Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Return to AP US History?

This will be a brief post, as i'm trying to be quiet so as not to wake my house guest on the couch ten feet away. (The Arabic student network comes through yet again - a friend from my program in Wisconsin is staying with me until her apartment lease starts Saturday.)

We've finally moved out of most of the bureaucratic phase of orientation, thank any and every passing deity. We've started two new modules, or thematic units, that won't be concluded for another few weeks. One is Foreign Service writing, which the former copy editor in me finds amusing and entertaining. The other is Diplomatic History, designed to give us a grounding in the history of US foreign policy since the inception of the nation. i'm finding it fascinating, not the least because it's been six years since i studied this in a course. There's an added impetus for me to understand these issues now, courtesy of my job title. For example, the election of 1800 is more now than just two dead white guys facing off (not that i thought it that simplistic, but stick with me here), it's the first peaceful, regularly scheduled transfer of power from one party to another. It's also relevant because the winner (Jefferson), one of the nation's more eloquent founders, was also an ardent supporter of slavery. How we view this mixed legacy and how i can apply and convey those lessons once overseas is very relevant to me.

i have a couple of post ideas in the works but not produced yet. For the next few days, you'll probably be seeing a lot of historical stuff, so feel free to tune that out if you so desire. Here's a thought piece for you as i go get ready for work that will be especially familiar (maybe?) to people from ASMS. Think about Washington's farewell address to Congress. Is it relevant to consider his concerns when thinking about our own foreign policy now?


  1. Just kidding. But in terms of Washington's speech, I don't think it can be considered relevant in light of new technologies available. It's in two parts-avoiding political parties (partisanship) and avoiding entangling alliances (isolationism). In light of television, cell phones and the internet, I don't think that's possible. We no longer elect representatives on the same criteria, and the world is now experiencing a weird power-sharing shift between the nation/state and individual. 9/11 wasn't a foreign government encroaching on our liberty--it was a group of individuals with access to cell phones. I think the concept of a country based on shared values and values of citizenship is outdated, and that now for better or worse the state is an entity that provides individuals with some necessary service that only a large government could provide and whose duty is to protect the said individual from the powers of specially-interested powerful groups of individuals, whether that be foreign governments or trans-national business.

  2. You must have had an outstanding AP teacher, hannah!

    I largely agree with Jo...Washington's advice was perhaps relevant for its time, but both the world and the U.S. are very different now. What was appropiate for a tiny fledgling nation surrounded by powerful enemies is not necessarily appropriate for a global political, economic and military superpower. Still, you have to know from whence we came to understand why the U.S. is as it is today.