So, first things first, I spoke to my professor about whether I can share her text (I still think it’s a manifesto, but I do actually respect this woman; keep reading) or not. She said she actually hadn’t even considered the possibility before because most of her students seem very unengaged and had never asked before. She thought about it and ultimately decided she would prefer if I don’t share the entire first chapter, primarily because it is not intended as a standalone manuscript and is meant to be a complement to her lectures, and also because it is in a .doc format, which can be edited by anyone, and she is concerned that someone on the internet could edit it, put it back out there as if it was the original text, and that it would misrepresent her. I see it as a valid point (not that she needs to give any explanation at all; it is her intellectual property, and if I cannot respect that then I do not deserve to be posting here.) So, no more complete chapter 1, but she encouraged me to discuss any part of her manifesto text with anyone I like. I bought a hi-lighter today and I’ll be going through making notes on the parts I’d particularly like to draw attention to in the weeks ahead.
Next, I am deeply confused by this woman. As I stated previously, I respect this woman. I am not trying to take back what I said in my original post, that she is a rabid socialist; I still believe that to be true. However, she seems like a very reasonable woman so far, and has gone so far as to say that she encourages people to think and question if we think something she is saying is wrong, and that she will do the same to us. She has shot me down when my arguments are weak, which is completely reasonable and part of why I originally came here for guidance. Rather than being a royal pain when I came to her and explained that I may have unintentionally trampled all over her intellectual property, we had an adult and reasonable conversation about it, and we came to a mature agreement which I outlined above. She told me she was happy that I am engaged in the subject matter, and did not seek to call me an idiot, a crazy, a radical, or “one of them” for having a different viewpoint than her. In short, my professor, by every measure, appears to be a smart, reasonable woman. By any measure, those are traits one should respect, especially in someone one is about to spend the next quarter disagreeing with. I think that I will be able to speak my mind in a respectful manner during this course without fear of getting my grade demolished.
Today we spent most of the session discussing the historical backdrop that led to the American experiment. We only had two hours to do this in, and we started in the vicinity of 500 AD, so we obviously kept things in the macro, but she hit on the highlights fairly faithfully based on other books I’ve read, people I’ve discussed history with, and classes I’ve taken which were taught by professors who without a doubt loved America and what it stands for, although I do think she downplayed how much of a role God still played in the everyday lives of the people of the world during the time of the Enlightenment. But, I said downplayed, not ignored, so I will reserve judgement at this time, though I will make a note of it.
However, so far she has completely skipped the effect of the Plague and other calamities in Europe as far as scarcity of people = people being important. She discussed the plague as being horrible and destroying vast percentages of the population (true) but she never discussed the fact that this shift towards valuing people led to the eventual rise of democracy in Europe and England especially, not did she mention things like the Manga Carta. Again, I will make note, but I will reserve judgement. We ran short on time, and since we haven’t had a session on the origins of American Democracy yet, I’m hoping she’ll bring all this up at a later time. If weeks go by and she has not, I will ask her about it.
What I am confused about is how this reasonable woman who spent 10 minutes making sure we understood how important and revolutionary the emerging concept of merit in the American colonies (as opposed to heredity or class, for example) came to write such statements in her manifesto as “Is this political trend what most Americans want: to destroy government services and re-establish a free-for-all economic system where only the strongest deserve to be rewarded under the banner of an unregulated, corporate-driven economic system? …NO!” She spent a long time in class explaining that a merit-based system of valuing individuals was a good thing, and yet her manifesto constantly attacks free-market principles and stopping only just short of advocating class warfare (though she constantly invokes the concept of “class.”)
We ended tonight discussing indentured servants, and how when their period of indenture was over, they were normal people, could have land, trades, rights, just like anyone else. She ended with the question, “Where, then, does slavery fit into the equation?” I’m currently rereading the early chapters in Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen’s A Patriot’s History of the United States so that I am prepared for that discussion next week. She seemed to become the least rational any time the discussion turned to race, so we’ll see what happens and I’ll keep you all posted.
PS: If anyone can recommend some decent books on English history post-500 AD I’d be interested. Please, something accessible, I’m going to be reading them in addition to a 40 hour work week and a full class load and other supplemental reading (and one of these days I’ll stop ignoring the Network+ certification I’m supposedly working on.) I can read the full versions later when I’m done with college and can have a life again.