Friday, May 28, 2004

Counterfactual History in the Class Room

I am really against the idea of asking counterfactual questions in the class room. The answer to: What about have happened if Hitler had won World War II, is completely irrelevant and should not be addressed in the class room. Students have a hard time as it is understanding how and why history happened without introducing historical alternatives into the mix. What I think is most offensive about counterfactual history, however, is that it assumes that history is not exciting, interesting, or there are no good meaty discussions that can be held about a subject unless you introduce What If questions. Historiographical questions, questions of significance, or relative importance can all be as interesting and definitely more enlightening than counterfactual questions.

I mention this because a software company is coming out with a counterfactual historical game for the classroom. While historical software games on their own can be fun and a good alternative to Doom, I think it is a real mistake to bring such tactics into the classroom. History teachers should not pass the torch to computer games on making their subjects interesting. There are other ways to catch the attention and interest of students.

A good source for more information on counterfactual history -- although it does favor the use of counterfactualism can be found at: Counterfactual History is Bunk.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Revising an Article

I am at my in-laws home for the week and as far as getting any work done it has been a real struggle. Nevertheless, I started revising an article for a journal on rhetoric and public policy. The article is really more a history piece as opposed to piece on rhetoric, so I have a lot of work to do. So much in fact that I have been postponing working on it for ages. I submitted the article last summer, got the comments back in the fall and am just now starting to work on it. Pretty pathetic I know.What is particularly sad is how hard it is to get my brain turned on again once a semester ends. Do not get me wrong, I do think while teaching, but it is a different type of thinking. It is more like problem solving or analysis, rather than being creative and original. I wish there was a way to keep my creative side alive throughout the fall and spring.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

History and Politics

I was reading an interesting article on HNN (History News Network) this morning about how historians rate G.W. Bush's presidency. Not surprisingly they rate it quite poorly - 81% view it as a failure. Many historians tend to be progressive and liberal, which undoubtedly explains part of their dislike and even hatred of Bush. In this aspect I am definitely part of the mainstream (although I am a big minority in the region I live). I am unhappy with Bush's domestic policies, especially his stance toward abortion, gay marriage, free speech, and civil rights. And while I do think that America continues to face a real threat from terrorists that won't go away just by us 'making nice' with the Middle East, I think the war in Iraq was a tremendous mistake. It was undertaken based on false information, poor intelligence, and a misunderstanding of the nature of the terrorist threat. However, now that Iraq has been destabilized, I don't see any quick way for the United States to get out of the country, without making it a recruiting ground for terrorists. This I believe will be seen as the greatest failure of Bush's presidency in the future.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

No Time - Summer Starts

I really have no time to do this. However, I have convinced myself that writing a little bit everyday will be good for me and keep my creative juices going. I just need to make sure that it doesn't detract from what I am really supposed to be doing this summer -- writing articles.

I have two articles that need to be sent out (and hopefully accepted) this summer if I am going to have a reasonable shot at earning tenure in two years. At my college the standard for getting tenure (although it is not specified anywhere in writing) seems to be 3-4 articles. I have two articles either out or accepted right now. Two more should be enough to put me over the hump.

I also have a couple of other projects that I would like to make some progress on this summer. I have a monograph idea/concept that I am gathering research for and another idea for a student's guide about history exhibits. Neither of these I plan on writing this summer, but I do need to get through some ILLs and other material to continue progress on them.

In addition, I have hanging over my head like a guillotine blade two book reviews and an encyclopedia article that are so overdue that I am embarrassed to think about it. I have until August to get this done. After that I must start prepping my classes for the fall semester.