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The Assessment Network of New York’s (ANNY) Fall 2016 regional event will be held on Friday, October 21 at Lehman College (Bronx, New York). The event will concern translating the use of assessment results into improvement.
The conference will feature two presenters:
Dr. Keston Fulcher: Executive Director of the Center for Assessment and Research Studies, Associate Professor, Graduate Psychology, James Madison University. Dr. Fulcher’s research focuses on structuring higher education to better demonstrate learning improvement.
Megan Good: Director of Academic Assessment at Auburn University. She has a doctorate in Assessment and Measurement completed at James Madison University (JMU). Her dissertation focused on how programmatic learning improvement could be achieved by connecting assessment with faculty development work.
More details can be found at ANNY’s Regional Events webpage.
To register, one can click here.
During last week’s class, we discussed the relationship, and tensions, between journalists and historians. In reading The History Manifesto, there seemed to be a few jabs at journalists, with the authors mentioning news editorials elevating economic models applied to far-fetched concepts such as the customs of dating to sumo wrestling, and subsequently raising their creators to the status of public intellectuals (Guldi and Armitage 3). In their crusade for the longue durée, they point out seemingly inherent limitations with journalism: “Centuries and epochs are often mysteries too deep and wide for journalists to concern themselves with” (Guldi and Armitage 5).
Christopher Daly provides useful context for the tensions between journalists and historians:
“Part of the friction between journalists and historians arises from the fact that the two kinds of non-fiction inquiries are asking different questions. Almost always, the foremost question on the journalist’s mind is: what happened?… The characteristic response of the professional journalist is to move on to the next event or surprise, leaving others to mull over matters of interpretation and analysis” (44).
In his article, Daly informs us of the different approaches journalists and historians take to big questions, but notes that the historian’s approach has its pitfalls:
“Most of the time, historians are not particularly interested in the question of what happened, because it is pretty well settled by the time they begin their work. They are more interested in asking how or why something happened, or what it means for later generations. Questions of interpretation and causation are paramount. Regrettably, these concerns are often emphasized over the story-telling skills of scene-setting, character development, and textual pleasure” (44).
What was also interesting is that Daly, a historian by training and journalist by profession, repeated a sentiment shared by Prof. Steve Brier during class:
“…journalists present one version of the events, only to see that draft corrected, revised, or reinterpreted by historians” (35).
Despite these tensions, there have been ways that historians and journalists have reached out to one another in order to sustain their work, as both of their professions could be seen in crisis: the decline of humanities tenure-track positions in academia, for example, as well as economic troubles for print journalism. Horst Pöttker writes:
“…journalism needs history as a subject context if it is to survive the threatening challenges to the continuance of the profession from the changes caused by the digital media” (521).
It also seems that historians as well have been trying to find ways to cooperate, offering practical tips to historians working with breaking news outlets, such as advising academics to focus on better informing the reporter, rather than putting the emphasis on being quoted in the story.
Scholars in digital history have also advised creating partnerships with journalism to propagate their work to a wider audience. As Dan Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig in their book Digital History advise:
“…you should also try to reach visitors in much larger aggregates, including through the mass media of newspapers, radio, and television. If you succeed, it can dramatically expand your audience. For example, on August 19, 2002, the Associated Press ran a story on our September 11 Digital Archive that was picked up across the country and featured on the CNN.com home page. That day, the number of visitors to our site jumped almost ten-fold, from 3,700 to 36,000.”
The fields of digital history and digital journalism seem to have more in common in their work than scholars and journalists who have worked solely in print.
Cohen and Rosenzweig even ask digital historians to think of the perspective of the reporter:
“Even if you are not the beneficiary of a catastrophe, you should still try to attract press attention to your site by thinking about it from the perspective of a reporter. What is the “news” in your site? Are you the first to make some body of historical materials available online? Have you developed an innovative way to teach history or present the past online? That news should be the headline in a press release that you write whenever you launch a site.”
That Digital History included explicit advice to digital historians to work with the news media perhaps set a precedent, having been published in 2005. In 2012, Dan Cohen made this post on his blog:
“I’ve increasingly felt that digital journalism and digital humanities are kindred spirits, and that more commerce between the two could be mutually beneficial.”
Cohen pointed out a number of areas of cooperation, such as the use of digital tools, but most relevant was his belief that involving the public was critical to the work of both digital historians and digital journalism, as both “do work on the open web” and face “sometimes helpful, sometimes rocky interactions with the public.”
His call for cooperation seems to have been taken up four years after his blog post. Later this month, there will be a digital humanities and data journalism conference held at the University of Miami. Dan Cohen is the keynote speaker, talking about the convergence of the two fields. It would be interesting to see what comes out of this conference, particularly regarding whether a consensus towards public communication would be possible between digital historians and data journalists. It appears that the majority of sessions focus on the tools that digital humanists and journalists use (network analysis, data cleaning, text analysis, and data visualization). The conference website does name “effective communication” as a theme, which is defined as “transform[ing] scholarly articles and research papers into documents that the public can understand.” While very important, this focus on adapting scholarly text seems to be a one-way street, another dataset that journalists can pick and choose from in constructing their visualizations.
The conference organizers decided to limit attendance in order to foster conversation, but I wanted to mention other ways that we can observe the convergence of digital history and journalism. The Conversation is a growing website that involves academics writing about current news topics, such as a historian’s take on Brexit. This GitHub page has collected interesting links on “what digital humanities and news nerds want to explore together,” such as events, collaborative projects, and reference works. Slate has collected interesting digital history projects since at least 2013 (and here are the compilations for 2014 and 2015). It certainly appears that, with the evidence of cross-disciplinary work and conversation taking place with digital humanities/history and digital/data journalism, a focus on practical methods rather than theory makes both professions seem, as Tom Scheinfeldt put it, “nice,” a contrast to the tensions with print journalism and analog history seen prior.
Guldi, Jo, and David Armitage. The History Manifesto. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Daly, Christopher B. “Are Journalists Always Wrong?” Journalism Practice, vol. 5, no. 5, 2011, pp. 538-550, bu.edu/history/files/2011/09/Are-Journalists-Always-Wrong.pdf. Accessed 23 Sep. 2016.
Pöttker, Horst. “A Reservoir of Understanding. Journalism Practice, vol. 5, no. 5, 2011, tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17512786.2011.601898. Accessed 23 Sep. 2016.
Wen, Shuang. “Two Sides of the History: How Historians and Journalists Can Work Together.” Perspectives on History, Oct. 2015, historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/october-2015/two-sides-of-the-story-how-historians-and-journalists-can-work-together. Accessed 25 Sep. 2016.
Cohen, Daniel J., and Roy Rosenzweig. Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.
Daniel Cohen. “Digital Journalism and Digital Humanities.” dancohen.org, 8 Feb. 2012, dancohen.org/2012/02/08/digital-journalism-and-digital-humanities. Accessed 23 Sep. 2016.
Digital Humanities + Data Journalism Symposium. University of Miami, 2016, dhdj.com.miami.edu. Accessed 24 Sep. 2016.
Ghosh, Peter. “Britain is no longer an island: a historian’s take on the Brexit debate.” The Conversation, A List Apart: For People Who Make Websites, 13 May 2016, theconversation.com/britain-is-no-longer-an-island-a-historians-take-on-the-brexit-debate-59213. Accessed 24 Sep. 2016.
livlab/digital-humanities-journalism. livlab, 2016, github.com/livlab/digital-humanities-journalism. Accessed 23 Sep. 2016.
Onion, Rebecca. “Small Town Noir, and Four Other Astonishing Digital History Sites We Loved in 2013.” Slate, 27 Dec. 2013, slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2013/12/27/digital_archives_five_great_sites_from_2013.html. Accessed 25 Sep. 2016.
Onion, Rebecca. “Five of 2014’s Most Compelling Digital History Exhibits and Archives.” Slate, 29 Dec. 2014, slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2014/12/29/historical_documents_online_five_best_digital_archives_from_2014.html. Accessed 25 Sep. 2016.
Onion, Rebecca. “Five Digital History Projects That Dazzled Us in 2015.” Slate, 18 Dec. 2015, slate.com/blogs/the_vault/2015/12/18/five_digital_history_projects_that_dazzled_us_in_2015.html. Accessed 25 Sep. 2016.
Scheinfeldt, Tom. “Why Digital Humanities Is ‘Nice'”. Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Lauren F. Klein and Matthew K. Gold, Universiy of Minnesota Press, 2012, dhdebates.gc.cuny.edu/debates/text/36
Dear Commons Community,
Yesterday the New York Times endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Today, its editorial presents the reasons why Donald Trump should not be president. The editorial questions four of his attributes including that he is:
It concludes with:
“Voters attracted by the force of the Trump personality should pause and take note of the precise qualities he exudes as an audaciously different politician: bluster, savage mockery of those who challenge him, degrading comments about women, mendacity, crude generalizations about nations and religions. Our presidents are role models for generations of our children. Is this the example we want for them?”
The entire editorial appears below.
Donald Trump is a man who dwells in bigotry, bluster and false promises.
SEPT. 25, 2016
When Donald Trump began his improbable run for president 15 months ago, he offered his wealth and television celebrity as credentials, then slyly added a twist of fearmongering about Mexican “rapists” flooding across the Southern border.
From that moment of combustion, it became clear that Mr. Trump’s views were matters of dangerous impulse and cynical pandering rather than thoughtful politics. Yet he has attracted throngs of Americans who ascribe higher purpose to him than he has demonstrated in a freewheeling campaign marked by bursts of false and outrageous allegations, personal insults, xenophobic nationalism, unapologetic sexism and positions that shift according to his audience and his whims.
Now here stands Mr. Trump, feisty from his runaway Republican primary victories and ready for the first presidential debate, scheduled for Monday night, with Hillary Clinton. It is time for others who are still undecided, and perhaps hoping for some dramatic change in our politics and governance, to take a hard look and see Mr. Trump for who he is. They have an obligation to scrutinize his supposed virtues as a refreshing counterpolitician. Otherwise, they could face the consequences of handing the White House to a man far more consumed with himself than with the nation’s well-being.
Here’s how Mr. Trump is selling himself and why he can’t be believed.
A financial wizard who can bring executive magic to government?
Despite his towering properties, Mr. Trump has a record rife with bankruptcies and sketchy ventures like Trump University, which authorities are investigating after numerous complaints of fraud. His name has been chiseled off his failed casinos in Atlantic City.
Mr. Trump’s brazen refusal to disclose his tax returns — as Mrs. Clinton and other nominees for decades have done — should sharpen voter wariness of his business and charitable operations. Disclosure would undoubtedly raise numerous red flags; the public record already indicates that in at least some years he made full use of available loopholes and paid no taxes.
Mr. Trump has been opaque about his questionable global investments in Russia and elsewhere, which could present conflicts of interest as president, particularly if his business interests are left in the hands of his children, as he intends. Investigations have found self-dealing. He notably tapped $258,000 in donors’ money from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits involving his for-profit businesses, according to
A straight talker who tells it like it is?
Mr. Trump, who has no experience in national security, declares that he has a plan to soundly defeat the Islamic State militants in Syria, but won’t reveal it, bobbing and weaving about whether he would commit ground troops. Voters cannot judge whether he has any idea what he’s talking about without an outline of his plan, yet Mr. Trump ludicrously insists he must not tip off the enemy.
Another of his cornerstone proposals — his campaign pledge of a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim newcomers plus the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants across a border wall paid for by Mexico — has been subjected to endless qualifications as he zigs and zags in pursuit of middle-ground voters.
Whatever his gyrations, Mr. Trump always does make clear where his heart lies — with the anti-immigrant, nativist and racist signals that he scurrilously employed to build his base.
He used the shameful “birther” campaign against President Obama’s legitimacy as a wedge for his candidacy. But then he opportunistically denied his own record, trolling for undecided voters by conceding that Mr. Obama was a born American. In the process he tried to smear Mrs. Clinton as the instigator of the birther canard and then fled reporters’ questions.
Since his campaign began, NBC News has tabulated that Mr. Trump has made 117 distinct policy shifts on 20 major issues, including three contradictory views on abortion in one eight-hour stretch. As reporters try to pin down his contradictions, Mr. Trump has mocked them at his rallies. He said he would “loosen” libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations that displease him.
An expert negotiator who can fix government and overpower other world leaders?
His plan for cutting the national debt was far from a confidence builder: He said he might try to persuade creditors to accept less than the government owed. This fanciful notion, imported from Mr. Trump’s debt-steeped real estate world, would undermine faith in the government and the stability of global financial markets. His tax-cut plan has been no less alarming. It was initially estimated to cost $10 trillion in tax revenue, then, after revisions, maybe $3 trillion, by one adviser’s estimate. There is no credible indication of how this would be paid for — only assurances that those in the upper brackets will be favored.
If Mr. Trump were to become president, his open doubts about the value of NATO would present a major diplomatic and security challenge, as would his repeated denunciations of trade deals and relations with China. Mr. Trump promises to renegotiate the Iran nuclear control agreement, as if it were an air-rights deal on Broadway. Numerous experts on national defense and international affairs have recoiled at the thought of his commanding the nuclear arsenal. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell privately called Mr. Trump “an international pariah.” Mr. Trump has repeatedly denounced global warming as a “hoax,” although a golf course he owns in Ireland is citing global warming in seeking to build a protective wall against a rising sea.
In expressing admiration for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, Mr. Trump implies acceptance of Mr. Putin’s dictatorial abuse of critics and dissenters, some of whom have turned up murdered, and Mr. Putin’s vicious crackdown on the press. Even worse was Mr. Trump’s urging Russia to meddle in the presidential campaign by hacking the email of former Secretary of State Clinton. Voters should consider what sort of deals Mr. Putin might obtain if Mr. Trump, his admirer, wins the White House.
A change agent for the nation and the world?
There can be little doubt of that. But voters should be asking themselves if Mr. Trump will deliver the kind of change they want. Starting a series of trade wars is a recipe for recession, not for new American jobs. Blowing a hole in the deficit by cutting taxes for the wealthy will not secure Americans’ financial future, and alienating our allies won’t protect our security. Mr. Trump has also said he will get rid of the new national health insurance system that millions now depend on, without saying how he would replace it.
The list goes on: He would scuttle the financial reforms and consumer protections born of the Great Recession. He would upend the Obama administration’s progress on the environment, vowing to “cancel the Paris climate agreement” on global warming. He would return to the use of waterboarding, a torture method, in violation of international treaty law. He has blithely called for reconsideration of Japan’s commitment not to develop nuclear weapons. He favors a national campaign of “stop and frisk” policing, which has been ruled unconstitutional. He has blessed the National Rifle Association’s ambition to arm citizens to engage in what he imagines would be defensive “shootouts” with gunmen. He has so coarsened our politics that he remains a contender for the presidency despite musing about his opponent as a gunshot target.
Voters should also consider Mr. Trump’s silence about areas of national life that are crying out for constructive change: How would he change our schools for the better? How would he lift more Americans out of poverty? How would his condescending appeal to black voters — a cynical signal to white moderates concerned about his racist supporters — translate into credible White House initiatives to promote racial progress? How would his call to monitor and even close some mosques affect the nation’s life and global reputation? Would his Supreme Court nominees be zealous, self-certain extensions of himself? In all these areas, Mrs. Clinton has offered constructive proposals. He has offered bluster, or nothing. The most specific domestic policy he has put forward, on tax breaks for child care, would tilt toward the wealthy.
Voters attracted by the force of the Trump personality should pause and take note of the precise qualities he exudes as an audaciously different politician: bluster, savage mockery of those who challenge him, degrading comments about women, mendacity, crude generalizations about nations and religions. Our presidents are role models for generations of our children. Is this the example we want for them?
Dear Commons Community,
At Saturday’s opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Michelle Obama gave George W. Bush a warm hug. The image has gone viral over the Internet. Wouldn’t it be great for the country if more of our political leaders especially those in the U.S. Congress, could share similar moments of togetherness.
Dear Commons Community,
On the eve of the first presidential debate, the New York Times, not unexpectedly, endorsed Hillary Clinton for president commenting that she has made “a lifetime’s commitment to solving problems in the real world that qualifies her for this job, and the country should put her to work.” The endorsement also characterized her opponent, Donald Trump, as someone who “discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on layaway.” Below is the entire endorsement.
HILLARY CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT
September 24, 2016
In any normal election year, we’d compare the two presidential candidates side by side on the issues. But this is not a normal election year. A comparison like that would be an empty exercise in a race where one candidate — our choice, Hillary Clinton — has a record of service and a raft of pragmatic ideas, and the other, Donald Trump, discloses nothing concrete about himself or his plans while promising the moon and offering the stars on layaway. (We will explain in a subsequent editorial why we believe Mr. Trump to be the worst nominee put forward by a major party in modern American history.)
But this endorsement would also be an empty exercise if it merely affirmed the choice of Clinton supporters. We’re aiming instead to persuade those of you who are hesitating to vote for Mrs. Clinton — because you are reluctant to vote for a Democrat, or for another Clinton, or for a candidate who might appear, on the surface, not to offer change from an establishment that seems indifferent and a political system that seems broken.
Running down the other guy won’t suffice to make that argument. The best case for Hillary Clinton cannot be, and is not, that she isn’t Donald Trump.
The best case is, instead, about the challenges this country faces, and Mrs. Clinton’s capacity to rise to them.
The next president will take office with bigoted, tribalist movements and their leaders on the march. In the Middle East and across Asia, in Russia and Eastern Europe, even in Britain and the United States, war, terrorism and the pressures of globalization are eroding democratic values, fraying alliances and challenging the ideals of tolerance and charity.
The 2016 campaign has brought to the surface the despair and rage of poor and middle-class Americans who say their government has done little to ease the burdens that recession, technological change, foreign competition and war have heaped on their families.
Over 40 years in public life, Hillary Clinton has studied these forces and weighed responses to these problems. Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect, experience, toughness and courage over a career of almost continuous public service, often as the first or only woman in the arena.
Mrs. Clinton’s work has been defined more by incremental successes than by moments of transformational change. As a candidate, she has struggled to step back from a pointillist collection of policy proposals to reveal the full pattern of her record. That is a weakness of her campaign, and a perplexing one, for the pattern is clear. It shows a determined leader intent on creating opportunity for struggling Americans at a time of economic upheaval and on ensuring that the United States remains a force for good in an often brutal world.
Similarly, Mrs. Clinton’s occasional missteps, combined with attacks on her trustworthiness, have distorted perceptions of her character. She is one of the most tenacious politicians of her generation, whose willingness to study and correct course is rare in an age of unyielding partisanship. As first lady, she rebounded from professional setbacks and personal trials with astounding resilience. Over eight years in the Senate and four as secretary of state, she built a reputation for grit and bipartisan collaboration. She displayed a command of policy and diplomatic nuance and an ability to listen to constituents and colleagues that are all too exceptional in Washington.
Mrs. Clinton’s record of service to children, women and families has spanned her adult life. One of her boldest acts as first lady was her 1995 speech in Beijing declaring that women’s rights are human rights. After a failed attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system, she threw her support behind legislation to establish the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which now covers more than eight million lower-income young people. This year, she rallied mothers of gun-violence victims to join her in demanding comprehensive background checks for gun buyers and tighter reins on gun sales.
After opposing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants during the 2008 campaign, she now vows to push for comprehensive immigration legislation as president and to use executive power to protect law-abiding undocumented people from deportation and cruel detention. Some may dismiss her shift as opportunistic, but we credit her for arriving at the right position.
Mrs. Clinton and her team have produced detailed proposals on crime, policing and race relations, debt-free college and small-business incentives, climate change and affordable broadband. Most of these proposals would benefit from further elaboration on how to pay for them, beyond taxing the wealthiest Americans. They would also depend on passage by Congress.
That means that, to enact her agenda, Mrs. Clinton would need to find common ground with a destabilized Republican Party, whose unifying goal in Congress would be to discredit her. Despite her political scars, she has shown an unusual capacity to reach across the aisle.
When Mrs. Clinton was sworn in as a senator from New York in 2001, Republican leaders warned their caucus not to do anything that might make her look good. Yet as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she earned the respect of Republicans like Senator John McCain with her determination to master intricate military matters.
Her most lasting achievements as a senator include a federal fund for long-term health monitoring of 9/11 first responders, an expansion of military benefits to cover reservists and the National Guard, and a law requiring drug companies to improve the safety of their medications for children.
Below the radar, she fought for money for farmers, hospitals, small businesses and environmental projects. Her vote in favor of the Iraq war is a black mark, but to her credit, she has explained her thinking rather than trying to rewrite that history.
As secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton was charged with repairing American credibility after eight years of the Bush administration’s unilateralism. She bears a share of the responsibility for the Obama administration’s foreign-policy failings, notably in Libya. But her achievements are substantial. She led efforts to strengthen sanctions against Iran, which eventually pushed it to the table for talks over its nuclear program, and in 2012, she helped negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Mrs. Clinton led efforts to renew diplomatic relations with Myanmar, persuading its junta to adopt political reforms. She helped promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an important trade counterweight to China and a key component of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia. Her election-year reversal on that pact has confused some of her supporters, but her underlying commitment to bolstering trade along with workers’ rights is not in doubt. Mrs. Clinton’s attempt to reset relations with Russia, though far from successful, was a sensible effort to improve interactions with a rivalrous nuclear power.
Mrs. Clinton has shown herself to be a realist who believes America cannot simply withdraw behind oceans and walls, but must engage confidently in the world to protect its interests and be true to its values, which include helping others escape poverty and oppression.
Mrs. Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, governed during what now looks like an optimistic and even gentle era. The end of the Cold War and the advance of technology and trade appeared to be awakening the world’s possibilities rather than its demons. Many in the news media, and in the country, and in that administration, were distracted by the scandal du jour — Mr. Clinton’s impeachment — during the very period in which a terrorist threat was growing. We are now living in a world darkened by the realization of that threat and its many consequences.
Mrs. Clinton’s service spans both eras, and she has learned hard lessons from the three presidents she has studied up close. She has also made her own share of mistakes. She has evinced a lamentable penchant for secrecy and made a poor decision to rely on a private email server while at the State Department. That decision deserved scrutiny, and it’s had it. Now, considered alongside the real challenges that will occupy the next president, that email server, which has consumed so much of this campaign, looks like a matter for the help desk. And, viewed against those challenges, Mr. Trump shrinks to his true small-screen, reality-show proportions, as we’ll argue in detail on Monday.
Through war and recession, Americans born since 9/11 have had to grow up fast, and they deserve a grown-up president. A lifetime’s commitment to solving problems in the real world qualifies Hillary Clinton for this job, and the country should put her to work.
In the reading for this week I kept coming back to the idea of knowledge, knowing, and the different types of each. Pascal addresses these concepts most patently. In passages 290 and 292, he directs his attention to the oral tradition and the importance of genealogy it often carried. Before they had “studies, sciences or arts”, topics which Pascal believes fill conversations in his time, people took more care to preserve their genealogy. As one of Pascal’s main concerns in the Pensées is Christianity and its truth, Pascal connects the tradition to how Moses passed on his teaching. “For it is not the length of the years but the number of the generations which makes things obscure, for truth is only altered when men change” (292) creates the image of Chinese Whispers: the more people it passes through, the more the message changes. Passage 292 reads like a defence of the different practices in Christianity; men have changed over time so their practices have too. It also, I believe, speaks to the idea of communities created around people who share the same understanding (not those with the understanding creating the community). How forgiving Pascal was of those communities different to his is unclear. “This evidence is conclusive among certain people who really understand the matter” suggests that he is part of one group that sees things a certain way, and there is a sense that, he privileges this way of understanding the matter.
Pascal carries this idea of different communities of understanding over to his next collection of passage: “Proofs of Jesus Christ”. He separates out three types of knowledge as being carnal knowledge, intellectual knowledge, and wisdom. It seems Pascal does not believe the three can overlap. “Great geniuses [i.e those with intellectual knowledge] have their power, their splendour, their greatness, their victory and their lustre, and do need carnal greatness”(308). They occupy the realm of the mind and are recognised through it. The carnal knowledge then, is left to the body and to the eyes, although they are unable to see the greatness of intellectual people. It is wisdom though, which is cut off from both. “The greatness of wisdom […] is not visible to carnal or intellectual people.” Perhaps it is more accurate to separate, not types of knowledge but, the types of men who have these types of knowledge. Wisdom, as Pascal describes it, exists on another plane. It is not through the human body — “bodies know nothing” — nor through the human mind but by some other entity.
Emily Dickinson, to a lesser extent, also addresses this concept. She suggests that the eyes are not the only way to see, nor the body the only way to know. In poem 336, she uses the phrase “finite eyes” to describe sight which could not take the vision, or the possession, of the meadows, mountains, stars, birds, etc. Is it that the eyes, physically, are unable to see all of nature in its entirety? Or the movement of nature cause the eyes to miss something? The knowledge received solely by eyes is finite either because the eyes themselves are finite i.e they cannot see everything, or because, even if they do see everything figure in nature, they can not see it in its infinity. The poem ends with the speaker deciding to see “with just [her] soul” and it is then that she can look “incautious” at nature and the sun. The image of the sun if particularly neat to finish on as it is commonly known that the human eye will be blinded by looking directly at the sun. The speaker, however, does not need this caution as she has thrown off her eyes and looks with her soul. Is this the same soul that Pascal’s notion of wisdom comes from? There are certainly similarities yet Dickinson does not add the mind into the equation. In fact, the speaker is the only human figure in the poem; it is only “other creatures [who] put their eyes” cautiously towards the sun.
In the PhD Program in Hispanic and Luso Brazilian Literatures and Languages at the Graduate Center, our intellectual community is enhanced by the academic events organized by our students. Besides the annual graduate student conference (coming up on its 22nd year!), each year HLBLL students have also organized readings, lectures, screenings, and discussions on a wide variety of topics and with exciting guests.
One such event is the upcoming two-part series, Escritoras de las Latin-a-méricas: Hablan las narradoras, which invites four distinguished women writers–Sylvia Molloy, Lina Meruane, Achy Obejas, and Valeria Luiselli–to enter into conversation with each other and the public about such possible topics as the experience of translation as a cultural exchange in New York, the relation between English and Spanish in both their academic and creative writing careers, the importance of emerging LGBTIQ voices in fiction, the immigrant women’s experience in the U.S., and issues related to women writer’s rights. The series was organized by HLBLL students Elena Chávez Goycochea, Mariana Romo-Carmona, and Nan Zheng.
Friday, September 30: A conversation with Sylvia Molloy y Lina Meruane
Friday, November 4: A conversation with Achy Obejas & Valeria Luiselli
Both conversations are free, open to the public, and will take place starting at 6:30pm in room 4116 at the Graduate Center, CUNY. A reception will follow the conversation on each night.
Thanks to our fantastic student organizers, and also to the event’s co-sponsors:
The PhD Program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages
The students of the PhD Program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages
The Doctoral Students’ Council
The Classical and Modern Languages department at City College, CUNY
The Feminist Press
The Mexican Cultural Institute of New York
The Center for the Study of Women & Society
Originally published at Library Buzz by Cailean Cooley
Student PIRGs – a powerful collective student advocacy body – has taken a prominent role in criticizing textbook publishers’ rising profit margins amid growing concern over college affordability. Its newest report focuses on textbook publishers’ shift to access codes as a strategy to maintain profit margins despite the emergence of free alternatives like open educational resources.
Here’s the full report:
“Access codes create a direct link between the ability to pay and the ability to get good grades.”
More reports from Student PIRGs:
Covering the Cost – investigating the real impact of high textbook prices on today’s college students (2016)
Open Textbooks: The Billion Dollar Solution – alternative textbook model could save students a billion dollars (2015)
Dear Commons Community,
The long-waited opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture will take place today in Washington, D. C. Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard, has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, reflecting on its importance.
“With the ringing of a bell and a speech from President Obama, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington is to officially open its extraordinary collection to the public on Saturday. But the museum can claim another, equally important achievement: helping resolve the protracted debate about the contributions of black people to American history and, indeed, about whether they had a history worth preserving at all. Those questions were at the heart of the nation’s original debate about whether, and how, black lives matter.
For years, the issue was whether black people were fit to be more than slaves. “Never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration; never see even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture,” Thomas Jefferson wrote. “I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.”
The connection between humanity and history was central to this debate, and in the estimation of some Enlightenment thinkers, blacks were without history and thus lacked humanity. The German philosopher Hegel argued that human beings are “human” in part because they have memory. History is written or collective memory. Written history is reliable, repeatable memory, and confers value. Without such texts, civilization cannot exist. “At this point we leave Africa,” he pontificated, “not to mention it again. For it is no historical part of the world; it has no movement or development to exhibit.”
Black people, of course, would fight back against these aspersions by writing histories about the African-American experience. In the 1880s, George Washington Williams, whom the historian John Hope Franklin called “the first serious historian of his race,” published the “History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880”; he confessed that part of his motivation was “to call the attention to the absurd charge that the Negro does not belong to the human family.”
About a decade later, W.E.B. Du Bois became the first black person to earn a Ph.D. (in history) at Harvard, followed by Carter G. Woodson, a founder of Negro History Week, who wanted to make history by writing it. “If a race has no history,” he wrote, “it stands in danger of being exterminated.” Arthur A. Schomburg, the famous bibliophile, posited a solution: “The American Negro must remake his past in order to make his future.” History “must restore what slavery took away.”
This mandate to rewrite the status of the race by writing the history of its achievements was too broad to be contained only in books. Public history mattered, too. In 1915, Woodson and several of his friends established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, in part to popularize the study of black history. That same year, black leaders called for a memorial to honor black veterans. And a year later — exactly a century ago — Representative Leonidas C. Dyer, a Missouri Republican, introduced legislation to create a monument in their honor. After decades of resistance, that effort took a giant leap forward in 2003, when Congress passed bipartisan legislation to build the museum that was signed by President George W. Bush.
Some $540 million later, the first black president will open the museum’s doors, admirably directed by another historian, Lonnie G. Bunch III. When he does, the long battle to prove Jefferson, Hegel and so many others wrong will have been won. We can only imagine the triumph that the pioneers of black history would feel had they lived to see this occasion.
More than a museum, the building on the National Mall is a refutation of two and a half centuries of the misuse of history to reinforce a social order in which black people were enslaved, then systematically repressed and denied their rights when freed. It also repudiates the long and dismal tradition of objectifying black people in museums.”
Gates closes quoting James Baldwin:
“History,” James Baldwin wrote, “is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.”