November 19, 2013, 4:44 pm
The New York Times surveyed 7,000 college freshmen on their knowledge of history and geography. They did not know that much:
The students have but a faint idea of the geographical formation of this country. They place Portland, Ore on the Mississippi River, and St. Louis on the Atlantic Ocean.
Their history knowledge was no better, as educators lamented in the article: “Why are names such as Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt, Jackson, [and] Hamilton almost unknown?”
Clearly, the Times intoned, the educational system was in crisis and Things Needed To Be Done. Congressional hearings! Subcommittees! More standardized tests! Answering the most important question of all: “What do students learn in school, anyhow?”
Given the existential threat threatening the United States, how, the Times said, could we not ensure our students were well-educated?
It is felt at this time, with the United …
November 16, 2013, 7:50 pm
Jill Silos-Rooney talks about the “The Problem We’re Afraid To Name:” parental interference in schools.
In recent years, I’ve had to deal with parents much more frequently than I ever imagined I would have to as a college professor. One father even tried to blackmail me into giving his son easier work and higher grades so that he wouldn’t lose his football scholarship. I’m not alone: Many of my colleagues report hearing from parents more and more frequently in the past 10 years or so.
From the New York Times:
1985, “About Education: PARENTAL PRESSURE AT ISSUE:”
Commenting on a recent survey that found parents asking for a greater voice in running the schools, Judi L. Wallace wrote that a distinction should be made ”between parents who want only the best education for their own children and those parents who want to mold the schools to conform to their own religious…
November 15, 2013, 5:18 pm
Random excerpts from the junk mail I’ve received today:
Barack Obama May Be Finished Friday! Hang A Bunch is a 6-in-1 hanger that creates up to 600% more space in your closet. Organize your tops, jeans, dresses, and more;Donating-a-car is less work than selling it;September 10, 2013 (New York, NY): In a recent study by fat loss expert and two-time “Trainer of the Year” Billy Beck III, over twenty of his clients LOST between 20-40 lbs each…Their secret? Eating 1 TINY Fruit that is literally taking the diet industry by storm…News: Attention all present U.S. Homeowners: Obama has just eliminated all REFl-Requirements. This new-change will cut your current monthly home-payment in HALF; Do you desire to impress your woman at night? Off in the shower and DONT RUB IT OFF like a moron let it get soft and then gently help it off WORKS BUY IT NOW DID I MENTION IT WORKS APPLY TO BACK ARMS TO…
November 14, 2013, 12:24 pm
As a followup to yesterday’s post, I went and searched on “war to end all wars” in Google Ngrams. The result was somewhat surprising:
The usage of “war to end all wars,” which I had usually taken to refer to the Great War, and (at least at first) to be un-ironic, doesn’t really start in any serious way until the 1930s, a period when it was pretty clear that the Great War wasn’t going to be the last one. It hit an early peak in 1943, when it was likely being used as a lament – “we thought we had fought the war to end all wars, but…” – and rose steadily in the post-World War II years. It strikes me that, from this evidence (to which all the usual caveats apply), that “war to end all wars” was only really used in a substantial way when it already clearly didn’t apply to 1914-1918. World War II (or its threat) had already come along and made tragic the phrase by the time “war to…
November 13, 2013, 7:29 pm
The war of 1914-1918 has been known by two main names after it ended: the Great War, and World War I. This is what it looks like as the name changed, abruptly in 1939-41:
A small thing, but interesting.
UPDATE: Bloix, in the comments, points out that “The World War” was also used, and lo and behold:
November 12, 2013, 2:25 pm
(Guest post! David Fitzpatrick is back, with more words of wisdom)
I am a military historian by training though my graduate coursework at the University of Michigan included a heavy dose of American history. Because I teach at a community college, however, my teaching load is heavy on the “bread and butter” U.S. history surveys while, occasionally, I teach a military history course.
The Crittenden Compromise
As almost all military historians know, it can be VERY tempting to see parallels and from them to draw prescriptive conclusions from military history (e.g., the generals in the First World War ought to have learned from the American Civil War that frontal assaults were doomed to failure). Such conclusions are, almost always, fatally flawed due to the simplicity of their analysis and for finding parallels when the contexts of those “parallel” events were wildly different.
November 11, 2013, 3:53 pm
Old men and women in corners,
With tears falling fast on their cheeks
Robert Graves, “Armistice Day, 1918″
November 10, 2013, 4:00 pm
Things Michael Kinsley remarks on in his review of Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: Big words; excrement; umbrage politics; jargon; campaign journalists; trivial reporting; professional consultants; vomit; gaffes; horse-race reporting.
Things that Michael Kinsley leaves out of his review of Double Down: Game Change 2012 by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann: Race (no, a paragraph at the end doesn’t suffice); partisanship; the federal government’s dysfunction and its effect on elections; the federal government’s dysfunction and its effect on policy; the Tea Party; income inequality; the Occupy Movement; the national security state and Obama’s capture by it; the effect of micro targeting on elections; and I’m sure I could keep going if I felt like it.
The most valuable reviewing space in the United States – the front page of the New York Times
November 7, 2013, 1:36 am
Especially in the knee:
Two knee surgeons at University Hospitals Leuven have provided the first full anatomical description of a previously enigmatic ligament in the human knee. The ligament appears to play an important role in patients with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.
It’s fascinating over my lifetime to watch scientific truth shift gradually (or not so gradually): an extra ligament here, 40 billion earth-like planets there.
October 31, 2013, 10:22 pm
Obama’s reelection team thought about replacing Biden on the ticket with Hillary:
President Obama’s top aides secretly considered replacing Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. with Hillary Rodham Clinton on the 2012 ticket, undertaking extensive focus-group sessions and polling in late 2011 when Mr. Obama’s re-election outlook appeared uncertain
You mean a President with slumping approval ratings, facing a difficult reelection fight, thought about doing something that might conceivably help win the election? I can’t conceive of such a thing.
No, there is no level of sarcasm sufficient to handle this being a news story.
October 29, 2013, 4:57 pm
David Kurtz, writing for Talking Points Memo, quotes Dianne Feinstein:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, declares: “Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers.”
He titles the post “Unilateral Disarmament?” Much of the discussion around the American bugging of (among others) Angela Merkel, PM of Germany, has centered around the idea that since everyone might be doing it, we should be as well. Example here. It’s all impressively Realpolitik and stuff. Hard men doing hard but necessary things to get an advantage. It would be more impressive it it didn’t exactly echo (at a much lower and less critical level) the debate over to…
October 28, 2013, 3:43 pm
Treatment of a Syphilitic Couple with Mercury Balm, 15th Century
The Europeans brought smallpox with them, and the Americans gave them syphilis. Or so it appears:
A study published in 2011 has systematically compared these European skeletons, using rigorous criteria for bone diagnosis and dating. None of the candidate skeletons passed both tests. In all cases, ambiguity in the bone record or the dating made it impossible to say for certain that the skeleton was both syphilitic and pre-Columbian. In other words, there is very little evidence to support the pre-Columbian hypothesis. It seems increasingly likely that Columbus and his crew were responsible for transporting syphilis from the New World to the Old.
Katherine Wright, the author of the article, also makes a useful note about DNA in the comments:
Researchers amassed all of the laboratory and field strains available of these…
October 23, 2013, 1:57 pm
One of my students is working on a paper on how much solar power each branch of the military uses. It’s a fascinating topic, as the military has gotten (partly because of outside pressure, partly because of the usefulness of mobile energy sources like solar power for fighting wars) extremely interested in renewable energy. This chart graphically suggests the scale of the challenge and the sheer size of the American military:
Chart from Schuyler Null, “Defense Sustainability: Energy Efficiency and the Battlefield,” Global Green USA, February 2010. http://www.globalgreen.org/docs/publication-112-1.pdf
The Pentagon consumes as much energy as Portugal, and more than Nigeria and Denmark and New Zealand. The US military is responsible for 1% of American energy consumption. That’s a lot.
October 21, 2013, 12:33 am
Dick Cheney is weirder than you imagine, even allowing for the fact that you imagine Dick Cheney to be weird:
Fearing that terrorists might use the electrical device implanted near his heart to kill him, former Vice President Dick Cheney said he had his doctor turn off its wireless function in 2007.
October 16, 2013, 6:44 pm
(Guest Post! David Fitzpatrick is back. He’s still a retired US Army lieutenant colonel who taught military history at the United States Military Academy and who now teaches United States history at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)
“A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing”
I have been having numerous conversations with friends on Facebook regarding the deficit, the debt, and the debt limit. Several of them have encouraged me to consolidate much that I have written into one coherent essay. This is my (likely feeble) attempt. And let me here say that if this essay appears to privilege one side or the other of the argument, then so be it. Unlike much that is out there in the media and that appears to be dominating the public discourse, what follows has the benefit of being based in fact.