The “Tech Class” Reifies the “Two Americas”

The wealth created by tech companies is, if not beyond precedent, is probably beyond most of our comprehension. It is not without precedent because America has already experienced one Gilded Age. It’s merely started another, and we’re well into it. Continue reading

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The Way I See It: Two Lessons from the AHA’s History PhD Study

In case you don’t follow everything the American Historical Association  does (for my pals over in English Literature, the AHA is history’s MLA), the organization released a study of history PhDs who received their degrees between 1998 and 2009. First, let me say that I was pleasantly surprised overall. I don’t think the study warrants the one-liner offered by the authors–that no PhDs “occupied the positions that often serve as punch lines for jokes . . . as baristas or short-order cooks”–cause that’s a pretty damn low bar you’re setting. For me, there are two overriding take-aways: one for history (and humanities) faculty and the other for employers at large.

Visualization of the jobs held by folks who got their PhD between 1998 and 2009

Visualization of the jobs held by folks who got their PhD between 1998 and 2009

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The American Dream with a Few Rough Edges

 An Exhibit Review of The Ohio Historical Society’s “1950s: Building the American Dream”

“What lessons do we learn from Anne Frank?” So reads the first sentence of Edward Rothstein’s recent New York Times review of the new Anne Frank Exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance. The sentence is striking because it captures the primary mission of today’s museum: instruction. And, perhaps more than ever before, that educating is done with a heavy amount of text. I still have strained childhood memories of waiting for my sister and mom to hurry-up and finish reading every last thing at an exhibit so we could continue through the whole  museum (of course, I should thank them for that now that I’m older and wiser). While I have not had the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank exhibit, it sounds like the diary itself—and the text inside it—is the main attraction holding the various pieces together. The exhibit certainly appears to have an instructional goal in mind, which is even captured in the museum’s name. This style of presentation is mirrored in the recently opened “1950s: Building the American Dream” exhibit at the Ohio Historical Society, even while the two exhibit topics differ greatly. Continue reading

Big Business and Teaching Skills in School

In their daily email update, the education team over at Politico reported that representatives from big business are to sit down with national education policymakers (including Arne Duncan and Jeb Bush) to discuss Common Core. The idea, it sounds like, is to make sure schools are teaching students the things that business wants to see. This is not new. This sort of plan is as old as schooling itself. Continue reading

Something to Ponder: You Are a Bad Person If We Have Bad Public Schools

This is going to be short on purpose. A lot of hay has been made of the recent article in Slate by Alison Benedikt titled “If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person.” Then, the National Review took up the issue and cleverly claimed “If You Send Your Kid to a Failing School, You Are a Bad Person” (which sounds like what I propose but is totally different). And finally, The Atlantic gave some good analysis (as it usually does) of Benedikt’s original argument, but even it still missed the larger issue. Continue reading

Chicago’s Messed Up “Public” School Situation

After sitting on it for a couple weeks (well, more than a couple…), I suppose now’s as good as ever to being my musings on the current state of “public” K-12 education in Chicago. (Why the “quotes”? We’ll get to that.) Over the course of this summer, the city government has decided to close some 50 under-attended public schools. Next, and which is a pretty sneaky move, the district is hiring Teach for America instructors to replace those teachers that were fired when the schools were closed. And lastly, the district has decided to open at least 4 new charters (since, apparently, the schools weren’t that under-attended). All of this gives off an unpleasant aroma. Continue reading

Making Sure History Is Made Relevant

At the start of each history course I’ve taught so far, I ask a few introductory questions to the students. Foremost among them are “what is history?” and “is history important?” 99% of my students have answered “yes” to the second and then gone on to provide explanations that usually center around something like, “it helps us avoid past mistakes” or “ it can give us insight about today.” Continue reading