U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Tim’s Light Reading (1/20/2010)

1. The Marketplace of Ideas: Louis Menand’s new book—subtitled Reform and Resistance in American Universities—is getting a fair amount of attention. Here’s a solid review in Slate.com, but I’ve seen other excellent reflections here (WSJ, Wilfred McClay) and here (Bookforum, Jessica Loudis).

2. Dissent’s “Intellectuals and Their America”: I’m very interested in this forum but have not yet had the time to explore it fully. Have you? Feel free to color my reading.

3. Graduate-level Liberal Arts—In Business Schools: So the NYT has unintentionally(?) documented the sorry state of liberal arts education in America by showing how a liberal arts mindset has to be remedially taught in graduate professional school. Maybe this foreshadows a burgeoning market for un/under-employed humanities PhDs?!

4. An Addition to the Annals of African-American Intellectual History: My online colleague Sharon Williams, editor of The Chicago History Journal (a weblog), has relayed some of the biography of the literary critic, Chicagoan, and former Duke University professor Kenny J. Williams (1927-2003).

5. An Upcoming Conference on Neoliberalism: My home institution, UIC, is planning a conference on neoliberalism courtesy of Walter Benn Michaels. I’m planning to attend, so let me know if you’ll be there too.

6. Common Education Standards for Schools: E.D. Hirsch reflects on the weaknesses of the Common Core Standards Initiative sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This initiative applies to college/university professor types because it deals with college readiness. And Hirsch believes a major weakness to be the lack of content standards—much of which deals directly with history, or at least historical topics.

7. Butler’s Critical Americans: The October 2009 issue of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (Vol. 8, no. 4) contains a review of Leslie Butler‘s Critical Americans: Victorian Intellectuals and Transatlantic Liberal Reform. The reviewer is Christopher McKnight Nichols.

8. Anti-intellectualism and Ignorance Today: This conspiracy-theory video on Obama, Catholicism, and domestic politics shows why we need to study intellectual history in America. I’ve never seen so much ignorance packed into a 3:36 minute clip. Wow.

9. For Fun: What type—meaning font—are you? The password is “character.” I came up Expanded Antique; here’s a sample.

5 Thoughts on this Post

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  1. Tim – Great list, as always. If you get a chance, tell us more about what you think of the business-school/liberal arts article from the Times. Though you jest, I actually think you are on to something about how it opens up a new angle on the recent torrent of academic job crisis articles and blog posts in recent weeks. Particularly in terms of spelling out more clearly not only the economic, but also the ideological and institutional dimensions of the crisis.

  2. Andrew: Looking forward to it. By the time you post I may have read it too. 🙂

    Michael: The B-school multicultural-critical angle may help historians in two ways: (a) by opening up potential adjuncting jobs for hybrid business-humanities courses taught by historians, or (b) by creating a larger demand for humanities majors. On the first, considering the extent to which the neoliberal ethic has pervaded university management, I don’t foresee any f-t/t-t openings. On the second, I do think the article speaks to a crisis in admissions criteria for B schools. They need to think beyond selecting from undergrad business, finance, and economics majors when trying to decide who might succeed in the business world. – TL

  3. And here’s a Chronicle story on infusing the ~undergrad~ business major with more liberal arts. So now we have reports of all levels of business students needing more liberal arts, but more history, English, and philosophy PhDs looking for work. Can you say disconnect?! – TL

  4. Thoughts on another fine list….

    1) I, too, had read the Dissent forum and was trying to find the time to blog on it. I may just settle for commenting on Andrew’s fine post.

    2) The conclusion from Wilfred McClay’s review of Menand’s book seems rather tendentious to me (though I doubt it did to most of his WSJ readers), but perhaps that just indicates that I’m the sort of person he’s criticizing 😉 :

    It is not hard to see the same challenges at work in our own time. Not hard, that is, unless one has first signed on to the view that the West faces no intractable conflict in the world and that assimilation to a common Western culture is a form of oppression. But of course, the existence of such dogmas is precisely what is different about the situation faced by advocates of general education today..

    ….though to be fair to myself–and McClay–I do see the challenges of creating a gen ed curriculum that were at work in the mid-20C at work in our own time, despite having a hard time conceptualizing something called “the West” which is involved in an intractable international conflict best dealt with by assimilating others.

    3) I’m apparently, New Alphabet….though I can’t say I much like that font!

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