Is College Worth It?

In “America’s Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor’s Degree,” Marty Nemko argues, “College is a wise choice for far fewer people than are currently encouraged to consider it.” Looking at my plagiarism rate from last semester and considering the number of students at George Mason University who fail the mandatory History 100 survey simply because they do not show up or turn in their work, I have to admit that he has a point. He argues that high school students in the bottom half of their class should think twice before entering a four-year college. A two-year college or non-degree program might be more appropriate. He bases this advice on the following disheartening finding: “Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later.” And they were piling up debt.
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A Christmas Short Film from 1898

The British Film Institute has a YouTube channel that offers a lot of historic films. Here is “Santa Claus’ by G. A. Smith in 1898. Apparently the special effects were quite a feat 110 years ago.

For something longer and more in tune with this blog’s recurring theme of war and society, see “Christmas Under Fire” (1941), which looks at Britain at war on Christmas Eve. This film from the Ministry of Information has an American narrator for an American audience. It was made before Pearl Harbor, when the American public had no stomach for going to war in Europe.

I originally posted this piece on Clio and Me (now closed) on this date.

Atrocities in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–71

An essay on the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) that I wrote last year appeared in print this fall in a book about war atrocities from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century.1 The essay focuses on German soldiers and French civilians using the example of the Bavarians. It examines why soldiers sometimes departed from generally accepted standards in Europe about sparing civilians the effects of war as much as possible.
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A New Personal Record in Plagiarism Cases

I had a new personal record in plagiarism cases this semester: eight. With ninety-seven students total on my rolls at the end of the semester, that makes a little over 8%. To be absolutely clear, I am talking about open-and-shut cases. The burden of proof is on the professor, as it should be, so I never report any honor system violations based merely on my suspicions, no matter how strong they might be.
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