Dinner Guests

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Wow! We are being wined and dined and treated like royalty here in Vermont at Julia and Randy Hesses’ Vermont home. Excellent colleagues and friends. We really like Vermont. This weekend constitutes our very first visit. This state lives up to the hype. We witnessed a great fireworks show too. Here is a pic of us with Randy.

Vermont

While having wine outside in preparation for dinner, I was sharing my list of top 12 dinner guest. So, here it is:

1. W.E.B. Du Bois
2. Malcolm X
3. Helen Keller
4. Harper Lee
5. Carson McCullers
6. Karl Marx
7. Clade McKay
8. Arthus Ashe
9. Richard Wright
10. Zora Neal Hurston
11. Joseph Conrad
12. Ralph Ellison

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Filed under 4th of July, About Carson, Friendship, Summer

Defining the Historical Past and Present

I have come to a number of conclusions during my tenure as a history teacher. Here are two:

1. Students struggle to define history. They assume it is everything that ever transpired in the past. I spend time moving them from that reference point of thinking to understanding that the historical past is predicated on an ascription and thus has normative value. Hence, it is not historical if it has no meaning; a person’s point of view and the complexity of their ascription has a great deal of weight on the value of the historical past. Further, if one cannot account for the past — it cannot be a historical past; it is just the past.

2. There is a such thing as the historical present; I like to think about history as the hitherto. Thus, the factors that have allowed complex variables to be analyzed shapes the now. But, ignoring those variables as though they are not relevant to one’s current plight is a mistake. Arthur Danto’s 1965 book, Analytical Philosophy of History, argues that “historical inquiry cannot be conceived as trying to reconstruct the past along the lines of a ‘ideal chronicler.'” Hence, this chronicler knows when things occur as they occur, and thus historians cannot constructs this pattern because they construct history in the present using narrative sentences. According to Danto, it is a sentence that describes one event by referring to later events. This type of complexity found in the realm of historiography escapes students. Because students struggle with this part, they fail to grasp the macro approach of understanding the more analytical frameworks of history (Source: “The Nonfixity of the Historical Past by David Weberman). Now, this book by Danto was published well before the age of social media. In the 21st century, we are all chroniclers of history by recording the present (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). Good students will be able to grasp why occurrences in the present change and are linked to the historical past, as noted in my first point. Here is a great way to bring social media into the classroom. I have yet to do this, but the thought of creating a public Facebook page is under review. I do have colleagues that tweet and use twitter in their class.

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(Diagram Source, Dr. Fred Jewel, Professor Emeritus, Harding University)

The above points are not generational. They have been true for countless generations of people who believe the historical past is irrelevant to their lives. They struggle to move beyond themselves in the present. Each generation goes through this predicament. Black students do not see why past racial events are of great significance to their current struggles. Women are unconcerned with the political ramifications of matters such as contraceptives,voting, education, or power to their lives. Both blacks and women are slow to ask why are there so few of me on my campus? So, it is my job and the job of those who see the irony of the aforementioned points to tell young students why analyzing the past is paramount towards their current plight and future conditions.

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Filed under History, Students, Teaching

Great Book on Strom Thurmond

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As noted on this blog before, by 1980, a major shift transpired in which Ronald Reagan swept the South and the rest of the nation in a promise of restoring conservatism. Much of this promise was born on Reagan’s promise to reduce the size of the government, and to restore social order brought about during the decades of the 1960s and the 1970s. Again, much of the progress during the 60s and the 70s were aimed at aiding gays/lesbians and racial minorities. Many southerners today are simply a product of political realignment. Thus, they once embraced Jim Crow policies until federal legislation and the Supreme Court deemed it illegal. Conservatives reacted to the forced political actions of the federal government by seeking conservative candidates who would embrace the ideology of states’ rights. In 1980, Reagan clearly endorsed this position, which was clear by his objection to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; it was his position that the federal government could not legislate discrimination among civilians. Joe Crespino argues the relationship between the Republican Party of today and the Christian Right began under Strom Thurmond. This emergence took hold in advance of the rise of Barry Goldwater and Reagan. Crespino’s book is simply fantastic.

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Filed under Books, History

Summer Writing Part II

I am amazed at the amount of interesting sources that exist on WEB Du Bois and the American frontier; I would not claim that all said sources are explicit, however, they do move this patient reader in an interesting direction. While I continue to study years of sources related to Du Bois’s writings and those related to the African-American conditioning, I get more and more excited about what I will find. While working on this book, I am also cataloging references and primary sources that expand the Du Boisian discussion, African Americans, and general notion of the Western frontier towards a more grand synthesis of manifest destiny. The initial aim here is set on a regional historical conference out West next summer.

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Filed under DuBois, Summer Writing

Mark Elrod and UCA

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I have written and posted about professor Mark Elrod before, thus this post is not a surprise. I am excited that he will be joining the Political Science department at the University of Central Arkansas. After being on faculty at Harding University for some 26 years, I support his desire to seek a new challenge. Academic diversity is what makes academic life so great. He was by far one of my favorite instructors. If you are not lazy, you will love him; if you are lazy, you will still love him, but you will find that he holds high expectations. So, for the folks at UCA, here are just a few things to expect:

1. A brilliant man.
2. A person who will listen and value your thoughts and opinions, regardless if he disagrees with you.
3. He will challenge you to articulate why you think the way you think about any purported theory or fact
4. Hard worker. ME, as he is called, always arrives to class ready to engage students. He will model scholarship. I just hope to serve on another panel with him or get a chance to co-author a paper with him.
5. Tough classes. Feel free to avoid reading your text, writing those papers, and showing up to class; if you do, bring the drop card ASAP. His exams are thought provoking and difficult — as they should be.
6. Participate. Unlike too many folks who like to hear themselves talk, particularly those at Harding, ME welcomes dialogue.
7. He is in demand. He was by far one of the most popular people at Harding University. Thus, when you can, go by his office and just talk. Better yet, he is a big coffee drinker.
8. If you make a mistake, just apologize and move on. He is great when it comes to second chances.
9. Most important, he is a VERY good man. He is human like all of us, but he is a great person.

I and many others are Mark Elrod fans.

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Filed under Academic Life, Education, Harding University, Teaching

Summer Writing Part I

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It feels great outside!!! Spending my morning analyzing, evaluating, and categorizing 40 years worth of primary documents for this book on the Negro plight and their beliefs. As I tell my students, it is just like doing a DBQ. Abbey is with me too. This is my big summer project. I should have this work done by the end of summer; I am also focused on two other papers that I aim to write. I see that self-imposed deadlines are a must for me.

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Filed under Academic Life, Black People, History, Summer Writing

Garry Willis on America’s Religious Past

I am a fan of Garry Willis; he offers a great deal of insight regarding the growth of Americans sense of religiosity and why it is best that there is division between church and state. Though, as I have noted before, the relationship between the two seems a bit muddy at times.

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Filed under History, Religion