Kennesaw is lovely this time of year

April 7, 2007

Kevin Levin’s blog, Civil War Memory, carried this posting — I stole it wholesale — plugging a conference on the Civil War hosted at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia:

Civil War Conference at Kennesaw State University

The Third Annual Interpretations of the American Civil War Symposium will be held on May 4 and 5 at Kennesaw State University. The title of this conference is “The Struggle Within: The Confederate Home Front.” Speakers include the following:

  • Professor George Rable (Keynote Address): “Blended History: New Approaches to Studying the Confederate Home Front”
  • Professor Victoria Bynum: “Guerrilla Wars: Plain Folk Resistance to the Confederacy”
  • Professor Kenneth Noe: “The Origins of Guerrilla War in West Virginia”
  • Professor LeeAnn Whites: “‘Corresponding to the Enemy:’ The Home Front as a Relational Field of Battle”

All four of the speakers are top-notch scholars. This promises to be a very exciting and educational conference. For more information click here.

[End of stolen announcement.]

It’s a conference where it’s pretty well guaranteed that no one will bellyache from the podium about the No Child Left Behind Act.  Plus, this gives me a chance to plug Civil War Memory, and Another History Blog, both of which deserve your attention and can help you out.

For a transplanted Yankee, I’ve been struck with the oddity that Texas kids don’t know much about the Civil War.  Certainly they don’t know what the state wants them to know, and what the state wants is substantially less than any Southerner ought to know about the historic events that still push attitudes and actions in the 13 rebellious states and national politics.  Texas history teachers could use a few seminars on the Civil War.

Technology and time: A riddle for a lesson-plan hook

April 7, 2007

William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes both died on April 23, 1616.  If that is so, how could it be also true that Cervantes’ funeral and burial were days earlier, even before Shakespeare died?

Is such a little mystery the sort of hook a teacher could use for a lesson plan on the influence of technology on the keeping of time and calendars?  More below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Belated, or pending birthday? Thomas Jefferson

April 7, 2007

Shouldn’t we make a bigger fuss over Jefferson’s birthday? And didn’t we just miss it?

Thomas Jefferson was born April 2, 1743. Had he not died on July 4, 1826 — the famous day that both Jefferson and John Adams died, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence — he’d have been 264 years old this week. The republic he helped found, and whose second revolution his presidency cemented, is 218 years old. That the republic survived for more than 20 years without major changes, or violent revolution, was perhaps a surprise to Jefferson, who famously wrote to Madison that one generation could not write a contract to bind a future generation, even in the form of a constitutional government.

That the republic has survived for 200 years past one generation might strike him as some sort of miracle, evidence of the “hand of providence” that Franklin guy and the Washington guy often mentioned.

But wait a minute: Was he born April 2, or was he born April 13?

England and the English-speaking world were slow to adopt the Gregorian calendar, promoted by Pope Gregory in a reform of calculations for the dates of moveable feasts in the Catholic Church. When Jefferson was born, Virginia was still on the Julian calendar. When England, and the U.S., belatedly adopted the Gregorian calendar a few years later, some dates were shifted by up to 11 days. Jefferson’s birth date was one of those, as also, famously, was George Washington’s. 2005 Jefferson nickel, obverse

So, while his family’s Bible may have recorded April 2 as his birth date, in the new, Julian calendar, the date was April 13. We know this because the Wikipedia article notes the date as “N.S.,” or “New Style.

A warm-up exercise for high school students could involve the translation of dates of birth for patriots, from the Julian to the Gregorian calendars. This issue is not directly treated in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), but certainly the method of measuring the year is a major part of the march of technology, and worth spending a few minutes’ consideration for high school students in U.S. history.

Whew! That gives us most of a week to plan appropriate celebrations . . .

Good source: The Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive at the University of Virginia

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