Thursday, September 15, 2016
How African Slavery Proliferated: Aside from the Atlantic slave trade and the Arab slave trade, which took slaves off the African continent, how did slavery grow and develop in Africa? Like Europe or the colonial Americas, between the 1600s and the 1800s, slavery was widespread in African societies. According to historian John Thornton, the main reason why African slavery proliferated, especially in Atlantic Africa, was because "slaves were the only form of private, revenue-producing property recognized in African law." In Europe, however, "land was the primary form of revenue-producing property." Thus, land ownership became a major factor behind slavery's growth in Europe and the colonial Americas. And as such, the master-slave relationship functioned like a landlord-tenant relationship in European legal systems. Yet it was the absence private (landed) property in African societies that helped slavery proliferate on the continent. Anthropologists have sought reasons for Africa's lack of private land ownership, and two factors seem to surface consistently. Low population densities coupled with a lack of agricultural technologies made land plentiful for much of Africa, and thus, little need to declare ownership of it.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
On the Pearl Harbor Attack: Often considered an immediate cause of the U.S. entering WWII, the Attack on Pearl Harbor marked a major short-term victory for the Japanese Imperial Navy. Early in 1941, President Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Pacific Fleet to be moved from San Diego to Pearl Harbor in an effort to thwart Japanese expansion throughout the region. Part of Roosevelt's reasoning here stemmed from the idea that Pearl Harbor was a shallow water lagoon, which would make torpedo attacks from planes very difficult. After a plane-dropped torpedo hits the water, it needs to reach an appropriate depth to achieve maximum speed, and thus, create mass destruction by hitting a ship's bow or stern. And although many of the torpedo strikes that sunk American battleships came from Japanese planes, the Imperial Navy also stationed numerous submarines near the harbor's entrance to deter escape. Yet when the U.S. ended its oil exports to Japan in July 1941 (to protest Japanese aggression in China), relations between the two nations had become largely toxic (although each side held non-aggression talks until late November).
Monday, August 15, 2016
On Resisting Apartheid: After WWII, when many European nations started to relinquish their colonial empires (Britain, France, etc.), decolonization pushed certain parts of the world into chaos. For a country like South Africa, that chaos came in the form of resisting governmental policies. Although South Africa originally gained its independence from Britain in 1910, it was not until the post-WWII era that resistance to racial segregation (apartheid) laws began to build momentum. The focal point behind much of this resistance was the African National Congress (ANC), which served as a center-left political party in South Africa. Key figures who led boycotts and other non-violent ANC campaigns included Albert Lutuli, Nelson Mandela, and Steve Biko. In the 1960s, Lutuli won the Nobel Peace Prize, while in the 1990s, Mandela became South Africa's first black president. But it was Biko's role in the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) during the 1970s which focused worldwide attention on the violence that apartheid policies caused (pictured above are people fleeing violent police clashes in the 1976 Soweto Uprising).
Monday, August 1, 2016
On Behavior and Classroom Management: Unfortunately, terms such as "classroom management" make teachers sound more like business executives than proper educators. Yet part of the struggle here, especially with elementary and middle schoolers, really centers on showing students that their teacher is a human being too. If students can see that their teacher is not just a disciplinarian, but rather an honest adult who cares about his or her students, then classroom management techniques become much easier to implement. In effect, the main objective behind managing a classroom should be geared toward creating an authentic, distraction-free learning space that is governed by democratic ideals such as participation and respect. Common managerial tactics might include ignoring, proximity controlling, and appealing to a student's core values. Perhaps the two most important things to avoid when managing student behavior are sarcastic humor and yelling. At the middle school level in particular, when students are undergoing hormonal changes, shouting simply gets the teacher nowhere. If anything, yelling merely de-motivates students by subverting their self-esteem.
Friday, July 15, 2016
On Catholic Guilt: In the Church's early days, the origins of Catholic guilt can really be traced to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For the most part, parishioners confessed their sins publicly, i.e., in front of the entire congregation. Such an act usually brought instant shame to the confessor, and likewise, appropriate behavioral changes. These days, however, Catholic guilt mostly refers to lapsed parishioners, or those who merely attend church services (Mass) around liturgical holidays like Christmas and Easter. Nevertheless, unlike Protestantism, which generally preferences faith over works, Catholic guilt often pushes churchgoers to think in depth about the ultimate consequences (and motivations) behind their actions. Unfortunately, with this kind of intense scrutiny given to one's personal actions, guilt can be considered a precipitating factor in the development of psychological disorders like OCD. In short, although guilt tends to complicate the inner-workings of one's psyche, it can also liberate one's soul.