Sunday, July 24, 2011

Historic Headlines Collaboration

A true winner for Social Studies teachers in all grade levels is the recently announced collaboration between the New York Times Learning Network and finding Dulcinea in creating an interactive ‘Today in History’ site.

While the Times has had an excellent "Today in History" site - my browser goes to their page when I open my Internet Explorer - they have been working on revising the site.

The NY Times Learning Network stated, concerning an effort to make the NY Times Today In History more interesting and relevant to students, that:

So, to make each day in history a bigger part of the blog, and to help students see how events in the past still resonate today, we’re creating a new daily post that explores a famous event and connects it to something in the news now.

How will this work? The Times article stated that:

staff members from findingDulcinea will write a short daily account of what led up each historical event, what happened that day, and what has happened since. They will then provide a brief “Connect to Today” section that looks at parallels of some kind in current news.

This should provide informative, interactive, and relevant historical information to any teacher who wants to work in the ‘Today in History’ concept in their classroom.

Meanwhile, there is one more site that might be of interest to you for current events, Today in History, type of information that I just discovered - Sweet Search 2 Day. Check it out.

Try it… and see if you like it. All it takes to participate is to create a bookmark, then to visit it regularly!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jeffersonian Civility

I had the opportunity to drive to a nearby town today to pick up two sewing machines my wife had taken in to be repaired. Of course - as on any journey of reasonable length - I turn on a podcast.

While the journey is not really a point of discussion for this blog, I think that the podcast is.

The podcast I listened to today originally aired on January 30, 2011, and was from the Thomas Jefferson Hour, a weekly interview with Clay Jenkinson as President Thomas Jefferson. Among other books and articles, Jenkinson is the author of Being Jefferson’s People – which is an interesting read, and rated 5 stars on Amazon. I recently discovered this podcast based upon the recommendation of another podcast that I frequently listen to.

The episode that I listened to today was episode 904, and was titled Civility – and it certainly struck a strong cord with me.

I have long been concerned with the extremes of political viewpoints that we are seeing more and more of – and their reflection in our young people’s manner and demeanor, especially in the area of discussion of current day issues. I have struggled with how to specifically address those concerns in an understandable manner – until I heard this podcast.

Perhaps one of the opening statements can explain it: But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.” This is the essence of ‘civility’, of reflection before speaking (or writing, or podcasting, or being a really well-paid talking head on any of our ‘news’ cable shows) – and the threat to our democracy when that civility is not evident. If you watch the news today, or listen to politicians, or read blogs – you do not see that civility, that willingness to express your view, but to truly listen to an opponent’s view, and to come to a consensus.

Jenkinson expresses this much better than I do! Therefore…

I would encourage any readers of this blog to do two things: 1) consider spending an hour listening to the Civility podcast; and 2) to read Jefferson’s first inaugural address – at least the first paragraph – where Jefferson talks about the threat of extreme, uncompromising viewpoints to our unique American democracy. The election of 1800 had been a bitter one, and Jefferson saw the dangers of extreme views whose owners were not willing to listen, and discuss things in a reasonable manner with their opponents.

It was truly a voice of the past giving perspective to the events – and the temper of the people – of today.

I see the potential to use the ideas expressed in this particular podcast with our middle/high school students, whether in any current events discussion, or Social Studies classes such as Civics, American History, or Government. Other shows in the series (such as episode 906, the Rights of Man) could be used in World History as well. It could be an interesting discussion.

Somehow all of this seems so appropriate as we approach our July 4th weekend! Happy listening!

Your thoughts and reflections are welcome on this topic.


Thomas Jefferson, by Rembrandt Peale (1800), Wikipedia -

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slave Records Online

Every now and then you find that true 'gem' that historians look for.

I was listening to a podcast of the iTunes series Colonial and Revolutionary America from Stanford University, featuring Professor Jack Rakove, this past weekend.

In the podcast titled From African to African American, Rakove mentioned that slave records encompassing the trade from Africa to the Americas could be found online.

A quick search on the Internet provided the link for a fabulous site, chuck full of primary resources on the slave trade. Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database was a project of Emory University.

According to an online article from Futurity, the Voyages site is the result of a two-year project by David Eltis and Martin Halbert to collect and digitize the records.

A variety of searches are available at the Voyages site. A visitor can search by particular voyage number (the first voyage listed was the 1817 journey of the Pastora de Lima); examine estimates of slave trade (dating back to 1501); or explore the African names database (with over 67,000 African names). According to the site, the database has information n almost 35,000 slaving voyages.

This is a great tool to use in discussion with students on the extent of the slave trade, as well as where the slaves went to (no, Virginia, they did not all go to the southern United States...). This discussion can be centered on the ESP-C approach - economic, social, political, and cultural aspects and effects of slavery on three continents.

Plan of the British Slave Ship "Brookes," 1789, Image Reference E014, University of Virginia Library
African Diaspora, Image Reference MILLERENC2, University of Virginia Library