Sunday, October 29, 2006

Hot Library Smut

OMG... You'll never look at the stacks the same way again.

Am I sick to be a little turned on by this?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

History Graduate Students Less Likely to Cheat

I just read a news story that suggested that humanities and social science graduate students were less likely to cheat than students in other degree programs. The numbers of each discipline that admitted to cheating are as follows:

39% humanities and social science graduate students
43% arts graduate students
49% medical and other health-care graduate students
50% physical sciences graduate students
54% engineering graduate students, and
56% business graduate students

Although I am surprised by how high these numbers are (even for the humanities students), I can't help but wonder why humanities graduate students are less likely to cheat than MBA students. I really doubt that people with higher ethical or moral values are drawn into the humanities than into business.

I suspect that there might be three other reasons for these results.

1. It is easier to get into a MBA program than a humanities graduate program. While it is not ONLY weak students who cheat, in my experience it is often those students who are struggling or feel like they can't make it without cheating who give into the temptation. So perhaps because MBA students are weaker in general than humanities graduate students, they are more likely to feel the pressure to cheat to get through with their programs.

2. Perhaps the type of assignments given to humanities students makes it less likely that they will cheat. I mean how are you going to cheat in a reading seminar? Ever try to participate in discussion having only read the book reviews about a book and not the book? It feels a little like walking into seminar wearing a swimming suit and hoping that no else in the room notices. I suppose plagiarizing on a paper is more likely, but even then why bother plagiarizing a few paragraphs of a 25 page paper. You might as well just write the entire thing. Maybe the typical assignments given to MBA students are easier to cheat on.

3. Cheating breeds cheating. If there is a culture in place among students that hold that it is okay to cheat, it is easier for students coming into that environment to cheat as well. I had dinner at the AHA a couple of years back with some of my friends who had just graduated out of our Ph.D. program and they could recall in disgusted detail a fellow graduate student who was caught cheating. There was definitely an attitude among these students that it was unacceptable to cheat and they wanted the professors to take a hard line on any caught cheating. Anyone coming into that program would soon discover what the acceptable behaviors were in regards to academic integrity.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Phrase I Never Want to Hear Again

I hope never to hear or read again the phrase: "History will judge." It seems like every time I turn on the t.v. or listen to news on the radio there is someone else spouting off about the judgment of history. Listen people: HISTORY DOES NOT JUDGE - HISTORIANS DO!

Why do I care?

I care because by suggesting that history is the judge, rather than historians, you are undermining the place of the historian in society. I have 65 undergraduate history majors running around campus thinking that they aren't as important to society as the majors in business or chemistry or what have you because those other majors that "do" something - they might one day be influential and change the direction of society.

Well, historians do something too. We can put the actions of past political leaders in context, we can tease out the short- and long-term consequences of those actions, and we can JUDGE the significance and rightness of those actions. Moreover, the view of historians on events like the Vietnam War or Social Security or the Civil Rights Movement can impact policy makers. So how about we start giving historians some credit for what they do.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Nazi Home Movies

Home movies made by Nazi officers during the German invasion of Russia have been found in a church in Devon. You can watch the film here.

I show my 1877-present survey students part of the documentary "The Democrat and the Dictator" which compares and contrasts the childhoods and political styles of Roosevelt and Hitler. Students continually come away from that film with a bit more understanding about how Hitler could have been found appeal by German civilians - especially given his rhetoric, speaking style, and the mass response he got from crowds. It would be interesting to compare that public view portrayed by the Nazi's - fiery words and eerie symbolism - to the private and personal view seen in this film.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It is that time of year again

Well, I've hit the point in the semester where I am so over my head in keeping up with my classes and getting my grading done that I bribe my students with candy. Today they get their choice of saltwater taffy or those Halloween peanutbutter chews.

Update: According to my students - Halloween peanutbutter chews are the worst Halloween candy ever invented [these are things wrapped in oranage or black paper].

Monday, October 23, 2006

The All-Powerful Historian

I just love it when politicians try and predict how historians are going to view events in the future. President Bush's recent comment "that this traumatic period in Iraq will be seen as 'just a comma' in the history books" suggests that when all is said and done and historians look back on the beginning of the twenty-first century the current violence in Iraq won't merit much attention by those in my profession.

He might be right. Twenty years from now, when I am lecturing in my U.S. survey course and complaining about how I never get passed the presidency of the George W. Bush, I might not spend much time discussing the war in Iraq or the consequences of it. On the other hand, if Sept. 11 is the 21st Century's Pearl Harbor or the War on Terror becomes the next generation's World World III - I might devote a full week of lectures to the War in Iraq - maybe the class will do a book assignment on some American soldier's experiences at Guantanamo Bay - perhaps they will watch part of a documentary on the origins and development of neo-conservative foreign policy.

My point is that it is pointless to speculate about how historians will view some current action in the future. We won't know the full significance or importance of most policies or events until we know the complete consequences of those events. Moreover, how those consequences are viewed 20 years from now, is not necessarily the same way they'll be viewed 40 years from now as new evidence comes to light and society's concerns change and develop over time.

I realize this view of history is probably not very comforting to those who are seeking to leave an important legacy and hope to be remembered fondly in the future. However, it should be heartening to all my fellow historians. Because ultimately what it means is that we get to decide who was great and who was not. We get to interpret what events are significant and what is just a 'comma'. Who needs money or power or influence today - when the historian has the power to determine what the world of tomorrow remembers about the wealthy, influential, powerful leaders of today.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Women - Know Your Limits

This is a video spoof on public improvement films in the 1940s-1950s. One of the best lines: Over-education [of women] leads to ugliness, premature aging, and beard growth.

If you think this is over the top, check out some of the REAL videos from the Prelinger Archives. Here are a couple of classic gems about gender-roles you don't want to miss -

Are you Popular? (1947)
Jealously (1954)
Why Study Home Economics? (1955)

Zachary Taylor Joke

Got this from the Daily Show:

Why did Zachary Taylor arrive at his 1848 nominating convention wearing a Marie Antoinette headpiece?

He heard he was nominated by the "Whig" party!

I am definitely using this joke next time I teach the first half of American survey.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Best Stuff

I ran across a website that allows you to vote on what you think is the best stuff in the world. I was majorly disappointed to find out that when voting for the best subject: history came in after English and art. On the upside though - people liked history better than philosphy, physics, and math.

Other best history related matters:

Best woman in history - Mary Seacole
Best date to know in history - 1066
Best history to study: Ancient Rome
Best person in history: Julius Ceasar

I can't wait until the best historian category gets added. William A Williams, perhaps?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

History Songs

I started this one night, but got distracted. Nevertheless here are some history songs - cuz you aren't a real history nerd until you got a favorite history song.

My 2 favorite history songs don't actually mention 'history' in the lyrics. Instead the lyrics mention historical events. 1. Band - Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down (Virgil Caine is the name - and I served on the Danville train - 'Til Stoneman's cavalry came - and tore up the tracks again. - In the winter of '65 - We were hungry - just barely alive. - By May the tenth - Richmond had fell - it's a time I remember, oh so well); 2. Alabama - Song of the South (Well somebody told us wall street fell - But we were so poor that we couldn't tell. - Cotton was short and the weeds were tall - But Mr. Roosevelts a gonna save us all.)

Here are a few songs that actually mention history in the lyrics.

School Days - Chuck Berry

"Up in the morning and off to school - the teacher is teaching the golden rule. - American history and practical math - you study them hard, hoping to pass - working your fingers right down to the bone - the guy behind you won´t leave you alone."

History - Michael Jackson

"Every day create your history - Every path you take you're leaving your legacy - Every soldier dies in history - Every legend tells of conquest and liberty"

History - The Verve

"I'm thinking about history - And I'm living for history - And I think you know about me - Cause I am"

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Pains of Grading

I try to be a bit informal with my students and I never get too uptight about exactly how they choose to discuss the material on their exams. I figure if they have the information correct, basically understand the big concepts, and are able to support their points - that I can over look a little informal language.

But, I have just read an exam that makes me want to sit down and give my entire upper-division level American Foreign Policy class a lecture about appropriate word choice for exams. The offending sentence reads: "Our exclusion from the League of Armed Neutrality demonstrated that Europe is subject to douche-baggery."

First of all, I think douche bag can only be used as a noun and second -- when the heck did such terms become proper language for exams? I can just roll my eyes at how later in the essay the student refers to the French as "sorry Frogs," but surely at some point I have to address this lack of judgment.

I think one reason I am offended about this is that douche bag really is open to interpretation about what the heck it means. Maybe, instead of broaching this topic to the class in terms of 'inappropriate language' I can approach from the perspective of 'imprecise' language. Sounds more scholarly and less prissy that way.