Thursday, September 16, 2010

16 September 2010 Heckle Jekyll and Hide

I managed to set in on a black history class this morning by virtue of being lucky in the parking lot dance. It must be an entry level course based on the material being covered. Still, it was a chance to sit in a comfortable chair and absorb new information and old information presented in a different manner. I have missed two or so weeks of the class, have not read any of the text, and don’t even know the title of the class. Still, I was able to answer several questions when the professor could not coax or cajole anything from the actual students.

It honestly was somewhat unsettling. The instructor kept pointing our items of information that “history majors” should “be sure to know.” Should the rest of the class not know these things?

I could not have said with certainty when the Virginia colony was formalized – documents 1607- or that the first Africans landed from a Dutch ship 12 years later as indentured servants rather than as slaves. But land records indicate that Africans were deeded parcels of land in the 1620’s-30’s; thus indicating they were freed at some time in between. At least, I learned a few new things this morning.

Other material from this class included slave codes being written into law. Among these are anti-miscegination laws, slaves = chattel laws, forced illiteracy laws, etc. I‘ve never had a black history class but so much of this is what I would consider common knowledge. It may be that I should not try to audit this class. I don’t want to interfere with her teaching method. But there is a strong desire to stand up and yell at the students who sit there like inert lumps. When no one else could provide the answer (Dred Scott) I offered it and the professor followed with a short amplification. When one of the black women students admitted to only knowing the name, she launched into a longer and more involved description of the events leading to and the import of the Dred Scott decision and the 36° 30’ line defined in the Missouri Compromise. Is this selective instruction? Does an older white male get a different response than a young black female? Should the young black female have prepared for class more carefully? I don’t honestly know. Certainly the Dred Scott decision has import to all black Americans. But it has import for all Americans, not just black Americans. All college students should be aware of this legal event, not just those who might major in history.

I’m not going to buy the text for this class but it may be more fun than I anticipate dropping in when parking allows. I’ve no intention to disrupt the class buy intruding into someone’s lesson plans, but it will be interesting to see how much “black history” I’m already familiar with.

History 3940 involved a guest speaker today. Collins invited a SFC in a local NG unit. He’s been writing a column from Afghanistan for the local paper. I was reading them while they appeared. Once he rotated home the columns stopped.

He spent an hour fielding questions while the three vets nodded or muttered in support, agreement, and at shared black humor. The presence of veterans from combat roles in VietNam, Bosnia, Iraq, and Iran was interesting. Despite the spread of years and the changes in the armed forces the commonality of experiences is strong. There are some things absorbed at a visceral level that seem almost to alter our DNA and to make us truly comrades in arms.

What I found truly interesting was his response to a question asking if our war in Afghanistan could be won. While still on active duty, he pulled no punches, and said it felt it to be unwinnable. Bravery of a different sort than one normally looks for in soldiers. Two of the three vets agreed with him. The ROTC cadets said nothing. Unfortunately, they also failed to ask any questions. They had a remarkable source to take advantage of and failed to look for information. It was almost as if they wanted to hide from the reality of what an army actually is.

SFC Hopkins did a good job of talking to a civilian class without using too much slang or jargon peculiar to the military. Once the class ended the political correctness did as well. Talking among ourselves, Collins, Hopkins, and the vets reverted to type, used real world imagery. It was interesting how often I’ve written in earlier material about some of the things that stuck out to us all across generations. Two pieces of my poetry would have fit well into Hopkins’ talk.

I may offer him some limited use of them. I may use them for this class as well. After all, one of the assignments will be to interview a vet. I’ve spent enough hours talking to Gloria’s father about his tour of duty that I may be able to do a posthumous interview.

Carry on!

Art-history spelling list 16 September 2010









I’ll agree that some college students might not be familiar with these words. Enteduanna is new to my vocabulary.

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