I don’t know which brought tears to my eyes—the negligence on the part of the famed Great Books school, the University of Chicago, or Joe Bast’s
extraordinary devotion to learning. You will not read this unmoved: “My Eight Years as an Undergraduate.”
Joyce Appleby describes herself as a "left-leaning historian ... with strong libertarian trends." She has written a partially good book on the history of capitalism--The Relentless Revolution. I reviewed it in Liberty and would be interested in comments by writers on this blog. My overview, expressed with a somewhat rhetorical flourish:
At the start, The Relentless Revolution is like an exhilarating train ride, full of insights and a historian’s gold mine of information, but it loses steam and slows to a crawl once the Rubicon of the Industrial Revolution has been crossed. At the end, Appleby is praising the US government for trying to rein in the capitalist beast.
Along the way, Appleby appears to adopt the Kenneth Pomeranz view that slavery may have contributed to the Industrial Revolution as much as or more than trade did. I'd like to see some reaction to that. Otherwise, however, she offers some good sense about the causes of the Industrial Revolution--showing nicely how scientific theory and British practicality worked together and admitting that Britain had a more open society than the rest of Europe (and of the world), and that the openness was an important factor, too.
The book is one of those grand-themed books like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence but it is not nearly as insightful as those (I’ve directed conferences on both). Morris’s ambition is to explain the progress of mankind starting about 50,000 years ago and, in particular, to answer the question of why the West overcame the East in social development.
But his theories are pallid, almost nonexistent. The major theory is that people are greedy, lazy, and afraid. Social development (his label for progress) occurs because people respond to changing circumstances—especially climate change—in ways that reflect these attributes.
Yes, that's basically it. And it's a pretty horrifying book because in his view history is mostly about the slaughter inflicted by a changing array of brutal chieftains, kings, and emperors. The history of the world is like a chessboard; sometimes White dominates, sometimes Black, but all the pieces are playing the same game.
There’s not a word here about institutions. Thus, in the end, in spite of 750 pages of sometimes arresting detail, history turns out to be just one damn thing after another, as Arnold Toynbee once characterized it.
Can you imagine any other Latin American country where this high-tech rescue could have occurred? Or, thinking back to February, can you imagine any other Latin American country that could absorb an earthquake of 8.8 magnitude as Chile did? According to Wikipedia, the death toll was 486. In contrast, the death toll in the 2010 Haitian earthquake was in the 200,000 range (admittedly, Haiti is not a Latin American country, but a Caribbean one).
The resilience of Chile was no surprise to me because our son, at age 20, traveled through South America three years ago. He wrote:
"I have heard several times that Argentina is the Europe of South America, while Chile is the United States. This argument was supported 5 minutes into the country. After 3 days driving through Bolivia without seeing anything resembling a road, let alone pavement, Chile offered us a perfectly manicured road with painted lines 5 minutes past the border. I couldn´t believe it. And in all of Chile that I have seen so far, the story is the same. Roads straight out of the USA, and buildings and stores that would be right at home in any American city. It really is the economic growth miracle of the continent."
Political scientist Aaron Wildavsky created or at least popularized the meme “wealthier is healthier.” Chile is healthier because it is wealthy and it is wealthy because its government has allowed markets to work.
Can anyone recommend a book that disputes claims that Roosevelt and Marshall deliberately withheld information about the pending attack from the Hawaii commanders? Roberta Wohlstetter's 1962 book is too old and Gordon Prange's book presumably does not include most of the information that Jimmy Carter de-classified in 1979. (Although At Dawn We Slept was published in 1982, Prange died in 1980 and two graduate students finished the book.)
Lots of silly, time-wasting things go on in the nation's public schools, and this may be one of them, but it is far from the worst.
Barack Obama is the nation's president. The song praises him, says that his election as the first black president is historic, lauds diversity, and honors Martin Luther King, Jr. What's wrong with that? You may convince me, but I need for you to spell it out.
In an article on the Pope Center site today, I list four events that are revealing the cavernous gulf between academia and the public. One is Climategate; another, academics' concession that they are indeed liberal; the appearance of Atlas Shrugged in college courses; and, finally, public questioning of the conventional wisdom that"everybody has to go to college."
Once the faultlines are visible, can the earthquake be far behind?
Meanwhile Brewer notes that World history doesn't look too secure either; it may become"World Studies 1945-Present."
But the Beitos’ book changed my views enormously—softened them, one might say. The Beitos do a terrific job of making this larger-than-life figure believable and placing him in the context of mid-century Mississippi. Yes, he was heroic! While they are objective in their analysis, they convey an image of Howard as a restless individual who refused to be confined by racism in the South or legalistic restraint in the North. He was, the Beitos write, “fearless in waging war against inequality and disenfranchisement, but he was not a man to tilt at windmills.”
Howard, a physician, journalist (in his early days in California), and businessman, did indeed have a major role in founding the civil rights movement in the Mississippi Delta. Historians should not ignore him. Thanks to the Beitos' solid research, they do not have to anymore.
Jay's argument in favor includes a sample syllabus for an American history course.
Traffic jams, if they're managed well, can actually be good for the environment. They maintain a level of frustration that turns drivers into subway riders or pedestrians.
Three years ago, the John W. Pope Foundation pledged $90,000 to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a series of lectures on"Renewing the Western Tradition." This followed a long period of discussion and debate over a much larger gift that would establish a curriculum in Western civilization--an idea proposed by the administration but ultimately rejected by the faculty. The lecture series was a remnant.
In the minds of distinguished and named professors at Chapel Hill, it turns out,"renewing" the Western tradition is more like"fixing" the Western tradition or" conducting a nuanced and multi-layered conversation about it and its relationship with other traditions, which may be better." See for yourself.