Tuesday, November 13
John Batchelor and the teaching of American war history
The Siege of the Alamo
For months John Batchelor's staff hasn't been providing downloadable podcasts or instant replays for his weekend radio shows (which can be heard online at the time of broadcast). The weekend shows most often feature in-depth interviews with authors about their books -- and Batchelor usually gives between 20 and 50 minutes to to each author. Because he's the best interviewer in American broadcasting and maybe in the world, and because he reads from cover to cover every book he discusses (authors leap to be a guest on his show for this reason), each interview is a literary gem in itself. And given Batchelor's interest in the books he discusses -- he only talks about books he likes -- the interviews are not only educational they're also highly entertaining.
A glance through just a few months' worth of the published show schedules will give you an idea of the incredibly varied book topics that interest John Batchelor. But it's his discussions about books on U.S. war history that I want to highlight in this post.
The U.S. public educational system has greatly cut off American students from their own history. There are various reasons for this but the upshot is American adults who have very little understanding of their cultural heritage, and distorted and incomplete views of what they do know about it.
The situation goes double for the teaching of U.S. war history. This had unfortunate consequences in Afghanistan, as I've pointed out before on this blog. War is a big part of American history, as it is for Afghans, so if there was ever a basis for simpatico between two peoples, it was through discussion of this shared aspect of their histories. Yet so few American soldiers are knowledgeable about American wars that this avenue of establishing understandings with Afghans wasn't open to them.
I think I know why the American educational system wants to quash the teaching of war history, but the great danger in this is a U.S. military that's cut off from its own past. This leads to a military that's more mercenary in outlook than defense-oriented.
So what I'm going to do over the next few weeks, admittedly catch-can fashion, is highlight John Batchelor's discussions about books on American war history. Of course if you have an interest in hearing the weekend discussions after they've been aired, you're out of luck -- at least until Batchelor's staff re-institutes the weekend podcasts.
Happily the book discussions that occur on holidays falling on weekdays are still available as downloads or replays. Such is the case for last night's four book discussions, which fell on the day that U.S. Veterans Day (Nov 11) is officially observed as a national holiday (Nov 12):
The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace by H.W. Brands
1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz