Wednesday, December 4, 2019

THE FOUR OLDS 1971

China Transformed by Elimination of ‘Four Olds’

By Tillman Durdin—Special to The New York Times


May 19, 1971

HONG KONG, May 18—One of the early objectives of the Cultural Revolution in China, which began in 1966 and goes on today, was to wipe out the “four olds”—old things, old ideas, old customs and old habits.


The “four olds” had already suffered setbacks in the years of Communist rule preceding the Cultural Revolution, but the Maoist leadership tried to use the new revolutionary upsurge launched in 1966 to eliminate them completely.


In the turbulent years from 1966 to 1968, what remained of old religious practices, old superstitions, old festivals, old social practices such as traditional weddings and funerals, and old ways of dress were violently attacked and suppressed.


Visual evidences of old things were destroyed, and there was an orgy of burning of old books and smashing of old art objects.

Young Red Guards invaded homes and shattered family altars that denoted continued Confucian reverence for generations of forbears. The few temples, mosques and churches still used for religious purposes were closed and put to secular use. Even those that had been left open for sightseeing purposes, such as the great Buddhist, Lama and Taoist temples of Peking, were barred and their statues, altars and other furnishings were removed.


Forbidden City Is Closed


The Forbidden City—the walled enclosure in Peking of palaces, ceremonial halls, pavilions and residential quarters from which Chinese imperial rule was exercised until 1911—was shut.


The evidence, mainly visual, during three weeks of travel by this correspondent in the east coast areas of China, indicates that the drive against the “four olds” has had sweeping effect. In not a single home seen by the writer was there any family altar, any tablets to ancestors or any representation of the old gods formerly worshipped by the Chinese masses. In as Westernized a city as Hong Kong, still under British rule, such things are still commonplace in Chinese homes.


No religious practices were discoverable during the trip in China, and guides said there were none. Religious edifices have been turned to use as schools, warehouses or recreational centers.


The Forbidden City, with its evidences of great traditional art and architecture, remains closed to the general public, and the showplace temples and mosques of Peking and elsewhere are still barred except for a few that are reportedly kept open to be shown to visiting Buddhist and Moslem delegations.


Some Art Objects on Sale


Collections of traditional Chinese art objects of second‐class quality—porcelains, jades, paintings, lacquerware and jewelry—are for sale in special shops in Peking, Tientsin, Shanghai and Canton, but only for foreign visitors. The Chinese never get a sight of these examples of a great artistic past.


Before the Cultural Revolution it was not uncommon to see women wearing traditional sheath dresses and using cosmetics. Now the old styles in women's garments are gone, and today women wear the same frumpy blue or gray trousers and jackets as men. The writer saw no use of lipstick or rouge. Dressed like men, women work alongside them in manual as well as office jobs at the same pay.


The traditional big Chinese family apparently is gone, too. Cramped living quarters and social conditions today dictate a small family composed of husband, wife and one to three children.


The only old festival observed now is at the time of the old Chinese New Year, based on the lunar cycle, and it is not called a New Year festival any longer but a spring festival. Celebrations are not the colorful traditional kind. There are holidays, but the activities then are of a political nature—political dramatic performances or politically oriented mass meetings and sports events.


No old literature, either Chinese or Western, is on sale. Instead, the bookshops are stacked with the works of Mao Tse‐tung, and the few periodicals on politics, literature, medicine and other matters that are being produced these days.

 
In a library inspected at Tsinghua University in Peking, the section devoted to old Chinese literature was still intact, but a look into the classic novel “Water Margin” showed that it was last taken out for reading in January, 1967.


No traditional operas, no traditional music and no traditional plays are performed these days. There are only the 10 new standard dramatic works developed during the Cultural Revolution and performed everywhere now in full or in excerpts.


Even the manners and attitudes of the people seem changed. Weddings and funerals are plain and simple without public display of any sort.


People Seem Less Polite


People seem more direct and less polite. They appear to be more motivated than before by considerations of time and of cause and effect, as in Western societies.


The exotic, the traditionally pictured and the traditionally colorful things are gone from Chinese life, at least in the areas that were visited. In the Chinese People's Republic there is no “mysterious East” any more, just workaday people following workaday routines that seem essentially familiar and ordinary to the Westerner, even though they operate within a Marxist totalitarian framework.


Old folk sayings are occasionally heard, but these have largely been replaced by the maxims of Chairman Mao. The first of January is celebrated as the real New Year's Day, and the other fixed holidays, besides the spring festival, are May Day and the October 1 National Day.


A new generation has appeared, and though much of the old China is too indelible to erase as yet, a new China with ways quite different from the old is in existence.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

THOSE FABULOUS SIXTIES !!


[...Outside, he {MAO} was also fulfilling his long-held goal of erasing China’s past from the minds of his subjects...[

In June [1966], Mao intensified the terrorization of society. He picked as his first instrument of terror young people in schools and universities, the natural hotbeds for activists. These students were told to condemn their teachers and those in charge of education for poisoning their heads with “bourgeois ideas”—and for persecuting them with exams, which henceforth were abolished. The message was splashed in outsize characters on the front page of People’s Daily , and declaimed in strident voices on the radio, carried by loudspeakers that had been rigged up everywhere, creating an atmosphere that was both blood-boiling and blood-curdling.  
Teachers and administrators in education were selected as the first victims because they were the people instilling culture, and because they were the group most conveniently placed to offer up to the youthful mobs, being right there to hand. The young were told that their role was to “safeguard” Mao, although how their teachers could possibly harm “the great Helmsman,” or what perils might beset him, was not disclosed. Nevertheless, many responded enthusiastically. Taking part in politics was something no one had been allowed to do under Mao, and the country was seething with frustrated activists who had been denied the normal outlets available in most societies, even to sit around and argue issues.  
Now, suddenly, there seemed to be a chance to get involved. To those interested in politics, the prospect was tremendously exciting. Young people began to form groups. On 2 June, a group from a middle school in Peking put up a wall poster, which they signed with the snappy name of “Red Guards,” to show that they wanted to safeguard Mao. Their writing was full of remarks like: “Stuff ‘human feelings!’ ” “We will be brutal!” “We will strike you [Mao’s enemies] to the ground and trample you!” The seeds of hate that Mao had sown were ready for reaping. Now he was able to unleash the thuggery of these infected teenagers, the most malleable and violent element of society….


….IN SUMMER 1966 Red Guards ravaged every city and town, and some areas in the countryside. “Home,” with books and anything associated with culture, became a dangerous place. Fearing that the Red Guards might burst in and torture them if “culture” was found in their possession, frightened citizens burned their own books or sold them as scrap paper, and destroyed their own art objects. Mao thus succeeded in wiping out culture from Chinese homes. Outside, he was also fulfilling his long-held goal of erasing China’s past from the minds of his subjects. A large number of historical monuments, the most visible manifestation of the nation’s civilization, which had so far survived Mao’s loathing, was demolished. In Peking, of 6,843 monuments still standing in 1958, 4,922 were now obliterated. Like the list of people to be spared, the list of monuments to be preserved was a short one. Mao did want to keep some monuments, like Tiananmen Gate, where he could stand to be hailed by “the masses.” The Forbidden City and a number of other historical sites were put under protection and many were closed down, thus depriving the population of access even to the fraction of their cultural inheritance that survived. Not spared was China’s leading architect, Liang Si-cheng, who had described Mao’s wish to see “chimneys everywhere” in Peking as “too horrifying a picture to bear thinking about.” Now he was subjected to public humiliation and abuse, and brutal house raids. His collection of books was destroyed, and his family expelled to one small room, with broken windows and ice-covered floor and walls. Chronically ill, Liang died in 1972…. 


Jung Chang, Jon Halliday, MAO:The Unknown Story [2005] 
(Kindle Locations 10092-10244). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

WINTER ISSUE

Education News, Houston, Texas

Who is in the latest issue of The Concord Review?


November 19, 2019 by Michael F. Shaughnessy EducationViews Senior Columnist

As some readers know, we constantly follow The Concord Review and try to acknowledge the work of superior high school students, their teachers, and of course the Editor of The Concord Review—Will Fitzhugh—who has been nice enough to keep me posted as to the endeavors of these fine high school writers, and their teachers and parents.


Writers write. 


This is something that was said to me long ago by a Dr. John A. Glover of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln—and those words have stuck with me for many years. And if we expect our high school students to write well in college—we have to prepare them in high school and hopefully give them a solid foundation in elementary school.


In any event, here are the most recent HS history students whose papers have appeared in the latest issue of The Concord Review [Winter 2019; 30–2].


Andrew Sung-Hyun Yoon wrote on Japanese Militarism. He is a senior at Seoul International School in Korea, where he has been involved with parliamentary debate, Model United Nations, and the school newspaper, Tiger Times. He was born in the United States.


Bhagirath Mehta wrote an article entitled “Chanakya, Man and Myth” and is at Stanford. While at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Illinois, he was president of the Principal’s Leadership Team and in the National Honor Society. He was a National AP Scholar and a National Merit Finalist. He is interested in math, computer science, and engineering.


Kedar Nagaraj wrote on “The League of Nations.” He is a Senior at the Overlake School, in Redmond, Washington. He wrote this paper on his own during the 2018/2019 academic year.


Yuxuan Mike Hu wrote on “Buddhism and Daoism” and is a senior at St. Anselm’s Abbey School in Washington, D.C. During the summer of 2017, he conducted a history research project with Professor Adam Mckeon of Columbia University. He has long been interested in history and philosophy.


Mincheol Park wrote a paper on “Maxwell’s Theory” and is currently a senior at Korea Science Academy in Busan, Korea, where he is head of the International Students Committee. He received a gold medal in the International Young Physicists Tournament in 2018 and a best of category award in physical energy in Intel ISEF 2019. He is also interested in the history of science.


Jia Qi Lin wrote an article on The Qing Dynasty and is a Chinese student at the Eötvös József Gimnázium in Budapest, Hungary. His essay on the Iraq war was commended for the Vellacott History Prize organized by Peterhouse College, Cambridge. He has worked as an internat for the Hungarian Academy of Science, and has taken part in Model UN conferences.


Nguyen Ta Dinh Vo described the “Ming Occupation of Vietnam” and describes himself as an ordinary Vietnamese student at Saigon South International School, in Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam.


Suan Lee wrote an article entitled “Bread and Roses” and she was born in Changwon, South Korea and is a Senior at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. She is the 141st Editor of The Exonian, Exeter’s weekly student newspaper—the oldest continuously-published high school newspaper in America. She is also the president of Amigas Por Siempre, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works with abused and underprivileged children in Limón, Costa Rica. She just interned for the Center for the Study of Women’s History at the New-York Historical Society.


Annabelle Elizabeth Svahn wrote on “Puddle Dock” and is a senior at the Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Massachusetts, where she won the Murphy Mercer Award and the Columbia Book Prize for outstanding work in history. She is co-captain of the Evenstride Intercollegiate Equestrian Team, and she plans to study history in college, with a view to becoming a history professor.


Siddharth Garg penned an article on “The Development of India” and is a class 12 student at the Modern School in New Delhi, India. He is an AP Scholar and has taken part in Model UN and Debating. He reads The New York Times and The Economist, and is Chief Editor of the school magazine. He has a weekly blog in the form of exploratory journalism and aspires to a career in financial economics.


Wonyoung Park is a Senior at North London Collegiate School in Jeju, South Korea, where she is Head Girl and Academic Societies Ambassador. She has been Assistant Secretary-General for the Yale Model United Nations Korea conference, and she also leads the International Relations Society at her school. She is Editor of the humanities magazine, The Equilibrium, and she loves history and figure skating. She wrote about “The Abyssinian Crisis.”


All of these students, their parents and teachers need to be acknowledged and recognized for their endeavors in this area!

Friday, November 15, 2019

RUSSIA AT WAR


A paradoxical aspect of Russia at that time [1944] was that the gigantic human losses it had suffered and the immense devastation wrought by the retreating German armies, as well as great hardships and shortages in both town and country, were combined with a nation-wide feeling of pride and an immense sense of achievement. 

The Soviet Union was faced with the vast problem of economic reconstruction and the at least equally serious population problem. 

Today it is estimated that, by the end of the war, the Soviet Union had lost, in one way or another, about twenty million people, among them at least seven million soldiers. Although no exact figures are available, it would seem that these seven million include some three million soldiers who died in German captivity. 

Further, several million civilians died under the German occupation, including about two million Jews who were massacred, besides the victims of the German anti-partisan punitive expeditions; about a million people died in Leningrad alone, while the sharp lowering of living and food conditions throughout Russia, the shortage of medical supplies, etc., must account for a few million more deaths. 

Several hundred thousand also died in the various evacuations in 1941 and 1942, in the strafing of refugees and the bombings of cities. Thus in Stalingrad alone some 60,000 civilians were killed.

Alexander Werth, Russia at War, 1941–1945: A History. Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

NONFICTION RULES


E.D. Hirsch, Jr.
The Knowledge Deficit
New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2006, pp. 78-79

The association of language arts mainly with fiction and poetry is an accident of recent intellectual history that is not inherent in the nature of things.

The substantive topics in literature, history, the arts, and the sciences that literate Americans take for granted are deeply interesting and highly engaging to children.

 
    For many years the great reading researcher Jeanne Chall complained that the selections offered in language arts classes did not provide students with the knowledge and language experiences they need for general competence in reading. She observed that far too much time was being spent on trivial, ephemeral fictions and far too little on diverse nonfictional genres. In the two decades since Chall entered this complaint, little has changed. Most current programs still assume that language arts is predominantly about “literature,” which is conceived as poems and fictional stories, often trivial ones meant to be inoffensive vehicles for teaching formal skills. Stories are indeed the best vehicles for teaching young children—an idea that was ancient when Plato asserted it in the Republic. But stories are not necessarily the same things as ephemeral fictions. Many an excellent story is told about real people and events, and even stories that are fictional take much of their worth from the nonfiction truths about the world that they convey.

    The association of language arts mainly with fiction and poetry is an accident of recent intellectual history that is not inherent in the nature of things. Older American texts that were designed to teach reading, such as the McGuffey Readers, contained moral tales and historical narratives as well as fictional stories (not that we should go back to the McGuffey Readers, which have many shortcomings). Ideally, a good language arts program in the early grades will contain not only fiction and poetry but also narratives about the real worlds of nature and history. Ideally, such a program will fit in with and reinforce a well-planned overall curriculum in history, science, and the arts. The recent finding that word learning occurs much faster in a familiar context implies that the overall program should stay on a subject-matter domain long enough to make it familiar. As we’ve seen, such integration of content in reading and subject-matter classes will serve simultaneously to enrich background knowledge and enlarge vocabulary in an optimal way.

    That fictional stories can covey factual and moral truths is the traditional ground for defending their value and importance in education. The truth-telling and knowledge-enhancing aspect of fiction is emphatically just as important as the aspect of fiction and poetry that stimulates children’s imaginations. The romantic idea that literature should mainly nurture the imagination fits in well with the generally romantic flavor of early childhood education in the United States today. I do not wish to appear in any way hostile to developing children’s imaginations. But the second- and third-rate fictions that are too often presented to children in the early grades are far less stimulating to their imaginations than classical stories and well-presented narratives about the real world.

    We need to reconceive language arts as a school subject. In trying to make all students proficient readers and writers, there is no avoiding the responsibility of imparting the specific knowledge they will need to understand newspapers, magazines and serious books directed at the national language community. There is no successful shortcut to teaching and leaning this specific knowledge. Those who develop  language arts programs at the school level or in publishing houses must understand that the skills they wish to impart are in fact knowledge-drenched and knowledge-constituted. The happy consequence will be reading programs that are much more absorbing, enjoyable, and interesting than the disjointed, pedestrian programs offered to students today.


Monday, November 4, 2019

PHONICS AND KNOWLEDGE

The Epoch Times
 
‘Balanced Literacy’ is a Poor Way to Teach Reading


Michael Zwaagstra


Updated: November 3, 2019
   
The reading wars are over, or at least they should be. Unfortunately, they are not.


In the late 1960s, Dr. Jeanne Chall, former director of the Harvard Reading Laboratory at Harvard University, compared the phonics and whole language approaches to reading instruction. She found the evidence overwhelmingly showed that phonics was superior to whole language. Subsequent researchers came to the same conclusion.


While this should have settled the matter, whole language advocates refused to admit defeat. That’s because whole language’s emphasis on students choosing books of interest to them naturally fits with the child-centred philosophy which has been espoused by progressive educators for more than 100 years. In contrast, phonics, with its emphasis on the systematic teaching of letter-sound correspondences, is widely associated with a more traditional approach.


However, despite the strong ideological commitment to whole language by many educators, it became increasingly difficult to hold on to this program. Whole language’s many failings were widely reported in the media and it soon fell out of favour with the general public.


Nevertheless, as happens with many failed education fads, advocates of the whole language approach managed to rebrand it as something different.


Enter balanced literacy.


Balanced literacy purports to combine the best of both phonics and whole language where students read books of interest to them and receive phonics instruction from teachers on an as-needed basis. Lucy Calkins, the founding director of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University in New York, is probably balanced literacy’s best-known proponent.


Since Calkins is also a whole language supporter, it should come as no surprise that balanced literacy instruction looks a lot more like whole language than like phonics.


In order for phonics to be effective, letter-sound correspondences must be taught in a systematic way. By relegating phonics to brief mini-lessons occurring only when students encounter problems with understanding specific words, balanced literacy deprives students of the focused phonics instruction they actually need. It’s like a buffet chef loading up customers’ plates with as much dessert as possible while providing only tiny portions of nutritious food.


Balanced literacy has two unique features that distinguish it from both whole language and phonics—levelled books and reading comprehension instruction. Unfortunately, both of these make balanced literacy worse than its predecessors.

 
Levelled books, which are common in balanced literacy classrooms, use sentence length and word complexity to assign a letter, from A-to-Z, on books to indicate their relative reading difficulty. Students are then expected to read books from the level they are reading at regardless of the book’s content.

 
However, reading levels fail to account for the important connection between specific content knowledge and reading comprehension. Research shows that students who know a lot about a particular topic can read almost any book about it no matter its assigned reading level. Conversely, students who know little about a topic will struggle with books that are below their reading levels.

Perhaps the worst feature of balanced literacy is the way it reduces reading comprehension to a set of non-content specific strategies. As a result, students spend hours engaging in pointless and mind-numbingly boring activities such as “identifying the main idea,” “making inferences,” and “recognizing story structure.” The thinking behind this approach is that students will be able to use these strategies with any text, regardless of the topic.


However, the best predictor of reading comprehension is prior background knowledge about a topic—not the use of reading comprehension strategies. Someone who knows a lot about mid-19th century Canada, for example, is far more likely to comprehend an article about George Brown’s call for “rep by pop” for Canada West than someone who knows nothing about the topic. Filling out reading comprehension worksheets on completely unrelated articles, especially if the students are not interested in it, isn’t going to make much of a difference in understanding an article about Canadian history.


In order to read and understand an article, students must be able to do two things. First, they need to know how to decode the individual words in the article, and second they need to comprehend, or make sense of, what they are reading. This is why thoughtful reading instruction is so important. 


Decoding is best taught through systematic phonics while comprehension is primarily determined by the accumulation of background knowledge.
 
Unfortunately, balanced literacy gets both these things wrong. It relies primarily on the discredited whole language approach for decoding words and it turns reading comprehension into a series of non-content specific strategies. As a result, students are left floundering.


In contrast, effective reading programs combine the direct and systematic teaching of phonics with a curriculum that is content-rich. In this type of instruction, students actually learn how to pronounce unfamiliar words and they can understand what they are reading. The material is both interesting and challenging.


Canadian schools should replace their balanced literacy programs with reading instruction that actually places an appropriate balance between phonics and knowledge acquisition. This would be the best way to bring an end to the reading wars.


Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher and author of the newly released book, “A Sage on the Stage: Common Sense Reflections on Teaching and Learning.”


Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

DESERT POLICY

               That autumn I saw something of the German “desert” policy in a few of the villages recaptured by the Red Army. Thus, in the village of Pogoreloye Gorodishche, a large part of the population had died of hunger; many had been shot; others had been deported as slave labour, and the village had been almost completely destroyed. Now, in March 1943, fearing to be outflanked by the Russians from the south (and, eventually, of being trapped in that great “twixt-Moscow-and-Smolensk” encirclement which the Russians had failed to carry through in February 1942) the Germans simply pulled out of the “Moscow springboard,” though with some heavy rearguard actions, notably at Viazma, and destroying as much as time would permit them. The official Soviet report, published on April 7, 1943, on the effects of the “desert policy” the Germans had systematically carried out in the newly-liberated areas west of Moscow was a harrowing catalogue of mass shootings, murders and hangings, rape, the killing or starving to death of Russian war prisoners, and the deportation of thousands as slave labour to Germany. 

                 Kharkov was almost mild in comparison. The report noted that most of the shootings of civilians had been done by the German army, not by the Gestapo or the SD. The towns were almost totally obliterated—as I could indeed see for myself soon afterwards. At Viazma, out of 5,500 buildings, only fifty-one small houses had survived; at Gzhatsk, 300 out of 1,600; in the ancient city of Rzhev, 495 out of 5,443. All the famous churches had been destroyed. The population was being deliberately starved. 15,000 people had been deported from these three towns alone. The rural areas were not much better off: in the Sychevka area, 137 villages out of 248 had been burned down by the Germans.

                 The list of war criminals appended to the Report was headed by Col.-Gen. Model, commander of the German 9th Army and other army leaders who had “personally ordered all this.” The report noted that the destruction was “not accidental, but part of a deliberate extermination policy,” which was being carried out even more thoroughly in these purely-Russian areas than elsewhere. It is scarcely surprising that, as the Red Army moved farther and farther west, it became increasingly angry at the sight of all this bestiality and destruction.

Alexander Werth, Russia at War, 1941–1945: A History
Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

CONTENTLESS WRITING

George Mason University
History News Network
11-13-2006

Contentless Writing
By Will Fitzhugh

Mr. Fitzhugh is Editor and Publisher of The Concord Review [fitzhugh@tcr.org] and Founder of the TCR Institute and the National Writing Board [www.tcr.org].


Abraham Lincoln’s address at Gettysburg was short. Indeed, the President had spoken and taken his seat before many in that large crowd gathered outdoors even realized that he had spoken. Fortunately, an alert reporter took down his words. Short as the speech was, it began with a date and a fact—the sort of factual content that is being drained away from student writing today.

The very idea of writing without content takes some getting used to. I was taken aback not long ago to read the comments of a young woman who had been asked how she felt about having a computer grade the essays that she wrote on the Graduate Management Admission Test (Mathews, 2004). She replied that she didn’t mind, noting that the test givers were more interested in her “ability to communicate” than in what she actually said.

Although style, fluency, tone, and correct grammar are certainly important in writing, folks like me think that content has value as well. The guidelines for scoring the writing section on the SAT seem to say otherwise, however. Readers evaluating the essays are told not to take points off for factual mistakes, and they must score the essays “holistically”—at the rate of 30 an hour (Winerip, 2005).

Earlier this year, Linda Shaw of the Seattle Times (2006), reported that the the rules for the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) do not allow dictionaries, but “when it comes to the writing section, there’s one rule they can break: They can make things up. Statistics. Experts. Quotes. Whatever helps them make their point.” According to Shaw, the state’s education office announced that “making up facts is acceptable when writing nonfiction, persuasive essays on the WASL.”

Lest you conclude that writing without content, or writing nonfiction with fictional content—think James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces—is limited to the Left Coast, think again. Across the
United States, even the most prestigious writing workshops for teachers generally bypass the what to focus on the how.

All writing has to have some content, of course. So what are students encouraged to put down on the page? In its 2003 report, The Neglected ‘R’, The National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, gave us a clue. According to the report, the following passage by a high school student about the September 11 terrorist attacks shows “how powerfully children can express their emotions.”
 

The time has come to fight back and we are. By supporting our leaders and each other, we are stronger than ever. We will never forget those who died, nor will we forgive those who took them from us.

Or look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) the supposed gold standard for evaluating academic achievement in U.S. schools, as measured and reported by the National Center for Education Statistics. In its 2002 writing assessment, in which 77 percent of 12th graders scored “Basic” or “Below Basic,” NAEP scored the following student response “Excellent.” The prompt called for a brief review of a book worth preserving. In a discussion of Herman Hesse’s Demian, in which the main character grows up and awakens to himself, the student wrote,
 

High school is a wonderful time of self-discovery, where teens bond with several groups of friends, try different foods, fashions, classes and experiences, both good and bad. The end result in May of senior year is a mature and confident adult, ready to enter the next stage of life. (p. 22)

As these two excerpts show, both the National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges and the NAEP seem to favor emotional and personal writing, at least at the high school level. If personal memoir and “fictional nonfiction” were the sorts of writing that college courses required—not to mention in business, government and other lines of work—then perhaps it wouldn’t matter. After all, top executives at ENRON wrote quite a bit of fiction before their arrests, not to mention some well-known journalists who substituted fiction for fact in their reporting.

The problem is that students must know facts, dates, and the viewpoints of various experts and authors to write their college term papers. The Boston Globe has reported some frightening statistics about students’ knowledge gaps. Sixty-three percent of students graduating from Massachusetts high schools and attending community colleges are in remedial courses, as are 34 percent of those attending four-year colleges. (Sacchetti, 2004)

A survey of leading U.S. companies revealed that organizations are spending more than $3 billion each year in remedial writing courses for both hourly and salaried employees (National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges, 2004).

Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay

As it happens, some teachers and students in U.S. high schools know that writing serious, factual history research papers is good and necessary preparation for future writing tasks, and that it’s a superb way to learn history and practice scholarship. One student, whose history essay appeared in The Concord Review (see “Raising the Bar for Expository Writing,” p. 46) was so interested in the trial and excommunication of Anne Hutchinson in the early 1600s that she spent several months during her Junior year doing independent study at a public high school in Massachusetts. Her 13,000-word research paper won The Concord Review’s Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize [she graduated summa from Yale, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and has a Ph.D. from MIT].

The student found Anne Hutchinson’s independence inspiring. In the following extract from her paper, the student discusses the accusations made against Hutchinson during the trial in which this courageous woman was excommunicated for questioning in private the authority of the ministers as the sole source of God’s wisdom:

    ...This bitter speech, made by a man who had seen his entire career threatened by the woman now standing before him, opened a trial marked by extraordinary vindictiveness on the part of the men presiding. Why? Because their regulatory power had been, up to this point, thwarted. Hutchinson had done nothing in public, nothing that could be clearly seen and defined, nothing that could be clearly punished. The principal accusation leveled against her was failure to show proper respect to the ministers, but again, she had made no public speeches or declarations, and the court would soon find that producing evidence of her insolence was very difficult.

    The assembly did not immediately strike to the heart of the matter: Hutchinson’s disparagement of the ministers of the colony as under a covenant of works. Instead, the presiding ministers first accused her of disobeying the commandment to obey one’s father and one’s mother by not submitting to the ‘fathers of the commonwealth,’ as [Governor] Winthrop termed it. Next, Hutchinson’s meetings were condemned, despite her citation of a rule in Titus exhorting the elder women to teach the younger.


This is factual writing about a historical event—a trial—in which the facts of the case were of the greatest importance. Fiction was not the focus here. The author’s emotions, and her “experiences in high school,” were distinctly of secondary—if any—importance in her account of these events in American religious and legal history.
Some readers may mistakenly assume that writing with content is common in schools. In 2002, the Roper Organization conducted a study for The Concord Review and found that in U.S. public high schools, 81% of teachers never assign a 5,000-word research paper—that’s 8,000 words shorter than the previously cited award-winning essay—and 62% never assign a 3,000-word nonfiction paper. (The Concord Review 2002). Although 95% of teachers surveyed believed that research papers were “important” or “very important,” most reported that they did not have time to assign and grade them.

When Support Trumps Rigor

In her report for the Fordham Foundation on state social studies standards in the United States, researcher Sandra Stotsky (1999), cited a newspaper article about a Hispanic high school student named Carol who was unprepared for college work. Described as a top student, the girl was stunned by the level of writing that her Boston college demanded of her. Although the student said that she had received encouragement and support from her high school teachers, she wished that her teachers had given her more challenging work. According to the reporter, the student discovered that “moral support is different from academic rigor.” Stotsky noted that teachers often substitute self-esteem-building assignments for rigorous work. The same newspaper article described a high school teacher,

    who had had her students “write a short story about their lives” because, in the teacher’s words, it allowed them to show “a high level of writing ability” and to realize that “their own experience is valid and useful.” This teacher is also quoted as believing that this assignment reflected her “high expectations” for her students. It apparently did not occur to the reporter that this kind of writing assignment today, especially for high school students from minority groups, is more likely to reflect a concern for their self-esteem rather than a desire to challenge them intellectually. A regular flow of such writing assignments may be part of the reason that Hispanic students like Carol are not prepared for college-level writing. (pp. 269-270)

Students like Carol who belatedly discover their lack of preparedness for college work are far more numerous than one might think. Through a survey of recent high school graduates (Achieve, Inc., 2005), the National Governors Association learned that a large majority of students surveyed wished that their teachers had given them more challenging work. Moreover, the High School Survey of Student Engagement (Indiana University, 2004) found that 55% of the 80,000 students surveyed said they did fewer than three hours of homework each week, and most received As and Bs anyway.

Anything But Knowledge

Writing about oneself can be the work of genius, as Marcel Proust demonstrated so well in his masterpiece, In Search of Lost Time. But limiting students to thinking and writing almost entirely about themselves in school is, well, limiting. The Boston Globe, which annually celebrates essays on Courage, asks students to submit short essays—not about someone else’s courage, but about their own. Of course, famous people like Anne Hutchinson, Winston Churchill, or Martin Luther King, Jr., don’t have a monopoly on courage. But it would be refreshing for students to look outside themselves from time to time to reflect on such qualities in others. Unfortunately, solipsism seems to have become the order of the day; the lack of a sustained focus on objectivity and rigor in writing is showing up in poor literacy rates, greater numbers of remedial classes in college, and higher college dropout rates.

In 2005, comedian Stephen Colbert introduced the idea of
truthiness into the English language. The term characterizes speech or writing that appears to be accurate and serious, but is, in fact, false or comical. In college, I learned that one of the tasks of thought is to help us distinguish appearance from reality. The goal of "truthiness" is to blur that distinction. On satirical news programs, like The Daily Show, this dubious practice brings the relief of laughter, but on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning—in which students are told that it’s OK to make things up—it just brings confusion, even to the task of writing “nonfiction.”

Postmodernists and deconstructionists at the university level have long been claiming that there is no such thing as truth, but here we have high school students being told, on a state assessment, that when writing nonfiction, it is OK to invent an expert, and then “quote” him in support of an argument they are making.

The danger is that practices like these can lead high school students to believe that they don’t need to seek information about anything outside of their own feelings and experiences. However, college students are still expected to read nonfiction books, which obviously deal with topics other than their personal lives. Students also have to write research papers in which they must organize their thinking and present material coherently. Too many students are not prepared to do this, and many end up dropping out of college. What a terrible waste of time, hopes and opportunity!


Will Fitzhugh [founder]
The Concord Review [1987]
Ralph Waldo Emerson Prizes [1995]
National Writing Board [1998]
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA
978-443-0022
www.tcr.org; fitzhugh@tcr.org
Varsity Academics®


References

Achieve (2005). Rising to the challenge: Are high school graduates prepared for college and work? PowerPoint presentation prepared by the Peter D. Hart Research Associates and Public Opinion Strategies. Available: www.achieve.org/files/poll.ppt http://www.achieve.org/files/poll.ppt

The Concord Review, (2002). History research paper study (conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis). Available: www.tcr.org/tcr/institute/historytcr.pdf http://www.tcr.org/tcr/institute/historytcr.pdf

Indiana University. (2004) High School Survey of Student Engagement. Bloomington, IN: [Martha McCarthy]

Mathews, J. (2004, August 1). Computers weighing in on the elements of essay; Programs critique structure not ideas. The Washington Post

National Center for Education Statistics. (2002). The Nation’s Report Card: Writing Highlights 2002. http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pubs/main/2002/2003531.asp

National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges. (2003). The neglected ‘R’; The need for a writing revolution. New York: College Board. www.writingcommission.org http://www.writingcommission.org

National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges. (2004). Writing: A ticket to work...or a ticket out: A survey of business leaders. www.writingcommission.org http://www.writingcommission.org

Sacchetti, M. (2005, June 26) Colleges question MCAS success; many in state schools still need remedial help. The Boston Globe.

Shaw, L. (2006, March 17). WASL writing: Make it up as they go along. The Seattle Times, p. B1.

Stotsky, S (1999). Losing Our Language: How Multicultural Classroom Instruction is Undermining Our Children’s Ability to Read, Write, and Reason. New York: The Free Press, pp. 269-271

Winerip, M. (2005, May 4). SAT Essay rewards length and ignores errors. The New York Times. www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~rgibson/satessay.html

This essay was first published by Educational Leadership [ASCD] and is reprinted with permission of the author.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

CHURCHILL & ROOSEVELT

At 9: 30 A.M. on Friday, [February 2, 1945] the pugnacious gray prow of the cruiser U.S.S. Quincy glided past that same Fort St. Elmo, escorted by U.S.S. Savannah, revived and refitted after nearly being sunk by a German glide bomb off Salerno seventeen months earlier. A half-dozen Spitfires wheeled overhead like osprey, and whooping crowds lined the rooftops and the beetling seawalls around the quays. “The entrance to the harbor is so small that it seemed impossible for our big ship to get through,” a passenger on Quincy wrote.

As the cruiser crept at four knots along the stone embankment, a solitary figure could be seen sitting on the wing bridge, wrapped in a boat cloak with a tweed tam-o’-shanter atop his leonine head and a cigarette holder clenched between his teeth. For this journey he had been assigned a sequence of code names—BRONZE, GARNET, STEEL, and, from the British, ADMIRAL Q—but now there was no hiding his identity. Tars and swabs came to attention on weather decks across the anchorage. A field piece at the fort boomed a slow salute of twenty-one rounds, and that band aboard Sirius tootled through the much-rehearsed American anthem to herald the arrival of Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States. The diplomat Charles E. Bohlen described the moment:

The sun was glistening on the waves and a light breeze was snapping the flags flying from the British warships and walls of the city.…Roosevelt sat on deck, his black cape around his shoulders, acknowledging salutes from the British man-of-war and the rolling cheers of spectators crowding the quays. He was very much a historical figure.

Across the harbor, on the quarterdeck of H.M.S. Orion, another historical figure stood in a naval uniform, puffing a cigar and waving his yachtsman’s cap until the American president spotted Winston Churchill and waved back. An abrupt hush fell across the harbor. “It was one of those moments,” another witness wrote, “when all seems to stand still and one is conscious of a mark in history.” Quincy eased her starboard flank against Berth 9. Thick hawsers lassoed the bollards, and the harbor pilot signaled belowdecks: “Through with engines.”

Rick Atkinson, (2013-10-22). The Liberation Trilogy Box Set (Kindle Locations 44258-44275). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

CULLODEN


John Prebble, Culloden [1746]
New York: Atheneum, 1962, pp. 20-21

        The Age of Reason may have wished its armies would behave like Hectors, and every man may indeed, as Johnson claimed, have thought meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, but the reality of life was not that imagined by the Patriot Muses of The Gentleman’s Magazine. It was dirty, depraved and despised. All men preyed on the soldier, and in his turn he robbed and bullied them. To his colonel he was frequently a toy, to be dressed in bizarre and fanciful uniforms that must have given battle an added horror. He stood on a no-man’s-land outside the law, its victim and its guardian. When called to support it during civil riots he risked death by shooting if he refused, and trial for murder by the civil authority if he obeyed. The whip, the nine-tail cat with knots of precise size, kept him in order, and his wife or his woman could be disciplined by the whirligig. In this chair she was strapped and spun through the air until she suffered the vomiting sensations of sea-sickness. A solder who asked permission to marry a doxy who had loyally followed him through a campaign, risked a hundred lashes for impertinence. Flogging was notoriously commonplace. Almost every day’s entry in the Order Books contains the names of one, two, or three men sentenced to the lash, receiving anything from the minimum of twenty-five strokes to the maximum of three thousand. Men boasted their endurance of the cat. A drummer bragged that he had received twenty-six thousand lashes in fourteen years, and his officers agreed, with admiration, that four thousand of them had been given between the February of one year and the February of the next. Life for the foot-soldier was punctuated by the lash and the pox. Battle came almost as a relief. It was often his only discharge in a war.


        For his sixpence a day he was expected to march from a town where innkeepers had either refused to serve him, or had robbed him when drunk, to eat a breakfast of dry bread and water, to watch his officers indulge in chivalrous courtesies with enemy officers while the lines closed, and then to endure a murderous exchange of musketry or grape at one hundred paces. “We ought to returne thanks to God,” wrote a sergeant of Foot from Flanders, “for preserving us in ye many dangers we haue from time to time been exposed unto...” But thanking God was not always easy when His mercy was hard to find...

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

HENRY V

CHORUS

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!
Then should the warlike Harry, like himself,
Assume the port of Mars; and at his heels,
Leash'd in like hounds, should famine, sword and fire
Crouch for employment. But pardon, and gentles all,
The flat unraised spirits that have dared
On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth
So great an object: can this cockpit hold
The vasty fields of France? or may we cram
Within this wooden O the very casques
That did affright the air at Agincourt?
O, pardon! since a crooked figure may
Attest in little place a million;
And let us, ciphers to this great account,
On your imaginary forces work.
Suppose within the girdle of these walls
Are now confined two mighty monarchies,
Whose high upreared and abutting fronts
The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder:
Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;
Into a thousand parts divide on man,
And make imaginary puissance;
Think when we talk of horses, that you see them
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth;
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o'er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply,
Admit me Chorus to this history;
Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,
Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.

First Chorus: Henry V
William Shakespeare. The Complete Works of Shakespeare
 (Kindle Locations 48274-48302). Latus ePublishing. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

EUGENE GENOVESE

THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Eugene D. Genovese, President
1487 Sheridan Walk, Atlanta, GA 30324

14 July 1998

Will Fitzhugh
Editor & Publisher
The Concord Review
Concord, Massachusetts 01742


Dear Mr. Fitzhugh:


        May I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your splendid journal, The Concord Review. That you are performing a valuable service to American education goes without saying. What I find most remarkable is that the journal is intrinsically worth reading as interesting historical writing and not merely as a celebration of young talent. The articles would delight any professor of history if submitted to an advanced undergraduate class, and the best are of graduate student quality. With each issue I feel better about the future of American education and of our profession.

        I wonder if The Concord Review would care to explore an attachment to The Historical Society. As you know, we are making a serious effort to recruit secondary school teachers and to promote the teaching of history in secondary schools, public and private. Since some people, most notably Diane Ravitch and yourself, are connected with both organizations, may I suggest we hold informal discussions with a view toward seeing how we might help each other.

                       
                        With good wishes,
                        Sincerely yours,
                        [signed]
                        Eugene D. Genovese
                        [Past President, OAH]

Thursday, October 3, 2019

WILFRED M. MCCLAY

October 2, 2019

Will Fitzhugh, Founder
The Concord Review
730 Boston Post Road, Suite 24
Sudbury, Massachusetts 01776 USA

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,


        The whole nation owes you a debt of gratitude for the years that you have devoted to the creation and sustaining of The Concord Review. Your achievement is nothing short of heroic. You have almost single-handedly, relying on a tiny sliver of the massive funds we spend on education in this country, fought the good fight against the dumbing-down of American secondary-school education in history, a fight that has not only pitted you against the enemies of history, but also against the enemies of writing. It is a magnificent concept, a publication devoted to recognizing the kind of superior effort that is entailed in producing an extended research project. Formulation of the question, wide research, careful reading, bibliographical discernment, note-taking skills, organizational skills, outlining, writing, revising, refining, and finally with painstaking care bringing everything into final order: there is nothing like a history research paper, to develop every aspect of a student’s mental capacity. It is like the equivalent of an all-body exercise, in which every muscle gets attention. 


        But until the advent of The Concord Review, these student productions were (to use a different metaphor) like plays without an audience. Now they have one, and can find a home in a journal whose very existence will call forth additional such efforts in the years to come, from the most talented students. One can hope that this example will spread, and that the central importance of the history research paper can be restored in American education. If that happens, and one can hope it will, a lot of the credit will go to Will Fitzhugh and his quarterly HS history journal. 


Yours,
Wilfred M. McClay
G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty
University of Oklahoma
[Author, Land of Hope, 2019]

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

FEDERALIST PAPERS #1

To the People of the State of New York: AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.

This idea will add the inducements of philanthropy to those of patriotism, to heighten the solicitude which all considerate and good men must feel for the event. Happy will it be if our choice should be directed by a judicious estimate of our true interests, unperplexed and unbiased by considerations not connected with the public good. But this is a thing more ardently to be wished than seriously to be expected. The plan offered to our deliberations affects too many particular interests, innovates upon too many local institutions, not to involve in its discussion a variety of objects foreign to its merits, and of views, passions and prejudices little favorable to the discovery of truth.

Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers,
October 27, 1787, Number one (p. 1). Kindle Edition.

Monday, September 16, 2019

BATTLE OF LEYTE GULF 1944

     The Seventh Fleet alone, greatly augmented by ships which normally operated in the Pacific Ocean Area under Admiral Nimitz, comprised a total of 738 vessels. Of these, 157 were combatant ships, 420 were amphibious craft, 84 were patrol, minesweeping, and hydrographic types, and 73 were service vessels. These vessels were organized in three task forces: (1) the Covering and Support Force, including the heavy bombardment, fire support, and escort carrier vessels, all directly under Vice Admiral Kinkaid; (2) the Northern Attack Force under Rear Admiral Daniel E. Barbey, and (3) the Southern Attack Force under Vice Admiral Theodore S. Wilkinson. Both of the latter were amphibious forces. Of the combatant vessels composing the Covering and Support Force, six were the old battleships Mississippi, Maryland, West Virginia, Tennessee, California, and Pennsylvania, five of which were salvaged casualties of the attack on Pearl Harbor; there were also five heavy cruisers, six light cruisers, eighteen escort carriers, eighty-six destroyers, twenty-five destroyer escorts, and eleven frigates. Included among these ships were elements of the Royal Australian Navy which had served in the Southwest Pacific under Kinkaid’s command.

        With the Third Fleet were eight aircraft carriers (CV’s), eight light carriers (CVL’s), six new, fast battleships with 16-inch guns (BB’s), six heavy cruisers (CA’s), nine light cruisers (CL’s) and fifty-eight destroyers (DD’s). At the outset of this operation all these vessels were organized as Task Force 38, under the command of Vice Admiral Marc A. Mitscher, who was responsible directly to Admiral Halsey. The task force was in turn divided into four task groups, the first under Vice Admiral John S. McCain, in the Wasp, the second under Rear Admiral Gerald F. Bogan in the Intrepid, the third under Rear Admiral Frederick C. Sherman, in the Essex, and the fourth under Rear Admiral Ralph E. Davison, in the Franklin. Halsey’s flagship was the battleship New Jersey, that of Mitscher the carrier Lexington. Task Force 38 represented the preponderance of striking force of the United States Fleet, greater fire power than had ever been assembled on the high seas under one tactical command, capable alone of dealing with any combination of forces that could be brought together by the enemy. In regular cruising formation this force stretched over a sea area some forty miles in length and nine miles from flank to flank.


C. Vann Woodward, The Battle for Leyte Gulf: The Incredible Story of World War II's Largest Naval Battle. Skyhorse Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

STAR-SPANGLED BANNER

Star-Spangled Banner   9-4-1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Monday, September 9, 2019

CEMETERY HILL

William F. Quigley, Jr.
Pure Heart
Kent State University Press, 2016, 164-165

On Cemetery Hill that evening of July 1st (1863), as Major Biddle recalled, “82 of the 121st Regiment gathered together, received fresh cartridges from an Eleventh Corps officer of ordnance and were as ready as at first.” Within half an hour, he reported, “some cannon shots were fired by the battery” and “troops were ordered to be in readiness” for another assault. “A Bucktail regiment, believed to be Colonel Langhorne Wister’s moved at double-quick toward Culp’s Hill” to the east and right of the 121st’s position, but “no assault was made.” Commanders on both sides prepared, instead, for the morrow.

“Quiet gradually settled upon the hill,” and Major Biddle wrote that “the evening was passed by the men singing hymns as they rested on their arms in view of the possibilities of the morrow.” Lieutenant Rosengarten recounted that his compatriots’ hymn singing was “not evidence of satisfaction with the result of the day’s work, but still showing that there was no panic in the hearts of men who, after so many weary hours of fighting and such heavy losses, could find comfort in their dear old tunes.” More than a diversion in Civil War camps, music was a full-throated outlet for soldiers’ emotions. Twenty-five years later, a Philadelphia newspaper would remark about the soldiers’ hymn singing in the wake of that day’s battle: “There is a touch of pathos in this, very characteristic of the officers and men of the regiment, and the serious earnestness with which they did their duty. We do not think the incident has ever been told before, and it well deserves a place in the future histories of Gettysburg and that great battle.”

To Lieutenant Dorr, and to the remaining soldiers of the 121st Pennsylvania, a “beautiful rainbow seen in the west seemed to promise better fortune for the morrow,” and they slept warily that night on their arms “in a field on the south slope of Cemetery Hill.”

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

ATHENS


The Peloponnesian War (one volume), by Donald Kagan
New York: Viking, 2003, pp. 486-487


    At last Thrasybulus was strong enough to march out and capture Piraeus and to fight a Spartan army to a stalemate. The Spartans chose to abandon Athens, and in 403 Thrasybulus and his men restored the full democracy.

    Athens was free and democratic again, but the danger was not past. Angered by the outrages committed by the Thirty, many wanted to hunt down and punish the guilty men and those who had collaborated with them, a process that would have brought trials, executions, and banishments. Athens would have been torn by the very factional strife and civil war that had already destroyed democracy in so many other Greek states. Instead Thrasybulus joined with other moderates to issue an amnesty that protected all but a few of the worst criminals. The newly restored Athenian democracy held firmly to a policy of moderation and restraint, behavior that later won extraordinary praise from Aristotle: “The reaction of [the Athenian democrats] to their previous calamities, both privately and publicly, seems to have been the finest and most statesmanlike that any people has demonstrated.” Not only did they declare and enforce the amnesty, they even raised public money to remunerate the Spartans for the sum the Thirty had borrowed to fight the democrats. “For they thought that this was the way to begin the restoration of harmony. In other cities, when democrats come to power, there is no thought of expending their own money; on the contrary, they seize and distribute the land of their opponents.” (Constitution of the Athenians 40.2-3). The moderation of the democrats of 403 was rewarded by a successful reconciliation of the classes and factions that enabled Athenian democracy to flourish without civil war or coup d’état almost to the end of the fourth century.

    Remarkably, the defeat that had threatened to wipe out Athens and its people, to destroy its democratic constitution, and to compromise its ability to dominate others and even to conduct an independent foreign policy, failed to accomplish any of those things for long. Within a year the Athenians had regained their full democracy. Within a decade they had recovered their fleet, walls, and independence, and Athens became a central member of a coalition of states dedicated to preventing Sparta from interfering in the affairs of the rest of Greece. Within a quarter-century they had regained many of their former allies and restored their power to the point where it is possible to speak of a “Second Athenian Empire.”

    To be sure, the Spartans had become the dominant force in Greece, but their victory brought no repose and much trouble. Within a few years they were compelled to abandon their empire and its tribute, but not before enough money had flowed into Sparta that its traditional discipline and institutions were undermined. Soon the Spartiates had to contend with internal conspiracies that threatened their constitution and their very existence. Abroad, they had to fight a major war against a coalition of former allies and former enemies that held them in check within the Peloponnesus, and from which they were able to emerge intact only through the intervention of Persia. For a short time, they clung to a kind of hegemony over their fellow Greeks, but only so long as the Persian king wanted them to do so. Within three decades of their great victory the Spartans were defeated by the Thebans in a major land battle, and their power was destroyed forever.

 

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

GOPI PATEL

8-27-2019
Metta Collective Post



Here's a testimonial from a published author 
and prize winner.
6-3-2019

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

I want to sincerely thank you for choosing my paper as one of the winners of the $1,000 Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize. But my gratitude goes far beyond receiving the opportunity to be published and earning the prize itself. The process of months of research, hitting closed doors, and writing and re-editing a lengthy research paper has grown me intellectually. If I had remained confined to my high school history curriculum, I would never have experienced this growth—I owe this to the existence of The Concord Review. This journal is an invaluable resource for students to gain the opportunity to expand their academic hemisphere, think critically, and search for answers to the unknown in history. I hope to spread the word of this fantastic journal to others in my high school, so that they may learn of this opportunity. As I move forward in my undergraduate studies, I feel infinitely more prepared for the rigors of academic writing and research—I dedicate this preparation to The Concord Review

Thank you once again, 
@Gopi Patel
@Johns Hopkins Class of 2023
@Pine View School Class of 2019 
[Paper on the Soviet Afghan War]