Zinn in the Classroom

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 9.49.02 AMGreetings all – I recently conducted an informal poll on the usual social media sites asking for your general thoughts on Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. I asked because I am assigning it to my 10th grade advanced US history students next year as a counterpoint to more traditional history texts typical in advanced studies in the classroom. If you haven’t already come clean on Zinn elsewhere, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below. So far, the (near) consensus is that the book is useful but not particularly great.

I tend to agree – Zinn’s obvious and admitted bias boarders on polemics. But such one-sided disputation notwithstanding, I think it is important that students become familiar with Zinn’s position. At the very least, the readings should both challenge students and inspire some lively debate.  And, to Zinn’s credit, his work avoids top-loaded esoteric language and dense academic nitwittery. It is a very accessible book…written about regular people for, I suppose, regular people. For this, I applaud him.

With compliments,

Keith

Confederate “Missteps” at Gettysburg

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 9.39.52 AMGreetings all!

I get a question from my Civil War students all the time. It goes something like this: what mistake cost the Confederates the battle at Gettysburg? There are plenty of contenders. Richard S. Ewell failing to take Cemetery Hill on July 1, James Longstreet sulking around and not launching his flank attack against Little Round Top until late in the day on July 2, and Robert E. Lee himself – ordering a perilous frontal assault against well-fortified Yankees on Cemetery Ridge on July 3. Cavalry wiz-kid JEB Stuart comes up too. He had been more or less MIA for the whole campaign – denying the Army of Northern Virginia valuable intelligence they most certainly would have used to their advantage.

What I find most interesting about the question is that is presumes a foreordained Confederate victory that only fell short due to a misstep by a single individual. The question fails to address whether or not Union commanders (Meade, Hancock, Warren, etc) made some really good calls and outfought the Rebels. This, I think, is worth considering. After all, after the war, when someone asked former Confederate George Pickett why his army failed to secure a victory at Gettysburg he responded, “I think the Union army had something to do with it.”

So here’s your chance to weigh in. And for my money, though I do not necessarily think this was the determining factor to the outcome of the battle, JEB Stuart blew it wholesale and really let his army down. I mean…come on dude. You had ONE JOB.

With compliments,

Keith

 

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 7.27.31 AMHi all – I would just like to share a few words with my Los Angeles neighbors – and really anyone with a soft spot for LA mid-century architecture.

There seems to be a rising outpouring of sentimentalism and displeasure over the impending razing of the Chase Bank situated on the corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset Blvd…to be replaced by one of the dreaded shop/live/work superstructures that are popping up all over town.

I’ll admit, the unique 1960 structure with its distinctive angular roof is pretty easy on the eyes – and I suppose it will be sad to see it go. But without lamenting the building’s passing or celebrating its demise – I would just like to point out that the construction of the bank in 1959-60 displaced another historical Hollywood landmark of great significance – one that everyone seems to have forgotten.

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 7.17.55 PM

The Garden of Allah, once a private residence built in 1913 and later owned by silent film star Alla Nazimova, was converted into a hotel in the 1920s. Famous residents included F. Scott Fitzgerald. This beautiful example of early-twentieth century Southern California architecture came down in 1959…but not before one last Hollywood bash to send it off. Up went the Lytton Savings and Loan (now Chase Bank), and not incidentally – a hideous eye sore of a strip mall.

So, if we are going to shed sentimental tears as the bank passes over to the other side, then let us likewise raise a glass to the Garden of Allah.

With compliments,

Keith

American Civil War Web-Course

ACWtitlecardHi all,

My web-course, The American Civil War, is now live. Please have a look HERE for a free preview. Be sure to scroll down the page to see all that the course offers. Readers here at Keith Harris History will receive a special discount (YAY!). Created especially for students, but open to anyone with an interest in the Civil War, the course includes over forty video lectures and other interactive activities covering all aspects of the conflict: military, political, social, and economic. In addition, each lecture features downloadable primary documents to facilitate a better understanding of the material. I encourage you to join in the conversation on Twitter – I will address all questions personally.

With compliments,

Keith