Quotulatiousness

August 24, 2017

Teaching history in the South – the “Lost Cause” school of historiography

Filed under: Education, History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Warren Meyer gives some background on how most people in the Southern US were taught the history of the “War Between the States”:

The Lost Cause School: I want to provide some help for those not from the South to understand the southern side of the statue thing. In particular, how can good people who believe themselves not to be racist support these statues? You have to recognize that most folks of my generation in the South were raised on the lost cause school of Civil War historiography. I went to one of the great private high schools in the South and realized later I had been steeped in Lost Cause. All the public schools taught it. Here is the Wikipedia summary:

    The Lost Cause of the Confederacy, or simply Lost Cause, is a set of revisionist beliefs that describes the Confederate cause as a heroic one against great odds despite its defeat. The beliefs endorse the virtues of the antebellum South, viewing the American Civil War as an honorable struggle for the Southern way of life, while minimizing or denying the central role of slavery. While it was not taught in the North, aspects of it did win acceptance there and helped the process of reunifying American whites.

    The Lost Cause belief system synthesized numerous ideas into a coherent package. Lost Cause supporters argue that slavery was not the main cause of the Civil War, and claim that few scholars saw it as such before the 1950s. In order to reach this conclusion, they often deny or minimize the writings and speeches of Confederate leaders of the time in favor of later-written revisionist documents. Supporters often stressed the idea of secession as a defense against a Northern threat to their way of life and say that threat violated the states’ rights guaranteed by the Union. They believed any state had the right to secede, a point strongly denied by the North. The Lost Cause portrayed the South as more profoundly Christian than the greedy North. It portrayed the slavery system as more benevolent than cruel, emphasizing that it taught Christianity and civilization. In explaining Confederate defeat, the Lost Cause said the main factor was not qualitative inferiority in leadership or fighting ability but the massive quantitative superiority of the Yankee industrial machine.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia (via Wikimedia)

Obviously this was promoted by the white supremacists after the war, but in the 20th century many well-meaning people in the South who are not racist and by no means want to see a return of slavery or Jim Crow still retain elements of this story, particularly the vision of the Confederacy as a scrappy underdog. But everything in these two paragraphs including the downplaying of slavery in the causes of the Civil War was being taught when I grew up. It wasn’t until a civil war course in college (from James McPherson no less, boy was I a lucky dog there) that I read source material from the time and was deprogrammed.

The comparisons of the current statue removal to Protestant reformation iconoclasm seem particularly apt to me. You see, growing up in the South, Confederate generals were our saints. And the word “generals” is important. No one I knew growing up would think to revere, say, Jefferson Davis. Only the hard-core white supremacists revered Jefferson Davis. Real lost cause non-racist southerners revered Robert E. Lee. He was our Jesus (see: Dukes of Hazard). Every town in the south still has a Robert E Lee High School. Had I not gone to private school, I would have gone to Houston’s Lee High (I had a friend who went to college at Lehigh in New Jersey. Whenever he told folks in the South he went there, they would inevitably answer “yes, but where did you go to college.”) So Lee was by far and away at the top of the pantheon. Then you had folks like Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart who were probably our Peter and Paul. Then all the rest of the generals trailing off through the equivalents of St. Bartholomew or whoever. We even had a Judas, General James Longstreet, who for a variety of reasons was reviled by the Lost Cause school and was blamed for many of Lee’s, and the South’s, losses.

If you want to see the Southern generals the way much of the South sees them, watch the movie Gettysburg, which I like quite a bit (based on the book Killer Angels, I believe, also a good read). The Southern Generals are good, talented men trying to make the best of a losing cause. Slavery is, in this movie, irrelevant to them. They are fighting for their beloved homes in the South, not for slavery. The movie even has Longstreet saying something like “we should have freed the slaves and then fired on Fort Sumter.”

The movie Gettysburg is excellent, but if you don’t know much about the actual battle, you might end up thinking the entire conflict revolved around the 20th Maine…

Words & Numbers: Child Labor Was Wiped Out by Markets, Not Government

Filed under: Business, Economics, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 23 Aug 2017

In 1938 the US government passed the Fair Labor Standards Act mandating a forty hour work week, establishing a minimum wage, and prohibiting child labor. Because of legislation like this, government is often credited for making the American work environment safer and more fair. Yet, as Antony Davies and James Harrigan demonstrate with historical data, market forces were already making things easier on the American worker long before the FLSA.

Learn More:
https://fee.org/articles/child_labor_was_wiped_out_by_markets_not_government
https://youtu.be/0zq-2cKENOc

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/sep/09/viral-image/does-8-hour-day-and-40-hour-come-henry-ford-or-lab/

https://fee.org/articles/child_labor_was_wiped_out_by_markets_not_government

Data:

http://www2.census.gov/prod2/statcomp/documents/CT1970p1-05.pdf
See page 170 for average weekly work hours.
See page 134 for child labor rates.

Andrew Scheer’s latest missed opportunity to defend freedom of speech

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Chris Selley is disappointed in federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s dropping the ball on defending the right to free speech in Canada:

Last week, headlines proclaimed that the University of Toronto had “barred” from campus a right-wing “group” calling itself the Canadian Nationalist Party, which was planning to hold a rally there despite objections from activists. Asked if this violated the hypothetical Conservative policy, Team Scheer said no. “I respect the right for universities to determine which outside groups they give a platform to,” he told the National Post.

Quite right. In fact, according to U of T, the “party” — which may or may not be one fellow with a website — hadn’t even contacted the university about it. If some random Facebook user announces “Rager at Selley’s Saturday Night,” I have no obligation to stock the bar.

But in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, a Scheer spokesperson went further. Scheer would work with universities “to prevent loopholes for events that risk violating Canadian law,” CBC reported. “(Scheer) is committed to working with the universities to ensure that any policy he brings forward does not become a platform for hate speech,” said the spokesperson.

Sorry, no. That’s hopeless. Any event can be “a platform for hate speech,” if an organizer or attendee decides to make it one. The key, within reason, is that they be given the chance. Team Scheer is all but explicitly endorsing prior restraint: Person X or Group Y might be too dangerous, too likely to utter “hate speech,” for a university to vouchsafe.

As soon as you endorse that idea over a universal defence of free speech up to some reasonable definable threshold — the Criminal Code, say — you’re emboldening precisely the censors Scheer claims to want to take on. Are BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week prima facie hate speech? Is the idea of a superior white race or male gender prima facie hate speech? People disagree; universities are supposed to be free venues for those disagreements.

Meanwhile, Scheer seems to have missed an opportunity to weigh in on a whopper of a free speech dereliction at Ryerson University last week. Citing an inability “to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward, particularly given the recent events in Charlottesville,” the Toronto university cancelled a discussion concerning … er … “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses.” Activists had vowed to shut down the event; they managed it without even having to close their laptops. Ryerson hasn’t formally been a university for long. A politician who (for better or worse) thinks campus free speech is his business might reasonably propose it shouldn’t be going forward.

Heinlein’s “Crazy Years”

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In his recent USA Today column, Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds gives a shout-out to Robert A. Heinlein’s pre-WW2-era “Future History” timeline which included a segment presciently called “The Crazy Years”:

Very early in his writing career, about 1940, science fiction writer Robert Heinlein outlined a “future history” around which much of his writing would revolve, extending from the mid-twentieth century to the 24th century. Much of what he outlined hasn’t come to pass, but he nailed it in one respect: We live in the “Crazy Years.”

The Crazy Years, in Heinlein’s timeline, were when rapid changes in technology, together with the disruption those changes caused in mores and economics, caused society to, well, go crazy. They ran from the last couple of decades of the 20th Century into the first couple of decades of the 21st. In some of his novels set in that era — Time Enough for Love, for example — he includes random assortments of headlines that may have seemed crazy enough back then, but that seem downright tame today.

I’m not the first to make this connection — science fiction writers John C. Wright and Sarah Hoyt have remarked on it, and as Hoyt notes, “these are the Crazy Years” has become something of a stock joke among Heinlein fans.

But what does that mean? As Wright observes — invoking not only Heinlein but his contemporary A.E. Van Vogt, “craziness” comes when beliefs don’t match facts:

“Craziness can be measured by maladaptive behavior. The behavior the society uses to solve one kind of problem, when applied to an incorrect category, disorients it. When this happens the whole society, even if some members are aware of the disorientation, cannot reach the correct conclusion, or react in a fashion that preserves society from harm. As if society were a dolphin that called itself a fish: when it suffered the sensation of drowning, it would dive. But a dolphin is a mammal, a member of a different category of being. When dolphins are low on air, they surface, rather than dive. Putting yourself in the wrong category leads to the wrong behavior.”

The Story of Western Philosophy

Filed under: Education, Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 26 May 2017

Relevant mystery link: https://youtu.be/myc7eHGg5y4
If you notice any factual errors in this week’s video, please just bear in mind that life is ultimately meaningless in the first place.

QotD: Reader demands

Filed under: Books, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Readers often ask for more of the same, but I think in many cases that’s not what they mean; what they are really saying is, “Give me a story that will make me feel the way that one did!” Which may actually be quite a different thing, but is much harder to articulate.

(Or, for all those fractal follow-ups, there’s always Fanficwoman. To the rescue!)

Lois McMaster Bujold, “Ask the Author: Lois McMaster Bujold”, Goodreads, 2015-04-21.

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