Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Fog of War

I watched parts of the documentary "Fog of War" about Robert McNamara, who served in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, this weekend. It covers his role in the fire bombings of Japanese cities during World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and more importantly his actions and reflections on the Vietnam War.

For the most part, I don't like showing videos in my upper division level classes. Since it takes up too much time and doesn't allow for the same reflection/interpretation that assigning students to read an article out of class does. But I might show it one evening -- see if I can get one of the International Relations professors to co-sponsor it -- and require my students to view it. I want to make my diplomatic history course more tangible and demonstrate that foreign policy is devised by people who make choices based on certain variables, but those variables might not be complete, and the choices might not be right. Given the current situation in Iraq, this seems to me to be more and more relevant a lesson to teach.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Great Quote From 1927

I just found a great quote from 1927 that seems like something coming out today.

"The greatest menace of American life today is the college professor who is breeding a spirit of irreverence everywhere in the land."

If we only had such power.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Famous History Majors

I've been compiling this list all summer and here is what I've found so far:

v George W. Bush, President of the United States
v Franklin D. Roosevelt (d. 1945), Former President of the United States
v Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice
v Martha Stewart, Television Personality
v Katharine Hepburn (d. 2003), Actress - African Queen, On Golden Pond
v Bill Bradley, Former U.S. Senator and NBA Player for Knicks
v Bill O’Reilly, Fox News Anchor
v Prince Edward, 3rd Son of Queen Elizabeth of England
v Max Cleland, Former U.S. Senator for Georgia
v Newt Gingrich, Former U.S. Congressman for Georgia
v Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Track and Field Athlete
v Michel Palin, Actor – Monty Python, A Fish Called Wanda
v Edward Norton, Actor - People v. Larry Flynt, American History X
v Stockard Channing, Actress - Grease, West Wing, Matthew Shepard Story
v Chris Berman, ESPN Sports Broadcaster
v Charles Krault (d. 1997), CBS News Broadcaster
v Adlai Stevenson (d. 1965), Governor of Illinois, Presidential Candidate 1952
v W.E.B. DuBois (d. 1963), Co-founder of the NAACP
v Christa McAuliffe (d. 1986), Teacher - Died in Challenger Explosion
v Carly S. Fiorina, President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard
v Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Special Assistant to President John F. Kennedy
v Adonal Foyle, NBA Player for Golden State Warriors
v Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Author and Director of W.E.B. DuBois Institute
v Vartan Gregorian, President Carnegie Corporation
v Adam Katz, Sports Agent for Mo Vaughn and Sammy Sosa
v Eric Kandel, Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology
v James Kilts, President and CEO Gillette Corporation
v Wade Goodwyn, National Affairs Reporter for NPR
v Richard S. Braddock, Board of Directors for Eastman Kodak Company
v Harry Pelz, President of Recycle America Alliance
v Johanes Maliza, Soccer Players for San Jose Earthquakes
v Johnathan Reese, NFL Europe Player for Admirals

Bethel College also lists some famous history majors, but I haven't had time yet to check out their authenticity. Some I am almost certain are wrong - like Woodrow Wilson. While you might be able to claim that Wilson was a historian or taught history, I don't think he majored in history. I'm pretty sure it was political science or government that was his major. But once I've checked out the claims, I'll add them to my list as well.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Scribe - A Note Taking Program

I have found a great (and free) note taking program for historians. It is called scribe. I am using it on my long-term projects.

For my dissertation and most of my other work, I've always relied on physical note cards. So that I would handwrite evidence and quotes from books on note cards, or (in later years) type my notes on computer, print them out, and paste them to a physical note card. Once I had my stack of note cards, I would arrange them in an outline and write my paper at the computer with my cards sitting next to me.

What scribe offers is a program that allows you take notes on virtual cards and link them back to a reference source. You can then do fancy searches for certain information on the cards, put them in outline format, make comments on the cards, etc.

I am just at the beginning stage of using this program, but if it turns out to work well on this first project it is going to become my primary research tool. I might even force my student workers to eventually place all my physical note cards on computer. I really do love technology.

Graduation Tests

I read an article today about a student who asked Florida governor Jeb Bush a math question from the Florida Graduation Exam. It turns out Bush couldn't answer it and it was an extremely difficult question. The moral of this story isn't that Bush is stupid, but that perhaps graduation exams are not the best way to determine whether or not a student has mastered enough material to earn a high school diploma.

It is important that high schools prepare students for college, but more importantly they should prepare students for life. Personal finance, taking measurements, figuring out percentages, etc. should be at least as important as being able to figure the angles of a certain triangle.

Monday, July 05, 2004

What If Aaron Burr Had Missed?

Great counterfactual article on HNN about what the U.S. might look today if Alexander Hamilton had not been killed by Aaron Burr in a duel.

I know I railed against counterfactual history in the classroom before, but as a parlor game I think this kind of discussion is interesting. Many of the best conversation's I've had with colleagues and family have involved 'What if' questions.

Friday, July 02, 2004

An Hour a Day

I am trying to limit myself to an hour a day of crap time. You know what I mean, things like searching websites, reading the news, checking my mud, etc. If I'm not careful that stuff can eat away my entire morning. Yesterday, for example, I screwed around online until 10:30. A totally waste of time. So now I am determined to wrap up my screwing around by 9 a.m. for the rest of the summer.

It has just hit 9 a.m. so I'm going to post this then start looking at a 1919 Senate Subcommittee Hearing on "Bolshevik Propaganda" that came in ILL.

I also discovered that I am not the only academic worried about getting my writing done over the summer. This guy is limiting himself to one blog a week.