I decided at the start of the summer that I was going to attempt a big course redesign for my fall US history surveys—the introduction to American history courses that I teach at UNCA.
I’ve been playing with around big new teaching ideas in my head for a while now, but at UNCA the case for making some changes seemed particularly urgent. The UNCA history department is rare because they speed through American history at a double clip. Each survey course—the one before the Civil War, and the other after it—is just seven weeks long, and just 2 credit hours. Teaching this sequence last year, I felt there was a disconnect between the limitation of this format and the way I was teaching the course.
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I’m a cultural historian. I’m not a theorist, a philosopher, nor a political scientist. But I’m intensely interested in the question of how people got so confused about the difference between capitalism and a “free market economy.” The question gets to the heart of confusion over other definitions: capitalism, anti-capitalism, and socialism, specifically. And it thus raises broader questions about language and who has the power to shape narratives and epistemes. So I think it’s worth diving into.
So here are my thoughts on why it’s wrong to conflate capitalism and “free markets.” Fair warning: these are in some ways a repetition of and an extension of thoughts I posted here a few years ago, so it’s not entirely new.
I don’t think I’ll be throwing out my gradebook, at least for now.
I liked experimenting with the specifications grading (or “specs grading”) model for a semester—I wrote about it first here—and I still think there is much to say for the approach. But there are also some drawbacks, and I want to write about some of those here. Then I’ll write briefly about my attempt to give rubrics a try in lieu of specs grading. Continue reading “Should I Throw Out My Gradebook? Part Two: Not for Now”→
I’ve gotten in the habit of writing about some of my essays here when they go live, so I thought I’d share some random thoughts about my latest, “‘Sometimes a Bee Can Move an Ox’: Biblical Epics and One Man’s Quest to Promote Jewish Values in Blacklist-Era Hollywood,” now online at the journal Modern American History (MAH), which, in a reflection of the paper’s provenance, still sits in my computer in a folder labeled “Hail Caesar Project.” I like to write these postmortems just to get some of my thinking on the record, so to speak, but if you’ve already read the essay and might like to know a little more, please do read along. Continue reading “Postmortem on My “Hail Caesar Project””→