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Showing posts from 2012

College? Election? What the *#^&?

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The Electoral College: a mystery to all children and most adults.

In the past there have been protests staged and editorials fired off in opposition to it. Despite all the hullabaloo, the system has been around since the ratification of the United States Constitution and does not appear to be going anywhere. So, if many ADULTS don't understand it, how could the average middle school history teacher explain it to a classroom full of 28 of the average American adolescent?

Here's my attempt.

I started class by explaining that the presidential election is special and is decided differently than all other elections.  I explained that it would be almost impossible for my students to avoid election night coverage tonight since all major news outlets will be covering and almost all regular programming will take a back seat.

Political pundits will start making statements like, "Obama has won Massachusetts," and, "Romney has won Texas."  What could they mean?  Don&…

"Frequent Scenes of Misery"

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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…

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

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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…

Soft Power: Then and Now

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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…

Abraham Lincoln and Louis Kossuth in 1852... an example of an integrated history lesson

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I am fortunate enough to be a participant in the final year of the History Connected program.  This year is called American Encounters: U.S. History in a Global Context.  Since our first school day seminar way back in October, there has been a lot of talk and interest in the integrated U.S. and world history curriculum here at Reading Memorial High School. We were even fortunate enough to have colleagues from Wilmington visit us a few weeks ago and sit in on some of our classes to observe the curriculum in action. It was refreshing to have the faces of enthusiastic professionals in our classes while we taught. As I look back to that October workshop and consider some of the documents that were discussed, a new great connection between world and U.S. history comes to mind.


Specifically, as we read through the Lincoln documents in an effort to get to know the man behind the myth, there were two that mentioned Louis Kossuth and the Hungarian Nationalist movement. In 1852, Lincoln was par…