Friday, December 21, 2012

Opportunity to Study Arabic

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations sponsors a six week summer program to study the Arabic language at the Lebanese American University in Beirut.  It even seems relatively affordable. You'd want to watch the situation in neighboring Syria closely, but here's the link for more information:

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Critique of Social Studies

In this provocative article in the City Journal, Michael Knox Beran investigates the origin and aims of social studies to argue that this "pseudo-discipline" should no longer be taught in our schools.  Here's the basic reason why: 

The test of an educational practice is its power to enable a human being to realize his own promise in a constructive way. Social studies fails this test. Purge it of the social idealism that created and still inspires it, and what remains is an insipid approach to the cultivation of the mind, one that famishes the soul even as it contributes to what Pope called the “progress of dulness.” It should be abolished.

And in this passage, he gives some powerful examples of what the social studies approach does:  

Social studies, because it is designed not to waken but to suppress individuality, shuns all but the most rudimentary and uninspiring language. Social studies textbooks descend constantly to the vacuity of passages like this one, from People and Places:
Children all around the world are busy doing the same things. They love to play games and enjoy going to school. They wish for peace. They think that adults should take good care of the Earth. How else do you think these children are like each other? How else do you think they are like you?
The language of social studies is always at the same dead level of inanity. There is no shadow or mystery, no variation in intensity or alteration of pitch—no romance, no refinement, no awe or wonder. A social studies textbook is a desert of linguistic sterility supporting a meager scrub growth of commonplaces about “community,” “neighborhood,” “change,” and “getting involved.” Take the arid prose in Our Communities:
San Antonio, Texas, is a large community. It is home to more than one million people, and it is still growing. People in San Antonio care about their community and want to make it better. To make room for new roads and houses, many old trees must be cut down. People in different neighborhoods get together to fix this by planting.
It might be argued that a richer and more subtle language would be beyond third-graders. Yet in his Third Eclectic Reader, William Holmes McGuffey, a nineteenth-century educator, had eight-year-olds reading Wordsworth and Whittier. His nine-year-olds read the prose of Addison, Dr. Johnson, and Hawthorne and the poetry of Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Southey, and Bryant. His ten-year-olds studied the prose of Sir Walter Scott, Dickens, Sterne, Hazlitt, and Macaulay and the poetry of Pope, Longfellow, Shakespeare, and Milton.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Want to Learn a New Language?

In case you are interested in studying a language not taught at AU, a good way to pick it up is by securing a CLS language study scholarship. So, if Hindi, Turkish, or Korean, or another of the thirteen rarely-taught languages is your thing, go to to begin your application. CLS's deadline is Nov. 1, 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Latin Caroling

Latin students (directed by Dr. Edith Foster) sing Christmas Carols this morning in Mishler House (the Ashbrook dorm in Andrews Hall).  Listen to Adeste Fidelis as Julius Caesar would have sung it!  It may not come through in the video, but Dr. Moser has a potential third career as a vocalist.

The Carolers:

Best dressed Christmas elves:

AU - a Top Over-Performer

And now for some good news!  US News and World Report has ranked Ashland University as one of 16 "most over-performing colleges" in the country. Scroll down to the slide show; AU is the second one listed! See here. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Latine Cantemus

Dr. Edith Foster's Latin class will be singing Latin Christmas Carols in Mishler House (third floor of Andrews Hall) on Wednesday, December 5th at 9:15am. Please join us if you can.  Bonus, actually, double bonus: some German carols will also be sung and there will be donuts.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Are Students Conservatives (at least in class)?

That students are "old school" about what happens in the classroom is one interesting apparent finding in a large study done recently in Quebec. According to a survey of 15,000 undergraduate students and more than 2,500 instructors,

University students prefer the “old school” approach of an engaging lecture over the use of the latest technological bells and whistles in the classroom. That was a finding in a recent study of the perceptions of students and professors in Quebec on the use of information and communications technologies, or ICTs, in higher learning.
“Students are old school – they want lectures. They want to listen to a professor who’s engaging, who’s intellectually stimulating and who delivers the content to them,” says Vivek Venkatesh, associate dean of academic programs and development in the school of graduate studies at Concordia University. 
Dr. Venkatesh says this goes against much of what he hears at professional development workshops that stress interactive learning strategies, often using technology.
See a longer story here (with a link to the whole study). 

Why Learn a Foreign Language?

The Department of History and Political Science is the only Department at AU (outside the Foreign Language Department, of course) that requires its majors to study a foreign language. There are many reasons for this requirement, but here are some of them:    

  1. It’s just better to know a second language.
  2. It’s a job skill: employers recognize – and often reward – competence in a second language.
  3. Language study is good exercise for your memory.
  4. With a second language you will be able to converse with Dr. Paddags in a language other than English.
  5. It’s useful when travelling.
  6. An eminent scholar once told a class I was taking, “You can’t be a competent student of political philosophy unless you know Greek.”
  7. You will be able to read what was actually written in foreign books and historical sources, not something filtered by a translator.
  8. Language study can help you to separate ideas from the words in which they are expressed (which helps you think more clearly).
  9. Emulate the American Founders, many of whom knew French, Latin, and often Greek
  10. Learn that the pluperfect subjunctive passive is a real thing.
  11. Studying the grammar of a foreign language may improve your logic (which helps you think more clearly) and your English, both written and spoken.   
  12. Foreign language study helps you understand the categories of your own thinking (which, again, helps you think more clearly). 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Useful Liberal Arts

William G. Durden is another in a long string of very successful people to attribute a successful career to a liberal arts education, in this case, one that included courses in political science.  Now president of Dickinson College, Mr. Durden has been, among other things, a military officer, the founder of an athletic team, a senior consultant to the U.S. Department of State, and a corporate officer at two publicly traded companies. Here is what he says at Inside Higher Ed: 

I gained competency through independent reading, experience and observation. I appreciated that the breadth of knowledge and the depth of cognitive skill that my undergraduate courses in social science, political science, art and science prepared me for any field of professional pursuit. I was prepared for professional chance.  I knew how to ask the right questions, how to gather information, how to make informed decisions, how to see connections among disparate areas of knowledge, how to see what others might miss, how to learn quickly the basics of a profession, how to discern pertinent information from that which is false or misleading, how to judge good, helpful people from those who wish you ill. All of this I gathered in a useful liberal education — in and out of the classroom — and in an intense residential life where experimentation with citizenship and social responsibility were guiding principles.

Read the rest of his article a

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another Defense of the Liberal Arts

Vivek Ranadive, one of those super successful computing entrepreneurs, argues in Forbes that "A Liberal Arts Degree is More Valuable Than Learning Any Trade."  One proof: the market cap of Apple beats the market cap of Microsoft. And, as a bonus, Paul Cohen critiques Lawrence Summers, the former President of Harvard University, who earlier this year argued that it is a waste of time for English speakers to learn a foreign language.  See here..

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Senior Teaching Experience

Henry Wessel (Integrated Social Studies, 2013) is doing his senior teaching experience at Sangaree Middle School in Goose Creek, Berkeley County SC. He's teaching seventh grade world history, and says he loves it. (And who wouldn't, in a place with that name?)  Teachers in training at Ashland University spend a whole semester in the classroom in their senior year, as well as a significant block of time in their junior year.  Note the discreet allusions to AU on Henry's water bottle and lanyard.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Sam DiRocco II, who has been teaching various courses for the Department over the past few years, has just passed an important milestone: he successfully defended his dissertation and will have his doctoral degree conferred in December.  The soon to be Dr. DiRocco graduated from Ashland University in 2003 with a degree in History (and a minor in political science).  He graduates from the University of Toledo and the title of his dissertation is “In the Shadow of Steel: Leetonia, Ohio and Independent Iron Manufacturers in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys, 1845 – 1920”.  Congratulations!

Present Your Research at Walsh University

On April 27, 2013 Walsh University will host a conference designed for undergraduate students of political science and international relations.  Interested students are invited to present a paper or poster in any subfield of the discipline.  This is a good chance to present a paper, meet other students interested in politics, and to meet some professors from other schools. If you want to be a presenter, you must register by April 5, 2013 and your papers are due by April 18. Travel grants are available for students presenting a paper or poster.  Breakfast and lunch are included and free lodging is available for those who need it.  Ashbrook thesis writers, this might be a good opportunity for you to present part of your thesis research.  Talk to Dr. (David) Foster for more information.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Any Hope for the Humanities in a Technological World?

Yes, lots, according to this article by Michael Malone in the Wall Street Journal (if you don't subscribe to the WSJ, type "How to Avoid a Bonfire of the Humanities" into a search engine and open one of the links: that should give you complementary access to the article). Malone relates a story about  Santosh Jayaram, "the quintessential Silicon Valley high-tech entrepreneur", who visited his writing class. Instead of telling the students to switch majors, which is what Malone feared would happen, Jayaram said that "English majors are exactly the people I'm looking for."  It's apparently easy today to get the technical side of new products (such as iPhone apps) done: "that work can be contracted out to hungry teams of programmers anywhere in the world, who can do it in a couple of weeks."  What is difficult is to tell customers and investors such good stories that they can imagine the product already exists and how they might use it in their daily lives. Says Jayaram, "the battleground in business has shifted from engineering, which everybody can do, to storytelling, for which many fewer people have real talent." That's why he wanted to meet English majors, because they can tell stories.  But here's the good news for students in other majors, like history and political science:
"We assume that this will be a century of technology. But if the competition in tech moves to this new battlefield, the edge will go to those institutions that can effectively employ imagination, metaphor, and most of all, storytelling. And not just creative writing, but every discipline in the humanities, from the classics to rhetoric to philosophy. Twenty-first-century storytelling: multimedia, mass customizable, portable and scalable, drawing upon the myths and archetypes of the ancient world, on ethics, and upon a deep understanding of human nature and even religious faith."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Studying the EU in France

This past summer Victorialyn (International Political Studies, 2014; she's in the middle) was one of nineteen international students who studied the European Union during a four-week program with ESSCA, a private university located in Angers, France. She took classes on European Politics, European Economics, and French Culture and Communication while also visiting related historical and cultural sites such as Normandy Beach and a vineyard. The class also visited the major institutions of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium and finished off our trip in Paris just in time for Bastille Day. "Studying in France and being surrounded by French culture," comments Victorialyn, "was not only a childhood dream fulfilled, but it has inspired me to write my Ashbrook Thesis on the European Union."

Here is the whole class:

Friday, September 28, 2012

A Career in Survey Research?

At this point in the Presidential election it sometimes feels like public opinion polls will determine who the next chief executive will be.  Want to be a player in that field?  It's not a bad option for majors in History or Political Science. 

Representatives from the University of Michigan's Program in Survey Methodology will be attending the 2012 Ashland University Graduate School Van-A-Fair on Thursday, October 4, 2012, 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in the Upper Convo-Alumni Room.

The University of Michigan Program in Survey Methodology offers programs of study at the doctoral, master's, and certificate levels. The PhD and MS programs prepare students for careers in private and academic survey research firms, government agencies, and corporations. The certificate program is designed to provide students with specialized knowledge in survey methodology to enhance skills in current positions and to expand career opportunities.

If you have questions, email Patsy Gregory, the student administrative assistant of the program, t

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Internship in the US Senate

Johanna (History and Political Science, 2014) had an internship this summer in Senator John Kerry's office in Washington, D.C. She expected to be sorting mail and making copies, but things turned out much better than that.  Johanna was charged with keeping track of hearings and briefings and ended up attending quite a few Senate Foreign Relations Committee meetings, especially those at which Ambassadors were nominated.  She also got to meet and greet various visiting diplomats from foreign countries and fact checked one of the Senator's important speeches on the environment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Job Opportunity for Social Studies Teachers

The Allendale County School District in South Carolina is looking for teachers in several areas, including Secondary Social Studies.   The district's website can be seen here.  You can also contact:

Kedra A. Rivers, Ed.S.
Director of Personnel
Allendale County School District
3249 Allendale-Fairfax Highway
P.O. Box 458
Allendale, S.C. 29810
(803) 584-4603 Ext. 1115
Fax: (803) 584-5303.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Very Unusual Experience Abroad

This summer, after studying for some time in Korea, Megan (History, 2013)  volunteered to work at Elephant Nature Park ( in Thailand for two weeks.  The elephants at the park were all rescued elephants who had escaped the brutality of the logging and the tourism industries.  Elephants are considered as livestock under Thai laws, and therefore are not protected, and these  elephants could not be released into the wild.

Megan says that she "worked as an elephant volunteer: I helped build fences around the park, cleaned the elephant pens (yes, shoveling elephant poop...), picked fruit in the forest, unloaded and washed large trucks of elephant food, chopped down 10-foot bamboo grass with machetes, planted trees with the hill tribe people, etc.  ...We would only feed and bathe the elephants for about an hour each day.  At the end of my first week though, I got the unique opportunity to work with a newborn (about eight hours old when it arrived) elephant", (which had been rejected by its mother).... "It was the first time the park had rescued a newborn."  She says that "it was truly a blessing to be able to work with such a precious creature."  Sadly, due to bad health (the baby didn't get it's mother's original milk and therefore had no immune system), inadequate medical care, and lack of the proper equipment, the baby died the week after Megan left. 

"Overall," Megan says, "I would say that my experience in Thailand was extraordinary.  It had its ups and downs ... but both Thailand and the elephants themselves were absolutely beautiful.  I had the time of my life."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who Killed the Liberal Arts?

Joseph Epstein has written a very interesting, if somewhat depressing article on the liberal arts.  It's part book review (of Andrew Delbanco's book, "College: What IT Was, IS, and Should Be") and part memoir based on 30 years of teaching, but a nice reminder of what a liberal arts education should be.   You can read the whole thing here at the Weekly Standard. A couple of useful statements from the article:

At the University of Chicago I read many books, none of them trivial, for the school in those years did not allow the work of second- or third-rate writers into its curriculum. Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Jack Kerouac, Adrienne Rich, or their equivalents of that day, did not come close to making the cut. No textbooks were used. You didn’t read “Karl Marx postulated .  .  .”; you read Karl-bloody-Marx. The working assumption was that one’s time in college is limited, and mustn’t be spent on anything other than the first-rate, or on learning acquired (as with textbooks) at a second remove.

The death of liberal arts education would constitute a serious subtraction. Without it, we shall no longer have a segment of the population that has a proper standard with which to judge true intellectual achievement. Without it, no one can have a genuine notion of what constitutes an educated man or woman, or why one work of art is superior to another, or what in life is serious and what is trivial. The loss of liberal arts education can only result in replacing authoritative judgment with rivaling expert opinions, the vaunting of the second- and third-rate in politics and art, the supremacy of the faddish and the fashionable in all of life. Without that glimpse of the best that liberal arts education conveys, a nation might wake up living in the worst, and never notice.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Patrick Deneen on Teaching the Great Books

Patrick Deneen recently gave a speech at UT-Austin on teaching the Great Books. Below is the link to  his poetic argument; an appropriate reminder of our aims as our students are arriving on campus.

What I Saw in America: Against Great Books

Monday, July 2, 2012

History Over There

My travels took me by chance to a small town in Northern Germany, Blomberg. While we were taking a break, I noticed a monument commemorating the Franco-Prussian War in 1870/71.

The inscriptions read: "In memory of the glorious war 1870-1871 and the establishment of the German Empire." The backside reads: "Died a Hero's Death for the Fatherland" and then lists the local men who gave their lives. Note the attempts to scratch out the words "glorious war" and "German Empire".
Also, a sign next to the war monument explains the war monument: "The terms 'glorious war' and 'hero's death for the fatherland' are an expression of spirit of the times, which was dominated by militarism and nationalism. Today, our thoughts and actions are not motivated by this ideological exaggeration of war and its tragic consequences."

This monument used to stand on "Hindenburgplatz", which another sign states has been changed to "Am Martiniturm" in 2010 due to "Hindenburg's basic anti-democratic position and active support of the Nazi's rise to power".

My children, however, cared for none of it and instead enjoyed the see-saw next to the monument.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Revenge of the Liberal Arts Major

That's the title of a report on a new survey of the hiring practices of 225 employers.

Referring to "those of us who got some parental grief over our college choice," the author notes that the survey is interesting for "the apparent love being shown for liberal arts majors. Thirty percent of surveyed employers said they were recruiting liberal arts types, second only to the 34 percent who said they were going after engineering and computer information systems majors. Trailing were finance and accounting majors, as only 18 percent of employers said they were recruiting targets.

"The No. 1 skill that employers are looking for are communication skills and liberal arts students who take classes in writing and speaking," said Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding and an expert on Generation Y. "They need to become good communicators in order to graduate with a liberal arts degree. Companies are looking for soft skills over hard skills now because hard skills can be learned, while soft skills need to be developed."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Arie Lipsky's Commencement Address

This past weekend, Ashland's graduating class got to hear that rarest of things - a really great Commencement address.  It was given by Arie Lipsky.  The son of a Holocaust survivor, a former aerospace engineer, and a former Israeli Tank commander, Mr. Lipsky's passion has always been music, and he is now the maestro of the Ashland Symphony Orchestra (as well as of the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra). His speech, which was woven around several verses of "Amazing Grace", recounted the story of his father's survival in the concentration camps and of his own path to music and America.  In reminding us of the evil that men can do, he also revealed the amazing great hope that America at its best still represents. You can read an account of the speech here, but I haven't been able to find the full text anywhere.

Is the Study of History Useless?

With all the emphasis in higher education nowadays on "practical skills", "value added" courses, and so on, it is worthwhile remembering some basic truths. Here is one that crossed my desk from Brian Hamilton, CEO and Co-founder of Sageworks, a financial analysis firm:

"In preparation for a career in business, or for life generally, I can think of no more suitable academic major than history. History is the study of people, what they do, and why they do it: the perspective that's necessary for future success."
That's clear, simple, and to the point. In these ways, it reminds me of the statement by Edward Shils, distinguished service professor at the University of Chicago, that the task of the university is "the discovery and teaching of truths about serious and important things."

Spring 2012 Baccalaureate Address

Professor Jeffrey Sikkenga, from History and Political Science, gave the Baccalaureate address this year at the Spring graduation ceremonies.  It contains a nice reflection on the true meaning of leisure. Here is the talk:

Whatever Things are Noble

It is a real pleasure to be with you tonight at this wonderful event. What a great weekend for you students, and it’s wonderful to see so many of your family and friends. I’ve had a number of these students in class, and I always wonder where they got their crazy ideas – now I know.

This weekend is a time for joy when you will hear plenty of congratulations for your accomplishments; and you deserve them. But rather than praise you for what you have done and what you are gaining, I want to warn you about what you are in danger of losing. Then I want to offer a few thoughts about how you may endeavor not to lose it.

Our Scripture text this evening comes from the fourth chapter of the Apostle Paul’s "Letter to the Philippians." As many of you know, Paul writes this "Letter" from a prison in Rome to the church at Philippi, which had been particularly generous and faithful to his instruction. They cared about God’s truth and they wanted to live in its light. In other words, they had been good students. Even more, Paul says, they had become what he calls his "beloved… brethren" (Philippians 4:1).

End of Year Honors

Several graduating History and/or Political Science majors won end of year honors this year.

First of all, Caitlin Dalton was the University's Salutatorian.

Nick Granitz won the Howard Rowe Award for best Honors thesis for writing "Heracles and the Foundings of Sparta and Rome."

Finally, and by no means least, four students won the Ashbrook Scholar program's Parton Statesmanship Award for excellent theses:

Becky Brown for "A History of the Anglo-American Special Relationship"
Alyssa Bornhorst for "Noise Pollution: The Effects of Rock Music on a Liberal Education"
James Velasquez for "Boundless Vision: A Reading of Plato's Symposium"
Dantan Wernecke for "The Happy Empire: Aristotle, Publius, and the American Regime"

You can see these and the Parton Award winners from past years here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Antietam Field Trip

On the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, twelve students and two faculty members from Ashland University visited Sharpsburg, MD. Arriving late Friday night on the campground near Burnside's Bridge, we set up our tents, started a fire, and had a beautiful dinner under the stars. Before everyone got a good night's rest, we got an introduction to the battle by listening to presentations from Robert E. Lee, George McClellan, and Edwin Stanton. The next morning, we broke camp and began our seven hour tour of the battleground. In the picture below you see us at Bloody Lane where the most ferocious fighting took place during the bloodiest day in American history.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Possible Career Lead for Teachers

I recently got this email from "Match Education", a company that prepares recent graduates to become outstanding teachers: 

Match Corps: Merrimack Valley is a full-time, 10.5-month urban education math tutoring fellowship in two high schools in the Merrimack Valley. We are hiring 50 smart, idealistic, relentless people to work during the 2012-2013 school year. Each Fellow works during the school day with two students at a time for five periods a day, and will have a personal caseload of 12 students all year long. Fellows not only will drive student achievement by providing individualized instruction, but will also build personal and meaningful relationships with urban students and their families during this pioneer year of service.

This opportunity is for math teachers, but Match Corps prepares students in all fields.  See their website: Match Education.  This looks like a good organization.  Has anyone else heard of them?

Alumni Update - Rebeccah Heinrichs

Rebeccah Heinrichs (Political Science, 2004), who can be seen and heard here participating recently on a panel on President Obama's "open-mic" statement, has just graduated from the U.S. Naval War College with a Master of Arts Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies. Congratulations!  Knowing that she's looking out for us, we can feel a little bit safer.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring is Here?

Ok, today was a dismal day and depressed both the Mehock Relays and the Wendy's Spring Classic tournament, but the azaleas are doing their best to cheer things up.  Good luck to all you majors, and especially the seniors, as you prepare for exams and defend theses.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Legal Internship in Cleveland

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland has an internship available this Summer for students interested in a legal and nonprofit/government career.  This is how Amy Schuster, PHR, Human Resources Generalist, describes the opportunity:

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (Legal Aid) seeks an intern for its Development & Communications Department to work up to 40 hours per week in its downtown Cleveland office this summer. The internship will begin in early June 2012 and last for approximately 12 (or more) weeks. Applications are due by May 4, 2012.

The Development & Communications Department focuses on fundraising from individuals, law firms, corporations and foundations; handles public relations; and conducts media outreach. The development intern will primarily support the Director of Development & Communications. We’d appreciate you circulating this job posting to any of your students who demonstrate interest in both a legal and nonprofit/government career.

Feel free to contact Amy with any questions or for more details. 

Amy Schuster
Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
1223 West Sixth StreetCleveland, OH 44113
(216) 687-1900 main (216) 861-5023 direct

Check out Legal Aid’s website at

Monday, April 16, 2012

Academic Honors Convocation

At the Academic Honors Convocation on the weekend, three students in history and political science were recognized for academic excellence.  Dantan Wernecke, for outstanding senior; Erin Sutter, for outstanding junior; and Joseph Griffith, for outstanding sophomore. Congratulations all! 

Please note that Dantan will be defending his Ashbrook thesis on Thursday (the 19th) at 3pm in the Ashbrook Center.  His topic: "The Happy Empire: Publius, Aristotle, and the American Regime."  The defense is free and open to the public. Next year, Dantan will be pursing his Master's degree in political science at Hillsdale College.

Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year

Our own Dr. Michael Schwarz was named the Outstanding AU male faculty member of the year over the weekend (at the 25th Annual Leadership and Service Recognition Reception, 2011-2012).  Congratulations Michael! It is a well deserved award.  It should also be noted that Dr. Schwarz had some tough competition,  including no fewer than two other faculty members from History and Political Science, Dr. Peter Schramm and Dr. Chris Burkett.  Besides, we had a nominee also in the category of Outstanding female faculty member of the year: Dr. Edith Foster.  Is this an awesome department, or what?  (By the way, the photo shows Dr. Schwarz delivering his very fine keynote address on Thomas Jefferson as the indispensible founder at the recent Phi Alpha Theta conference held at AU.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Study Abroad in Italy

This photo shows a number of History and Political Science majors (and a couple of others) under the gaze of Niccolo Machiavelli in his hometown, Florence, Italy.  The students were participating in the study abroad part of "In the Footsteps of St. Paul," a course run over Spring Break by the Department of Religion.  Thanks to Amy Miller for the photo.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Thesis Season

The first Ashbrook Thesis defense is tomorrow, when Caitlin Dalton defends her thesis at 5:15 in the Ashbrook Center. Her topic is "Let Us Be Terrible": The Character of Law during the Reign of Terror. Defenses are open to the public and they are usually informative and a lot of fun.  You can see the whole schedule here:  All of them are held in the Ashbrook Center.

A Culture of Politicization on Campus

This op-ed by Peter Berkowitz in the Wall Street Journal  (4/1/2012) comments on a new report by the California Association of Scholars called "A Crisis of Competence: the Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California."  (The WSJ requires registration; if you can't get the op-ed, try a Google search, which may give you a free pass.)  Suggesting that UC reflects trends across the country, Berkowitz points out that not only are most professors from one political orientation (17 Democrats to 0 Republicans in the UC Berkeley sociology department, for example, or 31 Democrats to 1 Republican in history), but more importantly, those professors see their task as promoting a political agenda rather than the evenhanded critical examination of evidence and arguments. The result of this approach, as it bears on the study of history and political science?

"None of the nine general campuses in the UC system requires students to study the history and institutions of the United States.  None requires students to study Western civilization, and on seven of the nine UC Campuses, including Berkeley, a survey course in Western civilization is not even offered... In many political science departments majors need not take a course in American politics."

Is that a problem?

Phi Alpha Theta Conference

Congratulations to Dr. John Moser and the student from Phi Alpha Theta for hosting a very successful conference this weekend.  One visiting professor had this to say:

"I wanted to send you (Dr. Moser) a brief note to let you know how much I enjoyed the PAT conference held at Ashland University this past Saturday. The professionalism and collegiality that you and your students (as well as all of the presenters and participants that I met) made this regional a truly remarkable event. It was a pleasure to present my research at this conference!"

And special congratulations to Dantan Wernecke, who won a prize on Saturday for his paper, "The Philosophic Executive: John Adams and the Early Crisis with France."

Monday, March 26, 2012

Praise for the Study of History at AU

In late February, Dr. Martha Kanter, US Undersecretary of Education, spent a whole day at Ashland learning about our programs and speaking to various groups on campus.  In her opening remarks at a Townhall meeting, she praised AU for many things, among which was the following point: "That Ashland University is leading the effort in civics, in the teaching of history, so that students who graduate can have an appreciation of the country in which they live, so lacking in many of our education centers and K-12 schools across the country."  Amen!  It's actually amazing how few colleges and universities teach American history (and, I would add, Western Civilization) with a view to civic education and in a way that inclines one appreciate the country in which we live. It's nice to hear that from such a well placed Federal official. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Book on Thucydides and Herodotus

Edith Foster and her colleague from Ohio Wesleyan University, Donald Lateiner,  have edited a new book of essays arguing that Thucydides read Herodotus (and Homer) and that these authors are closely connected. The cover is from a 16th Century German manuscript illustrating a meeting between Herodotus and Thucydides (as described by Marcellinus in his "Life of Thucydides"). Herodotus is reading his works to the Athenians. The small boy looking on to his immediate left is Thucydides, who is said to have cried upon hearing the reading. For more information about the book, see here: Book.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Internship Opportunity in Ohio

The  district office of Congressman Bob Gibbs is looking for student interns for this spring and/or summer.  The office is located in Zanesville, OH,  famous as the hometown of the semi-eponymously named author Zane Gray, as well as the location of the big animal escape earlier this year. For more information, contact Susan Brinker, Congressman Bob Gibbs, OH 181166 Military Rd., Suite B3, Zanesville, OH 43701.  Telephone: 740.452.2279;  Fax: 740.452.2557.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

FORUM Declares Independence

FORUM, the terrific undergraduate book review at AU has started up its own website, where you can now read all the old reviews and any new ones that will be posted.  Find it here:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Great New Career Search Tool

The AU Career Services office has a great new tool called CareerShift.  Find it here: CareerShift.  Create an account using your AU i.d.  Its easy and once in you can search for jobs or internships in all sorrts of ways to find just what you want. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Forum- Book Reviews Written and Edited by Undergraduate Students - We Were There: Vietnam - Hal Buell, Ed. - Reviewed by Luke Rogers

We Were There: Vietnam. Edited by Hal Buell, New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

ISBN #978-1579125981

Reviewed by Luke Rogers

Ashland University

We Were There: Vietnam is a valuable text for anyone seriously interested in the Vietnam era. In this text, several journalists including Hal Buell, Malcolm W. Browne, and Tim O’Brien combine their testimonies with poignant photographs to help readers reach their own conclusions about warfare, war in the 20th century, and causes for war.

The narrators of We Were There were embedded among American or allied soldiers during the Vietnam War and as a result, their testimonies are excellent evidence of what life was like for the soldiers fighting in Vietnam. For example, Browne recalls an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) attack on a small South Vietnamese village. The ARVN commander leading the attack assured Browne the village he and his men were decimating with automatic assault rifles was situated in sections of the countryside that “[H]ave been Vietcong strongholds for years.”[1] After reading this passage, readers are forced to reflect on the nature of war and specifically, guerilla warfare. Maybe that South Vietnamese hut was actually a Vietcong information center. On the other hand, maybe that ARVN leader needed to report some sort of activity to his superior officers. Maybe those South Vietnamese peasants voluntarily allowed the Vietcong to cache weapons in their hut. However, perhaps the peasants only complied because the Vietcong would kill them if they refused. Browne’s essay does a tremendous job of demonstrating that there are no easy answers. In summation, Browne’s account guides readers into examining the positive and negative consequences of war and considering the specific difficulties associated with guerilla and counter-insurgency tactics.

Buell’s contribution, “The Napalm Girl” discusses the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of Kim Phuc, and makes readers wonder about the marriage between technology and warfare in the 20th century. This text touches on the historically accurate fear that atomic war could erupt at any moment. We Were There also examines the devastating human and environmental effects of napalm. These discussions help examine the maturation of weapons of mass destruction and humankind’s response to that maturation. The illumination of the past helps leads future generations.

Finally, an excerpt from Tim O’Brien’s “If I Die in a Combat Zone” raises questions about the causes of conflict in Southeast Asia. The United States went to war with Japan because Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. However, the question of why the United States went to war in Southeast Asia has divided the scholarly and secular world for decades. Did America go to war to make the world safe for democracy? Did the United States intervene in Southeast Asia in order to preserve “its production of materials that the world needs” [2] as President Eisenhower alleged in a 1954 press conference? The irresolute nature of the Vietnam era is perhaps best surmised by O’Brien. O’Brien asked an experienced soldier in his company of soldiers how many soldiers had been killed or wounded in the company before O’Brien arrived. While his comrade would not have access to exact numbers, he would have been able to estimate effectively. Instead, O’Brien’s mentor answered, “It was best not to worry” [3] and assured O’Brien everything would be fine.

While I would recommend this book, I would recommend it only to mature readers with serious interest in the Vietnam War and warfare in the 20th century. I use the word mature because the graphic photographs of Buddhist monks’ self-immolation in protest of Diem’s repressive religious reforms, the execution style shooting of soldiers and civilians, wounded soldiers during battle, and the searing effects of napalm are not appropriate for children and might disturb casual readers.

[1] Buell, We Were There, 2.

[2] Peters, Gerhard. “The President’s News Conference April 7, 1954.” The American Presidency Project. 1999-2011.

[3] Buell, We Were There 238.

FORUM - A Book Review by and for Undergraduate StudentsThe Vietnam War: A Concise International History - Reviewed by Luke Rogers

The Vietnam War: A Concise International History. Mark Atwood Lawrence, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN #978-0-19-975393

Reviewed by Luke Rogers

Ashland University

The Vietnam War: A Concise International History, attempts to explain the causes, examine the course, and reflect on the consequences of international warfare in Vietnam.

Lawrence introduces his work with several questions, but then gives the text direction by narrowing his thesis to four major questions. For example, “First, what were the basic motives of the Vietnamese who fought against the United States?” [1] Perhaps more importantly, the author establishes positive rapport with readers by affording them intellectual independence. Lawrence concludes the introduction with, “If the book brings greater awareness to ongoing debates over the Vietnam War, its mission will be accomplished. If it sparks interest in further reading about the war and its meaning, so much the better” [2].

Lawrence begins his investigation with a brief summary of foreign intervention in Vietnam. A constant theme is the maturation of Vietnamese nationalism. For example, there was widespread resentment against the Chinese among the different factions of Vietnamese society. That resentment transitioned from the Chinese to the French and eventually to the American presence. Throughout the rest of the text, Lawrence simultaneously analyzes the American, South Vietnamese, Chinese, North Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and Russian rationales for independent and interdependent decisions in warfare and politics. For example, Lawrence explains how American President Lyndon Johnson believed the United States could achieve victory by escalating bombing in North Vietnam and increasing American ground troops in South Vietnam. On the other hand, the North Vietnamese believed they could force an American withdraw by absorbing American fire power and waging successful guerilla campaigns. Lawrence uses this compelling combination to examine all the major events from initial European interloping into Southeast Asia to the fall of Saigon. Lawrence also analyzes the effects of foreign policy and conflict on American domestic culture.

The author is one of America’s leading Vietnam scholars and as a result, the evidence he presents in support of his thesis is reliable and accurate. Lawrence makes his thesis even more compelling by varying the type of evidence he uses to support it. For example, Lawrence utilizes primary sources, secondary sources, photographs, political cartons, and time-specific maps to examine all aspects of the wars in Vietnam. Finally, Lawrence encourages the reader to further verify his thesis by providing extensive footnotes and a continued reading list.

I would recommend this book to any adult interested in the Vietnam era. Lawrence effectively communicates relevant information without burdening the reader with unnecessarily detailed tangents. For example, Lawrence explains necessary military abbreviations such as ARVN, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, LZ, landing zone, and NLF, National Liberation Front, without bombarding the reader with an endless stream of military jargon. Finally, I would recommend this book to any student enrolled in a modern American history and or political science class. In an interesting addendum, Lawrence compares and contrasts the socio-political and military circumstances of yesterday’s Cold War and today’s War on Terror.

[1] Lawrence, The Vietnam War, 4.

[2] Lawrence, The Vietnam War, 6.