State-Assisted Education

Are we heading toward the end of public education in the United States?

In state after state, state legislatures are slashing their already meager funding for formerly public institutions of higher education, essentially privatizing them. Most state universities should be referred to as state-assisted universities, since state funding represents less than half of their budgets. The legislators in my own state of Illinois are currently in the process of debating how much to cut (yet again) the legislature’s  contribution to state universities in Illinois, after the new governor proposed shocking cuts of approximately 30 percent!

Now Arizona is set to eliminate completely state funding for three of its major community colleges, while slashing funds for other state-assisted universities.

Let’s see how the football yell should sound…. “Go Arizona State-Assisted!” or “Go Arizona Pseudo-State!” or “Go Arizona Used-to-Be State!” or “Go Arizona State-Contributed!”

Which do you like best?

I am sure that some of my colleagues at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University will have some ideas.

Inside Higher Ed reports on the budget cuts in Arizona. The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times report on the budget debate in Illinois. The President of Northern Illinois University responded to the proposed budget online.


Posted in Academic Freedom, Education Policy, Humanities Education, Northern Illinois University | Leave a comment

Suffragettes: Women, Politics, and Violence

Physical violence is often assumed to be a properly—or even exclusively—masculine domain. Yet, women have at times played very active roles in exercising physical violence.

In the early twentieth century, some Suffragette activists carried out violent attacks in England as part of a broader political campaign for the right to vote.  Female militants targeted politicians, churches, and railway stations in attacks that were referred to as “Suffragette Outrages.”

A contemporary cartoon commented on the Suffragette attacks:


Some attacks went further than this, employing arson and bombing attacks against buildings and politicians.

The “Suffragette Outrages” are a reminder that violence should not be thought of as merely masculine. Historians are increasingly exploring records of various periods of the past for further evidence of female political activism and militant activity.

History Today recently published an article on the “Suffragette Outrages.” The BBC considers whether or not Suffragettes could be considered terrorists.


Posted in Civil Conflict, Cultural History, European History, Gender and Warfare, History of Violence, Human Rights, Political Culture, Women and Gender History | Leave a comment

History Wars Continue

In the 1990s, one theater of the “Culture Wars” became dubbed the “History Wars,” as politicians and political interest groups attempted to influence or control the presentation of historical events and developments in high school textbooks, college curricula, and museum exhibitions.

The “History Wars” were never really resolved and have been heating up once again recently.

The latest battleground in the “History Wars” is Oklahoma, where state legislators proposed a bill that describing the new AP History curriculum as an “emergency” that allegedly threatens the “public peace, health and safety.” These legislators are outraged by the AP History curriculum’s treatment of American history, claiming that it “includes little or no discussion of the Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the religious influences on our nation’s history and many other critical topics that have always been part of the APUSH course.” The lawmakers also complain that the AP History curriculum “excludes discussion of the U.S. military (no battles, commanders or heroes) and omits many other individuals and events that greatly shaped our nation’s history (for example, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Tuskegee Airmen, the Holocaust).” The bill, if passed, would defund AP History beginning in Fall 2015.

The AP History curriculum authors and the American Historical Association, the flagship professional association of historians in the United States, defend the AP History curriculum’s content and methodological approaches. Many historians in Oklahoma have already spoken out to oppose the proposed legislation, which could result in no AP History courses being offered in Oklahoma.

“History has an unusual combination of being politically sensitive and also a discipline that more people feel they know more about than some other disciplines,” according to Jim Grossman, who is the Executive Director of the American Historical Association. Grossman argues that: “Historians have been successful writing for the general public and many people have a deep and abiding interest in history, and that’s a wonderful thing. But there are going to be more legislators who feel they are qualified in this area.”

Expect the “History Wars” to continue.

Inside Higher Ed, NPR, and the Guardian report on the AP History controversy in Oklahoma. The College Board publishes the AP curricula in the United States. For an analysis of the political aspects of the Oklahoma “History Wars,” see an article on Politico.

For a deeper background on the current “History Wars,” see Jim Grossman’s op-ed for the New York Times, as well as Edward T. Linethal and Tom Engelhardt’s History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (New York: Metropolitan, 1996), and Gary B. Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross E. Dunn’s History on Trial: Culture Wars and the TEaching of the Past (New York: Knopf, 1997).

Posted in Academic Freedom, Academic Publishing, Education Policy, History in the Media, Humanities Education | Leave a comment

The Thank You for Your Service Phenomenon

Some United States veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are speaking out about the “thank you for your service phenomenon.”

“Who doesn’t want to be thanked for their military service? Many people, it turns out,” according to a New York Times report.

Mike Freedman, who served as a Green Beret, refers to this issue as the “thank you for your service phenomenon.”


The New York Times reports: “To some recent vets — by no stretch all of them — the thanks comes across as shallow, disconnected, a reflexive offering from people who, while meaning well, have no clue what soldiers did over there or what motivated them to go, and who would never have gone themselves nor sent their own sons and daughters. To these vets, thanking soldiers for their service symbolizes the ease of sending a volunteer army to wage war at great distance — physically, spiritually, economically. It raises questions of the meaning of patriotism, shared purpose and, pointedly, what you’re supposed to say to those who put their lives on the line and are uncomfortable about being thanked for it.”

“‘Thank you for your service,’ … is almost the equivalent of ‘I haven’t thought about any of this,'” according to Freedman.

Some veterans “find that “something in the stomach tumbles” from expressions of appreciation that are so disconnected from the “evil, nasty stuff you do in war,” suggests Tim O’Brien, a Vietnam War veteran and noted author who was interviewed for the New York Times article.

Many veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan attend classes at my campus, Northern Illinois University. I think that students and faculty at NIU and other universities would benefit from reading the article in the New York Times and reflecting on how to communicate effectively with veterans and how to discuss their military service.

Posted in History of Violence, Political Culture, War, War, Culture, and Society | 2 Comments

French Paleography Seminar

The Newberry Library is offering a seminar in French paleography.

The Newberry’s announcement is reposted below:

Application deadline: March 1

Mellon Summer Institute in French Paleography
June 22 to July 16, 2015, at the Newberry Library, Chicago
Led by Marc Smith, École Nationale des Chartes, Paris

Find application instructions here:

This institute will examine French manuscripts and archival materials from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century. Professor Smith will provide a summary outline of the history of handwriting in France, followed by intensive training in reading from facsimiles, both in class and at home. Students will become familiar with the development of handwriting as well as further aspects of written communication in the late-medieval and early-modern period.

The institute will enroll 15 participants. First consideration will be given to advanced graduate students and junior faculty at U.S. colleges and universities, but applications are also accepted from advanced graduate students and junior faculty at Canadian institutions, from professional staff of U.S. and Canadian libraries and museums, and from qualified independent scholars. Successful applicants will receive a stipend to help defray travel and living expenses.


Posted in Archival Research, European History, French History, Graduate Work in History, Humanities Education, Lectures and Seminars, Reformation History, Renaissance Art and History | Leave a comment

War Diaries and Digital Humanities

The growing pace of archival digitization is creating tensions in communities of researchers and archivists. Digital Humanities projects hold great promise, but also substantial risks for today’s researchers and for future generations of scholars.

Andrew Hoskins (Interdisciplinary Research Professor at University of Glasgow) points out that “digital networks and databases appear to crush historical distance. Archives of war increasingly come to us. A simple YouTube search throws up a chaotic mix of official and unauthorised, user-generated content, from helmet cam footage to images of snipers in the field. But this immediacy, volume and pervasiveness can mean less reflection. The rawness of media memory distills a history without horizon and without hindsight. The sheer scale and complexity of digital data as primary source creates an immediate but unwieldy archive. It also hides what is really lost in paper’s demise.”

So, as war diaries and other military records are increasingly being digitized, Hoskins asks: “what are the prospects for the future of the history of warfare?”

First World War diaries go online

The digitization of documents “might make records easier to find,” but Hoskins warns that: “something important is lost. The digital file strips away the subliminal context that comes with the finding, filing, handling and searching through the physical file. The mental map of the archive and its contents dissolve.”

Hoskins raises important questions on preserving, organizing, accessing, and utilizing digitized documents in archival collections dealing with the history of war and society. His own work seems concerned particularly with war diaries as a distinct textual genre. But, many of the issues he discusses are equally relevant for Digital Humanities work in other fields of research.

Hoskins’s article is available online at The Conversation.

Posted in Archival Research, Cultural History, Current Research, Digital Humanities, European History, European Union, Globalization, History in the Media, Humanities Education, Information Management, War, Culture, and Society | Leave a comment

Masters in Social Sciences

The University of Chicago’s M.A. Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS) is seeking applicants.

Note that the University of Chicago includes History in its Social Sciences division, so this announcement may interest History majors and minors at Northern Illinois University.

The University of Chicago has very strong programs in French history, European history, pre-modern history, intellectual history, international relations history, European studies, political theory, political science, anthropology, Mediterranean studies, and other fields in the Social Sciences.

The MAPSS announcement reads:

“Our one-year program is an excellent choice for persons who seek a rigorous, intellectually transformative experience, clarifying their commitments while preparing for doctoral and professional paths. …

“Unlike other M.A. programs, MAPSS is highly competitive for admission; it offers students access to nearly all graduate courses in all Divisions and professional schools; it allows students to work directly with members of the regular faculty on the thesis; it offers merit aid right up to full tuition; and it is structured in such a way that students are not competing with one another for faculty attention or program support.

“To our knowledge, there is no other M.A. program anywhere in the world that reliably places so many of its graduates in funded doctoral programs. Each year, we send 55-70 students on for the Ph.D. Over the past 10 years, our success rate for funded Ph.D. placements has consistently been 90%. There are over 100 MAPSS graduates now pursuing the Ph.D. at UChicago alone.

“Fully 2/3 of our graduates opt for professional careers. Unusually for an M.A. program, we have a dedicated, in-house Career Services Director who brings recruiters to campus; distributes weekly digests with job openings and alumni contacts; leads all of the usual preparation workshops; and develops innovative programming with alumni-in-residence, externships, short-term consulting partnerships, and more.

“Finally, our completion rate is off-the-charts: 80% of our entering students earn the degree within 12 months, and 90% within 15 months.

“More information on our program can be seen here:

“Any interested applicants are encouraged to contact our Student Affairs Administrator, E.G. Enbar (, 773-702-8312), with questions.”

Posted in Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, European History, European Union, French History, Graduate Work in History, Human Rights, Mediterranean World, Social History | Leave a comment