Saturday, September 19, 2020

FEDERALIST ONE

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.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

CRITICAL UNTHINKING

In light of now well-established scientific consensus, the principle of domain-specific knowledge as central to skills like critical thinking should be accepted by all rational people as truth. It demolishes the claim that our schools are teaching all-purpose skills like critical thinking through ad hoc child-chosen or teacher-chosen content. 

The general-skills myth has endured partly because it has enabled high officials to avoid the criticism and controversy that attends the actual specification of content.

 The persistence of the myth of critical thinking enables them to sidestep responsibility with a good conscience. We need to let them know the emphatic scientific consensus. 

It is essential that the public demand specific grade-by-grade content in our schools, so that one grade can build on another in a systematic way, a kind of schooling that is best for all students and especially beneficial to our least-advantaged students.

E.D. Hirsch, How to Educate a Citizen [2020] (126-127). Harper. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

PUBLIC LIBRARY

        Along with a concern for my physical safety, there was another, longer-range concern in my family that I heard, especially from Lacy, Birdie, and Ruth. They had never had the opportunities that I would now [1939] have in New York, including the opportunity for a good education, and they wanted me to make the most of those opportunities. All this was a little vague to me at first, but it was a theme I would hear again and again over the years. Even before I arrived in New York, Birdie and Lacy picked out a boy they wanted me to meet—a slightly older, more genteel, and more knowledgeable boy name Eddie Mapp. They obviously wanted me to become more like him and to choose such company, rather than the “roughnecks” Lacy warned me against.

        These ambitions of theirs were only partly fulfilled. I met Eddie Mapp and we saw each other from time to time, but we didn’t have enough in common to become close buddies. He played classical music on the piano, for example, which put him in another world, as far as I was concerned. However, he also introduced me to Chinese checkers and to comic books, and showed me a store where you could trade comic books after you read them. Most important of all, he took me one day to a kind of place where I had never been before and knew nothing about—a public library. Impressed but puzzled as to why we were in a building with so many books, when I had no money to buy books, I found it difficult to understand at first, as Eddie explained to me how a public library worked. Unknown to me at the time, it was a turning point in my life, for I then developed the habit of reading books.

Thomas Sowell, A Personal Odyssey
New York: The Free Press, 2000, p. 17

Friday, September 11, 2020

ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, JR.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
455 East 51st Street
New York, NY 10022

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

24 August 2000


Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

    All hail to The Concord Review—for two reasons in particular.

    First, The Concord Review offers young people a unique incentive to think and write carefully and well. I know how exciting it is when you first see your writings in print. Many years ago, St. Nicholas, a favorite children’s magazine, regularly printed youthful contributions. Among the kids who first saw their words in print in St. Nicholas were Scott Fitzgerald, Samuel Eliot Morison, Ring Lardner, Eudora Welty, Henry R. Luce, E.E. Cummings, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Montgomery Clift and many others (including me). The historian Henry Steele Commager even edited a St. Nicholas anthology. In the same way today, The Concord Review, by providing an outlet for youthful talent, recognizes, stimulates and rewards excellence in writing.

    Equally important, The Concord Review specializes in that most central and vital of subjects, history. As I have written elsewhere, history is to the nation as memory is to the individual. Individuals deprived of memory become disoriented and lost, not knowing where they have been or where they are going; so a nation lacking a sense of its past will be disabled in dealing with its present and its future. History, with its eye cast on a longer past and a longer future, is the best preparation for citizenship, and it is the best preparation for making sense out of this dark and stormy world.

    The Concord Review inspires and honors historical literacy. It should be in every high school in the land.


Sincerely,
(signed)
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Historian

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

WINTER CLOTHING

 
Winter always seemed to catch the U.S. Army by surprise. The Americans had been unprepared for winter campaigning in the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia in 1942 and in the Apennines of Italy in 1943, and they were just as unready in 1944. Even before OVERLORD, War Department queries about cold-weather preparations had been mostly dismissed with a resentful scowl by Eisenhower’s provisioners. Arctic clothing tested at Anzio was offered to SHAEF but rejected as unnecessary. The Army’s quartermaster general in mid-August had predicted that “the war would not go into another winter,” and Major General Robert M. Littlejohn, the chief quartermaster in Europe, agreed that “the serious fighting cannot long continue.” In mid-September, Hodges assured his uneasy medical officers, “Don’t you know that this war is going to be over in a few weeks?” A late requisition for winter clothing was submitted to the War Department “as a precautionary measure,” but it included only enough to outfit one army of 350,000 soldiers at a time when four American armies were fighting in western Europe.

The alarming German resilience of late October had inspired Littlejohn to urge Bradley to expedite shipments of cold-weather kit to the battlefront. “General, the weather is getting cold. Soon you will need some winter clothing,” the quartermaster told him in Luxembourg City. Bradley waved off the warning, saying, in Littlejohn’s recollection, “The men are tough and can take it.” Supply-line sclerosis and delays in opening Antwerp aggravated matters, as did the severe wear on all uniforms and equipment: even as theater commanders in late September belatedly requested 850,000 heavy overcoats— double the number contemplated just a month earlier— plus five million sets of wool undershirts and drawers, quartermasters faced a need to reclothe a million ragged U.S. soldiers, as well as 100,000 French troops and throngs of German prisoners. “We can’t fight a winter war in the same clothes that we use in the summer,” Captain Jack Golden wrote his family. “We should have learned a little last winter in Italy.”

Instead, as the Army official history conceded, “front-line troops fought through a large part of the winter inadequately clothed.” Far less than half of the requested underwear reached the theater, despite Littlejohn’s contention that “wool is essential to combat, as much as ammunition.” Shortages of wool socks in medium sizes forced Army laundries to try shrinking size 12 pairs, even as unintended shrinkage remained a galling problem, with a “high failure rate in all woolens.” Three field launderings were typically enough to ruin a pair of socks, so the Army had to buy seven million new pairs a month.
 

Rick Atkinson, (2013). The Liberation Trilogy Box Set (Kindle Locations 41076-41096). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

FLOGGING

John Prebble, Culloden [1746]
New York: Atheneum, 1962, 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...