Sorry, Joe

What do you do when you don’t like the person you’re spending your life with? As a historian, I’ve studied lots of people with whom I didn’t agree. Alice Moore, Bob Jones, Max Rafferty, and Don McLeroy come to mind. In each of those cases, though, I never doubted the sincerity of my subjects. I didn’t agree with their goals or moral visions, but it was always clear to me that they were trying to make the world a better place, as they saw it. With this new book, though, I’m finding Joseph Lancaster to be a truly despicable person: Pathetic at best, scheming and self-obsessed at worst.

I haven’t been in this situation before. What are we supposed to do when we can’t sympathize with our subjects? In the past, I’ve always admired the people I’ve studied. Even when we were from different ends of the culture-war spectrum.

alice moore again

Ms. Moore makes her case in a crowded 1974 school-board hearing…

Take Alice Moore, for example. I wrote a lot about Moore’s work in Kanawha County, West Virginia in my book about conservative educational activism in the twentieth century. On nearly every issue, Moore and I are diametrically opposed. Yet she agreed to talk with me about her memories and commitments and she was delightfully kind, humble, and self-effacing. The better I came to know her, the better I understood that she was brave, intelligent, and public-spirited. We’ll never agree, but she’s a good person.

As I delve into the Lancasterian school craze of the early 1800s, though, I’m finding that Joseph Lancaster himself was not a good person. I’m finishing a productive month of research into his archived papers at the American Antiquarian Society. With this rich collection of letters and personal papers, I’ve been able to dig deep into Lancaster’s head.

It’s not a pretty sight.

As I read through his personal notebooks, for example, I’m struck by the fact that he was always more interested in fame and fortune than educational reform. From his earliest days, he was making notes to himself about how much money one could earn as a grasping school-master.

Folio page sample

Notebook of a horrible man…

In his interactions with his friends, family, and colleagues, too, Lancaster was relentlessly self-centered, vindictive, and paranoid. His first backers, the Royal Lancasterian Society, got tired of bankrolling his extravagant spending habits. They cut him off, financially, and offered him a good job as a school superintendent with a good salary.

How did he respond? Viciously and aggressively. When a long-time friend advised Lancaster to take the offered job, Lancaster exploded. As Lancaster put it, he refused to be the “hireling or parlour dog” of his former associates.

It got worse. Lancaster’s first wife was subject to some sort of unspecified mental illness. She seemed delusional, hiding things all around the house and unable to maintain a polite façade. How did Lancaster respond to her malady? Here’s what he told his fourteen-year-old daughter in a letter from 1819:

As to poor Mother—this one thing I am determined on, I will never allow her to be an annoyance, and interrupt our comfort or our business—if she does, she must go—if not, it will be all well but I will not ruin thy temper, and my own—destroy our peace and impede her interests as well as our business—because of her wild nonsense which she can restrain.

The more I find out, the deeper I dislike. For me, this is new. How do historians handle it when they don’t like their subjects?

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I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Another week in the archives–1818 feels closer than 2018 these days. But 2018 went on without me. Here are some of the stories that came across our desk this week:

Fear and the evangelical Trumpists: John Fea in The Atlantic.

No AP for these fancy prep schools, at WaPo.

Would the real campus conservative please stand up? Turning Point USA rebuts criticism from Young America’s Foundation, at CHE.

turning point USA

Turning Point USA appeals to campus conservatives…

The high cost of campus free-speech protests:

Christian in America: Eric Miller interviews Matthew Bowman at R&P.

Pokin’ the academic bear: National Association of Scholars republishes pro-colonialism article, at IHE.christian politics of a word

Trump’s latest: Merging the Ed and Labor departments into DEW.

George Will: Vote Democratic to end GOP “misrule,” at WaPo.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

What a week–everything from spy toilets to “coming out” to your parents that you love Trump. Here are a few stories that caught our ILYBYGTH eye this week:

Conservative women “come out” as Trumpists, at NYT.

Trump women NYT

Young, female, and Trumpist.

Cakeshops and civil rights. CT talks to African American evangelicals about same-sex marriage and refusing service.

What killed Alexander the Great? At AO.

The death of college: At The Atlantic, Adam Harris reviews the bleak future of American higher ed.

Dora the Cop: Adjusting Miranda warnings for kids in Baltimore, at BSun.

Why does Kim Jong Un travel with a personal toilet? At LiveScience.

AD Sessions weighs in on microaggressions. HT: MM.

Teachers get mad about the new, shorter AP World History curriculum. At Politico.

NKOREA-POLITICS-KIM

Spy-proof port-a-john in the background…

Conservatives loving Hollywood: A gushy review of First Reformed at American Conservative.

Remember Dorothy Sayers? A new look at her legacy at CT.

Australian students dress in Klan robes and blackface for “politically incorrect”-themed party. At The Guardian.

The case against Harvard: Students accuse it of racist admissions policies, at BBC.

Penn Puzzles: Why No BGU?

I’m back in Philadelphia to get back into the archives for my new book. And the trip has reminded me of a great question that never got an answer: Why isn’t there a Billy Graham University?Billy graham university meme

Last time I was down here, I got to sit in on Jon Zimmerman’s history of higher-ed seminar. They had read Fundamentalist U and I was happy to talk with the students about it. One of the students raised the question and it has bothered me ever since.

After all, it did seem to be a pretty standard part of the revivalists’ resume. Moody had Moody Bible Institute. Billy Sunday had Winona Lake. William Bell Riley started Northwestern. Bob Jones had, well, Bob Jones. The list goes on and on. Falwell-Liberty; Oral Roberts-Oral Roberts; Robertson-Regent.

So why is there no Billy Graham University?

Billy Graham Center 1

Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center

One possibility is that Wheaton has functioned as the de facto BGU. The Billy Graham Center is there, and the connection is pretty tight.

Maybe we’ll see a repeat of the Bryan University story. Back in 1925, after the sudden death of William Jennings Bryan in the immediate aftermath of the Scopes trial, fundamentalists rallied to open a college in Bryan’s memory. Some wanted it in Chicago; some wanted it to be a junior college. In the end, Bryan’s widow won the day with her plea to open the new school in Dayton, Tennessee. The junior-college idea was rejected in favor of a traditional liberal-arts university.

Is it possible that we’ll see a similar push for a memorial BGU?

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Racist Simpsons and other stories that came across our desks this week…

The White House Bible study group, at BBC. HT: MC

  • A “high-protein diet” of conservative evangelical Christianity for the Cabinet.

Much Apu about Something: The Simpsons punts on its racial stereotypes, at EW. HT: MM

How much public school can you buy for $25 million? Not as much as this billionaire wanted, at PI. HT: MM.

The “free-speech crisis” is worst at evangelical colleges, says Sarah Jones at NR.

Peter Greene asks: Why are we still giving Big Standardized Tests?

“Teaching for homecoming:” Why Wendell Berry thinks education is dangerous, at Forma.

  • “I know you all are learning a lot of methods about how to teach, and I’ll tell you something: None of them will work.”

Pro-choice “callous and violent,” says Ross Douthat at NYT.

The progressive perfidy of “dialogue:” Rod Dreher at AC.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Spring still feels pretty far away up here in the woods. Here are some stories that kept us occupied this past week:

Trumpism and the authoritarian personality, at NYT. HT: HD.

Speak no revival: Liberty bans talk of RedLetterRevival, at RNS.

FBI, MLK, and the first televangelist, at R&P.

ok teacher march

Teachers march in OK.

  • “History does not repeat itself, but often, it does rhyme. Today, the White House has an evangelical advisory board and a coterie of televangelists to march alongside the executive branch. Are the African American members of President Trump’s evangelical advisory council the modern day Michauxs?”

How do radical creationists change their mind? Not by argument, at RD.

  • “However well-intentioned you are, bludgeoning people with fact after argument after fact will only entrench them in their position and reinforce a perception of being persecuted by the world.”
  • How can creationists refuse to acknowledge scientific evidence? Easy, at ILYBYGTH.

Arizona’s up-and-coming Betsy Devos clone, at NR.

Why don’t Americans care more about World War I? At The Guardian.

Shocking: Mother uses stun gun to wake her teenager for Easter services. At RNS.

LGBTQ at evangelical colleges: Author interview at IHE.

Hullabaloo at Taylor, too.

Oh my: New flat-earth poll finds only 2/3 of young people “confident” that the earth is a sphere, at LS.

Too far for the Atlantic: Kevin Williamson fired for advocating hanging women who had abortions.

Sweepin Down the Plains: Oklahoma teachers march 110 miles, at NBC.

Are college history classes teaching students to be critical thinkers? Erm…not really, says Stanford’s Sam Wineburg at IHE.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

The holiday week didn’t seem to slow down the culture-war rhetoric. Here are a couple of ILYBYGTH-themed stories that came across our desk this week. Thanks to everyone who sent in stories and tips.

Historian Sean Wilentz on the difference between “liberals” and “progressives.”

  • “there is a rumor abroad in the land that only progressives care about the powerless and the poor, whereas liberals are just vaguely left-of-center fig leaves for plutocrats and globalizers. . . . This was edifying and improbable pandering.”

    wheaton rainbow bench

    ARE the times a-changin?

LGBTQ issues at evangelical colleges, at NPR. HT: EC.

Yes: Why do white evangelicals love Trump?

Double standards, elite liberal hypocrisy, and Trump-shaming, at FPR.

It’s tough to be a teacher, by Andrew Heller.

What do Hungarian school children read in their textbooks? “It can be problematic. . . . for different cultures to coexist.” At NYT. HT: HD.

The David defense: Trump’s relationship with Stormy Daniels in biblical language, at Vox.

Life after polygamy in Short Creek, at R&P.

Schools are getting safer these days, in spite of how it feels. From NCES.

The coming collapse of Christian colleges, by Rod Dreher at AC.

More teachers’ strikes: Kentucky teachers stay home, at CNN.

Should history be patriotic? At The Atlantic.

Want to save the humanities?

Last Day for a Freebie!

Don’t forget, the nice folks at Oxford have donated ten copies of Fundamentalist U to Goodreads for a free giveaway. There’s one more day to put your name in the hat for a gratis copy.

Cover art final

Free! And worth every penny…

At these prices, you can’t afford NOT to get a copy.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Happy Monday the 13th! I hope you have good luck today. Here are a few of the stories and trends that passed across our desk this week:

Scales and schools: How do well-meaning reformers keep goofing? Why do they insist on “scaling up” good schools when it never works?

Red Dynamite: At Righting America at the Creation Museum, Carl Weinberg untangles the connections between creationism and anti-communism.Bart reading bible

Education culture-war news from the midterm elections: School board vote in Colorado dings vouchers.

Ahhh…Thanksgiving. The holiday to gather around a table and yell culture-war insults at our friends and family. At 3 Quarks Daily, Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse reflect on “familial angst” on Turkey Day.

Why are college students so touchy about free speech? As reported by IHE, a new survey says it’s because they’re Americans.

Arica Coleman looks at the career of neo-confederacy in American textbooks, at Time.

What’s wrong with charter schools? The Progressive examines the debates in North Carolina.

…and what’s wrong with “personalized learning?” EdWeek listens to three critics.

John Oliver takes on Ken Ham. Should Kentucky’s Ark Encounter receive tax incentives?

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

This week the interweb’s series of tubes heated up with plenty of ILYBYGTH-related material. Here are some of the stories we might have missed:

It’s not just segregation. In NYT, John Rury and Derrick Darby on the history of racial imbalances in the rate of harsh school punishments.

Leo Ribuffo at HNN on Trump, Nixon, and anti-Semitism in the Oval Office.

Evangelicals for Obamacare.Bart reading bible

Inside the mind of school-choice maven Eva Moskowitz. Why do teachers call the NYC charter-school leader “Evil” Moskowitz?

Why is young-earth impresario Ken Ham mad at Princeton University?

AG Sessions: Free speech for campuses, not for NFL sidelines.

“Why in the hell would I pay 60 grand a year to have my child’s life ruined?” Mary Poplin at Christianity Today on the dangers of “secular privilege” in higher education.

Can an academic journal nowadays publish a defense of colonialism? The latest on the Third World Quarterly hullabaloo from CHE.

What will make conservative parents happy? Michael Petrilli looks at school choice at National Affairs.

Harvard, Queen Betsy, and school choice: Peter Greene tears apart Devos’s Harvard speech.