Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Reasons to read conservative blogs #26

Withywindle asks "How do solve a problem like Ebola?"

And Prof. Mondo responds with this.  Genius.  Utter genius. 

A teaser: 

How do you solve a problem like Ebo-laaaa?
How do you keep the virus from your door?
There's not much you can do once you've seen it ain't the flu
And you're squirting blood from each and every pore!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wineburg Watch

Nate Kogan over at The History Channel This is Not gets in on the Wineburg Watch action first in a comment and then in a whole blog post. 

So after reading Dave’s post tonight, I was reminded of an incident last year where I sought to adapt a HAT about the execution of Louis XVI for my Western Civilization classes and gained some insight into the sloppy and (ironically) poorly sourced lesson plan material that actually made meaningful historical analysis less possible as a result of the assignment’s structure.

Go read the whole thing!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Urban History Association (for Teachers)

I'll do a write up later on my full impressions of the Urban History Association conference that was here in Philadelphia this weekend a bit later, if I ever finish these letters of recommendation.  But in the meantime, here's some quick hits. 

First.   Three amazing websites I learned about.

A National Directory of HOLC maps  Sadly, Philly isn't on there yet but maybe my students and I can figure out how to fix that.  But you can see how this is a game changer for helping students understand things like Ferguson, suburbanization, urban renewal, and whiteness. 

The Roaring Twenties  This is part of a larger project to get us interested in the sounds of the past and the history of sound.  Absolutely incredible print, visual, and sound resources to create an aural portrait of what New York City sounded like in the 1920s.  Spoiler:  It was loud. 

The NOLA Oral History project  Oral histories of Katrina.  Transcripts, recordings, video.  If you are teaching Katrina, you need this site. 

There were two high school teachers there, as far as I know.  If you teach high school history and you've never been to a real academic history conference (NCSS does not count) you should try to get to one.  I liked the scale of UHA, and because it's every other year the panels were very high quality.  But really any conference would do (maybe not AHA as it is primarily for hiring). 

Sam Wineburg Watch - A New Ongoing Feature

Hi faithful readers.  We here at Looking Out From the Panopticon are pleased to announce a new feature:  Sam Wineburg Watch.  In this feature, we will keep tabs on Wineburg and his Stanford History Education Group which is rapidly becoming one of the most influential places for teachers to find lesson plans and information about how to teach history.  But there's a problem with Wineburg and SHEG.  They apparently don't prioritize the last 30 years of historiography.  They fetishize documents at the expense of other types of sources and that means they also prioritize the rich and powerful, the white and male, at the expense of others. 

Today was a good example of that.  Wineburg tweeted out a link to this article he wrote in 2005 when Berkeley stopped celebrating Columbus Day and started celebrating Indigenous People's Day.  In the article, he inform us that Columbus' legacy doesn't really matter because what Columbus Day is really about is getting urban Catholic votes for Benjamin Harrison and the Republican Party.  By coming up with a Catholic hero and nationalizing him as a figure of importance, Harrison hoped to persuade new immigrants to become Republicans. 

OK, so far so good.  But that's where Wineburg stops.  Missing from this analysis is the larger question of how immigrants that weren't white (he uses the term "swarthy") became white and the answer isn't just about politics.  As many, many studies have shown whiteness is predicated on differentiating the European from the "other" typically Native Americans (as in King Phillip's War) or African Americans (as in the Jacksonian creation of universal white male suffrage and simultaneous disenfranchisement of African Americans). 

Thus by picking someone closely associated with genocide, Harrison located Italian immigrants into the long tradition of killing Indians to become white.  That's an important part of the story and Wineburg, as is typical for him, totally misses the point.  He assures us that Columbus Day is just about politics and urban voting in the 1890s and a celebration of immigrants becoming American.  He somehow neglects to mention that the proclamation came a mere two years after the Wounded Knee massacre that ended the Plains Wars once and for all.  Visions of European Conquest and as Richard Drinnon put it the sub-title of an early book on the topic, "The Metaphysics of Indian Hating and Empire Building." 

So in other words, Columbus Day is all about the pattern that Columbus started.  And it is time to change the name.

In related news, if anybody hasn't seen Erik Loomis' #GenocideDay tweets, they really are worth a read.   

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Historiann's New York Times Book Review Challenge

Blogger Historiann has challenged her readers to answer the questions that James McPhereson was asked.  His answers were kind of predictable.  If it were 1985 maybe.  Is Bernard Bailyn still writing books?  He's still alive? 

What books are currently on your night stand?
Rick Perlstein Invisible Bridge, Rick Perlstein; Dead End in Norvelt, Jack Gantos
What was the last truly great book you read?
Thomas Andrews, Killing for Coal.  I'm a little behind but Andrews did amazing things with sources in that book. 
Who are the best historians writing today?
Jill Lepore, Laurel Thacher Ulrich, Richard White, and Bill Cronon. 
What’s the best book ever written about American history?
There isn't one.  Duh. 

Sorry–I didn’t realize.  Maybe I should ask if you have a favorite biography?
I don't really like biography.  The Kingdom of Matthias if that fits.  Or Midwife's Tale.  Neither is really a conventional biography. 
What are the best military histories?
Michael Sherry The Rise of American Airpower
And what are the best books about African-American history?
Not my area.  Let's talk multi-cultural history - that is history that treats more than one minority group at a time.    I think one of the best is still Sylvia Van Kirk's Many Tender Ties.  An amazing book that still holds up in my mind.  The Unequal Sisters series always impresses me.  Great teaching resources for my HS students there.  Just in Navajo History I really like both Colleen O'Neill's book on Navajo workers and Erika Bsumek's book on selling Navajo culture.  
During your many years of teaching, did you find that students responded differently over time to the history books you assigned?
Duh yes.  Do you really get paid to ask these questions?  Of course kids are different now than the were 10 or 20 years ago. 
What kind of reader were you as a child?
I read a lot.  And I reread a lot.  My Side of the Mountain and The Boxcar Children were huge escapist fantasies from my suburban upbringing.  Free to Be You and Me which I read most of when the stories ran in Ms. Magazine and my mom cut them out for me.  The Meet series.  (Meet George Washington, Meet John F. Kennedy, etc.)  Science Fiction as I got older:  The Tripod Series for example.  And lots of Life histories of World War II.  And 50 years of Life. 
If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?
At the time I read it I didn't think I was going to be a high school history teacher, but a professor.  That said, Graham Swift's Waterland is a book I returned to many, many times and I took different lessons from it each time.  And I had a 5th grade teacher who made me read Macbeth because I was very squirrelly in class, especially when I finished my work.  It took me all year but ever after I was like "I'm an intellectual, I read Shakespeare".  I'm pretty sure I was an annoying prick in Junior High. 
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott for hubris.  Lizabeth Cohen Making a New Deal for understanding why the State needs to step it up sometimes. 
You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
I would love to have dinner with Wallace Stegner and Joan Didion.  
Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
I finish books.  I even finished Twilight.  And that sucker was a piece of crap.  I wanted to like The Corrections but I hated it.  Hated it.  I've been slowly working my way through Mark Fiege's Republic of Nature but the font is so small I can't read it. 
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
So many.  I'm like 10 years behind in terms of historiography.  I never read Foner's Reconstruction, not even the abridged.  I am ashamed. 
What do you plan to read next?
Andrew Needham's Power Lines:  Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Known, Unknown

Somebody knows me really well, as noted here.    Russell hit pretty much all my sweet spots with that one.  But on the Robert Duvall interview that's circulating he missed the boat badly. 

The disagreement between us is over whether Duvall's movie Tender Mercies is a Western.   

In the yes column:

1)  The movie is as much about Duvall's Mac being redeemed by the Slater Mill boys as it is about his being redeemed by Tess Harper's Rosa Lee. 

2)  The movie is also about Mac being redeemed by Alan Hubbard's Sonny.  

So far it sounds like the plot of Red River.  And since the Western is almost always about men's love for other men (sometimes negotiated through women) this makes total sense as a Western.  But wait there's more:

3)  The Western landscape is itself a character in the movie. 

All those shots of prairie, isolation, and wind.  Really how could anybody doubt it. 

In the no column. 

1)  The movie is modern? 

Maybe I'm missing some things - let me know in the comments.

And oh yes, my students are convinced that RAF is the most elaborate catfish every created, just because we have never met in real life.  I tried to explain to them that lots of people met online back in the late 1990s and early 2000s at places like Invisible Adjunct and 11D but they don't believe me.  Hell, Erik Loomis of LGM once had to remind me that we had been a panel together well before we started interacting online.  I'd totally forgotten.  The world is a very strange place. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On Boys to Men (Not a Music Post)

Tonight I got to hear a wonderful talk by Rosalind Wiseman, author of many books including, Masterminds and Wingmen:  Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfrends, and the New Rules of Boy World.  You might know her as the author of the book that inspired the movie Mean Girls. She's been doing a lot of work on boy culture of late and the talk has inspired me to finally commit to a post I've been writing in my head forever.  I'll hit on what I believe to be the boy crisis, #gamergate, deconstruction, and histories of masculinity.  Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Fairly early in the talk Wiseman pulled off a move that we, in the cultural studies biz, call deconstruction.  (Deconstruction is not a synonym for analyzed and anyone using it that way will be roundly mocked in these parts.  You have been warned.)  Rather deconstruction is a particular analytical technique wherein the critic shows that the assumed dominant category is, in fact, the absence of the assumed subordinate category.  In this case, Wiseman was talking about the ways we structure the discourse around parenting boys and girls.   Working from my notes I understand Wiseman to argue that when we say "Girls are hard, boys are easy" we are actually loading tons of meaning into the category of girls.  That is, we understand girls to be conflict-ridden, emotional, and subjects with deep authentic feelings that we might antagonize.  And we understand boys to be "notgirls".  Wiseman points out that this means that "Adults don't allow boys to have the emotional lives they deserve."  This is absolutely true.  And it's a nifty bit of deconstruction.  We don't define girls as notboys, we define boys as notgirls.  Wiseman's talk was largely about how to get boys (and girls) to be conscious of, articulate,  and act on their feelings so that they can create more positive social worlds.  That's all well and good.  Her talk was amazing in this regard and she had many helpful ideas that I could totally see working with my students and my own kids, especially for my middle child.*

But I'm not going to write about that.  She wrote about that and you should by her book.  Go do it now at the link above, I'll wait.

What I am going to write about is this idea of boys being notgirls and the larger implications of it.  Since the rise of separate spheres ideology (and at times and places before that all the way back to the Greeks or earlier) we in the United States have typically coded activities as being for boys and girls and set aside those for boys and whatever was left was for girls.  Thus, with the rise of the Market Economy when all this was working itself out, boys and men claimed the world outside the home: the professions, politics, and the marketplace all of which were ok because these things could and would corrupt one and men were already corrupt.  Women were left with the home and morals and primary education.  Women were notmen.  (NB:  this required a shift in thinking about women's morality.  Women were now thought of as innocents to be corrupted by men, which totally inverted traditional Christian thinking in which women were primarily Eves corrupting innocent boys and men.)

Now at some point fairly recently, within my lifetime perhaps, boys stopped identifying themselves by positive traits and starting identifying themselves as notgirls.  Anything girls did, boys defined as feminine and not worth doing.  As a 6th grader, I loved disco music but quickly learned to disavow it publicly lest I be called "faggot" or "girly."  I asked for a copy of Bruce Springsteen's The River and tried to man up, but it went unlistened to for many years.   As girls claimed more and more cultural space, boys shrank their worlds.  Virtues that used to be considered masculine - like working hard in school - are now associated with girls.  I teach many boys that are "secret studiers" because they don't want other boys to know that they are trying.  There is a whole culture of "Chill" that disavows both feelings and effort.  Meanwhile, boys now apply to and attend college and graduate schools at lower rates than girls.  I know many little girls that are ambitious enough to want to be President (as I did when I was in 1st grade).  No boys I know make that claim.  They all want to be rappers or athletes, or perhaps, professional gamers, if they know such a thing exists.    These are basically three professions where there are not enough girls to matter (at least not widely visible girls in these sub-cultures). 

If you are wondering why the fake scandal of #gamergate is getting traction or why gamer critic Feminist Frequency is getting death threats it's because men who define themselves as notgirls are threatened by the mere presence of girls in their self-defined domains.

So, for those of us who care about boys (and by that I mean all of us, people) we have a tough road ahead.  We need to define a positive masculinity for boys to aspire to.  We need to announce loudly and proudly the values that we believe are necessary for boys to grow into men.  And we need to stop defining boys by what they are not, and affirm them for what they are:  human beings.  

*The middle child is the one whose life is like a reverse of the dinner scene in Annie Hall.  He's eating dinner with four other people who won't shut up and consider dinner conversation a competitive art and he doesn't want to say anything.