Your links to history: August/September Internet Essays and Articles

Erstwhile blogger Caroline Grego presents a grab-bag of the most intriguing history and environmental writing from across the vasts of the Internet each month, according to her subjective and limited perspective. This round-up includes links from August as well, because sometimes the start of the school year gets you just that busy.

What does it mean to think historically? by Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burk

Admittedly, this article is from 2007—however, the start of the school year makes the subject matter relevant. Though this is my fourth year of teaching, it is only my second year in history—and as I faced two classrooms of expectant undergraduates at the beginning of the semester, I found myself searching for materials that could help them understand why history is significant. This article helped.

10 ‘grammar rules’ it’s OK to break (sometimes) by Stephen Pinker

As a TA, I do my best to encourage good writing habits, which rightfully extend far beyond the bounds of simple grammar rules. I am more concerned with a student’s ability to construct a cogent, well-supported argument than whether they left an “of” at the end of a sentence, but I often find that inept analysis can be accompanied by clunky writing. Pinker seems to agree, with some useful guidelines for telling the difference between pet peeves and legitimate concerns. Here, he distinguishes between empty rules emerging from prescriptivism, and standards of usage that do indeed elevate writing style. This is another handy link as our piles of students papers and exams begin to pile up!

Does it help to know history? by Adam Gopnik

Gopnik wrote a short, thoughtful piece on the relevance of history in interpreting current events—with the warning that often history teaches us that our good intentions and best-laid plans have unforeseen consequences.

The Ferguson Syllabus: Sociological Research Puts Ferguson in Context by Nicki Lisa Cole

This past week in Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teenager, Mike Brown, was gunned down by white police officer Darren Wilson, a memorial near the place of his death was destroyed by a fire. Since, citizens of Ferguson have risen up in continued protest. All of which is to say that this is not over, and a syllabus such as this one is an incredibly valuable tool for the classroom.

Jefferson County, Colorado, School Board Wants to Eliminate AP History by Dave Marcus 

I believe that Erstwhile’s Sam Bock is writing a larger post on this issue, but in the meantime, here’s a link to get y’all some information on this controversy. Colorado’s Jefferson County school board wants its teachers to instruct students on history according to these guidelines:

“Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions.”

The students in Jefferson County are protesting this proposal, and you can sign a petition here to show them your support.

A Brief History of Romantic Friendship: “Smashes,” “crushes,” “spoons,” and other curious nineteenth-century relationship varieties by Maria Popova 

And finally, a slight departure from the start-to-the-school-year theme of this month’s history links! This charming article draws from historian Lilian Faderman’s book, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: Faderman examines the history of lesbian relationships throughout 20th century America, and Popova revives the 1991 tome by relating it to contemporary struggles for marriage equality. By the early 20th century, romantic friendships between women had taken on particular significance in the wake of Victorian-era sexual mores and divisions between the men’s and women’s spheres. Faderman argues that the rise of women in higher education, however, began to fracture those strictly codified, gendered roles. Women, often white and upper middle class, used college to play with and push the boundaries of social gender norms—and this also opened the opportunity for women to form romantic and sexual relationships with each other. Willa Cather, the famed novelist of the pioneer experience, was one such woman: she often dressed in drag during her undergraduate career, and carried on same-sex relationships with women she met during, and after, college. Ultimately, these relationships helped set the stage for, later, the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the birth of the contemporary gay rights movement.

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