Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Remembering the Battle of Lake Erie

Remembering the Battle of Lake Erie: In military history, how people remember a particular battle, skirmish, or even war, can be more important than the event itself. Perhaps the most notable event in American history where memory matters is the Civil War. It's often stated that the North won the war, but the South won Reconstruction (and how the war is remembered). Regarding the War of 1812, however, where the Battle of Lake Erie was a major incident, Americans were really just trying to PROVE themselves to the British. In other words, Americans sought reassurance that their "first victory" over the British was not just a fluke. And because many of the war's battles (Siege of Detroit, Battle of New Orleans, etc.) occurred along America's burgeoning borderlands (frontier), incidents like the Battle of Lake Erie helped give birth to an early ethos of westward expansion. For if Commodore Oliver Perry could score a decisive naval victory over the British, which secured the Great Lakes and opened the Midwest, then there was seemingly nothing left but Native Americans (Tecumseh) and wilderness to halt American growth.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On Psychological Warfare


On Psychological Warfare: Sometimes called "psychological operations" or PSY-OPS, the struggle to decimate an enemy's morale (or fighting spirit) has probably been around since the Punic Wars when Hannibal brought war elephants to battle the Romans. Ironically, there was a German mortar/rocket launcher (Der Nebelwerfer) from WWII that sounded eerily similar to Hannibal's elephants. Nevertheless, at its core, psychological warfare is about intimidation. Anything from printing newspapers/leaflets to broadcasting subliminal messages to amplifying ominous sounds can be considered part of psych warfare. Perhaps there was no greater master of psychological warfare than the German military, especially during the 1930s/40s. From V-1 rockets whose engines emitted a pulsating buzz to Stuka planes (dive bombers) whose propellers wailed like sirens, the German military certainly understood the value of mass demoralization. In fact, by the end of WWII, the Germans had launched around 10,000 V-1s, with about 2,500 striking London. And since these rockets were unguided, they basically fell to Earth after their engines died (scary stuff).

Sunday, May 15, 2016

On the Mississippi Delta Region


On the Mississippi Delta Region: Not to be confused with the Mississippi River Delta, which is mostly in Louisiana, the Delta region is actually a large portion of Northwest Mississippi. Because it sits between two major rivers (the Mississippi and the Yazoo), it frequently floods. And after the Native Americans were forced from the area in the 1830s, other peoples moved to settle there. With over 7,000 sq. miles of arable land, the Delta region produced everything from sugar cane to rice to indigo to tobacco, and especially cotton. Unfortunately, the production of these various cash crops first came from slave labor (before the Civil War), and then from cheap (sharecropping) labor (after the War). Sharecropping originated in the Delta, and it became the primary way for former slaves to earn a living. Sharecroppers would often relinquish a portion of whatever crops they grew (usually cotton) as a form of rent. Yet in the early 1900s, demographic shifts began to change the Delta region. As black Americans migrated North in search of industrial jobs around World War I, a swarm of Mexican-American laborers filled the Delta's agricultural void. Thus, the region's cultural diversity, particularly in terms of food, started to flourish.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

On Special Education and IEPs

On Special Education and IEPs: Ever since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, American public schools have been required by law to accommodate students with special needs. Indeed, the earliest needs focused mainly on physical disabilities such as deaf-blindness, diabetes, and orthopedic-related injuries. More specifically, it was Section 504 of this 1973 law that made way for "plans" to be incorporated into a student's public school schedule. This concept was further developed in the 1990s after the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) became law. By this time, mental disabilities had shot to the forefront of special education, and thus, individualized education programs (IEPs) were born. IEPs are effective mechanisms for helping students work around their disabilities, but not every student with a disability requires one. It's important to treat IEPs as a kind of "last resort" for students having academic troubles in school. General education teachers can make a variety of changes to their instructional methods and classroom set-ups before eliciting the help of a special educator. Lastly, the biggest misconception surrounding IEPs is that they serve as "remedies" for a student's disability. Unfortunately, that disability will probably still remain, long after the student has tested out of his or her IEP.

Friday, April 15, 2016

On the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial

On the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial: Legally speaking, there was nothing terribly shocking about the O.J. Simpson verdict in October 1995. After it became clear that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) tampered with evidence, exoneration of criminal liability was the only option for the jury. Culturally speaking, however, the Simpson murder trial had a major rippling effect on American society, especially in terms of race relations. At a time when affirmative action statutes were being deemed no longer necessary, the Simpson trial brought questions of race and justice back into the fold. To add some context here, the trial occurred a mere three years after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Thus, the city was still raw with a heightened sense of racial tension. Like the Rodney King trial, where four LAPD officers were acquitted of brutal behavior, the Simpson trial called the American ideal of "equal justice under law" into serious question. But what made the Simpson trial particularly intriguing was how it divided Americans along racial lines. Overwhelmingly, Caucasian-Americans attributed guilt to Simpson's actions while African-Americans believed he was innocent. Above all, technicalities matter tremendously in American law, as they often serve as the drivers of due process.