Monday, October 27, 2014

Do You Know Your Ideologies?

Last week in History class I started learning about ideologies. An ideology is a system of ideas and ideals. These ideologies include Liberalism, Conservatism, and Nationalism. The question that my class aimed to be able to answer at the end of the unit was, “What were the major political ideologies in the 19th century and how did they influence social and political action?” We started exploring this question by reading articles about these ideologies. We then had to write a definition of the ideology and use it in a sentence. After sharing our sentences and definitions with the entire class we began a project where we created a one minute video about our assigned ideology. Each ideology had two groups that were creating their project about it, and the group which had the better project got candy as a reward.
Edmund Burke photograph used in our project
We used an app on the apple app store called Chatter Pixs to create our project. This app allows you to take a picture of someone and then have the person’s mouth move while you play a sound file. My group and I decided that using this app would create an informative and fun project. We were told to focus on conservatism. My group used a document that our teacher provided us with to get the information that we needed about conservatism.  We defined conservatism in our presentation as an ideology in which tradition is the only reliable guide to political and social action. We said that in the nineteenth century, conservatives liked monarchy because of the Church and aristocracy control. They were opposed to change, innovation, and reform because past events had linked these qualities and bloodshed together. Conservatives used the French Revolution to justify their ideas in the nineteenth century.
I got to learn about the other two ideologies from other groups’ projects. First, one of the groups presented their project about Liberalism. I learned that Liberalism is the idea that the government’s duty is to protect the rights of the people. Liberals in the nineteenth century believed in natural rights and they supported innovation and reform unlike Conservatives. Liberals also supported meritocracies. John Locke and Adam Smith were thought of as the forefathers of liberalism. A different group presented their project about nationalism. Nationalism is a nation which is a natural organic entity, which is bonded by customs history and shared language. Countries in the nineteenth century who used nationalism were made up of many small states. Nationalist countries did not like foreign rulers. This division made it very easy for invading countries to take land from those who believed in nationalism.

Unfortunately, my group and I didn’t win the competition for the best project, and we didn’t get any candy. Even though we didn’t win we still learned a lot about ideologies.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Napoleon Bonaparte... What a Guy!

In class last week I learned about Napoleon. Several of my classmates had learned about Napoleon last year, but I had never studied him before. I was excited for the new unit, because I had heard of Napoleon, but I didn’t know anything about him. The essential question for our class asked us what Napoleon’s impact was on the social, economic, and political systems of Europe. My class watched a video about Napoleon’s life, which helped me learn the basics about Napoleon’s reign of power and his impact on the people. We then read a primary source document about Madame de Stael and Marshal Michel Ney’s opinion of Napoleon. After that, we reviewed our knowledge of Napoleon by highlighting a document showing Napoleon’s effect on France versus the world and discussed key questions in our groups.
Napoleon Bonaparte
           There were many people who thought of Napoleon as a hero, but there also many people who thought of him as a scourge to France and the world. Madame de Stael fits into the latter of these two groups. She accuses Napoleon of having “profound contempt for all the intellectual riches of human nature: virtue, dignity, religion, enthusiasm.” Madame de Stael also criticizes Napoleon’s rule when she said “His system was to encroach daily upon France’s liberty and Europe’s independence… By alternating between cunning and force he has subjugated Europe.” Madame de Stael was a member of the nobility during Napoleon’s rule, and she represents the way that the wealthy saw Napoleon. The wealthy didn't like Napoleon because he took some of their power away. Marshal Michel Ney was one of Napoleon’s military officers. His view of Napoleon represents the opinions of the people who benefitted from and supported Napoleon’s rule. Marshal Michel Ney told Napoleon’s soldiers that “Napoleon, our sovereign, belongs alone the right to rule over our beautiful country.” He also refers to Napoleon as “our august emperor.” People like Marshal Michel Ney supported Napoleon because they were given opportunities and power that they didn't have before.  Current day historians are split as to whether or not Napoleon impacted the world in a positive or negative way. George Gordon Andrews wrote in one of his books that “Napoleon was so inconsistent in many of his actions, so untrustworthy in much that he said of himself, and so all-inclusive in his ambitious designs that differing interpretations of the man are inevitable.” Andrews speaks for the group of historians who believe that Napoleon both helped and hurt Europe during his rule. He suggests that neither side is completely right because Napoleon did both positive and negative things for many different countries.
    I agree with Andrews. I think that Napoleon helped and hurt Europe during his rule. I believe that that Napoleon hurt the political systems in Europe by taking art from Italy, and by taking control of nearly all of Europe. He did help the political systems in Europe by overthrowing the French Directory. He helped Europe’s economic systems by building new roads and canals, and by controlling prices and removing trade restrictions, and by staring the Bank of France. He also helped the European social system by establishing a meritocracy and by giving property and education rights to citizens. Napoleon did a lot to help France and Europe, but he also damaged countries and made unwise decisions.
Ten Years of Exile, by Madame de Stael, trans. Doris Beik (Saturday Review Press, 1972)
The French Revolution and Napoleon: An Eyewitness History, by Joe H. Kirchberger (Facts On File, 1985).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I LOVE CHOCOLATE… and Economic Systems!!!

                A few days ago we learned about economic systems. This lesson had the potential to be really boring and dry, but it turned out to be the most fun class that I had all week. We began our lesson, and each person received several pieces of chocolate. I was gifted three pieces, as were most of my classmates. Three of the more lucky individuals in my class started with nine to thirteen pieces. We then modeled the system of capitalism by playing rock, paper, scissors, shoot with each other. The person who lost had to give the person who won one of their pieces of chocolate. No one was allowed to not participate so that they could eat the chocolate. Everyone kept playing until we ran out of chocolate and had to sit down. I did well for the first few minutes, but I eventually had to sit down. There were complaints from everyone that the game was unfair because some people started out with more chocolate than others. The people who started with lots of chocolate tended to end with an absurd amount the candy. Little did I realize it at the time, but this activity showed how Capitalism works.
 My teacher then helped us picture Socialism by redistributing the chocolate again.  This time she gave everyone an equal amount of chocolate. This change made the people who had excessive amounts of chocolate upset and the rest of the class happy. We were then given the option as to whether or not we want to play rock, paper, scissors, shoot with each other again. I was one of the few people who wanted to play, given the fact that we got to eat our final amount of chocolate. We never actually played this second round, but we did get to eat our chocolate. This lesson was effective because it had solid connections to real life. The people with more chocolate than me were considered wealthy, while the people with less chocolate were considered poor. This lesson was both fun because of the chocolate, and frustrating if you were like me and didn’t have lots of chocolate. This frustration is a very basic form of the frustration that some people feel about these social systems.
Both Adam Smith and Karl Marx wanted to help the poor with their proposed government systems. Marx thought that the poor would stand up for their rights, and the economic system would change from Capitalism to Socialism and finally to Communism. Karl Marx’s ideas are referred to as Marxism. Marx thought that the current system of Capitalism would cause the poor to revolt because of the unequal opportunities that they were given and their struggle to survive. Marx said that after the successful revolt, a system of Socialism would be created, which would give everyone equal amounts of income and it wouldn’t restrict people from making more money than they were provided. Marx thought that Socialism would eventually turn into Communism. Communism would be ideal for the poor because everyone would receive an equal amount of money, and no one would be able to make more money than their neighbor. If perfect Communism was achieved there wouldn’t be any classes, which would fix the problems that the poor had previously had with other economic systems. Adam Smith proposed how the “invisible hand” would benefit the poor. This system is when the government leaves the people alone to buy and sell goods among themselves. This would add healthy competition to the market which would result in cheaper prices and higher quality goods. The poor would benefit from the decrease in price and could buy and sell freely. People that sell expensive or poor quality goods won’t get much business and vice versa. This system would work well, but it would take a long time for the economy to balance out and it could possibly stall. This downside to the “invisible hand” is why it is hard for governments to use.

                I believe that Capitalism is the best theory because of the faults of Communism and Socialism. Socialism is a poor theory because of its indecision between classes or no classes, and Communism and Capitalism. Communism is nearly impossible to achieve and would leave people with little incentive to work hard or to choose jobs in challenging fields because of the equality in salary. Capitalism, while not perfect, is a better option because it doesn’t have the downsides of Socialism or Communism. I think that the most ideal economic system would have freedom to buy and sell goods in order to balance quality and price, and limited government control so that minimum wage and interest rates still exist.

Video Citations
The Invisible Hand - 60 Second Adventures in Economics (1/6)

Mini Bio: Karl Marx

What Motivated Adam Smith?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Where Should a Mill Girl Work?

Working conditions in British and American mills were unhealthy and dangerous for workers. Mill owners wanted to make more and more money. The only way to make more profit was to work the mill girls for longer, more intense days. Both the mill girls in Britain and in America were overworked and were put into unhealthy situations.
Working conditions in the American mills were very poor. The average working day was 13 hours, and the girls only got paid $3.50 for 6 days of work. If the girls were ever late to work part of their pay was taken away as a punishment. One of the Lowell mill girls named Lucie Hall said that there were 4-6 girls per bedroom. Lucie also told about how readily the girls would gossip about each other. Rumors that spread caused some of the mill girls to be fired. The rooms of the mill were noisy and dusty. Working conditions were so poor that the mill girls compared themselves to the slaves who picked the cotton.
In the European mills conditions were also unacceptable. No time was given for the girls to rest and eat breakfast or dinner. These two essential meals were eaten while working the machines. Charles Dickens described the mills in England as “great haunts of desperate misery.” The mill rooms were dark and unclean. The men who served as overseers were abusive. One of the overseers in England was named Thomas Birks, but the mill girls referred to him as “Tom the Devil” because of how mean he was. Tom was known for treating all the girls poorly. The overseers were encouraged to be brutal, and sometimes they beat the girls so hard that they thought they might have killed them. The mill was unclean, and when visitors came to tour the mills the girls were forced to hide the horrible conditions and lie about how they were treated.
Charles Dickens
The conditions in both the English and the American mills were frightening, but the mills in England were much worse than their American counterparts. Families in America didn’t usually have to send their daughters to go work in the mills because they had large farms with plenty of opportunities for work. Families in England usually didn’t have as much land to farm on as the Americans did so they sent their daughters to work in the mills in order to have another source of income. This desperation for money in England led mill towns to be dirty and unpleasant with many homeless people. Both the English and the American mill girls received similar amounts of food, but in England the girls had to work while eating while the Americans did not. American mill girls also worked shorter days than the English mill girls, which made life marginally more tolerable. Working conditions were poor in American and English mills and many girls got very sick and died because of the working environment.