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Mark James Miller: History. English. Writing.

History.  English.  Writing.  With a passion for all three, I begin my blog.

At this time in the ongoing story of our species, History, English, and Writing are more important now than they ever have been, and the purpose of my blog is to heighten awareness of their significance.

I have been teaching English at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, California, since 1995.  The courses I teach are normally composition and critical thinking.  Over the years I have learned that students often come to my classroom with only the most rudimentary knowledge of how to write an essay and are clueless as to what critical thinking is.

The good news is they can learn, and one of the purposes of my blog is to pass along some of the knowledge I have gained on how people can improve their writing.

Writing is a skill that can be learned.  You don’t have to possess special literary gifts to do it well, just a willingness to work hard and master some fundamental ideas and techniques.

Teaching composition and critical thinking has enabled me to engage in another passion:  History, and a second reason for my blog is to emphasize how important history is.  I am frequently astonished at how little students know of seminal events of the past, such as World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, JFK’s assassination, the Civil Rights Movement and the Nazi Holocaust.  Egypt, the Glory that was Greece, the Grandeur that was Rome, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance──it’s almost as if they never happened.

History is part of who we are.  “Study the past if you would define the future,” said Confucius.  Our history has shaped us.  It tells us how we got here.  It tells us what lies behind us and gives us an idea of where we are heading.  More than anything else, it can help us avoid the mistakes of the past.

I hope people will visit my blog and learn from it.  For a teacher there is nothing better than bringing knowledge, no greater joy than awakening a person’s interest in something, few things more satisfying than inspiring a person to achieve success in a subject they were previously unenthusiastic about.  “Even though these essays gave me headaches,” a student wrote to me, “I actually learned to love this.”

Praise indeed.  Thanks for reading.

The Writer

Stopping the Spur–Derailing the Oil Company Train

When Phillips Petroleum decided to begin transporting highly flammable crude oil to its refinery on the Nipomo Mesa, it had no idea of the kind of determined opposition it would stir up, nor that a small but determined group of citizens would ultimately prevail and send its plan back to the drawing board.

Stopping the Spur, Derailing the Oil Company Train, June 22, 2018

German Prisoners in Goleta, CA

During World War II, 425,000 German soldiers taken prisoner by American forces in Africa and Europe were sent to the United States.  Most of the prisoner-of-war camps were located in the East and South.  But some were built in the West as well, including a small one in Goleta, California.

German Prisoners In Goleta,