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Letters to the Editor

History Lessons

Will Colglazier is to be congratulated ("History Detected," May/June). I recognized his methods in teaching history to be the same that got me interested in it many years ago in the 11th and 12th grades at St. George's School, R.I., and under the tutelage of Professor Anatole Mazour at Stanford. One of my 11th grade assignments was to read The Communist Manifesto and write an essay pro or con on Marx's theory of history; I came down on the con side. History remains an avocation of mine. However, it goes way beyond the study of documents. It now includes many techniques used in the hard sciences.

Archaeology, biology, climatology, volcanology, numismatics, carbon dating, dendrochronology and genetics can add to our understanding of events and the people who shape them. Chemical analysis of plants, tooth enamel and other substances allows us to know more about a person's remains, environment and even where he was born. Forensic pathology can determine causes of death. Other branches of medicine including PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and DNA analysis add to our understanding of events. They can determine family ties, track mass migrations and identify epidemic diseases. Recent advances in the neurosciences are important in understanding the mental and physical illnesses of the "movers and shakers"—Hitler's narcissism, amphetamine addiction and Parkinson's.

An example of how PCR data helped explain the demise of Napoleon's Grand Armée in 1812-13 was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2006. An analysis of remains from French soldiers in a mass grave in Vilnius with the observations of the British military attaché to the Russian army indicates that disease rather than the Russian army, scorched earth or the winter led to his catastrophic casualties. It found that typhus (a Rickettsial disease), trench fever, pneumonia and diarrhea (bacterial and viral diseases) were principal causes of death and contradict Napoleon's report to the French government: My army had had some losses, but this was due to the premature rigors of the season. Some losses! Some rigors! About 265,000 French troops began the foray into Russia in 1812. There were only 95,000 who left Moscow (November 1812) before the first snows fell. By 1813 only 3,000 veterans remained. There were 36,000 battle casualties in Napoleon's army. No one won except disease.
R.K. Maddock Jr., '56
Adjunct Professor of Medicine, University of Utah (ret.)
Salt Lake City, Utah

Your excellent article has a tidbit of history that needs correcting to help students gain a better understanding of climate changes, because historically based climatology can be useful.

Will Colglazier asserts that "the Dust Bowl was the result of overgrazing and over-farming and World War I overproduction combined with droughts that have been plaguing the area forever." Overgrazing occurred after the drought began, but the 1932-39 drought coincided very closely with a brief cyclical period of global warming caused by greater solar radiation activity, as deduced from W. Dansgaard's oxygen isotope records from ice cores at Camp Century, Greenland. The green years following the Dust Bowl era coincide with lesser solar radiation activity and happened when wartime production exceeded the "overproduction" of World War I.

During the Altithermal Age in North America 4,000 to 8,000 years ago (called the Hypsithermal Age in Europe), when global temperatures averaged about one degree warmer than now and sea level was three meters higher than at present, the same Great Plains region of the United States that experienced the 1930s drought was a dry, uninhabited desert, from which signs of man and animals are absent. The present Sand Hills, which cover one-sixth of Nebraska, consisted of Sahara-like sand dunes then. When cooler global temperatures returned 4,000 years ago, the Great Plains region became much wetter again and supported great herds of bison.The amount of precipitation that is driven to the temperate latitudes is known to depend on the difference between polar temperatures and tropical temperatures. Northern Africa changed from a lush region supporting lions and elephants to sand dunes with the post-Ice Age warming. The world's tropical temperatures are about one degree warmer today than during the Ice Ages, while a great amount of warming has occurred in recent decades in the Arctic. As far back as 1980, a repeat of the Dust Bowl era drought had been projected to commence about now in the Great Plains from adding Wallace Broecker's CO2 "hockey stick" warming to the slightly cooler temperatures projected from Camp Century cycles. I regret offering such a grim outlook, but continued global warming could be expected to return the Great Plains to desert.
William N. Barbat, '51, MS '52
Lake Oswego, Oregon

Regarding "History Detected," my maternal grandfather, Thomas Netherland, was chief social clerk for presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. When Roosevelt's second term was ending, he gave various items he had accumulated to his close staff members. The most interesting of these which he gave to my grandfather was an actual big stick. This had been given to Roosevelt by an Indian tribe in the Southwest after they heard of his speech referring to defense of the Panama Canal: "A man should speak softly and carry a big stick." It is about 3 ½ inches in diameter, 2 ½ feet long, and has many intricately carved figures on it, including Mexico's eagle and snake.

An ancestor on my father's side, Alexander Murray, fought in Lafayette's army. From him, we received a bamboo three-cornered sword cane, with a French inscription bearing a date several years prior to the American Revolutionary War.

As a child, I took these items to my history classes to add something to what was in the history books. Fortunately, my teachers welcomed this. Later, as a freshman at Duke, I was fortunate in having I.B. Holley for history, one of the best teachers I ever had. We still keep in touch. He actually expected us to think for ourselves—not merely accept blindly what the textbook author presented. More recently, I have written articles for our local newspaper that contain both family and public history.
Malcolm Murray, MS '61
Baytown, Texas

The wonderful article referred to by the cover, "Forget What You Know About History," could easily have been titled, "We Forget What Stanford Knows About Teaching History." I am a graduate of the STEP program, where we were taught how to teach history by Richard Gross and his extraordinary colleagues at the School of Education, and I don't see anything new today—except for computers. We practiced the "inquiry" approach using source documents, provocative questions, interactive assignments, original research by students, inductive reasoning and even simulations. It worked remarkably well back in the day and, I take it, still does. The outcome is more likely to be critical thinking skills than random facts residing in short-term memory. Thanks for highlighting a topic that grows in importance in an age of unreflective partisanship and positioning.
Harry Hutson, MA '72
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Theresa Johnston describes a great way to teach students to develop critical historical thinking by analytically examining pertinent documents, sometimes contrary to each other, of actual events as they transpire. But the problem with this approach, in addition to taking up a great deal of time, is that it is like taking a snapshot of events at a moment in time and not relating it to unfolding history and the forces that shake and change the past, as a well done motion picture could portray. In other words, the dots must be connected to fully understand and appreciate the importance of events and the role individual actions contribute to the whole picture.
Robert Mogis, MBA '52
Lansing, Michigan

The magazine arrived today. I was going to follow my usual pattern of flipping through it, with the promise of reading it in depth later in the month. And then I found your page with the intriguing photo and equally intriguing commentary on the new approach to teaching history ("Open to Interpretation. History, That Is," First Impressions). Now, three and one half hours later (with the distressing "to do" stack still on my desk), I have been intoxicated, amazed, depressed over my weakening brain cells, uplifted.

Thanks for another stellar issue.
Vilma Kennedy Pallette, '52
Santa Clara, California


Alice's Journals

I was truly touched by your beautiful and sensitive story of Alice Coogan ("Alice's Wonder Lands," May/June). I went to boarding school with Alice at the Ethel Walker School. We were "new girls" in 1957. Alice was a freshman and I was a junior. I was the extrovert and Alice was the introvert. She was a darling, shy, awkward, underdeveloped little girl with honey blond hair and a beguiling smile that invited you to become her friend. Her expression in your pictures captures her essence exactly.

We all know the teenage years can be a nightmare for the introverts, because popularity depends on the sarcastic retort, the tough demeanor, the quick tongue and the putting down of the introvert, who never fights back. By the time I had returned to my 20th reunion, I realized that the introverts in our class were, by far, the more interesting and evolved girls in our class. While we were trying to learn the two-step and be popular, they had actually taken their education seriously and had looked beyond our very narrow world to become interesting human beings.

I saw Alice a few times at Stanford, nodded and moved on. I'm only sorry I did not realize at the time that it was Alice who would become the really interesting person. I am going to send this article to the Ethel Walker School. I would like to be a fly on the wall when some of our extroverts read this remarkable story of "shy Alice." Thank you for giving us this extraordinary picture of a very extraordinary woman.
Martyn Smith Belmont, '63
Pasadena, California

How appropriate that something as lamentable as the deaths of Peter Voll, '65 (Obituaries, Class Notes), and Alice Coogan were noted in the same issue. While their personalities were so different, their work with Stanford Travel/Study was as seamless as one could imagine. For entirely contrasting reasons neither one had to make the least effort to place people at ease, to make friends, and to bless these wonderful trips with a calmness that was the proverbial oil on troubled waters when unforeseen events threatened a disruption. While Alice presented a quiet and shy demeanor, one would have been hard pressed to believe the profound self-doubt she harbored. How many wonderful, universally admired folks constantly refer to themselves as "slugs"? Alice had a special way of blushing, which, rather than making the person causing the blushing to become uncomfortable, as is usual, served to bring "blushee" and blusher closer. 

Peter Voll was an exception to, and Alice the epitome of, the old adage "Faces we see, hearts we know not." Some years ago my then 85-year-old father took Alice as his "date" to a celebration at Beach Blanket Babylon for the firm he founded. How could Alice, harboring all those feelings so well described in your article, ooze so much sweetness and evoke so much admiration?  Did anyone not love Alice and admire Peter? To this day the tears engendered by Lyall Watson's letter telling me of her death are waiting to well up again.

I wonder if the real lesson here is to not alter our memory of Alice because of her self-perception but rather recognize that the beatings and torture that took place in her delightful skin were the wellspring of her exterior and not despite it. We should appreciate, as did the fine article, that lasting legacies are produced with considerable effort and so very, very often with private pain. My wise grandfather, knowing full well about agony—having survived the Armenian Genocide—would ask rhetorically when one felt downtrodden, "What is the toughest metal known?" The answer: "Wrought Iron, because it is beaten on the anvil." Alice carried inside this special anvil that gave shape and firmness to all she touched. Most regard the anvil either as ballast or a millstone, others as the template on which their accomplishments are forged. The former results in floating or sinking, while the latter requires and produces lots of heat and sparks to warm our hearts and light our lives.

I saw Peter shortly before he died. His comments about his certain, imminent demise reflected the same princely words and approach that he brought to everything he did.
Myron Gananian, '51, MD '59
Menlo Park, California

Thank you for answering that question I asked Alice Coogan on a Stanford trip to France in 1998: What will become of all your diaries one day? Among many vivid memories of that wine-and-vineyard-focused trip are those spectacular diary entries that I observed Alice recording each day. Oh, how I wished I were as clever with pen and brush as she was! Alice's keen observations and magnificent watercolor sketches deserve the honor of being a part of Stanford's Special Collections. Thanks for letting me know the journals have found a home.
Linda Harrison Ashcraft, '72
Meadow Vista, California


The Collecting Bug

Your article on collectors certainly struck a responsive chord ("Great Stuff," May/June). My mother was a serial collector. If something struck her fancy, she collected it. All that clutter! I vowed that never would I be a collector.

A few years ago, a friend convinced me to take his Concealed Handgun License course. An Army veteran, I was familiar with guns but knew little about them. When my friend showed us his beloved semiautomatic Glock, a gun with as much appeal as a shoebox, I sneered and went looking for a gun with looks that spoke to me.

It was then I discovered antique Colts from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of those old models were familiar from movies, and I was impressed by their elegant "form follows function" designs and superb workmanship. I became enamored of engraved guns, and studied the engraver's art.

Eventually, I bought online what was represented as an antique Colt. When I opened the box, I was certain the seller was pulling a fast one. The thing was in the shape of a gun, but was so small I thought it a cigarette lighter. The references confirmed the gun was as represented but offered little more than a recitation of the gun's physical attributes.

I delved a little further, and that was my big mistake. I discovered the model was introduced in 1871 and was an instant flop. After three years, only 8,500 were sold, but remarkably in 1874 and 1875 sales jumped exponentially to a total of 100,000—accounting for 60 percent of the factory's total firearms production. There was a story there, but no one had told it. I decided I would.

My research began with books on Sam Colt and the history of Colt Firearms. I learned of Colt's invention of the repeating revolver in 1835, and that for the next 12 years Colt knew only failure and bankruptcy. Then by a quirk of fate, Texas Rangers got hold of some early Colts. The bow and arrow, which had been the most effective weapon on the frontier, was made obsolete. Texans armed with Colt revolvers would break through the Comanche barrier to westward expansion.

Sam Colt went on to fame and fortune. Sixty years before Henry Ford rolled out his first Model A, Colt was mass-producing firearms entirely with interchangeable parts of steel and iron, machined to exacting tolerances. It is no exaggeration to say the Colt revolver was the Super App of the Industrial Age. (Somehow, this tidbit never got into my high school or undergrad history.)

None of what I read, unfortunately, shed light on the little gun mystery. So I was off to Hartford, Conn., where I spent a week in the Colt archives at the state library. I made little progress and, inconveniently, other untold stories emerged and beckoned to me. Soon I hired grad students to plumb archives from Yale to Berkeley, from Wyoming to Texas, and before long boxes filled with hundreds of documents—amounting to thousands of pages of handwritten letters, journals, contracts and financial ledgers—lined our hallways. I hired four people to transcribe the most difficult to read. I bought books by the score and gathered what I could find on the web.

There was the cabal, comprised of prominent Americans (including high officials), that in 1859 worked to establish a slaveholding empire in the northern Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua. There was the firearms patent case decided by an associate justice of the Supreme Court (sitting as trial judge when riding his circuit), in which he knowingly upheld a terribly flawed patent (the gun would blow up when fired). As a result, a great fraud was perpetuated on the American people, and the Union army was denied advanced firearms technology that may have shortened the Civil War.

Oh, the mystery of the little gun? It had to do with the Panic of 1873 and the Long Depression that followed. The gun was sold below cost, in huge volume, to keep the skilled workforce employed. Since that first "cigarette lighter," I have purchased about 170 more, not to mention about 100 other Colts of historical interest, and of course the ephemera, accoutrements and artifacts without which no collection is complete. I bought a condo to house and display these treasures. For some reason, Collection Intervention became one of my wife's favorite TV shows. Thanks for the great read.
Robert Swartz, JD '79
San Antonio, Texas


Law Clinic Concerns

I noted with interest the article about the opening of the new legal clinic at Stanford Law School ("New Law Clinic Handles Religious Liberty Cases," Farm Report, May/June). I was quite surprised to see the author's claim that the new clinic will be "the only one in the country dedicated to cases involving religious liberty." I was surprised because the clinic's director, James Sonne, was quoted in a January 21, 2013, article in the New York Times as follows: "In framing our docket, we decided we would represent the believers. . . . Our job is religious liberty rather than freedom from religion." This is shocking, coming from a law professor, as the authors of the Constitution worded the First Amendment the way they did—with an establishment clause expressly prohibiting laws respecting the establishment of religion—because they understood that freedom from religion was just as fundamental to religious liberty as is freedom to practice our particular religion. Thomas Jefferson understood this when he called for a "wall of separation" between church and state.

In response to a criticism of the idea that the clinic will champion only cases involving alleged suppression of the free exercise of religion, while ignoring cases defending the right to freedom from religious coercion, Sonne is quoted [in Stanford] assuring us that, while the initial docket involves only worshipers' complaints, future cases will vary. He states that the clinic will not promote any one religious faith. That is not very reassuring. What about respect and representation of Buddhists, atheists, agnostics and others?

A quality legal education, and especially a clinic program focusing on religious liberty, requires a respect for the establishment clause, as well as the other portions of the First Amendment. I hope the new clinic will have a foundation in leadership and direction that will promote that respect. I'm not confident of that, based on what we have been told so far. Sonne was once a professor at a law school affiliated with a specific religious denomination, and $1.6 million of the initial funding for the clinic came from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, an organization dedicated to the belief, among others, that our rights in the United States are granted to us by God, not by the Constitution and other laws. I can't say whether either of these influences will affect the curriculum. However, we do know that the Becket Fund appears to be focused on supporting believers in faith-based, theistic religions—not a broad cross-section of all religious belief systems in our country.

The New York Times article quoted Lawrence Marshall, associate dean for clinical education, as arguing that we ought to be committed to religious diversity as much as to diversity in gender, race and ethnicity. True, and noble. However, Marshall was also quoted as suggesting there is a shortage of legal representation for traditional theistic believers, compared to all the free help allegedly available to nontraditional believers, such as atheists and others. Marshall stated: "the 47% of the people who voted for Mitt Romney deserve a curriculum, as well." This is a troubling view, in part because it aims to limit the scope of the clinic's education and action potential, and also because there are a great many organizations bankrolled with hundreds of millions of dollars that regularly make themselves available to promote and defend the beliefs and practices of religious conservatives in court.

Marshall began teaching at Northwestern University School of Law the same year I began my studies there. I remember him as an engaging, intelligent teacher with a passion for the law and a genuine interest in sharing ideas with an open mind. I hope he keeps an open mind and uses the new clinic to teach students to respect and support the religious freedom of all U.S. citizens, as the Constitution requires. It would be a shame for a first-rate university to be stuck with a second-rate legal clinic program. That would be bad for the students, for Stanford and for our country. 
Jeff Bloom, '84
Alexandria, Virginia


Much Ado About Nothing

I was surprised to read the article "How to Quantify the Shakespeare Debate" (Farm Report, May/June). There is no controversy about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays among scholars who have any background in the period or training in literary analysis. Perhaps a quick conversation with any member of Stanford's world-renowned English or history department or the professors working in the Stanford History Education Group could have cleared up this regrettable confusion.

No doubt the professor is a brilliant man, but perhaps you could have devoted a page to his plasma research instead of his conspiracy mongering.
Rebecca Moyle, '96
Berkeley, California


Big Changes

Perhaps a delusional old fogey, I am troubled by the "discovery does not happen in outmoded facilities" quote in the May/June President's Column ("Financial Strength Enables Innovation"). I last visited Stanford precisely 50 years after enrolling there in 1959 and was troubled by the mega-campus feel and modernistic ambience. Education is less a matter of "discovery" in new facilities than a matter of self-discovery, and my life was profoundly shaped by the likes of Thomas Bailey (in the freezing, dungeon-like basement of History Corner, apparently furnished while Jane Stanford was still alive); David Regnery, in the cavernous, bare-bones MemAud; Harold Schmidt, in the choir loft of Memorial Church; and Lawrence Thomas, in a pretty dreary classroom in the old education building. The nagging phone calls from work study students calling for donations, frankly, scare me: A university is less important for what it is, than for what it does, and I wonder about the tack Stanford is taking and what image it is pursuing.
Steve Phillips, '63, MA '64
St. Petersburg, Florida

President Hennessy noted big changes caused by shifts in academic research funding. All across higher education, old ways are being questioned more than ever. Just this past year, Stanford considered a new campus in New York City and expanded its delivery of online courses to thousands of students across the globe. So could this be the time to ask: Why is a university education intended primarily for young people just starting out?

The fact is an exploding percentage of the population is reaching retirement age and, like many young people preparing to go to college or graduate school, they face the daunting question of how best to prepare for the rest of their lives.

Increasingly, retirees wish to follow accomplished careers with a "second act" or "encore" devoted to tackling social causes as part of their legacy. What better place than Stanford to help this older population gain new inspiration, capabilities and contacts for these noble pursuits in later life? And how much might these retiring adults, accomplished enough to get in, enrich the Stanford community, engaging faculty and perhaps sharing their unique life experience with younger Stanford students?

At Harvard, a group of faculty from across the university has strategically targeted retirement age adults with their Advanced Leadership Initiative. Just imagine if Stanford asserted its leadership in higher education to redefine the common notion of "university student" with a bold new commitment to this growing population.
Charles Catalano, '88
Menlo Park, California

Correction

We regret misspelling the byline for Stefan Norgaard, '15 ("With the Orphans," Farm Report, May/June).



The following did not appear in the print version of Stanford.


Lip-reading Obstacles

Both my mother, who was quite deaf, and I, who have some hearing loss, read lips. Rachel Kolb has pointed out [difficulties] very well ("Seeing at the Speed of Sound," March/April). I wish to relate some problems facing those of us who read lips in hopes that others may act accordingly to help. As a student at Stanford, I took an education class to try to learn to be a teacher. One lecturer had a moustache that covered his upper lip, so I could not hear what he had to say. My suggestion to anyone who aspires to teach is to trim their facial hair to allow students to see their lips. Similarly, one San Francisco TV station had an anchor with a moustache. My mother could not get whatever he had to say. Communications majors should take note. She would usually ask clerks or others with whom she did business to face her when they spoke. Such a request often was ignored, with the person turning away and continuing to speak. Although it is easy to forget, remember that when facing away, your message is lost.
Frederick Matteson, MS '49, PhD '74
Hollister, California


Touchy Subject

I was very impressed not only by the information presented, but also by the objectivity of the article "What's to Be Done After Newtown?" (Farm Report, March/April), especially in view of how touchy this subject is, at present.
Jim Davis, '51
Sunnyvale, California

I have thought hard about the Second Amendment and now think technology has made it too damaging. When the amendment was written, guns were muzzle-loading flintlocks that needed skilled preparation before being fired and took at least 15 seconds to reload. Fixed ammunition, and to a lesser extent repeating and automatic arms, have turned the Second Amendment into an enabler of hotheaded, stupid actions that kill too many people.

This would not be the first time the Constitution has become outdated. It has been amended 27 times. Would the Framers, were they now magically brought back to life to see the effects of fixed ammunition, think the Second Amendment should be preserved as it is?
Charles W. McCutchen
Bethesda, Maryland

As for gun controls vs. lack thereof ("After Newtown," Letters, May/June), I worked at an oil refinery in Aruba from 1952 through 1972, minus my time in the U.S. Army and at Stanford. At that time, Aruba's population was in the low 70,000 range. Individuals were not allowed to have guns in their possession. Only the police, the Dutch marine detachment and the Aruba Gun Club had guns. The latter had shotguns, used on Saturday mornings for skeet shooting, the targets being projected clay pigeons. When not in use, the guns were kept by the police, with recruits cleaning, lubricating and maintaining them. Aruba's murder rate was about one victim every two years—usually by knife or strangulation. Baytown, Texas, with about the same population as Aruba's, averages about a dozen murders per year, mostly with guns.
Malcolm Murray, MS '61
Baytown, Texas

In regard to the pros and cons of gun controls—"automatic" guns, ammunition and magazine limitations—I have a question. Who will come to enforce the laws, collect the weapons, etc.? What will their qualifications be? Will they be military? Police? Hitler's pre-World War II Germany was a very safe, rather crime-free country. In Stalin's USSR one had to be licensed as a hunter to own a hunting rifle. In Afghanistan did not the Taliban disarm all the civilians they could, as did the army of the USSR? Careful—from our beginning we owe our freedom to armed civilians.
Bill Wright, '54
Deeth, Nevada


Orphans' Plight

"With the Orphans" by Stefan Norgaard (Student Voice, May/June), was sad. How can good, loving people be encouraged to adopt these children? Of course, if couples really don't want children, or are not ready to raise children, they should be educated and expected to either "be good or be careful."
     With a balanced decline in world population would come benefits for everyone: more affordable housing, various sources of energy for electricity, heating, cooking, transportation, healthy food, clean water and air, fewer guidelines on what we, as a community, can and can not do on our property. Less money would be needed for building and maintaining power plants and prisons. There would be less violence and a greater sense of peace, joy and calm expressed by all.
Jackie Leonard-Dimmick                                                                                
Atherton, California


Immodest Proposal

In the January/February issue ("The Visible Hand,") under "How Deferred Acceptance Works," it states "Immediate acceptance gives as many people as possible their first choice, then gives remaining people their second choice, and so on."

Normally, "deferred acceptance" would work fairly well, I would think, but here is a constructed counter-example [of immediate acceptance with no second round]:

Consider a scenario involving four men and four women.

Each man has this order of preference in women:

Abe                 W X Y Z

Ben                  X Y Z W

Cal                   Y Z W X

Don                 Z W X Y

and each woman has this order of preference in men:

Wanda             D C B A

Xena                A D C B

Yue                  B A D C

Zo                   C B A D

Then if men propose, every woman gets her last choice. If women propose, every man gets his second choice. Which would yield the happier marriages?
Charles A. Gaston, MS '62
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

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