The Disasters of War

Just as the British tradition offers no equivalent to Walt Whitman’s poetry of the Civil War, so the American tradition seems to lack its [Wilfred] Owen. ...

The total number of American soldiers killed in those six months is roughly the same as those killed over twenty years in Vietnam.
— James Fenton

The Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador

The University of Scranton campus has a memorial to six Jesuit priests (and a housekeeper and her daughter) who were murdered at the University of Central America in November 1989 by El Salvador's U.S.-backed army. This semester, I included the story of that event in my world history survey.

People Will Hate Us Again

Like many Remainers, I feel complicated emotions about Brexit, as I did about the Iraq war. Those of us who were against the war wanted Bush and Blair and the MPs who voted for it to have their faces rubbed in their own folly, to be proved massively, damagingly wrong, to enjoy vast hubris; while at the same time we hoped that this would not involve too many British soldiers or innocent civilians (or innocent Iraqi soldiers) getting killed .... Similarly, I now hope that – as seems likely – the smug confidence of the leading Brexiteers, and their arrogantly aggressive pre-negotiation attitudes will run up against European reality, and be well punished. ... But I also wish that somehow my country comes out of it all without too much collateral damage. The Iraq war is not an encouraging parallel.
— Julian Barnes

'Meditations on Archival Fragments': Review of Dispossessed Lives

[H]istorians still rarely discuss their archival methodology. Monographs always provide a list of consulted repositories, which for early American history can often read like a top ten greatest hits of national and state archives. And yet, try looking for the word ‘archive’ or ‘archival knowledge’ in the index of most books and the result might be surprising.
— Casey Schmitt, reviewing Marisa J. Fuentes

'European Cculture' Is an Invented Tradition

The idea of a coherent European culture is actually quite new. Scattered uses of the phrase appeared in the 19th century, but it was only in the 1920s and ‘30s that the idea came of age. Those decades saw an unprecedented burst of attention for the idea of Europe, in which the age’s leading liberal intellectuals developed a compelling vision of the continent’s purportedly shared cultural identity.
— Benjamin G. Martin

Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria

It was the first project that Google ever called a ‘moonshot.’ Before the self-driving car and Project Loon—their effort to deliver Internet to Africa via high-altitude balloons—it was the idea of digitizing books that struck the outside world as a wide-eyed dream.
— James Somers

I Was A Hardcore Conservative: What Changed My Mind

I hear a lot of people say, ‘What could I say to this person that would make them change their mind?’ Often, very little. Most of what changed my mind wasn’t said to me at all. It was said to someone else while I quietly watched, eating popcorn. ...

Everybody wants a formula, a set of steps, to change people and fix bigotry. ‘Say this,’ and ‘Expect them to respond like this,’ and ‘Here’s how you’ll know if it’s working.’ That’s a recipe for frustration.

How it really works is probably going to look more like this. You’ll make a reasonable, genuine plea on social media for tolerance and understanding on some issue. Some rando will insult you and call you a beta snowflake. Nobody else will respond. One of your followers will read it, have a misconception challenged, feel uncomfortable, forget about it, remember it a week later, hear a friend tell a personal story that dovetails with your point, and admit internally they’ve been wrong. They will never tell anyone, but they will stop believing and parroting one sexist argument forever. Maybe they will treat women a little better.
— Christina H.

Class Divide: When Students Resist Material for Ideological Reasons, Start from Where They Are

Finding areas of common ground with those whose beliefs differ from mine, taking their concerns seriously without compromising the experience and training that put me at the front of the classroom in the first place, prompted me to use a new range of historical examples and improved my ability to engage my students. Sometimes bad and even dangerous ideas need to be confronted and refuted in the classroom, and we should not shy away from doing this when necessary. But we should first ask if such situations might be opportunities to develop arguments that bridge previously disconnected viewpoints. The vast array of historical examples we might draw on makes this approach more accessible to us than to other educators, and by embracing it we may add an additional technique to help us break down dichotomies, foster critical thinking, and encourage responsible citizenship.
— Charles Upchurch

Women in Power (Text and Audio)

As for Athena, it’s true that in those binary charts of gods and goddesses that we make for ourselves, she appears on the female side. But the crucial thing about her in the ancient context is that she is another of those difficult hybrids. In the Greek sense she’s not a woman at all. For a start she’s dressed as a warrior, when fighting was exclusively male work (that’s an underlying problem with the Amazons too). Then she’s a virgin, when the raison d’être of the female sex was breeding new citizens. And she wasn’t even born of a mother but directly from the head of her father, Zeus. It was almost as if Athena, woman or not, offered a glimpse of an ideal male world in which women could not just be kept in their place but dispensed with entirely.

The point is simple but important: if we go back to the beginnings of Western history we find a radical separation – real, cultural and imaginary – between women and power. But one item of Athena’s costume brings this right up to our own day.
— Mary Beard

Texas Independence Day

The Mexican government ... has failed to establish any public system of education, although possessed of almost boundless resources, (the public domain,) and although it is an axiom in political science, that unless a people are educated and enlightened, it is idle to expect the continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity for self government.
— Texas Declaration of Independence, 1836

In Defense of the Lecture

Lectures are not designed to transmit knowledge directly from the lecturers’ lips to students’ brains — this idea is a false one, exacerbated by the problematic phrase “content delivery.” Although lecturers (hopefully) possess information that, at the beginning of a lecture, their students do not, they are not merely delivering content. Rather, giving a lecture forces instructors to communicate their knowledge through argument in real time.

The best lectures draw on careful preparation as well as spontaneous revelation. While speaking to students and gauging their reactions, lecturers come to new conclusions, incorporate them into the lecture, and refine their argument. Lectures impart facts, but they also model argumentation, all the while responding to their audience’s nonverbal cues. Far from being one-sided, lectures are a social occasion.
— Miya Tokumitsu

How to Lose a Country: Henry David Thoreau, the Politics of Nature and the Citizenship of Fear

Because this world is not given but made, because it needs to be remade better, but can also be remade much worse, and because each of us is part of all of that - both its victim and its author, and its moral victim in part of because of being its author, and so responsible for it even as it harms us - we cannot withdraw from it. But we can retreat, from time to time, to places where we can see more clearly, and the company of people - living and dead - who help us to see.
— Jedediah Purdy