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NCAA basketball? Meh. History Movie Madness? Heck yeah!

Just so you know. I’m not impressed with the NCAA basketball tournament. March madness? March boring maybe. Too few upsets. Lots of blowouts. And not enough interesting story lines. I could have just picked all the tops seeds to win and I’d be at the top of my bracket pool.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still gonna watch. Just not a ton of excitement so far.

So when I ran across the American Battlefield Trust’s History Movie Madness Bracket Contest my weekend was saved. You’ve probably heard of the Trust back when it was called the Civil War Trust. It started as a group dedicated to preserving Civil War battlefield sites. It’s now also working to do the same for Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites. So . . . they’re good people.

And now I love the Trust if even more because we get to apply our bracketology skills to history movies. I’ve written about my favorite history movies before (and am planning an update soon) so having the chance to break down 32 movies to find the all time best is right up my alley.

The Trust starts off with by claiming somehow that Gods and Generals is the best movie ever: Read more

A framework for teaching American slavery – from Teaching Tolerance

After a quick six hour visit to the the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday, it just made sense to stop in at the #NCHE2019 session by Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. Maureen shared Teaching Tolerance resources that can help you effectively teach issues surrounding the history of slavery in the United States.

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”

James Baldwin
Black English: A Dishonest Argument

Maureen started by sharing that most of our students leave high school without an adequate understanding of the role slavery played in the development of the United States – or how its legacies still influence us today.

Slavery’s long reach continues into the present day. The persistent and wide socioeconomic and legal disparities that African Americans face today and the backlash that seems to follow every African-American advancement trace their roots to slavery and its aftermath. If we are to understand the United State and the world today, we must understand slavery’s history and continuing impact.

Unfortunately, research conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017 shows that our schools are failing to teach the hard history of African enslavement. They surveyed U.S. high school seniors and social studies teachers, analyzed a selection of state content standards, and reviewed 10 popular U.S. history textbooks. The research indicates that: Read more

History is a bunch of grass. And we need to let our kids play on it.

Bob Edens had been blind since birth. Fifty-one years of darkness, sounds, smells, and touch followed. But after a remarkable laser surgery, Bob can now see. For 51 years, Bob had imagined what things looked like based mainly on the descriptions of others and what he could feel.

I never would have dreamed that yellow is so . . . yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red.

He’s now seeing for himself what he had only imagined.

Grass is something I had to get used to. I always thought it was just fuzz.  But to see each individual green stalk . . . it’s like starting a whole new life.  It’s the most amazing thing in the world to see things you never thought you’d see.

Sometimes I think we do this with kids. We tell them about history and have them read about history but we never let them experience history. They never get to actually “see” the individual people and events and details – students rely on us to describe those things for them. We can forget that history is supposed to be a verb, not a noun – especially at this time of the school year when we’re trying to make sure to “cover” everything.

So . . . how can we help our kids see history? Read more

Women’s History Month resources. (That you should use all year.)

As a founding member of the National Women’s History Project, Mary Ruthsdotter knows the importance of teaching kids about the accomplishments of women.

“As a youngster, I thought I had drawn the short straw being born female. None of the stories I was told of adults actively and effectively engaged in the world had to do with women. How startling it was to learn (after college!) that women have played important roles in every aspect of American life – establishing homes for family life, fighting and spying during every war, establishing social service networks, and dramatically influencing laws and attitudes.”

Students who don’t learn the facts can develop the wrong idea about what women have accomplished. Ruthsdotter continued:

“If women’s contributions and accomplishments are not mentioned, the omission is not even noticed, but a subtle lesson is learned just as certainly: Women haven’t done anything important. Knowing that teachers cannot pass along what they themselves have not been taught, the NWHP aims to make excellent, user-friendly materials readily available for all areas of the K-12 curriculum. Language arts, social studies, creative arts, the sciences – women have been active in all these areas, and the stories of their accomplishments are fascinating.”

Couldn’t agree more.

But I’m conflicted about the whole Women’s History Month thing – a lot like my hesitation around the idea of a separate Black History Month. Too many of us still use February and March to have kids memorize random black history and women’s history facts and call it good. (We also seem to have a habit of doing the same thing with Latino history and Asian American history and Native American history and . . . well, you get the idea.)

I’m conflicted because I know many of you may be looking for great Women’s History month resources. And I have a list. But part of me is afraid that it will only get used between now and the end of the month.

So here’s the deal. You can have the list. But Read more

Advise the President. Cause you’re just that smart.

Okay. Not that president. Other presidents. You know, from history.

Like Truman, Eisenhower, and Reagan. And they need your help. Even better, they need your students to help. The National Archives have put together something called Advise the President. And like everything else the Archives do, it’s awesome.

Throughout history, every president is faced with having to make difficult decisions. The Advise the President series gives you the chance to bring the deliberation process surrounding these historic decisions to the classroom. Each booklet focuses on a significant topic during the administration of a specific president.

There are currently five problems and presidents that you and students can work with: Read more