More Evidence That Civil War Was Not About States’ Rights (As if the words of the Confederate leaders wasn’t enough!)

In the wake of the fight over the Confederate flag and the new that Texas school children will not learn that the Civil War was fought over slavery, two articles this week at the History News Network present us with more evidence that the South did not fight for states’ rights. Roy Finkenbine invokes “the little-known U.S. Supreme Court case of Ableman v. Booth” to argue that “[o]nly in the wake of Appomattox did former Confederates assert that the conflict had been waged over constitutional principles.”And Stephen R. Leccese argues that “[t]he states’ rights argument falls apart when one has an understanding of antebellum Southern history. Before the Civil War, the South was in no way a bastion of states’ rights.”
I agree with Leccese that “[t]his country’s educational system must do better and present an accurate view of history. When that happens, we can have a public that acts with an informed mind on issues of national (and international, as the world views race relations in this country very poorly) importance.”

“The Supreme Court Case that Proves that the Antebellum South Wasn’t Really Concerned with States Rights.” | HNN

"Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia - Wikipedia"

“Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia – Wikipedia”

The Current “Crises” in Higher Education

In this post Dr. Kich exposes the flaws in the assumptions about higher ed as presented by James Baar. It also serves as a critique of some of these same assumptions that are often passed off as fact in the media.


In an op-ed published by the Providence Journal in Rhode Island, James Baar identifies “Four Crises That Dog Higher Education”:

1. Inflation of product cost.

2. Deflation of product value.

3. Enablement of social and moral dissolution.

4. Lower-priced, knockoff and fraudulent competition.

Given the space constraints on most op-ed pieces, Baar addresses each of these topics fairly succinctly. So, I suspect that if he had more space, he might have been able to address somewhat articulately at least some of the concerns that I am about to express.

First, I don’t believe that anything can be dogged by a crisis. A crisis is the climax of an escalating situation; it is not a condition. And the word “dogged” suggests an extended condition. But perhaps some editorial assistant, rather than Baar himself, is responsible for the headline.

Second, I don’t think that it is either accurate or helpful to assert…

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The Textbook Wars: An Historical Perspective

The Texas Textbook controversy has recently received a lot of attention, but it is only the most recent chapter in a long struggle over what our children should be learning. It is this history that Christopher Babits examines in order to add perspective to the current polemics. Babits found that debates over the content of textbooks goes back at least 130 years, but one episode in particular stood out as the most instructive in the current textbook wars. This episode began in the late 1920s.
The Great Depression brought great social change and a willingness to critically examine the causes of the crisis, even if it wasn’t pretty. Therefore, according to Babits, “many Americans embraced what came to be called the social reconstructionist curriculum. Observing the consequences of capitalism run amok, Americans became more comfortable with curricula that not only critiqued economic inequality but also encouraged students to ask critical questions about the American past.” In the schools the “[s]ocial reconstructionist curricula focused on the economic challenges facing the United States and the ways that schools could improve society.” This curricula came under attack from conservatives in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the 1940s that this approach was replaced with a patriotic focused curriculum in response the rise of fascism and World War II.
Read the entire history of the textbooks wars here:

History News Network | The Texas Textbook Controversy. It’s Part of a Long, Awful, Tradition.

textbook wars

“The Conservative War on the Humanities” | History News Network

What would happen if we completely abandoned the humanities in higher education? The world would be very bleak! (see interview with Michael S. Roth)

This subject is related to my previous post on public education, but here the focus is on the humanities since much of the animus towards higher education is directed at the humanities. Conservatives insist that they are a luxury that we can no longer afford. This is a new stance in the conservative platform as pointed out by Andrew Hartman, author of A War for the Soul of America. Hartman thinks that new conservative position is “not only because most conservatives now dismiss the value of the humanities,” but  as a product of “the traumatic culture wars, when left and right angrily battled over radically different visions of a humanities education.” Read Hartman’s discussion of this topic here:

History News Network | The Conservative War on the Humanities.

The Culture Wars A Battle for the Soul of America

“This Is What Happens When You Slash Funding for Public Universities” | The Nation

In Arizona the state legislature cut $99 million dollars from the higher education budget, and it is even worse in places like Wisconsin and Louisiana. This trend has been going on for some time, but the economic crisis prompted even more severe cuts to higher education. As Michelle Goldberg notes, many states have begun restoring funding, but “[e]ight Republican-dominated states, however, have kept cutting. Among them are North Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona, Louisiana, and South Carolina.”

What is driving this trend? It is partly political (animus towards the “liberal” academia), partly ideological (absolute devotion to privatization and taxing cutting), and partly financial (the opportunity to make money off of education).

What are the consequences? 1) Higher tuition that will increasingly make college accessible only to the wealthy. 2) University’s are turning to solutions that will harm the long-term quality of education, such as larger class sizes and corporate partnerships that put the focus on making money rather than educating students. 3) There will be less time and money for faculty to do the research that is vital to the health and wealth of our nation. 4) Higher education will start to become more of a job-training program, rather than an educational institution that creates well-rounded and thoughtful citizens in addition to preparing them for their careers. 5) Inequality will increase.

Please read the entire article here:

This Is What Happens When You Slash Funding for Public Universities | The Nation.



History Wars: “Fight over AP U.S. History framework lands in N.J.” | The Auditor |

Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos proposed a resolution (SR128) that would encourage the College Board to alter the AP U.S. history framework, because “the framework the College Board adopted in 2012 ‘reflects a seemingly biased view of American history, overemphasizing the negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting and minimizing many of the positive aspects,'” and that “the new test’s framework ‘does not adequately discuss America’s Founding Fathers, the principles of the Declaration of independents the religious influences on our nation’s history.'” Even though this non-binding resolution is unlikely to pass, the efforts to teach our students a distorted patriotic version of history is troubling. We should be educating and challenging our students, not indoctrinating them. Progress requires an educated and thoughtful citizenry. And it is only by confronting the past honestly that we can actually live up to our ideals.

Fight over AP U.S. History framework lands in N.J. | The Auditor |


“What’s the Point of a Professor?” –

Given the recent attacks on higher education, and the humanities in particular, Mark Bauerlein’s query (“What’s the Point of a Professor?”) is timely.

Reflecting on his own undergraduate education Bauerlein claims, “In our hunger for guidance, we were ordinary. The American Freshman Survey, which has followed students since 1966, proves the point. One prompt in the questionnaire asks entering freshmen about ‘objectives considered to be essential or very important.’ In 1967, 86 percent of respondents checked ‘developing a meaningful philosophy of life,’ more than double the number who said ‘being very well off financially.’ Naturally, students looked to professors for moral and worldly understanding.” This obviously no longer describes undergraduate attitudes. As Bauerlein notes, “finding meaning and making money have traded places. The first has plummeted to 45 percent; the second has soared to 82 percent.”

These changing attitudes have been at the root of the challenges to higher education and they threaten to transform it into a worker program. The stakes couldn’t be higher, but rather than address the larger issues that are driving the changes that he laments, Bauerlein lays the burden of turning the tide on professors. While I agree that we “can’t become a moral authority if you rarely challenge students in class and engage them beyond it,” this alone will not restore the prestige of professors or higher education.

Read the entire article here:

What’s the Point of a Professor? –


Privatizing History | Patrick Stephenson

“An academic view of history that at least tries to be objective is a bit like a public good. We don’t all pay for it. But we all benefit from it. Because a basic grasp of history is, in my view, the foundation of critical thinking and democratic governance. But if history is a public good, we’re witnessing its privatization. The past has become a commodity that can be manufactured, packaged and sold to audiences eager to hear a good story that justifies their policies and their prejudices.” Wise words from Patrick Stephenson. Will we listen?

Read his article here:

Privatizing History | Patrick Stephenson.


“One nation under God”? Not when it comes to distributing Gideon Bibles to public schools –

Author of “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” Kevin M. Kruse reviews the history of Gideon bibles from their origins to their distribution in public schools. Based on this history, Kruse concludes that “[t]he concept of ‘one nation under God’ had seemed a simple, elegant way to bring together the citizens of a broadly religious country, but at the local level, as the Gideons had discovered, Americans were anything but united.” Read the entire article here:

“One nation under God”? Not when it comes to distributing Gideon Bibles to public schools –


A Political Crackdown at University of North Carolina – The New Yorker

In a recent article at the New Yorker, Jedediah Purdy examined the role of politics in the recent elimination of three centers and institutes at the University of North Carolina, most notably the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, by the board of governors. This article exposes the real reasons for the attacks on higher education, not just at UNC, but nationally. As Purdy explains, “Republican politics in North Carolina are characterized by a tight interweaving of elected officials with think tanks and advocacy groups.” One of those groups is the Pope Center, which “defines its mission as to ‘increase the diversity of ideas’ on campus and ‘encourage respect for the institutions that underlie economic prosperity,’ including ‘private property,’ ‘competition,’ and ‘limits on government.’”

In one of its reports the Pope Center “devote[ed] a great deal of attention to programs dedicated to ‘the morality of capitalism,’ which have been founded at sixty-two public and private colleges and universities. Many of these programs…were funded over the past fifteen years by North Carolina-based BB&T Bank, under its former president John Allison, who is now the C.E.O. of the Cato Institute. In a 2012 statement, Allison explained that he funded the programs to ‘retake the universities’ from ‘statist/collectivist ideas.’ He also noted that training students in the morality of capitalism is ‘clearly in our shareholders’ long-term best interest.’”

This is only one of many think tanks and special interest groups that has spent a lot of time and money to undermine public education (K-12 and higher education) as we know it. One of the most successful has been the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which, according to their website, “works to advance limited government, free markets and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.” (to see some of its model legislation on education see ALEC Exposed) These political groups have allies in the religious community who would also like to see the destruction of public education as well. Recent legislation pushed by Republican-controlled state legislatures has already greatly benefited these religious groups as money designated for public education is funneled into private religious schools through voucher programs (see The New York Times).

Republican governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory, declared that his goal was to “reform and adapt the U.N.C. brand to the ever-changing competitive environment of the twenty-first century” and therefore called for “skills and subjects employers need.” And that “[o]ur universities should not be used to indoctrinate our students to become liberals or conservatives, but should teach a diversity of opinions which will allow our future leaders to decide for themselves.” But this rhetoric is only meant to mask their real goal to perpetuate a status quo that preserves and increases the power and wealth of the 1%.

A Political Crackdown at University of North Carolina – The New Yorker.