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Two Historians
Thank you for articles of great interest on Eugene Genovese (“Up from Leftism,” November 14, 2011) and Eric Hobsbawm (“The Tyrants’ Historian,” October 29, 2012).

It would have been illuminating to compare them in a single article. One used the methods of Marxism to uncover much that had long been hidden about the Old South, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, while the other used Marxist emotionalism and infantilism to defend Stalinism and its crimes and criminals.

During my 38 years on a university faculty of history, I heard more praise of Hobsbawm than of Genovese.

Norman Ravitch
Savannah, Ga.

 

Affirmative Action in Action
I’ve just concluded “A Failed Policy” (November 12), Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom’s review of the book Mismatch, a critique of affirmative action. As a former history instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, I am intrigued by the review and will be purchasing the book shortly.

The book’s authors conclude that policies intended to aid black and Hispanic students in fact “do more harm than good,” because they result in students’ being admitted to schools for which they are unprepared. I can say from experience that this holds true for the Naval Academy. Professor Bruce Fleming, a tenured English professor at the Naval Academy, has been arguing this case for years, but he has unsurprisingly been dismissed not only within the Navy but also by the wider world of academia.

All service-academy graduates are commissioned officers in their respective services, and they will lead enlisted personnel, perhaps in combat. Unprepared and incompetent service-academy graduates should be a cause of concern for all Americans, especially parents entrusting their children to recently graduated officers empowered with substantial legal authority.

I’ll never forget a midshipman I taught. The midshipman had a combined SAT score of 800: 450 math and 350 English. This individual struggled all semester and could not even cheat effectively: For an assignment on the French Revolution, this person simply Googled “French Revolution” and copied the text at the first link. I failed the student and documented the transgression. But the midshipman was retained.

John Cauthen
Via e-mail


Contents
December 3, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, No. 22

Articles
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Helen Rittelmeyer reviews Strom Thurmond’s America, by Joseph Crespino.
  • David French reviews Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, by Dakota Meyer and Bing West.
  • Tracy Lee Simmons reviews Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author and the Book That Defined the “Special Relationship,” by Peter Clarke.
  • James E. Person Jr. reviews Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America, by Stephen Mansfield.
  • John J. Miller remembers the original version of Red Dawn.
  • Ross Douthat reviews Flight.
Sections
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .