Geography Awareness Week, November 15-21

November 6, 2009

Geography Awareness week is sneaking up — November 15-21.

Got your special lesson plans ready, teachers?

Texas flags at half-staff today, remembering Fort Hood

November 6, 2009

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has ordered flags in Texas to be flown at half-staff through Sunday, November 8, in remembrance of the victims of the shootings at Fort Hood.  The statement from Perry’s office follows.

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today issued the following statement regarding the shootings at Fort Hood:

“The Texas family suffered a significant loss today with the tragedy at Fort Hood. Along with all Texans, Anita and I are keeping those affected by today’s incidents in our thoughts and prayers.

“We are deeply saddened by today’s events, but resolve to continue supporting our troops and protecting our citizens.

“To honor those who lost their lives today, I have ordered that all Texas flags be lowered to half-staff until Sunday, and ask all Texans to pray for the victims, their families and the extended Fort Hood community.”

The governor has been in contact with military and state law enforcement officials. To provide support at Fort Hood, Gov. Perry directed the deployment of a variety of state resources to the area, including Texas Department of Public Safety troopers, Texas Rangers and helicopters, to assist in securing the perimeter of the base and provide other support as necessary.

The governor’s flag order applies to all U.S. and Texas flags under the control of the state. Flags will be lowered to half-staff on the State Capitol Building, flag displays in the Capitol Complex, and upon all public buildings, grounds and facilities beginning immediately until sunset on Sunday, November 8th.

Individuals, businesses, municipalities, counties and other political subdivisions are encouraged to fly the flag at half-staff for the same length of time as a sign of respect.

To view text of the governor’s remarks, please visit

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What books and papers literally turned history around?

November 6, 2009

Debating the effects  of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring got me wondering about the true influence of that book.  That quickly turned into wondering about the true influence of other writings, books and papers that might be credited with having turned around history in a given field, or in the United States (I’m focusing on U.S. history this year since that’s what I’m teaching).

What books and writings — not events, not inventions — literally changed U.S. history?

I have a quick list, not in chronological order, nor any other order, really:

  1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
  2. Common Sense,” Tom Paine’s broadside
  3. Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations
  4. Federalist Papers and Antifederalist Papers
  5. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriett Beecher Stowe
  6. Das Kapital, by Karl Marx
  7. On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
  8. Perhaps The Bible, at least after 1880 during the rise of fundamentalism
  9. Einstein’s five papers in 1905 (which led to a cascade of events to nuclear weapons, and more)
  10. John Maynard Keynes’ General Theory on Employment, Interest and Money (or would his Treatise on Money be the one to look at?)
  11. Ludwig von Mises (which writing?)
  12. Crick’s and Watson’s paper on DNA in 1953
  13. Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
  14. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” in the way it recast the Declaration of Independence

What about Profiles in Courage? Did it have so much influence?  Any influence at all?

I didn’t include Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, but I wonder if it should be there.  I regard it as the novel in which America came of age, when Huck decides he’ll go ahead and burn in hell by not turning Jim in as an escaped slave, because Jim is a man and a good friend.  (I don’t think a discussion of the validity of Huck’s religious beliefs gets at the issue here, where he does what is right assuming bad consequences, but maybe that’s a greater influence later on.)

Oh, surely I’ve overlooked some very important contribution by someone.  De Tocqueville perhaps?  Were there other books that were greatly influential in their time, that we now generally don’t consider?  Ida Tarbell’s work, perhaps?  Did Edwin Hubble have a fundamental publication we can point to?  How about Alpher, Herman and Gamow and Big Bang?

A follow-on question might be music, plays and movies that had similar results —  not sure of any that qualify, though I wonder about the influence of “Show Boat” in the campaign for desegregation and civil rights, and I wonder about the influence of “Our Town” on our view of civic government and small town life especially given that so many thousands of people participated in local and school productions of the thing over the years.  “Hair!?”

I’m looking for sources to use to provide genuine light to a high school student in U.S. history.  Some of these sources we touch on, but others are completely ignored in all current U.S. history texts for public schools.

What do you think?

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