Identity Politics and the Eternal Banality of the White-Dude Pundit

[Welcome back to the blog after a summer writing recess in these parts. To celebrate the beginning of another year of regular posts, I’ve included extra profanity and GIFs for your viewing pleasure.]

In these profoundly unsettling times, where the current presidential administration and congressional majority have declared war on large swaths of American society, one can be forgiven for feeling anxious, under siege, frightened about their future. Communities of color, immigrants new and older, those who identify as LGBTQIA, students, the ill and financially precarious–many of them warned of the violence and oppression they faced, and warned us that violence and oppression would expand into the public square in ways that would seem unthinkable to those who’ve never had to worry about being on the receiving end of those processes. And, in what has been both pathetic and eminently predictable, white pundits–most of them male, all of them privileged–have been wringing their hands, armchair-quarterbacking with a furious intensity that only the smugly unempathetic elites can muster in their unearned self-assuredness. And they have SOLUTIONS, y’all. So. Many. Solutions.

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Keynoting on Purpose, Strategy, and Pedagogy

I had the honor of being invited to deliver the keynote talk, and to lead a workshop, at the University of Wisconsin System’s Faculty College from May 30-June 2. This event is an annual gathering of faculty engaged in the scholarship of teaching and learning from almost every UW campus. For three-plus days we engaged in wonderful discussions, workshops, and informal conversations on teaching and learning. In these fraught times for higher education, it was remarkably energizing to be with this group of dedicated practitioners. I got see the passion and creativity with which they approach our work with and among students, and I’m grateful to have been invited to participate in the week’s events. Continue reading “Keynoting on Purpose, Strategy, and Pedagogy”

Who Chose to Fail?

There are two articles in the most recent issue of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History that clearly demonstrate that we academic historians have failed-consistently and spectacularly-in one of our most essential undertakings. For all the talk about making History accessible to a broader public, the value of historical literacy for an educated citizenry and the health of a democracy, we have failed, and seem determined to continue that failure, to provide an adequate grounding in History to one of our main constituencies: college students. Continue reading “Who Chose to Fail?”

On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others

It’s graduation season all around higher ed, which means the proliferation of all sorts of seasonal trends: smart people wearing silly clothes (“academic drag,” as a colleague calls it), intricately-decorated student mortarboards, and the lilting chorus of air horns as newly-minted graduates stride across the stage. It’s also when we see the deployment of a veritable army of wealthy donors honorary commencement speakers dispensing business-speak bromides to an audience full of slightly dazed graduates, restless children, and what sounds like an outbreak of whooping cough. GOOD TIMES. Continue reading “On Being Broken, and the Kindness of Others”

Middlebury, Murray, and the Problem of False Equivalence

Imagine, if you will, this scene. The university’s annual symposium has begun, an event that promises to advance the mission of the institution by tackling subjects of depth and complexity in the human condition. This year’s theme is “Remembering the Shoah: Saying ‘Never Again’ to Genocide,” challenging students and the university community to confront some of the darkest chapters of modern human history. And now, striding to the podium to deliver the keynote address, comes…David Irving. Irving’s presence was vehemently protested by numerous campus and community organizations, including Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League, but college’s president firmly believes that students should be challenged by opinions “outside their comfort zone.” To those students who protested the fact that a conference on the Holocaust was being keynoted by the most notorious holocaust-denier in the Western world, the local newspaper’s editorial board scoffed at their need for a so-called “safe space.” “The real world doesn’t always conform to your precious beliefs,” the newspaper editorialized; “you’d best learn that now.” One of the university’s professors defended the choice of Irving as a keynote speaker, declaring “nothing is more sacred than the right of free and unfettered academic discourse in the university. In this marketplace of ideas, bad ideas will naturally by subsumed by good ones-that’s how it always works.” 

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When States’ Rights were Progressive

As the proverbial blessing and/or curse foretold, we are living in interesting times. The Left finds itself rooting for executive-branch departmental bureaucrats and the Right launched a boycott of Budweiser. I don’t care how politically prescient you are–NO ONE saw this turn of events coming. Continue reading “When States’ Rights were Progressive”