Public Housing Should Be Part of the Recovery

The poor continue struggling to find affordable housing. It seems especially acute in certain areas I’ve read about recently, areas going through drastic economic and racial demographic changes such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Washington DC. It seems to me that an expansion of federally-funded public housing should have had a larger role to play during the present on-going recovery. It certainly helped during the Great Depression, World War II, and postwar periods.

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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

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

Why the GOP is actually angry about the potential Hilary Clinton documentary

A lot of fuss has been made over this the last couple days. Fox News has been running features with titles like “Reince Priebus blasts NBC, CNN Hillary Clinton film projects,” while Politico reports “GOP to NBC and CNN: Drop the Hillary Clinton Documentary, Or We’ll Drop You.”

At the core, there are really two reasons that the Republicans are all in a tizzy about the Hilary Clinton documentary. The GOP is both: A) angry that they cannot be the party representing the women’s movement and feminism in the upcoming elections, and B) assuming that the documentary will be flattering pro-liberal propaganda. The first is (largely) accurate; the second is (mostly) stupid. 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

Why the American Experience Intro Makes Me Cry…Every…Time

At this point I’m tired of it, just plain tired.  It’s been exhausting to even belly up to something as bereft of emotion as Minnesotan settler migration to Alaska, or The Amish.  Is having an “american experience” now more about struggling with these fractures of identity in the span of forty seconds, than waiting an hour to see how the Minnesotans decided it wasn’t really for them and eventually move back?  As a history student…nay, Historian, I have established my textbook and life experience understanding of what American identity is woven with, but this, this is something I am unable to unpack. Continue reading