Compare or contrast two people you know: two teachers, two friends, two siblings, and so forth.
Mr. Brandt and Mr. Kaminski
Two of my college history teachers, Mr. Brandt (who teaches American history) and Mr. Kaminiski (who teaches European history) are similar on the surface. If visitors were to sit in on each of their classes, they would likely go away thinking that these guys had been genetically wired from identical blue prints. Beneath the surface, however, Mr. Brandt and Mr. Kaminski had fundamentally different views of history.
First, they were about the same age, in their forties I would guess, and they were entertaining lecturers, making them reasonably popular even among students who hated history. They had a knack for mixing humor and information. Mr. Brandt's lectures on the American Revolution were well organized and informed, but they were made memorable by his occasional anecdotes about the venereal diseases from which the founding fathers suffered. Similarly Mr. Kaminski livened up a tedious lecture on British succession with a howling explanation of how James I got his nickname, "spindleshanks."
Second, because these guys were such good lecturers and enjoyed talking so much, they didn't pile on the homework. They wanted to listen to themselves talk, not read what students had to say. They gave few tests, hardly any papers, and only occasional quizzes. Both of them counted the "notebook" as a sizeable portion of the grade, so if you showed up regularly and took notes, you were in good shape. Not surprisingly, this also helped them maintain their popularity.
Third, both of these guys were smart. Having had many teachers in high school and college, it's clear to me that many of them know their stuff and many of them don't. I get the feeling that if some teachers strayed a centimeter away from the book they would be as lost as Dorothy when she strayed off the yellow brick road. But Mr. Brandt and Mr. Kaminski knew their history. They seldom went by the book, and I never saw either of them field a question that they couldn't answer immediately and thoroughly.
But in spite of all this, Mr. Brandt and Mr. Kaminski were more different than they were alike because they had different views of the world. Mr. Brandt believed in an ordered, logical universe and Mr. Kaminski didn't. Of course neither of them came right out and said so, but this difference was at the bottom of everything they talked about.
Mr. Brandt, for example, did joke about venereal diseases, but he had a high regard for the early Americans and their work ethic. "The strength of the American nation is a product of the strong American character." If he said that once, he said it a hundred times. He believed Europe declined as America rose because European character became "decadent" and "slothful" while the Americans were more ethical and industrious. To Mr. Brandt, historical developments were the logical outcomes of character and actions.
Mr. Kaminski had an altogether different view. He believed things happened by chance and were governed by no logical pattern. In talking about the British civil wars of the Middle Ages, he frequently emphasized how a battle was won or lost because of accident--a message was dropped, or delivered to the wrong person, or the messenger was killed or the weather turned unexpectedly bad. To Mr. Kaminiski, the winners and losers weren't determined by logic-- by character or by right and wrong--but by accidental forces beyond anybody's control.
The longer I sat in their classes, the more I preferred Mr. Brandt's view of history. It fit more comfortably with my upbringing. I am glad to have taken Mr. Kaminski's course, however, because he gave me a lot to think about. Everytime I hear on the news about a terrorist raid or read in the newspaper about a budget crisis in Congress, I think more carefully about whether these things are logical developments or random occurrences.The best thing about this paper is its thoughtfulness. Most contrast papers skim the surface and never probe beneath it. This writer does a good job of digging beneath the surface similarities.
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