President Grant’s papers moving – to Mississippi

January 28, 2009

It’s either a sign of how old wounds have healed, or it’s another step in the cryptic and slow, cold war in which the South works to overcome the victory of the Union in the Civil War.

Ulysses S Grant as a Lt. General, Library of Congress image

Ulysses S Grant as a Lt. General; photo by Alexander Gardner, Library of Congress image

Associated Press reports (via Federal News Radio) the papers of President Ulysses S Grant will move from the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale,  to Mississippi State University, in Starkville, Mississippi.

The fact that a collection about a Union hero who helped topple the Confederacy has wound up in Dixie is not lost on [John Marszalek, a Civil War scholar and Mississippi State history professor emeritus who’s now shepherding the collection].

“There’s an irony in it,” he said with a laugh. “People recognize this for its scholarly worth, and I think what has happened over time is that people have come to realize that the Civil War is over and we’re a united nation again.”

Still, Grant’s return to the South doesn’t thrill Cecil Fayard Jr., the Mississippi-based leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“U.S. Grant is not beloved in the state of Mississippi. Southern folks remember well his brutal and bloody tactics of war, and the South will never forget the siege of Vicksburg,” he said.

The Ulysses S. Grant Association, which owns the papers, decided to move them at the request of Marzsalek, who was named conservator after the death of John Y. Simon, the historian who had curated the collection during the publication of more than 30 volumes of Grants papers, beginning in 1962.  Simon lost his professorship at SIU last year, and died in July 2008.

The modern concept of a presidential library did not exist until 1939.  The first such library was the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Par, New York, established with papers donated in 1939.  There are now official libraries, parts of the U.S. National Archives system, for Herbert Hoover (who preceded FDR) in West Branch, Iowa, Harry Truman, in Independence, Missouri, Dwight Eisenhower, in Abilene, Kansas, John Kennedy, at Harvard University near Boston, Lyndon Johnson at the University of Texas, Austin, Richard Nixon at Yorba Linda, California, Gerald Ford library at Ann Arbor and museum (still under construction) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jimmy Carter in Atlanta, Ronald Reagan at Simi Valley, California, George H. W. Bush at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, and Bill Clinton in Little Rock.  George W. Bush is working to establish a library and institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the library an extension of the National Archives, and the institute modeled roughly after the Herbert Hoover Institution affiliated with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are honored with institutions, too.  Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, Virginia, is held by the Ladies of Mount Vernon Association, which originally saved the mansion; the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is in Springfield, Illinois.  Neither of those institutions has much formal tie to the federal library system.

Because of their places in history, even at the risk of enlarging the institutionalness and management problems of these libraries, I would like to see libraries established for Theodore Roosevelt, perhaps in South Dakota; for Woodrow Wilson; For Andrew Jackson, probably near his home in Tennessee; and for John Adams and/or John Quincy Adams, outside of Boston.  These institutions could bolster the spread of knowledge and preservation of history of our freedoms and liberties; if we were rich, it would be useful and productive to put libraries in Ohio — for William Howard Taft, or for Taft and Garfield and Buchanan — and far upstate New York for Millard Fillmore, perhaps at the University of Buffalo.  Libraries honoring James Madison and James Monroe could be useful, too, but would put a great concentration of such institutions close to Charlottesville, Virginia.


Under the fold:  Quotations from U. S. Grant, from the Grant papers collection.

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Flash media, animation and movies for your classroom

January 28, 2009

I’m struggling.  I’m looking for software that will allow me to make animations and movies for classroom use.  I know very little about it, though, and I’m not sure where to look.

I stumbled on this site, from the University of Houston, Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling.

Do me a favor:  Social studies teachers, especially hop over there and look at the video/animation/presentations they offer — on the Dustbowl, on human rights and Nobel winner Aung San Suu Kyi, on Hiroshima, the race to the Moon, and other stuff.  Look at the presentations:  Can you use them?  Do you have better stuff to use?

Other examples include mathematics, art (some of which might also be good for history), English as a Second Language (ESL), language arts, and other subjects.

Do you make movies or animations for your classroom?  What do you use?

What does a teacher need to get started in digital story telling?

The UH site offers a free download of Microsoft Photo Story 3 — have you used it?  Good stuff?  What’s your experience?

Economics: Tracking layoffs

January 28, 2009

Economics students doing reports or projects on employment or unemployment rates?

Need something depressing?

Check out Layoff Daily.

Let’s hope they run out of news, very, very soon.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Californian in Texas.

Reading for government classes: Obama’s shift in governing philosophy

January 28, 2009

No, Obama didn’t change his mind.  He’s changing the way government does business — putting government on a more solidly-based, business-like model for performance, according to at least one observer.  That’s the shift discussed.

And it’s about time, I say.

Max Stier’s commentary on the Fed Page of the Washington Post quickly lays out the case that Obama’s making big changes.  Copy it for students in your government classes (or history classes, if you’re studying the presidency in any depth).  Stier wrote:

There are some fundamental reasons why our federal government’s operational health has been allowed to steadily deteriorate. It’s hard to change what you don’t measure, and our government operates in an environment with very few meaningful and useful measurements for performance. Perhaps more significantly, it is run by short-term political leadership that has little incentive to focus on long-term issues.

A typical presidential appointee stays in government for roughly two years and is rewarded for crisis management and scoring policy wins. These individuals are highly unlikely to spend significant energy on management issues, when the benefits of such an investment won’t be seen until after they are long gone.

(According to the Post, “Max Stier is president and CEO of Partnership for Public Service, a group that seeks to revitalize the federal government.”  I don’t know of him otherwise.)

Political appointees can be good, but too many have not been over the past 25 years.  A bad enough political appointee can frustrate even the most adept, dedicated-to-the-people’s-business career federal service employees, and frustrate the law and good management of agencies.

Let’s wish them all good luck.

Potential questions to follow-up this article in discussions:

  • Constitution: Under the Constitution, who specifically is charged with managing the federal agencies, the “federal bureaucracy?  What is that charge, in the Constitution?
  • Constitution, politics: What is the role of Congress in managing the federal bureaucracy?
  • Evaluating information sources: Do some research on the internet.  Is Max Stier a credible source of information on managing federal agencies?  Why, or why not?  Who provides an opposing view to Stier’s?  Are they credible?  Why or why not?
  • Evaluating information sources: Is the Fed Page of the Washington Post a good source of information about the federal bureaucracy?  (Students may want to investigate columnists and features at this site; the Fed Page was started as a one-page feature of the newspaper in the early 1980s, covering for the public issues that tended to slip through the cracks of other news coverage, but which were very important to the vast army of federal employees and federal policy wonks in Washington.)  What other sources might be expected?  What other sources are there?  (Federal News Radio is another site that focuses on the functions of the federal agencies — Mike Causey started out writing the column on the bureaucracy in the Washington Post; this is an AM radio station dedicated to covering federal functions in the federal city.  Other sources should include National Journal, and Congressional Quarterly, especially if you have those publications in your school library).
  • History, maybe a compare and contrast question: How has the federal bureaucracy changed over time?  Compare the size, scope and people employed by the federal government under the administrations of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, James Garfield, William McKinley, Dwight Eisenhower, and Bill Clinton.  What trends become clear?  What major changes have occurred (civil service protection, for example)?
  • Analysis: How does the transition process from one president to the next affect federal employees and the operation of government?
  • Analysis: How does the transition of President Barack Obama compare with past transitions — especially that of President Franklin Roosevelt, who also faced a tough economic crisis, or Ronald Reagan, whose transition signalled a major shift in government emphasis and operation?

What other questions did your students find in this article?  Comments are open.

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