Your next book title: The Making of America and the Making of America

Masters of EmpireDefiance of the PatriotsI’m now reading an advance copy of Mike McDonnell’s wonderful, soon-to-be-released Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America (2015).  And recently, in a conversation with Cody Osterman (one our fine ACS grad students, as well as a funny guy), we were talking about Ben Carp’s fine Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (2010).  Which got us thinking, how many books have that in the subtitle?  And what does it all mean? Read more

Heaven rejoices, angels dance, sunshine everywhere: Fighting over the Founders officially released today!

The world celebrates!

That’s right folks, our long national nightmare wait is over!  Fighting over the Founders is officially released and available today, January 26, 2015.

My advice is to get one in ebook form (to have on your device of choice, wherever you are), and two in hard copy (one to read, underline, dogear, and cherish, the other for archival purposes).  Then buy a dozen more to distribute to friends.  Otherwise, how will they know you really love them?

Where can you purchase this revelatory, provocative, brilliant, poignant, life-changing tome, you ask?  Anywhere you want to, including NYU Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, Google Play, or an independent bookstore near you.

Emotional learning with Reacting to the Past

Last semester I ran an entire class organized around three Reacting to the Past (RTP) games.  For those of who unfamiliar with RTP, it’s a curriculum that introduces students to major ideas and texts through a highly detailed, intense role-playing format to replicate the historical contexts in which these ideas acquired significance. These games are interdisciplinary, involving not only humanities but often social science and even STEM topics — and they require active learning in which the students are motivated to excel. Simply put, it’s the most fun and the most engaged learning I’ve been able to foster in the classroom.  But more than that, it also engages students’ emotions, in a way that education has historically neglected, and, at least in the United States, we need more than ever. Read more

Annual faculty merit evaluations: rewarding productivity, or forcing mediocrity?

As with many university administrations, ours is deeply concerned with faculty productivity.  There’s a prevailing attitude among upper administrators and, apparently, our Board of Trustees, that surely there are many faculty somewhere on campus not doing their jobs, especially in terms of research.  Accordingly, the administration insisted on several principles in our contracts: continuing to have at least some part of compensation based upon merit, having fine gradations in the policies, and having merit based only on one-year scores as opposed to the three-year averages.  One could say, hey, if you’re being productive, then what’s the worry?

Here’s the worry: the question is not whether faculty are being productive, but what kinds of things faculty are doing.  And going to this new regime, if it’s not done well, will reward a constant stream of mediocre, comparatively meaningless work and punish risk-taking and long-term projects, precisely where academics are most moved forward. Read more

Buzzed on Research

Yards Thomas Jefferson's Tavern AleResearch can be boring, draining, sometimes physically or emotionally exhausting.  For previous projects, I’ve logged weeks worth of time doing data entry, and have had students  who have dealt with such topics as rape and infanticide, and the appearance of cannibalism (soon to be published with NYU Press!).  Every once in a while, though, research can become a delightful adventure in ways one would not expect no more so than on a steamy afternoon in Philadelphia in 2011, much like the ones during the summer of ’76. Read more