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SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Ed (2-1-08)
Peterson, a visiting assistant professor of American studies at the University of Iowa, has clearly spent a great deal of time with a remote control clutched in his hand, clicking his way across the late-night comedy landscape. His conclusion? Comedy about politics is as "common as crabgrass" — but actual political comedy, which Peterson defines as satire aimed at advancing a serious critique, is "so rare that we might be tempted to conclude it is extinct." When we tune into Leno, David Letterman, and Conan O'Brien — whom Peterson scolds as "evangelists of apathy" — we get cynicism instead of satire. ...
SOURCE: http://www.michiganlawyer.com/ (2-1-08)
But sometimes issues of social justice can become lost amid the study of torts, contracts and civil procedure.
Frank H. Wu, the outgoing dean of Wayne State University Law School, has made it his mission to change that....
To prepare his students for this future, Wu and his wife, Carol"Debbie" Izumi, pledged $125,000 over a five-year period to create the Izumi Family Fund.
Named in honor of Izumi's parents, Japanese-Americans who were held in Northern California's Tula Lake Internment Camp after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the fund provides an endowment for"the exclusive purpose of supporting activities of the law school."...
Enter Thomas J. Sugrue.
According to Wu, Sugrue is"the leading historian of our generation, working on the issues of urban America."
In particular, his 1996 book, Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, is"the single most important book ever written on Detroit since World War II," Wu said.
Given Wayne State University Law School's longstanding commitment to the City of Detroit, [ Peter J. Hammer, vice chair of the Izumi Fund Board of Directors] called Sugrue"a perfect match for the fund."
With that ringing endorsement, the University of Pennsylvania professor was invited to the law school, where he spoke with students and community members alike about Jim Crowe's Last Stand: Detroit and the Unfinished Struggle for Civil Rights in the North.
Sugrue captivated the audience with his theory that the civil rights movement stopped short of securing equality for minorities living above the Mason-Dixon Line.
Specifically, he said,"The history of Detroit has served as a prime example of the decline of the civil rights movement."
Noting that while"the North was never a place of primeval white innocence, it has a long history of organized resistance to integration."
Sugrue has made it his life's work to dispel that myth.
"How we remember the past ... has real stakes for the present," he explained to attendees. But,"our nostalgia for the civil rights era and our marginalization of the history of the North is detrimental to the pursuit of racial equality."
By taking his message to Wayne State's law students, Sugrue continued his fight against the cycle of misinformation and disinterest.
"Law is one the most historical of disciplines ... [and] over the past 100 years, the courts have been an important forum for those interested in remedying America's long history of racial inequality," he explained....
SOURCE: New Criterion: Notes & Comments (2-1-08)
Ho-hum, you say. Another anti-American history of America: what else is new? Isn’t this just business as usual for academic historians? Yes, it is. But Howard Zinn’s book is not just any left-leaning diatribe. Published in 1980, it instantly became a bestseller; even today, more than twenty-five years later, it is number 88 on Amazon. It has gone through innumerable editions and updates. And it is, we’re told, the most widely assigned American history book in high schools across the country. In other words, it is a major source—in many cases, the major source—for students’ understanding of the history of their country. The astonishing career of A People’s History is an object lesson in how little criticism matters, or perhaps we should say it is an object lesson in how certain sentimental narratives can utterly overwhelm criticism, be it ever so accurate and eloquent. Zinn’s story—noble savages oppressed by nasty capitalists—was calculated to appeal to the politically correct, anti-American spirit that has been regnant among the country’s elites since the late 1960s. But its flaws were early on pointed out with devastating precision by the Harvard historian Oscar Handlin. Handlin’s brief is—or should have been—fatal. Writing in The American Scholar in 1980, he noted:
It simply is not true that “what Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortez did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.” It simply is not true that the farmers of the Chesapeake colonies in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries avidly desired the importation of black slaves, or that the gap between rich and poor widened in the eighteenth-century colonies. Zinn gulps down as literally true the proven hoax of Polly Baker and the improbable Plough Jogger, and he repeats uncritically the old charge that President Lincoln altered his views to suit his audience. The Geneva assembly of 1954 did not agree on elections in a unified Vietnam; that was simply the hope expressed by the British chairman when the parties concerned could not agree. The United States did not back Batista in 1959; it had ended aid to Cuba and washed its hands of him well before then. “Tet” was not evidence of the unpopularity of the Saigon government, but a resounding rejection of the northern invaders.