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Archive for November, 2009

A great weekend for hockey

November 29, 2009 1 comment

Cross-posted and edited from Civil War History

I know, you are all thinking, what does this have to do with my Ph.D. program? Well, some of the gang over at Civil Warriors (a blog I regularly follow) are into ice hockey and I can’t let them be the only ones talking a bit of hockey. Plus, I can’t resist a friendly jibe at Dr. Mark Grimsley, who teaches at Ohio State University (though he is currently a visiting professor at the Army War College), as that was one of the teams visiting scenic Grand Forks this weekend.

This weekend was the tenth annual Subway Holiday Classic, which brings teams that UND would normally not play to Grand Forks for a fun weekend of hockey over Thanksgiving break. Last year, we hosted Cornell for one of the games. This year, the weekend featured three of the top ten college hockey teams, as the Bemidji State University Beavers (#6), Miami University of Ohio RedHawks (#1), Ohio State University Buckeyes (yes, OSU actually has ice hockey), and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux (#4) all played.

Bemidji opened the weekend on Friday by defeating Miami in a good game that was a rematch of last season’s semi-final match (Frozen Four), where Miami beat Bemidji 4-1. This time, the tables were turned, as Bemidji defeated Miami 3-2. Later that day, the Sioux played the Buckeyes, which was a fun game, as I was sitting right behind the boards by the penalty box for OSU, which was a bit interesting with some of the crowd who were around me. We defeated the Buckeyes (sorry Mark) 4-1 in an awesome game. On Saturday, Bemidji lost a tough game to OSU in overtime 2-1 and we had to settle with a tie in a very exciting game against Miami 5-5. Needless to say, the weekend was good and the rankings should change soon. To the hockey fans at Civil Warriors, we should talk hockey sometime.

Conveying the radicalism of North Dakota-Part II

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Friday was interesting to say the least. I attempted to show a video to the class, but our glorious technology failed and I did not want to look foolish in front of all the students by fiddling with technology for ten minutes, so we just trooped on with lecture. We concluded our talk on the NPL’s growth and briefly looked at the decline of the League. The other issue I ran into was a lack of the notes to cover part of the Power Point, but I did my best. I will say that the class was a bit more “energetic” than normal, with the usual student disruptions, which I try not to let bother me, but when you see three of them giggling behind a laptop, it does bother me and I would very much like to throw them out of class. I look at class for traditional students as their job and if they are not going to take it seriously, they should not be there, similar to an employer sending an employee home for being troublesome. I believe that students do not face as many consequences as they should for behavior. They want to be considered adults, but act like children so much more that I find myself wanting to treat them as such. But enough of that rant, I will see you all tomorrow, as Dr. Porter will return.

Conveying the radicalism of North Dakota

November 18, 2009 1 comment

Today, I delivered lecture on the rise of socialism and the creation of the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota. This was quite fun for me, as I am going to be doing my dissertation on the NPL, specifically analyzing the landmark book by Robert Morlan Political Prairie Fire (1955), which I hope to update, incorporating new methods of interpretation into Morlan’s examination of the organization.

We began by exploring socialism in broad terms, then the rise of socialism in North Dakota. Given that traditional socialism revolved around industrial production and collective ownership of production means, many farmers were wary of the system. However, North Dakota was able to attract farmers by incorporating into socialism reforms that were ideal for farmers. The Socialist Party in North Dakota was founded in 1900 in Fargo and joined with the national party in 1902. It advocated state control of industries vital to agricultural production, including mills, elevators, banks, and implement dealers, as well as advocating a state-funded hail insurance program. This type of socialism with agricultural reforms at the center was termed “prairie Socialism” and was forged through the common experience of the Great Plains states facing economic struggles during the late nineteenth century.

These items led to growth in the movement as well as electoral success. In the 1912 elections, eight percent of ballots were cast for Socialist candidates and the cities of Minot, Hillsboro, and Rugby all elected Socialist mayors. There still was some disillusionment on the part of North Dakota farmers to the party, especially being called Socialists. This led to a moderation of the platform of the state party in 1914.

As the state party was moderating its position, a failed flax farmer from Beach, ND came on the scene. Arthur Charles, or A.C. Townley joined the ranks of the state Socialist party in an effort to secure justice for farmers. Having failed at bonanza farming and flax farming, which resulted in bankruptcy to the sum of $80,000, Townley felt that the current system was rigged against the farmer and sought to use the Socialists as a means to enact the reforms farmers needed. However, Townley, despite good organizational methods, including using the Model T and post-dated checks to recruit party members, ran afoul of the Socialists because he was recruiting members that were not “true” Socialists. The party fired Townley in late 1914. A side note was that we briefly touched on early activities, including violence of the International Workers of the World (IWW) that was going on in some parts of the state.

With Townley ousted from the party, the NPL was the next topic presented to students. I spoke about the 1915 legislative session, which saw Townley in Bismarck witnessing the failure of farm bills that would enact reforms. Legislators and others leveled impolite comments against the farmers, including Treadwell Twitchell, who reportedly told farmers that governing was none of their business and to “go home and slop the hogs.” This comment served as a rallying cry for Townley and his followers. Townley and the Wood brothers met at the Woods’ farm in McHenry County in February 1915 and created the Farmers Nonpartisan League, including drafting the platform.

The new League desired to use the Republican Party, then a strong political force in the state, to achieve its goals. The platform outlined the goals of the NPL, which were state control of mills, a terminal elevator, state bank, state control of grain grading, and state hail insurance to name a few ideas. The NPL grew quickly, claiming 30,000 members by fall 1915. Part of this rapid growth was due to Townley’s organizational skills, which used the automobile to travel great distances, and used high dues to make farmers feel a part of the group and invested in its success. Another contributor was the use of media. Socialist publications existed and were popular in the state and region earlier, including the Appeal to Reason and Iconoclast, but these publications would be dwarfed by The Nonpartisan Leader, which became a major publication with twice the circulation of any community newspaper in the state. I briefly pointed out the subtle use of imagery in the cover of the Leader presented in the slide show, which depicted North Dakota as a fair and diminutive women, while the farmer was a strong Pilgrim figure with a large gun on his shoulder, as if to say that the farmer would protect and preserve North Dakota. This imagery was quite appealing to farmers.

This is the point where we had to stop due to running out of time, but I will continue my lecture on Friday by discussing the electoral victory and platform of the NPL, as well as showing a video on what North Dakota was like at the time. Overall, this was my best lecture, but that is likely due to having some experience with the subject.

The Second Dakota Boom-considering women homesteaders

November 15, 2009 Leave a comment

On Friday, we continued our discussion of the Second Dakota Boom. We also handed out our study guide for our exam, which is Monday, and talked a bit about it. The focus of the lecture dealt with speculation and women as homesteaders. Dr. Porter illustrated this on the board, showing that women had a greater tendency to be speculative and to build their homes near others, including other women. Many were young and single for various reasons, and often engaged in emerging career fields for them, including teaching, secretarial work, and others. After discussing the women claiming land in North Dakota, we briefly discussed Jewish communities of homesteaders and other Jewish groups in the state. Due to several factors, North Dakota has always had few Jews residing here, but their story, though minor, is important. No update will come on Monday regarding North Dakota History, as we will be having our exam, but I will post soon.

Getting published

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Though I have written several reviews that have been published by The Journal of Military History and On Point: The Journal of Army History, as well as several articles for the History News Network, but on Monday evening, I received a package containing two volumes of ABC-Clio’s Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America, which contains three entries that I wrote. It is really cool for me to see my name in an actual historical reference work. This is the first of what I hope to be many more publications, including journal articles and books as I continue my career. For those of you thinking about the historical profession, publication, no matter how small, is important and vital to getting yourself out into the world of scholarship, so I hope you all have the opportunity to do this as well.

Thinking about online teaching

November 13, 2009 2 comments

First, sorry to everyone for not posting lately, but I had a crazy last couple of days, as my laptop crapped out on me with a malicious software attack and had to be restored. On Tuesday, we discussed online teaching with Josh Reidy from Online and Distance Education. It was an interesting discussion, as online teaching is quickly becoming the method of choice for instruction in higher education among students. While more students are taking online courses, many faculty in traditional departments are reluctant. I can not really blame them, as it does represent a possible threat to job security. However, computers have increasingly become a larger force in our everyday lives and education must adapt to this.

I do think that, at least for History, online education is a viable option for delivery of some course content. Upper-division courses would be good for online instruction, as if survey courses and mid-range classes are offered via traditional classroom, where students meet face-to-face with faculty, the more independent nature of upper-division classes could be handled via students doing the readings on their own and contributing to online discussions both textual based, as well as based on audio or video, if technology allows. For graduate programs, many classes could be done online, exclusive of specific methods courses and thesis preparations, which would require some face time with faculty. I will have more to think about this, as I continue with the paper for the class on online and distance education. It will be interesting to see how online education will shape the historical profession and my future career.

By the way, please check out the interesting post by Joan Hawthorne at Teaching Thursday. If you are not checking out this blog, you really should.

The Second Dakota Boom

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

On Monday, we continued our look at the second Dakota Boom, which included the building of the Soo Line across the state diagonally, which allowed several towns and farmers to have more opportunities for success. We also discussed our upcoming exam on Monday. It will be interesting to see how they do, especially if they did not read the book Giants in the Earth. We had Wednesday off for Veterans Day, so our next meeting will be Friday. I hope all veterans had a good Veterans Day and thank you for your service.