Blogging On History, Science, and Education
November 3, 2017
I was an early reader. The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and a big book of myths got me started. And then I read a small book that changed everything. It made me realize that books can get to your inmost thoughts; they can deal with serious life issues. The book that I found dazzling, Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, is an American classic, but filled with tough words and a theme, adultery, that no one would suggest for an elementary schoolgirl. I found it on a shelf in my house and began reading. (more…)
September 3, 2017
John McCain was running for president when an audience member said that his opponent, Barack Obama, couldn't be trusted because he was an "Arab." McCain said, "No ma'am, he's a decent family man that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."
Meanwhile our nation was built on the notion that "All men are created equal." Are we in the process of throwing that heroic concept away? And can we find more politicians of McCain's fiber?
August 24, 2017
Greg Toppo of USA Today asked a teacher at Hawaii's Punahou School and this author about how to teach students about the current political turmoil. Here's a link to his article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/08/14/school-begins-teachers-mull-how-teach-charlottesville-conflict/566519001/
August 24, 2017
Pope Francis, in his first encyclical letter, Evangelii Gaudium, said these words that seem especially pertinent today:
People in every nation enhance the social dimension of their lives by acting as committed and responsible citizens, not as a mob swayed by the powers that be. Let us not forget that “responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation”. . .
March 14, 2017
Way back in the 1960s, a singer named Leadbelly, who inspired a young Bob Dylan, sang this about the politics of his time. It remains pertinent today:
We're all in the same boat, brother
And if you shake one end
You're going to rock the other
It's the same boat brother.
March 8, 2017
A few years ago I visited a superb public elementary school in Ohio. It was innovative, it was teacher and student run. Fifth graders were studying Latin to enhance their English language skills. They were reading about the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were reading Virgil and Ovid (yes, 5th graders, many from lowincome homes. How did that happen? Two teachers got NEH grants that allowed them to attend a university summer school where they studied great literature. They came back energized. A terrific principal backed them up. Contact your congressperson. We need the liberal arts for all children. We need the National Endowment for the Arts, We need the National Endowment for the Humanities.
October 21, 2016
A public notice was defaced at Denver University last week. It was a poster about the national movement, "Black Lives Matter." The university called a general meeting; I attended and heard student response. The theme of that response: ENOUGH. This needs to stop.
As a historian who writes about American history it made me think. We've been teaching an upbeat history to our children, which is age appropriate but often not balanced. I'm doing some thinking. We need to learn more about the less than wonderful parts of our past. I plan to do some revising.
July 13, 2016
Wm Johnson. Do you know him? Well Great Britain might not have won the French and Indian War without him--which means we might all be speaking French now. He was celebrated as a great hero in Europe and knighted by the king. What happened in America? Well, Johnson was married (happily) to a Native American woman who was terrific herself. They controlled the fur trade and became very rich. You'll find him in "From Colonies to Country." Mostly he's been written out of our history because he broke the mores of his time. He judged people by what they were, not by their skin color or ethnicity.
Then there is Robert Carter III. A contemporary of TJ and GW he had more slaves than the two of them combined. He freed them all, for all the right reasons. That action got him dropped from our history. But you can read about him in "The New Nation," and also in the ebook, "Free To Believe, Or Not."
May 23, 2016
"We cannot make life perfect. What I believe we can do instead is make life a little less terrible and a little less unjust in each generation."
Karl Popper, in a speech to the Institut des Arts, Brussels, 1949
May 19, 2016
"When students and school boards ask, 'Why history? What are we supposed to be getting out of this?' The best answer is still that one word: judgment. We demand it of all professionals: doctors, lawyers, chefs, and quarterbacks. And we need it most in the profession of citizen, which, like it or not, exercise it for not, we are all born into."
That quote is from Paul Gagnon, a history professor at UMass (who died in 2005). His words are increasingly relevant, especially in this country, as we become increasingly diverse. Paul and I talked of writing a world history together. I was to do the ancient world, he would begin with the Renaissance. Wish it could have happened. Paul's memory is honored in a history prize given by the NCHE. As for my take on why history? It makes you think and gives you something to think about.
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