Friday, May 3, 2013

Eric Foner walks into a bar...

My partner told me this joke: how do you know you are at a conference of dorky history professors?

Answer: Eric Foner walks into the hotel lobby and a quiet hush descends upon the crowd, as hundreds of bespectacled people (young folks in square hip glasses, old folks in bizarrely gigantic ones) begin to whisper and point.  The crowd parts slowly in a show of respect, and even the obnoxious, annoyingly confident graduate student who is not afraid to schmooze with anyone stands hir distance.  Then everyone's partner asks, "what just happened?"  When it gets explained, the partner responds with a joke: how do you know you are at a conference full of dorky history professors? 

Following Ed's lead, it is time for me too to say goodbye to this blog.  TUSH.O, I hardly knew you...but when you got your start 2 years ago as the brainchild of that wildly active brain of Ed Blum's, I had no idea I would learn as much as I did.

To wit:
  • A reminder that history needs to be taught as a narrative of narratives.  Small stories illustrate small points, but also illustrate big themes.  Tie them together and you'll tell the story of America.  
  • That the story of America is in fact a story filled with millions of smaller stories, and the notion that you can't tell a story of America is, to me, ridiculous, and, more to the point of the blog, pedagogically troubling.
  • We need to remember that six months or six weeks or six days after a lecture, most of our students aren't going to remember the finer points of, say, the Populist platform, but, if we're doing our job correctly, they will remember the Populists existed and have a vague sense as to why they existed, when, and what they hoped to do.
  • "Going electronic" or "creating a digital classroom" is nice if done properly, but it doesn't replace the personal contact a student has with an instructor.  Students are humans, which means they are captivated by stories, and if we tell them things like how we came to love history or how we came to understand the Populists or who we think the smartest American ever to have lived is (DuBois), we engage them and get them to think critically and make history fun and playful and stimulating.  That's impossible to replace by a series of 0s and 1s.
  • A blog is a great place to edit your textbook.  When the 3rd edition of HIST was in press in November, I had 24 hours to write a page-and-a-half on the 2012 election, literally one for the history books.  I posted my first draft here and got great feedback.  Look at the last page of HIST to see what happened.
  • You can always get ideas on how to improve.  We all have thin skin, but if you take things with a grain of salt and a generous attitude, you'll learn a lot and have a lot of fun doing it.

Thanks for reading all these posts, and I look forward to watching TUSH.O grow and prosper.  I might post again one day, but for now, it's out of my hands.  Good luck!
Kevin Schultz

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