Jill Kelly, History, includes her signature to an open letter criticizing 60 Minutes reporting on Africa

Al Jazeera

Originally Posted: March 26, 2015

Dear Jeff Fager, executive producer of CBS’ “60 Minutes,”

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our grave concern about the frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent by “60 Minutes.”

In a series of recent segments from the continent, “60 Minutes” has managed, quite extraordinarily, to render people of black African ancestry voiceless and all but invisible.

Two of these segments were remarkably similar in their basic subject matter, featuring white people who have made it their mission to rescue African wildlife. In one case these were lions, and in another, apes. People of black African descent make no substantial appearance in either of these reports, and no sense whatsoever is given of the countries visited, South Africa and Gabon. READ MORE

The best books in Texas: Texas Institute of Letters finalists named

Congratulations to Ezra Greenspan, a finalist for the Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Non-fiction and two SMU history PhD alumni, Ramirez Award and Alicia M. Dewey, both finalists for the Texas Institute of Letters most scholarly book. READ MORE

Dallas Morning News
Originally Posted: March 24, 2015
By: Michael Merschel

The venerable Texas Institute of Letters has named finalists for its annual awards, which honor the state’s best writing.

Fiction finalists are Elizabeth Crook, for Monday, Monday; Manuel Luis Martinez, for Los Duros; and Smith Henderson, for Fourth of July Creek.

In nonfiction, it’s Michael Morton, for Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace; Southern Methodist University’s Ezra Greenspan, for William Wells Brown: An African American Life; and Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, for Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine.

The finalists for best debut fiction are local writer Merritt Tierce, for Love Me Back; Joe Holley, for The Purse Bearer; and Ralph Compton, for Comanche Trail.

And as previously announced, the TIL will present its prestigious Lon Tinkle Award, “for an outstanding career in letters that has brought honor to the state,” to Lawrence Wright.

Winners will be named April 11 in Houston at the annual meeting for the TIL, which is marking its 79th year. Here’s the complete list of nominees and prizes:

Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction ($6,000)

Elizabeth Crook, Monday, Monday; Manuel Luis Martinez, Los Duros; Smith Henderson, Fourth of July Creek.

Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction ($1,000)

Merritt Tierce, Love Me Back; Joe Holley, The Purse Bearer; Ralph Compton, Comanche Trail.

Carr P. Collins Award for Best Book of Non-fiction ($5,000)

Michael Morton, Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace; Ezra Greenspan, William Wells Brown: An African American Life; Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, Dr.Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine.

Ramirez Award for Most Significant Scholarly Book ($2,500)

Lawrence T. Jones, III, Lens on the Texas Frontier; Houston Faust Mount II, Oil Field Revolutionary; Alicia M. Dewey, Pesos and Dollars.

Helen C. Smith Memorial Award for Best Book of Poetry ($1,200)

Katherine Hoerth, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots; Jan Seale,The Parkinson Poems; Carmen Tafolla, This River Here: Poems of San Antonio.

Bob Bush Memorial Award For First Book Of Poetry ($1,000)

Chloe Honum, The Tulip-Flame; Ben Olguin, Red Leather Gloves; Gayle Laudrun, Reaching for Air.

Edwin “Bud” Shrake Award for Short Nonfiction ($1,000)

Pamela Colloff, “The Witness” in Texas Monthly (Sept. 2014); Alan Peppard, “Islands of the Oil Kings” in The Dallas Morning News (Dec 7, 14, and 21); Michael Hall, “The Murders at the Lake” in Texas Monthly (April 2014).

Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story ($1,000)

Brian Van Reet, “Eat the Spoil;” Paul Christensen, “The Man Next Door;” Andrew Geyer, “Fingers.”

Denton Record-Chronicle Best Children’s Picture Book ($500)

Pat Mora, I Pledge Allegiance; Arun Ghandi and Bethany Hegedus, Grandfather Ghandi; J.L.Powers, Colors of the Wind.

H-E-B/Jean Flynn Best Children’s Book ($500)

Nikki Loftin, Nightingale’s Nest; Naomi Shihab Nye, Turtle of Oman; Greg Leitich Smith, Little Green Men at the Mercury Inn.

H-E-B Best Young Adults Book ($500)

Claudia Guadalupe Martinez, Pig Park; Katherine Howe, Conversion

Fred Whitehead Award for Best Design of a Trade Book ($750)

Bill Wittliff, The Devil’s Backbone Illustrated by Jack Unruh; Zeque Penya, GABI, A Girl in Pieces, design by Isabel Quintero

Fans of the TIL might also want to peruse last summer’s Texas Classics series of excerpts from past Lon Tinkle winners. which featured this profile of the legendary editor.

Students honor Dedman College professors’ excellence with 2015 HOPE Awards

SMU’s Department of Residence Life and Student Housing honored 45 exceptional University educators, 26 Dedman College professors, at the 2015 HOPE Awards Banquet.

HOPE (Honoring Our Professors’ Excellence) Award recipients are named through student staff member nominations as professors who “have made a significant impact to our academic education both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Congratulations to all of the Dedman College 2015 HOPE Award honorees:

Adriana Aceves, Mathematics
Paul Avey, Tower Center for Political Studies
Greg Brownderville, English
David Michael Crow, Psychology
LeeAnn Derdeyn, English/Discernment and Discourse
Melissa Dowling, History/Classical Studies
John Duca, Economics
James K. Hopkins, History
Vanessa Hopper, English
Matthew Keller, Sociology
Michael Lattman, Chemistry
David Lee, Anthropology
Judy Newell, Mathematics
Rachel Ney, World Languages and Literatures/French
Jennifer O’Brien, Chemistry
Wei Qu, World Languages and Literatures/Chinese
Stephen Robertson, Statistical Science
Bivin Sadler, Statistical Science
Martha Satz, English
Sam Ross Sloan, English
Tom Stone, English
Thierry Tirado, World Languages and Literatures/French
Nick Tsarevsky, Chemistry
John Wise, Biological Sciences
Patty Wisian-Neilson, Chemistry
Brian Zoltowski, Chemistry

READ MORE

Neil Foley, History, 25 Years of McCuistion: A Brief History of Immigration

25 Years of McCuistion

Originally Posted: Feb. 16, 2015

The history of immigration in the United States is the topic of today’s discussion. Ironically even though the United States is a nation of immigrants, immigration has been a controversial issue from its very beginnings.

The immigration debate is again heating up as a result of President Obama’s executive actions as they relate to immigration. Recent news headlines report that 26 states filed a lawsuit to stop President Obama’s executive actions that would allow approximately 4.9 million eligible, undocumented immigrants to temporarily avoid deportation by applying for deferred action programs, namely the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA). The suit was initiated by then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has since become the state’s governor.

On the first of our 25th anniversary programs, host, Dennis McCuistion, is joined in part one of a three part series titled A Brief History of Immigration, by experts:

  • Mike Gonzalez (via Skype): Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow, Author of A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break Through the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans
  • Hipolito Acosta: Former District Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration, Author of The Shadow Catcher, and
  • Neil Foley, PhD: SMU Professor -The Robert H. and Nancy Dedman Chair in History U.S.-Mexico Borderlands/Immigration Legal, Labor and Political History of the American Southwest, Author of Mexicans and the Making of America.

WATCH VIDEO

 

Dedman College students and professors offer tips on how to pursue two degrees at once and still have a life

SMU Meadows School of the Arts

Thinking of Double-Majoring?
How to pursue two degrees at once and still have a life
Originally Published: February 12, 2015

Whether to position themselves better for choice careers or to blend multiple interests, increasing numbers of SMU students are double-majoring. Their combinations of degrees are as varied as the students themselves: dance and economics; film and accounting; journalism and human rights; and more.

Thanks to recent changes to SMU’s University Curriculum (“UC”) – core courses that all SMU undergraduates must complete – certain courses can now count toward more than one degree’s requirements, making the path to double degrees wider.

But though the path is wider, it isn’t necessarily easier. To help students figure out how to double-major and still have a life, ten current double-major students from Meadows School of the Arts give their top five tips on getting ready, keeping it together and managing the delicate balance between studies, sleep and social life. READ MORE

Kathleen Wellman, History, Texas State Board of Education allows conservatives to decide content in textbooks

The Atlantic

Originally posted: Nov. 25, 2014

Last Tuesday, the Texas State Board of Education held a public hearing to choose which new social studies textbooks will be recommend to school districts in the state. The board was expected to vote to approve the majority of proposed textbooks and smooth the way for what should have been a final procedural vote on Friday. Instead, complaints by right-wing groups torpedoed the adoption process. The board didn’t approve a single textbook and left the door open to 11th-hour political meddling.

Because the 15-member board voted not to adopt any books, publishers were forced to ignore historical fact and make last minute changes to their books to cater to the conservative activists. When the board voted on Friday, many board members (and the public) couldn’t respond to the final changes made to the textbooks they were approving. They hadn’t even seen them—changes that totaled hundreds of pages.

The problems with this textbook adoption process began in 2010, when the education board passed new history standards that require students to “identify the individuals whose principles of laws and government institutions informed the American founding documents, including those of Moses,” and establish how “biblical law” was a major influence on America’s founding.

“Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have.”
Other standards also placed states’ rights and sectionalism ahead of slavery as a cause of the Civil War; claimed that Joseph McCarthy’s blacklists of Americans were justified because communists had infiltrated the government during the Cold War; and in a section on the influence of art, music, and literature on American society, hip hop was removed for being culturally irrelevant and replaced instead with country music. (An aside: Despite disliking hip hop, Board Member Pat Hardy argued that it should be included because, “These people (hip hop artists) are multi-millionaires … There are not enough black people to buy that. There are white people buying this.”)

Even the conservative Fordham Institute called Texas’ standards “a politicized distortion of history.” Distortion or not, textbook publishers must abide by these standards if they want to secure board approval. For example, McGraw-Hill’s U.S. Government textbook says Moses and the Covenant “contributed to our Constitutional structure.”

Beyond crediting Moses with inspiring the American Constitution, some books mislead students about the scientific consensus on climate change, while others undermine the separation of church and state. Pearson’s American Government textbook originally contained two racist cartoons about affirmative action, including a picture of two aliens (ostensibly from outer space) and the caption, “Relax, we’ll be fine—they’ve got affirmative action.” The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog organization, hired scholars who catalogued all the problems with the different books.

Political meddling by the Board of Education doesn’t just affect Texas. Because Texas buys nearly 50 million textbooks each year, it has a huge impact on the textbook market at large. School districts all around the country, including some in Louisiana, buy books that were written to meet Texas’ standards, flaws included. Former board Chairman Don McLeroy, who was instrumental in passing many of these standards, once said, “Sometimes it boggles my mind the kind of power we have.” McLeroy hadn’t seen the current textbooks, but after reading an article in Politico about their references to the “Christian heritage,” he said he was “thrilled” because that was the goal of his standards.

This entire process is about politics, not history.
In September, the Board held its first meeting to allow the public to comment on the content of the proposed textbooks. (I’ve testified at multiple hearings in opposition to these textbooks on behalf of Americans United for Separation of Church and State’s Houston Chapter.) Public criticism of the books mounted, including from more than 100,000 people who signed petitions calling for climate science denial to be removed from the textbooks. Southern Methodist University history professor Kathleen Wellman testified that these books would cause students to believe “that Moses was the first American.” READ MORE

Neil Foley, History, changing face of America

KERA, Think

Originally aired: Nov. 3, 2014

By 2050, nearly a third of all U.S. residents will be Latino. This hour, we’ll talk about how this growing segment of the population is affecting everything from politics to cultural identity with Neil Foley, the Robert H. and Nancy Dedman Chair in History at SMU. His new book is Mexicans in the Making of America. Listen Here

Joshua Rovner: Nevermind ISIS and Putin — Asia matters more to U.S. strategy

Dallas Morning News

Originally posted: Nov. 4, 2014

The grisly war with the Islamic State and the crisis with Russia continue to dominate the news — and capture the attention of U.S. leaders. Despite all this turmoil, the long-term focus of American foreign policy will not be on the Middle East or Europe. Instead, Washington will be drawn irresistibly to Asia.

No other region is as important for America’s long-term economic well-being. The U.S. trades twice as much with Asia as with Europe, and it is the largest market for U.S. exports outside of North America. Growing Asian economies demand an increasing share of the world’s energy resources, and China is also close to becoming the world’s biggest oil importer.

The military landscape also is changing. For a long time, the regional balance was clear: China was the dominant land power while the United States ruled the waves. As long as neither side could seriously challenge the other, there was little chance of a major regional war. READ MORE

Jeffrey Engel, History, different views on fall of Berlin Wall

LA Times

U.S., Russia, Europe, China have different views on Berlin Wall’s fall

BY JEFFREY A. ENGEL
November 1, 2014, 7:00 a.m.

The Berlin Wall continues to haunt the world. Only shards remain of the concrete and barbed wire that once divided a city and split a continent. Few can be found in Berlin itself. Sections adorn a men’s room in Las Vegas, a pedestrian mall in South Africa and the dining room at Microsoft. Bits can even be found on EBay (buyer beware).

But the wall’s legacy, not its collectibility, is the problem. The world cannot agree on precisely why it fell, and more broadly why European communism collapsed and the Cold War ended. Four contradictory explanations dominate, from the most powerful corners of the Earth: the United States, Russia, Europe and China. This is no mere academic debate. How political elites understand the past directly affects their strategies for the future, and conflicting readings of a shared pivot point offer a recipe for ongoing international instability. READ MORE

William Steding, senior fellow at the Center for Presidential History, featured in D Magazine

D Magazine, November 2014

How Technology Is Helping Investors
New tools are helping to put their money where their mouse is.

There was a time when William Steding was like many investors, his eyes glued to CNBC as he made day trades facilitated by newly developed software. Over the last decade, though, Steding gradually came to realize that financial planning and wealth management firms were becoming much more sophisticated technologically, and he had an epiphany.

“Clients like me said, ‘I don’t want to do it anymore. You guys handle it,’ ” says Steding, a former broadcasting mogul who’s now a senior fellow at the Center for Presidential History at SMU. Thanks to online planning and performance-reporting tools offered through firms such as Dallas-based True North Advisors, he doesn’t have to spend so much time tuned to CNBC. “I don’t have to worry about watching the market,” Steding says. “And I really only talk with True North about my stuff quarterly, or every five or six months. It gives me peace of mind, more than anything else.” READ MORE