Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Characteristics of a Good Conversation

Here are some of the elements I believe are key to a good conversation. Do you agree? Disagree? Have anything else to add? Let me know!

Elements of a Good Conversation:
o All have opportunity to participate if they desire (people aren’t talking over one another or dominating)
o Friendly dialogue (rather than a debate)
o Points of View/Opinions are questioned even if everyone agrees
o Ideas are discussed in detail when possible, rather than jumping around to many different ideas quickly
o Questions are asked, comments are made, people also make reference to the passages or specific quotations if applicable
o People take steps to begin the conversation, synthesize it, play devil’s advocate when needed, promote further learning, etc.
o Conversation is steered back towards topic at-hand if the discussion gets off-topic

These are the characteristics that I thought of in relation to our AmCon class. Obviously it's a little different for different situations (such as a dinner party, etc.) but after spending time in discussion during AmCon this semester I think these things are important to our conversations in-class.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The American Paradox

Slavery and the American Revolution. Two so seemingly contradictory things.
As is written in the Challenge of the American Revolution, "the American paradox of slavery and freedom, intertwined and interdependent, the rights of Englishmen supported on the wrongs of Africans. The American Revolution only made the contradictions more glaring, as the slave holding colonists proclaimed to a candid world the rights not simply of Englishmen but of all men" (21). Personally I find this so hard to understand. True, Jefferson and others felt that slaves were not worth as much as others, but at the same time this just seems so contradictory to me today. I guess in a way it was just a different way of thinking back then. As in the article, "that people in the lowest condition, the dregs of society, generally arrived at that position through their own vice and misconduct, whether in ancient Rome or modern Britain, was an unexamined article of faith among eighteenth-century Republicans. And the vice that was thought to afflict the lower ranks most severly was idleness" (147). In this way it sounds that it was just a different mentality, or a different perspective on slavery. The concept that slaves had gotten what they deserved. Afterall, they were lazy. However, nonetheless this is still inconceivable in my own mind today. For this reason slavery and the American Revolution were seen as the American Paradox, and in my mind rightly so.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Quest for Identity through Consumerism

As it is written in the American Icon article, "..consumption is a quest for identity through sensual means. We buy what we think we see in an object, grasping at the physical to get at the intangible, buying the commodity to obtain the unsaleable quality. The catch, however, is that the longing for identity is diffuse, unfocused, and not described by any specific missing quality, so no particular commodity can satisfy. We desire, we buy, we are inevitably disappointed, and we buy again, and again" (33).
Personally I identified with this quote considering how incredibly accurate I think it is today. So often we (myself included, at times) buy something, thinking it is absolutely necessary to have or will make our lives better in some major way.
Ultimately, we are frequently disappointed. The thing doesn't bring us greater happiness over time. Perhaps it makes us happier at the moment of purchase, the so-called 'buyer's euphoria', but it doesn't really contribute to our lives or our image. Does it really matter to have the Mercedes Benz that everyone drives? Plus, does buying it really formulate your identity if everyone else has one too? That is one of the many questions that this excerpt brought to my mind...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Architecture and Education Intermix

I found it incredibly inspiring to read David Orr's article about collegiate buildings and an emphasis upon environmental awareness, which so often are contradictory issues. It can leave students feeling like environmental issues such as climate change or viotic impoverishment "are unreal or that they are unsolvable in any practical way, or that they occur somewhere else" (2). I know I have to admit that I've often felt the same way myself: that environmental awareness is great, but isn't really something that's feasible in the large buildings on a college campus.

However, Orr challenged me to re-think that assumption. As he questions, "Is it possible to design buildings and entire campuses in ways that promote ecological competence and mindfulness? Through better design, is it possible to teahc our students that our problems are solvable and that we are connected to the larger community of life?" (2). These are the questions he sets out to answer. I think they are very good ones, and was impressed by the project that he and others took on in creating such an environmentally-conscious building, which "did not impair human or ecological health somewhere else or at some later time" (2).

He goes into the different components of the process taken: the building process, technology, materials and the team-like approach in it's creation.

The project cost more than a 'normal' building would, but in the end "it is designed to instruct students and faculty in... the possibilities of ecological design applied to buildings", which is now a part of the college's curriculum. Furthermore, in the end students who devoted time and energy to working on the building started to feel that it was their legacy to the college. Still others said that they learned more about ecological design and acquired problem-solving skills than they otherwise ever would have before.

All in all it seemed to be a great success, despite all of the work and money involved and provided much inspiration to me for the future in sustainable and environmentally-friendly architecture. However, where this leads to in the future remains to be seen: will buildings such as this or Regents hall on our campus become the norm in college architecture? Or is it too much work and expense? Hopefully this will become the norm overtime, but only time shall tell.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thomas Jefferson: A Jack of (Seemingly) All Trades!

When learning about Thomas Jefferson through our readings, I've been surprised to find how diverse his accomplishments really were. As is written in the "NAmerican Neoclassicism, The Idealistic Phase" article, "Seen in their broadest aspects, Jefferson's achievements were humanistic and egalitarian; his methods were those of a disciplined lawyer and a shrewd politician. He was an idealist and perfectionist, whose aspirations found their most substantial embodiment in the institution of American democracy..." (286). This quote did a great job of summing up Thomas Jefferson. It describes his achievements, personality and ideals.

Furthermore, these ideals translated into his architecture. As "for him architecture was both an expressive and a functional means toward the fulfillment of his ideals" (286). Surprising as it was for me to learn, "his role in the evolution of American architecture was as decisive as his role in the formation of American democracy" (286). I found this incredible, as I hadn't ever realized he had designed his own house, the Monticello, let alone a college!

Additionally I found Jefferson's vision impressive. Throughout his life he was dedicated to his goals, and though it proved difficult to create the "academic village" he hoped for in a collegiate setting, he managed to gain support for it over-time and get it built. In this way he also played a powerful role in the sphere of education as well, helping to both create the physical landscape of his college but also the curriculum found within it.

Jefferson wore many hats throughout history. As it's stated, "he was not only a politician, statesmna, lawyer , scholar, author, educator, farmer, archaeologist, musician...and architect" (286). What hat didn't he wear?! Was there anything he didn't seem to accomplish? As I soon learned from this article, Jefferson wasn't just the author of the Declaration of Independence as I had previously thought.

Image From:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stylistic Components of the Declaration of Independence: Breaking it Down For Analysis

I really enjoyed Stephen E. Lucas's article, "The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence". I have read the Declaration of Independence before many times, in American History classes in High School but hadn't ever really looked at the wording of it in an in-depth manner.

As Lucas states, "The text of the Declaration can be divided into five sections--the introduction, the preamble, the indictment of George III, the denunciation of the British people, and the conclusion" (1). Furthermore, he goes into depth about the specific wording of many components of the Declaration.

In particular, when looking at 'the Indictment of George III' part of the Declaration, Lucas says, "The ambiguity of the grievances also made them more difficult to refute. In order to build a convincing case against the grievances, defenders of the king had to clarify each charge and what specific act or events it referred to, and then explain why the charge was not true. Thus it took John Lind, who composed the most sustained British response to the Declaration, 110 pages to answer the charges set forth by the Continental Congress in fewer than two dozen sentences. Although Lind deftly exposed many of the charges to be flimsy at best, his detailed and complex rebuttal did not stand a chance against the Declaration as a propaganda document" (7).  It was an important and interesting point to make, and one I hadn't thought of: the grievances listed are in this way purposefully vague, in order to make them harder to refute.

Furthermore, the way they are stated makes it appear that "each charge referred not to a particular piece of legislation or to an isolated act in a single colony, but to a violation of the constitution that had been repeated on many occasions throughout America" (7).

This is one of the many cases in which the wording of the Constitution was key to it's success.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Trumbull's Painting "Signing of the Declaration of Independence": Not Quite an Accurate Tale

Here is depicted John Trumbull's painting of the supposed signing of the Declaration of Independence. However, upon closer inspection in our "Declaration of Independence" reading, one finds that in reality "all of the signers never met together in the same room at one time" (61). Furthermore, rather than declaring independence on July 4th, as it is commonly assumed, Congress actually declared independence on July 2nd. And "most members officially signed the engrossed parchment only on the second of August" (61). In this way one finds out that this depiction of the signing was not quite accurate on several counts.

This reminds me of the so-called "myths" that my partner Liza and I sought to dispel in our partner paper about Pocahontas. A cultural icon in today's day and age, the few known facts about her have been lost as she is exploited for commercial value. For example, when looking at historical documents one finds that when John Smith and the others arrived in America she was really only a young girl of 10 or 12, rather than the young woman that many modern-day accounts portray her to be. Furthermore, in real-life she married John Rolfe, not John Smith as the Disney movie portrays. 

Many paintings, movies, and other forms of artistic expression steer away from the truth in order to tell a good tale or in the name of artistic expression. That's all fine and good, but it's important to remember to distinguish between fact and fiction when looking at representations of people or events throughout time. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Colonial Cities: Places of Boundless Opportunity, Countless Walls and Radical Change

As Author Benjamin Carp states, "For some, the city represented boundless opportunities" (3). If one was wealthy or had an esteemed position (such as a lawyer or merchant), one could view the city as a place for advancement and a place where almost anything was possible. He could go virtually anywhere in the town and take advantage of things such as the library, playhouse or gardens.
However, it's important to remember that at in colonial times that was not the reality for everyone. As Carp later states, "For others, the city was divided up into walls, locked doors, and restricted areas" (4). For these people, the poor (or even the middle-class), opportunity was not so visible within the city. When one fell behind in one's payment or resorted to stealing in order to get food and survive many found themselves in prison or in the workhouse, which raised even more walls and barriers around them. For these people "the city was divided up into walls, locked doors, and restricted areas" (4). A laborer would often rent small rooms of basic homes, work at the docks and spend time in a dingy bar on their off-time.
In this way one's perspectives regarding the colonial cities were based upon one's economic and social status.
However, as Carp later points out, the rebellion allowed for some unity of the classes in the commonly sought goal of freedom from British rule. Furthermore, it is interesting to note the ways in which the colonial cities were key to the revolution. As Carp states, "the American cities were undeniably important as sites of radical change" (9). They provided a populace which could be mobilized and organized. The dock workers in particular were key to the rebellion. They were able to unite and agree to stop importing British goods, and united as a common front against British impressment of seamen. Furthermore they provided the chain of news, which passed through the ports as goods and travelers entered and exited the bay. These people were integral to the rebellion.
Carp points out many key aspects of colonial cities during the rebellion against the British, and provides great insight into the attributes which helped to foster the Boston Tea Party and American Revolution.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Naming of the 'Boston Tea Party': Who named it Anyhow? And What did it Mean?

It's interesting how we often don't think about how names of things came to be. I know I at least didn't before reading the "Recovery of the Tea Party" article. As the author, Alfred F. Young himself states, "When did they begin calling it the Boston Tea Party?" (Young 155-156). However, I found it an interesting article, and something to think about.

The idea that perhaps those of higher status called it "the destruction of the tea", in it's serious, or more 'proper' form was an intriguing one to me. Nonetheless, in the end "the Tea Party" was seen to have several different meanings, and even implied a parody of the tea ritual of the upper class.

From the reading of Young's article one comes to the understanding that "the Tea Party" is a term that has much more meaning and history than one might have initially thought.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Tea Party: My Realizations from Reading Forum Posts

I have to admit that I've always found the Tea Party to be pretty confusing. I've tried to understand it in order to have the right context for reading newspaper articles about it, but I've never really felt confident in my understanding of what it really is. Though my understanding of the Tea Party isn't complete, reading the articles posted to the Tea Party forum has definitely given me a better understanding of what the tea party really is and what it stands for, which is great!

Coming away from the posts my sense is that the Tea Party is essentially a loose movement without a lot of leadership. It is composed of many smaller groups. There is no Tea Party headquarters, nor is there any written platform. For these very reasons members have described the movement as being like 'herding cats'.

The party's members are typically better-educated and wealthier than the general population. Many are Christian. Many are conservative (thus conference sessions often begin with a prayer).

Due to the nature of the Tea Party's structure there is much difference in beliefs amongst its members. Thus, though many people view it as being a largely hypocritical or group it kind've by nature is going to be, since there can be so much difference of opinion amongst its members since it has no real stated platform. Also, for this reason one finds the "crazier" or more 'out-there in their beliefs' sorts of people in the Tea Party: such as those others may deem racist.

However, their basic beliefs stem in the idea bringing power back to the people. Many Tea Partyiers express a desire to go back to the constitution. They want limited government, and focus on a fight for rights and the reduction of taxes. Many take issue with the American government's massively growing debt as well. The party believes problems are better solved by individual efforts, rather than by governmental efforts, and are suspicious of concentrated power. Naturally many are 'anti-Obama' as well.

Some Tea Partyiers however get into issues of homosexuality, or are deemed racist, and these outliers in the party, whom are often highly publicized in the media are often looked at as common representatives of the Tea Party. However, it is important to remember that they are not what the majority of the Tea Party looks like. One can't take that perspective at face-value, and instead must look deeper to see what the Tea Party really is.

Recently the Tea Party has been gaining more notice in the political limelight. 33 Tea-Party candidates have been in close governmental races. The party hopes to finally have enough presence to impact decisions being made in Washington. Furthermore, the party's number of supporters are higher than ever. As the New York Times stated, 1 in 5 adult Americans identifies with the Tea Party. That is a pretty large percent of the population. This stat comes from a New York Times/CBS poll that was recently conducted. Furthermore, several candidates from the Tea Party have gotten governmental positions, such as Scott Brown, who recently took the late Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts senatorial seat.

Many people see the Tea Party movement as an expression of the dissent among Americans today, as economic recovery seems slow (and sometimes impossible), unemployment is sky-high, and governmental debt is in the trillions (and is still rising). Two-thirds of Americans have stated 'feeling dissatisfied or angry with the government', so it isn't hard to see why many people are looking beyond a system and political parties that simply aren't working for them. For many people the Tea Party might seem like a very good option.

Tea as a Dense Fact

Reading about tea for Monday's assignment, I was struck by how much of a role it has played in both American and European culture throughout time.

At first tea was viewed as a powerful remedy to many diseases that originated in China. Dutch physician Cornelis Bontekoe actually recommended the sick drinking 50, 60, up to 100 cups without stopping.. who does that?! (or more importantly, could do that--I know I definitely couldn't drink that much water, let alone tea). Personally I couldn't imagine doing that. (The Empire of Tea 68).

With time however tea became an integral part of common culture, especially in England: the tea house was the "nucleus of many political clubs and hence contributed to teh rise of parliamentary democracy". Furthermore as the author writes, "such coffee and teashops developed into meeting places for writers and scientists and as a result became centres for the circulation of ideas" (The Empire of Tea 80).

However, I also noted that many people did not have the freedom to buy tea. As the authors of Steeped in History: The Art of Tea write, "Poorer people struggled to meet basic expenses for food, shelter, and clothing. Even the modest price of a kettle, teapot, and a few cups exceeded their budgets" (168). In this way I came to realize that tea, like many things was considered a luxury, but was beyond the reach of the poor, despite it's relatively low cost.

Also, tea has been used to represent the British: As stated in The Empire of Tea, "..after the tossing of the chests of tea into the harbour at Boston--the famous Boston Tea Party--tea became a symbol of British arrogance and taxation without representation. So the Americans, despite their widespread private use of tea, have represented themselves publicly as coffee drinkers in opposition to the British tea drinkers" (74). In this way Americans have actively tried to actively distance themselves from tea, as it may be seen as a symbol of the British, whom they felt were oppressing them in many ways.

Tea is a dense fact that we can use as a lens to see the culture in both America and the European world more clearly.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Musings on Ben Franklin

One thing that stuck out to me upon reading the second part of Benjamin's Franklin's autobiography was the quote "It will be remark'd, tho' my scheme was not wholly without religion, there was in it no mark of any of the distinguishing tenets of any particular sect. I had purposely avoided them; for, being fully persuaded of the utility and excellency of my method, and that it might be serviceable ot people in all religions and intending some time or other to publish it, I would not have any thing in it that should prejudice any one, of any sect, against it" (70).

Throughout Franklin's book he talks about God, and about faith. However, it's intriguing how he talks about it in such a general sense, without labeling it to one faith or another. This quote made everything make more sense though: that he had intentionally left out the specifics, so that his message would appeal to all people, rather than simply a small group.

Another intriguing thing in this book was how Franklin talked about pride as being something he needed to work on curbing in his own life. Personally I can agree that having excessive pride, to the point of bragging is bad, but I think in moderation pride really isn't a bad thing.

In the end I found some of the things in this book intriguing, and though I didn't agree with everything Franklin said it made me think more about my own beliefs.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Benjamin Franklin and Moral Perfection

In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Franklin talks of striving to achieve moral perfection. He describes this as having thirteen different virtues: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity and Humility. I was surprised to find this in his book, since I hadn't ever heard of this goal of his before.

In particular when reading this I identified with several of the virtues he spoke of in my own life.

I didn't feel that personally all of the virtues he spoke of were vital to me, but that the ideas of Resolution: "Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve" (64). I have always believed that one should always follow through with what one agrees or commits to do.

Also, coming to college I am realizing that the idea of Order is an important one to my daily life. As Franklin says, "Let all your things have your places; let each part of your business have its time" (64). I think this can be applied to my life here at St. Olaf. I have always been pretty busy and successfully juggled school, work, volunteer commitments, friends and family in Seattle but here (with even more flexibility in how my day goes with less class-time and more homework) I've discovered that I do best with structure and a schedule of how I want to plan my day. It's important to schedule ample time for homework and fun activities, but also I have to remember to allow for time to go running, go to the Caf and other necessary things which take time too.

Though I didn't relate to all of the virtues Franklin discussed I definitely found several of them to be very applicable to my own life, and found this part of his book to be an interesting read.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The American Dream as Ben Franklin Saw It

"...the core components of Franklin's dream as expressed in his writings--trust in the basic decency of human beings, a belief that earthly and heavenly rewards are broadly consonant, and above all, a serene confidence that both can be attained--reflected the core convictions of a great many Americans of his time. Here, truly, was a Founding Father of the American Dream" (Cullen 98).

This excerpt from Cullen ties back into our discussions about the American dream. Franklin proposes a definition, a loose interpretation of it through beliefs of trust in others and that rewards both in live and death are consonant and that, furthermore both are attainable. In this statement he represented the beliefs of many Americans at the time.

Though some people, such as John Adams or Mark Twain felt Franklin was too complacent about life and satirized him I feel he is a key part of the definition of the American Dream we are hoping to define, and therefore deserves a careful look.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Insight into Life in the Colonies

If you haven't already, you should take a look at, it's a website about daily life in the American colonies.

Looking at it I felt like I learned a lot about what it was like to be an early settler in America. 

On the page it talked about that 90% of people lived outside of the towns and villages. 

Also, it was far better to farm one's own land than rent that of another, yet only 40% of people owned their own land. That seemed surprising, given that I'd always thought that at that point in early American history there weren't too many people here yet so it would be relatively easy to get land; however, it was probably expensive though so maybe it wasn't affordable for many people.

A fair amount of daily life also seemed to revolve around the weather: people typically traveled in the winter or summer months, because in the spring and fall the roads were too muddy to travel on, and in the winter the men had more time to relax because there wasn't any farming that needed to be done and in the summer women had more free time because it was before the tasks of food preservation, spinning and weaving began.

The article gives a good sense of colonial life, and so I'd urge you to take a look if you haven't already. I found it quite insightful.

Inventory of My Dorm Room

 Inventory of Things in My Dorm Room:

o   Bed (2)
o   Comforter (2)
o   Sheets (2)
o   Pillow (2)
o   Quilt
o   Fleece Blanket
o   Desk (2)
o   Desk Chair (2)
o   Room Chair (2)
o   Pictures, Postcards and other Wall Art
o   White Boards (3)
o   Ribbon Boards (2)
o   Posters
o   Pictures in Frames (2)
o   Desk Supplies: Pencils, Pens, etc.
o   Markers, Colored Pencils, Paper, etc.
o   Printer
o   Computer (2)
o   Recycling & Garbage Cans (3)
o   Curtains (5)
o   Towels
o   Shoes
o   Clothing
o   Cups
o   Plate & Bowl
o   Silverware
o   Mini Water Fountain
o   Desk Lamps (3)
o   Floor Lamps (2)
o   Window Seat
o   Carpet
o   Flower Wall Stickers
o   Backpacks (2)
o   Mirror
o   Hot Water Boiler
o   Coffee Pot
o   Mini Vacuum
o   Tea Mugs (2)
o   Books and Notebooks for Class
o   Rain boots
o   Telephone
o   Refrigerator
o   Laundry Basket/Sack (2)
o   Tennis Racquet
o   Yoga Mat
o   Tennis Shoes
o   Suitcase
o   Magnets
o   File Organizer Box
o   Extra (Winter) Sheets
o   Iron
o   Spare Light bulbs
o   Oatmeal
o   Tea
o   Gum
o   Orange Juice
o   Assorted Papers
o   Beach Shells (3)
o   Closet (2)
o   Outlet Plug Expander (3)
o   Water Bottle (2)
o   I-Home Speakers (2)
o   Tissues (2)
o   Paper Towels
o   Winter Coat (2)
o   Shower Caddy (2)
o   Toiletries
o   Tote Bag
o   Belts (3)
o   Jewelry
o   Dressers (2)
o   Shelf (Organizing Unit)


Friday, October 15, 2010

Pocahantas Reflections

I really enjoyed watching the movie last night. In particular one line stood out to me, about the "savages". Pocahantas asks John Smith "How do you know we are the savages? Why could it not be you?" This is an interesting question. After all, who are the Europeans to come in and say that they are doing everything wrong? A mere innocent question ponders into much thought.

Another thing to note was the stark contrast between the Indians and the Europeans: at every turn Pocahantas is having to choose one over the other, even to the very end where she chooses to stay with her people (as that is her duty) rather than go to England with Smith.

Though not necessarily a particularly historically-accurate film, I enjoyed it all the same.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pocahantas: An Ever-Changing Character

As William Rassmussen writes in his article "Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend" (1) "During the last four centuries the story of Pocahontas has been retold and embellished innumerable times. She has been called America's Joan of Arc for her saintly virtue and courage, and even heralded as the "Mother" of the nation, counterpart to George Washington. Like "George and the Cherry Tree," Pocahontas is a historical figure lost long ago behind a cloud of mythology. 
I find this quote to be particularly apt. How many people have seen the Disney version of Pocahontas? When thinking about the movie my mind instantly goes to the "Paint the Colors of the Wind" song, with Pocahontas at the top of a hill with the many different-colored leaves swirling around her, her long hair blowing out in the wind. However, is this how she really was? 
Many people throughout time have compared her to other, more well-known figures: Joan of Arc for her bravery and values and even have called her the "Mother" of our country, juxtaposing her with George Washington. However, I find it interesting how little we know about her, and how much of her story is fiction or speculation, filling in the gaps between the sparse facts that remain on the table today.

Note: Image of Pocahantas in Disney film from

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Native American Women

According to Rayna Green, when looking at depictions of Native American women one sees two very different images. The first, of an Indian mother, wife, and object for a white man's lust. This is a woman who actively helps the men around her. The second is of the Squaw, the Princess or Pocahantas's darker-skinned sister who is viewed as the sexual convenience. These are two very contrasting ideas of Native American women.
Green talks further about the difference, saying time and again that relationships with men are what determine one's image. 
Furthermore, Green looks into the relative power each image has: "As some abstract, noble Princess tied to 'America' and to sacrificial zeal, she has power as a symbol. As the Squaw, a depersonalized object of scornful convenience, she is powerless" (24). Clearly these two women play very different roles in society. However, is one really much better than the other? Even the role played by the Princess is hardly ideal, in which to be deemed "good" the woman is expected to forsake her own culture in order to save the white men.
Another thing to take note of the difference in skin tone amongst the two images. The Princess is much lighter-skinned than the Squaw. I wonder if this ever played out in real life, if in John Smith's time preference could have been given to those with a lighter coloring? It was even interesting to see how throughout time Pocahantas's depiction got lighter skin as time went by.
Though one image of the Native American woman is better than the other, clearly both restrain the Native American woman. For this reason the Native American woman could benefit from a reconsideration of the way she's perceived by American society.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Depictions of the Native Americans

When coming to America Europeans' reactions to the natives here ranged from dislike at some moments to fear at others. At still other times they could appreciate the Native Americans, and were impressed by their skills or knowledge about the surrounding environment. 

In particular I think it is important to note the European responses given in the article "The True Pictures and Fashions of the People in that Parte of America now Called Virginia, Discovered by Englishmen". In some regards the Europeans are filled with awe by their native counterparts, who are skilled basketweavers and canoe builders, At many points during the beginning of the article the author is simply observing, stating facts about Native American dress or food. 

As the article progresses however, I noticed that more of his personal reactions begin to come out. The depictions of the Indians seem to get more wild, with images such as the Conjurer on page 12. On page 13 the author is in awe of the Indians' canoemaking, but yet at the end offers up his distate of the Indians, stating "thus God indueth this savage people with sufficient reason to make thinges necessarie to serve their turnes", as if otherwise they would not have thought (or had enough motivation) to make these canoes by themselves if they hadn't needed them to survive. 

Later-on there is reference to the 'simple' life of the Indians, saying that they are "content with their state, and livinge friedlye together of those things whigh god hath given them, yet without giving hym any thankes according to his desarte. So savage is this people, and deprived of the true knowledge of god. For they have none other then is mentioned before in this worke" (13). 

Clearly in these parts of the writing the author is looking down on the Indian, pointing out his horror at his lack of religion and making the claim that unless the canoes had been vital to Indian survival the Indian would not have thought how to make them. Native Americans are depicted as savage as well, both in their depiction and in the descriptions of them found within the work.

 It almost reminded me of the idea of the cycle of adjustment found in culture shock: where as one is adjusting to a new culture or way of life one first goes through 'the honeymoon stage' (where one simply thinks he or she loves everything about the new place) to the 'initial shock stage' (where something shocks the visitor so much that he begins to see only the negatives or things that scare him about a culture) to the 'cycle of adjustment' (in which one is adjusting and has both moments in which one freaks out and also can appreciate the new place) to the final stage, acceptance (in which one comes to see the culture as a whole and appreciate it, accepting the good and the bad they perceive about it). 

It seemed almost as if the author was going through culture shock as he wrote, as I felt like there were many parallels to it within the article, as to the author's reactions to the native people.

All in all, I felt this was a very telling article about the European response to Native Americans, and I look forward to discussing it further in-class.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The 'Other'

"The quality of being different or 'Other' known as alterity, is an invented one, something a dominant or impirialist group imposes on a less powerful or colonial one for the purpose of controlling or  policing the latter" (70).

This quote is very apt. Throughout time many people who have different customs, cultures, languages, or dress have been labeled the 'other'. This label is very divisive, differentiating one culture from another. Whether it be the native americans, african americans or other group deemed 'less civilized', this label has the power to control the other. It says that one is inferior, and perhaps even 'uncivilized'. However, is one really uncivilized or could one simply just be 'different'? Why is it necessary to say one culture is 'better' than the other? Can we even say one is better than the other?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Common Themes of Separation and Divisions as Pueblo Children are 'Americanized'

Throughout our reading from "Understanding Ordinary Landscapes" the themes of separation and division were intertwined.
In the beginning, the Pueblo children are separated from their parents when they go to the Americanizing schools. 
At the BIA school complex the fence represented a key separation for the Pueblo children. As Swentzell states, "The fence defined the complex and effectively kept the two worlds separate" (62). It defined in a very physical way the difference between the two spheres in which the Pueblo children existed. Furthermore, it represented a loss of trust in the children. In the Pueblo children were free to come and go as they wish, but at the BIA school they were kept inside by the fence, and others were kept out. And how did the children feel about this? As the author states, "it was unsettling to know that other people had to protect themselves physically from community" (63). 
In contrast, in the Pueblo movement was free. Space flowed freely, and it was sometimes hard to tell where indoors stopped and outdoors began. As Swentzell writes, "Within the pueblo, indoor and outdoor spaces flowed freely and were hardly distinguishable" (57). Furthermore, "spirits moved freely" within and outside the home. In many ways, as the Pueblo children entered the BIA school each morning they lost many freedoms: their Pueblo identity, the freedom to come and go as they wished, among others. 
Furthermore, within the school the themes of division and separation continued. Children who could read well were put into different rooms than those who could not. Each child had their own desk and mat. Individual academic success was emphasized. As the author writes, "Concentration on the individual, or the parts, which has become the hallmark of modern American society, was strongly emphasized. This was in contrast to the holistic concepts of the pueblo, which emphasized togetherness and cooperation and which were expressed in connected and multiple-function structures" (63). The pueblo lifestyle was, in essence, directly in contrast in many ways to that of life in the schools. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Puritans: Social Status as Shown through Land Ownership

In an excerpt from Stilgoe's writing, he states "The amount of land owned by an individual was usually proportionate to his social and religious raink; "saints" lived on large lots near the meetinghouse, and the unregenerate owned only a few acres away from the village center." (56).

In this way the Puritans associated both the size of their land and it's proximity to the church or meetinghouse, the center of their community with their social status and religious rank.

It's much like the way people often do today. Its often expensive to live in the heart of a large city, such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles. Typically it's also often impossible to find anything other than an apartment in the middle of city as well. Thus many people live in the suburbs or surrounding areas. However, in today's day and age it's viewed as a sort of luxury to live in places such as these, and one's living situation might be deemed 'better' by one's self and others if one lives in the city itself.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Modern House and the Origins of the American Campus

In the reading I thought it was intriguing how one of the articles discussed how the modern house was based upon the farmhouses of the past. I hadn't thought about it before, but it makes sense--the luxurious yards representing the farmlands and the white picket fence surrounding it.

I also enjoyed the Campus reading, by Paul Turner. I particularly liked the following excerpt. "A basic trait of American higher education from the colonial period to the twentieth century: the conception of colleges and universities as communities in themselves--in effect, as cities in microcosm" (3). In my mind this quote is especially true of St. Olaf. Set back upon a hill, it is in effect a city all to it's own. There is a bookstore where one can buy books or other items, several "restaurants" where one can go to eat, libraries, a gym and more. It runs similarly to a small city.

It was interesting too how American universities have followed the English collegiate system, rather than the European one. In many ways it mirrors the English system. However, they made it their own when they separated many colleges from the cities, placing them in the wilderness. As Turner says, "the romantic notion of a college in nature, removed from the corrupting forces of the city, became an American ideal" (4). 

I enjoyed reading about the origins of the American college, and it was interesting to see how it had been modeled off of the English system, and it's differences from that of Europe's.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Different Perspectives on Anne Hutchinson

When reading about Anne Hutchinson for homework this weekend, I was surprised by how differently people viewed her. Some people saw her as a heretic, while still others saw her as the rare outspoken women in the male-dominated society of her time. Still others thought that she paved the way for religious and political freedom, speaking out against the rules of Puritan society.

In particular I liked the points Marilyn Westerkamp made about Hutchinson on the final page (496) of the article "Anne Hutchinson, Sectarian Mysticism, and the Puritan Order".
 As she says, "By her actions Anne Hutchinson challenged John Winthrop's authority over his people; in her mysticism she challenged his sense of order. The added quality of her femaleness challenged his relationship with God. Winthrop saw before him a woman who refused to accept passively the restrictions that patriarchal society had placed upon her, refused merely to play the roles of wife, housekeeper, mother" (296).
In this way Hutchinson challenged Winthrop on many different levels: challenging his ideas about order in society, relationships with God and women's roles in society. He felt threatened by her in a big way.

In particular I thought it was interesting how "the very nature of female mysicism radically challenged the substructure of Protestant culture. Woman was no longer an outsider, a reflection, an object. In her union with God she had become a new creature, a self" (496). Since Hutchinson claimed to talk with God and have a personal relationship with him, she essentially suggested that anyone could have a personal relationship with God, and did not need the Church (which was integral to Winthrop's power) to do it. This was a very controversial idea at the time, as Puritans believed that people who said that they had had a direct revelation from God were lying or crazy.

Ever Wondered What Makes People Happy? Or What Makes People Sad?

I found some interesting studies recently about happiness, and thought I'd write a post about it. 

Correlation between Happiness and Genetics?

According to psychologists from Edinburgh University, half of the personality traits that make a person happy are due to inherited genes. After studying 1000  pairs of twins with researchers from Australia and looking at each person's personality in regards to factors such as how "sociable or outgoing" he or she was, or how "anxious or angry they feel" (1). Through their research they discovered that and didn't worry as much those who were more outgoing tended to be happier, and that these characteristics were due partially (about fifty percent) to one's genes. They found that the remaining fifty percent was due to other factors found in daily life, such as one's health, work, relationships, etc.

Ever wondered about a possible link between money and happiness? 

According to a survey of Forbes, 400 most affluent Americans and another group of less wealthy Americans the group found that the wealthier group was "only modestly happier" (2). Another interesting thing they found was that "37% of the Forbes 400 respondents reported less happiness than the average non-wealthy American" (2). Interesting research, huh?

Hours of Sleep and Teen Depression? 

Another study which came out recently in the media was on the relationship between how much sleep a teen gets and likelihood of depression. One might find the results a little surprising... See below.

According to a study done in New York of 15,659 teenagers (ages 12 through 18), Columbia University Medical Center researchers found that those who went to sleep after midnight were much more likely to be depressed than those whose parents made them go to bed by 10 p.m. In fact, teens who stayed up until midnight or after were 42% more likely to be depressed. Furthermore, teens who are permitted to have later bedtimes were 30% more likely to have considered suicide this year.

As James Gangswitch, head of the Columbia University research team said, "We feel like we can just eat into our sleep time, but we pay for it in many different ways." One of the things he believed about the results of his team's study was that in comparison to the past he felt that one sees a greater difference between teens who have a required bedtime and those who don't today due to new technological distractions such as Facebook or texting.

What do you think about these studies? Any thoughts?

The National Post. "Money Can't Buy Happiness. Really." 23 Jan. 2010. 7 Feb. 2010.
The Daily Record:
BBC News:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Idea of Divine Providence

In my reading Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 by William Bradford I was surprised by how frequently God was cited in thanks for the way a course of events occured.

When a man is struck with a serious illness and dies at-sea on the journey God is credited for his death, which was seen as fair since he wanted to throw many others overboard while they were at sea. Later on God's providence is credited with their escape from the storm at sea.

Later on when the Puritans arrived in Cape Harbor they "fell upon their knees and blessed the God of Heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean, and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof, again to set their feet on the firm and stable ground, their proper element" (69).  Throughout their journey they thank God. Another thing that struck me while reading parts of this book was how treacherous the journey really was. At every turn it seemed there was another potential situation to deal with. However, the Puritans ultimately made it to their destination, though trouble with the Indians, food shortages and other things continued to plague them as they tried to set up life in a new country.

Learning to Love America

When reading the poems assigned for homework I particularly enjoyed "Learning to Love America" by Shirley Geok-Lin Lim. I liked how she structured the poem: using the word 'because' to start each line, like the subject was trying to convince herself (or remind herself) of why she did appreciate the place she was. I hadn't ever seen that repetition of a single word in a poem before.

Another thing I liked about the poem was that though the wording was simple and concise, the author was able to convey a lot of meaning in each of the words. In a way it made each of the words all the more powerful.

I also thought Geok-Lin Lim ended the poem in a very strong way, with the lines
"because it is late and too late to change my mind
because it is time"
acknowledging the subject's regret in coming to America, though she admits she needed to do it for her son.

Musings on the Great Textbook War

One of the readings recently that really stood out to me was the one about the Great Textbook War. I hadn't heard of the controversy before and found the reading really interesting. In particular I thought it was interesting how there was a clear division between the two groups: you were either for the textbooks or you were against them. There was no middle ground.

However, people in each group had very different reasons for their beliefs. Among those against using the new books in schools cited several very different reasons: some said they didn't want their children exposed to language that was not grammatically correct, others wanted to preserve childhood innocence.Still others felt the writings were anti-Christian or unpatriotic. At the heart of their argument was the idea that the books led children to question their parents and community's values and decisions.

In the end though, it seems that the whole thing spun completely out of control. People ended up choosing sides, grew steadily more angry and the whole thing erupted when a  plan came to light to plant bombs in a car which would explode when it started to move (and when children were likely inside). Only then did people calm down.

And in the end it wasn't even clear who the winner even was of the war: schools were allowed to use the books, but many opted not to.

Seemingly Conflicting Puritan Beliefs?

Heading into class yesterday I was confused about the seemingly conflicting Puritan beliefs I had read about in Cullen's book The American Dream.

As he writes, "On the one hand the Puritans believed and acted as if a person could make a difference in making the world a better place--indeed, had an obligation to do so. On the other, they believed they were powerless to do anything but follow the dictates of God's inscrutable will" (Cullen 19).

At first this line confused me. Why would they believe they were obligated to do good, yet their actions were dictated by God and couldn't impact whether they went to heaven or hell? It seemed crazy to me that regardless of the life one had lived (whether good or bad), one could have no impact upon God's final judgment of whether one went to Heaven or Hell. Why not provide motivation for people to do good? I felt that with this viewpoint people would see no reprecussions for their actions, and that this would thus likely be problematic in society at large.

However, talking about it in-class and re-reading portions of the chapter again helped to clarify these Puritan beliefs and made me reconsider my thinking. In particular a sentence in Cullen's book helped to clear things up for me. As Cullen writes, "In theory one could live a life of amoral excess, but even articulating a desire to do so would not seem like an especially encouraging sign one was on the right track" (Cullen 19). In other words, people's desire to sin or do wrong was kept in check because Puritans believed the way one lived one's life was indicative that one was likely headed towards Heaven. Furthermore, that God was the cause of one's charitable actions suggested that he would likely later lead one to Heaven.

The Meaning of the American Dream

As Cullen writes in his book The American Dream, "amid the greatest surge of immigration in our history, one that brings more people from more of the world than ever before, we don't always speak the same language. At a time like this, the American Dream becomes a kind of lingua franca, an idiom that everyone--from corporate executives to hip-hop artists--can presumably understand" (Cullen 6).

I found this quote to be very thought-provoking, and I appreciate it's relevance to today. America is a country filled with people who vary by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, occupation, socio-economic status, level of education, political beliefs and more. However, the one thing that can tie all of us together is the American dream. As Cullen says, the American dream becomes "a kind of lingua franca, an idiom that everyone--from corporate executives to hip-hop artists--can presumably understand". I love the wording of this, and the imagery it evokes.

However, what is the American dream? It means different things to different people. Thus the reality is that there is no one American Dream. As Cullen says, "When James Truslow Adams called in the epilogue of The Epic of America 'that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man' (7). However, the vagueness of this statement can lead to many interpretations. It could be in context not only to the economy but also to politics, religion, education, artistic expression--virtually any part of life in America.

Thus can we truly define the American Dream in its entirety? Is any one definition better than another? These are thought-provoking questions I look forward to discussing further in American Conversation classes throughout this semester.

The Freedom to Fight for What You Believe In

This picture depicts a recent protest in our country, with protesters fighting against the bailout of Wall Street. One freedom that is integral to the American lifestyle is the ability to protest. Naturally it is not portrayed in Norman Rockwell's interpretation of Franklin Roosevelt's speech, as it would run counter to Roosevelt'spersuasive argument to call the American people into arms to fight for their country and to provide American freedoms around the world. In essence Roosevelt's goal was to unite the people behind his beliefs, while protesting is naturally a divisive action, separating the criticizers from those they critique. 
Nonetheless, protesting is a key component of the American lifestyle. If Americans did not have the right to protest, where would we be as a country? It is an invaluable freedom to be able to question one's government. It is also one I feel is essential. The individual must have his voice in democracy, no matter how big or small of an impact it ultimately creates. In many countries around the world the freedom to protest is not something that is guaranteed. People can live in constant fear of the government, unwilling (or afraid) to voice their issues with the government's policies as they feel it could jeopardize their lives.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Poem Recreation

"Flying/Driving/Biking to St. Olaf"

The clothes had been boxed up, ready to ship
While my little sister stares wide-eyed
And I step into the taxi
Driving away, I see the ferry to Vashon Island
Leaving the dock, headed out into the fog
After many red lights, we arrive at the airport
Dashing to the terminal, we almost miss the flight
But make it on just in time
As my parents quickly find their seats
Their excitement engulfs the place
And we're off

After what seemed like forever, we're here
It is a crazy Tetris game of minivans
I am at camp, bunkbeds and all
The Awkward Dance lived up to its title
And it would take me a long time before
I'd ever remember what my own bed felt like
As I head out to dinner with my advisor
My mom calls "goodbye!" out of the crowd

-by Karin Lubanovic & Kate Chrisinger