Showing posts from January, 2012

Alaska's Revenge in a Nutshell

You may have read my post Alaska's Revenge, by far the most popular article on this blog, due to the attention that an image I created received on the highly popular blog Strange Maps.

This is the "tl;dr" (too long; didn't read) version of that post - a condensed argument-in-a-nutshell about how Alaska is a victim of geographic discrimination and why this issue matters.
1. Alaska is geographically minimized and discounted as a part of the United States.

A brief survey of maps used to represent the United States in media, business, on the internet or in any part of daily life will show that Alaska is often left out of maps of the states, despite the fact that it's been a state for over fifty years and everyone knows there are fifty states. (Hawai'i is also a victim of this.) When Alaska is included in maps of the United States, it is almost never placed in its actual global position, and almost never shown at its real geographic size in relation to the rest of …

Blogging the North Florida Republican Debate

I'm very glad that I don't watch television, especially cable news. (What kind of college student these days would do that, anyway?) If I did, I'm sure I would be constantly inundated with information on the Republican presidential primaries - which would not only be distasteful, but also a waste of time. The most I've actively done so far to keep up with the process is to see who won which states. This evening, though, I did decide - largely because of procrastination - to watch the Republican debate in Jacksonville that took place three days ago on the 26th, the first and probably only debate I'll see. Thus, I thought I'd make the most of it: I blogged it.

To begin with, I could barely get past the first few minutes - not because of the candidates, but because of my shock at the stupidity of the debate structure. One minute to respond to questions? Thirty seconds to rebut? Even the Gettysburg Address, known as one of the most brief, poignant and powerful ora…

Educational Regression in Arizona

As a very appropriate follow-up to my last post, I thought I should point out a recent opinion piece from Al Jazeera entitled "Arizona and Chile: Concealing History in the Classroom." This article highlights the recent ongoings in Tucson, Arizona, where ethnic studies classes were dismantled in the middle of the school year and several books were also banned from the library, not for the usual reasons books are banned in American schools, like profanity or sexual content, but because the books promote a different sort of perspective - hispanic, indigenous, or revisionist perspectives.

Now, at present there are a lot of differing accounts out there on the internet as to the number of books banned by the Tuscon Unified School District, the titles of those books, and whether they were banned at all. One site I read suggests that the books were simply removed from the approved curriculum list, and that they would still be available in libraries. Even if this was true, it strikes…

Lies My Teacher Told Me: A Review

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong is an exceptional book, written by James W. Loewen. It's engrossing, thought-provoking, and truly something that should be read by every American student, anyone interested in American history, and anyone who has ever looked inside a textbook and wondered, "Can I really accept all of this as truth?"

This book challenges, refutes, and rebukes much of what has been and continues to be taught as U.S. history in elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country. The format is very easy to follow: well-paced and engaging introductory sections, followed by thematic examinations of different chapters and aspects of American history, from Columbus to Reconstruction to the Vietnam War - topics that are utterly maligned, mischaracterized and turned into shameful myths by textbooks and by the history of how those with power and influence have wanted to write history for the American people. This i…

Classes for Spring 2012: A Detailed Look

The tradition of listing and describing my classes for each semester of high school and university since this blog's existence has been a long one, but the protocol hasn't been consistent. I did it late last September for my classes in Strasbourg, for example, but for the semester before that (Spring '11 at Georgetown) I rattled off my classes in early December 2010, as soon as I found out my registration had been fully successful and I'd gotten a full course load.

For this spring semester I also got a full schedule - every class I asked for (and I realize I'm quite lucky for that). This time, though, I've waited till now - after over a week back on campus - to get around to listing the courses. It's an eclectic mix - and though at first glance it might seem there wouldn't be any overlap between subjects, I'm already finding a fair bit. Anyway, here they are:

International FinanceTradition et Modernit√© en Afrique francophoneThe History of Modern Kore…

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Last Monday, on the national holiday that celebrates him, I had the pleasure of visiting and seeing for the first time the new memorial that commemorates Martin Luther King Jr. The memorial was officially dedicated last October, so this was in fact the first MLK Day to be celebrated during its existence.

To get there, I walked about three miles from the Georgetown campus, walking by the Watergate Hotel, the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial, as well as many other places of course, including the Saudi embassy. I got a pretty fun photo of it: I like to think the jeep represents the "Americanness" of oil consumption quite well, parked in front of the representation of our most well-known supplier.

Those sorts of things, however, were not the focus of my day. Instead, I walked briskly along the roads, stopping only to take pictures and at times to momentarily question if I was really walking the right way. After one or two questionable highway crossings, I did finally make …

The USA vs France #3: Some Mixed Wins

Well, I've now decided to finally write my third part to accompany and complete my earlier posts: USA vs France #1 (Some French Wins) and USA vs France #2 (Some American Wins). Unlike the previous two, this post will just be in English, but I won't discount doing some more blogging in French in the future.

Also unlike the previous "USA vs France" posts, this time I won't be laying out clear-cut "wins" for one country or the other. This time I feel I should address issues that are mixed bags, things present in each place where I couldn't choose the American or the French way as best. I hope you enjoy.

Multiculturalism: I feel that multiculturalism is a much different phenomenon in France than it is in the U.S., but those differences are not always clear, nor is it always clear what is best. On the one hand, it's pretty sure, despite difficulty in determining statistics, that the French have higher levels of inter-racial or inter-ethnic coupling th…

Libertarians - Religious Fanatics?

Libertarians are interesting creatures, and many of them are not unlike certain flavors of religious fanatic.

I've had a long history being around libertarianism, since it's quite in vogue these days with young people, both in Alaska and around the country. After all, most people know that when it comes to Ron Paul, today's quintessential public face for the ideology, the vast majority of his support and publicity consists of 20 and 30-somethings spreading his name around the internet. In fact, during my Christmas break I had lengthy internet conversations with two different people from Ketchikan a few years younger than me.

The first began when I responded on Facebook to a video posted about how highways should be privatized. The second began when I posted an image showing the benefits of higher taxes for the rich, and got a very long response of disagreement that developed into a huge conversation. In both cases, I steered the conversation away from the details of the im…

Waiting for Better Than Waiting for Superman

Last week I watched the film Waiting for Superman with my family. I had suggested it because of much I had heard about the film - how popular and successful it was, how many people's thoughts about education had been influenced by it, and how others charged that the film had many inaccuracies or made gross simplifications regarding education issues. Given my abiding and quite significant interest in education and in the American school system, I felt I had to find out for myself.

Here are the problems and issues I noted while watching Waiting for Superman. Some might be considered insignificant, others very serious indeed. Let me know what you think.

Every single one of the "national" maps shown in the film leaves out Alaska and Hawai'i - a mistake that is just as ignorant as showing a map that leaves out Maine or Texas. This practice may be common, and most Americans probably never think about it, but it is nonetheless unacceptable, especially if the topic …

American Immigrants

Just a short thought for you today:

More than 95% of Americans are fully descended from immigrants who came to this land within the last five hundred years (not a very long time in the scheme of things). That being said, a great deal of U.S. citizens today have many complaints or concerns about newer immigrants here - questions about how they entered the country, what contributions they make to society, what resources they draw from government, the extent to which they take on American culture, and so on.

What I think, though, is that if these same concerned and complaining citizens all of a sudden became immigrants themselves, leaving the United States to go abroad, I think they'd be the most needy immigrants ever - constantly complaining, demanding to follow their own American language and customs in their new land, weighing down health care and other social safety nets, on and on.

Think about it - and if you disagree or just don't follow my meaning, leave me a comment and I…

Coining a New Political Witticism

If you're a young person and find yourself arguing politics with people more conservative and more elderly than you, you may have the experience of hearing this witticism (as I have, once or twice).
Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart. 
Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains. Like a great many other quotes, this phrase has been misattributed to Winston Churchill, and the Churchill Centre and Museum even adds the comment, "Surely Churchill can't have used the words attributed to him. He'd been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!" Nevertheless, this quote and variations on it are pretty popular, and I suspect it's because a great many people are indeed liberal when they're young and then more conservative when old.

Whether this is more often because people are more idealistic in their youth and grow more practical with age, or because attitudes that stay the same may become considered le…