Holocaust Memorial Day

January 27th, 2011 by De oppresso liber

It is Holocaust Memorial Day today.  The Guardian published a series of survivor memories.


January 27th, 2011 by De oppresso liber

The Guardian newspaper just released an interesting video about a living history display in Nantwich, England.  Worthwhile viewing.

Oh, and as you watch, remember two classes that we’ll be offering next year: “Telling Tales of the Past” (EXP) in the fall and “Modern Tourism: Heritage” (ADV) in the spring.  Both classes will deal with subjects like historical reenactment.

Genghis Khan, Eco Warrior

January 27th, 2011 by De oppresso liber

It seems that Genghis Khan was good for the environment.  As you probably know, the old boy created the largest contiguous empire in human history, stretching from China to Europe.  In the process, he killed upwards of 40 million people, piling their skulls in neat piles to intimidate his enemies.

Charming man, you say?  Well, a new study by the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Energy finds that Genghis Khan was actually exceptionally green!  Wiping out civilizations and laying waste to huge territory is good for the environment.  Genghis evidently cleared 700m tons of carbon from the atmosphere—”roughly the quantity of carbon dioxide generated in a year through global petrol (gas) consumption.”

Despite his impressive success, we’re going to walk way out on a limb and suggest that the Genghis strategy will not make it into very many Environmental Studies how-to guides and that Al Gore will not recommend it in his follow-up to An Inconvenient Truth.

Academically Adrift?

January 20th, 2011 by De oppresso liber

The release of Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s new book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, is inspiring a great deal of discussion among higher education types and with good reason.  After several years of research, the two authors discovered that many college students are learning absolutely nothing.  No improvement in four years.  Nada.  Obviously, this is a deeply disturbing finding and it should rightly keep a lot of faculty and administrators up nights.

The problem with the extensive coverage, as blogger Philip Nel points out, is that precious few commentators acknowledge a vital part of what  Arum and Roksa learned: humanities majors see “significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study.”  Vocational programs, of which there are a proliferating number, are where the problems exist. The traditional liberal arts degree continues to produce well spoken, literate, and thoughtful graduates who are impressively prepared for whatever career path or graduate program they decide to pursue.

Parents and students think that they are learning the skills to pay the bills when undergraduates opt for a vocational bachelor’s degree, but the reality is quite different.  Turns out that there is a reason that employers find themselves in the position of needing to pay rather a lot to provide their workers with the very skills that those employees would have learned had they majored in history, English, philosophy, music, fine arts, religion, and so on.

Commentators ought to point out this finding, stressing that there is a bright spot in higher education and that this shining light is found in humanities programs.  Parents, meanwhile, ought not ask: “What can <insert name> do with a humanities degree?!”  Instead, they ought to encourage their kids to pursue the liberal arts.  What can you do a with a humanities degree?  What can’t you do?!

Pardon Me?

January 1st, 2011 by De oppresso liber

If you were hoping that the new year might bring a pardon for the long-suffering Billy The Kid, think again.  Gov. Bill Richardson, after carefully considering the situation, opted out of letting The Kid off for murdering 21 people.

Apparently ol’ Henry McCarty (Bill’s real name) will just have to continue serving his life sentence.  Oh, wait, he was shot dead in 1881.  Hmm… why is the governor thinking about this again?