The Way of Improvement Leads Home: American History, Religion, Politics, and Academic life.

The Way of Improvement Leads Home: American History, Religion, Politics, and Academic life.

thewayofimprovement.com
Reflections at the Intersection of American History, Religion, Politics, and Academic life.


57: Not Your Father’s Military History
Nov 10 • 55 min
Military history is changing. While Father’s Day gifts still tend to focus on troop movements and great generals, military historians in the academy are instead turning to subjects like the lives of veterans, the effects of war on the home front, and…
56: Evangelicals and Oil
Oct 20 • 59 min
Who knew that evangelical Christianity and the emergence of the American oil industry were so intimately linked? In this episode, host John Fea explores what it means to be an evangelical and whether scholarly debates over the term help us to better…
55: The History of “Free Enterprise”
Oct 6 • 57 min
In conservative political circles, the idea of “free enterprise” is revered with a religious zeal. This is especially interesting as these political ideals are often held by Evangelical Christians. Host John Fea explores what historians of termed the…
54: Why College?
Sep 22 • 67 min
Increasingly, college campuses have transformed from places of rigorous scholarly pursuits into glorified centers for job training. But is this what college is really for? Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling sit down and discuss the need for…
53: When Musicians Study American History
Jun 9 • 68 min
Here at the podcast, we have often engaged with our collective love of popular music and the history embedded within that love. Host John Fea regularly cites New Jersey state treasure Bruce Springsteen and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling channels his…
52: History for the iPhone Generation
May 26 • 62 min
Now that most everyone carries a search engine in their pocket, why do we still need to study history? Our present age demonstrates just how deceiving the internet can truly be. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling make the case that historical…
51: Temples of the Marketplace
May 12 • 53 min
When people think of the melding of faith and business, companies like Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A usually come to mind. However, like all things, the history of this type of partnership has a deeper history. Host John Fea reaches into early America to…
50: The Religious Beliefs of the Adams Family
Apr 28 • 62 min
Don’t be confused by the title, we are not talking about the spooky family from the 1960s. Rather, in this episode, we turn to the religious history of one of America’s founding families. By focusing on the Adams family, one can trace the evolution of…
49: Why is America So Divided?
Apr 7 • 49 min
Whether you ask a young college student or a baby boomer, the only thing people seem to agree on these days is that we are more politically divided than ever. But is this true, and if so, how did we get this way? Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli…
48: The Color of Compromise
Mar 24 • 71 min
With so many contemporary examples of racism in American society, it is tempting to see these as the actions of racist individuals. However, many social critics have increasingly pointed to the structure and system of racism as an active part of American…
47: Reacting to the Past
Mar 10 • 57 min
Here on the podcast, we love pedagogy. We’ve dedicated a number of episodes to the ways different historians and instructors are innovating in the classroom. Today we’re turning our attention to one such approach: Reacting to the Past. These large-scale…
46: Elizabeth Warren and American Indian Identity
Feb 24 • 65 min
Her entire political career, Senator Elizabeth Warren has defended her claims to being descendent from American Indians. To prove her point, she recently released the results from a DNA test. However, this is not how American Indian communities determine…
45: A City Upon a Hill
Feb 10 • 62 min
One of the most enduring phrases at the heart of American exceptionalism is John Winthrop’s famous proclamation that the Puritan colonists were establishing a “city upon a hill.” But the story of this lay sermon is much more complicated, and, according to…
44: History for Gamers
Dec 23, 2018 • 59 min
For those of us who teach history, we often worry that video games are just a distraction that our students play instead of doing their homework. However, history and historical thinking have long been tied to video games, from Oregon Trail through…
43: Reconciling the Church and Slavery
Dec 2, 2018 • 54 min
Sadly, the Church, both in America and abroad, has a long history of supporting the institution of slavery. So what can a single congregation do to reconcile their past with a contemporary commitment to social justice? In today’s episode, host John Fea…
42: An American Saint
Nov 4, 2018 • 63 min
Despite often being cast as the religion of immigrants, Catholicism has a long history here in the United States. Unfortunately, so does anti-Catholicism. In this episode, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss American Catholicism. John…
41: Populism
Oct 21, 2018 • 50 min
With the election of Donald Trump, the term populism has returned to the political lexicon. However, while many people may use the term, fewer people truly understand its meaning and history. On today’s episode, we try to unpack the idea of populism in…
40: Sportianity
Oct 7, 2018 • 53 min
What do Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick have in common? Besides being NFL quarterbacks, they’re both famous kneelers. Yet their actions have been interpreted by sports fans and American Christians in very different ways. In today’s episode, we explore the…
39: Returning to Charlottesville
Sep 23, 2018 • 56 min
The legacy of August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville haunts America. The precipitating event, the removal of Confederate monuments, continues to be debated in southern cities and on college campuses. This is a conversation that warrants sustained…
Bonus Episode: *Believe Me* Book Launch
Jun 24, 2018 • 52 min
On June 28, John Fea will release his new book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump with Eerdman’s. As a bonus episode, producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling sat down with Fea to discuss the deep history that led 81% of white evangelicals to vote for…
Bonus Episode: Live at Messiah College Educator’s Day
Jun 10, 2018 • 65 min
On May 21, 2018, the Office of the Provost at Messiah College surprised the faculty at their annual Educator’s Day with a live recording of our podcast. Under the theme “Flourishing in a Digital World,” the goal was to highlight the ways in which Messiah…
38: Jesus Is the Rock That Rolls My Blues Away
May 20, 2018 • 52 min
Christianity has had a complicated relationship with rock and roll music. For some, this style is the “devil’s music,” arguing that even Christian rock music is evil. For others, rock and roll is just an art form like any other, whether the lyrics are…
37: Should You Go to Grad School?
May 6, 2018 • 55 min
Anyone who has been paying attention to higher ed and the humanities knows that job prospects for recently minted Ph.Ds are abysmal. So why do people keep choosing to engage in such a difficult process that by many measures is unlikely to pay off? John…
36: The 18th-Century Atlantic World
Apr 22, 2018 • 52 min
Those of us who consider ourselves to be early American historians have been engaging with “the Atlantic World” paradigm for some time now. But what is the Atlantic World and why do so many historians find it compelling? Host John Fea explores the…
35: Global Hockey
Apr 8, 2018 • 59 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling return to a beloved subject, sports culture. While they have previously discussed baseball, the Olympics, and soccer, in this episode they turn their attention to global hockey. John discusses his short…
34: Twitterstorians
Mar 25, 2018 • 60 min
Although many assume that historians are stuck in the past, social media has revolutionized the ways in which historians engage with the public. Twitter has become an especially powerful platform, causing #twitterstorians, #vastearlyamerica,…
33: The Power of Sport
Mar 4, 2018 • 58 min
As we wrap up the Winter Olympic season, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling return to a favorite subject, the power of sport. In this episode, John discusses the social good to be found in the history of athletic competition. They are joined…
32: The Politics of Sex
Feb 18, 2018 • 58 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling continue to explore the many facets of the Culture Wars. Today, they tackle the often taboo subject of sex and politics. John discusses how sex was politicized in colonial America. They are joined by R.…
31: Searching for Christian America in a Boston High School
Feb 4, 2018 • 59 min
The practice of historical thinking requires training. In this episode, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss this crucial habit of the mind, especially within a political climate where historical claims run rampant regardless of whether…
30: The Evangelicals
Dec 21, 2017 • 68 min
The word “evangelical” has a number of meanings and connotations. However, in the current political and social climate, people are most likely to hear the word in association with politics. In this context, it is often synonymous with the Christian Right.…
29: Libertarianism and Democracy
Nov 19, 2017 • 69 min
Many voices in American politics have been sounding the alarm about the influence of the Koch brothers as a threat to voting rights, the direction of American conservatism, and the very sanctity of American democracy. But like all things, the Koch…
28: That Memphis Sound
Oct 29, 2017 • 60 min
Otis Redding. Booker T and the M.G.s. Eddie Floyd. Isaac Hayes. The Staples Sisters. What do all of these classic soul and R&B artists have in common? Stax Records. As he toured the history of the Civil Rights Movement this summer, host John Fea included…
27: From Mount Vernon to Mar-a-Lago
Oct 15, 2017 • 60 min
Here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, we have traveled to both Mount Vernon and Monticello in our explorations of presidential history. Today, we explore a much more recent addition to the world of presidential real estate, Mar-a-Lago. While host…
26: The Way of Improvement Returns to the Classroom
Oct 1, 2017 • 53 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling have returned to their classrooms for another semester of college teaching. What better time to once again explore the importance of pedagogy? John discusses issues surrounding secondary history standards…
25: Thinking Historically About Charlottesville
Sep 17, 2017 • 56 min
In our opening episode of Season 4, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling catch up on some of the important historical work that still needs to be done in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville. John shares his thoughts on “Make American…
24: The Way of Improvement Leads to Ben Franklin’s World
Jun 18, 2017 • 55 min
To close out Season 3, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling turn to a fellow podcaster and early American scholar, Liz Covart (@lizcovart), the host of the wildly successful Ben Franklin’s World. They discuss how podcasting has emerged as a new…
23: Giving in America
May 21, 2017 • 55 min
When we historians say, “everything has a history,” we mean it. Even charity and philanthropy have rich histories and have changed over time. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling explore this history in an American context, touching on…
22: The History of American Healthcare
May 7, 2017 • 62 min
On May 4, 2017, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, the first step towards fulfilling the GOP’s promise of “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. But already what used to be a…
21: Why We Need More Historians in the Silicon Valley
Apr 23, 2017 • 68 min
The liberal arts vs. STEM. A degree in the humanities vs. a degree in business. The current conversation around higher education consistently pits the study of history, philosophy, or English against more “practical” pursuits like engineering or computer…
20: La Vida Baseball
Apr 9, 2017 • 64 min
It’s that time of year again—Opening Day. Once again, host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling make their way to the ballpark and get ready to discuss Americas’* pastime. This time around, they tackle race and ethnicity in baseball while also…
19: American Prophets
Mar 26, 2017 • 44 min
America has long been a home to prophets. Tenskwatawa, Joseph Smith, Anne Hutchinson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. have all spoken truth to power. In today’s episode, John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss America’s prophetic tradition. They are joined…
18: The Way of Improvement Leads Abroad?
Mar 12, 2017 • 70 min
Of all the places for a couple of American historians, why are John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling going to 1930s Czechoslovakia? In this episode, the team tries their hands at some comparative history while John discusses the internationalization of the…
17: The Way of Improvement Leads to Mount Vernon
Feb 20, 2017 • 49 min
History always matters, but in times of great political change, good historical thinking is especially important. And since it’s Presidents’ Day, we thought the best place to start Season 3 is at historic Mount Vernon. In this episode we discuss George…
16: Abolitionism
Dec 18, 2016 • 50 min
Two weeks ago, we discussed the Civil War. But the Civil War didn’t just occur spontaneously. Instead, it was a reaction to many larger political currents that had their roots in the very foundation of the United States. One such current was abolitionism.…
15: The Civil War
Dec 4, 2016 • 47 min
Perhaps there is no story more important to the United States than that of our Civil War. It is no surprise then that historians continue to find new things to say about the conflict. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss such things as…
14: 107 Years in the Making
Nov 20, 2016 • 43 min
When the Chicago Cubs finally ended the “Curse of the Billy Goat,” they demonstrated just how historic “America’s Pastime” truly is. When Michael Phelps won his 28th Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro, he furthered his case for being known as the greatest…
13: Finally, it’s Election Day
Nov 6, 2016 • 36 min
Well, we have finally arrived at Election Day. After a long and grueling campaign, we are about to find out who will serve as the president of the United States for the next four years. Over the course of the campaign, there has been a lot of talk about…
12: How to be a Historian in Public
Oct 23, 2016 • 41 min
Is it truly possible for academic historians to climb down from the ivory tower and connect with the public? Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss the ways in which historians can engage with people outside of the academy, whether that…
11: Biography: an Appraisal
Oct 9, 2016 • 53 min
Perusing the shelves of your local bookstore, it’d be easy to assume that historians love biographies. However, historians have long wrestled with the problems of hero worship that are so often present within biographical literature. Join host John Fea…
10: On Historical Reenacting
Sep 18, 2016 • 57 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling are back and ready for season 2. In this episode, they tackle the issue of historical reenacting. Is it just another kind of historical thinking? Or is it something different? They are joined first by…
9: Baby, We Were Born to Run (Home)
May 8, 2016 • 63 min
The long-awaited Bruce Springsteen episode has arrived! Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling address the historical, political, and even spiritual significance of the Boss. They are joined by Marc Dolan, author of Bruce Springsteen and the…
8: All Things Jefferson
Apr 24, 2016 • 65 min
In Episode 8 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast John Fea and Drew Dyrli Hermeling talk about the complex life and legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed and Jefferson scholar Peter Onuf talk with John…
7: The Way of Improvement Leads to the Ballpark
Apr 10, 2016 • 74 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss America’s national pastime. That’s right–it’s The Way of Improvement Leads Home podcast’s first annual baseball episode! John and Drew talk about the marketability of nostalgia, the youthful dreams…
6: Narrating the Past
Mar 29, 2016 • 58 min
Historians often wrestle over how to tell their stories of the past. Complex jargon can make their work inaccessible to non-academics while readable narratives can draw the ire of the academy. Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling address this…
5: Encountering the Past
Mar 13, 2016 • 50 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling discuss the many ways in which they have encountered the past, especially within the realm of public history and historical preservation. They are joined by the Director of Education at the Smithsonian’s Air…
4: Teaching History (K-12 Edition)
Feb 28, 2016 • 64 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling talk about teaching historical thinking to K-12 students. They discuss pedagogy, the Common Core, and the role of history in a STEM-focused educational climate. Their guest is Sam Wineburg, professor of…
3: Thinking Politically Historically
Feb 14, 2016 • 49 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling tackle presidential politics in this, their third episode. John discusses the “usable pasts” employed by candidates on both sides of the aisle. Later Fea and Hermeling are joined by Yoni Appelbaum, the…
2: The Culture Wars
Jan 31, 2016 • 51 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling dig into the complicated history of the Culture Wars. They are joined by Daniel K. Williams who discusses his latest book, Defenders of the Unborn: the Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade. Learn more about…
1: Everything has a History
Jan 16, 2016 • 58 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling explore the ways historical thinking permeates all things and contributes to a democratic society. They are joined by James Grossman, the Executive Director of the American Historical Association. During the…
0: An Introduction
Dec 30, 2015 • 13 min
Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling sit down and discuss the launch of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast, including expectations for the venture and a brief explanation of what the phrase “The Way of Improvement Leads Home” actually…