Jon Shelton

UW-Green Bay Prof. Jon Shelton awarded National Academy of Education fellowship to study how the connection between education and economic opportunity affects political divisions today

Shelton one of 30 selected from more than 200 applicants

If your vision of “living history” is an aging professor prattling on about his early years, you have yet to meet UW-Green Bay Associate Professor, Jon Shelton (Democracy and Justice Studies).

Shelton’s approach to understanding history is to research the thread of an event or concept from its origins, follow the significant developments over time and engage students in discussion about the way it is being lived or applied now. Students learn how lessons from the past might inform decisions today.

His research focuses on the intersection of history and education, an area on which he has built a reputation as a national scholar. He is regularly contacted by reporters (New York Times, TIME, Washington Post, etc.) who are looking for context behind national stories about education and labor relations.

To further his research, Shelton has been awarded a prestigious postdoctoral grant from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Fellowship Program, which supports “early career scholars working in critical areas of education research,” according to the NAEd website.

“One of the best features of the fellowship,” said Shelton, “is the opportunity to network with other research fellows and members of the National Academy. It gives me the opportunity to think outside of my own discipline, which is also consistent with the interdisciplinary, problem-focused nature of UW-Green Bay.”

Shelton will use the research fellowship to explore the historical connections between education, economic opportunity, and political divisions in America.

“I was trained as a labor historian, but now I also do work in the history of education,” said Shelton. In fact, his dissertation[1] won an award from the Labor and Working-Class History Association and his book[2] won the First Book Award from the International Standing Conference on the History of Education.

“The main reason I became interested in my current topic has to do with my students in Democracy and Justice Studies,” Shelton continued. “It was clear these students believed in the value of education, but a lot of them talked about family members who had college degrees and still could not find jobs. They voiced lower expectations about what a college education would actually do for them. This got me curious about what Americans thought about education and economic opportunity or economic security over time.”

Shelton said the Democratic Party in the ‘60s had bipartisan support for the idea that education was just one part of a host of social democratic policies necessary to alleviate poverty and give all Americans economic security. By the ‘90s, however, many national Democrats increasingly called for investing public funds in education and job re-training as their major policy for increasing economic inequality.

In the decades afterward, Shelton believes, as investments in education failed to provide good jobs to everyone and jobs moved to other countries, a real resentment bubbled up from the grassroots. Successful politicians, he said, have been able to mobilize disaffected, blue-collar groups, especially in the upper Midwest, who express a desire to “discipline these educators who are spending our tax dollars needlessly.”

As a consequence, Shelton posited, in the past few years, there has been both an assault on the political center from the right, and an existential discussion among the Democrats about where they’re going to go, as a few Democratic presidential candidates challenge some Democratic norms.

“What I’m going to do is look at how various people have made the economic argument for education, going back as far as the 19th century, and how that’s changed over time,” said Shelton. “I’m a proponent of public investment in education, obviously, but I think the narrative that education can solve all problems has come at the expense of other things policy-makers should have considered in order to provide full economic citizenship for all Americans. If that had happened, I don’t think we’d be seeing the big levels of resentment we see right now in both parties.

Shelton’s research will take him away from teaching for a full academic year, starting now, spring term 2020. Losing a faculty member from an eight-person department can have a significant impact on remaining faculty, but Shelton said he’s received tremendous support from his peers and from university administration.

“My department chair, Alison Staudinger, and our dean, Chuck Ryback, have been ‘150% supporters’ of this fellowship,” said Shelton. “And my colleagues’ only question has been, “How do we make this work?””

Although Shelton’s research will take him away from UW-Green Bay, he won’t be too far.

“The nature of historical research involves visiting archives,” said Shelton. “I’ll be visiting the National Education Association archives in Washington, D.C., and I’ll visit other sites across the upper Midwest. I’m planning to visit UW-Madison, the state archives of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, the Reuther Library in Detroit to see the American Federation of Teachers archives, the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock and the Johnson Presidential Library in Austin. I’m still scoping out some of the study plan, so there will probably be more visits like that.”

Shelton is already integrating some of his research findings into his classroom.

“I’m fortunate to work in an academic unit that engages all of us on the faculty in pursuit of a similar question about democracy and social justice, so I don’t see any way that this would not inform our classwork. In fact, a lot of the questions I’m exploring came from classroom discussions.”

The collaborative campus environment is what drew Shelton to Green Bay.

“I came to UW-Green Bay in 2013 because I was attracted by the interdisciplinary, problem-focused nature of the campus,” Shelton said. “It sounds corny, but I am lucky to be in arguably the best academic unit that exists anywhere in the country. We’re small, but we’re devoted to a common project that transcends our disciplines: What makes societies equitable, what makes them change, how they can become more equitable?

“Students come to study with us because they are excited about that question,” he said. “Many go on to grad school or law school or become labor organizers across the country.”

Shelton is also preparing a second book, which will explore what his research has revealed about history’s influence on contemporary politics. He hopes it will resonate with the general reader and national policy makers.

“One of my goals is to explain how we got to this point,” said Shelton. “The other goal is to look at the arguments people have made to connect education, economics and politics, and to learn where those arguments were helpful and where they were not.

“I hope people will read the book and talk about how we have come to think about politics today,” he concluded. “I also hope this will inform political debates about education and economic policy for the future.”

And that brings history to life.

[1] “Against the Public: Teacher Strikes and the Decline of Liberalism, 1968-1981,” University of Maryland, 2013. Advisor: Julie Greene

[2] “Teacher Strike! Public Education and the Making of a New American Political Order,” University of Illinois Press/Working Class in American History series, 2017.

Spring International Film Series starts with ‘Salt of the Earth,’ Feb. 5, 2020

The College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences invites everyone to the International Film Series for spring 2020. All screenings begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Neville Public Museum. All films are free and open to the public. Films are unrated, but intended for a mature audience. The first film of the season is “Salt of the Earth” on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. It will be presented by Associate Prof. Jon Shelton (History).

The film’s description: At New Mexico’s Empire Zinc mine, Mexican-American workers protest the unsafe work conditions and unequal wages compared to their Anglo counterparts. Ramon Quintero helps organize the strike, but he is shown to be a hypocrite by treating his pregnant wife, Esperanza, with a similar unfairness. When an injunction stops the men from protesting, however, the gender roles are reversed, and women find themselves on the picket lines while the men stay at home.

Faculty note: Prof. Gregory Aldrete publishes video lecture analyzing Roman movies

Have you ever wondered how accurate your favorite movie set in ancient Rome really is? Frankenthal Prof. of History and Humanities Gregory Aldrete recently published a video lecture course titled “A Historian Goes to the Movies: Ancient Rome,” made with the Teaching Company/The Great Courses in which he analyzes famous movies set in the ancient world. In his analysis, Aldrete explains how historically accurate the movies are, and he reveals the challenges that the film makers faced in re-creating the colorful cultures, heroic battles, majestic cities, exotic costumes and memorable characters of the ancient world. From film classics such as “Ben-Hur,” “Spartacus” and “Life of Brian” to more contemporary depictions such as “Gladiator” and HBO’s “Rome,” this course offers viewers a deeper understanding of both Roman history and modern cinema. The series features 12 separate lectures on various ancient Roman film adaptations.

Ben Joniaux

Congratulations to UW-Green Bay Future 15 finalists

UW-Green Bay staff and an alumna were recently announced as Current Young Professionals Future 15 Award Finalists. Staff being recognized are Kassie Batchelor, the senior associate athletic director for compliance and student welfare/senior woman administrator, Ben Joniaux (pictured above), chief of staff, and Claudia Guzman, director of Student Life. UW-Green Bay alumna Briana Peters (Accounting and Business) ’13, a manager at Hawkins Ash CPAs, is also identified as a finalist. In addition, Kristina Shelton, YMCA program director, Green Bay Area Public Schools board trustee and wife of UW-Green Bay Associate Prof. Jon Shelton (History), is recognized as a finalist.

Kassie Batchelor Future 15 Surprise
Kassie Batchelor (Athletics) receives Future 15 nomination
Claudia Guzman Future 15 Surprise
Claudia Guzman (Student Life) receives Future 15 nomination
Ben Joniaux
Ben Joniaux (Chancellor’s Office) receives Future 15 nomination
Briana Peters Future 15 Surprise
Briana Peters ’13 receives Future 15 nomination

About Current

Current recognizes individuals who are making contributions to their community, and overall make the quality of life greater in the Green Bay Area. Future 15 recipients will be honored at the Future 15 & Young Professional Awards on April 30, 2020 at 5 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center. One of the 15 finalists will be named as the Young Professional of the Year at this event. More information can be found on the Future 15 & Young Professional Awards page.

UW-Green Bay alumnus Senator Hansen retiring

UW-Green Bay alumni Senator Dave Hansen (History & Secondary Education) ’71 has announced he is retiring at the end of his current term after almost 20 years in office. Read more via Senator Hansen retiring: ‘It truly has been a privilege’ | wearegreenbay and Hansen retiring at end of Senate term | WHBY.

 

UW-Green Bay faculty to speak at Door County Talks

UW-Green Bay faculty are scheduled to give presentations at the 2020 Door County Talks winter series. Presenters include Associate Prof. Alise Coen (Political Science), Associate Prof. of History and Director of Student Success Vince Lowery, Associate Prof. Kimberley Reilly (Democracy and Justice Studies) and Assistant Prof. Nolan Bennett (Political Science). Below is a description of the presentations.

Immigration Politics: Between Rights and Restrictions with Associate Prof. Alise Coen (Saturday, Jan, 18, 2020 at 10 a.m.)

Debates over U.S. immigration policy have been shaped by a complex history characterized by tensions between migration restrictions and migrant rights. To understand ongoing policy shifts regarding immigration and asylum, it is important to engage with the evolution of both nativism and human rights advocacy. International law and evolving court interpretations have also played a crucial role in immigration politics, exemplified by recent discussions about the Flores Settlement Agreement and zero tolerance policies designed to deter undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers. Coen’s presentation aims to weave together these diverse and sometimes paradoxical historical forces to help shed light on current political realities.

How Many Reconstructions Does It Take to Be Free? A Meditation on the Long Civil Rights Movement with Associate Prof. and UWGB Director of Student Success Vince Lowery (Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020 at 10 a.m.)

With the abolition of slavery, the United States entered the period of Reconstruction, which historian Eric Foner calls “the unfinished revolution.” The meaning of freedom for African-Americans, and in fact all Americans, remained in question. That “revolution” began again in the mid-twentieth century with the civil rights movement, which some historians refer to as the “Second Reconstruction.” Now fifty years removed from that event, in light of the persistence of Jim Crow-style policies and practices, many are calling for a “Third Reconstruction.” In his talk, Lowery will trace the threads connecting these three eras, exploring moments of progress and regression and the road left to travel.

Woman Suffrage 100 Years Later: Assessing Its Triumphs and Limits with Associate Prof. Kimberley Reilly (Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020 at 10 a.m.)

How did the women’s rights movement win passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, and what lesson can we learn from that victory? One hundred years after women won the constitutional right to vote, we will examine the history of the suffrage movement alongside battles that were left unfinished. We will also consider how the legacy of the suffrage movement influences the fight for gender equality today.

The Radical Vision of the American Abolitionists with Assistant Prof. Nolan Bennett (Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020 at 10 a.m.)

Speaking at a Fourth of July celebration in 1860, the formerly enslaved Frederick Douglass famously asked his audience: “Why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence?” With this fierce denunciation of American hypocrisy—that the country would celebrate liberty and equality while so many remained enslaved in the South—Douglass offered a radical vision of American history and democracy. In this talk, we will look at how those opposed to slavery (like Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, David Walker and Abraham Lincoln) offered a new, expansive reading of American ideals as they challenged the “peculiar institution.” We will consider how they looked back to the founding era and its documents and forward to a new dawn of justice. In light of that progressive outlook, we wi;; also discuss the lasting legacy of the abolitionists and how slavery continues to influence American politics and ideas.

No RSVP is required for the Door County Talks series. Freewill donations will be encouraged at the door. Coffee and bakery from Kick Ash Coffee will be available for purchase for DC Talks and Coffeehouses.

UWGB alumna named program director at Historical Society | Herald Times Reporter

UW-Green Bay alumna Emily Shedal (History and Humanistic Studies) has been named program coordinator at Manitowoc County Historical Society. “As the Historical Society’s program coordinator, Shedal will build upon the youth and public education programs at the museum and work to create a variety of hands-on, hands-in programs for guests.” More via Emily Shedal named program coordinator at Historical Society | Herald Times Reporter.

Motivation for innovation: Recent UW-Green Bay alumnus promotes innovation in his students

UW-Green Bay alumnus Zak Lenski ’16 (History) is promoting innovation to his high school students at Kettle Moraine High School in Wales, Wis. Lenski is the school’s only social studies teacher in the KMGlobal School for Global Leadership and Innovation. The program is unique, as is the title “innovation”  in the name of a K-12 school.

Recently, Zak and two of his students attended The Commons Demo Day in Milwaukee to talk about innovative community projects they are doing as part of the curriculum in their school. The Commons Demo Day is an event and celebration that showcases innovative work from local high schools, colleges, businesses and community organizations.

Associate Prof. Jon Shelton referenced in piece on how teacher strikes impact education students | The Badger Herald

Associate Prof. Jon Shelton (History) and his talk on Wisconsin Public Radio was referenced in a piece on how Universities should prepare education students for all aspects of their future field. More via University should prepare students for all parts of being a teacher | The Badger Herald. 

Faculty note: Associate Prof. Caroline Boswell publishes article

Associate Prof. and Director of the Center of Advancement of Teaching and Learning Caroline Boswell (History) recently published the article “Developing the Whole Teacher: Collaborative Engagement as Faculty Development within a First-Year Experience Program” in The Journal of Faculty Development. The article explores “a collaborative approach that embeds faculty development in a program for underserved students, to transform how faculty envision their role as teachers of diverse students.”  Read more here.