PBS resources for teachers . . . (history, especially)

October 10, 2012

Too often I fear the conservative War on Public Broadcasting is really just an extension of their War on Education and War on Science.

PBS and NPR have the facts, and tell ’em, straight.  Poll after poll, year after year, PBS comes up as the “most trusted” news source in America, with NPR right up there.

Why would conservatives want to go after such a fine, accurate and useful institution?  They know the history, and they tell that, too.

Comes an e-mail today:

Invite your students to explore the challenges and triumphs of the U.S. Presidents with a collection of digital resources from PBS LearningMedia! Choose from thousands of free classroom-ready tools including videos, lesson plans, interactive games, and primary source documents. For anytime/anywhere access to social studies content and more – sign up today – it’s free!

Digital Resources

Tap into the excitement and energy of election season with PBS LearningMedia! Use these targeted resources to punctuate your lesson plan, instigate dialogue in the classroom, and expand your students’ awareness of the U.S. presidents and the institution of the Presidency. Register today on PBS LearningMedia for instant- access to thousands of additional classroom-ready, contextualized resources.

President for a Day
Grades 3-8 | Interactive with Support Materials

This activity puts your students in the Oval Office and invites them to make decisions about meeting Cabinet members, making speeches to the public, and how to handle a foreign crisis.

Documenting the President
Grades 3-9, 11-13+ + | Video

A photographer can preserve a moment, and be a silent participant. Give your class a brief history of the power held and captured by presidential photographers from Lincoln to Kennedy and beyond.

Documenting Key Presidential Decisions
Grades 6-13+ | Interactive

Challenge your students to examine primary source documents and match them to key presidential decisions. Documents include a letter from the secretary of war (1945), remarks at Brandenberg Gate (1987), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and annotated notes and letters from various moments in history.

FDR: New Deal Program
Grades 9-12 | Video + Support Materials

Give your students a view of the enormous hurdles faced by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression. See how the New Deal transformed the relationship between government and economy.

Abraham Lincoln, Attorney at Law
Grades 1-12 | Video + Support Materials

Invite your class to consider how an early career as a “prairie” lawyer prepared Lincoln for his presidential role as he developed his confidence, sense of fairness, and social skills.

LBJ and the Great Society
Grades 9-12

Using newsreel footage, archival photos, and interviews, offer our students the opportunity to explore the rich legacy of President Johnson’s “Great Society.”

They’ve got professional development courses for teachers:

Professional Development

Explore these timely professional development resources in PBS LearningMedia:

Effective Media-Rich Lessons
Grades 13+ | Video + Discussion Questions
Join Katelin Corbett and Evan Feldman, two physics teachers in New York City, as they discuss the benefits of using digital media in the classroom, model best practices, and share guidelines for effective use of media in the physics classroom.

Build a Bridge Between Disciplines
Grades 6-8, 13+ | Interactive
Build a bridge between two disciplines by identifying a connecting concept, or idea that has value in both disciplines. Complete the structure by adding instructional activities that build students’ understanding of the concept, within and across disciplines.

Close Reading of Text: MLK “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Grades 13+ | Video + Support Materials
Join David Coleman, a contributing author to the Common Core State Standards, as he models a close reading of Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

This Week’s Featured Courses:

NEW Bridging World History: A Special Collection from the Annenberg Foundation (SOST502)
Grades 9-12 | Syllabus | Sign Up | Course Catalog

NEW America’s History in the Making: A Special Collection from the Annenberg Foundation (SOST507)
Grades 6-12 | Syllabus | Sign Up | Course Catalog

Fall Term II Begins October 24 – enroll today!
Visit pbsteacherline.org or call 800-572-6386 for more information.

And here’s what’s new:

New & Noteworthy

Common Core Support
Let PBS LearningMedia enhance your efforts to better-understand the CCSSI with professional development video clips, and classroom resources tied to the Standards. Register for full access – anytime, anywhere.

The Election Collection
The PBS LearningMedia Election 2012 Collection is an aggregation of curated and contextualized election-related resources for K-12 classrooms with a primary focus on middle and high school. Jump into the collection by clicking here – or search under the keyword, Election.

PBS Teacher Innovator Awards
PBS LearningMedia and The Henry Ford are proud to bring you the third annual Teacher Innovator Awards in recognition of innovative PreK-12 classroom educators, media specialists, technology coordinators, and homeschool educators who use digital media to enhance student learning. To enter, tell us how you have innovated with digital media to enhance student learning. Submissions are now being accepted – click here to enter!


Ben Stein off the rails again

October 10, 2012

Ben Stein is nominally a smart guy, with a degree in economics and a law degree and enough moxie to wangle his way into the movies . . . lives a sort of a charmed life.

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Which may be good on one hand, because he runs off the rails sometimes.  Bad on the other hand if others follow him off the rails, assuming he’s smart and knows where he’s going.

Stein’s latest droppings at American Spectator include this gross misunderstanding of the drive for justice and equality (all links added here):

But right now, which is Sunday, I am looking in my favorite book, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, for a quote by Hayek about how you cannot clearly associate economic effects with economic causes because so many different circumstances are at work each time.

I cannot find that quote in this edition — maybe a 1976 edition — but I did find a better one from Hayek which I paraphrase here: the attempt at social justice causes more misery than almost any other factor in human life (again, a paraphrase).

Yes. The Communists. The Jacobins. The Communards. The Maoists. The Khmer Rouge. They all caused untold suffering in the phony and vain attempt to make everyone equal… phony because it was just a fig leaf for terrible people to seize power.

We are not supposed to be all equal. Let’s just forget that. We are supposed to have equal rights under law. If we do that, we have done enough. If we try to engineer outcomes, if we overturn tradition to make everyone the same, we ruin society. If we upset tradition to allow for an equal shot at the starting gate, everyone wins, except for the charlatans and would be dictators.

Yet another reason to be a Republican. Give everyone an equal shot — but do not require equal outcomes or even roughly equal outcomes by law. That way lies catastrophe.

Every soul deserves a shot at a Cadillac, but not everyone should be guaranteed a Cadillac… that way lie the tumbrels and the guillotine.

Other groups in history caused untold suffering in the phony and vain attempt to keep everyone from having equal rights.  What’s his point, that he’s forgotten history and has so far avoided a visit from Santayana’s Ghost?

Consider the anti-Jacobins, the monarchy and strict class system against which the French revolted — better?  The Jacobins themselves were mostly upper-class, including a future King of France among them, and the club being composed almost completely of wealthy people or merchants on the rise, quite like a modern Republican-leaning country club.  Does Stein really know this history?

Communards organized and rebelled against a patrician government (think Occupy Wall Street with real venom, tired of eating cats and rats, and with the support of hungry front-line soldiers who sympathized with them).  They did not perpetrate misery in support of social justice, not so much as 18,000 Communards were murdered to put down the rebellion and  continue the social injustice, several thousands more were executed, and a few thousands were “deported” to prison colonies in New Caledonia.  Stein seems to have this history exactly backwards — it was the GOP-style Bismarck-Farve alliance that delivered misery to perpetuate inequality.

One might make a claim that the Maoists in China worked for a degree of a classless society, but not on the scale and not with the success of George Washington — which is probably a clear view into why Mao’s successors beat such a hasty retreat to more capitalistic-bent programs, but still leaving the peasants in the countryside and especially coal miners on the short end of the rights stick.  It’s simply fatuous to claim the Khmer Rouge worked to make people equal under the madman dictator Pol Pot.  It’s  a good, short debate line, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny of history — and remember, it was the communist North Vietnamese Army who chased Pol Pot out of power and restored order to Cambodia.

Consider the Roman Empire (which oddly is more akin to modern U.S. Republicans than the Roman Republic), or Czarist Russia before the Bolsheviks.  It’s not like the failed attempts by so-called communists brought down societies that honored equality for citizens.  Stein has the telescope of history by the wrong end, which means he really can’t see what he’s claiming to describe.

Did Hayek really say that working for social justice is error?  I doubt it.  He wrote about wrong-headed attempts to impose social justice, like keeping everyone from having a Cadillac, through formal legal means, or through informal, economic and class means such as closing off opportunities for the poor and middle class to rise.  Stein, a Jew with an Ivy League education, should be sensitive to the closing of opportunities, and appreciative that opportunities are generally open in this nation.  Religion once operated as keys the doors to Ivy League schools, to the detriment of Jews; once recast, those keys provided a door to economic and intellectual achievement for many Jews.

Stein’s column is titled “A Reason to Be Republican.”  Instead he outlines reasons to question the current Republican platform and candidates for the presidency, U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.  Somehow he confuses Republican policy with the phrase “Equal Justice Under Law,” the words engraved on the West Portico of the U.S. Supreme Court.  It’s useful at such times to remember the building was completed in 1935, and that its design and construction was supervised by Chief Justice William Howard Taft, the former Democrat.  It’s also useful to remember that the GOP has fought against those words ever since, but especially after Richard Nixon determined to jettison GOP dedication to civil rights for African Americans, women and Hispanics, in pursuit of electoral success with the votes of bigots from the South angry at the Democratic Party for having successfully pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Stein wrote speeches for Nixon.  He should remember that history better, or study it more if he can’t recall.

Especially not the rich should be guaranteed a Cadillac by the government.  They already have the money to get what they need; but having money should not confer rights to take everything while walking on the heads of the middle class and poor.  Everyone deserves a shot, Stein said.  I wish he’d support that claim with his actions, his political contributions, and his endorsement of candidates.


Endangered western forests: The Yellowstone

October 10, 2012

Additional CO2 and warmer weather will help plants, the climate change denialists say.  That’s not what we see, however.  Turns out CO2 helps weeds, and warmer weather helps destructive species, more than it helps the stuff we need and want in the wild.

For example, the white-bark pine, Pinus albicaulis:


From American Forests:

With increasingly warm winters at high elevations in the West, a predator that has stalked forests for decades has gained the upper hand. It is mountain pine blister rust, an invasive fungus. Combined with mountain pine beetles, which kill hundreds of thousands of trees per year in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA), the environmental health of the Rocky Mountains and neighboring regions is in danger. To make matters worse, the species most susceptible to these two threats, the whitebark pine, is also the most vital to ecosystem stability, essential to the survival of more than 190 plant and animal species in Yellowstone alone.

First debuted at SXSW Eco, this video tells the story of our endangered western forests and how American Forests and the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee are working toward their restoration and protection for future generations.

Learn more: http://www.americanforests.org/what-we-do/endangered-western-forests/


Whitebark Pine

Whitebark Pine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whitebark Pine. Français : Tige et cônes de Pi...

Whitebark Pine, cones and needle cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whitebark Pine Français : Un cône de Pin à éco...

Whitebark pine’s distinctive, almost-black cone. (Photo: Wikipedia)

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