Thursday, March 26, 2009

World War II, In The 1st and 2nd Person

Today I did the "guest lecturing" I've posted about for the last couple of days. At the request of a commenter I did make a 745MB digital audio recording of the talk, but I doubt it will be worth very much without the visuals--pictures, coins, stamps, and uniform insignia--that I passed around at different times during the talk.

I spoke to 4 classes and recorded the third one. Wouldn't you know it, that's the one where I made mistakes! I don't know why, but I kept referring to the cathedrals in Cologne and Coventry as "temples" in that class, something I didn't do in any other class. Maybe I was just spooked by the recording device, who knows.

Still, the students at least paid attention and I didn't see any reading books, doing work from other classes, or any other behaviors that would indicate that they weren't interested and/or weren't listening. Each class asked different questions, which often triggered new memories of stories nana used to tell me.

All in all, the talk seemed to be well-received by the students. A couple even saw me after school--students I didn't even know--and they told me how much they liked this point or that that I had mentioned. That was very rewarding.


Fritz J. said...

Glad your lectures went well.

I think one of the reasons that most students find history boring is that it is seldom presented in a personal manner. Instead it is presented in a dispassionate manner that most students find difficult to connect to their lives. By telling about your grandmother's experiences you have put the personal element into it and the students suddenly have a basis to understand how events affected people.

I never enjoyed history until I had a high school teacher who went far beyond what the text supplied. For example, he presented reasons for why Gen. Custer acted in the way he did. The text supplied many reasons why Custer's actions were wrong, but supplied no reasons for why Custer may have decided to act the way he did, which left Custer looking like a total idiot. Yet when you understand the pressures Custer was under (owing to the fact the Army was looking for any excuse to get rid of personnel because they were downsizing) you start to understand why he was willing to take such risks. It was a case of either be wildly successful or get kicked out. Gen. Custer gambled on being wildly successful and failed. Had he been able to pull it off, he would have been regarded as a hero and his future in the Army pretty well assured. In short, Gen. Custer's actions were driven by the political situation of the time. And it is not that I'm attempting to defend Gen. Custer, only that Mr. Russell (my teacher) showed why he might have been willing to make so many wrong assumptions and make decisions which proved wrong. Mr. Russell made Gen. Custer human and explained the mood of the times far better than the text did, just as your lectures made the period you are talking about more human.

We need more Mr. Russells and people like you who help us to understand the context in which historical events took place. Only by understanding them can we avoid the mistakes various leaders and people have made throughout history. Yes, it is easy to look at the record and say Gen. Custer blew it, but without understanding why he did what he did we have no way to guard against making the same mistakes again. Sadly, most of the political class has no understanding of history and continues to make the same old mistakes time after time. I could make a pretty good argument that our current financial situation has many parallels with Gen. Custer's situation, but that is a different topic.

Anonymous said...

Great to hear. Will the recording be posted?

Darren said...

I would post it if I knew where I could post 745 MB of recording!!! That's more than a full CD's worth.

Nick Lopez said... allows up to 1 GB. That's for download, though. For streaming, I'm not sure that you can with such a large file.

Google tells me this, though I've never used it:

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Wonderful. Stories like your Nana's are one of the reasons I got hooked on history in the first place.