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Posts from the ‘history’ Category

History Nerd Fest 2013 – Fritz Fischer saves the world

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to spend five days with Fritz Fischer at a Gilder Lehrman Summer Seminar. It was awesome. Fritz has been involved in history / social studies issues at the national level for years. He helped write the Colorado state social studies standards and now he’s come out with a great book titled The Memory Hole: The US History Curriculum Under Siege. It’s basically Fritz saving the world. Trust me on this.

The basic premise?

I am afraid that the discipline of social studies is being hijacked.

He calls them anti-historians. Working to insert their own sanitized versions of past events, they misunderstand the purpose of history, and are afraid of the process of history. He suggests that we are moving towards a 1984 Orwellian reality that “reinscribes” events “exactly as often is necessary.” That lives by the phrase “who controls the past controls the future.”

He suggests that

the past is disappearing because many people don’t care about the past but do care about creating a past that supports their view of the present.

The way to prevent this sort of Orwellian possibility is to Read more

Tip of the Week: 5 Great Ways to Start School for Social Studies Teachers

I spent part of this week working with elementary and secondary social studies teachers as part of the pre-school activities. It’s always a good time because, well . . . it’s just me and social studies teachers. So we get to talk about the fun part of the core curriculum – history and social studies stuff.

But we always get sidetracked somewhere during the day because the conversation drifts over to the first couple days of school. What activities work best for kicking off the year? I stole some of their ideas, added a couple of my own, and pasted them below. (Be sure to add your suggestions to the comments!) Read more

Two of my favorite things: Gettysburg and maps

I missed it.

The 150th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg? I missed it. I suppose it would have been too crowded anyway. But I do have the latest Gettysburg book by Allen Guelzo and am working my way through the Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen movie version of the battle.

And now thanks to Patrick’s suggestion, I’ve got some absolutely awesome maps. Two of my favorite things – Civil War battles and maps.

Some quick context. There has been a lot of discussion over the years concerning the different decisions made by leaders on both sides during the battle. Particularly the decisions made by Confederate general Lee on both the second and third day. Did Lee’s orders to attack the Union left flank on the second day and the frontal attack on the Union center on the third day make sense?

We know how the battle turns out. Confederate defeat. And often, because Lee is seen by many Confederate supporters to be infallible, Lee’s subordinates – especially Longstreet – get most of the blame for that. But the question remains. Why did Lee order attacks that with hindsight seem so wrong?

The Smithsonian might have the answer. Read more

Ford Institute and Best Practices: Part I – Prezi and Digital Storytelling

it’s the first morning of the Presidential Timeline’s Ford Institute and I am pumped! There are 20 of us here in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library. Our task for the next four days? Working to share ideas and strategies to improve the teaching of social studies.

A few goals during the institute:

  • gaining historical content knowledge
  • strengthening our pedagogical skills
  • getting better at the use of technology

And we started with a couple of basic overarching questions:

  • How is knowledge constructed in social studies?
  • What strategies work?

So . . . as I’m working to create curriculum and learning more about how to use it, I’ll also try and share what us history geeks come up with.

Head over to the institute’s resource page. We’ll be adding to this as we go along. So be sure to refresh the page often. Let the fun begin!

We started with a simple knowledge activation exercise using Prezi. Ryan Crowley, part of the Presidential Timeline team, created a shared Prezi and asked us to add content to it. His guiding questions? Read more

CCSSO chickens out. C3 framework work moves to NCSS

Okay. Chicken out may a bit harsh. But it’s a bit unsettling when the most well known organization drops out of the national social studies standards creation gig.

Three and a half years ago, I wrote a short piece concerning the difficulties involved with the creation of a national set of social studies standards. At the time, I was convinced that it would be difficult to create such a document. There would be just too many problems to overcome – the two biggest being that there would likely be a focus on easily measured specific content and no way for 50 different states to agree on what that content would be.

I was hoping for a focus instead on process and thinking skills rather than

 just a very long laundry list of specifics without any concern for thinking skills. So maybe . . . if the focus is on using information rather than on just a long list of dead guys without context.

What happened, of course, is that the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) folks finished off the ELA and math documents, leaving the social studies work to continue in a sort of double-secret probation mode. Eventually much of the that secret work was finished and we were given a preview of the final social studies document last November.

It was just a teaser but it was enough to let us know that the final document would not include any real content but would instead focus on process and thinking skills. And it supported the work we had been doing in Kansas to re-write our state standards. So . . . cool.

The rough draft (also found  here) of the final national document, the Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Inquiry in Social Studies State Standards, came out earlier this spring. Some will be disappointed in the lack of specific content indicators but I like the direction the document is leading the discipline. Encourage high levels of doing and thinking while allowing local states and districts to create their own set of actual content.

So I’m not sure Read more

History Now journal

It’s the middle of June.

I’m guessing most of you are not missing your classroom yet. But if you’re like most teachers, eventually you’ll need a history fix. You’ll need to start planning for next fall. You’ll need to pick up a book or a journal to learn something new.

And when you do, come back here because here’s the link you need: Read more

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