Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: NY Daily News (11-2-11)
Zimmerman teaches history at NYU. He is the author of Small Wonder: The Little Red Schoolhouse in History and Memory.
Suppose someone comes up to you on the street and says we should require prayer in the public schools. “Kids aren’t getting religion at home anymore,” he explains, “so schools need to teach it.”
If you’re a liberal New Yorker, like I am, you may tell him to be fruitful and multiply — but in less gentle words. Religion is a private matter, you’ll say, and he has no business trying to impose his beliefs on others.
But when it comes to sex education, liberals seem to think such compulsion is perfectly fine, because, the logic goes, lessons on condoms and the like make kids act in more responsible ways. Alas, there is no definite proof of that. So we need to show much more solicitude toward parents who oppose it.
Witness the current kerfuffle in New York, where public schools are requiring sex education for the first time in nearly two decades. Starting this fall, schools must teach the subject in sixth or seventh grade and again in ninth or 10th grade.
There’s no mandatory curriculum, but officials suggest that schools use HealthSmart and Reducing the Risk. These programs aim to delay the initiation of sexual intercourse and increase contraceptive use among teens who choose to engage in it.
It’s the latter goal, especially, that has angered some parents. They hear a mixed message: Put off sex, but put on a condom if you have it. And it violates their most deeply held beliefs, every bit as much as a required prayer might violSex ate yours....
Posted on: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 16:21
SOURCE: The New Republic (11-3-11)
David A. Bell, a Contributing Editor to The New Republic, teaches European History at Princeton.
In calling for a referendum on Greece’s bailout plan, Prime Minister George Papandreou has, it could be said, embraced one of his country’s oldest political traditions: direct democracy. The idea that the citizens of a state should all cast votes to decide matters of common interest was arguably born within an easy walk of his Athens office, some two and a half millennia ago.
Of course, referendums have remained a part of democratic politics into the modern era, with a formal place in the constitutions of many countries and regions, from France to Australia. In the United States, their use goes back to the town meetings of colonial New England, and they still have a crucial role in the politics of several states, notably California.
But the use of referendums as a political procedure has always been tense, even problematic, for democracies—and that is no less true of Greece’s planned vote in January. Papandreou says he is paying deference to the unmediated will of the Greek people, and so presents the vote as the very essence of democracy. Yet in fact, referendums have most often done more to weaken democratic institutions than to strengthen them, and this new example is no exception....
Posted on: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 12:57
SOURCE: NYT (11-2-11)
Posted on: Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 08:45
SOURCE: Financial Times (UK) (10-28-11)
The writer’s latest book is Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, published by Allen Lane.
If Sparta and Rome perished”, asked Rousseau in his Social Contract, “how can any state hope to live for ever? The Body Politick, like the body of a man, begins to die as soon as it is born; it contains the seeds of its own destruction.” The histories of Europe’s numerous extinct states testify to this truth. Early examples come from the five Kingdoms of Burgundy or the Crown of Aragon, a recent one from the Soviet Union, which evaporated in 1991.
Yet states continue to vanish; sooner or later, all human institutions fall apart. The German Democratic Republic merged with West Germany. Czechoslovakia broke up when Czechs and Slovaks agreed their velvet divorce. The federation of Yugoslavia was torn asunder between 1991 and 2006. The map of Europe has repeatedly been transformed by state dissolution and EU expansion. Speculation spreads about which state will be the next to fall. Some say Belgium, others Italy.
Most recently, the demise of Euroland came into view. It is not a sovereign state, but it is a body politick of sorts and subject to the same vagaries of fortune afflicting everything else. Launched only a dozen years ago, it may join the long list of organisations that have died young...
Posted on: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 - 06:10