Homework answer. Last week

October 30, 2003


Homework answer.

Last week I asked for comments on a paraphrase of some things that Jefferson wrote.

I told the kids that it was a Jefferson paraphrase from the start of the War of 1812, and then asked them to write 200 words responding to: "A free people in arms, fighting in defense of their liberty, are superior to any army in Europe."

I was looking for some recognition that the militia, a free people in arms, broke and ran when they faced professional soldiers (except at New Orleans, where the militia had been in the field with Jackson for over a year and were far more frightened by and inspired by Jackson than they were scared by a few thousand men in red uniforms.)

I was looking for some discussion about the role that Valley Forge played in turning American farmers into soldiers who could stand up to the professionals. 18th century warfare was a matter of nerve, discipline, training and practice. I thought I had blogged about it, but I can not find it in my search history. Perhaps I will do a cameo on it, as I did with drinking toasts down below.

I was hoping for some discussion of the current American debate on guns and gun culture, or some references to Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Chechnya.

I do not like what I got. I have graded about a third of them so far. Most of the students mailed it in. I got a lot of pro-forma "free men in arms always win." Those got C at best. A few people talked about the ideology of a nation of arms, either directly or by turning the discussion to the hollywood myth. One so far has quoted Braveheart. Those got B. A few people have talked about Jefferson and placed the thought into the context of the Republican military build-down. Some of those got an A.

I will not use this homework next semester. I will find something real, not made up. I might give them Montlezun's line about "The United States are the great warehouse of the democratic virus. All the widths of the seas are insufficient against these pestiferous influences." It sounds better in French: "Les Etats Unis sont le grand depot de le virus democratique. Tout les espances des mers sont insufficient contres ses influences pestiferees."

Either that or I just like to say "influences pestiferees."

Posted by Red Ted at October 30, 2003 09:15 AM | TrackBack