Thursday, December 15, 2022


Pitt meant that the actual command of the army should be in the hands of Brigadier Lord Howe, and he was in fact its real chief; "the noblest Englishman that has appeared in my time, and the best soldier in the British army," says Wolfe. And he elsewhere speaks of him as "that great man." Abercromby testifies to the universal respect and love with which officers and men regarded him, and Pitt calls him "a character of ancient times; a complete model of military virtue.”

High as this praise is, it seems to have been deserved. The young nobleman, who was then in his thirty-fourth year, had the qualities of a leader of men. The army felt him, from general to drummer-boy. He was its soul; and while breathing into it his own energy and ardor, and bracing it by stringent discipline, he broke through the traditions of the service and gave it new shapes to suit the time and place. During the past year he had studied the art of forest warfare, and joined Rogers and his rangers in their scouting-parties, sharing all their hardships and making himself one of them. Perhaps the reforms that he introduced were fruits of this rough self-imposed schooling. He made officers and men throw off all useless incumbrances, cut their hair close, wear leggings to protect them from briers, brown the barrels of their muskets, and carry in their knapsacks thirty pounds of meal, which they cooked for themselves; so that, according to an admiring Frenchman, they could live a month without their supply-trains.

"You would laugh to see the droll figure we all make," writes an officer. "Regulars as well as provincials have cut their coats so as scarcely to reach their waists. No officer or private is allowed to carry more than one blanket and a bearskin. A small portmanteau is allowed each officer. No women follow the camp to wash our linen. Lord Howe has already shown an example by going to the brook and washing his own.” Here, as in all things, he shared the lot of the soldier, and required his officers to share it. A story is told of him that before the army embarked he invited some of them to dinner in his tent, where they found no seats but logs, and no carpet but bear-skins. A servant presently placed on the ground a large dish of pork and peas, on which his lordship took from his pocket a sheath containing a knife and fork and began to cut the meat.

The guests looked on in some embarrassment; upon which he said: "Is it possible, gentlemen, that you have come on this campaign without providing yourselves with what is necessary?" And he gave each of them a sheath, with a knife and fork, like his own. Yet this Lycurgus of the camp, as a contemporary calls him, is described as a man of social accomplishments rare even in his rank. He made himself greatly beloved by the provincial officers, with many of whom he was on terms of intimacy, and he did what he could to break down the barriers between the colonial soldiers and the British regulars. When he was at Albany, sharing with other high officers the kindly hospitalities of Mrs. Schuyler, he so won the heart of that excellent matron that she loved him like a son; and, though not given to such effusion, embraced him with tears on the morning when he left her to lead his division to the lake. 

In Westminster Abbey may be seen the tablet on which Massachusetts pays grateful tribute to his virtues, and commemorates "the affection her officers and soldiers bore to his command."

Francis Parkman, Montcalm and Wolfe. [1884] Library of Alexandria. Kindle Edition.

Friday, December 9, 2022


This inability to write at what was once considered a fifth-grade level is now the norm among students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races and ethnicities. It is also the predictable result of the overemphasis on self-expression at the expense of excellence that has been driving the decline of American K-12 and higher education for decades.

Before I met them, many of my college students had been exposed mostly to writing assignments that focused on emotional self-expression, not rational argumentation. Partly as a result, most of them were not only poor writers but also underdeveloped thinkers.

The Hill
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Make American education rigorous again

by Elizabeth Grace Matthew, Opinion Contributor—12/08/22

ACT test scores made public in a report Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, reveal a decline in preparedness for college-level coursework.  

Now that school choice is being touted not only by Republicans but also by Democrats, after public school students’ test scores took a nosedive as a result of school districts’ COVID-19 policies, it is a good moment to reintroduce rigor to American education writ large.  

I have been a college-level writing instructor at several universities, ranging from an elite ivy league institution to middling state schools, for more than a decade. Most of my students have been bright, hard-working and ambitious. But most of them could not reliably construct grammatical sentences.

This inability to write at what was once considered a fifth-grade level is now the norm among students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, races and ethnicities. It is also the predictable result of the overemphasis on self-expression at the expense of excellence that has been driving the decline of American K-12 and higher education for decades.

Educational “experts” who purport to know what is best for children have long presided over increasing illiteracy and innumeracy, and a widening achievement gap. These so-called experts, beginning with those in the academy, are impervious to ever-mounting evidence that the more we do what they prescribe the worse things get.

To fix the manifold problems in American education and in the broader culture that schools and universities are producing, we will need to recover two related ideas that are anathema to today’s educational establishment: First, that mastery of a subject or skill is recognizable and worthy of praise; second, that the discipline of mastery (which should be common) is not the opposite of creativity (which is rare), but a prerequisite for it.

Educational experts have come up with a lot of sophisticated-sounding reasons for what amounts to dumbing education down. Rote learning, memorization and homework are all out of vogue. Supposedly, these ancient instructional tools perpetuate classism and racism. It turns out, however, that the achievement gap between students of different classes and races increases, not decreases, as educational standards decline.

Most of my students did not know basic grammar and punctuation because they were never drilled and tested on these concepts.
If they did not absorb these patterns by osmosis (that is, if they were not both inclined toward lots of reading and sufficiently privileged to have access to books) then they did not absorb them at all.

My Italian American grandmother, by contrast, who attended Philadelphia public schools in the 1930s and had parents who spoke broken English and no books in her home, could reliably capitalize and punctuate basic sentences. This would put her in the top 10 percent of the hundreds of students I taught over the years, at least half of whom had college-educated parents. My grandmother was not smarter than most of these kids, nor was she of a higher socioeconomic class.

But she had attended school when educational discourse innocently and rightly assumed that objective standards were just as applicable to and achievable for racially diverse, socio-economically disadvantaged and English-as-a-second-language students as anyone else. When my grandmother was a kid, it had not yet occurred to anyone to pretend that such standards have no merit just because it is harder to help kids without as many resources to meet them.

If acknowledging that excellence exists and can be measured is the first step toward making American education rigorous again, recognizing that mastery precedes (not inhibits) creativity is the second.

Great emphasis on fostering children’s creativity has suffused educational discourse since the 1970s, when the late Maria Montessori’s idea that “play is the work of childhood” took root. That is fine for very young children. But fostering creativity at the expense of mastery beyond the age of 9 or 10, when children should begin to engage higher-order thinking, is counter-productive.

Before I met them, many of my college students had been exposed mostly to writing assignments that focused on emotional self-expression, not rational argumentation. Partly as a result, most of them were not only poor writers but also underdeveloped thinkers.

For those few among us who are true creatives, rigorous instruction in syntax, grammar and punctuation feed the craft, not detract from it. This is as true in other areas as it is in writing. As any top-tier jazz musician can explain, to break rules productively, you must first know the rules and how to follow them.

This seems like common sense. Yet, for decades now, educational elites have been making things worse for everyone (most acutely for poor and minority students) while insisting that they are making them better.

We could have spent the past 50 years expanding access to traditionally rigorous educational standards to truly include everyone. Instead, we spent them deferring to people who tore those standards apart, replaced them with counter-productive nonsense and asked us to pretend that their naked emperor was dressed in silks.

Any return to rigor begins with acknowledging that education is about steady soldiers finding the most effective ways to help students meet enduring and objective standards—not whiny revolutionaries insisting that such standards do not exist.

Elizabeth Grace Matthew writes about culture, politics and religion for various publications, including America magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethGMat.

Friday, December 2, 2022


Lisa Belkin, a New York Times reporter covering the work-family beat, wrote of how once during a business trip she sang a lullaby to her two young boys from a telephone bank at the Atlanta airport; the women making calls on both sides of her wept.

Kay S. Hymowitz, Liberation’s Children
Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2003, 169

Thursday, December 1, 2022


There was virtually no control over the application of Red Terror by sailors, from both the Baltic and Black Sea Fleets. Assembled into anti-profiteer detachments, they based themselves at railway stations and seized any articles at random. There was no appeal. One man whose goods had been impounded described the head of one these groups: ‘a sailor with high cheekbones, a Mauser on his belt, and a pewter earring in one ear. He was eating salt fish with a wooden spoon, like porridge, and he was not at all eager to talk.’ Their favorite task was spotting disguised burzhui and taking revenge. A group searching a train seized General Abaleshev, who could hardly pass himself off as a worker. He was forced to open his suitcase. Right at the top were his shoulder boards with Tsarist insignia. They shot him beside the track.

Indiscriminate class revenge was the mission of many sailors. In mid-January Bolsheviks from the Black Sea Fleet took part in the confused fighting in Odessa against junker cadets, officers and Ukrainian nationalists. There were estimated to be 11,000 unemployed officers in Odessa alone. ‘An arrested officer has just been led past,’ Yelena Lakier noted in her diary. ‘He was tall and very young. Poor man. Are they taking him to the Almaz, a cruiser anchored in the port? They take officers there, torture them and then dump the bodies in the sea.’ The next day, when their apartment was searched by sailors, one of them poked around under beds and cupboards with a sword. He boasted to Yelena Lakier ‘I took this sword from an officer on the Chumnaya Hill, then I finished him off.’ ‘Didn’t you feel sorry for killing him? He was a fellow Russian.’ ‘Who should feel sorry for killing a counter-revolutionary? We “bathed” a lot of them from the Almaz.’

Echoes of the atrocities in the south soon reached Moscow. A friend of the writer Ivan Bunin who had just returned from Simferopol in the Crimea reported that ‘indescribable horror’ was taking place there. ‘Soldiers and workers are “walking up to their knees in blood.” An old colonel was roasted alive in the furnace of a locomotive.’ On 14 January, Bolshevik sailors from the Black Sea Fleet killed some 300 victims at Evpatoria by throwing them in the sea from the steamship Romania, having first broken their arms and legs. ‘The most senior officer, who had been wounded, was picked up and thrown headfirst into the ship’s furnace. On the transport Truevor, the officers were brought up from the hold one by one, and their bodies were mutilated while they were still alive before being thrown overboard.’

Antony Beevor, Russia (137-138). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.