Chuck Yeager/BOOM! Day

October 14, 2008

I won’t let the whole day go by without a nod to one of my heroes, Chuck Yeager.  On October 14, 1947, Yeager pushed the Bell X-1 just a little faster than the flight plan called for, and broke the sound barrier, over Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, recipient of the Congressional Silver Medal of Honor.

Chuck Yeager and a modern aircraft -- yes, he's flown it, too.


Last year, belatedly, I got around to posting on the flight, and on Yeager, and on the deeper meaning of flight records and the space race on the psyche of America in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  More details and sources there.  It’s a year later, Yeager is 85, but the story still gets me the same way.  Just over a year ago, Yeager flew in a fighter and broke the sound barrier again, one of the oldest people ever to do that.

You could fly your flag in his honor.  If there’s a stiff breeze when you do, the ends of the flag will snap in the wind — they break the sound barrier, and you hear the report.  Wonderfully appropriate, don’t you think?

Here’s a salute to you, Chuck Yeager!

History for fun, not profit (other than a little drink)

October 14, 2008

E Clampus Vitus has tens of thousands of members across seven Western states, though nowhere are the groups eccentric ways more alive than in California. Above, Noble Grand Humbug Scott Neilsen, left, and Steve Slonecker at Eds Restaurant in Twain Harte.

Caption from the New York Times: E Clampus Vitus has tens of thousands of members across seven Western states, though nowhere are the group's eccentric ways more alive than in California. Above, Noble Grand Humbug Scott Neilsen, left, and Steve Slonecker at Ed's Restaurant in Twain Harte. Photo fro the New York Times, by Jim Wilson.

You don’t think history can be fun? Consider the group of Californians known as Clampers, who gather to celebrate history in a place called Twain Harte (ask any California historian, or American literature mavin, how the town got its name):

“It’s a common saying that no one has been able to tell if they are historians that like to drink or drinkers who like history,” said Dr. Robert J. Chandler, a senior historian at Wells Fargo Bank and a proud member of the group’s San Francisco chapter. “And no one knows because no one has been in any condition to record the minutes.”

Whether a historical drinking society or a drinking historical society, the Clampers claim tens of thousands of members in 40 chapters across seven Western states, though nowhere are the group’s strange ways more alive than in California, where members are said to have included Ronald Reagan; John Huston, the film director; and Herb Caen, the famous San Franciscan master of the three-dot journal. Some Clamper membership claims, of course, can be suspect. It is true, however, that many noted historians have been members, as is the current director of the State Office of Historic Preservation.

I already like the bunch:  The Order of E Clampus Vitus.

Read about them in the New York Times. The Times carries a series of stories based on the WPA-produced state guide books (Works Progress Administration).  Each one of these articles would be a good topic of focus for a lesson plan.  Other articles in the series so far include:

See also the introduction to the series, and go back in time to read the .pdf of the story announcing the creation of the WPA, intended to created 3.5 million jobs in the Great Depression.

Should a teacher let students know her voting preferences?

October 14, 2008

Law professor Stanley Fish tackled the issues around teachers wearing campaign buttons in the classroom, at his blog with the New York Times.

Fish says teachers don’t have a free speech right to wear buttons supporting their favorite candidates.

My point is made for me by William Van Alstyne, past President of the AAUP and one of the world’s leading authorities on the first amendment. In a letter to current president Nelson, Van Alstyne corrects his view that faculty “have a first amendment right” to wear campaign buttons. “I have no doubt at all,” he declares, “that a university rule disallowing faculty members from exhibiting politically-partisan buttons in the classroom is not only not forbidden by the first amendment; rather, it is a perfectly well-justified policy that would easily be sustained against a faculty member who disregards the policy.”

Right! It’s no big deal. It’s a policy matter, not a moral or philosophical matter, and as long as the policy is reasonably related to the institution’s purposes, it raises no constitutional issues at all. On Oct. 10, the United Federation of Teachers filed suit to reverse the button ban, claiming that the free speech rights of teachers had been violated. If that’s their case, they’ll lose.

I think he’s right — check out his post, and tell us what you think.

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