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Author Topic: Do people become more conservative as they age?
Vadon
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Modern Americans and their perceptions of "conservative" and "liberal" I am convinced are in large part a function of US History as taught in school which is,

Revolution -----> Constitution -----> Traveling West-----> Civil War ----> Great Depression -----> WWII -----> Modern America. There's so much political development amongst the general populace that is completely ignored. During the Civil War we talk about attitudes towards slavery and state's rights but nobody discusses anything else. McCarthyism if it's even discussed comes decades after a just as relevant socialist uprising in the United States, where worker rights vs corporate rights were in de facto war with each other.

This was a complaint of mine throughout all of my primary education. Each time I was required to take a US History course it followed this exact formula. My issue is that the way in which my teachers taught the subject material was by pure memorization of significant dates and figures. They made sure I knew when important events happened and what they were, but they never really talked about why it was important.

My first year of college, I saw a class that was called "History of the American People." Instead of using the usual markers of wars to create a timeline through history, the professor broke apart our history in terms of waves of immigration and how these waves influenced life in the United States. It was a refreshing change because when we talked about a wave of immigration, we covered the effects of the influx of new Americans. Instead of being a class where I memorized dates, I learned about movements and how they informed the American identity. One of the highlights of the class was when we talked about the Iroquois. I'll be upfront in saying that in learning of the French-Indian War in high school, I learned little more than the fact it was where George Washington made his military mark, and that colonists were forced to contribute to paying for the war. My history classes never talked about the tribes of the Iroquois and their connection to the revolution. I'd guess this would be due in part to the tendency to highlight American heroism in history classes.

More than anything, what I'd like to see in History classes is for there to be more than simple memorization. When students complain and ask why "this stuff" is ever going to matter, I have trouble coming up with an answer other than to say knowing these facts will help in trivia games. What does matter is showing how events in our history inform what we are today. Showing the conflict between ideas and movements is far more interesting (and I think useful) than learning when Eli Whitney made the cotton gin or what years the "Gilded Era" took place in.

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BlackBlade
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I think the essence of history should be a discussion of what actually happened, preceded by a reading assignment with primary historical documents heavily featured. This is then followed by discussing how events today are connected to the period being discussed.
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Altáriël of Dorthonion
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I became much more liberal as I grew older. I grew up in a conservative Catholic family. Although we hardly went to church, and we're not fundamentalists in the least bit, we were still religious.

Then I went to college, had my "Are you really there God? Been waiting for a reply or a sign for almost 20 years now... They say you exist but, I've never seen anything that proves you do... Please don't strike me down for questioning your existence!," moment, and I decided I was no longer a believer. Very liberating moment.

I'm not the kind of atheist that dislikes people who are religious, but that's probably because I only comingle with other non-believers and I never discuss religion or politics with my family.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I think the essence of history should be a discussion of what actually happened, preceded by a reading assignment with primary historical documents heavily featured. This is then followed by discussing how events today are connected to the period being discussed.

You've obviously never sat through a historical theory class.

What you just said is soooo much more controversial than most people probably think it is.

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Vadon
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I think the essence of history should be a discussion of what actually happened, preceded by a reading assignment with primary historical documents heavily featured. This is then followed by discussing how events today are connected to the period being discussed.

You've obviously never sat through a historical theory class.

What you just said is soooo much more controversial than most people probably think it is.

I'm interested to know what's controversial about what he said. I have not been in a historical theory class, so I suppose it's to be expected that I don't see the controversy.
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Lyrhawn
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Well, let me ask you this: How do you know what actually happened?
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I think the essence of history should be a discussion of what actually happened, preceded by a reading assignment with primary historical documents heavily featured. This is then followed by discussing how events today are connected to the period being discussed.

You've obviously never sat through a historical theory class.

What you just said is soooo much more controversial than most people probably think it is.

Oh, I'm sure when you get down to the nitty gritty it's naive and idealistic if not impractical. If I taught history I would totally make the class watch stuff like Too Late To Apologize: A Declaration on youtube or segments of HBO's John Adams, or parts of 1776. Also, students who opted to write reports about what was wrong with The Patriot would get extra credit.

My AM Studies teacher in high school sometimes tied a book to a time period and helped us see the broader historical context. It's why books like Grapes of Wrath and The Jungle are just incredible if the historical context is understood.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Well, let me ask you this: How do you know what actually happened?

Well obviously in regards to the birth of the United States, Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, full grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightning rod, and the three of them - Franklin, Washington, and the horse - conducted the entire Revolution by themselves.

I didn't realize any of these facts in dispute. [Smile]

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Lyrhawn
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Absolutely, using novels in concert with history lessons can be a phenomenal teaching tool in a number of ways. Plain historical text can rarely get emotions and feel across the way a novel can, though journalists, I think, sometimes have a better go of it than trained historians (but we're still better than they are [Smile] ).

And that's probably my favorite quote from 1776 for oh so many reasons.

My larger point is that ascertaining "what actually happened" is nearly impossible. All you can do is research and come up with a best guess as to what you think happened, as interpreted from a particular historian's point of view. So in that, saying "but I'm going to teach the truth, not like that other guy!" might feel good, but it's such a loaded statement, because historians aren't a monolithic group, and we frequently disagree about things great and small. So at some point, "truth" to you is going to mean throwing your support behind a particular narrative.

Pursuant to that, we need to teach students that history changes in the present as our understanding of it evolves. This ties into a broader lesson about critical thinking. That often there is no RIGHT answer like math or the sciences tends to drive students towards, there is often a BEST answer, one best argued and best supported by evidence. Teach students the methodology and the controversy so that when you actually teach them the history, they know what you mean and don't take everything you say as magical truth.

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BlackBlade
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I should have clarified that when I say "what actually happened" I mean the teacher does a reasonable job keeping up on scholarship and explains it's our best understanding of the event. While history is set in stone, our history books are snap shot of that stone. Our perception of that stone improves as we look at pictures from multiple angles, and develop the image to include color and to appear crisper.

BTW Lyrhawn, there's a series of audio cassetes / cds that were scripted by Orson Scott Card way back in his early years entitled "Dramatized American History" that I found exceptionally good for about junior high to high school level history.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I should have clarified that when I say "what actually happened" I mean the teacher does a reasonable job keeping up on scholarship and explains it's our best understanding of the event. While history is set in stone, our history books are snap shot of that stone. Our perception of that stone improves as we look at pictures from multiple angles, and develop the image to include color and to appear crisper.

BTW Lyrhawn, there's a series of audio cassetes / cds that were scripted by Orson Scott Card way back in his early years entitled "Dramatized American History" that I found exceptionally good for about junior high to high school level history.

That's much more delightfully nuanced. That's also a method of teaching I wasn't specifically taught until grad school, though I figured it out from undergrad lessons.

Still, K-12 rarely teaches a view of history so nuanced, which means most undergrads get to college having no clue about anything.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Vadon:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I think the essence of history should be a discussion of what actually happened, preceded by a reading assignment with primary historical documents heavily featured. This is then followed by discussing how events today are connected to the period being discussed.

You've obviously never sat through a historical theory class.

What you just said is soooo much more controversial than most people probably think it is.

I'm interested to know what's controversial about what he said. I have not been in a historical theory class, so I suppose it's to be expected that I don't see the controversy.
(from a literary theory and musicology background)

By shaping a syllabus, the instructor, by definition, offers a perspective and a set of substantive arguments defending that position, even if the entire substance of that position is tacitly implied in their choices of sources.

You canny teach without making judgements about what is relevant, and you cannot judge relevance based on a complete familiarity with the facts- there are always too many. Instead, you collect and process enough trustworthy and interesting analysis of fact and theory, and synthesize a contribution that develops a unique position, or deconstructs existing positions.

Imagine, I'm a teacher of early 20th century classical musicology, a narrow enough field. Most of my teaching *would* consist of primary sources. How do I choose them? Can I listen to everything in my field? Not in a lifetime. Can I en extend my knowledge to the primary sources of all artistic movements f the same period? No. And can I do the same for the whole historical period, not to mention that preceding and that following my period of nearest? No, no, no.

So I make choices. And those choices are based on imperfect and subjective decisions based on what other views I trust- what other analysis already exists.

Or else, you aren't really studying history. History is endured n what people have said about it. The nterpretation f history is a part of history. Can I learn the "facts" of WW2 without reading Churchill? And if I do, don't I then have to listen to his views n history? Is not reading his views also reading factual history? Analysis is fact- as well as opinion. There is no primary source of history.

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jebus202
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No, there are still primary sources.
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Orincoro
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Heh. There are primary sources. I repeat my exact words, and I thank you to mind the context of those words: "there is no primary source of history."
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Vadon
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by Vadon:
quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I think the essence of history should be a discussion of what actually happened, preceded by a reading assignment with primary historical documents heavily featured. This is then followed by discussing how events today are connected to the period being discussed.

You've obviously never sat through a historical theory class.

What you just said is soooo much more controversial than most people probably think it is.

I'm interested to know what's controversial about what he said. I have not been in a historical theory class, so I suppose it's to be expected that I don't see the controversy.
(from a literary theory and musicology background)

By shaping a syllabus, the instructor, by definition, offers a perspective and a set of substantive arguments defending that position, even if the entire substance of that position is tacitly implied in their choices of sources.

You canny teach without making judgements about what is relevant, and you cannot judge relevance based on a complete familiarity with the facts- there are always too many. Instead, you collect and process enough trustworthy and interesting analysis of fact and theory, and synthesize a contribution that develops a unique position, or deconstructs existing positions.

Imagine, I'm a teacher of early 20th century classical musicology, a narrow enough field. Most of my teaching *would* consist of primary sources. How do I choose them? Can I listen to everything in my field? Not in a lifetime. Can I en extend my knowledge to the primary sources of all artistic movements f the same period? No. And can I do the same for the whole historical period, not to mention that preceding and that following my period of nearest? No, no, no.

So I make choices. And those choices are based on imperfect and subjective decisions based on what other views I trust- what other analysis already exists.

Or else, you aren't really studying history. History is endured n what people have said about it. The nterpretation f history is a part of history. Can I learn the "facts" of WW2 without reading Churchill? And if I do, don't I then have to listen to his views n history? Is not reading his views also reading factual history? Analysis is fact- as well as opinion. There is no primary source of history.

But I don't think that BB's position violates anything that you've said. He's not claiming that there is a primary source that presents historical fact. There are facts of the matter in history, whether we have an accurate account of those facts is a separate issue. Ultimately, you're going to be covering issues from biased perspectives. But if you're going to try to get at the heart of "what actually happened" you need to find sources to motivate the discussion. I think that primary sources (by that I mean sources that were around in the era being discussed) can be a valuable resource. BB didn't say they were the only aspect, but something heavily featured. I take no issue with trying to establish context through the writing of the era. But once you've had this discussion on "what really happened," it can sometimes be an entirely alien concept to the students unless you try to ground the discussion into something more relevant. You could use novels, current events, or pop culture for all I care. But I think finding a way to show the relevance of the issue you're exploring is a valuable aspect to teaching history.

Is there going to be bias? Of course! The number of times I've watched my professors bicker with one another whether Thomas Hobbes was an egoist or not is mind-numbingly stupid. There's a truth of the matter, and people have different guesses on what the truth is. But does the fact that there are subjective accounts on historical events mean that people are purposefully promoting a biased agenda? I don't think so.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Heh. There are primary sources. I repeat my exact words, and I thank you to mind the context of those words: "there is no primary source of history."

Well, there is still a difference between a primary source and a secondary source. You just need to understand the different baggage that comes with each. And often, the bias of primary sources is as much a part of historical truth as the mythical objective Truth we all seek.
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Orincoro
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Precisely. I just get all warm and fuzzy and the very cuteness of the notion that primary sources are ultimately preferable on the face.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Heh. There are primary sources. I repeat my exact words, and I thank you to mind the context of those words: "there is no primary source of history."

Well, there is still a difference between a primary source and a secondary source. You just need to understand the different baggage that comes with each. And often, the bias of primary sources is as much a part of historical truth as the mythical objective Truth we all seek.
Exactly! Paul Revere's depiction of the Boston Massacre is important not because of its accuracy, (it's not even close) but because it was the version the Sons of Liberty were pushing during the soldier's trial, and it had a huge impact in swaying public opinion against the soldiers. As a result, the soldiers could not find legal council, and John Adams felt compelled to defend them. He suffered revilement in the short term because of it, but it was also a formative experience, and demonstrated he was the sort of man Massachusetts wanted to send to the second Continental Congress.

But that's just one snapshot.

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Orincoro
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Yeah, but, see, Blackblade, you learned all that analysis from people who read analysis and theory. Not from people who read only primary sources.

You stick to primary sources, and they won't mean anything. That's my point. You appreciate them, now, after you learned a great deal about history and how to deal with it. No particular type of information, I think, made you smart enough or prepared enough to have the good judgment that you do. Just like I know that my education and my intelligence are two things that had to go together- my having known plenty of smart people who were uneducated, and educated people were weren't terribly bright.

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BlackBlade
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Well I never meant to come across as advocating only for primary sources. Only that we need to find core primary sources, and require students to be familiar with them before discussing material. If nothing else but because primary sources are themselves part of the history. Common Sense may not be a good history, but it is something we know was a watershed moment in changing minds, and we can read what people said about it as well as look at print run numbers to get a sense for how prevalent it was.

Also, it's fun to read what Tom said about George Washington while he was president. >: )

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Blayne Bradley
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Regarding history I do believe that while significantly flawed, some kind of consistent primary source learnin' be preferable to what passes for "education" in some schools. A friend of mine who was raised in South Carolina was taught that and I am not making this up:

"America had to use the nuclear bombs on Japan because America was losing the war"

This actually happened. For who knows how many years of highschool students have been taught a terrible terrible distorted history that no longer even resembles what factually happened.

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Orincoro
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I'm dubious as to whether your friend was taught that, or gained that mistaken impression do to a more benign form of poor instruction.

You understand, I have a genius level IQ, and believed until I was 12 or so that the middle east was in South America. Nobody taught me that- I was just not taught to look at a map. Benign, yet horrible.

Granted, it is entirely possible that some idiot taught your friend that. But it's equally possible that a poorly worded account of the cost of lives needed to win the war, and the losses already suffered, was transformed in your friends mind into a more definitive statement. Bearing in mind, after the fact, it is fairly normal for a person to say: "No, seriously, my teacher literally said those exact* words."


*probably not

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
For who knows how many years of highschool students have been taught a terrible terrible distorted history that no longer even resembles what factually happened.

And in the PRC it's even worse!
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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
I'm dubious as to whether your friend was taught that, or gained that mistaken impression do to a more benign form of poor instruction.

You understand, I have a genius level IQ, and believed until I was 12 or so that the middle east was in South America. Nobody taught me that- I was just not taught to look at a map. Benign, yet horrible.

Granted, it is entirely possible that some idiot taught your friend that. But it's equally possible that a poorly worded account of the cost of lives needed to win the war, and the losses already suffered, was transformed in your friends mind into a more definitive statement. Bearing in mind, after the fact, it is fairly normal for a person to say: "No, seriously, my teacher literally said those exact* words."


*probably not

The person in question being right now 19 and in a University Computer Science Bachelors program in Canada was taught this stuff up to about a year or so ago I have little reason to believe she in some manner misheard or misinterpreted the words spoken. As that is not some isolated incident but rather the tip of the iceberg of the horror stories of her highschool experience in general.

quote:

And in the PRC it's even worse!

Ah huh.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
For who knows how many years of highschool students have been taught a terrible terrible distorted history that no longer even resembles what factually happened.

And in the PRC it's even worse!
In Soviet Russia, history teaches you.
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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
In Soviet Russia, history teaches you.

Wait, that sounds right.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
The person in question being right now 19 and in a University Computer Science Bachelors program in Canada was taught this stuff up to about a year or so ago I have little reason to believe she in some manner misheard or misinterpreted the words spoken.
How much do you know about the reliability of eye-witness reports and human memory? If you were familiar with the psychological research, you would not expect your friend's report of what went on in the class to be reliable. Humans aren't recording machines. We are incapable of being objective observers. Since she told you the story, its like something she thought about quite a few times. Every time a person recalls a memory, the original memory gets altered. Each time your friend has recalled or retold the story her memory has become further removed from what actually happened.

But even if I had never seen that research, I've been a professor for 20 years. I've heard and read hundreds of students summaries of what I said in class. Based my experience and those shared by my fellow teachers, I know that it is extremely common for students to misunderstand the points a teacher is trying to make.

The chances of getting an accurate report about what was taught by a high school history teacher, from a 19 year college student, are vanishingly small.

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Blayne Bradley
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Speculation, it isnt strong evidence at all, it is very clear from the context of the conversation that she didnt mishear or misremember.

I showed her various sources to see what she was taught and nothing she was taught was remotely accurate. And she is an intelligent person and it was only the tip of the iceberg of what was wrong with her highschool.

I mean honestly, its a highschool. My own highschool history class in quebec was horrendously oversimplified to the point of being factually wrong.

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Vadon
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In Blayne's defense, when I was first taught about World War II, when talking about the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the teacher said if it weren't for the bombs, the war would have gone on far longer, with an unknown amount of death, and possibly an unknown victor. He argued that the bombs were to bring an end to the war.

I could see interpreting that claim as saying the bombs were a sort of hail-Mary.

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BlackBlade
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If they were a hail-Mary, one would have to wonder why we didn't give that play a shot in Vietnam.
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Mucus
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Oh, you guys may enjoy this
http://books.google.com/books?id=dIt-DzlyvCQC&pg=PA56&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U2otFv24F0dOOlkPmwkwvwE4bGi-A&w=1280
found at
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/and-i-also-shouldnt-just-embed-charts-from-spy/254387/

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
If they were a hail-Mary, one would have to wonder why we didn't give that play a shot in Vietnam.

BB, by then we weren't the only ones with the bomb.
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Blayne Bradley
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Also a war crime.

However no, it was quite literally what she was taught.

Also, cmon, its one highschool.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
If they were a hail-Mary, one would have to wonder why we didn't give that play a shot in Vietnam.

BB, by then we weren't the only ones with the bomb.
I don't know what's the matter with me. I'm going to go with fatigue.
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Dan_Frank
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
If they were a hail-Mary, one would have to wonder why we didn't give that play a shot in Vietnam.

BB, by then we weren't the only ones with the bomb.
I don't know what's the matter with me. I'm going to go with fatigue.
Also the enemy infrastructure didn't quite lend itself as readily to those tactics.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Rabbit, I agree with your overall point, but your post strikes me as an extremely partisan view of the subject. I assume you're using the definition of 'conservative' as it applies in today’s political discourse rather than it’s denotation but even then it seems quite unfair to decree that those on one side just want to mass produce blind loyalty while the other side want a fair and nuanced discussion to help move the country forward. And knowing quite a few people who fall on what you call the conservative side, I can think of no one whose position came down to the impact on the loyalty of our children.
Hobbes, I know what I said is an over simplification. It's overly simplistic to think people can be classified as either conservatives or liberals. It overly simplistic to say that all conservatives share the same values and its overly simplistic to say anyone's opinions on teaching American History are motivated by only one concern.

But I think you found my comments highly partisan because your own partisan expectations colored your reading. Your summary exaggerates and simplifies my points far beyond anything I said or intended. I never said that conservatives "just want to produce blind loyalty" or that liberals want "a fair and nuanced discussion". I did not say those things because I did not intend them.

I also have a lot of friends and family members who are conservatives. I don't think conservatives are all simple minded, naive or evil. I do however think that its fair to say most conservatives value group loyalty more highly than most liberals. This is supported by considerable research and I think its true of classical conservatism and not just modern American Republicans.

Loyalty to a group necessarily implies that you support the group even when you think its wrong. If you only support the group when you fully agree, you aren't being loyal. You are following your own conscience. While I think it's too simplistic to say that loyalty has to be unconditional, I do think its accurate to say that if you place more conditions on your loyalty to a group, you are less loyal.

I wasn't trying to insult republicans when I said they thought loyalty was important. I don't see loyalty as something inherently bad. Group loyalty promotes cooperation and effective team work. Loyalty promotes altruism because most people are far more willing to work for the common good of the group when they believe their loyalty is reciprocated. I think a certain amount of loyalty is essential to building a strong healthy community. I think one of the reasons liberals in America have so much trouble actually accomplishing anything is that they value group loyalty too little.

I think group loyalty can become a problem when its so strong that it over shadows other moral principles. I think group loyalty can be a problem when it is used justify ignoring the legitimate needs and rights of outsiders. But I think that as long as its kept in moderation, loyalty can be a really positive trait.

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pooka
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That's interesting, Rabbit. Why are liberals in Europe seemingly more effective? Are the cultural substrates for liberalism and/or group loyalty different there?

Loyalty used to be one of my most important personal values, until about 2003 (not coincidentally when I started posting here.) I know I seem pretty conservative, but I used to be a lot more conservative. Though going back further, I used to be a liberal leaning independent. Along with loyalty, I can be vindictive where my loyalty is lost (as it was in 1998).

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by pooka:
That's interesting, Rabbit. Why are liberals in Europe seemingly more effective? Are the cultural substrates for liberalism and/or group loyalty different there?

They're just a scant decade ahead. I mean, if we had mandatory voting (a la a lot of other countries) then we'd be in about the same place, policy wise — our freemarketeers would be a maligned fringe and our liberalism would already be schisming between mainstream and far left, and competing for majority betwixt the two.
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Rakeesh
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quote:
Speculation, it isnt strong evidence at all, it is very clear from the context of the conversation that she didnt mishear or misremember.
I'm not sure if you mean to say her conversation is or isn't strong evidence. For the sake of discussion, I'm talking about the former: how can she make clear just by talking to you, someone who didn't witness events, whether or not she heard things clearly (the teacher was speaking inteligibly and audibly), understood them clearly (took something close to the teacher's intent out of his/her words), and then remembered it clearly?

I mean, unless the conversation included things like 'I took care to listen very carefully that day, and took detailed notes as the teacher was speaking, and then because it seemed so strange I reviewed them against my recollection later', I'm not sure how you can (if you are) be so sure about how correct she is about what the speaker said. Unless you simply mean sure as in 'she's usually pretty reliable, and for now I have no reason to doubt her.'

-------

On a different note, I don't have much trouble imagining a HS history teacher could have said that. I mean, my American Government teacher had more words written by Tom Clancy in his classroom than anything else, and on the subject of certainty I gauge that by the fact that the class was supremely boring and I read all of them, as well as what (little) else there was on the shelves.

It was one semester coupled with Economics, a class that at that time where I lived, everyone had to take. This was the year after I took and nailed AP American history and loved it immensely. Best single teacher I ever had, even allowing for my enjoyment. But this class there wasn't any getting out of, and the teacher was, I don't know, a basketball coach or something. Nice enough guy, I suppose, but he didn't have any business with chalk in front of s blackboard unless it had a bunch of x-s and o-s with arrows on it. Anyway, I could imagine him saying something really stupid such as that, but he didn't really stray far from the textbook and had a newspaper-well, sports page-for when he was done. Not many Fs in that class, for some reason.

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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
However no, it was quite literally what she was taught.

Blayne, I'm sorry but unless your friend played you a recording of the teacher saying it, chances are extremely high that your friends report is not reliable.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
That's interesting, Rabbit. Why are liberals in Europe seemingly more effective? Are the cultural substrates for liberalism and/or group loyalty different there?
I'm not sure but I have a couple of theories. First off, political loyalty is viewed much more negatively by Europeans, including the conservatives. Europeans have a strong association between Fascism and Patriotic/nationalistic rhetoric. Americans expect politicians to talk about how America is the greatest country in the world. If a politicians does that in Europe, its a serious career ending scandal.

Second, party leaders have a lot more real power in the Parliamentary system. In the parliamentary system, if you don't tow the party line the leadership can kick you out of office. In the US system, party leaders can only offer their supporters a carrot. In the Parliamentary system the leaders have the option of using both the carrot and the stick.

I think it may also have a bit to do with the way the American culture war is playing out in American Politics. I don't think there is the kind of cultural divide between the major political parties in Europe the way there is in the US.

Also, European countries tend to have multi-party systems so voters aren't limited to two predetermined political packages. I think that results in a more nuanced political debate.

I'm not saying there aren't also downsides to European style parliamentary democracies, there are plenty of them they just aren't all that relevant to pooka's question.

[ March 16, 2012, 11:27 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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Blayne Bradley
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Also the political left is much more organized in Europe offering a consistent voice and lobby, while in the US it's been largely defanged and disintegrated as a cohesive movement.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
Also the political left is much more organized in Europe offering a consistent voice and lobby, while in the US it's been largely defanged and disintegrated as a cohesive movement.

Yes, but that is a circular argument.
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kmbboots
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Europe is less hampered by Puritan roots.
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Mucus
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Some thoughts from a bit closer.

Patriotism and nationalism don't work nearly as well in Canada as in the United States as political enticement because there's a much bigger chance of that backfiring. Between Quebec and large groups of minorities in key swing ridings, you simply cannot afford to alienate people in the same way that you can in the US. The Canadian Conservative party understands this and that greatly influences the "centre."

It's true that political leaders in the Parliamentary system have more power for a number of reasons. First you're guaranteed to at least have a plurality in Parliament, which reduces the chance of deadlock a la the current US system. The equivalent of such a deadlock often leads to elections in minority governments which is a high stake roll of the dice that many on both sides of the aisle try to avoid (unless you engineer your own defeat, which is also a potential tactic that increases the power of the leader).

The multi-party system helps of course too. But the main issue here (in Canada) I think is the demographics, the distribution and types of people are simply different.

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Rakeesh
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I think that last bit is critically important, and its impact would be hard to overstate, Mucus. In many of the nations being compared in the current conversation to the US, there are simply sharper and more numerous divides along racial and religious lines-and unsurprisingly (to me, at least) when the not-quite-homogeny is threatened, things start to go a little screwy and look a little less like the secular egalitarian examples that we often think of when we look at Europe. I mean, African and Middle-Eastern immigrants to various areas of Europe probably don't think things are so super-spiffy.
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DDDaysh
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
DDDaysh, I'm guessing from what you said that your grandfather is quite elderly and possibly suffering from a general decline in his mental abilities. It seems likely that he says more racist or paranoid things because his ability to self-censor has decreased and not because he's actually becoming more racist and paranoid.

There are some interesting studies that have tried to control for the effects of declining cognitive ability versus general aging by matching elderly people with younger people that have similar cognitive abilities.

Maybe, but he's only 70 and still works full time. That doesn't mean he's not suffering from declining abilities, but it's not like he's senile.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Europe is less hampered by Puritan roots.

Yeah, never bought that for a hot second. Not only were the majority of America's settling groups definitely *not* puritans, but in my opinion the pervading ethos of American civic participation is Calvinism, not puritanism. They are often conflated, but they are very different in source and nature.

And you can still spot a great deal of Calvinist influence all over Europe. Germany, certain parts of Britain (particularly Scotland), and Scandinavia as well.

Remember, America was being colonized at the forefront of the reformist movement. That naturally lured a good number of protestants to the Americas in the early years. That doesn't mean that a) all of them were puritans, or b) that had as big of an effect on our political or social culture as people believe. It certainly had *an* effect. I just don't think it's really fair to say that America has "Puritan" roots. It has protestant roots. But many protestants from Italy and France were Waldenses. Many from England and Scotland were Anglican. There weren't really *that* many puritans around. They were a marginal group.

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kmbboots
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You're right. In fact I usually blame Calvin and have done so before. Sloppiness on my part or I backed away from dissing Protestantism entirely.
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Olivet
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Let's not forget that some 300 years ago, Europe was the world's largest exporter of religious extremists, and guess where they exported them to?

As to the thread title, I'm definitely more liberal than I was 30 years ago. When I was twelve. Even when I was 20, I never thought I'd be pro-choice.

*shrug* Stuff happens.

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