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Wednesday, April 13

April 13, 2016

Poetry Workshop: Today: finished Doban; workshopped Thellman and Lepczyk.

I gave out a packet with the last two poems of the rotation: Holley and Campbell. Have those two done for Monday, plus Denny (if you haven’t already). Your fourth-round poem will be due at the beginning of class Wednesday, April 20.

Fiction Workshop: Today was a work day. You got a packet with all 12 of the stories for Round 3; we begin on Monday with the first three (Bain, Blackham, and Bullock). Please remember that you don’t need to do online comments this time around (however, if you WANT to, go ahead), but you do need to do “heavy” annotations. That means to kick them up a notch – write more, mark more, etc.

Cultural Lit: Heard a recitation. The rest will happen on Friday.

Took the Literary History requiz. If you missed it, that will happen Friday.

Took a brief quiz on the two chapters from Founding Brothers. I gave out Bernie Bucks to try to explain the situation that led up to the deal described in “The Dinner.” (And also outlined in the Hamilton songs “Cabinet Battle No. 1” and “The Room Where It Happens.”)

Essentially: why did the deal happen?

  • Because Hamilton was trying to get the country to assume all the states’ debts from the Revolution. Like you guys, post-Bernie Buck wheeling and dealing, the financial landscape was a mess. Some states (primarily Southern) were doing well and didn’t see why they should bail out states that weren’t. Hamilton knew if he could consolidate all those debts, it would make bookkeeping easier. It would also make foreign countries more comfortable loaning us money. And we needed credit, badly, because we were strapped after the Revolution.
  • James Madison (and his mentor, Jefferson), didn’t like Hamilton’s idea, for several reasons. One was that Revolutionary War veterans had been paid in government securities — essentially, an IOU that would become more valuable if the country’s finances took off. But a lot of veterans, who were desperate for money, had traded in their securities to investors for some quick cash, getting pennies on the dollar. If Hamilton’s plan went through, those securities would increase in value. But the people who would mostly benefit wouldn’t be war vets — they would be investors, many of whom happened to be Hamilton’s friends, like the song says.
  • The REAL reason Madison and Jefferson didn’t like Hamilton’s plan was that they saw it as a way for the federal government to take control of the states’ finances. And they were very suspicious. After all, they’d just fought a war against a king who had tried to do the exact same thing (through taxation, primarily).

That last point leads us into the big takeaway of the day: there have only been four major issues in American history. Every issue, whether it’s Hamilton’s debt plan in 1790 to transgender bathroom rights this week, relates back to one of these four points.

  1. Who gets more say: the federal government or state governments? The single most important issue. The Constitution was drafted to at least partially answer it, but it also left the question open in many situations. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been ratified. But we’ve been forced to try answering this question, in thousands of different ways, ever since. We fought a civil war over it, and it’s still at the core of many of our major disputes.
  2. What should we do about slavery? We answered this question, finally, in the mid-19th century. But substitute “civil rights” — for all groups, not just African-Americans — and this remains a live issue.
  3. How should we act towards Britain and France? These were the two countries we had the most complicated dealings with during the Revolutionary era. Were they allies? Were they enemies? Eventually, both became allies, but substitute other countries and the question is timeless.
  4. How should we expand? In the 18th, 19th and first half of the 20th century, the question was about physical expansion. These days, it’s about the expansion of American values and interests. That question is as recent as the ongoing conflicts (and non-conflicts) in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

If you understand those four questions, you will understand the most important parts of American history. We’ll keep coming back to them in the unit that follows.

No assignment for Friday, but expect one over the weekend.

BatCat: Some progress was made today. We’ll keep at it on Friday.

Survey: CNF: The name game. See me if you were absent to get a copy of “The Harvey Pekar Name Story.”

Remember: you need to get to the big classroom a little early Friday (as close to 1:30 as you can manage) to watch the film of the day. Ask Mrs. Baringer if you did not not receive a pass (for those people who are not in C lunch). You will not have time before the movie starts to print your DeFade essays, which are due Friday, so please plan accordingly. See yesterday’s blog entry if you need copies of the transcript or anything else.

Survey: Screenwriting: Today you started off by taking a very brief quiz on the reading assignment for today. Then you got into your groups and did some brainstorming. Specifically, you started working on this assignment, which is due Monday: Screenwriting 4.13.16 – Story Dev Proj, Part 1. You also need to read the second chapter of the reading assignment for Monday (likely there will be another quiz).

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