefits students, historians, and the general public alike. Attempts to single out particular texts for suppression from a school or university curriculum have no place in a democratic society," said the statement.
Daniels defended himself last week in part by citing the work of historians far to his left who have also criticized Zinn. But some of those who Daniels cited (and who are no longer part of the statement posted on the Daniels website at Purdue) have since objected to his use of their statements about Zinn. Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University whose criticism was cited by Daniels, published as statement on the Academe blog of the American Association of University Professors. "I don’t think much of Zinn’s interpretation of U.S. history, it’s true. But it’s an interpretation, which like any serious work of history, chooses to emphasize certain themes and details in order to make a larger argument. I would be unhappy if Zinn’s book were the only or even the main text in a high-school or college history class (as I understand is sometimes the case). But chapters of it can be quite useful if contrasted with alternative interpretations," Kazin wrote. "When Daniels accuses Zinn of being a 'biased writer,' he just shows how little he understands about how history is now and has always been written. Every historian has a point of view about whichever portion of the past they choose to study. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be writing about it in the first place."
Sam Wineburg, a professor of education at Stanford University whose criticism of Zinn was also cited by Daniels, issued a series of comments on Twitter: "Mitch Daniels uses my work to defend his shameless attempts to censor free speech. Shame!" and "Mr. Daniels, free societies openly teach ideas we disagree with. We do not censor objectionable speech. Study your Orwell" and "I have criticized Zinn but will defend to my death the right to teach him. Shame on Mitch Daniels."
Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of Howard Zinn’s text, and whatever the criticisms that have been made of it, we believe that the open discussion of controversial books benefits students, historians, and the general public alike. Attempts to single out particular texts for suppression from a school or university curriculum have no place in a democratic society. - See more at: http://blog.historians.org/2013/07/aha-statement-on-academic-freedom-and-the-indiana-governor/#sthash.IgsBXLEs.dpuf
The College of Charleston is seeking state assistance in determining how much it can say and how it can investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by a professor now that the faculty member has resigned before the investigation was completed, The Post and Courier reported. College officials are concerned that libel and slander laws could pose difficulties, given the lack of a finished inquiry. The college did find allegations against Enrique Graf, a tenured music professor, to be credible and told him that. He resigned, denying the allegations and saying that the college was not conducting a fair investigation. Graf was being investigated for inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual harassment of two of his students at Charleston, and a former piano student of his in Maryland. He was also accused of using drugs with students.
The American Anthropological Association has written to the Travel Channel objecting to and asking for changes in the TV show "Dig Wars," in which contestants are sent to various locations with metal detectors to see if they can locate and dig up antiquities. The material they dig up is called "loot," and is evaluated for its financial value.
"Reasonable viewers watching this program may be mistakenly led to believe that such behaviors are ethically acceptable," says the letter. "On the contrary, the looting as portrayed in the show is deeply disturbing. The overall message is that this nation's cultural and historical heritage is 'loot' that is up for grabs for anyone with a metal detector and shovel. This is the wrong message to give the public, especially in an age when so many historical sites are disappearing." The association offered to identify trained archaeologists who could help the network "communicate the excitement of discovery and of history in a more responsible, ethical and engaging manner."
A spokeswoman for the Travel Channel said via e-mail that no laws are broken. She said that the competition takes place with the full permission of the owners of the land where digging take place. Further, she said that items that are excavated are either returned to the land owners or given to local museums, and she said that the channel believes that "metal detecting enthusiasts should always abide by state and federal laws." She added: "We respect the numerous opinions as it relates to the gathering and preservation of artifacts. We welcome the dialogue, and hope that Travel Channel's programming will continue to inspire viewers to travel to new destinations to discover each location's unique history."
Faculty members at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York are angry that President Karen Gould has rejected the choices of professors to lead three departments, making her own selections instead,The Wall Street Journal reported. Gould maintains that she has the right to pick department chairs, but faculty members say that the norm is to respect professors' votes, particularly if departments are well-managed and certain choices have broad support.
In today’s Academic Minute, Timothy Lytton of Albany Law School reveals how stringent selfregulation has allowed the kosher food industry to thrive over the past century. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
The atmosphere at the university workshop on online learning was becoming a little edgy, with questions in the air like “What does flipping a classroom really mean?” And, more dauntingly, “Do MOOCs threaten our liberal arts model of education?” A high point occurred when one participant, addressing a panel of faculty and administrators, asked, “What is our solution to these changes?” with the not-so-gentle observation, “Because if we don’t have one, we are road kill.”
The response from the panel was slow in coming -- no big surprise. Fact is, there is no easy answer. That’s because the question of how not to become road kill presumes that we understand why we should not become road kill. It is only through a clear, here-and-now answer to the second question that we are likely to devise a credible response to the first.
So here is a here-and-now context for why. Truly harrowing challenges are upon us: climate change, with its companions, the sixth mass extinction, and ecological overreach, are all bearing down on us potential road-pizzas like a convoy of 18-wheelers.
By the time this year’s graduates are ready to send their children to college, the planet’s CO2 concentration will have reached 450 parts per million, summertime Arctic sea ice will be a thing of memory, and humanity will have committed a dozen future human generations to a minimum 2°C temperature rise. These are the terrifying facts of our current reality, and without proper leadership, our likely fate.
To meet these challenges, people -- our future leaders -- need the best possible technological expertise. More than that, they need to be able to think across multiple time horizons. If only liberal arts colleges provided that kind of relevance.
Well, maybe we do.
My daughter just got home from her first year at college — a liberal arts college. Had she experienced anything, I asked, that spoke to dangers that are so slow that they span generations, but are no less deadly for being slow? She looked at me as if to say, do you really know what you’re getting yourself into? Because that was the whole point of her paper about Virgil’s epic poem, the Aeneid.
This was her experience: She had cried when Aeneas killed Turnus. But more than that, she was outraged. For the sake of a moment of vengeful glory, Aeneas had lost his way from the past to the future.
And that related to my question … how?
Try a little empathy, she suggested.
I eventually got it. This, the early part of the 21st century, is our moment. Our willingness to make painful sacrifices for the latter part of the century depends on our ability to empathize with people we have never met — our future grandchildren. Experience in empathizing across a broad expanse of time is one kind of relevance liberal arts institutions have a lot of experience providing.
A second kind of relevance to those harrowing challenges is directly related to the Internet itself. Few would contest that the Internet is an indispensable asset in describing the complex environmental and societal processes that collectively make up what is referred to as climate change. Put another way, no college graduate today should be ignorant of the potential for Internet-based computational power and knowledge to model and predict future climate.
This potential is, of course, much more general. Broadly speaking, the Internet and liberal arts share something very important. They are both about the creation and use of knowledge through collaborative work. How were Unix, Git, and LaTex created? All were the result of a very liberal-artsy vision for online collaboration.
Can liberal arts colleges provide that kind of relevance, too?
As educators, preparing future leaders to exploit the resources of the internet will require that we move into that space ourselves. We have to learn to recognize the opportunities for new paradigms for learning that the internet has created. One major shift already under way is a reorientation toward student-centered classrooms.
Flipping a class -- so that online lectures are viewed at home and class time is spent in active discussion -- is an example. Flipping isn’t new, but digital technology makes flipping easy, and that is new. It works because it lets humans and computers each do what they do best.
Beyond that are new digital tools that we are just figuring out how to use. Examples are discipline-specific software products like Spartan. Spartan produces molecular electronic structures, in three dimensions, on the computer screen. It lets students see and manipulate these structures by solving the most basic equations known to science. Maybe I’m not making that sound as cool as it is, so let me try again. If you think chemistry is an impossibly difficult, jargon-ridden, mysterious science, you are right. Spartan changes that by making every sit-down experience with it a unique, original investigation into the nature of chemical behavior. This is digital-based pedagogy with methodological muscle, formerly a graduate school tool, now accessible to freshmen. You just have to find a way to make it happen in your classroom.
It is through the combination of these two kinds of relevance -- Aeneas and Unix -- that students at undergraduate institutions, our future leaders, get wired for sound, classical judgment informed by the tools of modern life. And if individual liberal arts colleges can deliver these skills better than most, leveraging the advantages of small classes and inspired mentoring, then we are an important part of the response to that convoy rumbling our way.
These kinds of tools are not online grading, and not MOOCs either. They represent a new kind of information literacy. True, we are not there yet; it will take effort, and a bit of daring, to figure out how to teach tools like these. But as we grow into them, we will discover previously unimagined new paradigms for learning.
Rather exciting, actually, considering the stakes. And not at all like road kill.
Steven Neshyba is a professor of chemistry at the University of Puget Sound.
Saint Louis University is putting aside $13.4 million for salary increases for faculty and staff in the coming school year, something its embattled president, the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, said he hoped would demonstrate the university’s recognition “of the important contributions of all our employees” in an announcement early this week. (The president and faculty have been at odds since last year, when he backed a controversial plan to require faculty to requalify for tenure every three years.)
But by midweek, Saint Louis faculty were accusing Biondi of retaliating against professors who had spoken out against him by way of forfeited raises. At Saint Louis, salary recommendations are based in part on performance, and some professors said they didn’t get what their deans had recommended to the university’s senior academic officer, Ellen Harshman. “The system is supposed to be transparent, fair and merit-based,” said Jonathan Sawday, professor of English, in a news release from the university’s American Association of University Professors chapter. “This year, in some cases, it looks like it wasn’t any of those things.”
Steve Harris, professor mathematics and computer science and AAUP chapter president, said statistical analysis showed “irrefutable” evidence that targeted faculty were “largely those – both lay and Jesuit – who opposed the president who had their salary recommendations reduced by [Rev.] Biondi.” Harris said his own dean recommended him for a 3.75 percent raise, but he only received a 1 percent raise. "The difference is $2,000," he said in an e-mail. "This is typical of the most vocal of the opponents."
In a statement to all faculty, Jane Turner, Faculty Senate president and professor of pathology, said members of the senate’s executive committee “believe that all such acts of retaliation warrant serious scrutiny and that the president should be held accountable for this action by informing the affected faculty members of the reasons supporting his decision to overrule the recommendations of the respective deans.”
In an e-mailed statement, Clayton Barry, university spokesman, said that 98 percent of all eligible full-time faculty and staff received salary increases beginning July 1, and that those publicly charging Biondi with retaliation included those who received raises. (Harris said that was true, but that the raises were less than had been recommended.) “The salary review process was the same this year as it has been for the past 30 years,” he said, “and each year some salary recommendations – faculty and staff – are increased and some are decreased during the process.”
Harshman did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did Rev. Michael D. Barber, dean of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences.