Laura Ingalls Wilder’s latest best-seller

Back in the 1930′s, an elderly woman wrote a memoir about her life on the American frontier.  But no one would publish it.  So she recast her memories as a series of children’s novels, giving the world the immortal Little House on the Prairie books.

Now that original manuscript, entitled Pioneer Girl has been published in an annotated edition that gives the complete historical context of this woman’s remarkable life.  The 472-page book has become a smash hit, to the point that its publisher, the 7-employee South Dakota Historical Society Press, can’t print enough copies to keep up with the demand.

When I was in the fifth grade, if we were good, our teacher, Mrs. Waldrop, would read us a chapter from the novels.  I will never forget the impact they had on my imagination in their portrayal of family, America, overcoming hardship, and growing up.  I have got to read this true-life adult version, if I can ever find a copy.  Read an account of the book after the jump. [Read more...]

U. S. History as oppression studies

The National Association of Scholars, an organization of conservative academics, has put out an FAQ page on what is wrong with the new Advanced Placement U. S. History exam.  It sums up well the problems also with the Common Core, contemporary text books, and the state of the history profession in general.

The point is not that America doesn’t have skeletons in its closet and that we need to study those bad parts of our history.  It’s that these have become the only emphasis, and that other important facets of our history (the concepts behind our constitution) and just facts in general (why we fought World War II) are left out. [Read more...]

What Is Religious Freedom, anyway?

Think-tanker Joseph Backholm cites some of the absurdities and posturing in the controversy over the Indiana Religious Freedom act–such as Apple threatening to stop doing business in Indiana, while still doing business in Saudi Arabia where gays can be executed, and a governor banning state travel to Indiana even though his state has a broader Religious Freedom statute than Indiana’s.

But then he gets to the underlying issue:   People have different understandings of what religious freedom means.  Is it just the freedom to attend worship services?  Does it just apply to internal beliefs but not to actions?  Does it only apply to individuals and not to what those individuals do when they operate a business?  He gets into the history of the issue  and the legal precedents in a way that people on all sides of the issue need to understand.  He also shows how the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has actually been used. [Read more...]

The American history wars

Back in 1994, Lynne Cheney, former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, published a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled The End of History, criticizing educational standards for American History.  Now she has published The End of History, Part II, about the new Advance Placement American History exam.  See excerpts after the jump and consider the points I raise. [Read more...]

A new biography of Frederick the Wise

Concordia Publishing House has just published a new biography of Frederick the Wise, the powerful Duke of Saxony who was Luther’s protector.  I was able to read an advance copy, and it is excellent.   The book, by the multi-faceted biographer Sam Wellman, puts the reader in the middle of the life and times of late Medieval Saxony, with all of the intrigue and high-stakes politics that characterized the Holy Roman Empire. And Frederick emerges as a formidable figure, someone the Emperor relied on so much that he dared not arrest the Duke’s pet theologian.  Also, contrary to other things I had read, Frederick was very much a “Lutheran” who appreciated above all Luther’s emphasis on the Scriptures.  After the jump, a link to the book, and the endorsement I wrote for it. [Read more...]

Scientists look at Crucifixion

Scientists have been studying the mechanics, physiology, and history of crucifixion.  They have learned that it was more horrible than people had assumed.   Details and a link to some of the findings after the jump. [Read more...]


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