U.S. History Survey—Redesign Diary

Man, I hate it when I get a classroom that looks like this. (pexels.com)

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.

Continue reading “U.S. History Survey—Redesign Diary”

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What’s the difference between capitalism and free markets?

This market doesn’t look too bad. (pexels.com)

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.

Continue reading “What’s the difference between capitalism and free markets?”

How the Hollywood Blacklist Gave Us the Term “Witch Hunt”—And Why the Phrase Would Be Best Forgotten

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Daniel Day Lewis stars as John Proctor in the 1996 film adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

Editor’s Note: Before you read this post, here’s a weird story about how it was almost published elsewhere.

I initially wrote this essay, and sent it off to various online publications to see if it might be posted somewhere a little more prolific than my humble WordPress site. After many solicitations, I found an editor that was interested, who emailed me to say that they “would be delighted” to publish the essay on their website. That editor and his publication will remain nameless, but suffice it to say it was the website of a relatively venerable magazine of the left. Continue reading “How the Hollywood Blacklist Gave Us the Term “Witch Hunt”—And Why the Phrase Would Be Best Forgotten”

Should I Throw Out My Gradebook? Part Two: Not for Now

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”

Postmortem on My “Hail Caesar Project”

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Gee, thanks Robert Picardo playing the rabbi in Hail, Caesar! (2016/Working Title Films)

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””