Monday, December 7, 2015

Livy on the Study of History

"The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plaintly set out for all to see: and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings: fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid." Titus Livy, The Early History of Rome

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

All the Arguments for Studying History

This article by Peter Stearns from 1998 states just about all the good arguments for the benefits of studying history: It can be found on the website of the American Historical Association. 

Why Study History? 
People live in the present. They plan for and worry about the future. History, however, is the study of the past. Given all the demands that press in from living in the present and anticipating what is yet to come, why bother with what has been? Given all the desirable and available branches of knowledge, why insist—as most American educational programs do—on a good bit of history? And why urge many students to study even more history than they are required to?

Any subject of study needs justification: its advocates must explain why it is worth attention. Most widely accepted subjects—and history is certainly one of them—attract some people who simply like the information and modes of thought involved. But audiences less spontaneously drawn to the subject and more doubtful about why to bother need to know what the purpose is.

Historians do not perform heart transplants, improve highway design, or arrest criminals. In a society that quite correctly expects education to serve useful purposes, the functions of history can seem more difficult to define than those of engineering or medicine. History is in fact very useful, actually indispensable, but the products of historical study are less tangible, sometimes less immediate, than those that stem from some other disciplines.

In the past history has been justified for reasons we would no longer accept. For instance, one of the reasons history holds its place in current education is because earlier leaders believed that a knowledge of certain historical facts helped distinguish the educated from the uneducated; the person who could reel off the date of the Norman conquest of England (1066) or the name of the person who came up with the theory of evolution at about the same time that Darwin did (Wallace) was deemed superior—a better candidate for law school or even a business promotion. Knowledge of historical facts has been used as a screening device in many societies, from China to the United States, and the habit is still with us to some extent. Unfortunately, this use can encourage mindless memorization—a real but not very appealing aspect of the discipline. History should be studied because it is essential to individuals and to society, and because it harbors beauty. There are many ways to discuss the real functions of the subject—as there are many different historical talents and many different paths to historical meaning. All definitions of history's utility, however, rely on two fundamental facts.

Monday, November 16, 2015

If the Enemy of Education is Barbarism, the Task of a Teacher is ...

Louise Cowan, professor emeritus at the University of Dallas and a co-founder of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, gave a speech in 2013 in which she delivered some good insights into the proper task of teaching. The central point: 
[T]eachers are the representatives of a culture. Their task is to ensure the passing on of the wisdom of a people. We mistake educational aims when we consider their task to be primarily the development of the student. That is a secondary purpose, the primary one being the preservation of the body of knowledge that produced the precious enterprise called civilization.
The enemy of education is barbarism. The teacher’s duty is thus to fight off that ever-present menace by preserving and transmitting the heritage of freedom and virtue that has come to us from the past but is always open to new insights and new communities. Our sacred bond as a people is the public school teacher’s greatest concern.
 Here are some excerpts from the speech, reprinted in the Dallas Morning News on Nov. 16, 2015: 
Louise Cowan: What’s so great about teachers?

We think so much about teachers at the Dallas Institute and smart so keenly at the injustices done to them that we have to avoid becoming like mad old King Lear, who attributes every wrong in his world — including thunderstorms — to the ingratitude of daughters. Or like the monomaniac Ahab in Moby-Dick, who steers the Pequod away from its course in pursuit of the white whale, piling on the creature the evils of human suffering.

Indeed, we are so greatly and, I might say, justifiably aware of the indignities done to teachers today that we are likely to overdo it — assigning to them not just their rightful share but all the benevolent qualities in the relationship between generations. And this, we must admit, is a slight exaggeration. For certainly we have to acknowledge the instruction given by parents and others in the art of just being human. Ordinary people teach others in all sorts of ways.

But though such mentors may instruct, they are not teachers, dedicated persons who profess as their lifework the twofold task of forming the young for their own sake and, even more important, for society’s. Teachers are instructing the young not primarily to enable them to succeed in life but to preserve and extend the valuable parts of civilization.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dr. Mary Habeck on Domestic Terrorism

The Alexander Hamilton Society invites you to their next event, a talk by Dr. Mary Habeck, a professor at Johns Hopkins University SAIS.  Dr. Habeck will be speaking on the threat of domestic terrorism and how to combat it. This event is free and open to the public.  It will be held in the Ronk Lecture Hall at the College of Education on Thursday, November 19th at 7 PM. 

Taylor Randles Receives Big Internship

While Taylor Randles is not a History or Political Science major, she is the student worker in the Andrews office, so we congratulate her on being offered, and accepting, an internship with a “Big 4” accounting firm at KPMG. The "Big 4" refers to the top four accounting firms that "audit more than 80 percent of all US public companies." KPMG, according to, has been "consistently voted as one of the best places to work by DiversityInc Magazine." Congrats  Here is some more information
Taylor is a junior here at AU, and is currently working on completing the MBA 5 year program in four years. She is an Accounting major with a minor in Business Management, and has also been a resident assistant for two years and the student ambassador for The Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA).

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Need a Paid Internship?

Ashland University was recently awarded a $444,000 three-year grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corp. to create new paid internships for students with financial need during the 2015-2018 academic years.  This is a good opportunity for History and Political Science majors to do interesting and career-boosting internships, and get paid for them!  Get more details at the Career Center or here at the AU News Center.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Thinking Outside the (University) Box

Throughout history communities of scholars and students have organized themselves in many ways to facilitate the discovery, preservation, and sharing of knowledge.  The specific organization that we are most familiar with, the university, is a relatively recent invention and it is by no means the only way to do it. Johann N. Neem made this point in a recent column, when he argued that
The academy is not the university; the university has simply been a home for academics. University education in our country is increasingly not academic: it is vocational; it is commercial; it is becoming anti-intellectual; and, more and more, it is offering standardized products that seek to train and certify rather than to educate people. In turn, an increasing proportion of academics, especially in the humanities, have become adjuncts, marginalized by the university’s growing emphasis on producing technical workers.
Neem does not expect the academy to part ways with the university any time soon, but certain well known trends are undermining academic life within the university.  For those who care about academic life, it is important to consider "ways to nurture academic life beyond the university."  In "Taking It to the Streets: Preparing for an Academy in Exile," Neem considers four options for an academy outside the university.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Making Judgments about Historical Figures

M.D. Aeschliman, professor of Anglophone culture at the University of Italian Switzerland, concludes this interesting contrast of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson with a general point about the uses of history. Arguing that Jefferson's golden words and his pose as a pro-Enlightenment friend of abstract liberty and the "common man" brilliantly deflected attention from his actual practice of slavery, Aeschliman much prefers the self-made, strongly anti-slavery man Hamilton. The lesson about the study of history:

History, whether personal or collective, is the best guide to our individual and collective lives. We need always to compute who — or which action, in self or others — deserves praise, and which deserts principle and deserves criticism and condemnation. Biographical studies such as Gordon-Reed’s and O’Brien’s on Jefferson and Brookhiser’s and Chernow’s on Hamilton exemplify the rational and moral function of the good historian as envisioned by Lord Acton. They stimulate and inspire their reader, an “animal capable of reason,” into actually becoming a rational animal.
Also worth reading on the issue is Allen C. Guelzo's essay, "What did Lincoln Really Think of Jefferson?"
in the New York Times, July 3, 2015.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Alumni Update: Ben Kafferlin

Ben Kafferlin, a graduate of our program and an Ashbrook Scholar (Political Science and Economics, 2012), runs his own consulting business and is now running for public office: County Commissioner of Warren County, PA. Learn more about him here.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

History is Useless in the 'Real World'?

"The General Manager who engineered the NFL's best off-season is a history buff, a grunge band aficionado and a Game of Thrones devotee...Mike Maccagnam reveres Abraham Lincoln, references the Napoleonic Code and devours books, like On War, about military strategy...."  This is the opening of a story about Maccagnam in the October 26, 2015 issue of Sports Illustrated.  A history buff, Lincoln, Napoleon, Clausewitz: no wonder Maccagnam is a successful GM in the NFL.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Battle of Jutland

Students (and others) in Dr. Moser's World War I course re-fought the 1916 Battle of Jutland yesterday. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

College is not a Commodity. Stop treating it like one.

It's recruiting season again, and as we educators work hard to "sell" our colleges and programs, Hunter Rawlings, former President of Cornell University, reminds us that you can't buy an education in the same way that you can buy a car. What a student gets out of his or her college experience depends to a very considerable extent on what he or she puts into it.  Published in the Washington Post, June 9, 2015:

College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one.
What truly makes an education valuable: the effort the student puts into it.

Pick up any paper or magazine, and you’re likely to see a front-page article on college: It costs too much, spawns too much debt, is or isn’t worth it.

I entered academia 52 years ago as a student of Latin and Greek expecting to enter a placid sector of American life, and now find my chosen profession at the center of a media maelstrom. With college replacing high school as the required ticket for a career, what used to be a quiet corner is now a favorite target of policymakers and pundits. Unfortunately, most commentary on the value of college is naive, or worse, misleading.

Here’s what I mean. First, most everyone now evaluates college in purely economic terms, thus reducing it to a commodity like a car or a house. How much does the average English major at college X earn 18 months after graduation? What is the average debt of college Y’s alumni? How much does it cost to attend college Z, and is it worth it? How much more does the “average” college grad earn over a lifetime than someone with only a high school degree? (The current number appears to be about $1 million.)  There is now a cottage industry built around such data.

Even on purely economic grounds, such questions, while not useless, begin with a false assumption. If we are going to treat college as a commodity, and an expensive one at that, we should at least grasp the essence of its economic nature. Unlike a car, college requires the “buyer” to do most of the work to obtain its value. The value of a degree depends more on the student’s input than on the college’s curriculum. I know this because I have seen excellent students get great educations at average colleges, and unmotivated students get poor educations at excellent colleges. And I have taught classes which my students made great through their efforts, and classes which my students made average or worse through their lack of effort. Though I would like to think I made a real contribution to student learning, my role was not the sole or even determining factor in the value of those courses to my students.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

AU Job/Internship/Grad School Fair

The Job/Internship/Grad School Fair is a great chance to make some contacts and discover new opportunities. This year’s fall fair will take place on Thursday, Oct. 8, from 1 – 4 pm in Upper Convo. There will be 155 representatives from 96 organizations who are interested in recruiting Ashland University students and alumni.

If you haven't already pre-registered, you can register at the door.

Bonus: Free professional headshots for students, faculty and staff will be taken during the event. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Fate of Humanities in the Hands of High School Teachers

Clifford Orwin, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, makes the good point in this op-ed column in the Toronto Globe and Mail (9/17/2015) that we might have wonderful arguments why students should study the humanities, but those arguments are not the reason students actually do take up the study. Great, often eccentric high school teachers are. After a wonderful description of the teacher who pointed him in this direction, he concludes: "On the whole, however, the fate of the humanities in Canada depends on its high schools, and their success at instilling a love of the subject that (like any love) owes nothing to statistics."

Monday, September 21, 2015

Alexander Hamilton Society Meeting

The Alexander Hamilton Society at Ashland University will host an Open House on September 24 at 7 p.m. in the Ashbrook Center, located on the eighth floor of the Ashland University Library. The event is free and open to the public and food and drinks will be provided.

The open house will feature Dr. Chris Burkett, Associate Professor of political science at Ashland University, speaking on “Immigration and National Security: Lessons from the American Founding.” There will be a question-and-answer session following the speech.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Self Destruction of Higher Education

Two recent articles from almost opposite political perspectives argue that the liberal arts in colleges and universities are bringing on many of their own problems.  Jay Schalin from the John William Pope Center reports in an op-ed, "The English Department's Willful Self-Destruction," on a study that was done of English Departments, especially in North Carolina.  "By almost any measure," Schalin says, "English departments are diminishing numerically, dropping standards, or calcifying into a hard-left intellectual status quo."  They are increasingly moving away from their core, which is reflection on the greatest works of English, American, and European literature, studied to find out what their authors meant.  Instead, the study argues, the new emphasis is on vocational training or on politicized readings that advance identity politics or uncover the hidden structures of racism, classism, and American or Western imperialism.  Borrowing the words of the columnist David Brooks, Schalin writes that the humanities "are committing suicide because they have lost faith in their own enterprise."

The other article, by William Deresiewicz, is titled "The Neoliberal Arts: How college sold Its soul to the market."  Deresiewicz argues that colleges and many professors have and are willfully abandoning the core intellectual tasks that lie at the center of liberal education as traditionally understood so that they can, as they believe, remain "relevant" to a business culture: "only the commercial purpose now survives as a recognized value" for a college education.  The solution? Treat education as a right, not a commodity, and adopt Bernie Sanders's proposal to tax Wall Street transactions so that four-year public institutions can be free for all.

The best part of this article is the discussion with which it begins of two mission statements from the same institution, one from the 1920s and one from 2015. The older one conveys a complex thought about the relation between various goals that were once thought to be the aim of higher education.  The contemporary statement consists simply of four unconnected words: leadership, service, integrity, creativity.  Deresiewicz provides a few useful and much needed critical reflections on these, "the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education."  Here are the opening paragraphs:

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.


Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

A spatial structure, the sentence also suggests a temporal sequence. Thinking clearly, it wants us to recognize, leads to thinking independently. Thinking independently leads to living confidently. Living confidently leads to living courageously. Living courageously leads to living hopefully. And the entire chain begins with a college that recognizes it has an obligation to its students, an obligation to develop their abilities to think and live.

Finally, the sentence is attributed to an individual. It expresses her convictions and ideals. It announces that she is prepared to hold herself accountable for certain responsibilities.

The second text is not a sentence. It is four words floating in space, unconnected to one another or to any other concept. Four words — four slogans, really — whose meaning and function are left undefined, open to whatever interpretation the reader cares to project on them.

Four words, three of which — “leadership,” “service,” and “creativity” — are the loudest buzzwords in contemporary higher education. (“Integrity” is presumably intended as a synonym for the more familiar “character,” which for colleges at this point means nothing more than not cheating.) The text is not the statement of an individual; it is the emanation of a bureaucracy. In this case, a literally anonymous bureaucracy: no one could tell me when this version of the institution’s mission statement was formulated, or by whom. No one could even tell me who had decided to hang those banners all over campus. The sentence from the founder has also long been mounted on the college walls. The other words had just appeared, as if enunciated by the zeitgeist.

But the most important thing to note about the second text is what it doesn’t talk about: thinking or learning. In what it both does and doesn’t say, it therefore constitutes an apt reflection of the current state of higher education. College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Professor who Put Teaching First

Jason Stevens, a visiting instructor in political science and history at Ashland, as well as a graduate of our program, published this nice tribute to our former friend and colleague, Peter Schramm.  It is published today in the Wall Street Journal:

When I first met Peter W. Schramm, who died last month at 68, he was in his office at Ashland University, smoking a cigarette and reading a book. It was 2003 and I, a high-school senior, was there to interview for the Ashbrook scholar program, an intensive course of study in history and political science.

I remember almost everything about that meeting. He criticized me for deciding to write my high school thesis on “power” in politics. He scoffed when I admitted that I never read out loud. We spent nearly half an hour on Abraham Lincoln, and why in the Gettysburg Address he had called the principle of human equality a “proposition” instead of a self-evident truth, as Thomas Jefferson had done. At that point, Schramm jumped out of his chair and gestured wildly. “Dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal!” he exclaimed. “Do you see it?”

When I came out of that room, I was totally defeated, with no hope of attending Ashland University in the fall. Then Schramm emerged and quietly announced that I was in, if I wanted it. He explained that I’d have to “work like a dog” and threatened that if I ever came to class unprepared, he would casually slide a quarter across my desk and say, “Call home. You’re done.” This was my first encounter with the man.

In the dozen years since, I got to know Schramm first as a teacher, later as a friend and colleague. He had spent his childhood in Soviet Hungary, but as his father told him when the family left for the U.S. in 1956: “We were born Americans, but in the wrong place.” After earning a Ph.D. in government, he helped found the Claremont Institute and worked in the Reagan Education Department before becoming a professor.

Schramm published little, but this was only because he put teaching first. His office was always full of students wanting to tear off a bit of wisdom. Schramm probably missed more than a few meetings to continue these conversations, which ranged from an obscure passage of Plato, to a moving line of poetry, to practical questions of life and happiness. Schramm taught his students how to think and live well, how to be prudent and judge wisely, how to seek the just and the true.

He began his freshman course by asking about the nature of the acorn. After several false starts, someone would say, “To become the oak tree.” Once the truth had revealed itself, Schramm would react with palpable joy—a loud outburst, a fist pounded on the lectern, a little hop. He reveled in our successes mostly, I think, because he loved what was good and saw the potential for good in us.

The great oak has now vanished from the face of the earth. But, thank God, he has left behind thousands of tiny acorns that continue to grow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Study Abroad Opportunities

There are at least two good opportunities for Ashland students to study abroad coming up, one in Tuscany, Italy and the other in Taiwan. There will be two information meetings for the Taste of Tuscany: Cuisine and Culture of Italy Summer Program on Wednesday September 9th and Thursday September 10th both at 4:00 PM in Rybolt 230. 

There will also be a meeting for the COBE in Taiwan Summer program on Tuesday September 8th at 4:00 PM in Dauch 105

Kayla Gowdy's Internship in Washington, D.C.

Kayla Gowdy, a junior Political Science major, did an internship this summer in the Washington, D.C. office of Congressman Pat Tiberi (Ohio's 12th District). "My main task as an intern," she says, "was to be a constituent correspondent, and through my work I provided a channel for how constituents were able to pass on their concerns to the Congressman. Along with constituent work, I also assisted with the legislative staffers through my attendance at briefings and hearings and then reporting back to the appropriate staffer what was discussed. Being an intern on Capitol Hill during the summer also gave me the chance to attend the 'Summer Intern Lecture Series,' which gave me the opportunity to meet multiple influential leaders, including Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan, who provided advice for how to grow and survive in the political field."  All this "provided an incredible experience to see how the legislative branch truly functions."  The picture shows Kayla's networking skills in action. 

Why We Have College

Louis Menand has written this useful analysis of the current state of higher education in the United States (in broad strokes).  The article includes a brief history of higher education as well as a discussion of two recent books on the subject.  He ends by raising the question of why in the liberal arts we faculty ask students to read the books we do, a question we should continually re-examine and for which we must have good answers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

It's Time to Assess SLO Assessment

Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Assessment began in the second term of the Bush Administration as one response to the growing discontent voiced by business people and parents, who thought that higher education was turning out graduates at a very high cost but without the skills and knowledge needed to be productive workers and citizens.  Accrediting agencies adopted the approach and it is gradually filtering into every level of higher education.  

Here at Ashland considerable resources were put towards assessment, both in dollars and in faculty, student, and administrators' time.  On pain of not being re-accredited, we were expected to develop a “culture of assessment” (as opposed, say, to a culture of learning).  But is there any solid evidence that SLO assessment actually improves student learning?  In this column, Dean Erik Gilbert argues that no one knows.   It is high time this question was asked and answered in a serious way.  Not everyone argues that SLO Assessment is completely useless, though there are some who do. The real questions are these: does the time, effort, and money spent on SLO assessment yield increments of learning commensurate with the costs?  And, does the approach to teaching, learning, and the human soul implied in assessment actually do some harm to teaching and learning?  Here are Erik Gilbert's conclusions: 
If advocates could point to evidence that good assessment has led to improvements that are external to the process itself — like changes in a college’s reputation, ranking, or employment prospects for its students — I suspect faculty would give it more support.
Assessment is one of those things that we keep telling ourselves will pay off if we could just get it right, but we never seem to get there. It’s time for us to demand that the accreditors who are driving assessment provide evidence that it offers benefits commensurate with the expense that goes into it. We should no longer accept on faith or intuition that learning-outcomes assessment has positive and consequential effects on our institutions — or students.
Here is the whole column:
Does Assessment Make Colleges Better? Who Knows?
By Erik Gilbert 
AUGUST 14, 2015

Last year the younger of my two sons went off to college. As we went through the search process, we looked at university and department websites, checked faculty research interests, looked for evidence of faculty involving students in their research, flinched at the prices, marveled at the climbing walls, and considered quality of the food on campus. Basically we did all the things a typical middle-class family would do in a college search, along with a few insider concerns like looking at faculty publications and grants and checking that the university libraries had at least one of my books. In retrospect one question that never crossed my mind was, "I wonder what this place’s assessment program is like?" I suspect I am not alone in this.
My lack of curiosity about assessment when making an important choice about my children’s education probably surprises no one, but it should. It’s unsurprising in that no one, higher-ed insider or not, ever seems to worry about this when choosing a college. No admissions officer ever touted his institution’s assessment results. No parent ever exclaimed, "Suzy just got into Prestigious College X. I hear they are just nailing their student learning outcomes!" But it’s still a little surprising in that I am a professor and an administrator who has been involved in assessment in various forms for a long time. I have been dutifully doing assessment in my classes almost since I started teaching a decade and half ago.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is Torture Wrong?

That is the title of a debate, sponsored by the Alexander Hamilton Society, the Philosophy Club, and the Department of Political Science and History.  The event will feature Elbridge Colby from the Center for a New American Security. It will be held Tuesday April 21 at noon in the Conference Rooms of the Hawkins-Conard Student Center. Food and drinks will be provided and the event is free and open to the public. 

See also this announcement: 

Monday, April 6, 2015

URCA Symposium on Wednesday

Quite a few History and Political Science majors are giving presentations at the CAS Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium on Wednesday (April 8).  There are good presentations on a whole variety of topics from Courtney Bailey, September Long, Brandon, Cook, John Case, Sam Mariscal, Hallie Carrino, and Joey Barretta.  Emily Cardwell is also giving a presentation, but as an English major rather than as a History major. Get out and support your fellow majors!  And you might also learn something from the presentations by students from other majors.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nicholas Bartulovic Wins State Music Honor

Ok, so this is a musical achievement, but Nick Bartulovic is a history major and we are happy to call attention to his well-roundedness (besides, "everything is history," right?).  Nick, who is also a music minor, was awarded third place in the 2015 Ohio Federation of Music Clubs College Composers' Contest for his entry "Three Sketches for Piano."  Congratulations!

The statewide contest is offered annually by the OFMC's Foundation for the Advancement of Music to encourage the composition and performance of music, aid performing and creative artists regardless of citizenship, promote musical education, aid veterans in commencing and resuming musical careers, and grant scholarships to carry out the above.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

New Editor at Cleveland State Law Review

Elisa Leonard, who graduated from AU with a BA in Political Science and Public Relations, and who was also an Ashbrook Scholar, has just been elected Editor-in-Chief of the Cleveland State Law Review for 2015-2016. Before going to law school Elisa worked as the Executive Director of a political party in Northeast Ohio and as a congressional staffer for the United States House of Representatives where she handled community outreach and digital media for the office.

Political Science Alumna Testifies in US House Hearing

Alumna Rebeccah Heinrichs will be testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa regarding Iran's noncompliance with the IAEA.  The Hearing is scheduled for 2-5pm today and will probably be broadcast here: Foreign Affairs Hearing

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Book by Professor Justin Lyons

Professor Lyons has just published a new book comparing Alexander the Great with Hernan Cortes on the model of Plutarch's Lives.  In case you can't read the text on the cover (see below), here is what Paul Cartledge of the University of Cambridge says about the book:
Like a self-proclaimed latter-day Plutarch, Lyons boldly goes where Alexander the Great of
Macedon and Hernán Cortés of Castile blazed their respective trails, comparing and contrasting the motives, methods, and achievements of the two conquering empire-builders who changed the political map of the world, and doing so within an illuminating overall moral-philosophical frame of reference and evaluation.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Articles on Peace by AU Faculty

Two members of the Department have essays in this new book on The Question of Peace in Modern Political Thought (Wilfrid Laurier University Press).  Professor Sikkenga's article is called "John Locke's Liberal Path to Peace," while that by Professor Paddags is "In Search for Laws Above Nations: Jean-Jacques Rousseau on Perpetual Peace."  The book also has essays on Martin Luther, Spinoza, Hobbes, Vattel, Kant, Hegel, Thoreau, Heidegger, Benjamin, Arendt, Derrida, and Habermas.

Friday, February 27, 2015

History & Political Science Students Win Awards @ Model Arab League

Pictured from left: Kelly Ranttila, Joey Barretta, James Coyne and Andrew Dailey 

 Last week, nine students from Ashland University, most of them History & Political Science majors, participated in this year's Ohio Model Arab League at Miami University. In this simulation of an Arab League summit meeting students represent an Arab country and seek to further their country's interests by passing suitable council resolutions.
This year, Andrew Dailey and James Coyne, representing Lebanon in the Joint Defense Council, won an outstanding delegation award while Kelly Ranttila and Joey Barretta won an honorable mention for their representation of Lebanon in the Palestinian Affairs council.
This was the third time an Ashland University delegation participated in the Model Arab League and the most successful so far.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Liberal Arts Training Improves STEM Majors?

Skeptics wouldn't take it seriously if we were to suggest that Leonardo da Vinci is evidence that STEM majors can benefit from liberal arts training, but how about Steve Jobs: 
When introducing the iPad 2, Jobs, who dropped out of college but continued to audit calligraphy classes, declared: “It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.” (Indeed, one of Apple’s scientists, Steve Perlman, was inspired to invent the QuickTime multimedia program by an episode of “Star Trek.”)
Or Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, who 
credits her degree in philosophy and medieval history in helping her be the first woman to lead a high-tech Fortune 20 corporation. “If you go into a setting and everybody thinks alike, it’s easy,” she has said. “But you will probably get the wrong answer.”
Those quotes come from this article in the Washington Post by Loretta Jackson-Hayes.  See also "V is for Victorious," a story about Bing Chen in the UPenn Arts & Sciences Magazine, Fall/Winter 2014 (page 36).

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

College’s Priceless Value

In College's Priceless Value (NYT, February 11, 2015), Frank Bruni beautifully explains what higher education has to do with liberal arts and Shakespeare, by showing how three simple words, “Stay a little," from King Lear transformed his way of perceiving the world. Along the way, he makes these nice observations, which are pertinent to the debate over the liberal arts:

But it’s impossible to put a dollar value on a nimble, adaptable intellect, which isn’t the fruit of any specific course of study and may be the best tool for an economy and a job market that change unpredictably.
And it’s dangerous to forget that in a democracy, college isn’t just about making better engineers but about making better citizens, ones whose eyes have been opened to the sweep of history and the spectrum of civilizations.

Here's the whole article:
What’s the most transformative educational experience you’ve had?
I was asked this question recently, and for a few seconds it stumped me, mainly because I’ve never viewed learning as a collection of eureka moments. It’s a continuum, a lifelong awakening to the complexity of the world.

But then something did come to mind, not a discrete lesson but a moving image, complete with soundtrack. I saw a woman named Anne Hall swooning and swaying as she stood at the front of a classroom in Chapel Hill, N.C., and explained the rawness and majesty of emotion in “King Lear.”

I heard three words: “Stay a little.” They’re Lear’s plea to Cordelia, the truest of his three daughters, as she slips away. When Hall recited them aloud, it wasn’t just her voice that trembled. It was all of her.

She taught a course on Shakespeare’s tragedies: “Lear,” “Macbeth,” “Othello.” It was by far my favorite class at the University of North Carolina, which I attended in the mid-1980s, though I couldn’t and can’t think of any bluntly practical application for it, not unless you’re bound for a career on the stage or in academia.

More Evidence for the Value of a Liberal Education

This story by Paul Fain at "Inside Higher Ed" reports on several studies of unemployment and job-training.  Fain finds that people with bachelor's degrees now have "a rock-bottom unemployment rate of 2.8 percent" as compared to an "overall unemployment rate [of] 5.7 percent."  The bachelor's degree remains a good investment. Fain also found that College graduates receive a lot more on the job training, not because they have much more to learn than high school or community college graduates, but because "four-year-college graduates tend to get jobs that are specialized, complex and change over time ... particularly in STEM fields. Wherever the earnings are the strongest, that's where the training occurs... The more educated the workforce, the more training in the job."  In other words, employers in our knowledge economy need people who can learn new things all the time, and the people who can do that advance the quickest in their careers. Fain mentions the STEM fields, but learning how to learn and learning to love of learning are central parts of a liberal education rightly pursued.  Because of the knowledge-economy, the liberal arts are more practical today than they have ever been.

Dr. Moser Wins Fashion Contest!

Has anyone else noticed that Dr. Moser hath become a nattier dresser of late?   Here he is in his finest threads, as the winner of the January 2015 “Civilized Fashion” photo contest.  For the details of his attire, see here. Who is this gentleman’s haberdasher? 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Congratulations to Professor Michael Schwarz

Ashland University announced today that Professor Schwarz was granted tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. That is great news for him, for the Department, and for the University.  Congratulations Dr. Schwarz!

The MOOC Fraud

Remember MOOCs?  They are not so much in the news now, but there was a time when they looked like the great hope for education. Somehow, I missed this essay from December 2013 by Jakub Grygiel. It is probably the hardest hitting short critique I have seen of the idea of MOOC education, and more generally, of online education - not the kind we do here at AU in the MAHG, where students and instructors are present at the same time and converse with one another, but the more common "asynchronous" form that is closer to an electronic correspondence course. "Online education," Grygiel writes, "is to education what pornography is to marriage. It destroys stable relationships, vitiates the ability to argue and reason, splits people apart and ultimately leaves no intellectual offspring. It is, in short, liable to be thoughtless, asocial and sterile.... Thinking, like marital love, takes time and patience."
Here is the whole essay: 
The MOOC FraudYou can’t consume an education; you can only earn it.

The current infatuation with the application of new technologies to education, in essence, replacing teachers in carne e ossa with pixels and bytes and arguably turning students into consumers of data rather than seekers of knowledge, has all the features of a revolution. Much like the ideological fanatics who led the communist revolutions of the past century, the cheerleaders of online education promise free or low-cost access to intellectual utopia for all. As Nathan Harden argued in these pages (January/February 2013), technology is indeed a great equalizer, but mainly in the sense of being a leveler, leaving a path of destruction wherever it passes. Harden and others, invoking Schumpeter, would call that destruction creative. I doubt it. Tacitus is rather the source to invoke: They create a desolation and call it education.

“Online education” is to education what pornography is to marriage. It destroys stable relationships, vitiates the ability to argue and reason, splits people apart and ultimately leaves no intellectual offspring. It is, in short, liable to be thoughtless, asocial and sterile.

Thinking, like marital love, takes time and patience. Online sources are marvelous if you want to learn how to install a garbage disposal or to satisfy the urge to watch old episodes of Firing Line; they ease access to snippets of information and can scratch every itch of curiosity. As a fact-checking source they will, if used with care, save you time better spent on, say, reading. And the democratization of access to higher learning will surely allow some people otherwise unable to tap into treasuries of human knowledge to get a taste for it, and who knows how many hearts and minds that might elevate to society’s general benefit? Still, you will never approximate a good plumber or William F. Buckley simply by staring at a screen. Coursera, edX or Udacity may be able to open data feeds at the click of a mouse, but they cannot teach a person how to think or argue or appreciate. For that, you have to look up from the screen.

All Expenses-paid Trip to NYC to study American History?

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has a great opportunity for College juniors and seniors: an all expenses-paid weekend in New York City, June 3-7, 2015.  It is a weekend of special presentations, tours, and meetings with eminent scholars.  You must have "demonstrated academic and extracurricular excellence" in your study of American History as well as "a commitment to public service and community involvement."  Many of you History and Political Science majors should qualify for this.  You can find more details and the application process here: Gilder Lehrman History Scholar Award.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mentor Award Winners in History and Political Science

Congratulations to Rene Paddags in Political Science and Emily Hess in History, both of whom were awarded Ashland University Academic Mentor Awards last week. Outstanding!  The student who wrote the nominating letter for Dr. Hess says that "I have gained so much confidence in myself because of her.  She has instilled in me the ability to have faith in my writing, my future, and my character.  Dr. Hess is my advisor, but she has helped me develop as a student and as a person.... [Without her] I would not be who I am today." Of Dr. Paddags, the nominating student wrote that he "keeps me level-headed ... He is also passionate, funny and deeply knowledgeable in such a variety of subjects that  an encyclopedia would be put to shame.... He values his student's opinions and is thrilled to listen to what they have to say about the topics that they share an interest in...As my thesis advisor and professor, Dr. Paddags has pushed me to think more critically.... [and} allowed me to become a better writer and an overall better learner."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

AU in France

AU is offering a great new opportunity to study French in France.  For more details and the date of an information meeting this week, see the flyer below:

Professor Moser's New Book

Paradigm Publishers has just published Professor John Moser's new book, "The Global Great Depression And The Coming of World War II."  Alonzo L. Hamby, Distinguished Professor of History at Ohio University, says that "with this bold and far-reaching interpretation of the economic interplay and its political consequences among the world's great powers during the first half of the twentieth century, John Moser ... has given us a landmark work in international history."

Alexander Hamilton Society Event

The Alexander Hamilton Society presents Dr. Michael Schwarz, who will lecture on "Unrepaired Wrongs: James Madison and the War of 1812."  The lecture is scheduled for February 5 at 7:30pm in the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University.  It is free and open to the public.