September 1st Check-In: Senior Winners for Challenge #1


The competition was fierce on the first Challenge Day for the senior classes. The survivors who made it out of the derby of broken bodies and spirits were:


  • Robert L.
  • Jasmina V.
  • Andrea H.
  • Garrett L.


  • Kevin W.
  • Tiger
  • Alex G.


For those who are “not yets” (as in not yet winners) the work you need to do in order to earn a spot at the victors table next time is below. We are going to go with a September 12th deadline for this work.

Good luck now and in your next challenge!


Section 1: Geography

  1. List 6 countries of the Warsaw Pact other than the the Soviet Union
  2. What 5 countries comprised British India?
  3. What three African countries were formerly colonized by Belgium?
  4. Name three countries that used to be a part of Yugoslavia
  5. What is the name of the type of map used by European navigators during the Age of Exploration, still widely used in classrooms, that displays highly inaccurate size perspectives on the world.
  6. What is the newest officially recognized country in the world?
  7. What country’s geography is largely defined by the Ganges river basin?
  8. Name 4 US states that were Mexican territory before the Mexican-American war.
  9. Name the four empires that ceased to exist as a direct result of WWI.
  10. What are the 4 IB regions?

Section 2: IB History of the 20th Century: Cold War and Decolonization

  1. Who was the secretary of state under Kennedy?
  2. When were the 13 days? (Exactly)
  3. What countries were given nearly $400 million in aid to prevent the spread of Communism in 1947?
  4. Who was the author of the Long Telegram?
  5. What is the term used to describe the Cold War in the sense that it started in 1917 as a conflict between capitalism and communism?
  6. What is the name of the Cold War theory that suggests that the Cold War was just a smokescreen behind which the USA attempted to secure dominance of the capitalist world?
  7. What document agreed to the formation of the United Nations?
  8. What Congolese leader was an early victim to Cold War maneuvering by the two superpowers?
  9. Who first suggested the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement?
  10. Ironically, the Soviet Union, rather than Germany, found itself facing a two front war in the 70s and 80s with what two potential enemies?
  11. What two major Cold War crises took place in 1956?
  12. What were the names of the two “countries” formed by uniting the British. American and French sectors of the divided West Germany?

Section 3: IB History of the 20th Century: Auth Leaders, Wars, USFP

  1. What were the four key territories the US gained via the SA war?
  2. What was the name of the legislative document that ostensibly turned power over to the Cubans after the SA war?
  3. Who were Stalin’s partners in the Triumvirs?
  4. Name the big three conferences of the Grand Alliance held during WWI.
  5. What was the name of the documentary we watched that addressed LA immigration to the USA?
  6. What was the name of the program that brought Mexican workers to the United States to work during WWII?
  7. What was the battle that signaled the end of the First Indochina War?
  8. What are the two turning point battles of WWII: one from the ET and the other from the PT.
  9. What is the name often used to describe the relationship between connected core and peripheral states?
  10. Who directed “Triumph of the Will”?
  11. Who was the primary German historian who disagreed with Fritz Fischer?
  12. What was the name of the bombing campaign that attempted to beat the North Vietnamese forces into submission toward the end of the VW?

Personal beliefs and perpetual peace


Objectively (i.e., in theory) there is utterly no conflict between morality and politics. But subjectively (in the self-seeking inclinations of men, which, because they are not based on maxims of reason, must not be called the [sphere of] practice [Praxis]) this conflict will always remain, as well it should; for it serves as the whetstone of virtue, whose true courage (according to the principle, “tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito”) in the present case consists not so much in resolutely standing up to the evils and sacrifices that must be taken on; rather, it consists in detecting, squarely facing, and conquering the deceit of the evil principle in ourselves, which is the more dangerously devious and treacherous because it excuses all our transgressions with an appeal to human nature’s frailty.

― Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace and other Essays on Politics, History and Morals


Today we started a discussion on one of the oldest idealistic views of our shared life on this planet: cosmopolitanism.

Philosophers, politicians, poets and activists have all embraced the idea, but it has yet to claim a secure position as a defining political activity that actively defines human relations. Perhaps it will never.

Kant’s quote above gets to the heart of this, and speaks to the question I have asked you to consider: What do you bring to the table in a discussion of cosmopolitanism, global politics and human relations? Kant would be more dramatic and ask us to squarely face the “deceit of the evil principle in ourselves,” but we are not going to assume that our transgressions are evil. We are going to assume that we have pre-existing notions and political beliefs that create conflicts between morality and politics–especially on a global scale–and we are going to analyze this potential to determine how it may define our world-view consciously or unconsciously.

Some nudges:

  • Do you believe your nation, ethnicity or culture is better than others?
  • Do you believe that no culture is superior to others, but all cultures are different?
  • Do you identify more with people from a similar background, or do you identify equally with any human you encounter?
  • How would you describe your political beliefs? Do you support a particular political party in your nation? Any nation?
  • How would your parents and family answer the above questions? Are your answers more similar, or dissimilar to theirs?

Feel free to expand your self-analysis. Stretch.


Some parting thoughts from Frank: Fukuyama

The effect of education on political attitudes is complicated, for democratic society. The self-professed aim of modern education is to “liberate” people from prejudices and traditional forms of authority. Educated people are said not to obey authority blindly, but rather learn to think for themselves. Even if this doesn’t happen on a mass basis, people can be taught to see their own self-interest more clearly, and over a longer time horizon.

Education also makes people demand more of themselves and for themselves; in other words, they acquire a certain sense of dignity which they want to have respected by their fellow citizens and by the state. In a traditional peasant society, it is possible for a local landlord (or, for that matter, a communist commissar) to recruit peasants to kill other peasants and dispossess them of their land. They do so not because it is in their interest, but because they are used to obeying authority. Urban professionals in developed countries, on the other hand, can be recruited to a lot of nutty causes like liquid diets and marathon running, but they tend not to volunteer for private armies or death squads simply because someone in a uniform tells them to do so.

― Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man

Moral Dilemma #2: The Problem of Evil

And the Lord spake unto the philosopher, ‘I am the Lord thy God, all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing.’

‘Surely not,’ replied the philosopher.  ‘I look at this world and I see horrible disease, hunger, starvation, mental illness.  Yet you don’t stop it.  Is it that you can’t?  In which case, you are not all-powerful.  Is it because you don’t know about it?  In which case you are not all-knowing.  Or perhaps you don’t want to?  In which case you are not all-loving.’

‘Such impudence!’ replied the Lord.  ‘It is better for you if I don’t stop all this evil.  You need to grow morally and spiritually.  For that you need the freedom to do evil as well as good, and to confront the chance occurrence of suffering.  How could I possibly have made the world better without taking away your freedom to grow?’

‘Easy’, replied the philosopher.  ‘First, you could have designed us so that we felt less pain.  Second, you could have made sure we had more empathy, to prevent us doing evil to others.  Third, you could have made use better learners, so we didn’t have to suffer so much to grow.  Fourth, you could have made nature less cruel.  Do you want me to go on?’

Discussion points:

  • Could God have made a world in which there was less suffering but in which we had the same opportunities to exercise our free will?
  • Some have characterized the answers to this question as being either that atheists claim to know better than God or that believers claim to know better than reason.  Why?  Which, in your view, is the more serious charge?



Submission Guidelines:

  • Submit your work as a URL embedded into your first name in the comments below.

October, End of Quarter Check-In


Hello all,

This week you are being challenged by a rigorous practice exam schedule, but once it is over you will be done with IB “boot camp,” and you will be ready to take more control of your study of History.  In the meantime, know that I meant what I said in class: both F and G blocs have demonstrated excellent endeavor and potential and I am very proud of how quickly you have adapted to IB-level writing. Keep up your confidence for the rest of the week and take pride in the work you have done in preparation for these exams! Parents, please encourage your children as they wrap up their first semester of IB. Either as full diploma candidates or certificate applicants, the first quarter of IB is quite a reality check.

For your further information, our class has focused on the following material this quarter:

  • The theory of History and historiography
  • Historical thinking and activism
  • Film and War (via Gallipoli)
  • Theories of war
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Thinkers:
    • Hannah Arendt
    • Georg Hegel & Karl Marx (in terms of history)
    • Niall Ferguson
    • Eric Hobsbawm
    • AJP Taylor
    • Fritz Fischer
    • Steven Pinker
    • P.W. Singer
    • and others


Students, looking forward to what the the second quarter holds in store, you will soon:

But for now, focus on a solid end to the quarter. I will be sending out a new “check-in” early in Quarter Two.

Parents, I look forward to meeting you or speaking with you again per your availability during our Parent Teacher Conferences next week.