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?”

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.” 

Continue reading “Middlebury, Murray, and the Problem of False Equivalence”

We Need to Re-Think History Ph.D. Training [#AHA276]

This is the third and final post in a series authored by the participants in the session “Say It Like You Mean It: Graduate Education and Creative Expression in Thinking, Making, and Doing History” held at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association. The intent of our session was to take a deep and discerning look at the ways in which History Ph.D. programs prepare their students for a radically-changed job landscape. As you’ll see in these posts, we take a critical stance towards the status quo, and argue that graduate programs in particular, and the historical profession in general, need to fundamentally re-think the ways in which they train the next generation of professional historians.

For part one of this series, click HERE.

For part two, click HERE.

The following are my session-chair/commentator remarks from this session, lightly edited for clarity and organization. It was a privilege to be a part of this panel with Cody and Eric, and I think they both have profoundly important things to say to both graduate students and graduate programs. I would also like to thank Dara Vance (@divafancypants) for initially proposing this session and thus creating the framework for us to have this conversation. Without her efforts, this session would not have come together, and I am deeply thankful for her invitation to participate.


We all know the job market in History has sucked. If you didn’t, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. This “sucks” status is not new. It sucked when I entered the market back in 2002, and it sucked when I started grad school in 1996 and had a senior faculty member in the department look me in the eye and ask “you sure about this, son?” Continue reading “We Need to Re-Think History Ph.D. Training [#AHA276]”

Guest Post: Cody Foster, “The Key To Enhancing Your Graduate Experience? Take Risks.” [#AHA276]

This is the second in a series of three posts from the participants in the session “Say It Like You Mean It: Graduate Education and Creative Expression in Thinking, Making, and Doing History” held at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association. The intent of our session was to take a deep and discerning look at the ways in which History Ph.D. programs prepare their students for a radically-changed job landscape. As you’ll see in these posts, we take a critical stance towards the status quo, and argue that graduate programs in particular, and the historical profession in general, need to fundamentally re-think the ways in which they train the next generation of professional historians.

For part one of this series, click HERE.

Cody J. Foster is a Historian and Presidential Fellow at the University of Kentucky where he specializes in U.S. foreign relations and American political history. He has been featured in the USA Today, New York Times, and Courier-Journal, and has written articles for Huffington Post, History News Network, and the Lexington-Herald Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @codyjfoster or check out his site at www.codyjfoster.com. And be sure to check out the Long Story Short podcast!


Graduate education has been limited to three interrelated constraints placed upon the candidate by the department: (1) the needs of the department, (2) limited departmental funding, and (3) both a rapid and unvaried path toward the professorate. Continue reading “Guest Post: Cody Foster, “The Key To Enhancing Your Graduate Experience? Take Risks.” [#AHA276]”

Guest Post: Eric Gonzaba, “Centering the Side Project” [#AHA276]

 

This is the first in a series of three posts from the participants in the session “Say It Like You Mean It: Graduate Education and Creative Expression in Thinking, Making, and Doing History” held at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association. The intent of our session was to take a deep and discerning look at the ways in which History Ph.D. programs prepare their students for a radically-changed job landscape. As you’ll see in these posts, we take a critical stance towards the status quo, and argue that graduate programs in particular, and the historical profession in general, need to fundamentally re-think the ways in which they train the next generation of professional historians.

Eric Gonzaba is  a PhD candidate in American history at George Mason University. His research interests revolve around the cultural politics of race and gender in late 20th century America, particularly 1970s/1980s African American and queer nightlife. Eric is the creator of Wearing Gay History, an award-winning online digital archive and museum which explores the history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities through t-shirts. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Rainbow History Project, which collects and preserves LGBT history in metropolitan Washington DC. He also is a regular contributor to OutHistory, a site and blog dedicated to uncovering the queer past.
Eric is currently working on his dissertation, “Because the Night: Nightlife and Remaking the Gay Male World, 1970-2000,” which examines resistance to racial discrimination at gay nightlife in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter at @Egonzaba


My fellow panelists Kevin Gannon and Cody Foster did an incredible job outlining various concerns I share regarding the current state of graduate education. I had the opportunity to speak to one aspect of my graduate experience that has shaped how I go about thinking and doing history in the future, a “side” project that turned out to be foundational to my work as a doctoral student. Continue reading “Guest Post: Eric Gonzaba, “Centering the Side Project” [#AHA276]”

Some Thoughts on the Electoral College

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The American Revolution embodied, despite the misgivings of many of its leaders, some profoundly radical ideas. Rebelling against the world’s most powerful monarchy and replacing its authority with a clutch of homegrown republican governments (of varying effectiveness) was as fundamental a political change as one could imagine in the 1770s and early 1780s. It’s hard to see that from our contemporary vantage point, however; looking backwards through the French and–especially–the Haitian Revolutions, the revolution that created the United States looks tentative, even skittish, by comparison. Yet it’s also evident that the American Revolution and its early republican aftermath fell far short of fulfilling the truly radical potential inherent within the process of declaring independence from Britain and establishing a republic in place of an imperial sovereignty. Most glaringly, the revolutionary rhetoric of liberty and equality was notable more for who it excluded in practice–women, indigenous Americans, people of color both enslaved and free–than anything else.

And yet. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on the Electoral College”