Category Archives: Uncategorized

DeVos Confirmation Rant

I am reposting this rant from my Facebook wall so that I can share it more broadly. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

You can’t tell the story of modern conservatism and the neoliberal project without discussing the all-out attack on public education. It’s been there from the beginning and has taken many forms. Today’s confirmation of Betsy DeVos fits into the long struggle to dismantle not just New Deal programs, but major Civil Rights accomplishments. It represents a decade long effort to dismantle essential public democratic institutions and hand them over to the an ill-equipped private sector so they can profit off legally required public goods.

Seriously, read Dochuk, Kruse, Lassiter, Farber, Hartman, Rodgers, Moreton, Mehlman-Petrzela, Delmont, and tons of other historians of modern conservatism and the culture wars. These movements come through in each of their books and articles. You have the fundamentalist “Save Our Children” movement, Georgia threatening to end public schools rather the de-segregate, the so-called bussing crisis, the school voucher movement, the never-ending textbook wars, the battle over bilingual and sex education, the prayer in school movement, the home school movement as well as many others — all aimed at undermining, weakening, and de-funding public education. And that’s just K-12! It has been done with phrases like “choice” and “local control” that are code words for the neoliberal market ideology that funnels tax money into private corporations that subvert federal regulations meant to ensure equality. Charter schools and the complete bullshit Teach for America program are among the biggest offenders of this. They rebuild class and racial barriers, promote unqualified and unproven teachers and teaching methods, all in the name of an anti-American ideology where the myth of hyper-efficient corporatism and so-called choice matter more than an educated public. Indeed, education has been shown over and over again to be an important factor in improving your quality of life, in upward mobility, yet under the corporatist structure, a good, equitable education becomes harder to access and afford. This re-inscribes existent structures that sustain widespread inequality along race, class, urban/suburban/rural divides.

This is why the DeVos nomination mattered. This is why so many of us our outraged. This isn’t some kind of leftist conspiracy, this is well-documented history. And I’m sad to be a part of this movement. My parents were duped like many average Americans. They believed in vouchers and homeschooling. They tried to trick me into agreeing at a young age, encouraging me to write my Senators about it. They were naive, wrong, and misguided. Democracy demands strong public education. The American Dream requires it. I don’t want to live in a country where we treat our children — our future — like a commodity that we can sell to the highest bidder, and those who can afford it are screwed. I don’t want to live in a country where education is a corporate product watered down by the customer is always right mentality. I don’t want to live in a country where universities brag about what kind of salary their graduates get rather than quality of education they receive and the impact they are making in the world.
Education is a public good. It is a central component of a civilized and modern society.

Today’s vote undermines that. It is a failure to uphold the basic tenets of our social contract. It represents a selfish oligarchy that values money and power over equality, and millions of the nation’s schoolchildren.

Readings on Black Athletes and Dress Codes

I’m trying to use this space more often and in conjunction with Twitter to better collect thoughts, suggest readings, and just more generally communicate. A few minutes ago I unleashed a Tweet-thread on the Cam Newton dress code violation yesterday, that resulted in him sitting out the first drive of the Carolina Panthers game against the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers lost that game, and Newton’s back up threw an interception on the first drive.

Today former Packers Vice President Andrew Brandt Tweeted this (see below), highlight the hypocrisy, racism, and overall stupidity of dress codes for professional athletes:

In the interest of fully exploring the racial dynamic of dress codes as a form of policing the behavior and appearance of black athletes, here are a few articles/chapters/books that address the issue:

“No [Hoodies] Allowed’: The NBA’s Dress Code & the Politics of New Racism,” An Excerpt from After Artest: The NBA & the Assault on Blackness by David J. Leonard (via NewBlackMan (in Exile).

“The Real Color of Money: Controlling Black Bodies in the NBA,” by David J. Leonard in the Journal of Sport & Social Issues, Volume 30 Number 2 (May 2006) p. 158-179.

“Blackballed: Basketball and Representations of the Black Male Athlete,” by Linda Tucker, in American Behavioral Scientist, Volume 47 Number 3, (November 2003) p. 306-328.

“Goodbye to the Gangstas”: The NBA Dress Code, Ray Emery, and the Policing of Blackness in Basketball and Hockey,” by Stacy Lorenz and Rod Murray, in the  Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Volume 38, Number 1 (2014), p. 23–50.

“Please Don’t Fine Me Again!!!!!” Black Athletic Defiance in the NBA and NFL,” by Phillip Lamarr Cunningham, in the Journal of Sport and Social Issues, Volume 33, Number 1 (February 2009) p. 39-58.

There are certainly other takes and likely more academic articles, but this is a solid introduction and discussion of the issue. I have PDFs of these articles that I will share upon request.

Update: An additional reading from the comments:

“Dressed for Success? The NBA’s Dress Code, the Workings of Whiteness and Corporate Culture,” M. G. McDonald and J  Toglia in Sport in society,Volume  13, Number 6 (2010), p. 970-983.

Southern Jaunt #1– KFC & My 52 Chevy

I’m on a 2-3 week trip through the South, visiting family, attending a workshop and conference, and enjoying some time away from Indiana. I’m call the excursion my Southern Jaunt. This is the first in probably a few posts about my trip. 

I left Indiana on Saturday and drove to my parents’ house in South Carolina. It’s about a 10-11 hour drive, depending on weather (there is always rain in the Kentucky/Tennessee mountains), road construction, and pit stops. I usually take at least two stops for fuel, and, if I have Brutus with me, at least one or two more to do some natural business.

Sander's Cafe -- the original KCF! Corbin, KY.

Sander’s Cafe — the original KCF! Corbin, KY.

Corbin, KY has become one of my regular stops. It’s about halfway, and usually around when I need fuel. The first few times I made the trip, I saw signs noting that Corbin, KY is home to the original KFC location. But it wasn’t until a 2014 that I visited the restaurant. Because Brutus was with me this time, I only made a short stop, but I snapped a photo and bragged a bit on social media. As I said, I’ve stopped there before, and without the dog. it is a fun site to visit, and the KFC is the same as any other location (good and bad). The lobby area has displays about Colonel Sanders and the area, and then the seating area of the restaurant looks old-timey and has some “house museum” style displays of other rooms, such as the kitchen, a bedroom (the original KFC was a part of an inn), and so on.

It’s a nice stop, and depending which exit you take, you can drive through downtown Corbin to get a feel for small-town Kentucky. I love seeing rural downtowns. I like to imagine what they are like today and what they were once like. I try to guess the high school mascot and the major industry, etc. —  boring and nerdy stuff, but important questions that get at “who lives here” and “why.”

I spent today at my parents’ house, which is outside of Columbia in South Carolina. It was relaxing. i don’t come down here that much, and its nice to get out of Indiana a bit. Part of relaxing was taking a Sunday afternoon drive in my old truck to the grocery store and around my parents’ neighborhood (Brutus copiloted the second trip). I miss driving the old truck.
tumblr_o7lt8b5h4Y1u60765o1_540It’s a 1952 Chevy that originally belonged to my Great Great Grandfather (Walter Erikson), who died at age 98 in 1983. He drove the truck mostly in the pastures and lanes in rural Chase County, Kansas. It was used mostly as a far truck. Indeed, it has a sheet of metal welded in the bottom of the bed to haul grain and other things. He was going blind (and I think went blind before he died) so he had a few accidents. It’s not in great shape.
I bought it for $500 from my uncle in 1998. My uncle got it when my Great Great Grandfather died, and had big illusions about restoring it. Instead, he kept it in my Great Grandmother’s barn, when is experienced the Great Flood of 1993, and several rat infestations. When my Great Grandmother sold her house and auction off things on the property, he decided to include the truck in the sale. That’s when I got it. It was loosely an inheritance to me — I was supposed to get $500 from the auction profits, but instead got the truck. 
It didn’t run and was in pretty miserable shape. We got it started after little work, but it smoked really bad. Little by little, my Dad and I planned to get back into working order. My Dad wanted to keep it as close to original as possible. Now, when I got the truck I wasn’t 16. I couldn’t drive. I honestly wasn’t all that interested in the massive project, either. But I wanted to keep the truck because of the family value. My Dad wanted the truck real bad, and I think saying it was mine was one way to convince my mother and justify the expense. After all, originally, it was supposed to be my car when I was old enough. In retrospect, that entire plan is hilarious, but it worked in acquiring the truck and “keeping it in the family” — which has always been a big thing for us with cars.
Initially we did quite a bit of work on it. We took the engine a part and got things tested and figured out what we could work with and what we couldn’t. We cleaned it up and tore out the years of rats nests. It was dirty work and incredibly smelly, but also kind of fun because you could see progress quickly. That was my Dad’s plan, clean it up, do some cosmetic stuff, and then hopefully I’d be excited about the project and buy in a little more.
That didn’t happen. I discovered running and throughout high school and college it occupied my time. I ran year-round (cross country and track) so I had little free time to work on it. I ended up getting a different car to drive, so the need to get the truck running wasn’t as pressing either. We also moved to Kansas City for my freshman year (I was in 8th grade when I got the truck), and didn’t have the extra garage and shop to work on it. So the truck sat for nearly 8 years, driving my mother insane because of the space it took up in the small suburban 2 car garage. Occasionally we work on it. We took parts to my Grandfather — a former auto mechanics teacher — to get worked on by skilled old-guys, and those projects took months on end. Progress grinded to a near halt.
Then, the summer after I graduated from undergrad we were jolted into hyper-productivity. My Dad got a new job in the Carolinas and they were selling the house and moving. This was the summer of 2008, and so they planned to downsize and rent for the first year to avoid the bad market. In preparation for my parent’s move from KC, we had to get the truck driveable.
The summer began with me returning home with a fresh BA and no job prospects. I had a lot of free time. My Dad took a buyout from his old job and wasn’t starting his new one until August, so he also had a lot of free time. Together, we spent the summer readying the house for sale (it miraculously sold in 2 days), and working on the truck. With a firm timeline to get done by and no other distractions, my Dad and I rebuilt the engine, did some painting, re-did the interior and several other things. By summer’s end, it was roadworthy and ready to go.
That August I took a job as a graduate assistant cross country and track coach (and began my master of liberal arts degree), opting to stay in Kansas. Since I technically owned the truck, it stayed with me. Also, because my parents didn’t have a place for it and didn’t want to tow it to downtown Charlotte where they moved.
A year later, I quit my coaching job (and graduated with my MLA in December) because I decided I wanted to be a college teacher more than a college coach. I had been accepted to pursue an MA at Nevada and was moving. To be honest, my parents were all that crazy or supportive of the idea, but they flew back to Kansas to help me get things in order before I life. One of those things was the truck.
We decided to temporarily leave it in Kansas at my uncle’s house when I moved to Reno (the same one who used to own it). That winter my parents bought a house and moved to South Carolina from Charlotte, NC (because of work), and now had space for the truck. The summer of 2010 my Dad and I towed it here, taking a wonderful tour through the backroads of the Deep South. We drove along two-lane roads in Mississippi and Alabama, avoiding the interstate because you our trailer wasn’t supposed to drive over 55 mph (I don’t think it would have exploded if we did). That was a really fun trip, despite the monotony of me and Brutus following the rental truck in my car (you know, just in case something broke down).
Since that summer trip in 2010, the old truck has been here in South Carolina, where my Dad still tinkers on it, while I’m in graduate school. The plan is for me to take it back whenever I finish my PhD and land a permanent job (though I doubt my Dad will want to give it back). It’s a solid plan, but it means that I only get to drive it when I come visit (which isn’t very often).
tumblr_o7lt8b5h4Y1u60765o2_540Driving it is fun. Or, at least as fun as driving any old car without power steering and power brakes. But there’s a lot of pride in it still mostly being original. You have to use a start pedal to fire it up, with a throttle and choke lever. It runs on a 6-volt battery system, and its windshield wipers are vacuum powered from the motor. We just recently added a second taillight because it didn’t require one due to being grandfathered into modern rules. We still haven’t added turn signals yet. It is an experience.
Driving a half-century old  automobile in relatively original condition bring with it all sort of feelings. When driving it, I think about the truck’s lineage. Sitting in the same seat as my Great Great Grandfather. I think about how my Dad and uncles learned to drive in that truck. I also think about how things used to be built — solid metal, easy to understand, and long-lasting. And when I switch back to my daily drive, I realize how far we’ve come. It’s a thrilling and worthwhile experience. It’s one I especially cherish as a historian, particularly as one who is writing about 1950s America.
Thinking about my truck in the context of my research, it something I hadn’t done until now. The 1947-1954 Chevy pickup was among the most popular trucks ever made. They style was called “the advanced design” — differing from whatever came before. Today people still collect them and restore them because there were so many on the road. My Great Great Grandfather had one in Kansas. In Oklahoma, I imagine several farmers also owned them. They were farm trucks, work trucks, maybe even daily drivers. It’s likely that they were in an important part of building “Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma,” and transforming postwar Oklahoma. It’s fascinating to ponder hundreds of similar trucks lining the highways of Oklahoma and parked in rows outside of Owen Stadium in Norman. While the experience of driving the same kind of truck matters very little for my research, and likely wont affect anything I write, it’s a fun discovery.

Q&A with Neftalie Williams, Research Director of The African American Experience in Major League Baseball Project

Sport in American History

In early October I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a new oral history project aimed at collecting and preserving the stories of African Americans in Major League Baseball. The project was launched in 2013 by Dr. Daniel Durbin, the Director of the Annenberg Institute of Sport, Media and Society (AISMS) at the University of Southern California. Neftalie Williams, joined the project last September, and currently serves as its Research Director.

Because the project will be of great interest to sport historians, I recently reached out to Williams to learn more. Williams was eager to share his experiences with the project and answer my questions. He was excited to share its progress and goals with our community, particularly after reading Josh Howard’s excellent piece on the Pittsburgh Pirates’ removal of their Negro League heritage from PNC Park. On Tuesday afternoon, we chatted about his experiences…

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Additional thoughts on the “Royals vs. Mets: Champions of the Expansion Era”

I’m back writing about the Royals at Sport in American History ahead of the World Series. It is the first World Series featuring 2 expansion teams. I explore what that means and how baseball has changed during its period of relocation and expansion. I also suggest that the Mets and Royals are the best symbols of this era.

Missing from my post is a discussion of race. As Dave Zirin of The Nation points out, because both teams were founded in the expansion era (after 1961), they were never segregated or all-white. The issue of integration is yet another change in baseball in the postwar era that continued on into the expansion era. With this in mind, you can further “read” the expansion era as one of democratic opportunity — more teams, more playoffs, integration, etc. That this is the first World Series without a legacy of segregation highlights progress and change in baseball, but it also shows how recent segregation was, how its legacy permeates baseball, and few of our beloved cultural institutions were innocent. The Mets and Royals are more innocent by the fact of their expansion births, but they too contribute to current racial issues in baseball, such as the under-representation of minority coaches, managers, and administrators. Like the the expansion era, the Mets and Royals represent more democratic opportunities, but full equality remains a dream of the future.

Sport in American History

By Andrew McGregor

Tomorrow night the 2015 World Series begins with the Kansas City Royals hosting the New York Mets. For the first time in its 111 year history, this year’s World Series features two expansion teams. While for most baseball fans this is mostly a meaningless footnotes, it’s a reminder of how much the professional sports landscape has changed over the last 50+ years.

While on the surface, Kansas City and New York seem like opposites, their franchise histories indicate they’re actually quite similar. The Royals and Mets characterize a distinct era in baseball history characterized by relocation and expansion. Both teams were founded to appease critics and preserve MLB’s status quo. They’ve also been two of the most successful expansion teams in the postseason.

Relocation and Expansion

During the 1950s, Major League Baseball (MLB) had a relatively small geographic footprint. The 16 major league teams were located…

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The Kansas City Royals and Baseball’s “Unwritten Rules”

It’s impossible to totally escape my bias, but in my latest blog post for Sport in American History I tried to interrogate narratives surrounding the Kansas City Royals from the playoffs to the All-Star game to highlight the many contradictions and embedded cultural values within baseball’s “unwritten rules.”

Sport in American History

This is the first of two posts on Baseball’s Unwritten Rules.  The rules entail issues of masculinity and decorum. They’re often contradictory and at times fans, players, and former players in sports media disagree on what they really are. In this series we want to take a closer look at them and try to parse out the values and assumptions are embedded within them. We argue that the very concept of ‘unwritten rules’ reveals coded language that highlight and expose the competing values in regards to race, class, masculinity, and fair play in American culture. Indeed, narratives surrounding the “unwritten rules” are a way to combine nostalgia, history, and sport into a type of cultural pedagogy.

In this post I use narratives surrounding the Kansas City Royals as lens to try to understand what exactly the “unwritten rules” and expose contradictions within them. Then on Thursday, Dain TePoel will interrogate…

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APUSH Grading in Louisville

I just returned home from grading AP U.S. History exams in Louisville, KY. It was 8 consecutive days of grading from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. It was intense. I graded one of four short answer questions on a scale of 1-3. Others graded longer essays, document based questions. We were organized into tables, with a Table Leader that trained us and encouraged us to share essays and help each other out. Each table had its own camaraderie. I got to know the guys at my table through conversations over  meals, drinks, and general commiserating about the grading process.

It was a great experience that allowed to me to chat about history, teaching, and so much more with likeminded people. I met a lot of great folks and got to catch up with some old colleagues. This helped me learn a lot about history, teaching, evaluating, the structure of high school curriculum, and several other things. While the gig comes with a hefty paycheck and an all-expenses paid trip to Louisville, the best part was the people. I plan to return next year.