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In Britain, a rise in university tuition sparks riots.


The nominations are now open for this year’s Cliopatria Awards:

Bloggers, blogs and posts may be nominated in multiple categories. Individuals may nominate any number of specific blogs, bloggers or posts, even in a single category, as long as the nominations include all the necessary information (names, titles, URLs, etc).

The categories are Best Group Blog, Best Individual Blog, Best New Blog, Best Post, Best Series of Posts, and Best Writer.

The National Research Council’s 2010 rankings of research-doctorate programs arrived today. (There is, or was, a webcast.) It is the first version of the rankings compiled since 1995 and relies on data collected in 2005-2006. already has the new data on their site, so you can punch up rankings—or rather, ranges of rankings; they won’t, or can’t, provide a singular rank—based on your own criteria. Here, for the sake of fun and games, is the ranking of history departments based on an overall quality measure.

I half-remember an anecdote about an English MP a philosopher (graciously identified by ben below) who, when asked if he read novels, replied, “Oh yes. All six of them, every year.” For me, in recent years, the equivalent has become the annual re-reading of Peter Novick’s That Noble Dream.

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Theodore Roosevelt wanted to get elected President of the United States in 1912, but he had to settle for serving as President of the American Historical Association. Two days after Christmas that year (and only two and a half months after getting shot) he delivered his presidential address on “History as Literature.” Here, in the use of a couple clever metaphors, Roosevelt goes beyond a mere defense of the idea that history ought to have a literary quality to an explanation of what the relation is between a more literary history and the normal work of the historical profession, and why a profession without room for literary history is failing itself and civilization.

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Todd Henderson, the University of Chicago professor who inspired the mild-mannered James Fallows to mockery (at least by quotation) by whining about the pain of poverty at six figures, who inspired Brad DeLong to patient and sympathetic vivisection, has now apparently done the one thing that is more obviously ill-advised than writing his post in the first place: deleted it.

But Google has it cached.

If you really need a historian’s homiletic here, well: if you commit a bad idea to paper, it’s even worse if you show a guilty conscience about it. Just ask James G. Blaine, who had the bad judgment to write “burn this letter” across the bottom of one of his missives.

UPDATED to add, in the time I’ve taken to write this post, Brad has also discovered the Google cache. Oh well.

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A couple days ago I alluded to Henry Morgenthau’s premature departure from Cornell after some study of agriculture. I tried to find information about Morgenthau in The 100 Most Notable Cornellians, but discovered that the authors had instituted stringent criteria: you had to have completed an undergraduate degree. No famous faculty (no Richard Feynman or Vladimir Nabokov), nobody who got only a graduate degree (no William Gass), and no flunkouts. So no notability as a Cornellian for FDR’s Treasury Secretary and the President of the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference. Or for Kurt Vonnegut either.

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UC Davis ranks number 6 in this year’s Washington Monthly rankings of national universities, up from number 8. Shanghai Jiao Tong has us at 46, up from 48.

Plagiarism is understood to be a cardinal sin at the professional level. But, via the email, we get this piece asking whether there are ambiguities at the undergraduate level.

The State Department has adopted wiki software to create Diplopedia, a constantly evolving briefing tool for its officers. So much for the Foreign Relations of the United States. I don’t know which appeals less: trawling through endless revisions of a Diplopedia article, or trying to do research in the Twitter archive.

Yesterday I gave my Richard Nixon lecture, which I begin by talking about the tales of two other Richards, quoting this passage from Richard II:
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1. Scott McLemee. You do not want to make him angry. He gets out his rapier and cudgel when he is angry. And he scores very palpable hits.

These sentences have absorbed and rewarded my attention for days on end. They are a masterpiece of evasion. The paragraph is, in its way, quite impressive. Every word of it is misleading, including “and” and “the.”

That’s Scott (borrowing of course in the last clause from Mary McCarthy) on the New Press’s description of Michael Bellesiles’s career to date. For more, follow the link.

Ari and I are again teaching the core graduate seminar in history this fall. Below is our reading list, by topic, for your delectation.
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Two stories caught my eye last week, both thanks to Ralph Luker. They concern the practice of history, though in disparate ways. The first is about how Paul Krugman, my favorite economist, came to the study of economics:

With Hari Seldon in mind, Krugman went to Yale, in 1970, intending to study history, but he felt that history was too much about what and not enough about why, so he ended up in economics. Economics, he found, examined the same infinitely complicated social reality that history did but, instead of elucidating its complexity, looked for patterns and rules that made the complexity seem simple. Why did some societies have serfs or slaves and others not? You could talk about culture and national character and climate and changing mores and heroes and revolts and the history of agriculture and the Romans and the Christians and the Middle Ages and all the rest of it; or, like Krugman’s economics teacher Evsey Domar, you could argue that if peasants are barely surviving there’s no point in enslaving them, because they have nothing to give you, but if good new land becomes available it makes sense to enslave them, because you can skim off the difference between their output and what it takes to keep them alive. Suddenly, a simple story made sense of a huge and baffling swath of reality, and Krugman found that enormously satisfying.

I think Historiann’s comment here is the best one: “You know that old joke about economists: ‘Sure it works in reality, but will it work in theory?‘”

The second was Jon Wiener’s article in the Nation about tobacco companies using historians as expert witnesses:

In these cases, history has become a key component in the tobacco attorneys’ defense strategy. In the past, when smokers with cancer sued for damages, the companies said they shouldn’t have to pay, because there was a “scientific controversy” about whether smoking causes cancer. But in recent years they have given up that argument and now argue something like the opposite: “everybody knew” smoking causes cancer. So if you got cancer from smoking, it’s your own fault.
To persuade juries, they need historians–experts who, for example, can testify that newspapers in the plaintiff’s hometown ran articles about the health hazards of smoking in the 1940s or ’50s or ’60s, when he or she started. So Big Tobacco has been spending a lot of money hiring historians…

The historian who particularly caught my eye was Stephen Ambrose, a famous military historian best known for Band of Brothers, as well as some serious methodological issues. In a particular irony, Ambrose died in 2003 of lung cancer caused by smoking.

But my point is not quite to pick on Krugman or Ambrose. Read the rest of this entry »

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a series of articles on the virtues of private, for-profit education as offered by the University of Phoenix, DeVry, and similar institutions. Such private-sector, market-driven outfits are “nimble,” much more so than their stodgy public-sector, nonprofit ancestors.

As Chronicle veteran Stephen Burd says, in effect, “wait, what?”

The Chronicle fails to note that all of that “personal attention” doesn’t pay off for many of their students. In fact, less than one third of first-time, full-time students who attend the University of Phoenix graduate within six years…. The Chronicle articles fails to acknowledge that some of the largest publicly-traded for-profit higher education companies have in recent years come under intense scrutiny from federal and state regulators and have faced numerous lawsuits by former employees, shareholders, and students over allegations that they have engaged in misleading recruiting and admissions tactics to inflate their enrollment numbers. With all of the glowing praise for the University of Phoenix throughout the package, one would expect that there would at least be some mention of the $78.5 million settlement that the university’s owners reached recently in a False Claims lawsuit that accused the institution of routinely violating a federal law that aims to prevent schools from aggressively recruiting unqualified students.

Such concerns have prompted the U.S. Department of Education to start a process of rewriting its student aid regulations to strengthen a federal ban on colleges compensating recruiters based on their success in enrolling students. Department officials are also planning to add teeth to the rules requiring for-profit colleges to show that graduates are finding “gainful employment” in their fields of study and to regulations that forbid schools from willfully misleading prospective students. Incredibly, the Chronicle articles make no mention of the Education Department’s efforts. The Chronicle has dutifully reported on the recently completed negotiated rulemaking sessions on these topics — so this omission is absolutely mind-boggling. In a package of stories that runs nearly 7,000 words, the federal government’s concerns about many of these institutions certainly merit attention.

Finding evidence that students are not always being well-served is not that difficult. For example, Corinthian Colleges recently announced that nine of its Everest College campuses have 2008 cohort default rates exceeding 25 percent, including two topping 30 percent. In other words, an alarming number of the schools’ former students who entered repayment on their federal student loans during the 2008 fiscal year defaulted on them within two years. Moreover, Corinthian expects that 56 to 58 percent of the private loan funds that the company provides to high-risk students with sub-prime credit records will eventually end up in default.

This doesn’t make the Chronicle sound fair and balanced.

Title from DeVry’s ad campaign for their new “don’t get pwned” motto slogan.

This post thanks to an email tip.

… and they speak a different language there. From a Pacific Historical Review article of 1946 on war damage to France:

Military engineers restored the railroads and roads needed as supply lines for the advancing Allied armies, but responsibility for the repair of shattered bridges and railroads which were not needed for military purposes was delegated to the French. It might just as well have been delegated to the Zulus.

George Kyte, “War Damage and Problems of Reconstruction in France, 1940-1945,” Pacific Historical Review 15, no. 4 (December 1946): 417-26, on 421.

In the 12/18/2009 NB column in the TLS, we find the following presumably real-live riff on “Humiliation”:

In 2003, Sebastian D. G. Knowles looked at himself in the mirror: he was the author of a study of James Joyce; he was Professor of English at Ohio State University (specializing in Joyce). He had attended dozens of Joyce conferences. But he had never read Finnegans Wake. “Worse, I had never even tried to”, Professor Knowles writes in the current James Joyce Quarterly. Guilt-ridden, he decided to confess his failing in a song to be sung at the after-dinner entertainment at a Joyce conference in Miami:
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Kevin Drum says he’s adopting Sir Rex Richard Mottram’s extended conjugation as his personal mantra:

We’re all f*cked. I’m f*cked. You’re f*cked. The whole department is f*cked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely f*cked.

Which reminds me of what I believe Walter LaFeber said was Brooks Adams’s shaving song: the phrase “God-damn” repeated to the melody of the Westminster chimes. I mean, it probably is too much to ask that one’s fatalism be cheerful, but musical seems a reasonable request.

Ever since he made his debut as a giant floating head, we knew Michael Bérubé has what it takes to be a world leader. We congratulate the MLA on choosing Michael to become their president, thus enabling his further ascent.

Bérubé to Putin: Step off my airspace, pal.


And of course we congratulate Michael, too. The original official Edge of the American West interview with Michael Bérubé is available in three parts: 1, 2, 3.

A holiday message from President Mark Yudof, of the University of California, including a conditional: “If our proposed budget is adopted, I expect that we can end the furlough program, which has placed such burdens on staff and faculty, by the summer of 2010.”

UPDATE: The message to the faculty emailed this morning reads, “As you probably know, we are asking Sacramento for an additional $913 million next year, an amount that will restore the steep cuts made over the last two years to the University’s budget. The furloughs will end in the summer of 2010.”

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This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."