Monday, September 30, 2013

An Internship in Intelligence Studies

Hannah Curtis, a double major in History and Political Science, is taking the semester to study intelligence at the Advanced Technical Intelligence Center in Dayton, OH under a partnership with AU.  A few weeks in, she says that taking the program "was one of the best decisions I've made." For the whole program, each student researches and keeps up to date on one particular country while he or she take classes on things like reconnaissance, human intelligence, signals intelligence, "how to write like an analyst", "how to brief like an analyst", and other topics relating to the field of intelligence. Students are a mix of college students, recent graduates, and people who are or were in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Hannah particularly highlights how "everybody works together and shares information ... When we were researching our countries for our papers, I would see so many people go to someone and say something like, 'Hey, you have Iran, right? I just read this article about it, this will be helpful for you.'  It's like watching how the intelligence community is *supposed* to work by sharing information.  It really gives me hope for the future."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Interview with Caitlin Poling

Caitlin Poling, who graduated from AU with a BA in Political Science, International Political Studies, and French, is now the Director of Government Relations at the Foreign Policy Initiative.  In this interview at the "Diplomatic Courier, a Global Affairs Magazine," she talks about her work and America's place in the world.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Skills Thinking" in Higher Education

In “The Poverty of Skills Thinking in Higher Education,” Frank Furedi considers some of the implications of the growing emphasis on “skills” as distinguished from academic knowledge in higher education.  By “skills” is meant training, or those outcomes and abilities needed for the labor market. The essay reflects more of a European experience than a North American one, but the arguments are still thought provoking. Furedi argues, on the one hand, that the emphasis on skills leads to a devaluation of academic knowledge (and the higher level thinking and analytical abilities that are inextricably connected with that knowledge). On the other hand, when knowledge becomes secondary and provides merely a resource for the acquisition of skills the skills themselves become trivialized.  Thus, at one university students can take a “Generic Skills Training Course” to learn how to use an on-line catalog, and doing Google searches is a “Information Technology Skill”.  Other “skills” are enthusiasm and self-confidence. “Something important is lost,” argues Furedi, “when universities adopt the rhetoric and values of a human resources organization.” 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Progressivism and American Foreign Policy

In "Remaking the World: Progressivism and American Foreign Policy," Christopher Burkett, Associate Professor of Political Science at Ashland Univeristy, contrasts the principles of Progressive foreign policy with those of the Founding.  He shows how the Progressives' idealistic foreign policy marked a profound departure from the Founders' emphasis on prudence in the application of just principles.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Different Visions of Education Before and After Compulsory Schooling Laws

In “Formalism Over Function: Compulsion, Courts, andthe Rise of Educational Formalism in America, 1870-1930”, Ethan L. Hutt suggests that the compulsory schooling laws adopted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States transformed the way judges in state courts thought about education.  Prior to the full implementation of these laws the emphasis in judicial decisions was on what children learned and education was treated as being synonymous with learning. The full implementation of the laws, however, coincided with an extraordinary narrowing of the conception of what counted for education – basically, limiting it to a formalistic idea that only what happens in a certain location – a school, which could provide certainty and order - could be education. If this is true and given the great importance of legal thought in American life, is it likely that this change was limited to judges?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Myths About the Middle Ages

Robinson O'Bryan-Bours, who graduated from AU with a degree in Political Science, describes himself as an "entrepreneur who dabbles in wine, film, and technology."  Nice work if you can get it!  Regarding film, he has just published this article on the Five Biggest Myths Hollywood Taught us about the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Michael Zuckert on Slavery in the Constitution

Michael Zuckert, a professor of political science at Notre Dame, gave the annual Constitutional Day Walter Berns lecture at the American Enterprise Institute this year on the topic "Slavery and the Constitution: An immoral compromise?"   Arguing that if we see the Constitutional provisions regarding slavery as the Founders might have seen them, as opposed to how they look from a perspective informed by the Civil War and all the developments and events that led up to that conflict, we see that neither of the two main views - the "neo-Lincolnian" and the "neo-Garrisonian" - is correct.  Prof. Zuckert argues for a third view that he calls "neo-Madisonian".  For the details, watch and hear the lecture here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Civic Case for Improving Education

Jonathan Jacobs argues in the Wall Street Journal (9/17/2013) that "A liberal democracy requires a certain kind of civic culture, one in which citizens understand its distinctive principles and strive to preserve them by addressing issues and one another in a responsible manner. That is essential to the mutual respect at the core of liberal democracy."  The education in question involves certain kinds of specific knowledge (of the kind taught in political science and history) as well as experience of reasoning or reasoned argument as distinct from ideological commitment. 

Here is the whole article: 

Even as the cost of higher education skyrockets, its benefits are increasingly being called into doubt. We're familiar with laments from graduates who emerge from college burdened with student loans and wondering if their studies have prepared them for jobs and careers. A less familiar but even more troubling problem is that their education did not prepare them for responsible civic life. The decline in education means a decline in the ability of individuals—and ultimately the nation as a whole—to address political, social and moral matters in effective, considered ways.

The trouble begins before college. Large numbers of high-school students have faced so few challenges and demands that they are badly underprepared for college courses. Many who go on to four-year colleges seem to need two years of college even to begin to understand what it is to study, read carefully and take oneself seriously as a student. For many students, high-school-level preparation for college is a matter of having high self-esteem and high expectations but little else.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Study World War II in Europe

In June 2014 Professor of History John Moser will lead a two-week tour of some of the most significant World War II-related sites in Western Europe.  Starting in London, participants will visit thirty sites in England, France, Belgium, and Germany.  The tour is open to students and non-students alike, and its estimated price is $3,906.  All those interested in joining should plan on attending one of four meetings -- September 17 and 18 and October 15 and 16.  All four meetings will be held in the Ashbrook Center (8th floor of the Ashland University Library) at 4 pm.  For more information, contact AU's Global Education at

Book Burning at Ashland University?

Yes indeed! On the evening of Monday, September 16, as part of Dr. John Moser's "Renaissance and Reformation" course, Friar Girolamo Savonarola will consign to cleansing flames lewd works of art, heretical books, cosmetics, and other distractions from God. This will take place at the firepit near AU's fraternity houses. 

Ashland's Tuition Cut Analyzed

Here is a useful discussion of the dramatic tuition cut that Ashland and a few other colleges are now attempting: Paper (Tuition) Cuts.

Philosophy Matters

In Russia, a philosophic dispute over Immanuel Kant escalated and led to one of the disputants getting shot. While this could show that philosophy is taken much more seriously in Russia, it could also mean that Kant is much more despised in Russia than in most of the rest of the world. I would really like to know what they were arguing about; the categorical imperative? the Ding-an-sich? perpetual peace?

Read the news for yourself here:

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Honors Concentration in Western Civilization?

Now, that would be a program worth considering and one that could be supported by faculty from almost all areas of the university.  It is the good idea of a group of people who started an interesting new Institute for the Study of Western Civilization at Texas Tech.  See the story, and an argument for why Western Civilization is worth studying and preserving, here.

Defending the Humanities

In the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier aptly argues that the humanities cannot be subsumed by science. The argument is quite sophisticated and not for the faint-hearted, but worth your while, especially when you are just now taking a Western Civ course.

MOOAs - Real Change in Higher Education?

Forget MOOCs--Let's Use MOOA - that is, Massive Open Online Administrations. Noticing the remarkable similarities among colleges in the way they market themselves, write strategic plans, and so forth, Political Scientist Benjamin Ginsberg argues that billions of dollars could be saved by eliminating most college and university administrations and adopting one online administration for all. The original can be found here, but here is the article:

By Benjamin Ginsberg
As colleges begin using massive open online courses (MOOC) to reduce faculty costs, a Johns Hopkins University professor has announced plans for MOOA (massive open online administrations). Dr. Benjamin Ginsberg, author of The Fall of the Faculty, says that many colleges and universities face the same administrative issues every day. By having one experienced group of administrators make decisions for hundreds of campuses simultaneously, MOOA would help address these problems expeditiously and economically. Since MOOA would allow colleges to dispense with most of their own administrators, it would generate substantial cost savings in higher education.
"Studies show that about 30 percent of the cost increases in higher education over the past twenty-five years have been the result of administrative growth," Ginsberg noted. He suggested that MOOA can reverse this spending growth.  "Currently, hundreds, even thousands, of vice provosts and assistant deans attend the same meetings and undertake the same activities on campuses around the U.S. every day," he said.  "Imagine the cost savings if one vice provost could make these decisions for hundreds of campuses."
Asked if this "one size fits all" administrative concept was realistic given the diversity of problems faced by thousands of schools, Ginsberg noted that a "best practices" philosophy already leads administrators to blindly follow one another's leads in such realms as planning, staffing, personnel issues, campus diversity, branding and, curriculum planning. The MOOA, said Ginsberg, would take "best practices" a step further and utilize it to realize substantial cost savings.

Excellent Resource on the Slave Trade

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is an excellent resource for all kinds of information on the slave trade.  There are useful maps and a large searchable database.  Find it here:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Are Social Scientists Bad Writers?

Paul Jump, writing in Times Higher Education (August 29, 2013), reports on a study that found that the greater the number of adjectives and adverbs in academic writing, the harder it is to read. Obscure writing can be found everywhere, but the author of the study fingered social science papers as having the highest density of adverbs and adjectives; and within that area, political science academic papers are in particular "full of meaningless words that only add ornament and subtract the meaning."  Ouch!  So, read - and imitate - Thucydides, a writer who uses adjectives sparingly.  Here is the full story:

Cut the Clutter

Is there something unforgivably, infuriatingly obfuscatory about the unrestrained use of adjectives and adverbs?

Many celebrated stylists think so. Crime writer Elmore Leonard, who died last week, observed in his 10 rules of writing that using an adverb was almost always a "mortal sin." William Zinsser, author of On Writing Well, dismisses most adverbs and adjectives as "clutter," while Mark Twain exhorted readers to "kill" any adjectives they could catch.

An Ashland 9/11 Memorial

Some students at AU anonymously put up this simple but moving (the picture doesn't do it justice) memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attack. The lawns in front of the Student Center were covered with small flags, one for every two people who died in 2001. (Thanks to photographer John Case.)