WISCONSIN: THE CRONON AFFAIR
Once upon a time, professors led quiet lives, walking slowly from seminars to tea in panelled rooms. Nowadays they wake up in the middle of media storms. The latest scholar to whom this has happened is William Cronon, who teaches environmental and Western history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was famous, as scholars go, before the storm, for complex, vivid books about how Americans have shaped the land. A Rhodes Scholar and a MacArthur Fellow, he had also won university-wide teaching prizes, both at Yale and at Madison. He will be the next president of the American Historical Association. But now he’s become a national figure in a whole new way.
Second, the Republicans seem remarkably fragile. A professor writing a blog post gives them the shivers. It’s a good thing they chose politics, and not the kind of career where the going can really get rough. Professors, for example, teach their hearts out to surly adolescents who call them boring in course evaluations and write their hearts out for colleagues who trash their books in snarky reviews. These Wisconsin Republicans may never have survived ordeals like that. Happily, Cronon has been toughened by decades of academic life. He’ll be blogging—and teaching and writing—long after Wisconsin voters have sent these Republicans back to obscurity.