Cliopatria: A Group Blog
Aaron Bady (∞); Chris Bray (∞); Brett Holman (∞); Jonathan Jarrett (∞); Robert KC Johnson (∞); Rachel Leow (∞); Ralph E. Luker (∞); Scott McLemee (∞); Claire B. Potter (∞); Jonathan T. Reynolds (∞)
Edward Nowatka,"Literary Blogs Fill a Niche," USA Today, 16 Feb. Undoubtedly, they do, though Kevin Holtsberry thinks that Collected Miscellany should get some face time; and one of the better known literary blogs, Moby Lives, continues to cite stories from SwiftReport as if they were straightforward news, instead of the spoofs that they are. A lunkhead like myself could believe that moral conservatives plan to chisel the features of Abraham Lincoln into those of Ronald Reagan on Mt. Rushmore or that the Bush administration is seriously considering naming either John Ashcroft or former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore as the nation's poet laureate. Just too droll; but the Bush administration has done worse in more critical slots and it might keep Ashcroft or Moore out of greater mischief.
"An introverted history major at Brown University is romantically involved with another history major. His hobby is guitar. Through writing songs to her about history, he is able to express his feelings about their relationship. Once she hears his songs, she is able to respond to his feelings. Their love is resolved successfully. The songs are:Casting suggestions? Alternate endings?
Baby we need a little common sense like Thomas Paine
Baby I need a Declaration of Independence
Baby you're like The Founding Fathers they had slaves
Baby we're having a Civil War
Baby this is Guadacanal
Baby this is DDAY
Baby this is Viet Nam
Baby this is Iraq
Baby we need a Bill of Rights"
I have news for you, my friends. It is not true that all the material American Historians work with is in English, and to the extent it is true, it should not be. Even when we limit ourselves to the United States (and do not do comparative work) there are myriad areas of American History which require reading or interpreting of sources in other languages. To give some examples: historians dealing with immigration or with working-class populations (apart from African Americans) often find their best sources in the foreign-language press. Diplomatic Historians need to analyze dispatches sent by foreign representatives to their governments, and to read treaties drafted in the international language of diplomacy--French. Cultural historians study travel narratives written by visitors from other countries and newspapers recounting the activities of Americans abroad. Religious Historians find primary sources in Hebrew, Latin, and other languages. Historians of American Communism study Russian in order to read the old Soviet Archives. Also, there are areas of the United States—Puerto Rico for example—where government documents are in other languages than English. Colonial Historians, if they wish to consider Louisiana, rely on French and Spanish documents. As importantly, let us not forget students of Native American History who interpret oral traditions set forth in Indian languages.
Furthermore, even if all primary sources required for work in American History are in English, that does not absolve American Historians of the responsibility to read secondary works in their field published elsewhere, even if they are in other languages. (Shelley Fisher Fishkin, in her magisterial November 2004 Presidential Address to the American Studies Association, which will appear in the upcoming issue of AMERICAN QUARTERLY, reminded Americans of the dangers of professional ethnocentrism and listed a stunning array of work done in American Studies by historians and others outside the United States). While it is clearly unfair to expect Americanists to read a dozen languages, a reading knowledge of even one other language expands greatly a historian’s potential for understanding of a field. The German-language literature on African American History and culture is impressive. Some of the finest monographs I know on the History of American Indians were written by the French historians Elise Marienstras, Nelcya Delanoë, and Joëlle Rostkowski. Some of the finest works by the Italian historians Mario Einaudi to Raimondo Luraghi are unavailable in translation.
My own experience is perhaps unusual, but nonetheless indicative. As a historian of Japanese Americans, I find that, as one might expect, my current work involves the use of a number of Japanese-language primary sources. At the same time, I make significant use of primary sources in other languages. In order to discuss relations between Japanese Americans and Mexican Americans in 1940s California, I have made an extended study of the coverage of the wartime removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans in the Spanish-language newspaper LA OPINION. Part of my knowledge of Japanese immigration to the United States comes from the first serious book on the subject, Louis Aubert’s AMERICAINS ET JAPONAIS (1908), which was written in French. I have been reading up on the career of the expatriate Japanese American sculptor Shinkichi Tajiri, who lives in the Netherlands—the bulk of literature on his work is in Dutch. And as far as secondary material is concerned, well, I prefer to consult the best annotated bibliography of articles on Japanese Americans, the 1000-page German-language work by Hans-Dieter Öhlschleger and his colleagues, JAPANER IN DER NEUEN WELT (1997).
At Easily Distracted, Tim Burke's"Misrecognitions and Mythologies" continues his reflections on teaching African history, but it reaches to illusions about all of our pasts to which we might want to return.
Haunted by the writing demon, Scott McLemee looks at"Academic Freedom Then and Now" by revisiting Richard Hofstadter and Walter Metzger's The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. McLemee reminds us of the fragility of traditions only recently acquired.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that philosophers tend toagree with philosophers and historianswith historians when we talk about philosophy and history. I've long thought they were the only two disciplines that might be the heart of a liberal arts curriculum. Much of modern philosophy seems to have abandoned all pretense to it; and much of modern history seems to have abandoned all interest in it. But we do need to begin talking with each other again.
The Second Meeting of the Skeptics Circle is up at Respectful Insolence.
I must admit to laughing out loud when I read my colleague Jonathan Dresner's comment. How many, many times I have said this to my US and English history cohorts [specifically those who do the modern period ]. You don't have to waste 4-5 years of Arabic and Persian and Sindhi and Serayki [let's leave French and German aside], I say, you can just jump into the archive! How I would love to have that facility with my sources. Of course, my American cohorts doing Hali or Iqbal turn around and say the same thing to me because Urdu is my native tongue while they have to spend years in training.
Still, how I would love to do US cultural or social or intellectual history. To be able to engage with religion and society of 19th-20th century US would be incredible. Of course, such are the dreams of greener grass and happier climes.
But, it made me wonder. What are the professional pipe dreams of my esteemed colleagues and readers? What historical projects would you undertake if you had life enough and time? And current ones, no matter how long in gestation [throat cleared] do not count.
I'll go first. I would love to do a comparative project tracing apocalyptic messianism in the US and in South Asian religious expression during the modern era.
Well, it's a year later and Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber tells us that David's back! Via Discover The Network.org, we can trace the links among Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Barack Obama. Not only that, but we can link them to such threats to American liberty as Jane Addams and Alfred I. DuPont. That David Horowitz. He's such a stitch!
While I'm Discovering Networks, I'm registering my grievance here with Richard Jensen's Conservativenet, where I was censored yesterday. Jensen gratuitously sent out an announcement that something called the"Educational Approval Board" of the state of Wisconsin has accredited something called"Robert Welch University" as an on-line, degree-granting institution. Yes, it's named for the founder of the John Birch Society. Yes, RWU is headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin, the home of Joseph McCarthy; but, yes, its services will be available to your sons and daughters around the world at a cost much less than your regular colleges and universities. It has been endorsed by such distinguished American educators as Thomas E. Woods, author of the best-selling The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Don't take my word for it. Go over to Eric Muller's Is That Legal? for a glimpse at just how poisonous this stuff is. Or, try Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy, or Max Boot at the Weekly Standard. Or, are those authorities too unreliably radical for you? Now, however, Wisconsin allows your sons and daughters to get a certified degree in it and the Republic will be safe from all harm. Why don't I feel re-assured?
Well, for what it's worth, I think Beito's probably right. I wouldn't say that it's been a very civil discussion. There's been some talk about which and how many of its participants should be barred from commenting at HNN altogether. And, if size alone matters, I think the 165 comments on my article,"Journalists Are Rushing to Judgment About Michael Bellesiles" on the mainpage still holds the over-all record at HNN. Of course, I was arguing with the Gun Lovers of America and they've been known to spill a word or two. But I'm just waiting for my libertarian friends to catch their breath. It's hot on my record's trail.
Midnight Update: My libertarian friends are still breathing fire on each other. They're up to 141 now. Meanwhile, Kuznicki has moved on.
When I first saw this movie, it was roughly the 20th anniversary of D-Day. I was in 6th grade and full of Churchillian (Winston) heroism, and these words seemed only logical. Quite honestly, I did not understand at all the sacrifice the commander spoke of.
Fast forward to 1994, and those many testimonials about the D-Day landings 50 years earlier. One soldier recalled moving inland and finding a young woman ripped in half by a shell.
When I heard his statement, I remembered the line in that movie. Only in that moment did I understand it, and I was stunned.
That revelation came to me again when I caught part of The Longest Day on cable the other day. It set me to wondering about many things. I found myself thinking about how I, about all of us I suspect, learn. It’s not simply an accumulation of data occasionally sifted and resifted; though I’m sure things learned in the intervening years played some role in that moment in 1994. Instead leaning includes moments far removed from each other in time and space that come together in a gestalt, a true epiphany, and the world around us changes.
Sometime it can be humorous. That moment when we realize what a parent said in 1967 was the Truth when we face our own children.
Sometimes painful, too. Time heals, we hear people say. Later, when we mourn, we come to realize that mourning never ends. Then later, much later sometimes, the mourning is balanced and transformed with joy and softened by a touch of forgetfulness. But we don’t become aware of it until there is some moment, perhaps an unexpected glance at an old picture, and in an eyeblink we know that we have changed. Time healed, though it could not restore.
Sometimes such moments are an intellectual joy. Not too long ago I returned to a poem that I had not read in twenty, maybe thirty years. How different it was! How transparent when it once seemed mysterious and opaque!
Accumulated knowledge, yes. But it takes random moments like these to spark that hoard of knowledge. To make it fire and light.
Douthat doesn't go as far as Henry Adams; he doesn't refer to himself in the third person. But he might well have quoted Adams, his fellow Harvard alumnus, who made most of Douthat's points in 1918:
For generation after generation, Adamses and Brookses and Boylstons and Gorhams had gone to Harvard College, and although none of them, as far as known, had ever done any good there, or thought himself the better for it, custom, social ties, convenience, and above all, economy, kept each generation in the track. Any other education would have required a serious effort, but no one took Harvard College seriously. All went there because their friends went there, and the College was their ideal of social self-respect.Now, no one really takes Adams' lack of seriousness about Harvard seriously either. Indeed, Adams spends his entire autobiography complaining about the ill fit between his nineteenth-century education and his twentieth-century experience, but in the process of doing so he does a pretty good job convincing his readers that he's a pretty educated guy, in all senses of the word. Harvard must not have been that bad for Adams. After all, he went back to work there.
Harvard College, as far as it educated at all, was a mild and liberal school, which sent young men into the world with all they needed to make respectable citizens, and something of what they wanted to make useful ones. (p. 50)
But back to Douthat. There has been more discussion of the article at Left2Right, Brad DeLong, and Matthew Yglesias. Douthat speaks back here and here.
Most of these discussions concern the covering laws that Douthat suggests about contemporary philosophy -- that the dearth of metaphysics and morality in philosophy departments has doomed the discipline to popular irrelevance. Several philosophers in the above discussions have bristled. Since this is a history blog, though, I might as well point out that historians make out even more poorly in Douthat's article, what with all their pointless essay questions, microhistory, and, of course, their postmodern sensibilities. (I might respond by invoking Henry Adams too:"In essence incoherent and immoral, history had either to be taught as such -- or falsified. Adams wanted to do neither." Ah, the eternal dilemma of the conscientious history teacher.)
In both the article and one of his blog responses to critics, Douthat takes history and their disciplinary cousins to task for what he calls"the tendency of the humanities to become more scientistic in various ways over the last half-century -- via the dominance of Theory in the English and Literature departments; via the emphasis on primary research, material history, etc. in the History Departments; or more recently, via the rise of rational-choice theory in the realm of political science." This seems to me an odd way of thinking about what it means for the humanities to be"scientistic," and it is especially disorienting that the article dubs this baneful tendency as"postmodern." Emphasizing primary research and adopting rational-choice theory also seem to me horses of very different colors; I'm not sure I see what the tendency that Douthat is identifying is, unless it's the standard complaint that humanistic writing has become more science-like -- jargony and what not.
What I really wanted to point out, however, was Douthat's response to those (like me) who believe he underestimates the crucial role of the student in higher education. His response is that we overestimate that role. I'm inclined to agree (as Burke also seemed to suggest) that a balance has to be struck between administrative facilitation and student self-motivation in order for that mysterious cocktail called"education" to be shaken up. Douthat's complaint about those who place the onus on students reads like this:
I tend to think if you take a bunch of teenagers, however smart they may be, and drop them into a stress-ridden, hypercompetitive school in which the only academic guidance takes the form of a terrible, terrible Core Curriculum, most of them will take the path of least resistance, seek out easy classes and popular, potentially lucrative concentrations (hello, economics!), and generally fail to get the most of their four years. Is this a moral failure on the students' part, and therefore something that the administration and faculty shouldn't be concerned with? DeLong et. al. seem to think so. Their attitude is apparently that if you didn't do a good job picking, without any kind of guidance (I don't know what the advising system was like in DeLong's era, but it's nearly nonexistent now), thirty-two classes out of the hundreds and hundreds of potential offerings that Harvard flings at you -- well, then tough luck, buddy. And good luck at the consulting firm.It struck me while reading this how uncannily it sounds like a liberal view of government. We know from others of his writings that Douthat doesn't like what he calls"left-liberalism." But his impassioned critique of the university as a passive institution, and his defense of the betrayed student from the charge of"moral failure," sound an awful lot like he's a closet liberal. Try this experiment: go back through the paragraph above, and read it this way:
I tend to think if you take a bunch of [people], however smart they may be, and drop them into a stress-ridden, hypercompetitive [market] ... most of them will take the path of least resistance ... and generally fail to get the most of their [potential]. Is this a moral failure on the [people's] part, and therefore something that the administration and [government] shouldn't be concerned with? DeLong et. al. seem to think so. Their attitude is apparently that if you didn't do a good job picking, without any kind of guidance ... [life options] out of the hundreds and hundreds of potential offerings that [the world] flings at you -- well, then tough luck, buddy. And good luck [on the unemployment line].Okay, it's a highly selective edit, but it raises this question: Why are so many conservative critics willing to make structural arguments about the failures of"the system" when it comes to higher education, while they sneer at the insistence of liberal critics that"failure" in the school of hard knocks is not knock-down evidence of"moral failure" on the part of people who need help now? Are the rules that apply to universities different from those that apply to all other social institutions?
(Cross-posted at Mode for Caleb.)
There's also been a first-rate conversation among Hugo Holbling at Studi Galileiani (and in comments there), Another Damned Medievalist at Blogenspiel (and in comments there), Paul Newall at The Galilean Library, and Brandon Watson at Siris about Norman Cantor's Inventing the Middle Ages and the philosophy of history.
The 3rd History Carnival will be about 25 February. The guidelines for it are here. Rob Priest at Detrimental Postulation will be its host. Plan ahead and send your best post in the three weeks between 4 and 25 February to: Rob AT ifanything DOT com.
Someone gave me a copy of Jon Stewart's America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction for Christmas. Except for the infamous photograph of the Supremes in the buff, I thought it too was fairly lame, too. If you broaden the search, though, google has improved with time. Here are another eleven knee slappers, Ancient Rome Jokes, Richard Lederer's Student History Bloopers, and a whole raft of USA History jokes. Greg at A Journey Through Time points to"GQ's list of the 100 Funniest Jokes of All Time." The title itself is ridiculous, of course, because humor itself changes over time and differs from place to place. Still, I thought #100 was pretty good:"I went to a restaurant with a sign that said they served breakfast at any time. So I ordered French toast during the Renaissance."
If you're going to use jokes in class, I recommend being very discriminating about them. Though I may have forgotten much else that he said, I still remember one of George Tindall's jokes thirty years after he told it in class. William Jennings Bryan was out on the campaign trail, as usual. He came to a farm where he was to address a crowd and there was no ready-made speaker's stand. So he climbed up on the nearest farm machine, a manure spreader."This is the first time I've ever spoken from a Republican platform," he said. Now, if you've got one that beats all of the above, let's have it in comments! Don't be shy.
Gertrude Himmelfarb has an excellent piece in The Weekly Standard,"The Trilling Imagination," on the centenary of Lionel Trilling.
Scott McLemee's latest column at Inside Higher Ed focuses on Harry Frankfort's classic essay"On Bullshit." It's a great column and the stuff is just piling up high, wide, and deep around here.
You've probably heard that the Organization of American Historians is moving its Spring convention to San Jose because of the hotel workers' strike in San Francisco. I don't cross picket lines, but the move to San Jose confirms my decision not to attend this year's OAH convention.
Wilson tells us that he, then, sought the assistance of Eugene Genovese. Gene is, of course, best known as the author of Roll, Jordan, Roll (1976), which won the Bancroft Prize and is still, to my mind, the best single volume on slavery in the Old South. Genovese, says Wilson,"was kind enough to read through the manuscript and provided helpful criticisms that he described as ‘nitpicking,' but which really were genuinely helpful. In addition, he also provided us with the following blurb for the cover, for which I am very grateful."
The Reverend Douglas Wilson may not be a professional historian, as his detractors say, but he has a strong grasp of the essentials of the history of slavery and its relation to Christian doctrine. Indeed, sad to say, his grasp is a great deal stronger than that of most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms. And the Reverend Mr. Wilson is a fighter, especially effective in defense of Christianity against those who try to turn Jesus' way of salvation into pseudo-moralistic drivel.Gene, Gene, say it ain't so! I would have asked him for a confirmation of this, but Gene stopped speaking to me a couple of years ago, probably because my soft-headed and warm-hearted Methodism amounts to"pseudo-moralistic drivel" or maybe because I belong to the"Secularist Crimson Jihad" to which Wilson refers.
But I'm afraid that Wilson is correct about Gene having lent his good name to this book. It is sad if Genovese's blurb will grace its covers, but also that it includes an attack on"most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms." He might have taken those words right from Clayton Cramer's blog. Not that I'm accusing Gene of plagiarizing Cramer, you understand. But, in fact, Cramer gave us a hypothetical:"Imagine if a historian published a book–Happy Slaves--that claimed that slaves were generally quite happy with their station in antebellum America." Well, if one of us hasn't yet written that book, at least one of us has apparently endorsed it.
Let's be clear. I do not believe that Eugene Genovese is a racist, but he is both consorting with a racist and giving aid to those who want ammunition in their a broadscale attack on academic historians.
At Ambiguous Adventure, Kenya Hudson calls attention to three new films and two new books on the attempted genocide in Rwanda. Both of the books, she notes, are also expected to by reworked as film.
The Apocalyptic Historian is new to history blogging and has a fascinating post up about what brought her to it. In case you missed it, she did a tough review of Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons for HNN. Compared with AH, Kelly in Kansas is a veteran history blogger. After her presentation on academic blogging at the AHA convention and a good meal with other history bloggers, she offers a few tips for beginners. Cliopatria is mystified, however, by Kelly's preference for individual over group blogs. She knows that Luker, for instance, is much improved by associating with historians of a higher class.
At Early Modern Notes, Sharon Howard does a recap on Valentine's Day in history. I can't say that there's a whole lot of love there. And, threatened with the wrath of her grace, the Cliopatriarch of Wales, Sepoy at Chapati Mystery offers up a few man-eating tigers.
In"Shilling for Hitler" at Salon, Charles Taylor reviews Deborah Lipstadt's History on Trial, her account of the libel suit brought against her by David Irving. The trial destroyed all reputation Irving might have had as a historian. Taylor's concluding sentence is fairly blunt:"... Deborah Lipstadt has managed to scrape a major piece of shit off the boots of history." The story Lipstadt and Taylor tell in the aftermath of the trial also seriously embarrasses the reputations of British historians Sir John Kegan and Donald Cameron Watt, as well as the judgment of Christopher Hitchens. Thanks to Alan Allport at Horizon for the tip.
Six out of ten D.C. suburban commuters don’t like their commute. They will rearrange their lives, their schedules, and on occasional even change jobs or work locations. They even support raising gasoline taxes to fund new major projects to ease their lives, if only temporarily.
The one thing the vast majority will not do is give up their car, even thought they understand that their choice, multiplied by the millions of other people who make the same choice, is what causes the problems
Here is the one spot where the article fails. It does not ask the commuters why they won’t give their cars up. Some simply don’t like the public transportation, but are there practical necessities (for example, the ability to pick up little Billy at school if he gets sick)? Is it a vaguer, “I never know when I will need it,” sense of necessity? Or is it simply the fact that a car that we own is our own space in a way that a Metro seat can never be?
In any event, the solution for most is to make their car as comfortable and useful as possible. Cell phones, books on tape, Satellite radio, CD’s: the car becomes a second home, a bit short on scenery, but long on creature comforts and practical, non-transportation utility.
The mentality here gives us, in a nutshell, the problems facing traffic engineers, environmentalists, anyone who deals with the long-term consequences of masses of individual decisions. One-by-one the decisions by these commuters may be rational; that is, each person may be making the best of the situation he or she is in.
Taken together the decisions are insane. They don’t simply create horrendous problems, but they do so in such a way that there is no politically viable solution other than to extend the problem by increasing the number and size of highways. This projects the problem forward to a new generation.
But, hey, it’s all rational.
Yesterday Germany marked the sixtieth anniversary of the allied bombing of Dresden, an event that has been remembered several times over the last few years with two publications (WG Sebald and Jürg Friedrich) and by the Anglo-German restoration of the Frauenkirche. The morality and legality of the air raids have been hotly debated in recent years. Dresden has become a symbol in the current debate about whether Germans can mourn their losses in terms comparable to memorials of the Holocaust. Indeed, the NPD (the Neo-Nazi party that holds seats in the Saxon state parliament) marked the memorials with a"march of sorrow" and the slogan, “The Holocaust of Bombs”. It will be difficult for Germanists to remain neutral hereafter.
However, as I read the numerous blog postings on the subject (mostly descriptions and rhetorical discussion about the allies’ justifications) a poem by Bertolt Brecht, Die Heimkehr, ran through my head:
How will I find it?
Following the swarms of bombers I’ll get home.
How far away is it,
How far away is it?
There, where the monstrous mountains of smoke stand,
There it is, in the fire.
Will it welcome me?
Before me come bombers,
Deadly swarms announce my return,
Conflagrations pave my way.
(By the way, that was my crappy translation from the years in which I dreamed I could save Rock and Roll by marrying it with cabaret. How many went down that path before me ... ?)
Brecht’s sentiments, which was by no means unique to the author (whoever that might have been), depicts a different perspective on how the destruction caused by the raids should be viewed, one that is at odds with the contemporary trends in German memory. A different paradigm, the homecoming, ruled intellectual consciousness in the years that followed World War II.
The homecoming was fully developed in Trümmerliteratur, especially in the works of Heinrich Böll. In order to return home, Germans must confront the destruction, the negation of everything, including the negation of the beauty of heroism on the front and sacrifice at home, that their war had created. For Böll, himself a soldier in the waning days, the homecoming was a painful process of seeing a completely different German landscape, one absent of culture, but also produced by its excesses (its interiorness in particular). Every German, therefore, had two Heimats – one that had existed in space and time, but was now confined to memory – the other, heaps of rubble that are remarkable only for their height. According to Böll, Germans were morally obliged to see the rubble as their new home and to accept that the beauty of the pre-war world could not be recovered. In the 1960s Böll became concerned that the significance of the post-war years had waned as the towns and cities were rebuilt. Still, he could say that “Germans did not begrudge the allies.”
Lia Miller's"New Website for Academics Roils Education Journalism" in today's New York Times explains the background to the founding of Inside Higher Ed, the new on-line publication. While you're over there, have a look at Scott Jaschik's"Resignation at Hamilton" on the resignation of Nancy Rabinowitz as director of the Kirkland Project at Hamilton College; and David Steigerwald's"The New Repression of the Postmodern Right" on legislation introduced in the Ohio legislature to adopt David Horowitz's"academic bill of rights."
There was little that surprised me in the conversation over Southern fried pork chops at the Collonade the next night. He is still a bit of an odd duck and a loner, only forty years older. What did surprise me was that, in the intervening years, he had accumulated 10, count ‘em, ten earned academic degrees. It was amazing. You name an institution and he'd say:"You know I have an M. A. from there" or whatever. I don't doubt it. He's got a bachelor's degree from Duke, a ph. d. from Vanderbilt, two certificates, and six master's degrees in one thing or another. On average, he's earned an additional academic degree every four years since he first enrolled at Duke in 1958. Not only that, but after retiring a year or so ago he's enrolled in another degree program. I don't know that there's anything wrong with that. Given the escalating costs of programs in higher education and the notion that an education in the liberal arts should be preparation for self-education, it just seemed to me to be an odd allocation of time and money.
Even so, it's not as bad as the story told me by a young Duke co-ed when we were having lunch together in about 1961. A Southern woman, born and bred, she told me that she had read Gone With the Wind 13, count ‘em, thirteen times. On average, she'd read Margaret Mitchell's very long, third-rate romance novel once every 18 months since she first took the breath of life. The woman capped that off by telling me that her uncle was a member of the Klan, which according to her rendition of things was a fairly benign organization. The local chapter, in Florida, I think it was, got itself together once a year and marched in regalia down by the local office of the NAACP to heave a brick through its window. I'm fairly sure that she was just saying some of that for shock-value to my civil rights activist self.
Yet, there was worse than that in my memory. When I was a child in suburban Louisville, mom and dad would give room and board to female students at a local business college in return for help with light house-keeping and baby-sitting. Most commonly, those women came to Louisville from the mountains of eastern Kentucky. The communities from which they came were often very provincial ones. We were surprised to learn from one of them that it was common in her community for students who graduated from the eighth grade to then be hired as the full-time teacher of a class of younger elementary students. That would be as late as the late 1940s and early 1950s. It was worse than that when one of the young women who lived with us said that her uncle had been elected to her community's local school board and that he was firmly opposed to the education of female children, altogether.
My point in thinking about these things is to say that it's important – it is crucially important – to look carefully and critically at the patterns that we repeat. We human beings are creatures of habit. We are most likely to do in the future what we have done in the past. There's probably some improvement in a move from opposition to female education and putting fourteen year olds in charge of first grades, to reading Gone With the Wind over and over and annually heaving bricks through other people's store fronts, to my old room-mate's redundant academic degrees, but Lord our unexamined habits need scrutiny. I've got some of my own that need examination.
Some of the recent additions to Cliopatria's History Blogroll:
Horizon,"A collaborative general-interest blog of history, literature, culture, and stuff" led by Alan Allport, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Pennsylvania, who is writing a dissertation on"the experience of British homecoming veterans after the Second World War."Against the speaking of"tr*lls."* Both in Lefty and Righty forms, they come running when you call their name. From Left and Right, both on-line and in e-mail, I am accused of being, ... gasp,"a Democrat." Shocked and awed by their smearfulness, I remain a Southern, white, evangelical Republican, thank you. You carry your burdens; I'll carry mine.
It Makes a Difference to the Sheep, Kirk Larsen of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University writes about"Korea, politics, current events, urban legends and other myths and rumors."
Jon Wiener, Jon is at the University of California, Irvine, and is, of course, well known at HNN. More evidence that full professors, too, will blog.
Loyal Subversive, A Marine Corps Reservist finishing his doctorate in military history.
Prodigies and Wonders, A British woman writes of" curiosity in the early modern world."
Spinning Clio, A conservative graduate student in history.
*But do enjoy the"ultimate tribute to the troll du jour" by m2 at the H is O. Thanks to Adam Kotsko for the tip.
How does spelling bee success correlate to adult professional success, and in what fields?
I'm thinking not just of a single champion per year, but of the top hundreds of kids who learn to spell words that I could not spell and whose meanings I cannot guess.
A cursory search provides no answers. Maybe some enterprising journalist can take this on.
(I'm more interested in actual outcomes than in theoretical skill sets links, but those could be interesting, too.)