The concept of the class is an interesting one. The powers that be choose 8 people or events, either from world history or US history. In addition to defining them, we have to compare them in bracketed divisions (think those NCAA basketball pools that you always lose a couple bucks in**). For each pair we write a short essay arguing why one of the two is more significant than the other. All the "winners" advance to the next bracket where they are paired with the other winners. Then the winners of those brackets face off to see which is the most significant person or event in US history***. World history follows the next week.
Each test works out to eight short essays followed by seven that may be a little longer, over the course of three hours. And the results go in your “permanent record****” so the department can ignore them when giving you a good job reference.
But we don’t go in blind. The beauty of the preparation is that we have the list of 48 people or events ahead of time from which each of the sets of eight are chosen, and one of our pre-test assignments is to do a little writeup on a number of them, which writeups are shared among all your classmates so they can study. I have twelve of them to do, one of which is Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
So I wonder if anyone would think it funny if I wrote up the Warrant song Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a significant milestone in American history rather than the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel that obviously stole its title:
Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A rock song by the hair band Warrant (Cherry Pie, 1990) that examines the problem of police corruption in rural 20th Century America and its effects on civilians.While I would have to invent a few congressional hearings, a blue ribbon commission, and an omnibus crime bill to give the song the gravity to top, say, the Market Revolution of 1800-1840, I think I could pull it off.
In Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the unnamed narrator and his uncle are river fishing late one night when they hear a disturbance in the nearby brush. Silently climbing a tree, they witness the local sheriff, John Brady, and an accomplice the pair recognize as Deputy Hedge, dump two presumably dead bodies into an abandoned well under cover of night.
Escaping back to Tom’s nearby ramshackle cabin, the two discuss possible courses of action and their consequences. Since the sheriff belongs in prison for what is obviously a crime, and they are the witnesses who can not only finger the guilty but can produce the evidence, it is their duty to expose him. On the other hand, as the sheriff is a trusted law enforcement authority, it is uncertain whether anyone will believe their story. In addition, if Brady has compromised local judges or elected officials they may place themselves in personal danger by coming forward. Tom eventually convinces the narrator to take what he has seen to the grave, leaving the crooked sheriff and his co-conspirators free to terrorize and murder other innocent Americans.
The narrator describes his dilemma in the chorus: I know a secret down in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I know a secret that I just can’t tell. I know a secret down in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, know who put the bodies in the wishing well.
On the other hand, Dr. Schick doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who has ever heard of Warrant. And he takes his history too seriously, probably, to see the humor in it.
* Technically, it’s 6 tests, 6 book reports, and a dozen small write-ups, but all but the two tests are routine.
** I lose them so consistently that I’ve come to think of it as a tax on the month of March.
*** For the record, I’m leaning toward Pocahontas’ husband.
**** I know you all feared your permanent record as kids. I feared for mine when I got busted for setting a guitar pick on fire in the seventh grade (those suckers BURN). But this is pretty much the only thing in a history major’s permanent record - they don't really care if you can't play "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley".