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Friday, February 23, 2007

Dag who?

Surveys that expose the sorry handle on American history and government by U.S. college students these days don't go far enough. They should stop by the state Legislature in Trenton. When Gov. Corzine referred to former United Nations secretary-general Dag Hammarskjold as a hero of his youth near the end of his budget address Thursday, several legislators were left clueless. That's a shame.

"Who's that?'' asked Sen. Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr., R-Monmouth. "Nope, I don't know,'' said Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, also R-Monmouth. It's not just a Republican failing. Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-Union, also didn't know. At least they didn't make light of their ignorance the way Sen. Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, did when he quipped: "I thought he was talking about Dagwood in the comics.''

Yes, Hammarskjold died in a plane crash in 1961. And these four legislators were born from 1959 through 1967. But what did they learn in high school, if not college or grad school? As one of our letter writers noted, "I don't know whether I am more appalled that public servants didn't recognize the name of Dag Hammarskjold or that some of them frankly admitted it.'' For journalists, quotable news sources make our day. But sometimes what they say leaves us wondering, too.


Blogger margaret said...

You think there was time in high school for history on Dag Hammarskjold? So many figureheads to choose from, and I doubt the textbook companies fit him into their historical figures. I was born in the 60s an nowhere did I read this man's name or hear a teacher speak of him. And as far as college, unless politics or history was someone's major, I doubt a humnanities teacher teaching a required history course would be mentioning Dag. And graduate school? Again, only if it were someone's specific field. Perhaps, if someone were homeschooled though, there would be more of a chance to learn about him.

12:50 PM, February 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


How can a teacher tell you about Dag, with the way the colleges are run they don't know themselves. But I am sure they can tell you about how Bad our country is, that's what they probably learned in college.

12:56 PM, February 24, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I grew up in Illinois, as did Corzine, but I was growing up in the '60s and '70s. Still, we learned generally about Hammarskjold in school and had books that at least included bios of him in our school and public libraries. I agree people should recognize his name. But...

What struck me was the context in which Corzine brought him up. Can you check the transcripts and take this a bit further?

My recollection is he implied Hammarskjold had inspired his ideas for this budget. That's the first I heard of Hammarskjold having an expertise in American economics. Did you know that? Be honest. When you hear Hammarskjold's name, don't you think Swedish intellectual, UN official or diplomat? Did your teachers growing up require you to read Hammarskjold books on American economic policies, or did you read such books for pleasure?

I did a really quick search online and found Hammarskjold's doctoral dissertation was relevant to social economics. Hammarskjold books, plural, on economics that would be common literature in the '50s and '60s seemed a bit harder to come by. I'd like to know what books and what Hammarskjold ideas are driving Corzine's thinking.

Corzine's a smart man. If he went so far to refer to Hammarskjold as his "hero" relative to his state budgetary decisions, maybe it's more important to look into Dag's economic ideas than to sensationalize a statehouse Jaywalk (Leno is the master on the Tonight Show). The story was funny and revealing, but unfulfilling, sorry to say.

11:05 AM, March 04, 2007  

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