'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Study and Use of History

I came across this study the other day on the current state of teaching history at the secondary level in the U.S.

The State of State U.S. History Standards 2011

It is a fascinating account of how well U.S. history is being taught in high schools.

I don't know enough about the current standards So in Virginia, since we homeschooled, I know darn well my son got taught history from the Bill Bennett vice the Howard Zinn point of view.

Here are some excellent quotes and the Grouchy Historian's commentary:
Nonetheless, at the college level, American history requirements are an endangered species. While history courses are widely available, and in many cases quite popular, basic requirements — mandatory core surveys — are vanishing. Fewer and fewer universities require American history, or any history at all, as part of the undergraduate general-education curriculum.
So of course my question is, what the hell are they learning?  I know they are teaching labor agitation and public disorder in Wisconsin, but seriously?  What do they learn in college-beer bonging and Facebooking 101?  No wonder these idiots voted for Obama......
Unfortunately, history education at the primary-secondary level is itself often on life support for many reasons, including that an alarming number of future history teachers pursue degrees in education, rather than majoring in history itself. Worse, most education schools make minimal efforts to fill the inevitable gaps in their content knowledge, preferring instead to focus on “learning theory” that encourages skills acquisitions — such as critical thinking — rather than knowledge acquisition.
W....T......F??????  How the hell does that work?  I mean I've heard a lot about BS education degrees (no that is not short for bachelor of science either) but really?  Sounds like my work is cut out for me when I start collecting that hearty retirement check from Northrop Grumman and become the grouchy history teacher.....how the hell can you have critical thinking skills with no knowledge or facts to critically think about....unless you are a professional member of the NEA.
The most pressing and common defect in state standards is the submersion of history in the vacuous, synthetic, and anti-historical “field” of social studies.  In fact, “social studies” is more than a method of organizing content: It is an ideology that has steadily evolved and adapted since the early twentieth century. However, its central concept remains immovable: Positing trans-historical (and often ahistorical) interpretive “concepts” over historical facts and context, it splits the past into arbitrary and thematic “strands.” It exemplifies the self-defeating “how-to-think not what-to-learn” mentality, favoring jargon-laden thinking and learning skills over specific content.
Hallelujah Brother...I HATE this whole social studies bullcrap thing that was even pushed on me sooo many years ago.  If you wanna study government, study government.  If you want to take a geography course, then do so.  Don't try to mash them all up.  Now I will be the first to tell you that geography and history, especially military history go together like chocolate and peanut butter, beer and pizza..darn I'm hungry...but you can't have one without the other.
But social studies is annoying and useless...brought to you, no doubt by that same evil NEA that wants to teach you about environmentalism, socialism and the evil male patriarchy.

Finally, I did appreciate that the study showed the effects of ideological biases from BOTH the right and the LEFT.  I would personally say that most secondary school texts I have seen tend to be more lefty, but perhaps the awareness raised by the recent kerfuffle in Texas (more on that in another blog post) has raised awareness that, gosh darn it, there actually is a lefty slant to teaching out kids about Caeser Chazez, Martin Luther King, and Barrack Obama, while minimizing George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan....gee, ya think?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Federalist Papers-OH So Topical

WOW, absolutely magnificent reading in the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers this week.  Our Founders, old white guys that they were, nonetheless had a keen understanding of the eternal nature of governments, government spending, and the need or desire for a large standing military.

Here is a prescient quote from the Anti-Federalist #8:
The power to borrow money is general and unlimited, and the clause so often before referred to, authorises the passing any laws proper and necessary to carry this into execution. Under this authority, the Congress may mortgage any or all the revenues of the union, as a fund to loan money upon, and it is probably, in this way, they may borrow of foreign nations, a principal sum, the interest of which will be equal to the annual revenues of the country. — By this means, they may create a national debt, so large, as to exceed the ability of the country ever to sink. I can scarcely contemplate a greater calamity that could befall this country, than to be loaded with a debt exceeding their ability ever to discharge.
DANG, who does that sound like?  The current Administration and previous Congress loved to denigrate that pesky Constitution, but clearly our Founders knew a little something about the government trough and the dangers of being in debt to Foreign governments.

What's more interesting is the overall knowledge base of our Founders.  Even more than politics, literature, and philosophy, they had a pretty darn good understanding of military history and the state of military science at the time.  From Federalist Paper #8:
The nations of Europe are encircled with chains of fortified places, which mutually obstruct invasion. Campaigns are wasted in reducing two or three frontier garrisons, to gain admittance into an enemy's country. Similar impediments occur at every step, to exhaust the strength and delay the progress of an invader.......The history of war, in that quarter of the globe, is no longer a history of nations subdued and empires overturned, but of towns taken and retaken; of battles that decide nothing; of retreats more beneficial than victories; of much effort and little acquisition.
And of course, the writer finished off with a pretty good assessment of American Security Strategy for the next 100 years or so:
If we are wise enough to preserve the Union we may for ages enjoy an advantage similar to that of an insulated situation. Europe is at a great distance from us. Her colonies in our vicinity will be likely to continue too much disproportioned in strength to be able to give us any dangerous annoyance. Extensive military establishments cannot, in this position, be necessary to our security. But if we should be disunited, and the integral parts should either remain separated, or, which is most probable, should be thrown together into two or three confederacies, we should be, in a short course of time, in the predicament of the continental powers of Europe --our liberties would be a prey to the means of defending ourselves against the ambition and jealousy of each other. 
So, what does this all mean?  Should we just come home, build our wall and forget the rest of the world and its problems?  Unfortunately, that just isn't possible.  BUT what is possible is being able to engage the world in a stronger position, by being less dependent on what goes on in unstable and hostile regions of the world.  Let's face it, if Saudi Arabia and Libya didn't have oil or if we were energy independent would we give a rat's ass about what's going on there?  No, we would not.  If we didn't owe China billions, would we be putting up with their counterfeiting American products and their unfair trade practices?  NO

So what would our Founding Fathers think of our current financial and foreign policy dilemmas?  

Not much, I suspect........

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Amatuer Hour in the Middle East

“Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war.”  Karl Von Clausewitz

This pretty much sums up the buffoonery of Obama's Libya War.  I mean I'm no neo-con, although I did support the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, but this is just nuts.

Say what you will about the Bush-Cheney Administration, and the lefty loons said plenty, they were FREAKIN' GROWNUPS who approached war and the commitment of the American military to combat as a serious life-or-death matter.  I mean really--can you see Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld giving two cents about the freakin NCAA brackets in March 2003?  No, me either.  

I don't disagree with the need to get rid of Mommar and his nutjob regime, but are we getting a better one?  And what does it say about this country and our leadership when we can't even hold our alliance together one week into the fighting?  And for goodness sake, who thinks putting the French in charge is a good idea?  Granted I like Sarko and he certainly has been more Clemenceau than Clouseau about this than Obama, but really?  When was the last war the French won?

So what are we to do?  Well, here are my predictions:
  1. Hillary is toast.  This is going to be a fiasco no matter how it turns out, and as usual, someone must crawl under the bus, and it ain't gonna be Obama or Biden.  I don't think Hillary will last the year.  This could prove very dangerous for Obama politically, as I don't think she is done gunning for the White House and could be an "anybody but Obama" alternative for the Dems in 2012. 
  2. The lefty loons who supported Obama, hated Bush, and are now snarling at Obama will probably still support him, but he will have to really, really suck up to the unions, enviro-whackos, gays and whoever else is left on the FARRRRR left of the Democratic party to have a hope of winning in 2012.  The wishy-washy undecideds will abandon him on the economy unless unemployment goes wayyyy down and the center-right is just itching for the right candidate to replace him. 
  3. If the idiots in Gaza and such continue to piss off Israel, Bibi is gonna take this time and blow them away.  Maybe the Arab street will rise, up, but with Syria in turmoil, Egypt trying to settle and the Gulf States looking at Iran, Hamas will have no one to help them and even Hezbollah is probably looking over their shoulder.So let's hope that Ghaddafy, Khadaffy or whatever goes quickly, otherwise Obama is gonna make the U.S., NATO, the UN and most of the civilized world look like incompetent nincompoops.

Here's another little quote from my friend Clausewitz:
"The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish . . . the kind of war on which they are embarking."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Brain Candy Books

Took some time off now that I am done with the M.A. to catch up on some fiction.

I started with one of my favorite authors, JD Robb and the new In Death Book

I have read all of these books and they are all good, but, of course some of them are better than others.  THIS is one of the better ones, since I have to say the last couple have been sort of formulaic.  Of course the entire series is a massive formula, but it works, even through 25+ books.

Treachery in Death was literally impossible to put down and I really, really wanted Eve Dallas to open up a big can of whupp ass by the end.  Not a ton of secondary or primary character development, unlike some of the other books, but plenty of action.  Even though you know Eve is gonna win, you still want to follow all the details.  If you haven't started this series, you should.  If you have been a fan, pick up this book.

Brad Meltzer's new book is the first one of his novels I have read, since I have seen so many good reviews.  I was expecting a serious historical mystery, but it definitely was not a traditional historical mystery like, say Da Vinci Code.  I have to say that overall, I thought it was okay, but not great.  I was a little surprised by the end and the plot definitely kept moving along, but I think jumping into the middle of his books caused me to miss some plot build-up.  I will give him another look with some of his earlier works, since it appears his novels do peripherally build upon each other.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Federalist Papers---picking the torch back up

In Federalist Paper #7, Alexander Hamilton continues his discussion about the need for a strong Union to avoid potential territorial and/or commercial disputes between the states in they continued to operate under the Articles of Confederation.  In fact, the Commerce Clause, before it was abused by liberals and progressives to pass all manners of mischief up to and including ObamaCare was probably one of the singular achievements of the Constitution by unifying commercial activity and preventing potential dangerous interstate tariffs.  However, another interesting sentence comes to mind:
“The public debt of the Union would be a further cause of collision between the separate States or confederacies. The apportionment, in the first instance, and the progressive extinguishment afterward, would be alike productive of ill-humor and animosity. How would it be possible to agree upon a rule of apportionment satisfactory to all? There is scarcely any that can be proposed which is entirely free from real objections. These, as usual, would be exaggerated by the adverse interest of the parties……. Delinquencies, from whatever causes, would be productive of complaints, recriminations, and quarrels. There is, perhaps, nothing more likely to disturb the tranquility of nations than their being bound to mutual contributions for any common object that does not yield an equal and coincident benefit. For it is an observation, as true as it is trite, that there is nothing men differ so readily about as the payment of money.”
WOW, does that sorta ring true today, or what?  Why should the rest of the taxpayers bail out California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey or any of those other states that have made poor decisions and lived on the supposed never ending gravy train?  But, here it comes, expect more bailouts from Obama and Nancy before the election to try and keep public employees and BLUE states afloat….

Interestingly, Anti-Federalist #7 also address the issue of public debt and taxation, although it approaches the problem from a different point of view, arguing for the distribution of taxes between the states and Federal government and the use of an import tax as the primary means of Federal government funding…hmmm, if only that were true now:
The result of our reasoning in the two preceding numbers is this, that in a confederated government, where the powers are divided between the general and the state government, it is essential to its existence, that the revenues of the country, without which no government can exist, should be divided between them, and so apportioned to each, as to answer their respective exigencies, as far as human wisdom can effect such a division and apportionment….There is one source of revenue, which it is agreed, the general government ought to have the sole control of. This is an impost upon all goods imported from foreign countries. This would, of itself, be very productive, and would be collected with ease and certainty. — It will be a fund too, constantly increasing — for our commerce will grow, with the productions of the country; and these, together with our consumption of foreign goods, will increase with our population.”
Although issues of taxation are certainly dry and seemingly boring, they are, nonetheless, crucial to the economic health of the country, as we certainly know today…if only our current government carefully considered the implications of their tax (and spend) policies on the country….

Monday, March 7, 2011

Great Blogs I Found

Two really fantastic new blogs I found this weekend.

First, The Long Recall is a blog that traces Civil War history in real time- presented as a blog, with links and everything!  Very cool concept and way to bring Civil War history to life.

A companion blog,  Via Meadia covers topics ranging from politics to history in a conservative way, of course.

Both will become part of my daily reading.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I came to a fork in the road and nuked the crap out of the intersection

So, as the Grouchy Historian, I applied for the Doctoral Program in History at George Mason University, my local university.  Being a fairly self-confident individual, as my significant other will point out, I assumed that with 2 master's degrees, a B.S. from the Naval Academy and significant life experience, I would be a shoo-in for the old, professional white guy quotaHmmm, not so much.  I received the very lovely, impersonal form letter saying "Thanks for playing" this week. 

NOW, I will say this was a huge disappointment, but not a shock.  WHY, you ask, given the abundance of self-confidence?  Well, here's the story.  Now, to be fair, there could be other factors, but all in all, I can't help wonder about a bias toward on-line institutions.  I actually went to discuss my situation with a professor, who shall remain nameless, at GMU.  After introducing myself, and describing my background, I mentioned that I was finishing up an MA at American Military University, a major online school that is regionally and nationally accredited.  WELL, my goodness, you would think I told the man I had syphilis-- he stiffened right up (no pun intended), or should I say sniffened right up and began to look down his nose at me.  He hemmed and hawed, as my momma would say, and then generally dismissed my with a "good luck!" without adding the "you old coot from an insignificant university with no tenured professors and nationally recognized basketball team."

Now, I could have been THE Grouchy Historian and informed the little snot that I have been reading and studying military history since before he was born and have read, analyzed and dissected ALL of the books I observed on his bookshelf, most of which I also OWN-(yes I examine these things), but I held my tongue, being the great people person that I am.

However, now that I don't have to worry about diplomacy, not that anyone at GMU will ever read my blog, here is what really frosts my cookies.  Here is an email I received, from what is no doubt another young, snot nosed professor at GMU, when I asked about their PhD program and discussed my interests and background:
My research interests are war and American society, particularly the Vietnam War, but from social and cultural perspectives. The other problem I see with your application to our doctoral program is that your Master's Degree is from an online, for-profit institution that does not, in general, provide the academic rigor we would expect of a graduate program. My best guess is that our PhD Admissions Committee would refer you to our Master's program, but that is ultimately their decision to make.

Ok, let me put this as politely as I can- BITE ME LADY.  I mean seriously, does this lady study dope smoking hippies and draft dodgers from Vietnam, REALLY??  

Whatever, this disdain from this woman is nearly ridiculous.  Last time I heard GMU sure as hell wasn't LOSING money, so what does that make them?  OH, and don't most major universities now offer some of their classes on-line--what the hell does that mean?

So, being one seriously pissed off dude, I decided to do a little research.  Here's what GMU's website has to say about their accreditation:

George Mason University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. 

And here's what AMU's website says:
American Public University System is one of the few higher learning organizations that is both regionally and nationally accredited by federally recognized accrediting agencies.  Regional Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission, North Central Association

SO, I put 2 + 2 together and got.

WHAT DOES REGIONAL ACCREDITATION MEAN?  [See WAC 180-78A-010] Regionally accredited institution of higher education means a community college, college, or university which is a candidate for accreditation or is accredited by one of the following regional accrediting bodies:
    •    Middle States, Association of Colleges and Schools
    •    New England Association of Schools and Colleges
    •    North Central Association of Colleges and Schools---AMU
    •    Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
    •    Southern Association of Colleges and Schools---GMU
    •    Western Association of Schools and Colleges; Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
Therefore, either GMU is the same as AMU or not?  SO, how do these little twerps get off looking down their noses at me?  Ever stood a mid-watch or watched your friends die for their country?  OYYYY, I really wanted to write a little pithy email, but have decided they aren't worth my time.

I will say that I thought AMU had an excellent program in Military Studies, which I felt was directly applicable to my job as an intelligence and military analyst, one of the reasons I applied for the program.  In addition, I had some really outstanding instructors who are NATIONALLY known and published authors in the fields of history and military science, including one of my old professors from Canoe U who is a retired Navy Captain, hardly a "diploma mill."  I worked my butt off for three years getting this degree while working full time, taking care of a family and generally contributing to society. 

To be perfectly snarky, I have not read ONE book by a GMU history professor, and since I don't care about dope smoking hippies, I probably won't, either.

Well, that's my rant.  Now I shall go my own way.  I like the way one author of a book I am reading describes himself- an "independent scholar".  Until I find a PhD program that is -oooh- dare I say "progressive" enough to recognize that the days of the brick and mortar education monopoly are over, well, I guess I will become one too......

"They may take our lives, but they'll never take our Freedom"

More on that topic later.......