My Two Cents

  • Why did that “Critical Race Theory” panic bust out so fast and so weird? It’s part of a century-long pattern, as Gillian Frank and I argued at Slate. (June 2021).
  • As the world stumbled out of the covid pandemic, it wasn’t clear what schools would look like. But one thing was pretty obvious: desperate school administrators would be tempted to make the oldest mistake in schooling. I worked with Prof. Cain again to explore the sad long story of schools that tried to replace expensive teachers with cheaper technology, at Washington Post. (March 2021).
  • The covid pandemic is leading to an unprecedented crisis in education…right? Well, there IS a ton of precedent. I teamed up with the brilliant historian Victoria Cain to look at the history of over-hyped tech panaceas in times of crisis, at Kappan. (February 2021).
  • Dr. Miguel Cardona is just about as different from Queen Betsy as anyone can be. But in one thing, he is making the same kinds of statements. Can he get over the centuries-old curse of politics in ed policy? My view from the archives at Washington Post. (February 2021).
  • Worried about America’s phobia about science? Here’s the good news: in real life, America keeps getting better and better and teaching evolution. It might not seem like it, but I lay out the real history at Kappan. (January 2021).
  • No one mentioned rats or stinking ships, but Betsy DeVos leaped out of the Trumpster fire at the last minute. Her tenure leaves us with questions. Mainly, how could someone who was so bad at her job keep it for so long? In Salon, I give the historical perspective. Spoiler: hard-line conservatives have always used the politics of fear when it comes to public schools. DeVos was only the latest. (January, 2021).
  • What happens when leaders are publicly humiliated? In the aftermath of the 2020 election, we’re seeing some truly strange behavior in the White House. But there’s a precedent for this, sort of. Back in 1925, William Jennings Bryan was embarrassed in front of the whole world at the Scopes Trial. The aftermath back then might give us a clue about our precarious future. In the Washington Post. (December, 2020).
  • He was way more polite than his boss, but Vice President Pence still said some pretty out-there things in his debate with Senator Harris. In this commentary in the Washington Post, I teamed up with historian Marybeth Gasman to look at the ways both campaigns have used colleges to signal their culture-war loyalties. (October, 2020).
  • It’s one of the hardest things for people to understand about creationism. At Patheos, I make the case that America’s creationism culture wars aren’t really about evolution. They couldn’t be, for a couple of reasons. (October, 2020).
  • In its Espinoza v. Montana decision, SCOTUS goofed. The conservative justices mis-read the history of public education. They did not understand the 19th-century meanings of the word “sectarian.” And as a result, SCOTUS unwittingly overturned one of the best traditions of American public education. I explain the real history at Washington Post.
  • Inject bleach? Magic cures for covid-19? Trump’s statements are bizarre and absurd, but they’re not exactly “anti-science.” What Trump is doing is much worse and much more dangerous. I make the case–based on the history of creationism–at History News Network.
  • Why would Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell Jr. go against ALL advice during the coronavirus crisis? The history of Fundamentalist U helps explain it, at Washington Post.
  • The Democratic candidates didn’t seem shy to call Mayor Bloomberg a flat-out racist. But they DID give him a pass on his charter-school waffle. Why? History gives us a better way to talk about charters. At Washington Post.
  • Should historians talk about politics? Of course. History itself shows why–in this case, the history of creationism. At Washington Post.
  • I don’t agree with radical creationists on much, but I didn’t think they would tell kids to cheat at school. I was wrong, but in a weird way, this bad creationist advice gives me some hope that we can finally solve our creation/evolution dilemma. At Righting America (September 2019).
  • How do we know Secretary Betsy DeVos’s plan for public education won’t work? Because we’ve tried it before! My view from the archives at the Washington Post (May 2019).
  • What lesson can today’s striking teachers learn from the archives? For one, the first generation of public-school administrators floated a plan to force their teachers to work for nothing.  I look at the story from 1818 at History News Network. (April 2019).
  • Why are there creationists? People like me like to think it’s all about ignorance. But that assumption itself is an ignorant one, as I explore on UConn’s Humility &  Conviction in Public Life blog. (February 2019).
  • Sincere? Sure. But conservative pundits make an old mistake when they defend anti-LGBTQ school policies as nothing but “historic Christianity.” At the Washington Post. (January, 2019).
  • What’s wrong with dunking on D’Souza? I examine the lessons from the history of creationism at History News Network. (November, 2018).
  • The relationship between Liberty University and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities has always been awkward. The CCCU might not like to admit it, but Liberty these days is fulfilling the CCCU’s oldest, fondest dreams. I tell the story at History News Network. (June, 2018).
  • Why would conservative Liberty University invite liberal Jimmy Carter to give its commencement speech this year? I think it makes perfect sense for those who understand the unique history of evangelical higher education. At The Conversation. (May, 2018).
  • What’s going on at Taylor University? Why has a “conservative underground” sparked such controversy? I offer a little historical perspective at Righting America at the Creation Museum. (April, 2018).
  • If you only read the headlines about Liberty University, you might think evangelical colleges were heedless citadels of Trumpism. Even at Liberty, though, critics have emerged to question the chummy relationship between Trump and Jerry Falwell Jr.  At Religion Dispatches, I make the case that evangelical colleges have always been complicated places politically, home to both knee-jerk white nationalism and trenchant evangelical criticism. (February, 2018).
  • Are you tired of all the anger and violence about this stuff? From General Kelly to General Lee, we can’t seem to stop fighting about the past. At History News Network, I make the case for a new way to talk about it. (November, 2017).
  • What is a conservative to do? Campus protests have stifled conservative speakers. Some lawmakers are fighting back, by passing “campus free speech” laws. Will they work? Not a chance, as I argue at History News Network. (September, 2017).
  • Have you heard the latest from Cedarville University? This year, they passed a new “purity” rule for their classrooms. At Righting America at the Creation Museum, I offer some historical perspective for this sort of purification campaign. (May, 2017).
  • President Trump asked Ed Secretary Betsy DeVos to fulfill the dreams of twentieth-century educational conservatives. Sort of. In a piece that Newsweek picked up, I make the case for a more complicated conservative yearning for “local control” of schools. (May, 2017).
  • Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos…some of the comings and goings in the new White House seem a lot like the comings and goings in the pages of I Love You but You’re Going to Hell.  Even in these days of flabbergasting presidential proclamations, President Trump’s appointment of Jerry Falwell Jr. to head a new higher-education task force stands out.  With an evangelical college president leading the way, it seems just possible that evangelicals might have finally come in from the higher-education cold.  Does this mark a major shake-up in the history of American higher education?  See my comments on History News Network. (February, 2017).
  • What the $*&% just happened?  That’s what lots of us academic types were asking in the aftermath of Trump’s election victory.  At least one surprising factor was the enthusiasm for President Trump among white evangelical voters.  Pulling from my current research into the history of evangelical higher education, I make the case that Trump-ish attitudes have long been an integral part of the intellectual landscape of white evangelicalism. (December, 2016).
  • We all want to be perfect parents, right?  These days, young-earth creationist parents have an extra worry to keep them up at night, and creationist colleges work hard to reassure them.  In this June 2016 guest post at the new Righting America at the Creation Museum blog, I talk about the history of this creationist dilemma.
  • What are public schools supposed to teach kids about evolution?  In an April 2016 commentary in Education Week, my co-author Harvey Siegel and I argue that evolution education needs to focus on helping students know and understand evolutionary theory.  Creationist students have every right not to believe it.
  • Where do too many evolution educators go wrong?  In this 2013 essay in the Reports of the National Center for Science Education, I argue that too many of us suffer from “The Missionary Supposition.”
  • My article about Professor Larycia Hawkins’s ouster from Wheaton College was picked up by outlets such as the Chicago Sun-Times, early 2016.
  • Why don’t Republicans like to talk about federal aid to schools?  They used to!  See my historical take on the issue at Time.com, April 2015.
  • Is the common core “conservative?”  In the Albany Times-Union, September 21, 2014.
  • In some ways, conservative educational activists in the twentieth century sounded an awful lot like the progressives they loved to hate.  See my commentary in Education Week, March 4, 2014.
  • How can creationists and anti-creationists ever hope to get along?  My two cents in the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education, from late 2012.
  • The really dangerous wall of separation in public schools is not what you think.  I take aim at some new populist/conservative laws in the pages of the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog, late 2012.