Tuesday, May 08, 2007


A handful of quick hits while I try to catch up on life:

Over at Open University Casey Blake addresses Barack Obama's recent invocation of Reinhold Neibuhr (much to the delight of David Brooks) and shows why Obama's usage of the author of, inter alia, Moral Man and Immoral Society is both refreshing and problematic. Neibuhr played such an interesting role as an intellectual model to the Civil Rights Movement that it is always nice to see him discussed in the public sphere.

Over at Cliopatria Tim Burke presents a spirited defense against on of the silly tropes that conservatives love to invoke about African independence. Burke's argument is a bit roundabout, but is smart and provides an example of why people who know about Africa need to talk about it in the public sphere.

Also at Cliopatria, Rebecca Anne Goetz argues that the AHA's policies on gender tokenism are stupid.

At TNR Jonathan Chait is curious as to why Republicans get the, to quote Carla Tortelli, screaming thigh sweats over tough-talkers.

And, with a Hat Tip to Ralph at Clio (obviously you may just want to go over and see what's been going on at Cliopatria these days), I'd like to provide you with David Noon's "Conservative Sob Stories," a spirited takedown of the Mark Moyer's (or at least of some of those who have claimed to be his defenders') claims that he has gone unhired because he is conservative. I believe in intellectual and political diversity in the academy and I buy into the idea that one way that such diversification might happen would be to return military, diplomatic, and political history to their rightful place at the table. But there is no bigger line of bullshit than when someone tells you they were rejected for a job because of their politics. Now they may well have been rejected for that reason -- but the person so rejected has no idea if that is the case. Because if you are a historian working in the 20th century, no matter your subfields, you competed against anywhere between 75 and 500 people for that one job slot. And no search committee that has ever rejected me or that I have sat on that rejected others has given any indication of why I or others did not receive the job. And yet these assertions are presented as fact because there are conservatives who are willing to accept such accusations in order to bolster larger arguments about a supposedly leftist academy bent on shoving their politics down people's throats. (Funny how conservatives do not want us to probe deeply into the politics of engineering or business professors.)

The reality is that politics rank way down the line of things almost any search committee even has time to consider and on the two occasions in my own admittedly limited experience on the search committee side of the table when anything even approaching someone's politics came up, in the first case a senior professor said "let's not even go there. It's none of our business." In the other case we looked to defend a potentially conservative candidate who was our first choice (and who ultimately never ended up at the job). And these cases happened at two different schools with very different cultures. I'm not naive enough to say that the politicization of search committees never happens, but I will assert that it is one of these snuff fantasies that conservatives have about the academy that are out of all proportion to reality.

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