Monday, August 15, 2016

On Resisting Apartheid

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

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

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.

Friday, July 1, 2016

On Peggy Shippen, Benedict Arnold, and Betrayal

On Peggy Shippen, Benedict Arnold, and Betrayal: The Shippens had become a well-known Philadelphia family by the late 1700s. As lawyers, judges, and politicians in the Pennsylvania Colony, the Shippens owed a great deal of their success to the British Crown. And when the American Revolution began in the 1770s, the family held mostly Loyalist beliefs. In effect, Loyalists like the Shippens believed the Revolution was nothing more than a movement to make the Colonists more British. Becoming independent, i.e., creating a new government and raising a new military, would not be not such a radical experiment, because so much of it would be modeled on British traditions. Nevertheless, when the Continental Army recaptured Philadelphia in 1778, Arnold and Shippen started a courtship. Despite being 20 years her senior, Arnold became exposed to a variety of British folks and folkways, mainly because the Shippens often entertained British guests. Over time, Arnold began to feel his services as a military commander would be more appreciated by the British, and thus, he defected soon after marrying Shippen. Arnold's name has since become a byword for betrayal in American English.

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.