1. Where is the history job market going?: Here’s Robert Townsend’s thesis. Here’s Marc Bousquet’s antithesis. Finally, this is not a Kantian synthesis, but here’s a different train of thought altogether. I’m somewhere between the Bousquet and Mondschein camps—although I accept the immediate reality of the facts in Townsend’s report.
2. Books of the Century: Berkeley graduate student Daniel Immerwahr has constructed an incredibly useful website containing lists of bestsellers and significant books from each decade of the twentieth century. Immerwahr is a PhD candidate under the direction of David Hollinger.
3. One Professor’s Top 10 List on the Past Decade: University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole takes an admittedly slanted and negative look back. I’m not a Juan Cole follower, but I think historians will be sorting out his 10 points of concern for many years to come.
4. The Fate of the Liberal Arts in Tough Economic Times: Mary B. Marcy reflects on the usefulness of, and demand for, the liberal arts. This NYT article touches on similar concerns (i.e. drop philosophy?!). John Fea responds directly to Marcy’s article and raises other questions. As a former student advisor, I especially appreciate Fea’s point about educating parents on the long and short-term needs of their college-aged children. Yes, these are perennial issues (a result of the mid-winter blues?), but all three pieces contain a number of poignant points and bits of information. I’m particularly intrigued by the UCLA/HERI data from 2008. Yes, that data predates the crisis, but it says something about student desires. That data mollifies my occasional concern, from the demand side at least, that some administrators won’t be happy until the only majors offered are business, finance, computer science, or fill-in-the-blank-professional-school prep. It is clear, however, that tough economic times do not mean that questions about the big issues—the “Great Ideas”—are permanently forgotten by students. The hopeful professional in me sees those questions as only occasionally submerged by a deluge of present needs.
5. The Return of The Baffler: This is somewhat off-topic with regard to USIH, but Thomas Frank’s thoughtful magazine is set to reappear in 2010.