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26 Feb 11:04

History is a process, not a pile of flash card facts

by Ben Keppel, Associate Professor of History at University of Oklahoma
History is not just a few facts to be memorized Greg Wass/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

The decision of a committee of the Oklahoma legislature, by a vote of 11-4, to stop funding for Advanced Placement History classes is national news. Whether this committee vote will actually lead the legislature to stop funding advanced placement history classes is yet to be determined.

As a professionally trained historian who has taught at the University of Oklahoma for more than twenty years, I hope that the legislature and the governor do not ultimately take this step.

Those who favor this withdrawal of public funding claim that the AP standards emphasize the “bad” or “negative” aspects of American history, at the expense of the idea that the United States is “exceptional” because it has grown up without the class conflicts and religious strife that divided many parts of Europe for centuries.

I support the AP history standards because, first of all, I have actually read them. A fair reading of the standards released in the Fall of 2014 is the most effective refutation of the indictment that there is a political agenda at work.

To be frank, however, I fear that these opponents of AP history will not be moved by any evidence that a history professor like me would offer them.

What causes us to disagree so strongly is a deep difference over what history actually is and how its mastery should be measured.

Is history a story of how great people became “great”?

Is history the story of how a self-evidently great people came to be “great”? Some people clearly believe this, and they are not all “political extremists.” Any visit to any book store or library will yield a shelf full of books to feed this appetite.

And, if one looks at the textbooks assigned to students at other points in American history —- such as the Cold War -—one will find narratives of triumph and superiority represented as “objectivity.”

AP History standards reflect the disagreements of history The Unquiet Library/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Over the last fifty years, social conflict in our society over who belongs here (are you a “real American”?), and whose creativity, labor and struggle have “built this country” (and at what social cost), have exposed an uncomfortable fact of life: we do not agree about how to answer these fundamental questions.

Many of us who were born here or who have chosen to become American citizens have direct experience with being excluded, discriminated against and called “un-American.” The history of the economic and social development of the country is full of examples of often violent struggle over wages, hours, conditions of work, just as in other countries.

History is a living process, not a ‘thing’ to be memorized

The way history is presented today in class rooms across this country, and as it is reflected in the latest AP standards, accepts that these disagreements are, in their very essence, what “history” actually is.

Even after any reasonably free and open society resolves some fundamental questions (the decision to end slavery and legally enforced segregation) for itself, opponents of these decisions do not just become magically convinced by an “idea whose time has finally come.”

The process of disagreement and negotiation continues with we hope, less violence and more mutual understanding than before. In this sense, history never reaches its “destination” or its “end.”

History is a living process that we cannot — and dare not– live without. The AP history standards focus on processes that are initiated by humans as they live together and which continue shape their lives over generations, not on facts about great moments and their visionary authors.

Such moments and such people surely do exist, but theirs is not the whole story. If some “great names” are absent from the AP history standards, it is not because they have been written out of history, but because the AP history standards are a framework within which and through which one makes sense of details.

If all you have is a pile of flash card facts — key dates in American history — you really don’t know anything. What you need to know is who assembled these facts and why? You should ask to see the sources and examine the sources of selection.

When you go to the AP history standards you will find a list of all the professors who took part in devising these standards. They come from all kinds of educational institutions — from community colleges to Ivy league schools.

The historians who wrote the history standards understand history as a process, not a “thing” to be memorized. And, once you have assembled the strongest available evidence, you will, as the scientific method requires, come to the same result: human beings are complex and contradictory.

Beyond that, the lesson of history is also like that of the sciences: we must reckon with the diversity of life and form, which has always been humanity’s toughest challenge — and it always will be.

Getting rid of AP history ignores the rigors of this reality rather than meeting its real and enduring obligations upon all of us.

The Conversation

Ben Keppel has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Archive Center and the Research Council at his home institution, the University of Oklahoma..

06 Jan 11:03

Faites des gosses, plein


06 Jan 22:44

Bientôt la majorité sexuelle à 14 ans en Belgique


Patience, les discussions sont en cours.



12 Jan 15:09

Ce chat ce héros

(Merci à Yumi pour la suggestion)

23 Feb 08:12

by daniel


21 Feb 05:00

February 21, 2015

Hehehe. Marty made a recruiting video, involving explosions, for Pinterest.

13 Feb 14:18

To me, absurdity is the only reality

by but does it float
Photography by Andrew B. Myers Title: Frank Zappa Thanks, Keith. Atley
09 Feb 18:10

Faire du ciel le plus bel endroit de la Terre

(Merci à Benoit pour la suggestion)

14 Feb 05:00

February 14, 2015

09 Jan 05:00

January 09, 2015

Preorder is almost over! And once it's over, we won't be printing any more books?

30 Jan 05:00

January 30, 2015

Madness setting in once more...
11 Feb 05:00

February 11, 2015

18 Dec 16:21

Time to roll out real-world business studies?

by Mike Haynes, Professor of International Political Economy at University of Wolverhampton
Executive cufflinks? Rob Best, CC BY-ND

Today in Britain there is hardly a major business that has not been accused of wrongdoing. From the banks to GlaxoSmithKline and BP, both of whom have had their coffers lightened somewhat after paying fines, to G4S and Tesco who face investigations for alleged offences, the list goes on and on.

But where does this leave the 100,000-plus students who are studying business? Economics students have protested against an irrelevant economics curriculum, but little has been heard from those studying business even as the enormous scale of bad and/or criminal behaviour by the world’s biggest companies stares us in the face.

There is a structural problem here. Business schools could be about business but too often they have to present themselves as for business. They demonstrate the importance of a business agenda in higher education. Students are encouraged to see themselves as entrepreneurs even though the chances of their being involved in genuine business entrepreneurship are small. Courses tell them about leadership when the best that most of us can achieve is some form of followership.

We preach about opportunity but practice hierarchy and social selection. Indeed given the diminishing patterns of social mobility in the UK, and the preference for those with public school and Russell Group backgrounds, the prospects are poor for students in most ordinary university business schools to rise anywhere near the top.

Company of wolves

Business schools seem to treat bad behaviour as the exception rather than the rule. But is it? In the 1930s Edwin Sutherland risked his academic career in the US by keeping a set of index cards about the prosecutions of major companies. With this simple research method he was able to make the explosive argument that business violation of the criminal law was common. More, many major corporations were recidivist, serial offenders.

His work became a sociological classic. But Sutherland made less impact in the world of business studies where men in suits still struggle to ethically negotiate the “triple bottom line” of profit, people and planet, guided by their sense of corporate social responsibility.

Horsing around andy a, CC BY

But “crime in the executive suites” has always been bigger than “crime on the streets”. Events since 2008 have revealed how colossal today’s ongoing corporate crime wave is. The investment banks almost brought down the major economies. Then we learned that they had also been fixing the world financial casino. The high street banks have practised endless and systematic mis-selling – fraud by another name. The level of PPI compensation alone suggests that on average each high street branch of a UK bank may have been involved in mis-selling policies worth millions. And we know from Lloyds that this often involved senior staff browbeating low-paid junior employees into doing their organisation’s dirty work.

Swathes of private companies are essentially corporate welfare subsidy junkies. UK corporate welfare costs have been estimated by one critic to run to £85 billion a year. Corporate hand-outs extend from cushy PFI deals to direct and indirect subsidies, tax breaks and even a bit of free labour thanks to the UK benefits system.

Company performance, even when masked by creative accountancy and boosted by low pay for the bulk of their workers, is often lamentable. Yet bosses filch ever more, supported by indulgent boards and compensation committees whose real function appears to be sustaining grotesque pay levels. And when activity involves criminality that falls within the scope of UK law and law enforcement, then it is rare that any serious sanction follows. Margaret Hodge has rightly questioned why Serco and G4S are able to bid for more contracts while both being investigated for alleged fraud. And taxes – well to paraphrase Leona Hemlsey – only little people, and little companies, pay taxes.

Student moans

Some good research is done in business schools – ironically driven there by the very irrelevance of much of the work in economics departments. One of the most important centres of critical analysis in the UK, for example, is Manchester Business School’s Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change. At Essex University, Professor Prem Sikka has played an important role in challenging many accountancy fiddles.

Required reading. failing_angel, CC BY

Almost every university has a business school where many times more people study than in economics departments. Yet our courses barely reflect the problems that we have with business. Perhaps to understand this students might better invest in a subscription to Private Eye than another glossy textbook.

What we need is a new Sutherland for 21st-century business schools. It would not be difficult. Think how many index cards we could fill with tax avoidance. Or what about money laundering? London is reckoned to be the world’s biggest money laundering centre. And it has been the storm centre for the dodgy dealing behind many a global financial collapse – some say back to the South Sea Bubble. Then what of the cards for the super-rich? The idea that the UK is “open for business” means any oligarch can use the UK to hide their wealth, buy up assets and deploy the courts and the law to fight their legal battles.

Business schools need to confront this world of business as it is. Our students might be our best allies. Many of them will be in low-paid part-time jobs; they will be living in buy-to-let properties or in private halls owned by multinationals. They will be worrying about debts that extend into the foreseeable future. And social inequality in the jobs market and the nepotistic social hierarchies of UK higher education institutions will loom ever greater as they get closer to graduation. Real-world business studies can also start close to home.

The Conversation

Mike Haynes does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

17 Dec 15:56

Bonjour monsieur, alors on vous fait quelle coupe aujourd'hui ? Eh bien une bonne grosse coupe de merde s'il vous plait.


12 Nov 13:04

If one could know whether among that glittering host there were here and there other spirit-inhabited grains of rock and metal, whether man’s blundering search for wisdom and for love was a sole and insignificant tremor, or part of a universal movement!

by but does it float
Photos of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko by the Rosetta spacecraft Title: Olaf Stapledon, Star Maker Also: The Singing Comet Folkert
05 Dec 05:00

December 05, 2014

ANNOUNCEMENT: We will cease taking Augie preorders on December 15.
26 Nov 00:28

Les 90's par Gus Van Sant


28 Nov 10:43

Alors voilà, quelqu'un a donc un jour fait ce gâteau

Lucas Vigroux

Souvenirs, souvenirs

Ceux qui savent SAVENT.



19 Nov 05:00

November 19, 2014

If you want a Science book in a hurry, they're on amazon!
18 Nov 05:00

November 18, 2014

29 Oct 09:23

Celui qui arrive à regarder cette personne pendant plus d'une minute gagne le droit de ne pas fêter Halloween cette année


28 Oct 10:48

L'adolescence, cet enfer


21 Oct 18:43

The camera sees everything at once. We don’t

by but does it float
Photography by Andrea Grützner Title: David Hockney Atley
23 Oct 12:07

Merde, on n'est vraiment pas tous égaux

(Source + merci à Doudou pour la suggestion)

23 Oct 09:29

Jouons un peu: tiens tiens, qu'est-ce que ça peut bien être ?

A gagner: le contenu de l'objet en question.



18 Oct 20:44


19 Oct 10:36

Einstein, Mortimer, Tournesol et nous

by David Monniaux

Lorsque l'on explique que l'on est « chercheur », il y a souvent un malin — ou plutôt, quelqu'un qui se croit tel — qui sort cette citation attribuée à Charles de Gaulle :

« Des chercheurs qui cherchent, on en trouve ; des chercheurs qui trouvent, on en cherche. »

Peu importe que cette phrase n'ait, sous toute probabilité, jamais été prononcée par Charles de Gaulle, celui (ou celle) qui la prononce n'en est pas à cela près…

S'ensuit alors parfois une anecdote du genre « j'ai connu un type qui travaillait au CNRS, hé bien il ne fichait rien ». Que cette anecdote d'une connaissance d'un ami d'un cousin de l'interlocuteur au sujet d'une personne travaillant (à quel poste ? chercheur, technicien, secrétaire ? dans quel laboratoire ? quelle discipline ?) soit invérifiable et indistinguable d'une légende urbaine importe également peu : l'important est de pouvoir dire, sous couvert d'une gausserie, que les chercheurs scientifiques sont au mieux des rêveurs inutiles, au pire des fainéants. S'inscrivent également dans cette thématique les gausseries envers des recherches jugées inutiles, par exemple sur la cassure des spaghettis, ou sur les poissons qui changent de sexe.

Réflexions de beaufs sans importance au comptoir de Cafés du Commerce provinciaux ? Pas uniquement : de hauts responsables politiques ont eu des propos allant en ce sens. Il convient donc de se demander pourquoi des personnes a priori éduquées peuvent prononcer ce genre de propos sérieusement, voire en pensant être en quelque sorte subversives (c'est un trait regrettable de la France de 2014 que des gens puissent s'afficher comme en quelque sorte des libre penseurs dont on bâillonne l'expression alors qu'ils ressassent sur tout support des clichés éculés).

Pour ma part, je vois dans la culture populaire, conjuguée à l'ignorance de la réalité du fonctionnement de la recherche scientifique, la source de cette incompréhension. Dans la culture populaire (films, bandes dessinées…), le scientifique est soit une sorte de génie polyvalent qui conçoit seul ou presque des machineries complexes (qu'elles soient maléfiques ou bénéfiques, les professeurs Tournesol et Mortimer entrant dans ce dernier cas), soit un intellect supérieur et solitaire travaillant sur des problèmes ésotériques et dont l'excellence est démontrée par le prix Nobel (ou la médaille Fields, depuis que Cédric Villani a pris sur lui d'incarner les mathématiques dans les médias populaires). L'avancement de la Science procède par à-coups et « grandes découvertes » produites par des génies (Einstein).

Or, cette image ne correspond pas à la réalité. Un vrai scientifique travaille le plus souvent en équipe. Il est compétent sur un sujet ou un ensemble de sujets relativement précis, même si bien sûr il peut avoir une « culture générale scientifique » plus large. Le métier d'ingénieur est différent de celui d'un chercheur scientifique, même s'il y a un continuum entre les deux ; la conception d'un engin complexe nécessite une équipe d'ingénieurs en plus du chercheur, même génial, qui a découvert le principe de base de son fonctionnement. La recherche scientifique « intéressante » (quel que soit le sens que l'on attache à ce mot) ne se limite pas à l'infime minorité d'individus qui obtiennent le prix Nobel. Les « grandes découvertes » de rupture se produisent le plus souvent dans un contexte de questionnements, approches voisines, état de l'art qui ont permis l'avancée cruciale.

Le processus conduisant d'une découverte scientifique à une application innovante semble très mal connu. Dans l'imaginaire populaire, le scientifique qui fait une découverte « utile » peut potentiellement immédiatement la mettre en œuvre dans une « invention », qu'il va construire dans son atelier (le sous-marin de Tournesol) ou dont il concevra les plans (l'Espadon de Mortimer). La version managériale moderne de cette croyance est l'encouragement à fonder des start-ups. En réalité, une bonne partie des innovations débouchant sur des produits qui se vendent bien ne sont pas scientifiques, mais industrielles et marketing ; les travaux scientifiques agissent plutôt de façon diffuse, la conception d'un produit innovant n'étant possible que par l'état général des connaissance et la formation d'étudiants à cet état des connaissances.

Pour prendre un exemple concret, il n'y a aucune découverte scientifique spécifique et « de rupture » derrière le succès de l'iPhone d'Apple ; les découvertes scientifiques s'y rapportant (semiconducteurs, traitement du signal, informatique, etc.) s'appliquent également aux modèles d'autres constructeurs ; ce qui a fait la différence ce sont l'image, l'attention aux détails, la conception… Je dirais même que c'est le cas le plus général et que les produits technologiques permis par une avancée scientifique précise sont une infime minorité. De même, le commerce électronique n'a pas décollé dans les années 1990-2000 suite à une invention précise, mais notamment grâce à des recherches sur la cryptographie à clef publique menées dans les années 1970, elles-mêmes basées sur des siècles et des siècles de recherches en arithmétique, domaine des mathématiques pourtant jadis réputé inutile car inapplicable aux tâches industrielles et militaires… de l'époque.

Un peu de culture scientifique permettrait pourtant de comprendre que si l'on veut, par exemple, construire des poutres en fibre de carbone qui cassent moins, il est important de comprendre les mécanismes de la cassure et que ces mécanismes peuvent être étudiés sur des objets moins coûteux, par exemple des spaghettis crus. De même, concevoir des algorithmes efficaces pour projeter des polyèdres en grande dimension peut paraître une recherche inutilement ésotérique, si on ignore que de tels polyèdres interviennent dans des problèmes de sûreté de fonctionnement de logiciels qui pilotent des avions, des trains, etc. Là encore, il s'agit de faire avancer l'état des connaissances plutôt que produire une découverte « magique ».

Ainsi,derrière les discours sur « l'innovation de rupture » et l'« excellence » il y a une sorte d'imagerie d'Épinal où le chercheur scientifique « qui trouve » soit est Einstein, soit construit lui-même une invention, les autres chercheurs étant au mieux des rêveurs inutiles, au pire des tire-au-flanc.

20 Oct 07:16

Instant câlin


21 Oct 11:05

Instant câlin


14 Oct 11:56

Salut la petite miss