Archive for February, 2008

This is the abstract for a paper I wrote for my Research, Writing, and Analysis class.  Consider it the teaser trailer for the feature presentation (full paper) that will be posted later this week. 

The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, 1979:  The Ideologically Motivated Blunder of a Superpower


Just before Christmas in 1979, Soviet troops from the Red Army began to crash across the border with Afghanistan.  Ten years later, they would limp back home, badly, and even fatally, wounded.  The decade long war, a war in which they would hold every technological advantage, was no doubt unpredictably brutal and long to its planners.  But should they have known better?  This was their neighborhood they were playing in, not some distant, unfamiliar land.  They had been front row witnesses, and occasionally participants, in the adventures and follies of empires in Afghanistan for decades.  What caused them to repeat the mistakes of the past?  Was it arrogance and reliance on their modern technological arsenal?  Or was it what Louis Dupree once told William Maley, author of The Afghanistan Wars, that once Afghanistan is in your blood, you can never get rid of it?  Did they just have the bug?

Through my research, I intend to show that The Soviet Union’s ill-fated adventure into this strange and treacherous land was a result of, as was so much else during the Cold War, a quest to expand an ideology to other lands, whether by friendly, coercive, or brutal methods.


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flag1.jpgIt seems that Past Tense should perhaps change it’s name to Test Tense, as three out of the last fours posts have involved a test of some sort, and one that one wasn’t much of a post at all, just a picture.  I could say that I’m just trying to better educate the blog-reading public, and while that is partially true, it’s really just because I’m lazy.  I didn’t even come up with these tests.  But in an effort to keep this blog from completely dying, I figure lazy posting is better than no posting at all.  And so I present to you yet another test.

 This test was conducted by Intercollegiate Studies Institute and was administered to 14,000 college freshmen and seniors from 50 institutes of higher learning.  The test consisted of 60 multiple choice questions on American history, government, and economy.  The point of the test was to see which institutions did the best job of increasing the knowledge of these subjects over the course of a students time there.  Well, it also showed something else–that American college’s (and apparently high schools) are not doing a good job of teaching these things.  No school scored better than a D+, for freshmen or seniors.  These aren’t Podunk U. or Bob’s Junior College.  These are legit academic powerhouses.   Rutgers, Duke, Cal, University of Michigan, half of the Ivy League, Murray State.  Yes, Murray State!  This is bad news.

Naturally, I had to take this test for myself.  I did pretty well, though not as well as I would have liked.  I scored 49 out of 60, an 81.67%.  Most of the questions I missed were among the last ten and had to do with economics, an admitted weak spot in my arsenal.  There were some gimmee questions, but most at least made me stop and think for a second.  (There were two questions that I had answered correctly originally, but changed my answer.  Never second guess yourself.)  So I wouldn’t say it was an easy test, but certainly I would have expected most college students to get at least a C, especially seniors.  When I got my score, it also gave me the average scores people have gotten for the month and since the test has been online, September 2007.  Both of those scores were 71.5%.

So, now the challenge.  Can you beat my score.  Remember, no googling.  Post your scores and what you thought of the test in the comments.  Have at it!  Go!

For a good and pretty interesting post on teaching history to high school students (and my comments on it) check this out on Blog 4 History.

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