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Posts from the ‘history’ Category

The humanities are “useless.” (Unless you want a job. Or to change the world.).

As my two kids weaved their way through middle and high school, they experienced the first waves of STEM, Career Pathways, and the focus by school districts on specific technical skills. As students who were also interested in art, music, and journalism, it became difficult for them to find room in their schedules for these “non-essential” courses.

The reasoning? We need to get kids ready for high paying jobs after graduation. Get them ready for engineering majors in college. For careers in computer science or coding cause that’s where the money is.

Not that STEAM and tech and career tracks and coding for 8th graders is necessarily a bad thing. I truly believe that we need to provide all types of learning experiences and opportunities for our students. But it seemed at times as if all of those things were added at the expense of things like art, history, and music.

It’s gotten better as Read more

Up with the birds (and Elliott West) at #nche2016

Dang. These NCHE folks are serious.

It’s 6:45 – that’s am – and we’re already deep into it. I love the histories but a 7:00 start? But if there’s anyone I would roll out for at 7:00 am, it would be Elliott West. I love this guy. History stud.

The Contested Plains. The Essential West. The Last Indian War.

So I am as pumped as I can be this early in the morning. He starts off by addressing the audience as “we hardy few.” So true.

And continues with a question: Read more

Why should you hire a history student? (Spoiler alert. Cause they’re awesome)

For a long time, many in education have viewed the K-12 system as the minor leagues for college. We take pride in how many of our HS grads are accepted into colleges, especially the elite ones. We’ve created curriculum and tests and policy and tracks that encourage the jump from high school to university.

Nothing really wrong with that. I’m a big fan of the liberal arts myself. But not everyone is interested in two or four or eight more years of school. Some are ready to jump into other things. And that’s okay too. But the system can sometimes marginalize those sorts of students.

And so, over the last few years, there’s been a shift. A recent push is happening in a lot of places, Kansas included, to find ways for K-12 education to do a better job of prepping kids for careers as well as college. STEM and STEAM and Pathways and Career Clusters now are helping K-12 schools to become little training grounds for businesses.

Nothing really wrong with that. I’m a big fan of creating employable people myself. But not everyone wants to jump right into the job market. But at times, it can seem as if the push to create employable people marginalizes the humanities – history, art, literature.

I think we can and should do both. And I think most schools are doing a pretty good job of finding the balance. But I do hear more questions about the value of a humanities / history degree than I used to.

What can you do with that degree? How can studying history help you get a job?

And a few months ago, I ran across an old post at a site called Shaunanagins. The name alone was enough to suck me in. But the post title and content kept me around. 30 Reasons it’s Smart to Hire a History Student does a great job of addressing the questions of those who are unsure where the humanities fits into a 21st century curriculum

We know, because we see it every day, how important the transferable skills are that we teach in our classrooms. But Shauna Vert clearly articulates the reasons why businesses need to seek out the history majors.

Need a taste? Read more

10 things you probably don’t know about Abraham Lincoln

It’s February 12. And we all know what that means.

“Time to go buy Valentine candy?”

Uh . . . no.

It’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthdate. Everyone knows this. Well, maybe not everyone. But for me, Lincoln’s birthday has always been one of the highlights of the year. Seriously. For as long as I can remember, February 12 has been a big day for me.

Lincoln has always been my favorite president. I can remember doing research, if you can call looking at his picture in the L volume of World Book Encyclopedia research, in first grade. And my appreciation for him has only grown since elementary school.

I grew up with the traditional rags to riches story of a self-made man, growing up in the wilds of the American west and becoming president. But he’s become much more complex as I’ve had the chance to spend time with him. Perhaps one of the most powerful professional learning experiences I have ever had was spending a week at Gettysburg College with historian Gabor Boritt.

Lincoln is more than just a tall guy with a really good media team. More than a guy who walked three miles in the rain to return six cents in change and who split wood to make fences.

So today . . . ten things you probably didn’t know about Abraham Lincoln. Read more

9 history podcasts just for you: Getting smarter and having fun at the same time

Podcasts used to be a big deal. Then they weren’t. Now . . . they’re back. Yup. Podcasts are a thing again. Ten, fifteen years ago, podcasts were the shiny tool that was going to change the world. Replace sliced bread. Find a way for the Kansas City Chiefs to make the playoffs.

And for a few years, the podcast did all of those things. Then, maybe because of the learning curve needed to create them and a lack of mobile devices that made them easy to listen to, podcasts sort of just went away. But with the rise of easy to use creation tools and the huge growth of handheld smart devices, the podcast is making a comeback.

That’s good news for history and social studies teachers. We can get smarter listening to them and our kids can get smarter when we use them as instructional tools. (Plus you get to align your instruction to Common Core literacy skills such as speaking and listening.) Not sure what podcasts really are? Or not sure how to use them in your classroom? Or what it might look like if you did?

If you aren’t already listening to and using history podcasts, here are nine pretty good places to start. You’ll get smarter and have fun all at the same time.

Read more

Get 12 Years a Slave teaching resources for free

I just got an email from a teaching buddy (Thanks Theresa!) letting me know about a great deal going on right now. For a limited time, you can receive a free teaching toolkit for use with the movie 12 Years a Slave. It’s a difficult video to watch but an incredibly important video to watch. And the free kit gives you some handy resources to help make the instruction as useful as possible.

Educator’s Toolkit Includes:

  • Full Length DVD copy of the movie (edited version, parental approval suggested)
  • Copy of the Penguin Paperback Book
  • Printed study guide
  • Letter from director Steve McQueen

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) has partnered with New Regency, Fox Searchlight, Penguin Books, and the filmmakers to make copies of the acclaimed film, book, and study guide “12 Years a Slave” available to America’s public high schools. This nationwide educational initiative was the brainchild of director Steve McQueen and Montel Williams, and now “12 Years a Slave” educator toolkits are available to all public high school teachers timed to the 2014-15 school year.

The movie is based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.

Get the toolkit here.

You can also get just the study guide here.