Don’t trust what you read — on blogs, as well as in the news

August 6, 2007

The CEO of Fark suggests people turn off the newsfeeds for a while, and ignore the constant chatter of the internet.

Happy to be a Rock n’ Roller carries an excerpt of an interview with Drew Curtis:

Q: Which media patterns do you find most annoying, and which media patterns do you think are the most dangerous without being obviously so?

Equal time for nutjobs. It’s all funny when you talk about people not believing in moon landings, or who think an alien crash-landed in Texas in 1897, or who believe that there was once an ancient mediterranean civilization in Florida. It’s another thing entirely when people start to believe that denying the holocaust is a valid opinion.

Curtis wrote a book, It’s Not News, It’s Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap As News .  It should be required reading for students doing research on the internet, I suspect. 

(I wonder what the original venue of that interview is — anybody know?)


Hiroshima: August 6, 1945

August 6, 2007

Today, August 6, 2007, is the 62nd anniversary of the first use of atomic weapons in war, when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. August 9 marks the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki.

Please see my post of last year — the links all still work, and they provide significant resources for teachers and students to understand the events.

Performance of Texas students on questions about the end of the war in the Pacific, in the TAKS exit exams in 2007 showed minor improvements.

Other sources teachers may want to use:


Oliver W. Hill, history maker, 100

August 6, 2007

Oliver W. Hill in 1999, when he was 92; lawyer in Brown v. Board case

Literally while writing the previous post about the importance of recording history before the witnesses leave us, I heard on KERA-FM, NPR reporter Juan Williams’ intimate, detailed and stirring story about Oliver W. Hill, one of the lawyers who brought one of the five cases that resulted in the historic 1954 reversal of U.S. law, in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education (347 U.S. 483).

Oliver W. Hill died Sunday, in Richmond, Virginia. He was 100.

In 1940, Mr. Hill won his first civil rights case in Virginia, one that required equal pay for black and white teachers. Eight years later, he was the first black elected to the Richmond City Council since Reconstruction.

A lawsuit argued by Mr. Hill in 1951 on behalf of students protesting deplorable conditions at their high school for blacks in Farmville became one of five cases decided under Brown.

That case from Farmville offers students a more personal view of their own power in life. The case resulted from a student-led demonstration at Moton High School in Farmville. Moton was an all-black school, with facilities amazingly inferior to the new white high school in Farmville — no indoor plumbing, for example. While the Virginia NAACP failed at several similar cases earlier, and while the organization had a policy of taking no more school desegregation cases, the students’ earnestness and sincerity swayed Oliver Hill to try one more time:

On May 23, 1951, a NAACP lawyer filed suit in the federal district court in Richmond, VA, on behalf of 117 Moton High School, Prince Edward County, VA, students and their parents. The first plaintiff listed was Dorothy Davis, a 14-year old ninth grader; the case was titled Dorothy E. Davis, et al. v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, Virginia, et. al. It asked that the state law requiring segregated schools in Virginia be struck down.

Davis was consolidated with four other cases, from the District of Columbia, Delaware, South Carolina, and Brown from Kansas; it was argued in 1953, but the Court deadlocked on a decision. When Chief Justice Arthur Vinson died and was replaced by the (hoped-to-be) conservative Chief Justice Earl Warren, Warren got the Court to re-hear the case. Because he thought it was such an important case in education, Warren worked to get a solid majority. The Court which was deadlocked late in 1953, in May 1954 issued the Brown decision unanimously, overturning the separate-but-equal rule from Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) (167 U.S. 537).

Brown was the big boulder whose rolling off the hill of segregation gave power to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. That decision and the horrible murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in the summer of 1955 inspired civil rights worker Rosa Parks to take a stand, and take a seat for human rights on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus in December of 1955, which led to the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by the new preacher in town, a young man named Martin Luther King, Jr. When the Supreme Court again chose civil rights over segregation in the bus case, the wake of the great ship of history clearly showed a change in course.

Oliver Hill was there, one of the navigators of that ship of history.


WSJ on oral histories: A hoax in the family line

August 6, 2007

Jay Gould told everybody he knew about his work recording the memories from the working people of Manhattan, real history. In 1942 he told The New Yorker of his work, and the phrase “oral history” leapt out of the story.

It was a great idea. But Gould made up everything about his work. At his death, friends discovered he left no oral histories behind.

It’s still a good idea, though, and it makes for good student project. Barry Weiss wrote a quick history of oral history for the Wall Street Journal last week. You can pull it off of JSTOR and use it as an introduction to the projects you assign to students.

You’ve never heard of him, but Robert Rush may be a modern-day Herodotus. Mr. Rush, who jokes that “he got his B.A. from the back of a Humvee,” is an oral historian with the U.S. Army. A retired command sergeant major who spent 30 years on active duty before getting his doctorate in history, Mr. Rush believes that recorded testimonies “can flesh out details that aren’t present in the paper histories.” In 2006, he was stationed in Iraq, where he spent seven months interviewing everyone from “engineers to bricklayers to military officers,” all with his handheld Olympus.

A century ago, historians might have laughed at Mr. Rush’s desire to spend time talking to construction workers. Today, the populist impulse is everywhere in the study of history.

Veteran interviews need to be done quickly for any veterans left from World War I, and for the few remaining veterans from World War II and Korea. There is a crying need for interviews of the women who performed the “Rosie the Riveter” work building airplanes, tanks, bombs, and other manufactured items, especially interviews of those women who worked in heavy industries and then went home to raise families when the men returned from foreign fronts. Rush got the soldiers while they were in Iraq — many of them are home now, and provide a source of oral history.

Veterans of Gulf War I, and Vietnam, have stories that need to be told and recorded. There is much to be done.

These stories would be perfect for podcasts, by the way.

Today, digital technology has allowed for every fisherman and every member of Parliament to immortalize their stories. With folks from all walks of life now making autobiographical podcasts, historians in the future will be presented with the issue of how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Storycorps, an ambitious national oral- history project whose results can occasionally be heard on NPR, does some of this sorting, providing a more structured opportunity for such recordings than YouTube. In soundbooths across the country, Americans can come in and record their stories for 40 minutes, which then get archived in the Library of Congress. David Isay, the founder of Storycorps, describes the act of listening to the voice as “an adrenaline shot to the heart.” The physical experience of hearing another’s words can bring an understanding that reading those words on a page simply cannot.

If you go to the Library of Congress Web site you can listen to Lloyd Brown, the last U.S. Navy veteran of World War I, who died earlier this year. On the 71-minute recording, which he made at age 103, Mr. Brown offers a confession for posterity. “I lied about my age; I told them I was 18,” he recalls in a Southern drawl. At 16, he couldn’t wait two years to join the Navy. “It was a matter of patriotism.” So says the voice from history.

Weiss’s story, in the on-line version, briefly linked to this blog last week, bringing in at least two readers. Alas for the blog, but good for readers, the links at the bottom of the page change. Follow what’s there, see what you find.


Dodd, 1, O’Reilly, 0

August 6, 2007

Bloggernista linked to a video where Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., pins Bill O’Reilly for his scurrilous attacks on bloggers.  O’Reilly fans shouldn’t watch.


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