Iva Toguri, RIP (Not “Tokyo Rose”)

September 30, 2006

Ima Toguri Aquino (NOT Tokyo Rose) (National Archives photo)

Iva Toguri D’Aquino died this week at age 90. She’s seen here in a file photo being escorted out of federal court after her conviction for treason in 1949. She was later pardoned. AP, via NPR National Archives photo (2-24-2007 blog update)

Scott Simon at NPR’s “Weekend Edition” had a remembrance of a woman from his old neighborhood in Chicago who died this week. It’s an audio report (transcripts are available for a fee from NPR).

As a Japanese American student stuck in Tokyo on December 11, 1941, Toguri was tossed out by her cousins. In order to live, she took a job with Japanese radio, and ultimately was one of a dozen women who read material between songs broadcast to American soldiers, known collectively as “Tokyo Rose.” Toguri refused to renounce her U.S. citizenship, ever. Assigned to work with Allied POWs in Tokyo, she read propaganda notices she said later were so silly that no GI could have believed them, written by an Australian POW for humor.

But at the end of the war, trying to get back to the U.S., Toguri was the only one of the woman broadcasters known. She was detained as a suspect Tokyo Rose for a year, then released — there was no evidence against her. Read the rest of this entry »

Easy to be wrong

September 30, 2006

Difficulties of getting flag etiquette right are demonstrated by this photo, which right now graces the website of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia:

It’s a photo of two people looking over a field. It’s a photo by Jonathan Hyman, copyright 2003. If I had to guess, I’d guess it is the field in Pennsylvania where United Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001. In this cropped version, you can see that the man is wearing a jacket with the U.S. flag emblazoned on the back. In other versions (which I could not get to copy), you can see the woman is wearing an identical flag on the back of her coat.

The Constitution Center’s use of this photo implies that they find it intrigueing, if not an outright display of patriotic citizenship worthy to commemorate those who died on the attacks on the United States. The photograph promotes a display of the work of Jonathan Hyman:

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the National Constitution Center presents an exhibition of original photographs by Jonathan Hyman, documenting how the American people responded to and remember the events of September 11th.

Few events in American history have elicited the outpouring of public displays of emotion provoked by the September 11th attacks. Over the past five years, photographer Jonathan Hyman has traveled the country photographing the roadside displays, murals, and personal memorials created by Americans in response to September 11th. Hyman’s photographs of this new American folk-art pay tribute to those who died and movingly depict a country coming to grips with a national tragedy.

The selection of 100 photographs featured in the exhibit inspires conversations about community, national identity, and how ordinary Americans have commemorated the day. From images of urban murals, flag-painted houses, memorials, and signs to tattoos and decorated cars and trucks, the photographs show America’s sorrow, patriotism, anger, and in some cases, calls for revenge, peace and hope, or justice.

Sponsors of the exhibit include a major network television outlet, and police and fire fighter groups who wish to honor sacrifices by Americans:

9/11: A Nation Remembers is proudly supported by the City of Philadelphia Police and Fire Departments.

CBS 3 is the official media partner for the 9/11: A Nation Remembers exhibition.

Wearing flags on the backs of the jackets is a violation of the U.S. flag code. Were we to amend the Constitution to make flag desecration a crime, this physical desecration could (in a fit of stupidity) lead to the arrest of these two patriots, and probably to the arrest of the webmaster and photographer.

We don’t need an amendment to protect this flag from physical desecration.  Citizens have already hallowed it far above our poor ability to add or detract.  What we need is a law that authorizes the popular display of the flag, as people actually display it.  We could use a law that would protect citizens in their display of the flag — a law rather like the one we have, called the First Amendment.

Tipping point against . . . what? Obituary for America

September 30, 2006

Update:  You probably ought to read Coturnix’s views at Blog Around the Clock, “We are now officially living in a dictatorship.”  God willing, he is not correct.
My first observation: Fox reporter Chris Wallace asked a question proposed by a listener in e-mail — probably hoping to embarrass Bill Clinton. Clinton took the question knew exactly what it was intended to do, and delivered a Philippic* on how Clinton worked to get Osama bin Laden before September 2001, that rather stunned people used to Democrats rolling over and letting half-truths win. It was front page in the Dallas Morning News (the Associated Press story, with a photo), and the talk of the internet.

Second observation: Clinton’s interview prompted this, a letter from a mother who lost her daughter on September 11, 2001. It turns out not all of the survivors of the victims of the initial attack think the current administration handled things well, either before or after the attack, and it appears there may be a minor flood of complaints from this quarter.

Third observation: Historians familiar with the Alien and Sedition Acts and their effects on America (prompting the ouster of John Adams from office, making him the first one-term president) couldn’t help but wonder when Congress last week approved bills to authorize activities in capturing and detaining prisoners from the campaign against terrorism. These activities previously ruled been ruled unAmerican by the Supreme Court — or unconstitutional, at least.

Are we at a tipping point now? Has public opinion made a turn that will be a topic for future history tests, on the war against terror and the Bush administration? (Malcolm Gladwell, what do you say?)

This morning’s e-mail brought this, an obituary for America, by Larry Butts:

An Obituary by Larry Butts

America (1776 – 2006)

America, often referred to by her nickname “Land of the Free,” was killed today in Washington, DC, by a drunk driver. The driver has been identified only as Commander in Chief. She had been ill recently. Read the rest of this entry »

Carnival of Education #86

September 30, 2006

Just go read it.  (It’s at Education Wonks.) It’ll make you mad, keep you busy, fill you with information, enough for a week at least.

I missed Banned Books Week this year?  Drat.

Bush political appointees pushing a political agenda against good education?  Not surprised, but concerned there is not more visible outrage anywhere.

Hmmm.  Must brew big pot of coffee today.  (In any case, I’m off for a service project by some Boy Scouts; at least I’ll be smiling when I get back to this stuff.)

Query: Capt. Bucher’s confession?

September 28, 2006

I’m looking for a good copy of the full text of the “confession” of Capt. Lloyd Bucher of the U.S.S. Pueblo, the spy ship captured by North Korea in 1968.  I have a couple of versions that are alleged to be excerpts — I am particularly interested in what I recall that I have not found:  Navigation instructions that would have put the ship off the coast of Alaska, and a reference to the definition of rape in the Uniforme code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

If you know of a source, especially on-line, please let me know.

More on lack of integrity in creationism

September 28, 2006

Still buried in work, I have a couple of items that really should get note.

First up is a new eruption of creationist propaganda, attempting to cast recent research findings as some sort of challenge to evolution theory. Dr. P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula has the essential comments so far.

That was quick! Now, can I find time to talk about Texas textbooks, too?

Update, September 29, 2006:  Carl Zimmer notes that the research the creationists complain about, rather than demonstrating a problem with evolution theory, demonstrate the ways in which evolution theory guides researchers.  Zimmer’s posts at The Loom frequently dazzle — he’s an understated, extremely accurate writer whom you may recognize from his articles in the New York Times’ weekly science section (on Tuesdays).

Literally: Can’t shut up to learn history

September 27, 2006

There should be a Congressional Medal of Honor, or something similar, for junior high school and middle school teachers. Particularly the boys can be among the most irritating creatures on Earth, above mosquitoes in a tent on a hot night, above a cat who wants you awake at 4:30 a.m. Such teachers, afflicted by kids who appear absolutely unable to be quiet long enough to allow two sentences together into their heads, face audiences more daunting than any faced by non-funny comedians, or by school boards proposing an increase in taxes.

Maturing teenage brains

Now we have the MRI images to demonstrate that it’s true, and why. Jake Young at Pure Pedantry has a post on the research (just published in Nature), with good links to the videos of the maturing teenage brain.

One theory is that teenagers are actually from a separate barbarian race. However, I suspect that there is also an underlying neurological reason for this barbaric behavior that has to do with the different rates of brain maturation in the human cortex.

The neurological changes that happen in the human brain over adolescence are described in a great article by Kendall Powell in Nature.

Alas, no sure-fire lesson plans, nor even hints of teacher survival strategies accompany the research findings.

Santayana was right: Some of these kids will be condemned to repeat history, either Texas history, or U.S. history to 1877.


September 26, 2006

Good heavens!  What is this? 

Tip of the scrub brush to Pastiche.

Tantalizing partnership in Abilene, Texas

September 26, 2006

When I handed in my paper on the history of the Pleasant Grove Review to my journalism history professor, I lamented the lack of really good books and articles on Utah papers in general, and I noted how I had difficulty finding experts to cite, and so I had to spend hours in the backrooms of libraries and archives going through newspapers. He gave me a long deadpan look, and said, “You’re the expert — now.”

Actually, finding the stuff in those odd places was a good bit of fun.

Kids in Abilene, Texas, may have an easier go of such research in the future. A local consortium has funding to archive local history sources.

The Abilene Library Consortium has been awarded $2.2 million to begin a Digital Archives project. The Consortium members are Abilene Christian University, Abilene Public Library, Hardin-Simmons University, McMurry University, and Howard Payne University. The five-library group will build a digital repository to preserve and present historically significant materials that tell the stories of people within their communities. The repository will be available to the public and to each home institution. Staff will schedule workshops to assist individuals and agencies in preserving their historical records.

The Dodge Jones Foundation has awarded $2 million dollars and the Dian Graves Owen Foundation awarded $200 thousand dollars to begin the project and sustain it for the first three years. The grants include funding for equipment, staff, training and outsourced services.

I wonder whether high school teachers in Abilene are salivating at the chance to turn loose a small army of young historians, or are they instead suffering through one more meeting on how to boost TAKS scores?

Tip of the scrub brush to Library Technology in Texas.

An MIT education, on-line

September 26, 2006

Occasionally we visit the use of technology in education. It seems to me that our technical acumen far outstrips our serious application of technology to learning, and we should be trying to close the gap.

MIT offers OpenCourseWare, which is a large catalog of offerings, on line. It is a step towards realizing the potential of on-line learning:

a free and open educational resource (OER) for educators, students, and self-learners around the world. It is true to MIT’s values of excellence, innovation, and leadership.


  • Is a publication of MIT course materials
  • Does not require any registration
  • Is not a degree-granting or certificate-granting activity
  • Does not provide access to MIT faculty

Historians, especially teachers wishing to crib for great syllabi, will want to look at offerings like the courses from Pauline Maier. Economists should explore offerings in economics, too.

Two things: History

September 24, 2006

More on the Two Things meme: Glenn Whitman at Cal State/Northridge offers two sets of “two things” for history:

The Two Things about History:
1. Everything has earlier antecedents.
Corollary: all culture, including religion, is syncretic; there is nothing purely original.
Second Corollary: there’s no question that a historian can’t complicate by talking about what led up to it.
2. Sources lie, but they’re all we have.
Jonathan Dresner

The Two Things about Teaching History:
1. A good story is all they’ll remember, not the half hour of analysis on either side of it.
2. They think it’s about answers, but it’s really about questions.
Jonathan Dresner
[I have no idea who Jonathan Dresner is, but you have attribution and his e-mail.]

Off the top of my head I can’t improve much on those, though I do think the point about the good story applies both in studying history and in teaching it. We need the story to tell us what not to do — fairy tales serve a purpose in establishing myth, and history should do much the same thing if it is to help us avoid the dangers Santayana warns us about (see the Santayana quote at the top right ear of this blog, for example).

It’s all about the story. If the story is remembered, the errors may be avoided. If the story is not remembered, the chances of avoiding the errors are greatly reduced.

Two things: Economics

September 24, 2006

You can look up “meme” if you need to or want to. I won’t clutter your life with an explanation here.

I recently learned of the Two Things meme, again courtesy of WordPress’s tags tools. It appears to have been most developed by Glenn Whitman, at California State University – Northridge (also here).

Two Things about economics:

  • One: Incentives matter.
  • Two: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Arnold Kling at Liberty Fund’s Econ Library is uncomfortable with the claims. Tim Worstall at Tech Central less so.

Neither of the two things in economics will do a whit for a student on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS). For TAKS, basic economics isn’t as important as the political end of the scale. For TAKS, Texas kids need to know what the Texas Education Agency thinks important about economics, which is:

1. Economic systems are classified as:

  • Traditional or subsistence agriculture;
  • Command or Demand (usually totalitarian government)
  • Free market or free enterprise (usually a democracy)
  • Mixed system

2. Countries with free enterprise economic systems have the highest per capita income, GNP, educational levels, and lowest infant mortality rates.

No kidding. The second point is very interesting to me, considering that Cuba has the highest literacy rate and lowest infant mortality rate in the Americas. Clearly these are not hard and fast rules — the exceptions should be very interesting.

Behind “kill all the lawyers”

September 24, 2006

In an otherwise informative post about a controversy over alternative certification for school administrators, at EdWize, I choked on this:

The Department leaders, Klein, Seidman and Alonso, lawyers all (perhaps Shakespeare was correct), are rigid ideologues who have alienated their work force as well as the parents of their constituents

Did you catch that? Especially the link to the Shakespeare line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers?”

This is not exactly history we’re fisking here — it’s drama, I suppose. Still, it falls neatly into the category of debunkings, not too unlike the debunking of the story of Millard Fillmore’s bathtub.

The line from Shakespeare is accurate. It’s from Henry VI, Part II. But it’s not so much a diatribe against lawyers as it is a part of a satirical indictment of those who would overthrow government, and oppress the masses for personal gain.

It is Dick the Butcher who says the line. Jack Cade has just expressed his warped view that he should be king, after having attempted a coup d’etat and taken power, at least temporarily. Cade starts in with his big plans to reform the economy — that is, to let his friends eat cheap or free.

Dick chimes in to suggest that in the new regime, the lawyers ought to be the first to go — they protect rights of people and property rights, and such rights won’t exist in Cade’s imagined reign. Cade agrees. The purpose of killing the lawyers, then, is to perpetuate their rather lawless regime.

At that moment others in Cade’s conspiracy enter, having captured the town Clerk of Chatham. The man is put on trial for his life, accused of being able to read and keep accounts. Worse, he’s been caught instructing young boys to read. Read the rest of this entry »

Cold War hero Günter Schabowski

September 24, 2006

Do you remember Günter Schabowski? I didn’t.

This snapshot of his role in the unwinding of the Berlin Wall story is the sort of thing we need to preserve, as historians, I think. It shows how large organizations tend to foul things up. And it shows how one person can influence history, even with error. It demonstrates how history does not consist of foregone conclusions, but is instead a long string of serendipitous events.

It’s just the sort of story I like, over at Earthling Concerned.

World changing presentations

September 24, 2006

Before the proliferation of video projectors and computers, and the proliferation of Microsoft PowerPoint and similar programs, lectures with visual aids usually meant a few phrases on a chalk board, or a few select phrases on flip charts. Sometimes visual aids meant overhead projector slides, which offer the advantage of the lecturer’s being able to write on the slide as the lecture progresses.

When I did a lot more lecturing for corporations and professional groups, I carried 35-millimeter photo slides, professionally produced. Some of them showed just the cover of a book. I favored black or very dark backgrounds with one word on a slide. With just one word, I could edit the presentation more easily, shuffling the order of the key words I wanted to use literally up to the last moment. Laying out a three-hour presentation using just single-word slides, with a few photos or other illustrations, served to focus me on the outline of the speech, on the pacing and timing of the presentation, and focus especially on just what the message was to be — what I wanted the audience to leave the auditorium humming.

PowerPoint changed all of that, and not necessarily for the better. Oh, I use PowerPoint myself, though I tend to favor single, high-impact historical photographs, rather than the thousand-word essays some people put up on the single slides. I still edit to get pictures that are spare in presentation, but rich in thought, and rich in potential for edifying talk. I have seen a few PowerPoint masters — perhaps you have, too — who can dispense an enormous amount of information and inspiration with a minimum of words and slides. Read the rest of this entry »

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