June 1

Blog #156 – Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes' Review: Emma Stone Outshines Steve Carell in Tennis Drama - The Atlantic

This fun movie focused on the real tennis battle between aging men’s tennis champion, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), and #1 women’s tennis star, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) in Houston, TX in 1973.  It was a huge extravaganza, with corporate sponsorships and huge prize money ($100,000 if King won, over 1/2 million in today’s money), possibly 90 million people watching at home and over 30,000 in attendance at the Houston Astrodome.  Their battle was a reflection of what was going on at the time period:

  1. Women’s liberation was making big headlines – part of liberation meant that women didn’t need men to be complete.  It’s one of the reasons why radical feminists burned bras, refused to follow typical Western beauty standards, and protested sexist American traditions like the Miss America beauty pageant.
  2. The Equal Rights Amendment had been passed by Congress in March 1972 which called for an end to all sexual discrimination.  By the time the match happened, 30 states had approved the ERA before the momentum stalled and approval finally expired in 1983.  A total of 35 states would approve the ERA, three short of the needed total of 38, and there was significant resistance from ladies’ groups and conservative politicians who saw the amendment as opening up the door to unisex bathrooms, gay marriage, and women fighting in the military (funny how we have all three of those things w/o the amendment today).
  3. The 2nd wave of feminism had made significant strides in getting women elected to high positions, leading corporations and unions, and pushing for wage equality, day care centers, an end to sexual harassment, and equality in education and sports (Title IX).

In a New York Times review of the movie, the opening line of the review was this: “Every so often an exceptionally capable woman has to prove her worth by competing against a clown.”  Maybe I’m a little biased, but this made me think of the 2016 Election.  Hillary Clinton was a very talented and experienced candidate for the presidency, but unlike Billie Jean, Clinton would not triumph over the clown.  Here’s a NYT article that finds parallels in the film.  It’s a wonder if the filmmakers made it this way intentionally.

 

The film also really focused on the gender wage gap – using one tournament in particular, the men’s prize money was 8x that of the women’s prize money.  The reasons that Jack Kramer (pictured above) and his cohort gave were pretty lame and were easily shot down by Billie Jean and Gladys Heldman (played by Sarah Silverman), and Kramer finally settled on the weak reasoning that the men’s game is more exciting.

There was also the love stories in the film – that’s the one thing that surprised me the most about the film – was that there were three love stories going on: one between Billie Jean and Marilyn, another with Bobby and his wife Priscilla, and the third between Billie Jean and her husband.  Each has their own resolution with only Bobby and Priscilla ending up staying together.

The True Story Behind Billie Jean King's Victorious “Battle of the Sexes” | At the Smithsonian| Smithsonian Magazine

One of the things that made me wonder was how accurate was the portrayal of Bobby Riggs.  Steve Carell does a great job of making him seem like a real human being w/ faults and flaws.  I also wondered how much of this challenge to women’s tennis players was real sexism, a gimmick, a chance to get back into the limelight, a way to feed his gambling hobby, or a combination of all of them.

Your job: Pick three of the questions below and answer them w/ specific examples from the movie. 

  1. How did the film portray the gender wage gap?  Do you think the women tennis players did the right thing?  Why or why not? 
  2. How did the film portray the love affair between Billie Jean and Marilyn?  Why couldn’t Billie Jean go public with the affair?  How have things changed since 1973? 
  3. What do you think Bobby Riggs’ true motivation was for the match?  Explain why you reached this conclusion. 
  4. After reading the article on the supposed parallels between the election of 2016 and the film, do you buy the author’s assertion that this was an intentional nod to the election?  Why or why not?  

Due by Tuesday, June 6 by 11:59 p.m.  350 words minimum for all three answers.  

Works Cited: 

Fact vs. Fiction in the movie – http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2017/09/25/fact_vs_fiction_in_the_movie_battle_of_the_sexes.html

NYT Review – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/movies/review-battle-of-the-sexes-billie-jean-king-bobby-riggs.html?referrer=google_kp

Wikipedia page on ERA – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment

Comparison of Battle and 2016 Election – http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2017/09/21/battle_of_the_sexes_reminders_of_the_2016_election.html

True Story behind Billie Jean King’s Victorious “Battle of the Sexes” – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/true-story-behind-billie-jean-king-battle-sexes-180964985/

May 20

Blog #154 -What kind of problem do we have in America?

So I started out the pre-writing for our discussion about guns by first asking – does America have a gun problem, a violence problem, a mental health problem, or a toxic masculinity problem?  Do we have a combination of these problems? Why or why not?  And of course, I got a variety of responses where many of you said that we’re experiencing a combination of these issues.  And we watched this video looking at the history of the Brady Bill primarily (with a secondary quick look at the the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994) and a balanced look at how different people across the country view guns, both negatively or positively.  See the video below:

Why We Can’t Have a Civil Conversation About Guns from Retro Report Cuts on Vimeo.

We then talked about America’s distrust of standing armies, the country’s reliance on an armed militia to defend itself in the early days, and we read the 2nd Amendment and briefly discussed its history of being interpreted by the SCOTUS (History and court cases found here).  In a brief summary, there were very few legal challenges to the 2nd Amendment in the 19th and 20th Century, the cases primarily focused on the first clause of the Amendment on the well regulated militia, as exemplified by the Miller case in 1939 that seemed to tie gun ownership to being part of a militia.  However, scholars and legal experts continued to debate the issue in the latter half of the 20th Century as it appeared that most American gun-onwers were NOT part of an organized state militia given the establishment of a large, permanent army.  By the time SCOTUS determined D.C. v. Heller in 2008, the Court separated gun onwership from service in a militia officially and established an individual right to own a gun in your own home for protection.  This right was expanded in the 2010 case, McDonald v. City of Chicago and in last year’s case, NYSRPA v. Bruen which expanded the right to carry guns outside of the home instead of just in the home for self-defense.

And so when we looked at the 5 gun control advocacy groups and the 5 gun rights advocacy groups and their websites, we found a variety of goals and arguments for gun control or gun rights.  Some policy goals for gun control groups ranged from a new assault weapon ban, a limit or ban high capacity magazines (thanks to 4th hour, I found out that anything over 10 rounds is considered high capacity), increased stronger background checks, and limiting guns from “certain groups” as one of the groups put it, essentially enforcing or creating Red Flag laws or preventing those with a history of domestic violence from getting them.  One group, like the Brady Campaign, had some interesting stats and graphics, a few of which I could not find the source of their info (like 3 graphics below).      

They gave sources like the CDC for some of their stats on gun deaths, injuries, etc., but these three in particular I wanted to see the sources.  Some of the groups relied on first-hand accounts of traumatic shootings to bolster their claims, but it seemed that one of the newest groups founded in the wake of the Oxford and Uvalde shootings, Teachers Unify to End Gun Violence, didn’t seem to have any solid policy goals or proposals other than no gun violence in schools.  Looking across the five groups we analyzed, some groups have a state by state approach while others call for national legislation to achieve their policy goals.  Nowhere did these groups promote gun confiscation, which would most likely (I won’t say 100% because as we have seen in the past few years, some federal judges will approve or pass injunctions on the flimsiest of reasons) lose in any court in the land as a massive violation of the 2nd Amendment.  Personally, I believe that a confiscation law, first, would never pass Congress (no matter what kind of gun) though it might pass in a very liberal state but I still doubt it (because the law would never go into effect b/c gun rights groups would file an injunction in federal court to stop it from going into effect), and second, it is a direct violation of the 2nd Amendment.  Confiscation is a punishment inflicted on all Americans who own and handle their guns responsibly and for legitimate reasons.  Confiscation is fantastical thinking and completely unrealistic.  And if it happened in other countries, their circumstances nd histories greatly differ from the U.S..

On the gun rights side, most groups were opposed to any type of gun control as being an infringement upon a person’s absolute right found in the 2nd Amendment.  The NRA, the 2nd Amendment Foundation, and the Firearms Policy Coalition advocated for sport shooting and educating and expanding educational opportunities exposing teenagers to the importance of gun safety.  One group, National Association for Gun Rights, has currently as its website banner a misleading banner claiming that President Biden has signed an Executive Order requiring Universal Gun Registration (assumed to be much like how all kinds of vehicles are registered) which you can see here.

But what Biden’s EO, signed in March of this year, has done was to push for something close to universal background checks before gun purchases (see the EO here).  To be fair, the NRA paints an accurate portrayal of Biden’s EO here, but uses inflammatory headlines and pics (see below).  Biden’s Executive Order Targeting Gun Ownership

The main problem with these kinds of misleading and inflammatory headlines and graphics, as I see it, is likely intentional – to make the federal government led by Democrats out to be the adversary that must be defeated at all costs because your very rights – all of them – are at stake.  This leaves no room for compromise, and several of the gun rights groups we analyzed proudly proclaimed that they are against any kinds of compromise with gun control advocates.   And this kind of thinking can lead some small number of gun rights groups to engage in their own kind of fantastical thinking – that one person with their arsenal of guns will be able to prevent or stop a tyrannical government like the U.S. with the armed forces at their disposal (Don’t believe me? This is a quote from the FPC’s Constitution: “We believe that well-armed people make tyranny at scale significantly more costly and thus positively changes the economics of authoritarianism as against those People;”) (source).  This might have been true in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was approved, and the federal government had a tiny army.  But not now.  Like I mentioned previously, confiscation of all guns (or even just existing assault weapons) is an unealistic and unconstitutional pipe dream, and given the adversarial kind of thinking outlined above, would result in massive death and carnage.  But if some people think they can hold off or defeat the best-financed armed forces in the world, they are also engaging in fantastical thinking.

As you can see, we spent the majority of our time discussing attitudes about guns and why people might oppose or support gun control measures.  What I would like you to do is to return to the original pre-writing question and answer that along with your choice of questions below:

  1. Does America have a gun problem, a violence problem, a mental health problem, or a toxic masculinity problem?  Do we have a combination of these problems? Why or why not?  
  2. Is there another problem that is plaguing America besides any of the four listed above?  If so, what is it and how is it negatively affecting America?  If not, don’t answer this question.
  3. Listening to some of the gun control measures we had discussed the past 2 days, which of those would you support?  Why?
  4. If you think America has primarily a violence problem, what kinds of solutions can you envision would help address the problem?  Explain.
  5. If you think America has primarily a mental health crisis, what kinds of solutions can you envision would help address the problem?  Explain.
  6. What are your thoughts on the concept of toxic masculinity?  Is it real or is it some kind of made-up thing to target men for being naturally aggressive?  Or is it something else?  Explain why.  (This definition comes from Wikipedia – Toxic masculinity is thus defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while elevating other emotions such as anger. It is marked by economic, political, and social expectations that men seek and achieve dominance.)

You must answer question #1 and then pick two additional ones to share your thoughts about.  If you use anything that is not your own original thought, please follow my example here and cite your sources.  Your total answer for all 3 questions should achieve a minimum of 400 words total.  Due Tuesday night, May 23, by 11:59 p.m.  

May 10

Blog #153 – Reactions to the movie, Race

Race is a multi-layered film about a famous African American athlete, Jesse Owens, coming into his own on the Ohio State University track team, running the 100 and 200 yard dashes and doing the long jump as well. He encounters much bigotry and racism as he struggles to establish himself as the #1 college athlete in the country, and then the #1 athlete in the world.  However, the Olympics in 1936 are held in Berlin, and Hitler hopes to make those games the showcase for German / Aryan superiority.  Owens shatters that myth by winning four gold medals.Race Movie vs True Story of Jesse Owens, Fact-Checking Race

 

Please answer three of the following questions:

  1. Describe Jesse’s relationship with his coach, Larry Snyder.  Is Larry racist?  What drives Larry to push Jesse to do great things?
  2. How does Jesse’s relationship with German long jumper Luz transcend the racial and political tensions of the Olympic Games in 1936?
  3. Describe examples of the racism that Jesse and other black athletes faced in both Ohio in the 1930s and in Berlin in 1936.
  4. Describe the conflict between the German filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl and German Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels.  Why is there tension between Riefenstahl and Goebbels?
  5. How does the film portray Jesse Owens as a complex character?  Use specific examples from the film.
  6. Examine the multiple meanings of the word, race, included in this film.  Use specific examples from the film.

Minimum 300 words for all three answers combined.  Due by Thursday, May 11 by 11:59 p.m.

Fact-checking the movie – https://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/race/

How the 1936 Olympics were recreated for Race

April 29

Blog #152 – Reactions to the chapter, “The Good Protest”

The chapter entitled, “The Good Protest,” primarily focuses on two things:

  1. That the “classic phase” of the Civil Rights Movement beginning with the Brown v. Board of Ed. case in 1954 and ending with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been the only part of the Long Civil Rights Movement usually taught in schools, and by focusing on only these events, it does a disservice to the longer struggle for civil rights that Black Americans have waged since Reconstruction.
    2. That the author points out numerous times when the classic phase of protests and past civil rights leaders have been used by current politicians to criticize modern civil rights protests for not following the older models.

What I would like you to do as you read over the chapter is pick several of these questions and answer them fully.

1. How have American protests, whether individually or in groups, been treated in our history books?
2. Describe the four misconceptions of the CRM from 1955-1968.
3. How did Alabama’s reaction to Homer Plessy’s protest on a segregated Louisiana train car directly lead to Rosa Parks’ arrest over 50 years later?
4. Provide at least one example of resistance to segregated busing and sit-ins that had happened BEFORE the first ones honored in the classic phase.  Why has the author included these examples?
5. The classic narrative of the CRM suggests, according to the author, that white people just suddenly became aware of the evils of segregation in 1955, and that a small group of whites became allies in the struggle to end segregation.  How believable is this scenario?
6. How surprising are the poll numbers from 1966 about the country’s perception of the CRM to you?  Explain.
7.  How can you explain the way that Parks and King were smeared as communists while they were alive but now are treated as iconic American heroes as great as any heroes America has produced?
8. How did President Reagan and Press Secretary McEnany misuse King to support their own agendas by knocking down a controversial topic of their time?
9. How did A. Philip Randolph’s plan to have a March on Washington in 1941 motivate FDR to sign Executive Order 8802?

10. How did Ella Baker’s speech to SNCC (Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) in 1960 reflect Black Lives Matter’s attack on structural racism?
11. How did the CRM protest acts of police brutality in the past?
12. Why do you think the author compared baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson to Colin Kaepernick?
13. What did the Pew Research Center find out about American attitudes in August 2020?
14. How did some states crack down on the right to protest in 2021?  Why do you think that they did this?
15. According to the author, why were some white people having trouble with BLM protests in the 2010s and 2020s?
16. Why do you think some people were critical of the protests against police violence in the summer and fall of 2020?

Your job: Read the chapter, answer bonded question #2 and then pick 4 additional questions to answer.  Minimum 400 words for your answers to all 5 questions.

Due Monday night, May 1, by 11:59 p.m.  

March 5

Blog #151 – Final Exam – Debate Over Expansion

Before, during, and after the Spanish-American War in 1898, Americans had debated whether or not America should go beyond its borders and become an imperial empire, much like the European countries had done during the 19th Century w/ Asia and Africa.  Below are the arguments for and against imperialism and some of its proponents and opponents.

Image result for cartoons imperialism 1898

For Imperialism

People for it: Assistant Secretary of the Navy Teddy Roosevelt, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred T. Mahan, President William McKinley, Judge William Howard Taft, Admiral George Dewey, Reverend Josiah Strong, former Secretary of State William Seward, and Senator Albert Beveridge.

Arguments for imperialism:

  1. To give back the Philippines to Spain would be cowardly and dishonorable.
  2. To let other imperial powers have the Philippines was bad business and discreditable.
  3. Granting the Filipinos their independence was irresponsible because they are unfit to rule themselves.  They need America to civilize, uplift, and Christianize them.
  4. Imperialism is good for America.  It invigorates a nation and keeps it healthy.  A slothful nation will victim to those countries that maintain soldierly virtues.
  5. Annexation of the Philippines would put America into a position to dominate trade with China and the rest of Asia.
  6. We need the markets and raw materials now.  It doesn’t matter that the Philippines are non-contiguous.  We didn’t need the purchases and additional areas in the continental U.S., but look at us now!  We produce more than we can consume.
  7. Annexation would be so easy because we already control the islands.
  8. Filipinos don’t  have to become citizens of the U.S., we will treat them as dependents (like we do with the Native Americans).  The 14th Amendment won’t apply to them.
  9. Republicans favored annexation because it made the party look good after winning the war.

Image result for cartoons imperialism 1898

Against Imperialism

People against it: Author Mark Twain, former president Grover Cleveland, Speaker of the House Thomas “Czar” Reed, journalist Lincoln Steffens, Jane Addams, former Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, AFL chief Samuel Gompers, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, Harvard professor William James.

Arguments against imperialism

  1. Imperialism is immoral.  It repudiates our commitment to human freedom and liberty.  We instead think we know what is best for the Filipinos, and that is wrong.
  2. Nativists fear the pollution of the white American population with inferior Asian races, especially when they are allowed to move to the U.S.  Acquisition of the Philippines may require that they become citizens.
  3. Industrial workers feared the flood of additional cheap labor which would further undercut job opportunities.
  4. Imperialism puts us in the international stage of world politics and is a constant menace for war.  War carries off the physically and mentally fit and leaves behind the lesser fit.  It threatens our security, internally and externally.
  5. The “civilizing” mission some claim is really a cover for a desire to loot the colonies and their natural resources.  This misson is self-righteous and pretentious.
  6. We will inherit Spain’s task of suppressing the native peoples when they rebel.  They will NOT want our cultural ways.  We will end up like Spain – a shriveling power.
  7. Can’t we just trade without having to annex other territories?
  8. Imperialism would involve the need for a large standing army which would become a heavy tax burden.

The country chose imperialism, and the Senate voted narrowly for the Treaty of Paris, 1898, 57 to 27, one more vote needed for the 2/3 approval.

Your job:

Pretend you are a senator back in 1898.  Pick a region of the country and a party (both parties were for expansion, especially Southern Democrats).  Feel free to write from the POV of the Senator and give a speech either advocating expansion or opposing it, or just explain which arguments hold more sway with your Senator and why?  Explain.

Here is some info on the 1898 U.S. Senate elections.  Maybe choose your senator from someone who ran and look up his views on the war.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1898_and_1899_United_States_Senate_elections

350 words total for your answer.  Due by 11:59 pm, Sunday night, March 12. 

March 5

Blog #150 – Final Exam – En-gendering the Causes of the Spanish-American War.

Throughout the year, we use different lens with which to analyze certain events – we can analyze events or people’s actions through an economic lens or a political lens or a social / cultural lens.  During our Reconstruction unit, we used a racial lens to look at how Reconstruction policies affected free Blacks.  Now, we turn to American imperialism and instead of analyzing American foreign policy, or our relationship with other nations, through a diplomatic lens or a commercial lens, I am asking you to use the lens of gender to explore the Spanish American War.  This angle was originally presented by historian Kristin Hoganson in 1998.  To help you answer the questions raised by this blog, you’ll need to have read the article, “En-Gendering the Spanish American War”.

The Image-Makers' Arsenal in an Age of War and Empire, 1898–1899: A Cartoon Essay, Featuring the Work of Charles Bartholomew (of the Minneapolis Journal) and Albert Wilbur Steele (of the Denver Post) |

The question that this gender lens attempts to ask is, is there another way of looking at the causes of the Spanish-American War?

First, some context for Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the war.  He was part of a generation of Americans who were raised on glorious tales of Civil War gallantry told by the veterans of the war.  TR’s generation of men aspired to have their own fight where they could test their courage and honor, and the Spanish American War provided such a chance hopefully without the grizzly slaughter of four years of a civil war.  Also, TR’s father had not fought in the Civil War being too busy making money (and also paid a substitute to take his place).  Furthermore, TR grew up as a very sickly, asthmatic child who was very fragile until he reinvented himself in his 20s out on the Great Plains in North Dakota raising cattle in the summers.  It’s likely he never thought that when he was a boy listening to stories of valor at Gettysburg would he get a chance to do the same thing and face an enemy with bullets flying at him.  Lastly, when the war started, TR resigned his post in the McKinley administration as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to form his own militia unit for the war which was dubbed by the press, “the Rough Riders” but he called this militia unit the Children of the Dragon’s Blood.  TR would also later go on to defend what he would call “the strenuous life” which included playing manly sports, continual exertion, challenging nature through hunting and exploration, cleaning up corruption, busting trusts, and waving around the ultimate symbol of his manhood, his “big stick” in the international arena.

So why did America come to the defense of the Cubans in 1898? The article lists the following possible reasons:

  • commercial rewards of empire
  • an extension of a global Manifest Destiny
  • a quest for naval bases
  • humanitarian concerns for the Cubans
  • a chance to enact some Christian “uplift” for the people who are “freed”
  • glory
  • revenge for the destruction of the U.S.S. Maine
  • motivated / inspired / enraged by yellow journalism in the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer

The World from New York, New York on March 9, 1898 · Page 1

But the article proposed another cause – a crisis of upper and middle class white manhood.  There seemed to be threats to traditional notions of manhood all around – the creature comforts of an industrial America were making men “soft” and “sluggish”; making money by bending or breaking ethical norms seemed to corrode the traditional manly sense of honor and integrity; some men lost their jobs, their self-respect, and their independence and vitality because of the Depression of 1893; but possibly most shocking was the rise of the “New Woman” who wanted the right to vote and participate in politics (traditionally the man’s responsibility).  In this new era, women’s virtue was considered by many to be superior to men’s because of all the economic, social, and political problems that men’s “virtue” had caused from 1865-1898 that the Progressive Era would try to solve was trying to solve.   I mean, let’s remember that many middle and upper class white women were leading the reformist charge during that era.

Let’s take a look at another cartoon from this time period.  Here’s a cartoon from Puck (which is normally anti-imperialist compared to its counterpart, Judge).

Amazon.com: Spanish-American War 1898 Namerican Cartoon By Louis Dalrymple From Puck 1898 Urging War With Spain To Save Cuba Poster Print by (18 x 24): Posters & Prints

Done by artist Louis Dalrymple, published in May, 1898.  The caption reads, “The duty of the hour – to save her not only from Spain but from a worse fate.”  After reading this article, I’d like you to interpret this cartoon through the gendered lens mentioned in the article.

Your job – answer the following questions:

  1. Do you agree with this gendered interpretation of the causes of the Spanish American War?  Why or why not?
  2. What is a strength of using this lens?  What is a weakness?  Explain.
  3. Interpret the cartoon above of the Cuban woman in a frying pan (or the one below of the Rough Riders) using the gender lens.   Describe in detail how you can use gender to interpret different aspects of the cartoon.

A minimum of 400 words total for all three answers.  Due by 11:59 pm, Sunday night, March 12.

Spanish American War Political Cartoon High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

An article on how the Span-Am War led to American empire – https://www.bunkhistory.org/resources/1785

An analysis of the American / British alliance that grew out of the Span-Am War as shown in cartoons – https://visualizingcultures.mit.edu/civilization_and_barbarism/cb_essay02.html

November 16

Blog #149 – Final Exam blog – Rethinking History or Should Jackson Still Be on the $20?

In the past few years, students and adults have pushed to change the names of schools and institutions based upon the namesake’s past history.  Back in 2015, for instance, the Confederate flag was pulled down from the South Carolina capitol in the wake of the Charleston shootings (the shooter was pictured w/ Confederate memorabilia), and then the South Carolina legislature voted overwhelmingly to take the flag down.  This Economist article examines other particular cases not mentioned in the “Rethinking History”.  From another point of view, this article defends leaving the Hoover FBI federal building as it is, though some have come to question Hoover’s tough-minded, illegal wiretappings of students and Dr. King (Cointelpro).  Since the Charleston church shooting, there has been a concerted effort to begin the controversial process of taking down statues to leaders of the Confederacy throughout the South.  In an August 2017 statement on the monuments controversy, the American Historical Association (AHA) said that to remove a monument “is not to erase history, but rather to alter or call attention to a previous interpretation of history.” The AHA stated that most monuments were erected “without anything resembling a democratic process,” and recommended that it was “time to reconsider these decisions.” According to the AHA, most Confederate monuments were erected during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, and this undertaking was “part and parcel of the initiation of legally mandated segregation and widespread disenfranchisement across the South.” According to the AHA, memorials to the Confederacy erected during in the 1890s “were intended, in part, to obscure the terrorism required to overthrow Reconstruction, and to intimidate African Americans politically and isolate them from the mainstream of public life.” A later wave of monument building coincided with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s, and according to the AHA “these symbols of white supremacy are still being invoked for similar purposes.”

In the summer of 2020, America had a reckoning with Confederate monuments of all types and some people started tearing down some that still remained.  Some saw these monuments as symbol of the systemic racism in the country that celebrated men who fought to keep Black folks enslaved.  Other people thought that history was being “canceled” or erased by the removal of Confederate monuments.  Some protestors even went after the large statue of Andrew Jackson in D.C. but could not pull it down (see pic below).  Then President Trump issued an executive order that would prosecute people who defaced or destroyed federal statues.

In the article, “Rethinking History,” former Princeton president and 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson is derided because of his racist comments.  He told a black leader in 1914 that “segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you.”  A different example from the article is what the University of Virginia has done in the past decade in trying to honor its slave past.  At least 140 slaves helped build the university, and this fall, Virginia opened up a dorm named after two of the slaves who had worked on the campus before the Civil War.

One argument against changing the names of buildings or taking people off of our money is that our culture has become incredibly mired in political correctness.  We are too worried about offending people, the argument goes, so we make decisions like these to make sure no one gets triggered.  An argument for changing the names of buildings (like was recently done to Cobo Hall down town after people began to rethink the Detroit mayor’s stance against blacks integrating white neighborhoods in the 1950s) is that some things need to be fixed because having your name on a building is an honor.  Are we finally recognizing the faults of the past and trying to make amends for them, because our nation, though it’s been a melting pot since its inception, is really starting to change?  Or, can we learn something from the past instead of erasing it and blocking the things which we find disturbing?

This brings us to Andrew Jackson.  This NY Times article  from 2015 suggested putting a woman’s face on the 20$ bill.

“Jackson was a slave owner whose decisions annihilated American Indian tribes of the Southeast. He also hated paper currency and vetoed the reauthorization of the Second Bank of the United States, a predecessor of the Federal Reserve. Jackson is in the history books, but there’s no reason to keep him in our wallets.”

His record with the Indian Removal Act, his battles w/ Nicholas Biddle and the 2nd BUS, and the fact that he was a slave owner all count against him.  But what about his adoption of an Indian boy during one of the campaigns to eradicate the Indians?  Did America actually benefit from not having a central banking system for almost 80 years?  He was a symbol of the common man, those who could newly vote in the elections of 1828 and 1832 voted for him overwhelmingly, because he was a common man at one time.  But he was also an exceptional man, having fought in the War of 1812, amassed a fortune (though off the backs of slaves), and become the 7th president of the United States.  There are very very few people who can claim these achievements.

Andrew Jackson was first honored by being on the $20 beginning in 1928 (to coincide w/ the 100th anniversary of his electio).  Before that, Presidents Grover Cleveland and George Washington were on the bill as well as former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and also Lady Liberty.  Then the idea came about of putting a woman on the $20 beginning in the year 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.  Several women were finalists, but in 2015, Harriet Tubman won a poll and was originally slated to replace Hamilton on the $10, but because of the immense popularity of the play, the decision was made to then replace Jackson on the $20 a year later.  Then candidate Trump in 2016 said that he thought Tubman was fantastic but opposed replacing Jackson becuase it would be “political correctness” that replaced him.  In mid 2017, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stated that  “People have been on the bills for a long period of time. This is something we’ll consider; right now we have a lot more important issues to focus on.”  He also stated that any new bill wouldn’t be ready until 2026 despite engravers at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing stated that there was already a bill in the works by 2019.  And according to the latest article I could find about this in 2021, the Biden administration supports Tubman on the $20 but hasn’t taken any action as of that article to make that happen.  So, the future of the $20 is up in the air.

Protesters near the White House failed this week to topple a statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square.

But if we remove Jackson from the $20 and replace him with someone else, where do we stop?  Using the slippery slope argument (which is always a dangerous fallacy), do we rename Washington D.C. because Washington was a slave holder?  Do we take Lincoln off of the penny or the $5 because he had almost 30 Indians executed during the Civil War for sparking an uprising in Minnesota?  Jefferson… we won’t even get into him.

As someone in the “Rethinking History” article states, if we are going to name buildings after people, should we expect them to be perfect?  Maybe we should stop naming buildings after people.  Or can we learn something from these flawed individuals (especially b/c everyone is flawed in some way or another)?

Please answer the following questions:

  1. What are your thoughts about removing historical monuments or renaming buildings after historical figures?  Why?
  2. I see three possible alternatives to Jackson on the $20:
    1. Keep him there and leave it as it is.
    2. Swap him out with Harriet Tubman, and leave Andrew Jackson to be talked about in history classes.
    3. Leave him on the bill but conduct better and more thorough education about Andrew Jackson’s legacy. (If you come up with another alternative, please include it in your post.)

350 words minimum total for all three answers.  Due Tuesday night by midnight, November 22. 

September 12

Blog #146 – Oral Interviews on 9/11/01

This past weekend, we commemorated the 21st anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history.  Many people remember where they were when they first heard about this traumatizing event and have vivid memories of watching the events unfold.  But since you were born after the attacks, you’ve only heard about it in stories and learned about it through videos.  However, one of the ways historians learn about recent events that they haven’t lived through is through oral interviews of people who lived through the events either directly or indirectly.

Explore 9/11 Memorial & Museum in Lower Manhattan | Museums & Galleries

Subject: The 9/11/01 terrorist attacks and the days afterwards.

Suggested equipment: paper and pen/cil for notes; suugest that you use a phone to record the interview.

Procedure:

  1. Get permission to take notes / record interview.
  2. You can use the questions below or add more / different questions – try to make questions that elicit more than a “yes” or “no” answer. You can always ask follow-up questions for clarification, explanation.
  3. Keep eye contact, nod and smile at appropriate times.
  4. Thank them for their time after you’re done. Also, ask them if they’d like a written transcript of the interview. Provide them w/ one if they say yes.  (For this assignment, you can direct them to the blog website: grovesapush.edublogs.org).

Potential questions

  1. What is your name? How old were you on 9/11?
  2. What is your first memory of when you first heard about the attacks? What kind of conclusions did you come to about the planes crashing into the buildings (did you at first think it was an accident or was it something worse)? Why?
  3. Where were you when the attacks happened? What were other peoples’ reactions to the attacks?
  4. Have you ever been to New York City or Washington D.C.? If so, how did that affect your reactions to the attacks?  If not, how did the attacks alter / change your views of the cities and their inhabitants?
  5. Did you know anyone in the cities? If so, did you try to contact them to see if they were o.k.?  What was the conversation like?
  6. If you were stranded in another city after 9/11, how did you cope with being away from family?
  7. What were other peoples’ reactions like in the days after the attacks?
  8. Could you describe your most vivid memory of that day, 9/11?
  9. How did life change for you in the immediate aftermath of the attacks?
  10. What do you remember of the media coverage of the attacks?
  11. What did you think of President Bush’s address later that night? (Show them the transcript here or video below.)
  12. How did life change for you and your family in the weeks and months immediately after 9/11?
  13. What are your opinions about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  Explain.
  14. Now that it’s been over 20 years since the attack, how do you think America has changed since that day? Why?

Your job:

Share a minimum of five questions and answers on Blog #146 (300 words minimum) and include your personal reaction to the interview and the shared memories of 9/11/01 (100 minimum).  If you interview more than one person for this blog, please indicate the persons’ names.

Blog due by Tuesday, Sept. 20 by class.

Link to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum – https://www.911memorial.org/


September 1

Blog #145 – Columbus Day – what are your thoughts?

Christopher Columbus is credited with having discovered the New World in 1492, but not necessarily America (even though a lookout on his ship, Rodrigo, claimed that he saw land first).  How people interpret this fact is the subject of intense historical and cultural debate across the world.  The day honoring the discovery, October 12, is a national holiday, but for some historians and cultures, this day is marked as one when Spanish imperialism and genocide of the Native Americans began.

Those who want to discredit Columbus Day usually start with the wave of violence, slavery and genocide of the Native Americans that began after his “discovery.”  On the island of Hispanola (Haiti / Dominican Republic), the sailors left there after his first voyage were tasked with finding gold and silver and soon tried to put to work the natives of the island.  In subsequent voyages, he searched Central and South America for gold, and the communicable diseases like smallpox and measles that the Europeans had would also wipe out – intentionally or not – the Native populations.  Conquistadors Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro exploited divisions among the ruling tribes, Aztecs and Incas respectively, to conquer vast empires.  It’s estimated that something like 80% of the 45-100 million Native Americans (historians disagree – a defender claimed that there were only 8.5 million Natives in all of the Americas when Columbus arrived) who lived in the New World were wiped out by disease, war, and famine brought on by discovery.  Critics have claimed that the holiday should be renamed “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” to honor all the Native Americans past and present.  In the Zinn section, he outlines the systematic destruction of the Arawak people and how they were eliminated through forced slavery, mining, and diseases.

Here’s John Oliver’s take on Columbus Day:

But was this all Columbus’ fault? His defenders say, of course not. Diseases act in random ways and are influenced by many things including stress, food (or lack thereof), poverty and other cultural or economic factors. Discovery could have brought some of these conditions on, but they weren’t necessarily the primary cause. A defender of Columbus stated in his piece that there were already different diseases running rampant throughout the Native population before Columbus’ arrival. Columbus is also given credit for having been a visionary, having convinced the Spanish monarchs to provide him with three ships to sail the Atlantic in search of a newer, quicker route to Asia around the earth. In fact, Columbus failed in his attempt to find that quicker trade route to Asia. It would be Magellan who would circumnavigate the globe. And, Columbus is being blamed for what came in his wake – the Spanish conquistadors, the destruction of Native peoples, and even the African slave trade since that was linked with the opening up of the New World. Could this attack on Columbus also be a remnant of the Black Legend that grew to fantastical proportions as exaggerated by English Protestants as a way of discrediting the Spanish Catholics? Too much blame, much too much indeed, to put on one man’s shoulders.

Another way of looking at this is that when we celebrate Columbus Day, we celebrate America. Should we acknowledge both the good and the bad that come with America / Columbus? Or is it more patriotic to revel in America in a “Team America” way with unquestioning loyalty? Or, as the video below discusses, Columbus is a myth that we have embraced. Is this something that we should jettison?

Questions to consider: 1. Do we keep Columbus Day as is (meaning that it’s an official government / bank holiday) or do we acknowledge Columbus Day with a solemn reminder of what happened to the Native Americans afterwards?

2. Or do we pitch Columbus Day in favor of celebrating “Indigenous People’s Day”? Why? Or is there another option? If so, explain.

3. Would you be interested in finding out if our school board / local city / village governments officially celebrate Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day?  And should we – if we feel strongly enough about this – ask them to consider changing it?  Why or why not?  

Please use specific examples from the summer readings (and if you want to go down the Columbus rabbit hole, there’s a pdf in Schoology called Columbus Comparison – Shweikart vs. Zinn that compares a conservative historian’s and a Marxist professor’s take on Columbus).

300 words minimum due by Friday (9/9) by class.

Here’s an account of Detroit’s first celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of Columbus Day – https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/detroit-city/2018/10/08/detroit-celebrating-indigenous-peoples-day-not-columbus-day/1564458002/

An article arguing for keeping Columbus Day – https://fordhamobserver.com/19567/opinions/columbus-day-or-indigenous-peoples-day-keep-columbus/

A video on why we celebrate Columbus Day (some good reasons about the history of Columbus Day):

The Breakfast Club’s discussion of Columbus Day – Why Native Americans Want to Celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and not Columbus Day.

May 25

Extra Credit – The Things They Carried

Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried, focuses on the members of Alpha Company as they hump across Vietnam and also how they dealt with civilian life (“Speaking of Courage”). 

1. The things that the soldiers carried in battle were not just physical things but mental / emotional as well.  Henry Dobbins wore his girlfriend’s pantyhose around his neck as a comforter.  But after the war is over and done with, the soldiers, like Lt. Cross, carry guilt and pain around with them.

2. The novel is also about truth, especially with the story, “How to Tell a True War Story,” which seems contradictory in many cases.  But maybe that’s what the truth really is in a war-time environment – unclear.

3. The novel also captures loneliness and isolation experienced by the American soldiers while in the Vietnamese jungle.  Though the soldiers are surrounded by their comrades in arms, many don’t feel a connection to each other.  Could this be because they’ve been drafted into a war they don’t want to fight?  Or that war is the most loneliest experience – do or die on the battlefield?

4. How does shame or the idea of letting another person down motivate Tim and other soldiers in the stories?

“They carried the soldier’s greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as not to die of embarrassment.”

Pick two of the four topics to write about and also include a brief assessment of the book. 

300 words minimum for your total response.  Due by Tuesday, May 31st by class.  

 

Image result for tim o'brien the things they carried pdf