Meet the Teacher

Hi, folks. Here’s a bit of personal information about me:

I was born in the Redwoods, in northern California…long enough ago that I was legal to drink before a number of your were born. My dad worked for our favorite Uncle Sam, as a wildlife refuge biologist with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the for first five years of my life, my neighbors largely consisted of ducks, geese and mosquitos. We were in southern Idaho, north-central California, Oregon, Washington, and Georgia before I entered elementary school. My father ended up transferring into the Endangered Species Program of the Service, and we finally settled in Ojai, California for about 12 years, where he was stationed as the biologist in charge of creating a recovery plan for the endangered California Condor and a number of other western birds. (To give away my age, I was living in Ojai during the years when “The Six Million Dollar Man” and “The Bionic Woman” were occasionally filmed in town. I’m actually on-camera, though hidden behind a court-net, in one of the season-opening episodes, hunkered down out of the shot with my kid sister’s beginning tennis class.)

After 12 glorious years of fire, mudslides, more-or-less perpetual summer, earthquakes, floods, cross-country practices, moral scares over Dungeons and Dragons (in that white-boxed version you might still be able to afford on eBay), and the like, I moved up to Portland, Oregon, where I bounced around between schools and bookselling jobs, until finally I graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in Liberal Studies (English/American Intellectual History). I worked for Goodwill Industries for a couple of years, waiting for my girlfriend to finish school and move off to grad school with me. When she moved off without me, I accepted a position in the American Culture Studies MA program at BGSU (despite the fact that, after OSU, I had really hoped never to have orange as a school color ever again.) I finished the MA program and then completed all the coursework for a Ph.D, at which point the bookstore which I had purchased in town went (slowly and painfully) belly-up, taking that degree and my credit rating with it.

My master’s thesis was on models for evaluating popular novels. My subsequent published work has been on “virtual communities” on the internet, paperback book collecting, contemporary French cultural theory, and the history of anarchism. I am currently in the midst of writing a biography of William Batchelder Greene, a 19th-century mutualist, Unitarian minister and Union Army colonel. You’ll be seeing bits and pieces of that research, which we’ll be using to illuminate some of the questions raised in our readings.

Currently, I’m at BGSU as a part-time instructor, teaching this section of Great Ideas and an Honors section of the same course. I’m the “soundguy” and karaoke jockey at Nate & Wally’s Fishbowl. I still deal in books online. And, starting in February, I’ll be teaching a “semi-secular” Sunday School seminar at United Christian Fellowship. I’ve been involved since the early ’90s in a variety of distance-learning projects.

I should probably add some sort of political disclosure, since these are the days of The Academic Bill of Rights and battles over “political correctness.” I’m a mutualist anarchist, which means I’m all for people making up their own minds about things, don’t mind genuinely free markets, and think that, while individual freedom and are probably the most important values, they’re never actually achieved except in a social context. We have to think about the other folks if we’re going to have personal liberty. I’m not going to fit easily into the liberal vs. conservative split that seems to dominate public debate. Hopefully, that’s all to the good, and nobody is going to object to having a historian enthusiastic about the subject of liberty teaching a course centered on “American freedom.” If you want to keep an eye on what I’m up to outside of class, my main blog is at libertarian-labyrinth.blogspot.com and my web pages are (for the moment) at libertatia.bravehost.com.

Welcome, folks.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2625 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.