Monday, November 26, 2007

So You Don't Have To

A glance at the search engine hits on this site shows some trends. For instance, around the weeks that correspond to the end of the semesters at state universities, a lot of hits flow in on search terms that seem to be exact transcriptions of professors' essay questions. Such as: "Name three reasons why the South seceded from the Union."

This isn't an education site, but I often write about historical topics or quote from others who do that. So I understand how such queries come here. And I also understand the desperation of the student who finds himself up against a deadline for which he is unprepared, and a challenge to which he is unwilling to rise.

The Internet is an open toll booth to the easy road.

After all, you, student, have spent the bulk of the semester doing more important things than all that dreary reading. Like running around World of Warcraft battlegrounds with your nimble fingers beating up on my poor slow characters. Or crowding into the one taproom in this town that can serve a Guinness right, with the perfect aeration, and monopolizing the barstools while ordering nothing but Coors Light and Captain 'n' Coke all night.

Yes, my sympathies are all on your side. To make your path easier, here are some answers to commonly assigned undergraduate essay assignments.

Three reasons the Civil War began:

Abraham Lincoln, who was elected president of the North in 1837 and again in 1854. He supposedly stole this election by stuffing the ballot boxes in Hawaii after the polls had closed. He also signed the Lend Lease Agreement in 1870, whereby Texas, a Southern state, would be lent to Mexico in exchange for a 99-year lease on California.

Lincoln's close friend and secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, John Wilkes Booth, wrote the Gettysburg Address while traveling from Washington to Pennsylvania on the back of an envelope. The address was an attempt to revive the Tariff of Abominations, also known as the Hawley-Smoot Tariff, which the South was convinced would lead to a resumption of the War of 1812.

Slavery. The North wanted it. That's why the North kept luring slaves to run away from their masters, with all-night magic lantern showings of "Song of the South" in special theaters set up in boxcars buried in the vacant lots of Northern cities (i.e. "the Underground Railroad").

Next: "Beowulf Made Accessible."