Revisionism of current history, 9/11/2001

September 17, 2006

There is a “carnival” of economics posts that I rarely link to because I find the topics often far out on the right wing end of the scale, offensively so to me, the Economics and Social Policy Carnival.

In the current issue of the Carnival there is this post from :textbook evaluator, discussing complaints about history texts and their treatment of the attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, and the aftermath. It is a serious, thought-provoking post. It raises deep questions about the purpose of a history text:

What dismays me most about the arguments over “what history should be covered” or “how it should be covered,” is that we never arrive at the thought that kids themselves should “do” history. We don’t trust our teachers or kids enough to give them many sides or perspectives on an issue, and let them try to make sense of it. We don’t teach them historical thinking skills: we instead argue over what “truths” to feed them.

Criticism of texts of such high quality is in short supply — and, considering the process for textbook approval in Texas, we need a lot more, high quality criticism of texts.

I may pay more attention to the Economics and Social Policy Carnival from now on.

Constitution Day, September 18

September 17, 2006


First page of the Constitution of the United States of America, image from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

On September 17, 1787, delegates to the Philadelphia convention met at Independence Hall to sign the document they had labored all summer to produce, to send it to the Continental Congress to be sent to the states for ratification. Ultimately 39 of the delegates would sign it.

We celebrate Constitution Day annually on September 17 in honor of this event (September 18 this year, because the 17th is a Sunday).

Texas requires all students to get a dose of Constitution (and Declaration of Independence) in social studies classes, each year — Freedom Week*. For that matter, there is a federal requirement, too (it would be fun to analyze whether such a requirement runs afoul of the law that requires the federal government to stay out of curricula, sometime). Where to find materials?

The Bill of Rights Institute has wonderful stuff — posters, videos, lesson plans. Much of what a teacher needs for Constitution Day is available for free on their website page for Constitution Day. I had the great good fortune to attend a week-long institute put together by this group, at Mt. Vernon, Virginia. Their scholarship is top notch; their materials are well researched, keyed well to the various age groups, and packaged to make their use easy. The Bill of Rights on Demand feature is good for quick lesson plans, too.

Christy Painting of Signing of the Constitution

Here is one of my favorite sources: Prof. Gordon Lloyd of Pepperdine University created an interactive version of Howard Chandler Christy’s famous painting of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. If you can project from your computer, you can show students the history — roll your mouse across the painting, and you get the name of the delegate with a link to get more history on that man.

The National Archives has lesson plans for Constitution Day, to get students to study and understand the Constitution and other contemporary documents directly.

This site, Constitution Day, makes me nervous. Yes, they have Colin Powell leading the nation in the Preamble this year — but they also highlight former Alabama Judge Roy Moore, who has little understanding or respect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, in my opinion. Still, I haven’t found much other stuff that is objectionable, though I have a sneaking suspicion it’s there somewhere (they have car flags for sale, for example — they display of which is a violation of the flag code — but I digress). The authors appear to be well-intentioned, if less informed than I prefer.

Texas’ Region XIII Education Service Center features several lesson plans and other materials, keyed more to Texas but probably suitable for use in other states, too. Read the rest of this entry »

The student who needs more

September 17, 2006

I learned two tricks over the last three years that I wish I could use more often. First, most DVDs have caption tracks. I accidentally turned on the captions for a rather difficult DVD in economics. Before I could turn it off, I realized that several kids whose first language was not English were thoroughly engaged in the presentation, something that was rare for them. They were able to hear words and see them on the screen, making connections they had been unable to make before.

Second — well, really, it’s the same trick — I found that kids I knew to be dyslexic picked up material like sponges from good videos, and the captioning helped them, too. What was really interesting was that I had three students thank me for showing them because, they said, they can’t learn from books. All three were dyslexic, but not known to be by the school district. Videos that tell a good story give them enough to pass the class, and often excel. Adding captions helps.

So when I saw this post at RedKudu, I was pleased to see that other teachers care about kids who have difficulty learning. It’s a great story, without an ending yet. Go see.

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