Saturday, December 21, 2013


Incredibly, my beloved son, Joseph, is five today.  Hard to believe.

Here are three photos from Thanksgiving (all by my uncle, John Henry Stassen):

And here's one from his school:

Happy birthday!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Link of the Day

One of the signs, for me, of a really great piece of internet writing (article, blog post, whatever) is that I find myself googling to try and dig it up again weeks or months or years after I first read it.  I just did this, not for the first time, with this article.  So I thought I'd share it with you.  It's by Adam Kotsko, who blogs here.  It's called "A Defense of the Lecture", which was not a title I was (prior to reading it) likely to be sympathetic with.  Now I keep rereading it.

Here's a small bit of it:
A lively discussion of a book by a small, engaged group is an ideal to be aspired to. At the same time, it seems to me that such discussions are pretty rare, even among professional academics (note how often people will express surprise that a conference session had good discussion). Such skills need to be cultivated, and of course you can only learn by doing. Yet there are some base-level confidence issues that need to be addressed as well, and unless we want to cultivate students who believe that their every utterance is intrinsically worthwhile due to their precious snowflake-hood, it would probably be good to get them to a point where their confidence is earned, where it’s based in actual knowledge....

I think that the assumption that students have baseline reading skills is behind the thinking of people who want more or less exclusively discussion-based classes — lectures, they suppose, are just trying to transmit information, which the books can do by themselves. If we assume that the students are reading attentively outside of class, we can use the class time to practice our critical reading with each other. I don’t think it’s at all clear, however, that students typically come to college with the skills necessary to make such a model work. Some will, but it’s much safer to assume that your students need help. And I believe that we should interpret students’ desire for more lectures precisely as a cry for help.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Michael Kammen (1936 - 2013)

I returned from a Thanksgiving trip to the news that my graduate advisor, Michael Kammen, died last Friday.  I hope to write something soon about him, in particular about what an amazing advisor he was.  For now, I don't have the heart.

For the moment, I thought I'd just post links to obituaries I've seen.  (I've seen precious few; I assume there will be more.  I'll add links when I see them.)  Here are some links:

Newspaper obituaries:

The Cornell Chronicle
Cornell Daily Sun (partially reprinted at HNN)
The Washington Post
Boston Globe
The LA Times
The New York Times 

Other comments & remembrances:

US Intellectual History BlogOrganization of American Historians
The Historical Society
The Ithaca Journal
Sara Polak

More will be added as I see them.  (If you have seen others, please leave links in the comments.)

Rest in peace, Michael.  You are sorely missed.