A few months ago I commented on actor Richard Drefyuss’s new crusade of working to introduce civics back into the high school curriculum. I did not know at that time that he would be speaking at my school. Well, today was the big day and I thought I might share a few observations. Let me begin by applauding Dreyfuss for his sincere interest in this issue. I support anyone who can help to shed light on those areas that need improvement in the education of young Americans. And unlike some who criticize Hollywood types for their social activism I welcome it. If it takes a high profile name to draw attention to some issue than so be it. Of course, it is incumbent on that individual to demonstrate competence in the area in question. Unfortunately, Dreyfuss falls far short of this mark.
Our school organized his visit around a panel discussion that included six students, all of whom had prepared questions for Dreyfuss. From the beginning Dreyfuss had difficulty staying on message and he alienated much of his audience when he asked for a volunteer to cite the Bill of Rights. That seemed to be sufficient reason to pound home his broader theme which is that the United States is doomed. There was actually very little talk of civics; rather he touched on what he sees as a lack of civil discourse. Well, who would disagree with that? However, if you are going to offer such a critique you must be the one to set the example. Again, he fell short. Student questions were not addressed in any substantive manner. In fact, our students should be praised for the way they managed to steer Dreyfuss back to the question at hand or to another issue. [click to continue…]
This is the final week of my survey course on the American Civil War. One of the subjects we’ve been looking at is the introduction of what Mark Grimsley describes as “Hard War” policy by the United States in 1864. The class was assigned a section of Grimsley’s book, Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy Toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865 (Cambridge University Press, 1995), which allowed us to take a much closer look at Sherman’s “March to the Sea”. Rather than see the campaign as a foreshadowing of warfare in the twentieth century, Grimsley provides a framework that situates it within the history of warfare stretching back to the Middle Ages. [It's always nice to be able to read and discuss the best in Civil War scholarship with my high school students.] He also speculates that this may account for why Grant, Sherman and the rest of the Union army did not regard the campaign as inaugurating a new kind of warfare. I’m not sure I agree with that, but nevertheless, Grimsley’s analysis does provide students of the war with a framework with which to analyze as opposed to our popular memory of Sherman and the campaign that is bogged down in strong emotions that tell us very little about the scale of violence and overall strategy. [click to continue…]
A few years ago Gabor Boritt’s son, Jake, produced a documentary about his father’s own history titled, “Budapest to Gettysburg”. It includes commentary by Jack Kemp, Peter Jennings, Ken Burns, and Sandra Day O’Connor. I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety and what is included below is just a preview.
I don’t really have much to say about the recent decision at the University of Mississippi to ban the playing of “From Dixie With Love” during their football games. What I do find curious is the SCV’s take on this. Their blog coverage of this story includes the headline, “Anti-South Cultural Cleansing Continues at Ole Miss”. Can someone explain to me how this is an example of anti-Southern sentiment given that the school is located in the heart of the “Old South”? As far as I can tell this is about southerners making decisions about their own institution. And exactly how is this a matter of “cultural cleansing” when the story indicates that the song has only been played for the past two decades? Strange indeed.
Just a quick not to let you know that I deleted the last installment of my “Best of” series. I blame myself for this. The post included a reference to a specific piece of writing from a Fredericksburg-area blogger that I’ve had problems with in the past. Keep in mind that I did not include the author’s name nor did I include a link in the original post. Unfortunately, I missed the reference when I decided to use it in the series and it led to this blogger issuing a highly insulting response on his own blog. Again, I blame myself for this. This individual not only attacked me, but also chose to insult all high school history teachers. Within hours the post was taken down, but I did manage to save a copy of it. In the event that I learn of any comments that are personal in nature on this particular blog in the future, I will not hesitate to publish this deleted post.
The 150th anniversary of one of the most fascinating Civil War battles is fast approaching. Learn about what happened on that bloody day and how the battle has been remembered. Get your signed and discounted copy direct from the author.
"Levin is both superb scholar and public historian, showing us a piece of the real war that does now get into the books, as well as into site interpretation.” –David W. Blight, Yale University