Looking Back: Lessons from the Past in Academe

The September-October issue of Academe has just been posted (and will be in your mailboxes soon). In the issue, Rick Perloff looks at the campaign to unionize Cleveland State University twenty years ago, and William Vesterman looks even further back—to turn-of-the-century economist Thorstein Veblen—to learn lessons about the university today. Leslie Bary uses the benefit of hindsight to see just how much power has been taken from the faculty, and Silvio Laccetti looks at his own past, by visiting many of his students from the breadth of his career.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in copyright and intellectual property should check out Joe Moxley’s article about open textbook publishing, and Helena Worthen looks at a survey of faculty teaching online courses. Rounding out the features, Adrianna Kezar and Daniel Maxey make the argument that disciplinary societies can be crucial players in the struggle for better conditions for contingent faculty.

The issue also features our regular columns, book reviews, and a profile of the Merrimack College AAUP chapter. So take a look, and be sure to leave a comment if an article catches your eye.

In Defense of Howard Zinn

By Peter N. Kirstein

Peter N. Kirstein is a professor of history at St. Xavier University, and the vice-president of the Illinois AAUP.

Mitch Daniels is president of Purdue University, and considered a moderate Republican. I am not sure what that says about immoderate Republicans, but his recently publicized efforts as governor to ban Howard Zinn’s works from the public school system suggest a lack of moderation. His angst against A People’s History of the United States resulted from its emphasis on the class struggle in America, the failure of American capitalism to achieve redistributive justice, and its unrelenting opposition to the American Empire with its detritus of destruction and burning cities.

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A Response to Peter Wood

By Allan Lichtman, Distinguished Professor of History, American University

In his response to my critique of the National Association of Scholars report, RECASTING HISTORY: ARE RACE, CLASS, AND GENDER DOMINATING AMERICAN HISTORY?, at the recent conference of the AAUP, NAS President Peter Wood harps on a remark that comprised well under 1 percent of my commentary, ignoring the other 99 percent plus. I noted that the NAS has published on its website positions on controversial political issues like climate change, gay marriage, sexual harassment codes and affirmative action that conform to the priorities of such conservative funders of the group, such as the Olin, Bradley, Coors, Smith Richardson and Scaife Foundations.

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Analysis of the NAS Report on “Recasting History”

By Allan J. Lichtman, Distinguished Professor of History, American University

This analysis examines the report of the National Association of Scholars: RECASTING HISTORY: ARE RACE, CLASS, AND GENDER DOMINATING AMERICAN HISTORY? (January 2013). The report studies courses as the University of Texas, Austin and Texas A & M University. It concludes that introductory history classes at these two universities, especially Texas, Austin have an “inordinate emphasis” on race, class and gender. Unfortunately, rather than an impartial, scientific study, the report is ideology masquerading as scholarship. The report and its accompanying recommendations violate the NAS’s own values of scholarly excellence, openness, impartiality, and academic freedom.

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We All Politicize History

By Robert Jensen

Here’s an interesting question for historians: Why do ideologues never seem to be aware of their own ideology?

Such is the case with the recent report from the Texas Association of Scholars and the National Association of Scholars’ Center for the Study of the Curriculum, “Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?

What Kind of History Should We Teach?

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) today issued a report on the teaching of American history at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M. UT-Austin professor Jeremi Suri wrote a response to the NAS report on the blog of The Alcalde, the University of Texas alumni magazine, which we reprint here.

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Once More: The Value of History and Context

Last week, Mitt Romney directed that Obama “take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago.”

For good and bad, ‘division and anger’ have always been part of American politics. Take the case of Alexander Hamilton. He was called “Tom S**t” in one New York paper, was accused of having African ancestry (shades of ‘born in Kenya’), and was accused both of being a bastard and a foreigner. He could give as well as receive (one of the reasons for the anger against him), but could also move into something more substantial… including the Federalist Papers.

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Distorting the AAUP’s History

On the blog of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), its longtime president Anne Neal writes about the election of Rudy Fichtenbaum as the new president of the AAUP. Her alarmist rhetoric not only distorts what the AAUP does today, but fundamentally rewrites the history of the AAUP in a completely misleading way.

Neal writes, “one cannot help but view with alarm the results of the AAUP elections, which in large measure suggest that the AAUP has now positioned itself as a faculty labor union advocating for faculty rights rather than enforcing faculty ethical obligations.” Of course, the AAUP has been a faculty labor union advocating for faculty rights for more than 40 years now. The phrase “enforcing faculty ethical obligations” is the evasive code language that ACTA uses for its goal of purging left-wing faculty who express political views. The AAUP has never done this, and never will. The AAUP for a century has advocated for faculty rights and never enforced the “ethical obligations” of individual faculty.

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Interview with Harry Keyishian

Harry Keyishian, 1964, with his T.S. Eliot dartboard

Harry Keyishian today

January 23, 2012 marks the 45th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, perhaps the most important case defending academic freedom in the history of law (see the essay by Marjorie Heins today about the case). I interviewed Harry Keyishian via email about the decision that bears his name. Harry Keyishian has taught English at Fairleigh Dickinson University since 1965, and is the director of Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. He is the author of many books, including Screening Politics: The Politician in American Movies, 1931-2001 (2003) and The Shapes of Revenge: Victimization, Vengeance, and Vindictiveness in Shakespeare (1995).

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