hannah westerman

Demanding History

When I was in high school, I took the AP U.S. History (APUSH) exam. The final few days before the test, I crammed: I read synopses of dates and names over and over, and did hundreds of practice multiple-choice questions. And I did well on the test. But I remember very little of it and I know that if I were to take that same test now, my results would be terrible. It isn’t enough to be able to temporarily rattle off a lot of facts about American history. Students need to discuss history and think about it deeply, but the attitudes surrounding the AP test encouraged rapid cramming and a subsequent mental purge.

In Love With a Serial Killer

Serial killers, both fictionalized and real, have always held a complex and not entirely fathomable hold on the public’s attention. 

In 1969, the Manson Family, perhaps some of the most well-known serial killers, committed a string of murders that were both brutal and shocking. The vague, unclarified goal behind the attacks, the viciousness of the murders and the idea that a single man could drive others to kill so mercilessly all combined to fascinate and horrify the public as they watched the heavily publicized investigation and seven-month trial. Without inflicting a single wound on any of the victims, Charles Manson became one of the most famous serial killers in the world. He was so charismatic and manipulative that his cult “family” was easily convinced to do his murderous bidding. 

Living in the Shadow

In July 16, 1945, the radio frequency that the United States military was using to broadcast the countdown to the Trinity Test suffered interference from a local radio station. As a result of a strange fluke, the commanding officers of the operation heard strains from Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” broadcasted through the control bunker as the final seconds expired and the bomb dropped, six miles away—the first detonation of a nuclear weapon in the United States. Stepping outside, the officers were hit by a wave of heat and pressure from the world’s first atomic weapon. In the first few seconds of the new era that was ushered in that morning at 5:29 a.m., the orchestra played on, but the desert was silent.

Stay at Home, Dad

In 2011, Colby Lewis took a couple days off from work to spend with his family after the birth of his second child. The radio waves erupted in anger, questioning how the man could abandon his professional duties and scorning the idea that a father has any kind of role after childbirth. As a pitcher for the Texas Rangers, Lewis became the first Major League baseball player to ever take paternity leave and the first to take advantage of a recent policy granting players 24-72 hours off for the birth of their children. A maximum of 72 hours seems a trivial amount of time to embrace a new child and to adapt to the changing familial structures, yet the decision sparked outrage among some in the sports media.