300 Spartans, led by Leonidas died August 11, 480 B.C.

August 11, 2017

It’s a different Leonidas, but Michael Phelps last year tied a record for winning 12 solo events in Olympics previously held by a man called Leonidas of Rhodes. The record had stood, as best historians can tell, for 2,168 years.

That was August 10, 2016. On August 11, we remember Leonidas of Sparta, for events in war, not peace.

300 popped up on some movie channel back in 2008 as I was preparing to teach world history again.  I did not major in history, and my high school history instruction featured no AP courses (Pleasant Grove High, in Utah, didn’t offer such things then; I assume they do now, but I don’t know).

What I knew about Sparta and the stand of the 300 at Thermopylae came from my reading encyclopedias as a child, and culture.  Never had an occasion to write a speech about the events, though had I known the history better, I might have found some opportunity.  Sen. Orrin Hatch would have loved a compare and contrast speech between the stand of the Spartans and his work against the labor law reform bill in 1977 and 1978; more likely, we could have used the simple historical facts that the stand of the 300 at the same place today would be impossible due to poor soil conservation practices of the local farmers, which has created a plain broad enough for a Persian Army to march through with impunity, never fearing drowning in the sea that no longer exists there.  Thermopylae is a grand historical metaphor for a good orator.  The simple facts of history are important, too — Churchill knew Herodotus’s stories well, and considered them when planning military actions in the area in two world wars.

The movie came up from students in the previous year; it offered, perhaps, a hook for an introduction to world history, explaining why we bother to study it at all.

I got a time delay recording to watch it, which I did, mostly.  Interesting stylization.  Cartoonish characterizations, which one should expect from a movie intended as homage to the graphic novel that directly spawned it, more than an instruction about history.  We might doubt that the Persians had trained and armored rhinoceroses in their armament.  Dialogue — well, this is Hollywood.  It would have been in some dialect of Greek, and no Hollywood scriptwriter would have been able to reproduce it.

What about the battle itself.  World history courses in U.S. high schools should pay attention to this battle, I think.

A monument to Leonidas I - Inscription, Molon Lave, which roughly translates to Come and get it!

A monument to Leonidas I – Inscription, “Molon Lave,” which roughly translates to “Come and get it!”

Several sources dated the climax of the battle as August 11, 480 B.C. — 2,497 years ago. (The battle is said to have occurred during the Olympics that year, too.)

World history classes dig through that period of history in the first semester.  Teachers, it’s time to think about how we’re going to facilitate this history this year.  As always, some bright student will wave a hand in the air and ask, “Mr. Darrell!  How do they know what happened if no one survived, and nobody had their Sony videocorder?”

At least one other student in the course of the day will be surprised to discover the movie wasn’t a filmed-on-the-spot documentary.  But apart from that, how do we know the events well enough to pin it down to one day?  And, since the Greeks surely didn’t use the Gregorian calendar, since it wasn’t invented until the 18th century — how do we know the date?

The short answer is “Herodotus.”  The longer answer may resonate better:  This is one dramatic battle in a year-long fight for the history of the world.  The Greeks were understandably and justifiably proud that they had turned back Xerxes’s armies and navy (The Battle of Salamis, a bit after Thermopylae).  So, these events were preserved in poetry, in the chronicles, in song, in sculpture, and in every other medium available to the Greeks.  Your AP English students will probably tell you the movie reminds them of The IliadThere’s an entré for discussion.

Turning points in history:  Had Xerxes succeeded in avenging his father’s, Darius’s, defeats, and subjugated the Greeks, history would be much different.  The culture the Romans built on, the trading patterns from east to west and around the Mediterranean, the technologies, the myths, and the stories of the battles, would be different. (Remember, one of Darius’s defeats was at the Battle of Marathon, from which we get the modern marathon racing event, the traditional close of the modern Olympics.)

How do we know?  How do we know?

How do you handle that question?  (Tell us in comments, please.)

I like this battle for the way it ties together many of the loose threads that vex high school sophomores.  Is history exciting?  It can be, as the Frank Miller graphic novel and and the Zack Snyder movie demonstrate.  How important is accuracy in making the story exciting?  (Do the rhinoceroses improve the story of the courage of the Spartans, or merely offer a good graphical metaphor for the overwhelming forces of the Persians?)  What happens when one nation invades another — who has the advantage?  Is knowledge of geography important — in battle, for example?  The philosopher Santayana notes that those who do not remember history are “condemned” to repeat it.  Xerxes tried to apply the lessons of the history of his father’s failed invasion; was he successful?  Remember this point:  Napoleon failed in his invasion of Russia in 1812; Adolf Hitler assigned his generals to study Napoleon’s failure, for Germany’s invasion of Russia in 1941; so convinced were the Germans that they knew the lessons, they invade Russia on the anniversary of Napoleon’s invasion.  Did it go any better?  George Washington consciously patterned his life on the great Roman warrior and leader, Cincinnatus — especially in turning over rule once the task was done, as Washington did twice.  What if Washington had, instead, patterned his life after Leonidas?  How might the American Revolution have turned out, and how might the United States have developed, had Washington sacrificed himself as Leonidas did?

The story of the Battle of Thermopylea, the bravery and cunning tactics of Leonidas and the 300, the wars between Persia and the Greek City States, form a good foundation for a study of history at any point after.  It is the stuff of great history, and the stuff of great rhetoric.  It could be the stuff of great AP essays and good writing exercises in general.   Damn the Common Core State Standards*, and damn the misguided Texas critics of CSCOPE, this is a topic I wish more world history teachers would spend some good, profitable time on

Resources and commentary on Thermopylae, Leonidas, and the 300:

More:

Livius.org map of the area where the Battle of Thermopylae was fought

Livius.org map of the area where the Battle of Thermopylae was fought. Note that, in purple, the map shows where a plain now exists, which was an ocean the Spartans could use to squeeze the Persian Army, about 25 centuries ago. What a difference 25 centuries can make.

_____________

*  Common Core State Standards in social studies actually would support what I’m asking here, if only they weren’t filtered through state school boards who do not value scholarship, but instead wish history to be a checklist of faux-patriotic bullet points to regurgitate.  Here in Texas, we are not affected by Common Core — but we are affected by meddling in history standards by people whose agenda does not include making history exciting and good.  Common Core standards — technically — do not mention Thermopylae.  However, this is the sort of material, including the original texts of Herodotus, whose study the Common Core standards encourage, especially for analysis of the sort I think Thermopylae invites.  Texas TEKS allow mention of the battle, though the Battle of Thermopylae has been purged from the actual standards; Texas lesson plans frequently suggest “watching a film on the Battle of Thermopylae,” and “Answer questions on the battle; trade and grade.”  Teachers infuse those dull words with life — we hope.  Teachers’ actual practice in the classroom is the saving grace for this important history, in Texas; Texas world history teachers face their own Xerxes.  The Texas Lege recently removed the requirement that students study world history, instead giving them a choice of either world history or world geography.  And so the dumbing down of history by (probably well-meaning, but not well-thinking) legislators continues.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Save


300 Spartans, led by Leonidas died August 11, 480 B.C.

August 11, 2016

It’s a different Leonidas, but Michael Phelps yesterday tied a record for winning 12 solo events in Olympics previously held by a man called Leonidas of Rhodes. The record had stood, as best historians can tell, for 2,168 years.

That was August 10, 2016. On August 11, we remember Leonidas of Sparta, for events in war, not peace.

300 popped up on some movie channel back in 2008 as I was preparing to teach world history again.  I did not major in history, and my high school history instruction featured no AP courses (Pleasant Grove High, in Utah, didn’t offer such things then; I assume they do now, but I don’t know).

What I knew about Sparta and the stand of the 300 at Thermopylae came from my reading encyclopedias as a child, and culture.  Never had an occasion to write a speech about the events, though had I known the history better, I might have found some opportunity.  Sen. Orrin Hatch would have loved a compare and contrast speech between the stand of the Spartans and his work against the labor law reform bill in 1977 and 1978; more likely, we could have used the simple historical facts that the stand of the 300 at the same place today would be impossible due to poor soil conservation practices of the local farmers, which has created a plain broad enough for a Persian Army to march through with impunity, never fearing drowning in the sea that no longer exists there.  Thermopylae is a grand historical metaphor for a good orator.  The simple facts of history are important, too — Churchill knew Herodotus’s stories well, and considered them when planning military actions in the area in two world wars.

The movie came up from students in the previous year; it offered, perhaps, a hook for an introduction to world history, explaining why we bother to study it at all.

I got a time delay recording to watch it, which I did, mostly.  Interesting stylization.  Cartoonish characterizations, which one should expect from a movie intended as homage to the graphic novel that directly spawned it, more than an instruction about history.  We might doubt that the Persians had trained and armored rhinoceroses in their armament.  Dialogue — well, this is Hollywood.  It would have been in some dialect of Greek, and no Hollywood scriptwriter would have been able to reproduce it.

What about the battle itself.  World history courses in U.S. high schools should pay attention to this battle, I think.

A monument to Leonidas I - Inscription, Molon Lave, which roughly translates to Come and get it!

A monument to Leonidas I – Inscription, “Molon Lave,” which roughly translates to “Come and get it!”

Several sources dated the climax of the battle as August 11, 480 B.C. — 2,493 years ago. (The battle is said to have occurred during the Olympics that year, too.)

World history classes dig through that period of history in the first semester.  Teachers, it’s time to think about how we’re going to facilitate this history this year.  As always, some bright student will wave a hand in the air and ask, “Mr. Darrell!  How do they know what happened if no one survived, and nobody had their Sony videocorder?”

At least one other student in the course of the day will be surprised to discover the movie wasn’t a filmed-on-the-spot documentary.  But apart from that, how do we know the events well enough to pin it down to one day?  And, since the Greeks surely didn’t use the Gregorian calendar, since it wasn’t invented until the 18th century — how do we know the date?

The short answer is “Herodotus.”  The longer answer may resonate better:  This is one dramatic battle in a year-long fight for the history of the world.  The Greeks were understandably and justifiably proud that they had turned back Xerxes’s armies and navy (The Battle of Salamis, a bit after Thermopylae).  So, these events were preserved in poetry, in the chronicles, in song, in sculpture, and in every other medium available to the Greeks.  Your AP English students will probably tell you the movie reminds them of The IliadThere’s an entré for discussion.

Turning points in history:  Had Xerxes succeeded in avenging his father’s, Darius’s, defeats, and subjugated the Greeks, history would be much different.  The culture the Romans built on, the trading patterns from east to west and around the Mediterranean, the technologies, the myths, and the stories of the battles, would be different. (Remember, one of Darius’s defeats was at the Battle of Marathon, from which we get the modern marathon racing event, the traditional close of the modern Olympics.)

How do we know?  How do we know?

How do you handle that question?  (Tell us in comments, please.)

I like this battle for the way it ties together many of the loose threads that vex high school sophomores.  Is history exciting?  It can be, as the Frank Miller graphic novel and and the Zack Snyder movie demonstrate.  How important is accuracy in making the story exciting?  (Do the rhinoceroses improve the story of the courage of the Spartans, or merely offer a good graphical metaphor for the overwhelming forces of the Persians?)  What happens when one nation invades another — who has the advantage?  Is knowledge of geography important — in battle, for example?  The philosopher Santayana notes that those who do not remember history are “condemned” to repeat it.  Xerxes tried to apply the lessons of the history of his father’s failed invasion; was he successful?  Remember this point:  Napoleon failed in his invasion of Russia in 1812; Adolf Hitler assigned his generals to study Napoleon’s failure, for Germany’s invasion of Russia in 1941; so convinced were the Germans that they knew the lessons, they invade Russia on the anniversary of Napoleon’s invasion.  Did it go any better?  George Washington consciously patterned his life on the great Roman warrior and leader, Cincinnatus — especially in turning over rule once the task was done, as Washington did twice.  What if Washington had, instead, patterned his life after Leonidas?  How might the American Revolution have turned out, and how might the United States have developed, had Washington sacrificed himself as Leonidas did?

The story of the Battle of Thermopylea, the bravery and cunning tactics of Leonidas and the 300, the wars between Persia and the Greek City States, form a good foundation for a study of history at any point after.  It is the stuff of great history, and the stuff of great rhetoric.  It could be the stuff of great AP essays and good writing exercises in general.   Damn the Common Core State Standards*, and damn the misguided Texas critics of CSCOPE, this is a topic I wish more world history teachers would spend some good, profitable time on

Resources and commentary on Thermopylae, Leonidas, and the 300:

More:

Livius.org map of the area where the Battle of Thermopylae was fought

Livius.org map of the area where the Battle of Thermopylae was fought. Note that, in purple, the map shows where a plain now exists, which was an ocean the Spartans could use to squeeze the Persian Army, about 25 centuries ago. What a difference 25 centuries can make.

_____________

*  Common Core State Standards in social studies actually would support what I’m asking here, if only they weren’t filtered through state school boards who do not value scholarship, but instead wish history to be a checklist of faux-patriotic bullet points to regurgitate.  Here in Texas, we are not affected by Common Core — but we are affected by meddling in history standards by people whose agenda does not include making history exciting and good.  Common Core standards — technically — do not mention Thermopylae.  However, this is the sort of material, including the original texts of Herodotus, whose study the Common Core standards encourage, especially for analysis of the sort I think Thermopylae invites.  Texas TEKS allow mention of the battle, though the Battle of Thermopylae has been purged from the actual standards; Texas lesson plans frequently suggest “watching a film on the Battle of Thermopylae,” and “Answer questions on the battle; trade and grade.”  Teachers infuse those dull words with life — we hope.  Teachers’ actual practice in the classroom is the saving grace for this important history, in Texas; Texas world history teachers face their own Xerxes.  The Texas Lege recently removed the requirement that students study world history, instead giving them a choice of either world history or world geography.  And so the dumbing down of history by (probably well-meaning, but not well-thinking) legislators continues.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Save


Remembering Leonidas and the 300 Spartans: died August 11, 480 B.C.

August 11, 2013

300 popped up on some movie channel back in 2008 as I was preparing to teach world history again.  I did not major in history, and my high school history instruction featured no AP courses (Pleasant Grove High, in Utah, didn’t offer such things then; I assume they do now, but I don’t know).

What I knew about Sparta and the stand of the 300 at Thermopylae came from my reading encyclopedias as a child, and culture.  Never had an occasion to write a speech about the events, though had I known the history better, I might have found some opportunity.  Sen. Orrin Hatch would have loved a compare and contrast speech between the stand of the Spartans and his work against the labor law reform bill in 1977 and 1978; more likely, we could have used the simple historical facts that the stand of the 300 at the same place today would be impossible due to poor soil conservation practices of the local farmers, which has created a plain broad enough for a Persian Army to march through with impunity, never fearing drowning in the sea that no longer exists there.  Thermopylae is a grand historical metaphor for a good orator.  The simple facts of history are important, too — Churchill knew Herodotus’s stories well, and considered them when planning military actions in the area in two world wars.

The movie came up from students in the previous year; it offered, perhaps, a hook for an introduction to world history, explaining why we bother to study it at all.

I got a time delay recording to watch it, which I did, mostly.  Interesting stylization.  Cartoonish characterizations, which one should expect from a movie intended as homage to the graphic novel that directly spawned it, more than an instruction about history.  We might doubt that the Persians had trained and armored rhinoceroses in their armament.  Dialogue — well, this is Hollywood.  It would have been in some dialect of Greek, and no Hollywood scriptwriter would have been able to reproduce it.

What about the battle itself.  World history courses in U.S. high schools should pay attention to this battle, I think.

A monument to Leonidas I - Inscription, Molon Lave, which roughly translates to Come and get it!

A monument to Leonidas I – Inscription, “Molon Lave,” which roughly translates to “Come and get it!”

Several sources dated the climax of the battle as August 11, 480 B.C. — 2,493 years ago. (The battle is said to have occurred during the Olympics that year, too.)

World history classes dig through that period of history in the first semester.  Teachers, it’s time to think about how we’re going to facilitate this history this year.  As always, some bright student will wave a hand in the air and ask, “Mr. Darrell!  How do they know what happened if no one survived, and nobody had their Sony videocorder?”

At least one other student in the course of the day will be surprised to discover the movie wasn’t a filmed-on-the-spot documentary.  But apart from that, how do we know the events well enough to pin it down to one day?  And, since the Greeks surely didn’t use the Gregorian calendar, since it wasn’t invented until the 18th century — how do we know the date?

The short answer is “Herodotus.”  The longer answer may resonate better:  This is one dramatic battle in a year-long fight for the history of the world.  The Greeks were understandably and justifiably proud that they had turned back Xerxes’s armies and navy (The Battle of Salamis, a bit after Thermopylae).  So, these events were preserved in poetry, in the chronicles, in song, in sculpture, and in every other medium available to the Greeks.  Your AP English students will probably tell you the movie reminds them of The IliadThere’s an entré for discussion.

Turning points in history:  Had Xerxes succeeded in avenging his father’s, Darius’s, defeats, and subjugated the Greeks, history would be much different.  The culture the Romans built on, the trading patterns from east to west and around the Mediterranean, the technologies, the myths, and the stories of the battles, would be different. (Remember, one of Darius’s defeats was at the Battle of Marathon, from which we get the modern marathon racing event, the traditional close of the modern Olympics.)

How do we know?  How do we know?

How do you handle that question?  (Tell us in comments, please.)

I like this battle for the way it ties together many of the loose threads that vex high school sophomores.  Is history exciting?  It can be, as the Frank Miller graphic novel and and the Zack Snyder movie demonstrate.  How important is accuracy in making the story exciting?  (Do the rhinoceroses improve the story of the courage of the Spartans, or merely offer a good graphical metaphor for the overwhelming forces of the Persians?)  What happens when one nation invades another — who has the advantage?  Is knowledge of geography important — in battle, for example?  The philosopher Santayana notes that those who do not remember history are “condemned” to repeat it.  Xerxes tried to apply the lessons of the history of his father’s failed invasion; was he successful?  Remember this point:  Napoleon failed in his invasion of Russia in 1812; Adolf Hitler assigned his generals to study Napoleon’s failure, for Germany’s invasion of Russia in 1941; so convinced were the Germans that they knew the lessons, they invade Russia on the anniversary of Napoleon’s invasion.  Did it go any better?  George Washington consciously patterned his life on the great Roman warrior and leader, Cincinnatus — especially in turning over rule once the task was done, as Washington did twice.  What if Washington had, instead, patterned his life after Leonidas?  How might the American Revolution have turned out, and how might the United States have developed, had Washington sacrificed himself as Leonidas did?

The story of the Battle of Thermopylea, the bravery and cunning tactics of Leonidas and the 300, the wars between Persia and the Greek City States, form a good foundation for a study of history at any point after.  It is the stuff of great history, and the stuff of great rhetoric.  It could be the stuff of great AP essays and good writing exercises in general.   Damn the Common Core State Standards*, and damn the misguided Texas critics of CSCOPE, this is a topic I wish more world history teachers would spend some good, profitable time on

Resources and commentary on Thermopylae, Leonidas, and the 300:

More:

Livius.org map of the area where the Battle of Thermopylae was fought

Livius.org map of the area where the Battle of Thermopylae was fought. Note that, in purple, the map shows where a plain now exists, which was an ocean the Spartans could use to squeeze the Persian Army, about 25 centuries ago. What a difference 25 centuries can make.

_____________

*  Common Core State Standards in social studies actually would support what I’m asking here, if only they weren’t filtered through state school boards who do not value scholarship, but instead wish history to be a checklist of faux-patriotic bullet points to regurgitate.  Here in Texas, we are not affected by Common Core — but we are affected by meddling in history standards by people whose agenda does not include making history exciting and good.  Common Core standards — technically — do not mention Thermopylae.  However, this is the sort of material, including the original texts of Herodotus, whose study the Common Core standards encourage, especially for analysis of the sort I think Thermopylae invites.  Texas TEKS allow mention of the battle, though the Battle of Thermopylae has been purged from the actual standards; Texas lesson plans frequently suggest “watching a film on the Battle of Thermopylae,” and “Answer questions on the battle; trade and grade.”  Teachers infuse those dull words with life — we hope.  Teachers’ actual practice in the classroom is the saving grace for this important history, in Texas; Texas world history teachers face their own Xerxes.  The Texas Lege recently removed the requirement that students study world history, instead giving them a choice of either world history or world geography.  And so the dumbing down of history by (probably well-meaning, but not well-thinking) legislators continues.


Updates on Wisconsin, the War on Education, the War on Americans in Unions, the assault on public employees by Wisconsin Republicans, etc., etc.

April 1, 2011

First, be sure to read Zeno’s work over at Halfway There.  Zeno’s writing will make your mouth water, your pupils expand, your pulse quicken, your hands go all Galvanic on you, and otherwise get your attention — but in this case, his topic is important, too.  Zeno explains the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) with a peek inside ALEC’s  sumptuous, legislator-seducing red tent.   He’s got documents from ALEC, secured through not completely legitimate means (but neither are they illegal), and he lays the group bare.  It’s not a pleasant sight if you’re not fond of adipose tissue and necrosis.

Second, at Desmogblog you should check out John Mashey’s work on loose political organizations joined to politically oppose scientists learning about global warming, to oppose publication of findings about global warming, and to oppose government action to do anything to stop global warming.  Interestingly enough, Mashey informs me, the current cast of malefactors in Wisconsin, appear earlier as malefactors in the discussions and actions about global warming.  Coincidence?

And then stay tuned.  There is more to come on the issue of the Republican Party’s rebirth of McCarthyism, and the witch hunt they wish to conduct against historian Bill Cronon, I’m sure.


Wikipedia loses Sen. Arthur V. Watkins – can you help with the rescue?

May 30, 2010

Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins on the cover of Time Magazine, 1954; copyright Time, Inc.

Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins on the cover of Time Magazine, 1954 (copyright Time, Inc.) Can Wikipedia find enough information here to add to Watkins’s biography?  Are we really to believe a Time cover subject has disappeared from history?

Utah’s Sen. Arthur V. Watkins, a Republican, made the history books in 1954 when he chaired a special committee of the U.S. Senate that investigated actions by Wisconsin’s Sen. Joseph McCarthy with regard to hearings McCarthy conducted investigating communists in the U.S. Army.

This is all the biography at Wikipedia is, now, in May 2010:

Arthur Vivian Watkins (December 18, 1886 – September 1, 1973) was a Republican U.S. Senator from 1947 to 1959. He was influential as a proponent of terminating federal recognition of American Indian tribes.

[edit] References

  • Klingaman., William The Encyclopedia of the McCarthy Era, New York : Facts on File, 1996 ISBN 0816030979. Menominee Termination and Restoration [1]

[edit] External links

What is there is of little use.  It doesn’t even mention the work Watkins is most famous for, the brave action that brought him fame and electoral defeat, the censure of Sen. Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare.  As a biography, it’s insultingly small, trivial, and misleading.

Here in Texas we have a school board that wishes to promote Joe McCarthy to hero status, to sweep under the rug the actual history of what he did, the inaccurate and vicious claims he made against dozens of people including his own colleagues in the U.S. Senate.  Good, readily available biographies of the people who stopped McCarthy, and good, readily available histories of the time can combat that drive for historical revisionism.

Wikipedia, in its extreme drive to prevent error, is preventing history in this case.  Wikipedia is no help.  For example, compare the article on Watkins with the article on Vermont Sen. Ralph Flanders, the man who introduced the resolution of censure against McCarthy. Flanders’s article is enormous by comparison, and no better documented. Why the snub to Watkins?

It’s odd.  Here I am providing a solid example of the evils of Wikipedia to warm the cockles of the heart of Douglas Groothuis, if he has a heart and cockles.   Facts and truth sometimes take us on strange journeys with strange traveling companions, even offensive companions.  Ultimately, I hope Wikipedia will wake up and choose to reinstate a useful and revealing biography of Watkins, to make Groothuis frostier than usual.

What to do?

Here is what follows, eventually below the fold:  I’ve copied one of the old biographies of Watkins from Wikipedia. Much of the stuff I recognize from various sources.  If there are inaccuracies, they are not intentional, nor are they done to impugn the reputation of any person (unlike the purging of Watkins’ biography, which unfortunately aides the dysfunctional history revisionism of Don McLeroy and the Texas State Soviet of Education).  I have provided some links to on-line sources that verify the claims.

Can you, Dear Reader, provide more and better links, and better accuracy?  Please do, in comments.  Help rescue the history around Sen. Watkins from the dustbin.

Will it spur Wikipedia to get its biographer act together and fix Watkins’s entry?  Who knows.

Here is the Wikipedia bio, complete with editing marks, and interspersed with some of my comments and other sources:

”’Arthur Vivian Watkins”’ (December 18, 1886 – September 1, 1973) was a Republican [[United States Senate|U.S. Senator]] from 1947 to 1959. He was influential as a proponent of terminating [[Federally recognized tribes|federal recognition]] of [[Native Americans in the United States|American Indian]] [[Indian tribe|tribes]] in order to allow them to have the rights of citizens of the United States.

Watkins’s life is available in basic outline form at a number of places on-line.  A good place to start is with the biographical directory of past members available from the U.S. Congress.  These sketches are embarrassingly short, but Watkins’s entry is four times the size of the Wikipedia entry, with about 20 times the information.  There is the Utah History Encyclopedia, with an article by Patricia L. Scott.  Her biography is copied by the Watkins Family History Society.

Watkins was born in [[Midway, Utah]]. He attended [[Brigham Young University]] (BYU) from 1903 to 1906, and [[New York University]] (NYU) from 1909 to 1910. He graduated from [[Columbia University Law School]] in 1912, and returned to Utah. There he was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in [[Vernal, Utah]].

He engaged in newspaper work in 1914 (”The Voice of Sharon”, which eventually became the ”Orem-Geneva Times”, a weekly newspaper in [[Utah County, Utah|Utah County]].) [Sharon is an area in what is now Orem, Utah; the local division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is called the Sharon Stake, where Watkins was a member. ]In 1914 Watkins was appointed assistant county attorney of [[Salt Lake County, Utah|Salt Lake County]]. He engaged in agricultural pursuits 1919-1925 with a <span style=”white-space:nowrap”>600&nbsp;acre&nbsp;(2.4&nbsp;km²)</span> [[ranch]] near [[Lehi, Utah | Lehi]].

Watkins served as district judge of the Fourth Judicial District of Utah 1928-1933, losing his position in the [[Franklin Delano Roosevelt|Roosevelt]] Democratic landslide in 1932. An unsuccessful candidate for the [[Republican Party (United States)|Republican]] nomination to the Seventy-fifth Congress in 1936, Watkins was elected as a Republican to the [[United States Senate]] in 1946, and reelected in 1952. He served from January 3, 1947, to January 3, 1959. An [[Elder (LDS Church)|elder]] in [[The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]], Watkins was widely respected in Utah. {{Fact|date=August 2007}}

In 1954, Watkins chaired the committee that investigated the actions of Wisconsin Senator [[Joseph McCarthy]] to determine whether his conduct as Senator merited censure. As Chairman, Watkins barred [[television]] cameras from the hearings, and insisted that McCarthy conform to Senate protocol. When McCarthy appeared before the Watkins committee in September 1954 and started to attack Watkins, the latter had McCarthy expelled from the room.

This material comes from an oft-repeated, probably cut-and-pasted story, such as this biography of Watkins at the alumni association of his old high school, the experimental Brigham Young High.  It is confirmed in a thousand places, and one wonders why Wikipedia thought it undocumented, or inaccurate.  See Time’s contemporary report, for example (with a co-starring turn from a young Sen. Sam Ervin, D-North Carolina — the man who would later chair the Senate’s Watergate hearings).

The committee recommended censure of Senator McCarthy. Initially, the committee proposed to censure McCarthy over his attack on General [[Ralph Zwicker]] and various Senators, but Watkins had the charge of censure for the attack on General Zwicker dropped. The censure charges related only to McCarthy’s attacks on other Senators, and excluded from criticism McCarthy’s attacks on those outside of the Senate.

Watkins’s appearance on the cover of Time was the October 4, 1954, edition, reporting McCarthy’s censure.  The story accompanying that cover is here.  The Senate Resolution censuring McCarthy is designated as one of the 100 most important documents in American history by the National Archives and Records Administration — see the document and more history, here.  See more at the Treasures of Congress exhibit’s on-line version.

McCarthy’s anti-communist rhetoric was popular with Utah’s electorate, however. Former [[Governor of Utah|Utah Governor]] [[J. Bracken Lee]] took the opportunity in 1958 to oppose Watkins for the nomination in the senatorial election. Though Watkins won the Republican [[primary election|primary]], Lee ran as an [[independent (politics)|independent]] in the [[general election]]. This caused a split in the Republican vote and allowed Democrat [[Frank E. Moss]] to win the seat. Lee went on to a long career as [[mayor]] of [[Salt Lake City, Utah|Salt Lake City]]. Moss served three terms in the Senate, losing to Republican [[Orrin Hatch]] in 1976.

I’m not sure why Wikipedia’s editors rejected that historical paragraph.  Most of the points can be confirmed on Wikipedia, just following who sat where in the Senate.  Time Magazine covered the election shenanigans of 1958, with an article, “Feud in the desert,” detailing the fight between Watkins and Lee — July 14, 1958.

Watkins served as chair of the [[United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs|Senate Interior Committee Subcommittee on Indian Affairs]]. He advocated [[Indian termination policy|termination]] of [[List of Native American Tribal Entities|Indian Tribal Entities]] in the belief that it was better for tribal members to be integrated into the rest of American life. He believed that they were ill-served by depending on the federal government for too many services.

Watkins called his policy the “freeing of the Indian from wardship status” and equated it with the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves during the Civil War. Watkins was the driving force behind termination. His position as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs gave him tremendous leverage to determine the direction of federal Indian policy. His most important achievement came in 1953 with passage of House Concurrent Resolution No. 108, which stated that termination would be the federal government’s ongoing policy. Passage of the resolution did not in itself terminate any tribes.

That had to be accomplished one tribe at a time by specific legislation. The [[Bureau of Indian Affairs]] (BIA) began to assemble a list of tribes believed to have developed sufficient economic prosperity to sustain themselves after termination. The list was headed by the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin. One reason the BIA chose the Menominee was that the tribe had successful forestry and lumbering operations which the BIA believed could support the tribe economically. Congress passed an act in 1954 that officially called for the termination of the Menominee as a federally recognized Indian tribe.

Termination for the Menominee did not happen immediately. Instead, the 1954 act set in motion a process that would lead to termination. The Menominee were not comfortable with the idea, but they had recently won a case against the government for mismanagement of their forestry enterprises, and the $8.5 million award was tied to their proposed termination. Watkins personally visited the Menominee and said they would be terminated whether they liked it or not, and if they wanted to see their $8.5 million, they had to cooperate with the federal government{{Fact|date=February 2009}}. Given this high-handed and coercive threat{{POV assertion|date=June 2009}}, the tribal council reluctantly agreed.

To set an example, Watkins pushed for termination of Utah Indian groups, including the Shivwits, Kanosh, Koorsharem, and Indian Peaks Paiutes. Once a people able to travel over the land with freedom and impunity, they were forced to deal with a new set of unfamiliar laws and beliefs. He terminated them without their knowledge or consent.

After Watkins left the Senate, he served as a member of the U.S. Indian Claims Commission from 1959 to 1967. He retired to Salt Lake City, and in 1973, to Orem.

In 1969 Watkins published a book about his investigation of McCarthy, ”Enough Rope: The Inside Story of the Censure of Senator Joe McCarthy by his Colleagues: The Controversial Hearings that Signaled the End of a Turbulent Career and a Fearsome Era in American Public Life”, (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1969).

It’s astounding to me that mentions of Watkins’s book would be struck by Wikipedia, as if it were questionable that Watkins and the book ever existed.  Did the editor who cut that reference doubt sincerely?

Caption from the Utah Historical Society: Arthur Watkins (seated, center), a United States Senator from Utah, is shown here at a book signing for his book, "Enough Rope" at Sam Weller's Bookstore."Enough Rope" was a book about Joe McCarthy and the red scare. Rights management Digital Image (c) 2004 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. (use here allowed by UHS, for education)

Caption from the Utah Historical Society: Arthur Watkins (seated, center), a United States Senator from Utah, is shown here at a book signing for his book, “Enough Rope” at Sam Weller’s Bookstore.”Enough Rope” was a book about Joe McCarthy and the red scare. Rights management Digital Image (c) 2004 Utah State Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. (use here allowed by UHS, for education)

State and local historical groups curate remarkable collections of images, now digitized and available free, online.  The Utah Historical Society offers a wealth of images in their collection.  Among them, we find a 1969 photograph of former-Sen. Watkins at a book signing at Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore, the Salt Lake City monument to bookophilia and still one of the best bookstores in the world.  (Mormons read a lot, but Weller’s is not an official outlet of Mormon ideas; the store is a bastion of learning in a learned culture that pushes the envelope by challenging that culture at many turns; Weller’s bookstore is a nightmare to people who wish to cover up history).  Watkins is the guy seated at the table signing books — the other two men are not identified.  What more proof would one need of the existence of the book?

The book is referenced at the U.S. Congress biographical guideYou can find it at Amazon.com, though you’d have to buy it used or remaindered (hey! Call Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore!)

A project of the [[United States Bureau of Reclamation|U.S. Bureau of Reclamation]], the Arthur V. Watkins Dam north of [[Ogden, Utah]], created Willard Bay off of the [[Great Salt Lake]]

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Christopher J. McCune, “The Weber Basin Project,” Historic Reclamation Projects Book; accessed May 29, 2010.  Scientific Commons lists Watkins’s papers, at Brigham Young University.  That listing can lead you to the Western Waters digital library, which contains an astonishing amount of information, including photos and newspaper clippings.   Watkins’s lifelong work in water and irrigation was the spur to name the BuRec dam after him.  (The Western Waters Digital Project is a good exemplar of the exquisite detail possible in a publicly-available, online archive.)

Watkins died in [[Orem, Utah]].

His son, Arthur R. Watkins, was a professor of German at [[Brigham Young University]] for more than 25 years.

I offered material to Wikipedia’s article on Watkins more than two years ago, when I discovered the article was little more than a repeat of the Congressional biography guide.  At the time I had a couple of inquiries from reporters and others watching elections in Utah, especially the reelection of Orrin Hatch, to the seat Watkins held (from 1946 to today, that seat has been held by just three people, Watkins, Ted Moss, and Hatch).  It was historical curiosity.

Recently in Texas we’ve seen that absence of good history can lead to distortions of history, especially distortions in the history to be taught in public schools.  It would serve the evil ends of the Texas Taliban were Arthur V. Watkins to be “disappeared” from history.  (See this astoundingly biased account from a guy named Wes Vernon; according to Vernon, McCarthy was improperly lynched.)

Let’s not let that happen, at least, not at Wikipedia.

_____________

Update: A reader more savvy than I in the ways of Wikipedia has restored most of the old biography.  Now it’s an effort to beef up references.

Wow.  Ask, and it’s done.  Good friends make things much better.

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But it could always be worse: Maine Republicans trash classroom for teaching the Constitution

May 15, 2010

You couldn’t get fiction like this published.

Republicans in Maine voted to scrap the Republican platform and write a new one — not enough unholy discrimination in the old one, too much Eisenhower, too much Lincoln, or something like that.  The convention spilled out into a local middle school for some of the platform writing shenanigans.

In one 8th grade classroom, the Maine Republicans found something they objected to, something they don’t want taught to 8th graders:  The U.S. Constitution.

Pharyngula has the story and comments here.  ThinkProgress has more gory details here. Portland (Maine) Press-Herald story here. Bangor Daily News story here.

The Republicans were particularly incensed by a poster showing a collage used to open a project assigned to the Portland 8th graders.  The 8th graders make poster collages elaborating on the Four Freedoms speech of Franklin Roosevelt, and the accompanying posters by Norman Rockwell.  Norman Rockwell.  You know.  The guy who started his professional career as art director for the Boy Scouts of America . . .

“Brainwashing” the Republicans called U.S. history.  Brainwashing.

Speaking of the children, they got into the act Tuesday after a note from “a Republican” was found in Clifford’s classroom. “A Republican was here,” it read. “What gives you the right to propagandize impressionable kids?”

Responded eighth-grader Lilly O’Leary, one of several students who sent e-mails to this newspaper decrying the behavior of their weekend guests, “I am not being brainwashed in his class under any circumstances. I am being told that I have the right to my own opinion.”

She added, “These people were adults and they were acting very immaturely.”

Remember when Republicans used to complain that we can’t jail flag-burning protesters?  When did those guys get kicked out of the party, and who are these new thugs?

When did it become the Re-Poe-blican Party?  When did they take up the Blackshirt tactics?

C’mon, Republicans.  Come back to America.  Repent now.

And — as for us Texans?  This is the stuff Don McLeroy wants to see happen in Texas social studies standards — vandalism of the U.S. Constitution and American law and tradition.

As a Scouter, as a teacher, as a fan of the U.S. Constitution, I’m concerned.  Should I be scared?

“I saw nothing in the room — and nobody pointed out anything in the room — that appeared to give a more balanced view,” [Knox County Republican Party Chairman William] Chapman said.

[Teacher Paul] Clifford and the school’s principal, Mike McCarthy, pointed out in media accounts that the posters were part of projects on freedom and free expression. [Bangor Daily News]

Maybe everyone should be scared.

_______________

Hmmmmm.  Ken County, Maine, Republicans offer rewards to people who rat out others who vandalize campaign signs.  How about they extend that to rat out the Republicans who vandalized Paul Clifford’s classroom?  You know, in the interest of free speech and all . . .

More:

Norman Rockwell, poster of his paintings on the Four Freedoms (Library of Congress image)

Norman Rockwell, poster of his paintings on the Four Freedoms (Library of Congress image). This is part of what the Maine Tea Party Republicans objected to.

Exercise your right to stand up for freedom and educationspread the word:

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NAACP letter campaign against gutting Texas social studies standards

May 6, 2010

I get e-mail from the NAACP; the rest of the nation is paying attention to the follies run by the conservative bureaucrats at the SBOE:

Ed,

Don't Erase Our History I wouldn’t want to be a Texas State Board member this week.

Last week, we asked you to write to your representative, telling him or her that rewriting Texas history textbooks is ignorant and unpatriotic.

Over 1,500 people have already written in, filling the inboxes of our school leaders.

This week, we’d like to offer you one more chance to get involved. The NAACP is planning rallies, hearings and press conferences in Texas to stop the state board from rewriting history. But we can’t do it without you.

An issue as controversial as rewriting history elicits strong emotions, and we want to give you the chance to speak out. Do you have something you would like to say at the hearing?

http://action.naacp.org/TextbookHearing

The NAACP works to ensure equal rights and to eliminate discrimination against all racial and ethnic groups. The proposed changes to our textbooks threaten our mission. This is not about Republicans or Democrats — it’s about our shared history as Texans. That’s why we want to use the words of our Texas supporters to turn the tide.

The Texas textbook vote is just two weeks away, so we need to push ourselves harder now than ever before.

The future of our children’s education is in the hands of just a few State Board members. Your voice could be the one to tip the scale.

Take a moment to tell us what you think about the Texas State Board rewriting history. The best submissions will be read at the hearing on May 19th.

http://action.naacp.org/TextbookHearing

Thank you for helping to protect our history.

Gary Bledsoe
President, Texas NAACP


Typewriter of the moment: L. Frank Baum, in 1899

February 7, 2010

L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz and other stories, at work at his typewriter in 1899, the year before his first Oz book was published.

L. Frank Baum at his typewriter in 1899

L. Frank Baum at his typewriter in 1899. Where?

Bonus: I found the photograph illustrating an essay by Kennesaw State University historian David B. Parker in the Bluegrass Express, a reprint of his 1994 article in The Journal of the Georgia Association of Historians, on the claim that The Wizard of Oz was written as a populist parable.

Every history teacher ought to read that article.

http://thebluegrassspecial.com/archive/2009/october2009/ozpoppycockoct09.php


Stand up for good history in Texas

December 17, 2009

Here’s an education and Texas issue I’ve not done justice to:  The Texas State Board of Education is working to gut social studies curricula in Texas, with a special vent on history, which they appear to think is not fundamentalist Christian enough, and economics, where they think “capitalism” is, somehow, a dirty word.

Do I exaggerate?   Very little, if at all.  Really.

There’s a lot to say.  I may have another post on it this week.  In the meantime, the indefatigable Texas Freedom Network works to organize for the hearing on the issue in January.  SBOE hopes it will be a quiet, non-confrontational meeting, and they will do whatever they can to prevent Texans from telling them to have good history standards that make great students.  So it’s important that you speak up — especially if you’re a Texan.  Here’s what TFN said in an e-mail alert:

Make Your Voice Heard at January Public Hearing

The process of revising social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools is moving into a critical stage. And a public hearing the board has scheduled for January may be the only opportunity for you to speak out against the far right’s efforts to corrupt standards for history, government and other social studies classes.

The final drafts of the proposed standards prepared by writing teams made up of teachers, academics and other community members are reflective of mainstream academic scholarship in the various subject areas. It is clear that members of these writing teams largely resisted intense political pressure from far right, rejecting attempts to remove key civil rights figures and make other politically motivated revisions. (See the Background section at the bottom of this e-mail for a more detailed account of the politicization of this curriculum process.)

But as with science and language arts, far-right SBOE members are already plotting to undo the work of the writing teams of social studies.

Take Action

The State Board of Education so far has scheduled only one public hearing on the proposed standards. That hearing is likely to occur either on January 13 or January 14 in Austin.

If you are interested in speaking at the hearing, please click here. TFN will help you register to speak before the board and be an effective voice against efforts to politicize our children’s classrooms.

This may be the only opportunity the board provides for Texans to speak out on the proposed standards. If we are to prevent far-right SBOE members from turning social studies classrooms into tools for promoting political agendas, then it’s critical that the board hears from people like you! Click here to sign up for more information on how to testify in January.

___________________________________________________

Background on Social Studies Review Process to Date

Earlier this year, TFN exposed and derailed several attempts by the far right to hijack the social studies curriculum revision process. Members of the state board – or their appointees to review panels and writing teams – tried at various times to:

  • Remove civil rights champions like César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall from the standards, calling them poor examples of citizenship
  • Turn Joseph McCarthy – who discredited himself and dishonored Congress with his infamous Red-baiting smear campaign in the 1950s – into an American hero
  • Rewrite history and portray America’s Founders as intending to establish a Christian nation with laws based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible

Members of the writing teams largely rejected these fringe ideas in the final drafts of the standards they submitted to the board. Chávez and Marshall remain in the curriculum. The American history standards do not whitewash the damaging history of McCarthyism. And under the proposed standards students would still learn that the Founders created a nation in which all people are free to worship – or not – as they choose without coercion or interference by government.

We must ensure that the board adopts curriculum standards that reflect mainstream academic scholarship in social studies. This is vitally important because the results of this decision will be reflected in the next generation of social studies textbooks around the country.

Click here to let TFN know you are willing to testify at the state board.

Spread the word even farther — help save history, in Texas:

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Time to start making huge stone heads

November 29, 2009

Well, maybe not yet.

But consider Jared Diamond’s 1997 essay in Discover:

In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism. Are we about to follow their lead?

Among the most riveting mysteries of human history are those posed by vanished civilizations. Everyone who has seen the abandoned buildings of the Khmer, the Maya, or the Anasazi is immediately moved to ask the same question: Why did the societies that erected those structures disappear?

Diamond’s essay appears in different, and longer form (as I recall) as a chapter in his book Collapse.  That book is all about why civilizations collapse.

A lot of it boils down to wasting of resources.  Easter Island had not always been the grass-only rock with just a couple of thousand people clinging to a desperate existence, as Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen found it on Easter Sunday, 1722 (April 5).  When the ancestors of the tiny population found the island, it had forests, and probably animals, and rich enough resources to support a larger population.

Until they deforested it, hunted to near extinction every animal that couldn’t escape, and caused the collapse of their own civilization.

Is this an analogy for what humans are doing to the planet now with pollution, especially atmospheric-warming air pollution?

Diamond concluded his essay:

I suspect, though, that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper. After all, there are those hundreds of abandoned statues to consider. The forest the islanders depended on for rollers and rope didn’t simply disappear one day-it vanished slowly, over decades. Perhaps war interrupted the moving teams; perhaps by the time the carvers had finished their work, the last rope snapped. In the meantime, any islander who tried to warn about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by vested interests of carvers, bureaucrats, and chiefs, whose jobs depended on continued deforestation. Our Pacific Northwest loggers are only the latest in a long line of loggers to cry, “Jobs over trees!” The changes in forest cover from year to year would have been hard to detect: yes, this year we cleared those woods over there, but trees are starting to grow back again on this abandoned garden site here. Only older people, recollecting their childhoods decades earlier, could have recognized a difference. Their children could no more have comprehended their parents’ tales than my eight-year-old sons today can comprehend my wife’s and my tales of what Los Angeles was like 30 years ago.

Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. That left only smaller and smaller palm saplings to clear each year, along with other bushes and treelets. No one would have noticed the felling of the last small palm.

By now the meaning of Easter Island for us should be chillingly obvious. Easter Island is Earth writ small. Today, again, a rising population confronts shrinking resources. We too have no emigration valve, because all human societies are linked by international transport, and we can no more escape into space than the Easter Islanders could flee into the ocean. If we continue to follow our present course, we shall have exhausted the world’s major fisheries, tropical rain forests, fossil fuels, and much of our soil by the time my sons reach my current age.

Resources:

Jared Diamond in a 2003 appearance at TED:


Rap at the White House: Alexander Hamilton

November 22, 2009

An Obama guest, Lin-Manuel Miranda, pushes the envelope on gangsta rap, and history teaching:

You can’t use that in the classroom, teachers?  Why not?

More:

Wikipedia notes of Miranda:

He is working on a hip-hop album based upon the life of Alexander Hamilton, entitled The Hamilton Mixtape.[5] He recently performed “The Hamilton Mixtape” at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009. Accompanied by Alex Lacamoire. [12]

Tip of the old scrub brush to Slashdot.


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We become the ephemera of history: ‘Only the privileged few of us get to be fossils’

October 21, 2009

From “Whose father was he?” a four-part essay on tracking down the story of three children whose photograph was discovered on the corpse of a Union soldier killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, in 1863:

Perhaps more than any other artifact, the photograph has engaged our thoughts about time and eternity. I say “perhaps,” because the history of photography spans less than 200 years. How many of us have been “immortalized” in a newspaper, a book or a painting vs. how many of us have appeared in a photograph [32]? The Mayas linked their culture to the movements of celestial objects. The ebb and flow of kingdoms and civilizations in the periodicities of the moon, the sun and the planets. In the glyphs that adorn their temples they recorded coronations, birth, deaths. Likewise, the photograph records part of our history. And expresses some of our ideas about time. The idea that we can make the past present.

The photograph of Amos Humiston’s three children — of Frank, Alice and Fred — allows us to imagine that we have grasped something both unique and universal. It suggests that the experience of this vast, unthinkable war can be reduced to the life and death of one man — by identifying Gettysburg’s “Unknown Soldier” we can reunite a family. That we can be saved from oblivion by an image that reaches and touches people, that communicates something undying and transcendent about each one of us.

And the footnote, number 32:

[32] I had an opportunity to visit the fossil collections at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. It was part of a dinosaur fossil-hunting trip with Jack Horner, the premier hunter of T-Rex skeletons. Downstairs in the lab, there was a Triceratops skull sitting on a table. I picked it up and inserted my finger into the brain cavity. (I had read all these stories about how small the Triceratops brain had to have been and I wanted to see for myself.) I said to Jack Horner, “To think that someday somebody will do that with my skull.” And he said, “You should be so lucky. It’s only the privileged few of us who get to be fossils.”

See Errol Morris’s whole series, “Whose father was he?” at the New York Times blogs:

  • Whose Father Was He? (Part Five)
  • Whose Father Was He? (Part Four)
  • Whose Father Was He? (Part Three)
  • Whose Father Was He? (Part Two)
  • Whose Father Was He? (Part One)

  • An incalculable loss to history, and students of history – Werner E. Warmbrunn

    July 25, 2009

    Americans create great colleges. Our greatest national product is higher education. Within a few decades after Europeans landed in the Americas, colleges were created to spread knowledge to keep the colonies, and then the new nations, on the cutting edge of history and science.  Mostly they’ve worked well.  The world comes to our institutions of higher learning to learn, and to steal ideas about how to make that process work in their own nations.

    In the 20th century we saw the founding in California of the Claremont Colleges, one of the most recent and most ambitious efforts to create a community of scholarship for undergraduates and graduates. The Claremont Colleges include Harvey Mudd College, Pomona College, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College, Claremont Graduate University, and Keck Graduate Institute.  Pomona College dates from 1887, but the other colleges in the community all arose after 1925 (Claremont Graduate University).   Harvey Mudd was founded in 1955, Pitzer in 1963, and the Keck Institute in 1997.

    Werner Warmbrunn came to Pitzer College as one of the small pioneering group of original faculty in 1963, the first year of the school.   On one hand, it’s exciting to be in on the creation of a great institution.  On the other hand, the philosophy of the Claremont Colleges is that faculty, though of first rate intellect, will spend a great deal of their time with students.  Demands of working with undergraduates probably hinders some of the faculty from achieving the great renown they could have achieved at other universities.  Students grow to love that system.  Some faculty yearn for other pastures, and strike out after a while for other academic homes.

    Warmbrunn stuck it out at Pitzer.

    I found this press release, on his death on July 19, 2009:

    Professor Emeritus Werner E. Warmbrunn Dies

    Claremont, Calif (July 23, 2009) – Werner Warmbrunn, founding member of the Pitzer College faculty and founding dean of faculty, died peacefully at home on July 19, 2009 at the age of 89.

    Professor Warmbrunn was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1920. He and his family immigrated to the United States in 1941. After receiving his degree from Cornell University, he began his teaching career at Putney School in Vermont. He received his PhD from Stanford University, where he later served in a variety of administrative posts for 12 years. In 1963, he was recruited by Pitzer’s first president, John Atherton.

    Professor Warmbrunn helped design the academic programs for the new college in months before and after the arrival of Pitzer’s pioneer class of students. He is perhaps best known for his work in developing Pitzer’s unique community governance structure. He served on many committees, including the Faculty Executive Committee and two presidential search committees. Professor Warmbrunn ensured that Pitzer’s history would be recorded by founding an archive where papers, announcements and documents were preserved.

    A passionate and committed teacher, Professor Warmbrunn was a recipient, in 1985, of the Pitzer College Alumni Association’s Academic Excellence Award. He received a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship to continue his research on Belgium under German occupation during World War II. He became a professor emeritus in 1991.

    Warmbrunn’s published works include The Dutch Under German Occupation and The German Occupation of Belgium. In recent years, he was active in the Claremont Democratic Club, serving as a senior author of The Claremont Manifesto.

    He is survived by his wife, Loretta; daughters Erika and Susan; his step-children Linda Schone, Wes Fretter, Dianna Davis and Cynthia Fretter; and his grandchildren Andrea, Breanna, Zach, Matt and Lindsey.

    A private family memorial will be held. Donations in honor of Professor Warmbrunn can be made to Pitzer College, where a scholarship will be created in his name.

    A public memorial will occur at Pitzer College this fall.

    About Pitzer College

    Pitzer College is a nationally top ranked undergraduate liberal arts institution. A member of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer offers a distinctive approach to a liberal arts education by linking intellectual inquiry with interdisciplinary studies, cultural immersion, social responsibility and community involvement. For more information, please visit www.pitzer.edu.

    Of course that’s not the whole story. You need more information about Prof. Warmbrunn — and you will find it in this touching remembrance at Rational Rant, from sbh in Portland, one of Warmbrunn’s students. Go read that account.

    Not a class day goes by that a student does not ask, “Why do we study history?”  Every good history teacher has a patterned response, sometimes including quoting Santayana, sometimes just recounting a great failure that could have been avoided had someone who should have known better, actually known history.  Sometimes the answer involves a great victory or leap forward, made possible by understanding the past.

    Reality is more complex.  Sometimes just the study of history itself is the object.  Studying history under a teacher like Warmbrunn will not be recorded in the history books per se, as the study of history.  We can never overestimate the effects of such careful tutelage on the course of history, on the making of history.  History flows like a river.  Studying history is like fording the river — and sometimes a student needs someone skilled at fording the river to get the student across.  Sometimes that river is a Rubicon, or a Vistula, or a Rhine, or Mississippi, or Delaware, or Missouri, or Colorado, and getting a student safely to the mouth or the other side, makes all the difference.

    Nota bene:

    And see:


    #1 hoax site on the web

    July 5, 2009

    This may be the #1 hoax site on the web:  Martinlutherking.org. Certainly it is a site dangerous for children, because it cleverly purports to be an accurate history site, while selling voodoo history and racism.

    A racist group bought the domain name (note the “.org” suffix), and they’ve managed to keep it.  The site features a drawing of Martin Luther King, Jr., on the first page.  The racist elements are subtle enough that unwary students and teachers may not recognize it for the hoax site it is.

    It is both racist and hoax:  Note the link to a racist argument on “Why the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday should be repealed;”  note the link to a hoax page, “Black invention myths.”

    Students, nothing on that site should be trusted. Teachers, warn students away from the site.  You may want to use that site as a model of what a bad site looks like, and the importance of weighing the credibility of any site found on the web.

    Why do I even mention the racist, hoax site? Because it comes upi #3 on Google searches for “Martin Luther King.”  Clearly a lot of people are being hoodwinked into going to that site.  I’ve seen papers by high school students citing the site, with teachers unaware of the site’s ignoble provenance.

    Update: The site is owned by Stormfront, a white supremicist organization.

    Here are a few good sites on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; you can help things by clicking on each one of these sites, and by copying this list with links and posting it on your blog:

    More resources:


    4 Stone Hearth 68 + remote central = good convergence

    June 5, 2009

    4 Stone Hearth’s 68th incarnation rises at remote central, among my favorite archaeology/anthropology/ancient history blogs.

    Tim has done an outstanding job of shaking good stuff out of the internet tree:  Did cooking make humans smartKris Hirst on the human transition to agriculture (every history teacher needs this one);  The new discovery of a Miocene era ape, in Europe; and returning to a topic I spend so many years listening to at the Senate Labor Comittee, is tobacco worse than cocaine?

    That’s just scratching the surface.  Go see.


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