Hey all – what were you up to in high school? Well, I was reading a lot of history – Bruce Catton in particular. I was also a singer of a Rockabilly band. For shits and giggles – here’s some footage of that band, The Mavericks, at La Casa de la Raza in Santa Barbara way back in 1985. Turn it up!!
I’ve just finished reading an article in this month’s The Atlantic concerning how surreal things have gotten on college campuses concerning (among other things) potentially hurtful or offensive language in the classroom. It seems that students, in opposition to something called microaggression, have banded together to rid higher education of questionable language that could (unintentionally or not) invoke images of racism, sexism, violence, etc. Their mission is to create a “safe” environment.
The Atlantic finds this disturbing and is concerned that by caving to the hyper-sensitive demands of students we are not only homogenizing education but failing to prepare students for the real world – full of diverse, and yes…hurtful people and opinions.
All of this reassures me that I made the right decision rejecting the traditional professor path and moving on. I promise you that I would not react well to a student dictating what I said in class. I specialize in nineteenth-century United States history and guess what. People said some pretty nasty things back then. Call me crazy, but I think it is important we know exactly what those folks said – in their own words – and to whom they said it. Who knows…? Maybe we might learn something.
Back when I was at UC Riverside, I taught a class in Reconstruction Era history. On the syllabus, I mentioned – in a very short paragraph on the syllabus – that language and images would come up that most would (and should) find very disturbing. But that was it. Trust me, some things were mentioned in class, uttered or shown only in the context of the history, that I would never consider conveying outside of the classroom. And I never had a single indecent in which a student complained to the department or came to me in distress.
Of course, I was thinking of the obvious. It turns folks can construe nearly anything as offensive. So who knows what I might have said that ruffled some feathers…
To my fellow educators – what is your experience with these triggers? Are things as bad as the article makes it seem? Let’s talk…
I am sure you have all by now seen West Point history professor Colonel Ty Seidule explain what caused the Civil War.
His answer: slavery. Unequivocally.
I think this is a first rate video because it takes on, in succinct fashion, the usual Confederate apologist arguments distancing their cause from the peculiar institution. I’ll admit that there were a couple of things I wish Colonel Seidule would have addressed, such as President Lincoln’s 1862 letter to Horace Greely explaining his official duty to save the Union (even if that meant leaving slavery intact) as well as the few slave states that remained loyal to the Union.
But these quibbles notwithstanding, I will still argue that the good professor executes his concise lesson in fine style. I suggest that we continue to spread his message. No doubt you have come across social media threads that descend into the usual Confederate flag flapping nonsense about slavery being incidental to the war. Why not attach this video – I mean…Colonel Seidule does not appear to be a proponent of the “revisionist liberal agenda,” so maybe folks who would generally dismiss tree-hugging Marxist members of academia such as myself will pay attention to an authoritative man in uniform.
Greetings all – The very first issue of the second volume of The Americanist Independent has hit the web! Aren’t you excited? I know I am… Why? Because I am hearing from all corners of the globe (which is really a ball and thus has no corners…but you know what I mean) that open access is the way to go and that my readers are really excited.
Anyway, this issue features a great piece by Saul Rollason on the origins of the Delta Blues in the slave and Reconstruction era South, an engaging look by Jared Frederick on the recent Confederate battle flag controversy in South Carolina, historical fiction author Gar LaSalle tells us how he goes about researching and bringing history alive in his novels, and finally, a review by yours truly on the Clint Eastwood war drama, American Sniper.