Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Frequent Scenes of Misery"

One of the standout workshops from the History Connected  program this past year included a lecture from Professor Brooke Blower of Boston University.  She spoke about transnational migration, and explained that she purposely uses the word "migration" rather than "immigration" because it allows for the possibility that a person's move from one place to another is not permanent. Often, migrants leave their homeland to seek opportunity or change, but then return to their homeland or choose to move on to another place rather than stay permanently.

Our students are taught from a young age to be proud of being American.  They are taught that ours is the best nation on the planet.  There is nothing wrong with these lessons.  However, it is also important for them to realize that for other people, a different nation might feel like the best one.  This alternative perspective is just as important for children to learn so that they can interact from people from all over the world in a positive way.  Our students also experience America as a secure place full of promise.  Migrants who are entering America for the first time might not feel the same way.

As part of a 4 day lesson I created based on that workshop, called Transnational Migration in the Era of Big Business, students looked at photographs that help them see America as a migrant may have for the first time at Ellis Island in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Some of the photos are difficult.  In fact, Colonel John Weber, commissioner of Ellis Island at the time, described the migrants as "hapless pathetic creatures" who were part of "frequent scenes of misery."

This one shows the long crowded lines they had to wait in upon arrival.  Perhaps the large American flag on display was supposed to inspire them to be patient, but after a long journey across the Atlantic, I'm sure these slow lines were daunting.  I can't imagine what it might have been like to stand in these lines with young children after an endless cramped journey across the ocean.

This one shows some of the embarassing physical exams migrants had to endure.  While the health of those entering the country seemed like a legitimate concern for American immigration officials, the public examinations were invasive and dehumanizing.

After analyzing these and other photos, students read accounts of real migrants' experiences.  These are excerpts from a book by Vincent Cannato. 

Some ended happily and some were tragic.  One who had a happy ending was Bartolomeo Stallone from Italy.
Sixteen-year-old Bartolomeo Stallone also faced exclusion. Arriving from Italy in September 1911, Stallone was headed for his brother’s home in St. Louis, where he would work as a barber. At Ellis Island, Dr. E. H. Mullan certified the young man as “afflicted with flat deformed chest, lack of muscular development (poor physique), which affected ability to earn a living.” Stallone appealed his case, but August Sherman, acting in place of William Williams, reaffirmed the deportation order, noting that Stallone was “quite frail in appearance.”

When Stallone’s case landed on the desk of Secretary Nagel, he ordered that the immigrant be admitted on a $500 bond, most likely posted by his brother. After three weeks in detention at Ellis Island, Stallone was released. Two years later, Bartolomeo requested that the bond be cancelled. He had to report to officials in St. Louis, who found that the young man was making $12 a week as a barber. Though he had no savings, he told officials: “I live well, dress well, and send money home to my father and mother in Italy, so I haven’t anything saved up.” Impressed by the now-eighteen-year-old, officials canceled the bond and declared him: “Physically fit for admission and that there is little or no likelihood that he will become a public charge.” pg 209-210
A much sadder story came from the Mermer family of Russia:

February 1892

Russian Jewish immigrants …[experienced an] obvious lack of concern here at an American port. …steamship officials had forced these sickly passengers to cross the harbor to Ellis Island in an open barge in frigid weather.

Among those worn refugees… was the Mermer family: Fayer, her husband Isaac, and their five young children. The Mermers had managed to survive both the trip to Ellis Island and the inspection process and would soon begin their lives in America at a temporary lodging house at 5 Essex Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, provided for them by the United Hebrew Charities.

Twelve days after their arrival, the Mermers’ world was thrown into even greater turmoil. City health officials forcibly entered their Essex Street tenement, dragging Fayer, already sick with fever, out of the building kicking and screaming. Along with her son Pincus and daughter Clara, Fayer was forced into quarantine as city officials moved quickly and brusquely to deal with a highly contagious typhus fever outbreak. One week later, Fayer would be dead, though her children would recover. pg 70-71
At the end of the lesson, students demonstrated what they learned about the migrant experience by sketching. They had 3 options and could choose to draw:
  • the emotions and feelings of the migrant,
  • the scene a migrant had witnessed based on the information from one of the excerpts, or
  • a side-by-side representation of what the migrant expected America to be and the reality.
Now I wish I'd saved some of the drawings I received when I implemented this lesson last spring.  Many of the students took it quite seriously and their images were compelling.  Primary source images and accounts are always a more powerful way to tell the story of history than a lecture or text book reading.  Thanks to Professor Blower's lecture, I was inspired to do more digging into this topic and put together a lesson that was more meaningful for my students.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq

This year's Primary Source's Summer Institute, titled "The US and the World Expressions of Power, Past and Present, provided me with great opportunities to discuss themes that are essential to my courses, World History II and US History I and to learn new content, as I'm not familiar with US History II topics. I took advantage of expanding my knowledge of 21st century American foreign policy by choosing to read and write a book synopsis on Stephen Kinzer's Overthrow, America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq. The book had been recommended to me by a graduate professor and I had never taken the time to read it. I'm really glad that I did, as a matter of fact, I wish I had read it before I took this summer's course. I highly recommend the book for anyone interested in 21st century American foreign policy, especially if you'd like a quick introduction, but even people who are familiar with the topic might find Kinzer's presentation, argument, collection of quotes, speeches, and vignettes to add depth and uniqueness that add personality to one's repertoire.

The novelty of Kinzer's argument is that when studied together, the US initiated and involved regime changes reveal patterns and commonalities that are important for Americans to know. Most alarmingly, Kinzer emphasizes, is that many of these regime changes were meant to help protect the US and its interests; however, unfortunately, have only laid the foundations that created series of events that have provoked the growth of anti-American feelings, most notably culminating in the 9/11 attacks. Though these topics are undoubtedly deep and complex, Kinzer narrows his topic to focus on key Americans involved, a quick background of the political and economic conditions of the foreign country, and quick background of the political and economic threat these conditions had to the US and American interests, especially corporate.

One theme that emerged in looking at the political and economic conditions of the foreign countries was the emergence of nationalism, nations wanting to take back control of their countries' resources from foreign influence to build and strengthen their country for their people. In many cases, many of these revolutionary rumbles and their leaders were very democratic in nature and aim. Many of these leaders that the US helped to overthrow looked to the US as a model for their country, one of the most notable example is Ho Chi Minh's speech after Japanese occupation in Vietnam during World War II, by quoting the Declaration of Independence in Vietnam's declaration of independence.  However, and quite sadly, the US, especially during the Cold War, spun these events as dangerous, socialist stirrings that would give Moscow greater control and influence around the world, which became a fireproof reason to overthrow the leader. These democratic yearnings in emerging foreign nations was also, unfortunately, paired with shockingly undemocratic action by the US. Even more unfortunate is that regime changes resulted in a severely less democratic, and, in most cases, dictatorial leadership. The events in Iran illustrate these grave mistakes more than any other, especially since it transformed Iran from a strategic partner to the US in the Middle East to a rogue enemy, a transition that contributed to future problems for the US in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Another pattern that revealed itself through the continuum that Kinzer presented was the merging of poltical and economic interests. It appears to be dangerous to impartial judgement to have someone so involved in or connected to a corporation also involved in the government, especially when the government becomes involved with that corporation. This mix becomes even more treacherous when amplified by family connections. In the case of Guatemala, not only did Secretary of State John Dulles legally represent all three companies that monopolized Guatemala, Electric Bond and Share, International Railways of Central America, and United Fruit, his brother, Allen Dulles, director of the CIA owned stock in United Fruit.

One final theme that I'll share is the influence of fear, whether short-sighted felt or intentionally utilized, as a major motivating factor in US foreign policy. Though hind-sight is 20/20, this string of fourteen regime changes must inform Americans, and those more directly involved in policy making, to act cautiously and sensibly. During the Cold War era, any hint of communism created overreactions and decisions made by fear as opposed to logic and reason. One must take into consideration the historical past without imposing judgement from the present, but lessons must be learned.

Once again, I highly recommend Overthrow to any teacher of US II, 21st Century history, or anyone just curious about this time period and topic. I'm assuming most books and arguments that cover such controversial topics have pronounced agendas and perspective, but I didn't find that to overwhelm or cloud Kinzer's work. I would only caution readers, as I mentioned above, to be mindful of the benefit of hindsight. In addition to informing and adding to one's knowledge of 21st century American foreign policy, Overthrow provides a platform for a variety of classroom uses. Teachers can use the lead individuals, both American and from the countries that were overthrown, as ways to study history through biographies. Library of Congress's Chronicling America also serves as a great resource to provide that historical perspective, as students can find primary sources that capture how these foreign affairs were communicated to the nation and the nation's reactions. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How Would YOU Have Felt at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair?

I was fortunate enough to be among a group of teacher scholars this summer who are interested in studying American imperialism and the social beliefs that go along with it.  They included Caroline Allison, Amy Fedele, and Chris Selvaggio.  Although we are taught to think of the late 19th century as an era of booming business, life-changing inventions, and great social change as students... it was also a time when Americans bought wholly into Social Darwinism.  In fact, many believed that a person's value was linked to his race and ethnicity.  Studying how America chose to represent itself and other peoples from around the world at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair is a great way to help students understand this mindset.

Our group came up with 1893 Chicago World's Fair: Who Holds the Power?.

Students start by watching the video below.  While the narrator's voice is a little high pitched, the information presented captures the main ideas behind imperialism and gives students a brief explanation of what occurred at the fair.

For a more thorough look at the fair, students can tour maps and images of the exposition, including the video tour below.  It was created by an Harvard University Graduate School of Design student.

Then students choose to take on an identity.  They will try to see the fair from the perspective of their chosen role.  Each role has its own page on the website describing the identity in more detail .  There are also recommeded exhibits for the student to visit.  Roles include:
  • German Immigrant
  • Native American
  • African American
  • Japanese Diplomat
  • Female Mill Worker
  • Captain of Industry
  • Inventor
The culminating project is a scrapbook or photo book in which student annotates a few photographs explaining how the sights and exhibits pictured made them feel, from the perspective of their chosen role.  Our hope was for students to try to experience the dominating racist ideologies of Americans in the late 19th century from the perspective of one the minorities who had to struggle through this time.

Soft Power: Then and Now

After attending this summer's Primary Source institute in July, I was in a bit of a conundrum.  I wanted to introduce the idea of soft power to ALL of my students, but my freshmen do not study the era that we focused on in the institute, which was after 1898.  So, after much thought, some research, and one proposal submission, I managed to come up with a way to integrate soft power into the discussion of the United States government's first attempts at foreign relations in the late 18th century.

The entire lesson can be found at Soft Power in the Early Republic: The U.S. and France.

First of all, what is soft power?  Since most adults have not heard of the term, it is even less likely that the average teenager in my classroom is familiar with it.  It was coined by Joseph Nye in his 2004 book Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics.  Rather than ask the students to read  the book, I plan to show them a clip of the beginning of this interview in which Nye explains the theory.

Then, I will challenge students to come up with a definition of the term in their own words.  To further prove that they understand the concept, I plan to ask them to find current event examples of the attempted use of soft power within the past 6 months.

Now for the historical application.  When I think of soft power in the early United States, I think of a few situations: 

First, I think the the intense efforts to form an alliance with France out of fear that the British would out-muscle the inexperienced and new American military.  So, I chose to have students read and analyze the Treaty of Alliance with France, February 6, 1778.

Next, when I think of soft power I think about President Washington's strong desire to stay out of the European conflict and allow his new nation to get up on its own two feet.  So, the obvious choice was the Proclamation of Neutrality, April 22, 1793.

Of course, when discussing soft power around this time period of revolutions, one cannot ignore the great debate among Americans about whether the U.S. government should officially support the French Revolution.  One either side of this debate were Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.  Therefore, I chose to have students analyze the Letter to William Short, Thomas Jefferson on the French Revolution, January 3, 1793 and the Memorandum on the French Revolution, Alexander Hamilton, 1794.

Finally, as he retired after two four year terms as President of the United States, Washington warned Americans against forming strong alliances with other nations that could force the young country into war.  In his Farewell Address, September 17, 1796 Washington was trying to convince Americans to avoid using hard power and to use soft power whenever possible.

The culminating activity is for students to stage their own interview, much like the one they watched of Joseph Nye at the beginning of the lesson.  The interview subject will instead be the author of their document.  They will ask about the author's intent and how he used soft power to accomplish his goals.

My hope is that students will gain an understanding of how goals can be reached on the international stage without threats and bribes.  I also hope they learn that these soft power tactics may have recently been renamed, but they have been used my leaders for a long long time.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Teaching Public History

When we visited the Massachusetts Historical Society in July, we learned about all the resources available to teachers, both digitally and through a trip to Boylston St in Boston.  I am planning on using the online features offered by the MHS and encouraging my students to visit there to do some primary source research if they pick an applicable topic for their sophomore research papers.  This is great example of local public history at its finest!

Last year as a result of my professional development with the Teaching American History grant, I incorporated a lot of public history into my teaching.  I’d like to share one lesson I did that I though was particularly effective.  This lesson included an instructional method I picked up from History Connected—“Silent Conversation.”

The lesson is on the Inauguration of President Theodore Roosevelt and makes use of the National Park Service’s website:  The website gives resources for teachers and has information for tourists that wish to visit The Wilcox Family Home, the site of the inauguration.  
In my lesson, I use images from the website and instruct my students to have a “Silent Conversation.”  I post the images around the room and have a large blank piece of paper below.  Students are asked to write one thing on the paper and initial it.  It can be a question, an idea about the content, a detail they think is interesting or important or they can comment on a point from a peer. 
At first, students usually don’t see the connection between the images, but after they  have viewed them all, most have a vague understanding that the images are about President McKinley’s or Teddy Roosevelt’s Inauguration.  When we reconvene as a class, we examine each image, this time with further explanation from me.  I also answer their questions, as best I can.  The NPS site does a great job of proving questions for each image as well as the historical context to guide teachers.     

The skill that students work on is analysis of primary sources as outlined in Historical Thinking Standard 4:
§  Obtain historical data from a variety of sources, including: library and museum collections, historic sites, historical photos, journals, diaries, eyewitness accounts, newspapers, and the like; documentary films, oral testimony from living witnesses, censuses, tax records, city directories, statistical compilations, and economic indicators.  (Source:
§  Interrogate historical data by uncovering the social, political, and economic context in which it was created; testing the data source for its credibility, authority, authenticity, internal consistency and completeness; and detecting and evaluating bias, distortion, and propaganda by omission, suppression, or invention of facts.  (Source:
This is really evident when students examine an artist’s sketch of Teddy Roosevelt being sworn in  and then look an actual photograph of the room in the drawing.    We discuss the intent of the artist and the difference between a photograph and drawing as a primary source.  We also examine a newspaper heading and compare photographs from past and present of the site. 

Lastly, we end with a conversation about the use of The Wilcox Family Home as a historical site.  I ask my students what types of historical tours they have taken or would like to take in the future.  In the end, I make sure we connect this back to the function of public history.

If you have time and are teaching some lessons on Teddy Roosevelt, check out the NPS website.  If this doesn’t apply, I also highly recommend using the “Silent Conversation” instructional method with your students.  It gets them moving around the room and encourages historical inquiry and helps you hit your teaching standards!

Image Credits from National Park Service "Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site:  Birthplace of the Modern Presidency." 15 September 2012 <>

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reflections on Summer Institute

Now that a couple of weeks have passed from this year’s summer institute, I finally have some time to reflect upon the course and sift through materials to see what will be useful my courses.  Most of my colleagues have mentioned in their blogs things I found particularly useful. Thus, I want to share some methods that can be used to help students analyze primary sources.  These methods were adopted by the Social Studies Department at Wilmington High School.  Most of our department uses these techniques as described below, and others alter them to suit their individual needs.  I hope you can make use of them as well.

I plan to use APPARTS to analyze the letters we looked at during our field trip to the Massachusetts Historical Society.  I plan to use the letters exchanged between Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt.
  • AP PARTS-When analyzing a primary source document
o       Author:  who created the source, what do you know about him/her, Point of view is key … position in life, background
o       Place & time:  when was this written?  Where?
o       Prior knowledge:  what else do you know about this?
o       Audience:  who is this intended for?  Clerics? Crown? Merchants? Workers?
o       Reason:  why was it created?
o       The main idea:  what point is this source trying to convey?
o       Significance:  why is it important?  So what?  Inferring importance from data.

I plan to use OPTIC to analyze the Pears’ Soap “The White Man’s Burden” advertisement from Ron Woolley’s workshop.
  • OPTIC – When analyzing a visual
  • Overview – look it over for all of its aspects
  • Parts – what are the pieces that make up this picture, photo
  • Title – does the title reveal anything
  • Interrelationships – how do the items/people/subjects of the visual interrelate?
  • Conclusion – what can you draw from this visual?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Olympics as a Historical Tool

Most Americans are tuned to their televisions watching American's take on the world in London. The 2012 Summer Olympiad is an exciting tool that can be used to engage students in the relationship that the US has with the world.

As an opening I would discuss major happenings from the current Olympics. Examples of big medal victories, any acts of un-sportsmanship/ sportsmanship, and international politics. You could mention how First Lady Michelle Obama was America's representative to the games:

I would then open up a discussion on other famous Olympiads and America's connection to them. I would primarily focus on the 1936 German summer games. With the 1936 games I would make sure to draw the student's attention to the actions of Adolf Hitler and his dreams for an attempt to show Berlin off to the world.

In an almost "slap in the face" of Nazi Germany students would then learn about the great accomplishments of Jesse Owens, someone who the Nazis refused to treat as a desired human being.

Using current events is a great way to draw students into history. By connecting such a popular event like the Olympics to America's previous role in the world students will be able to understand the that America's connection to the world is not something new or something that will end any time soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

As this years summer institute concludes I will continue to tell educators that this program is one of the best if not the best for of continuing educations. Over the years we have been provided with the opportunity to listen to some of the best professors lecturing in their field of expertise and sharing how they present the material to their college classes. We have also had the opportunity to listen to fellow teachers who have created amazing lesson plans and are willing to share them with us in order for us to improve on our teaching. Over the years I have taken a great number of graduate courses, this History Connected program ranks up there with the best of those course. Not only has it provided me with in-depth information in my content area, but it has also provided me with the tools (lessons) to carry it out. Using this past summer institute as an example, I was very impressed Ron Woolley’s session on “Selling Empire: Pears Soap and Roosevelt Corollary”. Ron showed us how he implements the Pear Soap advertisement to analyze foreign policy and the Roosevelt Corollary. Not only is this something that I plan to use in my classroom when I cover this time period in history, but it also provided me with the tool/activity that I can implement with other advertisement that were presented in history. One historian that really stood out to me during this summer institute was Cathal Nolan. What I took from his lecture was not only the content that he provided for us, but what I thought was just as important was his opposing viewpoint when compared to other lecturers throughout the week. As teachers of history we have a great responsibility to present both sides of the argument on every historical issue that we cover. We also need to hide our personal bias as we cover this material. Having both sides of an issue presented to us as teachers, is just as important so we can provide our students with a balanced argument. These are just two examples of many that I could provide for the excellent program that we have been fortunate enough to be a part of. I hope that we can continue to meet and share in some capacity in the future.
The field trip experience that we took on Thursday July 12th is one which I plan to share with my colleagues when we return to school this September. Beginning with the Massachusetts Historical Society in the morning and ending with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. We are so fortunate to have the Massachusetts Historical Society to use for our research and teaching experiences. Over the years I have used their website, but unfortunately after visiting them on Thursday I realized that I have not utilized them to the fullest degree. I was amazed by the amount of information, resources and organization that they have there for us to use. When I return to school this year I plan to share with my department members what I experienced there with hopes of them using them more to enhance their classroom materials. I also plan to utilize the Mass. Historical Society as I continue to put together what will eventually be a local history course elective at our high school. Later that afternoon, we had the opportunity to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which I had never been to before. This museum was one of the most unique museums that I have ever been to before. Not only does this museum represent a global perspective or economy, but it also presents a great deal of history leading up to the most recent heist, which I know would immediately grab my student’s attention. The history behind this museum is very fascinating from it origin to its legacy and how it has been taken care of over the years. I look forward to sharing this information with my department members as well as with my students in the coming years. I would like to incorporate a field trip back to this museum at some point with my students as well.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Institute

Summer Institute

History lovers often love learning about wars and monarchs, dates, etc. However we all know that some if not many of our students find it difficult to stay engaged with information like that. Imagine teaching heavy hitting, important information and concepts using these vehicles: rap and popular song, architecture, Coca-Cola, sports, soap, bananas, sewing machines, Disney, The World’s Fair programs, and others! Now these are things our students know something about or can relate to more easily.  The premise of the Summer Institute ‘U.S. and The World: Expressions of Power Past and Present’ is to look at relationships between the U.S. and other countries from political, social, and commercial perspectives.  The products and companies used to deliver the information serve as a hook to help students remember and apply in a real way the impact of the American 'Empire'.  The participants in this institute are abuzz with excitement at how interesting and usable the materials are. The field trip to The Massachusetts Historical Society and the Gardner Museum were usable and enjoyable! Art, artifacts and documents give our students hands on means of learning. 
As I looked through the frameworks, I believe the following have been very well covered by the Institute:
USII.6 Analyze the causes and course of America’s growing role in world affairs from the Civil War to World War I.
USG.4.2 Analyze reasons for conflict among nation states, such as competition for resources and territory, differences in system of government, and religious or ethnic conflicts.
USG.4.4 Describe the tools used to carry out United States foreign policy.
Examples: Diplomacy, economic aid, military aid, humanitarian aid, treaties, sanctions and military intervention.
USG.4.5 Examine the different forces that influence U.S. foreign policy, including business and labor organizations, interest groups, public opinion, and ethnic and religious organizations.
USG.4.8 Use a variety of sources, including newspapers, magazines, and the internet to identify significant world political, demographic, and environmental developments. Analyze ways that these developments may affect United States foreign policy in specific regions of the world.
USG.4.9 Evaluate, take, and defend a position about whether or not the United States should promote the spread of democracy throughout the world, or in certain parts of the world, or not at all.
As I wrote early in the blog – these are meaty concepts – giving the students a lot to think about. Now we have many tools to uses to ensure such thinking!  Many of the strategies were open-ended- getting the students to comment and think based on analysis of a document before the ‘academic’ presentation- talk about prior knowledge! These activities make the students realize they do already have some knowledge and abilities to digest these deep issues.
Example:  Who would ever think that a soap ad could get students thinking about American (white man’s) expansion?  The many symbols and images in this ad were shown by Ron Woolley of Hingham High School to get students engaged in a meaningful conversation.

How about this image to get students talking about the US in Latin America as Lina Yamashita had us do?

Caroline Berz led us in to an insightful discussion of the Spanish American War and American sentiment by using images like the following from the 1904 World’s Fair.

Powerful and creative teaching and learning is the result of such high quality professional development.  Kudos to Kara, Ann Marie and colleagues for bringing in  such high quality presentations and lessons!  I believe I can speak for all when I say thank-you.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Massachusetts Historical Society Trip

This afternoon the summer group travelled to the Massachusetts Historical Society for an excellent seminar on foreign relations.  I had only ever used this organization for their John Adams papers and was a bit surprised at how much the library had on the Spanish American War and the Philippine American War.  Among other very useful ready to use curriculum, there is one in particular that connects to our theme. Jason Raia, a teacher from Pope John XXII High School in Everett, MA created a lesson plan with the sources at the Historical Society called  Adams Family Foreign Policy: Letters and Diaries from Europe.  This lesson plan is perfect for a US I teacher who is seeking to introduce a greater world perspective.  The European perspective in the Revolutionary Era can be oversimplified to a few military leaders, the Prussian influence, and the British military.  This lesson plan uses the resources of society to offer a mush fuller context.

As  a side note, while exploring the site tonight I came across this page that lists the teacher seminars that the MHS offers:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

TAH Summer Institute - Day 1

This past Monday marked the beginning of the TAH summer institute.  With excellent speakers and teacher presentations, it was a fantastic start to what will certainly be a great week!  One of the presentations was particularly compelling.  Professor Jeffery Melnick gave a fascinating presentation on America's Soft Power throughout the world during the 20th century.  This presentation was interesting to an audience of history teachers, but the question remains:  Is there a place in the HS classroom for an in-depth discussion of this topic?  Put another way, is there room for Jamerican Hip Hop in the U.S. History classroom?  After further reflection on Melnick's presentation, I believe the answer is yes.

There is no question that today's history teachers face a real challenge in covering a great amount of content in a short amount of time.  We've all been there.  But within the great breadth of content, we all must be selective about which topics we offer depth to.  I maintain that, given the state of global affairs, the developments of America's Soft Power in the world is a critical topic for today's high school students to understand and discuss.

Professor Melnick offered several ways to teach globalization, glocalization, and the incredibly strong influence that America has over the rest of the world.  One that I really wanted to know more about was his quick reference to the life of a t-shirt.  Fortunately for us, the beginning of the book he was referencing, The Travels of a Tee-Shirt in a Global Economy, is available at google books.  This is a great source that I am confident my students are going to dive into this coming year!  Additionally, Melnicks ideas about researching the globalization of food, sports, tourism, and music (I have a lot of research to do on the Jamaican influences on Hip Hop during the 1970s!) are perfect for discussing this important topic with students.  I know that this is going to be a thought provoking and successful unit with my juniors this year!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hello and Good-bye

As the final course of TAH History Connected approaches I find some conflicting emotions.  I look back and find that my time with History Connected has deepened my understandings not only of US history, but of my students and my teaching as well.    When I discovered that some of the participants had already spent three years in a previous TAH program I wondered how someone could commit to such a six-year commitment.  But now I find that as my own year three comes to an end, I wish there were more.  Yet I am happy to complete the full scope of History Connected.  The upcoming course ‘The U.S. and the World’ has already got me thinking- and it hasn’t even started yet.  The orientation proved to be both engaging and challenging.  Ann-Marie asked us to post entries based on our current understandings of the importance of events in U.S. history. At first I wasn’t sure I could complete the assignments.  However, I found that I had enough background to actually complete the assignments.  Years ago during the Falkland Islands War, my father, whose parents were British citizens, had a lot to say about the relationship between the US and the UK.  The conversations I had with him at that time came back to my mind and formed the basis for my glossary entry.  That assignment not only helped prepare me for the course- but also helped me remember the things that were important to my Dad.  The idea of “Soft Power” was also interesting to me.  There are some nations that may believe we exert soft power, but I’m pretty sure there are others who think that whenever we exert any power at all it is definitely not soft- given the strength of the US.  I am intrigued to dig deeper into this concept.
On another personal note- wow- Luce’s article made me realize how much Life Magazine really did shape my ide of what American life can and should be like.  When I was a girl, that journal came to my house each week- and I looked through each and every issue- taking its content for granted.  Couldn’t and shouldn’t my life be just like that?  This really gave me food for thought- and I am an American.  What would foreigners assume?  Again, it’s a lot to look forward to as we get into our coursework.  I hope others will agree with me as I say The U.S. and The World looks like it will be the grand finale to the fireworks of History Connected! 

Approaching US & the World in the Classroom

Next week the Summer institute participants of History Connected will gather in Reading to continue our look at US & the World. We will look at different examples of US interaction with world powers and implications of this interaction.

As I plan for next year I like to think about new ways of integrating History Connected into my classroom. Although my district does not have a curriculum where  US and World history is integrated we do have flexibility to alter the existing curriculum to fit our current interests. One activity presented in the Summer institute orientation allows for students to study and "do" US history while thinking about world history. allows to students to build and create their own timelines based on themes, movements or even places. Within the Summer institute we created a timeline that focuses on US action's that had a direct impact on a world event. By allowing students to research their own events and build their own timelines, students are not only studying history but are also "doing" history and becoming active participants in their learning.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

As this school year concluded the Wilmington High School’s September 11th Memorial Committee met for the last time until next school year. This group was inspired by last year’s History Connected Seminar which examined historical memorials. Since then, we have been able to organize a group of students who have volunteered their time and effort to help educate, raise awareness, fundraise and design a 9/11 Memorial for new up and coming high school. Meeting once a week our committee kicked off the year with its first fundraising effort which was a memorial t-shirt which was designed by one of our members. Both Tracey Kassin and I have provided our students with information that we have gained from History Connected in regards to memorial designs and interpretations. As we move forward with this process, our students have been given the opportunity to meet with the architects for our new high school and express their ideas for the memorial. In between meetings with the architects, we were fortunate enough to take a field trip to New York City to Ground Zero with our committee to view it first hand. Not only did this trip allow our students to see the location of the horrific event, but it also gave them inspiration on how to design a memorial of their own. A few weeks later our students met with the architects again and proposed memorial ideas which they themselves had created. After lengthy discussion, the committee as a whole agreed upon two designs for our memorial. The architects spoke with the students and explained how they were planning on trying to create one memorial by combining the two that were chosen by the committee. Unfortunately the building of our high school has been placed on hold, and as a result we have not heard back from the architects. This setback has not slowed down our committee of students. During the last week of school, our students held their last meeting of the school year. At this meeting, we had a guest speaker come to speak with our students about creating memorials. The speaker was a local man who worked on the Town of Wilmington’s War Memorial on the town common which commemorates veterans from World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and the Korean War. H explained to the students about the process involved in creating a memorial and also volunteered his help with the process. Our committee also worked on some new fundraising ideas for next year, as the need for more funds is still very important. Our committee was inspired by the History Connected program and we wanted to keep all of those interested up to date with our progress.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Using Historical Newspapers in the Classroom

New-York Tribune. (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, November 24, 1918, Page 4, Image 26. (Image provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC)

Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers serves as a phenomenal resource for teachers and students. This database of American newspapers from includes digitized copies of hundreds of newspapers across the US from 1836-1922. Students can search by state, newspaper, and year. The keyword search, however, is a little tricky because of the abundance of search results, and students will most likely need a bit of guidance to narrow their searches. An archivist friend of mine suggested the importance of “pre-search” to help narrow the searches, enabling students to search for more specific matches. For example, in looking to find stories regarding anticipation and reaction to the Treaty of Versailles, Versailles was too broad of a search. Including dates and names successfully narrowed the results.  

Teachers and students can use this resource in a variety of ways. The History Connected Wiki has several resources to guide students’ inquiry with historical newspapers. One of the documents is a historical newspaper scavenger hunt, which asks students to find examples of different types of advertisements (always a favorite for students --and teachers!), news stories that address the “5W” questions, as well as essential primary source analysis questions regarding source information and bias. Another resource History Connected provides to use alongside Chronicling America is list of writing prompts, including writing to the editor, making a personal diary entry, to comparing the coverage of one news event in two different newspapers. History Connected also has a document from Tennessee State Library and Archives, titled, “Reading Historical Newspaper Articles: A Process” that gives students guiding questions that can apply to most articles.

Using an entire section of a historical newspapers -as opposed to just an article-gives students a sense of historical time and place, as all the surrounding stories and advertisements speak to the culture of the time, and that people, “just like them,” experienced these events with excitement, horror, and wonder. These events were in the headlines before they made it to students’ history books. These events were reality to an older generation, and the experience these resources provide, bring students into that reality.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lincoln's First Inaugural Address from Different Perspectives

During the school day seminar at the JFK Library we were presented with a lesson plan that viewed JFK's Inaugural Address from a multitude of perspectives. I found this lesson plan to be quite effective because it has students working with the text of a primary source, but by giving each group of students a perspective and some questions to answer based on that perspective it made the text easier to relate to and understand.

I do not not teach US History II so I decided to adapt this lesson plan to help me discuss with my students Lincoln's First Inaugural Address. I teach ninth graders so we did not look at the address in its entirety, but some key excerpts. I had four roles that each member of the class could receive. They are listed below.

Secessionist Profile

You live in South Carolina, a state that has recently seceded from the Union. You feel strongly that the election of Abraham Lincoln threatens your very way of life. You find a copy of his First Inaugural Address in the local newspaper and take care to read it closely.

What is your reaction to the speech? Is there anything in the speech that surprises you? Is Lincoln able to convince you to come back to the Union? Is there anything he says that particularly concerns you?

Unionist Profile

You are a Northerner whose primary concern is the preservation of the Union. You believe slavery is wrong, but if it means keeping the Union together, you are willing to accept it.  You find a copy of his First Inaugural Address in the local newspaper and take care to read it closely.

What is your reaction to the speech? Is there anything in the speech that surprises you? Do you feel reassured that the Union will be preserved?

Slave State that Has Not Seceded Profile

You live in Maryland, a state that relies on slavery, but has not made the decision to secede from the Union. You are nervous about the election of Lincoln and what that means for your way of life, but are not quite ready to completely cut ties with the country you’ve so long been a part of. You find a copy of his First Inaugural Address in the local newspaper and take care to read it closely.

What is your reaction to the speech? Is there anything in the speech that surprises you? Would it sway you to make a choice one way or the other? Is there anything he says that particularly concerns you?

Abolitionist Profile

You are an abolitionist who voted for Lincoln in hopes that it would help end the practice of slavery. You have no toleration for this peculiar institution and think it needs to be ended immediately. You find a copy of his First Inaugural Address in the local newspaper and take care to read it closely.

What is your reaction to the speech? Is there anything in the speech that surprises you? Are you still happy with the candidate you supported in the 1860 election?

After the students were assigned their roles they sat with two other classmates who had the same role as they did and the small group went through the Inaugural Address together. Then all the groups shared out their thoughts on Lincoln's Inaugural Address. The students were able to accurately conclude how this speech would impact a person in their role. I was pleased with how the lesson turned out and by the end of the sharing out period students were able to determine the reasons behind many of the statements made in Lincoln's address. This activity worked with both my honors and my academic level freshmen.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cafe Conversation: Jefferson and Slavery

For my final project, I did a three day lesson plan about Thomas Jefferson's dual standing as an Enlightenment thinker and a slave owner, and the natural contradictions that come along with it. As part of the project, I created a Cafe Conversation about Jefferson's social circles and what they might have to say about his dual membership. I was inspired to do this from reading Friends of Liberty, and wondering to myself how he could be peer pressured into different stances on slavery depending on who he was surrounded by at that particular moment.

1.     Activity: Café Conversation about Notes on the State of Virginia
a.      Students will assume one of 5 roles: Jefferson himself, an educated free African American, a French Enlightenment thinker, a Southern Plantation owner, and a Virginia Congressman
b.     Read the quotes one at a time, and have students react to them in their characters voice. Opinions will vary about whether whites and blacks can live amongst each other, and whether slavery is harming the soul of America.
c.      One member of the group will take notes to be reported on back to the class at the end of the activity
d.     Have each group select a reporter to explain back to the rest of the class how the discussion went, and what areas of common ground, and what areas of difference arose

Rationale for a cafe conversation: 
Understanding the past requires students to develop an awareness of different perspectives. The Café Conversation teaching strategy helps students practice perspective-taking by requiring students to represent a particular point-of-view in a small group discussion.  During a conversation with people representing other backgrounds and experiences, students become more aware of the role many factors play (i.e. social class, occupation, gender, age, etc) in terms of shaping one’s attitudes and perspectives on historical events. Café Conversations can be used as an assessment tool or can prepare students to write an essay about a specific historical event.

1.     Thomas Jefferson
a.      Jefferson was born into an elite class of slave owners in Virginia
b.     2nd largest slave owner in Albermarle County, Virginia
c.      Benefitted financially from slavery
d.     Acknowledged views of African racial inferiority
e.      Authored Declaration of Independence
f.       Considers himself an Enlightenment thinker despite owning slaves

2.     Educated Free African American
a.      Born into slavery in Virginia, escaped to Boston, Massachusetts
b.     Taught to read and write by abolitionist society
c.      Published author in local abolitionist newspapers
d.     In favor of racial integration, equal rights

3.     French Enlightenment Thinker
a.      Born in Paris, well versed in schools of thought from John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau
b.     Frequent participant in anti-slavery discussions at local cafes and salons
c.      Fan of Jefferson’s work, but confused about his slave ownership
d.     Against idea of racial inferiority, but does not want French citizens to compete with freed slaves for jobs

4.     Southern Plantation Owner
a.      Born into elite class of slave owners in Virginia
b.     Economically dependent on slavery
c.      Acknowledged views of African racial inferiority
d.     Concerned about Jefferson’s wording in the Constitution of Virginia about the freedom of all men

5.     Virginia Congressman
a.      Born poor, but through small cotton farm, built way up to wealth and prominence
b.     US Congressman from Virginia
c.      Thinks that Jefferson would have lost election of 1800 if not for the slave holder’s vote
d.     Willing to vote down any measure that would ban or limit slavery. Unwilling to compromise that position