Do Higher Education’s Leaders Know What Education Is?

As American universities lay off professors and close departments and programs—disproportionately targeting the sciences and humanities, usually on the basis of make-believe profit calculations that reflect no comprehension of how a university actually works—it’s been difficult to maintain faith in those institutions’ leaders. I doubt I’ve been alone as a college teacher wrestling with a sense of betrayal.

An empty and darkened college classroom

Contrary to what most of us would like to believe, the betrayal we feel is fully bipartisan.

Continue reading “Do Higher Education’s Leaders Know What Education Is?”

“How Many Forgotten Heroes Sleep in History’s Great Cemetery?”

The dead are dead, and it makes no difference to them whether I pay homage to their deeds. But for us, the living, it does mean something. Memory is of no use to the remembered, only to those who remember. We build ourselves with memory and console ourselves with memory.

— Laurent Binet, HHhH, trans. Sam Taylor (New York: Picador, 2013), 179

Week Links in Education: Dec. 24

A supersized Hanukkah-Christmas edition of the stories and essays, particularly related to education in the United States, that caught my attention this week. A 🕛 symbol indicates a known or likely metered paywall.


In a speech at the national archives in The Hague, the Dutch prime minister apologized for his nation’s role in colonial slavery, promising to create a €200 million fund for related research, education, and memorial initiatives.

In west central Illinois, a public school for 65 students with disabilities calls the police every other day. The Garrison School has the highest student arrest rate in the United States.

In Alabama, the superintendent of the Monroe County public schools built a new extension to the school-to-prison pipeline by inviting state prison guards to raid his schools in an unsuccessful search for drugs.

American prisons ban at least 54,000 books.

The prosperity enjoyed by “first-generation locals” in Denmark is determined by parents’ socioeconomic backgrounds more than their immigrant status.

Why is college so expensive? The authors of a forthcoming book summarize 🕛 their findings. Their answer looks back in time a long way.

Free after 23 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, Adnan Syed has a job at Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.

Steven Mintz wondered 🕛 what humanities professors should offer their students in an age when they cannot, in good conscience, encourage them to seek a similar career—because that career no longer exists.

As Russia’s attack on Ukraine began, 18-year-old Yevhen Kryvoruchko and his mother took shelter with 300 other people at their local school in Kharkiv, while 🕛 Yarik Slyusar spent his 16th birthday vowing to become a lawyer and take Russia to The Hague.

Bryan Alexander introduced me to the useful term “queen sacrifice” as a metaphor for what happens when desperate colleges and universities try to save themselves by destroying their academic programs and firing their faculty members.

In Afghanistan, after the Taliban banned women from universities, some women protested—risking arrest and beatings—and some male professors and students are reported to have stopped work.

The most isolating years of the COVID-19 pandemic left behind both apathy and atrophied “school muscles” among high schoolers.

There’s no consensus yet on the causes of the teen mental health crisis—but it started long before the pandemic, and everyone in the relevant professions can see it happening.

One part of our recipe for anxiety: Americans grow up like Italians but go away to university like Germans.

Since the University of Montana created the position of tribal outreach specialist in the president’s office in 2018, the university has enjoyed ​​a 24% increase in Native American enrollment.

America’s crisis 🕛 of high-quality child care is only beginning.

On the other hand, things are looking up for the nation’s manufacturers of child-sized coffins.

California State University, Chico, is in turmoil over the university’s lenient treatment of a biologist who has been accused not only of sexual misconduct but also of planning to kill 🕛 his coworkers.

The American Historical Association is conducting 🕛 a comprehensive two-year research project to determine what U.S. secondary students are really being taught about history.

Week Links in Education: Dec. 17

Some of the stories and essays, particularly related to education in the United States, that caught my attention this week.


More than 70 years after starting college, Joyce DeFauw has earned her bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University. Her advice to others: “Don’t give up.”

Thousands of high school students, typically at predominantly Black and Hispanic schools, are being enrolled involuntarily in JROTC programs.

Several University of California campuses have been “inexcusably” slow repatriating thousands of Native American remains and artifacts.

Seven former students said they endured sexual harassment by Philip Dybvig, who shared this year’s Nobel Prize for economics. Dybvig’s lawyer said he has been questioned by the Title IX office at Washington University in St. Louis.

College students are back in physical classrooms—but are they really present anymore?

State governments are depriving rural college students of access to the arts and sciences.

Rob Taber described how he reconceptualized his early world history survey course by ending not around 1500 or 1600, as most instructors do, but at 1763.

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities—reestablished this autumn after lapsing five years ago—has a new executive director in Tsione Wolde-Michael.

Mixed Feelings about Mental Health First Aid

This week, after some false starts over the past two years, I finally got to take part in a so-called Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training sponsored by one of my employers. This involved a full-day seminar held in person on campus after a couple of hours of online work.

MHFA originated in Australia two decades ago. The American version of the program enjoys funding from state and federal governments—and endorsements from Lady Gaga and Michelle Obama. The Biden White House has identified it as an important program for educators.

After taking part and getting my certificate as an official “Mental Health First Aider,” I won’t say I found the program a waste of time. It was a good thing to do. But I do have some reservations.

Continue reading “Mixed Feelings about Mental Health First Aid”

Academic History’s Midwestern Collapse

Jon K. Lauck has kindly alerted me to his important new editorial, “The Ongoing History Crisis,” in the autumn issue of the Middle West Review. It’s now available through Project MUSE. Lauck was the founding president of the Midwestern History Association and is the current editor-in-chief of the Review.

What’s extraordinary about this article—which isn’t very long—is the methodical way it documents the hollowing-out of history programs at colleges, universities, and other institutions across a single region of the United States. Lauck describes a profession in rapid collapse, across all kinds of institutions, large and small:

Around the Midwest, the news from history departments is grim, even at larger institutions. Iowa State University’s history department has been told by the ISU administration that its faculty needs to shrink from 20 to 8. The ISU doctoral program in rural history, a key contributor to Midwestern studies, is also being shuttered. The University of Iowa’s full time history faculty has declined from 26 to 16 in about ten years. University of Missouri: 30 down to 21 (over the past decade); University of Kansas: 35 down to 24 (since 2017); The Ohio State University (system): 79 down to 62 (since 2008); University of Minnesota: 46 down to 40 (in ten years); University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: 46 down to 36 (since 2012); University of Illinois Chicago: 32 down to 20 (from 2005–2020). Smaller universities are also seeing the loss of history faculty: Emporia State University: 7 down to 4 (over a decade); University of North Dakota: 10 down to 5 (in five years); Grand Valley State University: 31 down to 27 (in ten years); University of South Dakota: 10 down to 7 (in five years); South Dakota State University: 7 down to 4 (in five years); University of Nebraska-Omaha: 15 down to 11 (in ten years); St. Cloud State University: 10 down to 6 (in 6 years); St. Olaf College: 12 down to 7 (in ten years); Central Michigan University: 22 down to 15 (in seven years); Miami University of Ohio: 29 down to 22 (since 2015); Ohio University: 31 down to 25 (since 2017); University of Cincinnati: 30 down to 21 (in ten years); Kent State University: 15 down to 12 (since 2008); University of Missouri-Kansas City: 17 down to 8 (in 6 years); Minnesota State University, Mankato: 11 down to 9 (since 2010); University of Missouri-St. Louis: 14 down to 8 (since 2016); Truman State University: 15 down to 4 (since 2013); Indiana State University: 16 down to 13 (since 2015); Marquette University: 21 down to 16 (since 2017); University of Toledo: 12 down to 5 (in a decade). The cuts extend beyond faculty. Central Michigan University lost the Michigan Historical Review, a journal it oversaw for decades. Truman State lost Truman State University Press, which closed in 2021. Emporia State lost its Center for Great Plains Studies. The journal Studies in Midwestern History at Grand Valley State fizzled out. Long-running collaborative history conferences such as the Missouri Valley History Conference and the Mid-America Conference on History have also been terminated.

Most of the veteran historians who have been cut or downsized are not finding jobs at other institutions because there are none, as newly-minted historians know very well. Between 2019 and 2020 1,799 historians earned their PhDs and only 175 of them are now employed as full-time faculty members.

This article has instantly become the single best source (that I know of) to show anyone who remains complacent about the future of the U.S. historical profession. I would like the leaders of other regional and thematic institutions (not to mention the American Historical Association itself) to follow Lauck’s example in making this kind of information so readily digestible—and in being so honest about what it means.

Week Links in Education: Dec. 10

Some of the stories and essays, particularly related to education in the United States, that caught my attention this week. A 🕛 symbol indicates a known metered paywall.


Decades ago, when Congress created the bank-based student loan system, it relied on guaranty agencies as go-betweens. Now those middlemen are standing in the way of student debt forgiveness.

The Government Accountability Office says 91% of American colleges don’t disclose the full net price of attendance when they offer financial aid packages.

The crisis of mental health among American youth is bad. Really bad. 🕛

Youki Terada and Stephen Merrill compiled a list of ten 2022 education studies you need to read.

Teacher shortages aren’t caused by an insufficient number of qualified teachers.

The fall term is ending in chaos because the University of California can’t function without its 48,000 striking workers. Which is kind of the point.

Being a faculty member watching the New School’s administration mishandle its labor crisis, writes McKenzie Wark, is “like being stuck inside an episode of The Office.”

Meanwhile, a group of New School students announced an occupation of the University Center on Thursday in solidarity with striking teachers.

Until recently, two high schools in New England used Confederate imagery to represent themselves. (This article is republished from 2015.)

The Organization of American Historians has updated its standards of employment and “bill of rights” for contingent faculty members.

Publicity for a Survey Course

I’m excited to be able to say that my modern U.S. history survey course is currently featured in a banner story on the Rowan University homepage. Barbara Baals, an assistant director of the university’s media office, came with us when we visited the Hollybush historic site, and she wrote a great article about our class.

Core history survey courses don’t often get that kind of attention, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to advertise our work.

Week Links in Education: Dec. 3

Some of the stories and essays, particularly related to education in the United States, that caught my attention this week. A 🕛 symbol indicates a known metered paywall.


The parents of a soccer goalie who died by suicide say Stanford University contributed to her death by punishing her for defending a teammate from sexual assault.

Almost two thirds of the anti-trans bills introduced in state legislatures in 2022 target schools.

Remote learning accounts for only part 🕛 of the educational damage caused by the pandemic.

At the University of Michigan, the director of the FBI defended federal investigations of American scholars’ relationships with Chinese academics.

Facebook and Reddit groups may be hampering the police investigation into the murders of four University of Idaho students.

The Presentism Essay

Cover of the September 2022 issue of Perspectives

This summer, James H. Sweet, the president of the American Historical Association, published an essay in the AHA’s magazine. It elicited weeks of indignation among some historians. At the end of October, The Atlantic’s David Frum wrote about the controversy. Frum described an American historical profession gripped by partisanship and chilled by political correctness. Now I’ve finally written my own analysis of the affair.

Today, in Clio and the Contemporary, I try to explain what happened, why it really happened, and why the whole thing was a missed opportunity. I hope you’ll take a look.