Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BC or BCE, AD or CE

As we approach a new year I notice a trend that has begun to become more evident since I first recognized it a decade or so ago. That trend involves a redefining of the identification of years – from the traditional BC/AD to the more recent BCE/CE. It is a trend that has expanded from 'scholarly' works to textbooks to Wikipedia. I have begun to wonder about ‘why the changeover’, and what the long-range impact could be.

Traditionally BC has referred to the phrase ‘Before Christ’, while AD referred to Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord). The AD phraseology was first consistently used by Victor, bishop of Tonnenna, a North African Chronicler of the 7th century who was the author of celebrated chronicle from the creation of the world to the end of the year 566.

From what I can find, the phrase common era was first extensively used in the late 19th century.
What ar:e some of the arguments for and against the change in the use of terminology?
From what I could gather in my brief review, the basic reason for change is not:
  • Increased accuracy – they are using the same year connotations

  • Elimination of Christian references – actually many times CE is referred to as Christian Era. In addition, I can't help but wonder how many times BC/AD is thought of today with religious connotations? Oddly, I did find a lot of anti-Christian bias involved with the various defenses of the changeover.
Actually, many of the reasons listed for a change that I could find weren’t really reasons or rationale.
From what I could ascertain from reviewing a number of resources, the attempted changeover is basically one of political correctness – the Gregorian calendar dates are used world-wide on a commercial/industrial basis. Because of that, the people advocating change do not want to offend anyone with the religious background that is tied in with BC/AD.
However, one or two observations: The current system has been in use for over 1400 years, starting a small local region and eventually – especially during the last two centuries – spreading world-wide with the advent of European colonization and exploration. I don’t really see too many references to BC/AD in normal usage, and in textbooks I tend to see many more BC references. While the Gregorian calendar is used world-wide, don’t localities and nations still use their local calendars for other than international commerce? The year 2009 on the Gregorian calendar is reflected differently in our cultural groups around the world. (Muslim: 1430; Chinese: 4707 – year of the ox; Hebrew: 5769 to give a few example). Local cultures celebrate with local calendars.
My last thought on this topic: If it ain’t broke, why fix it? I’m not sure political correctness is a good long-term reason for change, as political correctness changes its definition with the breeze. This might only cause more confusion in the future as historians try to come to terms with dating events in an ‘acceptable’ manner.
By the way, the grammatically correct sequence for BC, CE, and BCE is after the date, while AD should appear before the date (AD 2009).

Essential question: Is a changeover of dating systems significant in our field?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Questions About Textbook Adoption

An article came across my desktop that points to an event that is drawing closer for our District: finding textbooks that present unbiased material yet still meet the needs of our students as well as meets the new state standards. The article below summaries an original article opinion editorial by Tony Blankley, which is here.

Are Muslims Influencing Textbooks?
by Marcia Segelstein

Conservative columnist Tony Blankley writes about some disturbing information he came across while researching a new book about the distortion of history and religion in textbooks.

The Council on Islamic Education is the primary Islamic group that vets textbooks in the U.S. The head of that group calls his work a “bloodless revolution inside American junior high and high school classrooms.”

We’re not talking about being sensitive not to offend, or being inclusive in discussions about world religion. We’re talking about outright distortion.

As one of his sources of information, Blankley cites “The Trouble with Textbooks – Distorting History and Religion,” by Gary A. Tobin and Dennis R. Ybarra. In it, the authors draw attention to how Christianity and Judaism are presented quite differently compared to Islam.

In “Holt World History,” for example, students read that Moses “claimed to receive the Ten Commandments from God,” while “Mohammed simply ‘received’ the Koran from God.” Another textbook, “Pearson’s World Civilizations,” says that Jesus is “believed by Christians to be the Messiah,” while Muhammad “received revelations from Allah.” Another textbook, “McDougal Littell World Cultures and Geography,” says that “Judaism is a story of exile” and “Christians believe that Jesus was the promised Messiah.” But when it comes to Islam, there’s no question of stories or beliefs. It simply states that the Quran “is the collection of God’s revelations to Muhammad.”

Hardly equal treatment.

The book being reviewed, The Trouble With Textbooks - Distorting History and Religion by Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra (pub. Aug., 2008), does sound interesting, and seems to be receiving good reviews. I haven't found it in our public library yet, but perhaps one day...
We will have to be aware of many issues in picking a textbook for our students to use: political bias, gender bias, religious bias, political correctness bias, while keeping in mind the history and worldview of our country. It will not be an easy job.

Essential question: What evidence of 'unequal treatment' is currently evidenced in our District's textbooks?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

This is just a quick entry. The illustration on the left was the cover of Harper’s Weekly on January 3, 1863. Thomas Nast, the illustrator, ‘invented’ the image of Santa Claus that we follow down through today, almost a century and a half later. Nast’s image, along with Clement Moore’s 1822 A Visit from St. Nicholas (which is more popularly known today as Twas the Night Before Christmas) created the popular view of this jolly old elf that – by then – had been around for over 1500 years.

But, the whole story of Santa Claus can be traced back to St. Nicholas (b. circa 270 A.D.) – a Christian bishop who spent his adult life representing the true gift that God gave to mankind… Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem.

Take advantage of all of the gifts you receive this Christmas.

Essential question: What has been the effect of Jesus of Nazareth on Western culture?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Constitutional Convention Update

This is an update to my earlier blog about the possibility of a Constitutional Convention for Amending the Constitution:

As a quick review, the Ohio House of Representatives Judiciary Committee was considering a bill applying to the US Congress for a Constitutional Convention as defined in Article V of the US Constitution. If this legislation passes, Ohio would be the 33rd state to apply. When one more state applied, the US Congress would be required to call the Convention – something that was last done in 1787, resulting in the US Constitution.

The Ohio legislation was a joint resolution, proposed both in the House and Senate. The bill (see it here) proposed applying to Congress for a Constitutional Convention to provide a “balanced Federal Budget” amendment for the States to vote on.

On December 10th Ohio citizens testified concerning the bill. All of the testimonies were in opposition, and most of the speakers had not addressed a legislative committee before. All of the individuals represented conservative interests and raised enough questions in the minds of the House Judicial Committee that the committee did not approve the bill. You Tube (which is blocked in our District-that means you have to view these video clips at home) had a seven-part series chronicling the testamony. Here is Part I.

For more information on Article V and the concept of a Constitutional Constitution to propose Amendments, see a four-part video (approximately 10 minutes/part) on You Tube:
Part I Part II Part III Part IV

This video provides information about: 1) the plain language of Article V; 2) the historical precedent from our nation’s only Constitutional Convention; and 3) the consensus opinion from legal scholars, many of whom agree that an Article V convention creates an imminent peril to the well-established rights of the citizens and the duties of various levels of government.

A couple of pro-convention videos also found on You Tube:
Pro Convention Larry Sabato calls for Convention

Has the mainstream media picked up on this yet – or is this just a conservative concern? Essential question: Is a Constitutional Convention something that we need.... or not?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A New Constitutional Convention?

On December 10th of this year one of the ‘lists’ that I read had a comment on the fact that we were two states away from the US Congress being forced to call a Constitutional Convention in order to propose Amendments to the US Constitution – or what the current day lingo calls a Con Con. A vote was to be held by the Ohio legislature, which – if successful – would leave only one state left to apply for a Convention before that Convention became a reality.

At first the significance of this escaped me – as did finding much written literature on the subject. But, through perseverance, the following discoveries were made:

Article V of the Constitution provides for two methods of amending the Constitution. 1) The US Congress proposes, and 3/4th of the States have to approve the proposed amendment before it goes into effect; and 2) when 2/3rd of the States (34) apply to Congress for a Con Con. This latter method has never been used, and a number of questions arise about it.

While many of the applications for a Con Con have centered on creating an amendment for a balanced Federal budget, Article V does not limit what the Con Con – if called - could propose in the form of amendments. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote:

“I have also repeatedly given my opinion that there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the convention would obey. After a convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the convention if we don't like its agenda. The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the confederation Congress "for the sole and express purpose."”
That is one of many questions that arise about a Con Con.

Some resources to enlighten the reader/listener:
-A number of concerns are summed up in a short You Tube presentation proportedly addressed to State legislators.
-One source did provide some interesting FAQ’s on a Con-Con.
-An article from the Daily Herald (Utah) concerning a Convention.

Things I don’t know, but would like to:

-How long is an application valid?
-What states have approved (and tried to rescind) their applications for a Con-Con?
-Why can’t a state rescind (as apparently some have done) their application?
-How often have the states neared the magic number for a Con Con occurred?
-What would a Con-Con really look like?
-Why isn’t this concept surfacing in the mainstream media?
-Why am I so clueless about this?

The Constitution Rights Foundation has an interesting lesson plan for the Convention process that could be used in the classroom.

Essential Question: What do you think would be the effects of a Constitutional Convention to provide amendments to the Constitution?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Digging Up - No, Make That Clicking Up - The Past

It is simply amazing what is on the Internet. I was looking for one thing – and found something else that brought back memories from the 1980s….

Click here for the St. Petersburg Times article from 1989!

In the 1980’s we devised a project for our World History students, which had them choosing a person from history, then researching (pre-Internet era) through a variety of resources for information concerning the person and the world they lived in. Clothing, religion, weapons, food – there were a whole bunch of categories, and the scrapbook encompassed both written and pictorial material. The project was a 9-week project, and was valuable enough that many former students still have the work they produced and keep it as a source of pride, reminding them what they accomplished. The project actually went county-wide, and eventually built up to where the ‘county winner’ was presented to the Board.

These projects were time-consuming to grade, but they certainly were interesting! Both students – and teacher – learned a lot!

I remember going to our public library one evening about 3 days before the project was due and found the place really hopping – every table had several students at it. I hung around for a while, helped some of the kids find resources, then got ready to go home. As I was getting ready to leave I heard one of the students say that the Xerox machine was broken. As I walked out the door I saw a police car pulling into the library parking lot.

The immediate vision that went through my mind was if possible headlines the next day: “Riot in the library after Xerox machine breaks!”

There was no riot, the police was simply doing the regular rounds, the kids got their work done – and the machine had simply run out of paper, which was quickly replenished.

It used to be that we were digging through the past. Now – with the Internet – we’re clicking through the past!
The picture? One my wife saved from the Chronicle.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A date which will live in infamy…

“Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

With these heart-rending words, Franklin D. Roosevelt led our nation into a conflict that would change the world. It was a war that would last – for the United States – almost 4 long and bloody years. It was a war that capped the traditional isolationist attitude of the nation (at least isolationist toward affairs outside of the American continents); and would propel the United Stated, and the world, into the atomic age. It was a war fought by the ‘greatest generation’, and perhaps the only war the United States has ever been involved in where the clear, overwhelming, and distinct majority of the population supported the war. It was a war that ended our Great Depression and – combined with that economic era – lead to a greater government role and power in the lives of Americans.

It was such a significant event that we, as a nation, remember it well. Right?

Unfortunately, as I walked through the checkout stand at Sweetbay, I asked the cashier if she know what happened on Dec. 7, 1941. She didn’t. I also was at WalMart… same response. I became a little irritated, so I just conducted an informal poll. My discovery: those over 50 – knew. Those under 25… a few knew, but basically no concept. One of my ‘favorite’ comments: “That was the day Kennedy was shot!” Another favorite comment: “I don’t like history!”

The in-between ages, mostly knew. While I had a small sampling, and this is in no way a bona-fide survey, the results are still distressing. I can’t help but wondering how much the passage of 67 years has softened the blow, and weakened the lessons learned from the attack on Pearl Harbor about what happens when a nation is unprepared and/or unwilling to deal with an enemy that seeks its destruction.

For a transcript and audio of the entire 'day of infamy' speech as well as a slideshow of the Pearl Harbor attack, click here.

Friday, December 5, 2008


After an intense 3-day discussion with Jennifer Sasser, our District's Math coordinator, I've come to the conclusion that I have mislabeled the initials representing our new Next Generation Sunshine State Standards - Social Studies!

I had labeled it NG5S. I have been informed that the proper mathematical statement is NGS to the 5th power, or NGS5. Now, if I can only figure out how to superscript the "5"!

Anyone with that many "s's" in her last name has to be right!

On another note, the DOE has posted the newly adopted NGS5 to their website. Look!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"If we don't know our history, we're history "

This article was written by a fellow Social Studies Supervisor, Jason Caros, of Volusia County. It makes interesting reading.

November 09, 2008
Daytona Beach News-Journal

If we don't know our history, we're history

Survey after survey, national test after national test indicate a striking ignorance of history by our younger generations. This is due, in part, to a trend in education during the 20th century that has disparaged and diminished the importance of academic "knowledge" in schools in favor of "process" oriented learning. Additionally, the nationwide assessment of certain skills and subjects in school such as reading, writing, math and, lately, science has further relegated the other core subject area of social studies to a secondary status, especially in the elementary grades (social studies in Florida includes civics, economics, geography and the mother subject, history). Every American should be concerned about this lack of historical knowledge as history is one of the main agents that binds our nation together and teaches us essential life lessons.
What is history? Too many people think of history as merely a story -- and it is often taught and received as a boring one at that. But history is so much more than a story and should be appreciated and learned by everyone. The French natural law philosopher Etienne Gilson said the following about the subject: "History is the only laboratory we have in which to test the consequences of thought."

This is an interesting way to speak about history, isn't it? A couple of words in the quote really stand out and appear more likely to be used in another setting, science. For instance, Gilson said history is a laboratory. Laboratories are places where experiments are held and where people with white lab coats and safety goggles work, right?

In science laboratories, items are tested, but in the history lab the focus of the test is ideas or thoughts, and the consequences of those ideas are the important discoveries. We should all be concerned with the consequences of thought because as one saying goes: "Thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become character, and character becomes destiny."

Every time I ask people, including teachers, about the original meaning of the word history they typically say "history means 'his' story," or they will say it simply means "story." But if you look at the Greek root meaning of the word history, you might be surprised to learn it means "inquiry" or "investigation" and "knowledge." Did you know the Latin word for science also means investigation and knowledge? History and science are synonymous, at least in the original context of the words. Having this in mind, Gilson's quote makes more sense. History should not be boring or passive but instead an active exercise involving investigation and, ultimately, the acquisition of important knowledge that benefits individual lives and civilizations.

Generally speaking, history is one of the greatest teachers we have, but there are three specific points I would like to emphasize about its importance to us as a people. First, in Western societies, history has always been a main topic of study and has provided a springboard to the study of other subjects such as literature; it has also been a source for work on skills such as reading and writing. In terms of successful literacy development, history provides students with a wealth of conceptual knowledge that enables them to become good readers, and because reading is essential to overall academic success, history instruction should be at the top of educational priorities.

Reading requires knowledge of "words and the world" to borrow a phrase from educational researcher E.D. Hirsch, and there is no subject that does a better job of providing this type of knowledge than history. In our nation, we have major problems with literacy at the middle- and high-school levels, and this is due, in large part, to students' lack of knowledge, not the lack of reading skills. We do a very good job of teaching students how to learn to read in the early grades, but fall short in providing them with the important academic knowledge that enables them to read to learn later on. In order to read to learn, you need to have a rich vocabulary. For example, reading experts estimate that in order to understand what you are reading, you need to know approximately 90 percent of the words and concepts in a passage so you can figure out the other 10 percent you do not know. Subjects such as history help provide students with the vocabulary and contextual knowledge they need to become advanced readers.

A second benefit of the study of history lies in the connection between history and good character. The Roman historian Tacitus wrote: "The task of history is to hold out for condemnation every evil word and deed, and to hold out for praise every great and noble word and deed." Examples of strong character may or may not exist in a child's immediate environment or even in the memories of a parent but they do live on in the annals of history as suggested by Tacitus. In the history of our nation, we can see examples of virtue in the courage and sacrifice of the founders of this nation during the Revolutionary era, in the moral fortitude of the reformers of the Second Great Awakening, in the creativity and perseverance of the inventors, writers and scientists who helped make this nation great, and so on. Students can learn from and become motivated by great ideas and great actions and find in the heroic men and women of the past important role models.

One of the recent trends in education has been the rise of character education programs or courses in values, whatever values means. Supporters of these types of programs point to increasing incidents of violence in schools, a general lack of civility and a lack of civic participation by our youth. I submit we do not need classes in values but, instead, need good courses in history and literature (another excellent source of historical knowledge and lessons in human nature).

A final point about the importance of history pertains to our heritage -- history is the key transmitter of it. Our American heritage, and the inheritance of Western Civilization, is not passed on to us genetically. It must be learned and earned by each generation. Some of this passing on is done in the home, in churches and other institutions, but the main source for our historic memory comes from a formal study of history.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famous Russian philosopher and dissident during the Communist era of the Soviet Union, once warned, "If you wish to destroy a people, you must first sever them from their roots." In order to preserve the good and true elements of our culture, we must have a historic memory, we must work in earnest to safeguard our historic roots.

Caros is a K-12 social studies curriculum specialist for Volusia County Public Schools.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

NG5S A Reality(?)

Ready for our five year mission? To go where no man has gone before?

I believe that now the word is official: The NGSSS-SS (Next Generation State Sunshine Standards - Social Studies) - or, as a shorter referral the NG5S - was approved by the State Board of Education at approximately 11:38 this morning. The Draft is here.

The reason I say 'I believe' is because I started watching a podcast of the State Board of Education meeting at about 9:30, and had to refresh the web cast every 5 - 7 minutes. Very frustrating. I heard them mention the "approved items", a brief comment by one of the board members recognizing the excellent work done by the DOE leadership team, the framers, and the writers, and bingo, they were on the next topic.

Hence, the 'I believe'.

So little air-time for such a huge topic.

Now our job starts.... Soon the complete standards will be posted on the web, so keep checking.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Americans Failing Civics

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
- Thomas Jefferson, 1743 - 1826

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has just released the results from its third major study on civics learning among college students. Each year over 14,000 students (Freshmen and Seniors) from 50 colleges participate in the survey. This years' survey was titled Our Fading Heritage: Americans Fail a Basic Test on Their History and Institutions.

Given the state of civics education in K-12 public schools as well as the lack of attention to civics and/or social studies in America's college and university system, the results of the survey are not surprising. A few items from the report: The average score was 49%. Only .8% had an “A” (90% +) as a result on the survey, while 71% had a failing score of 59% and below. Politicians scored lower on almost every question of the survey than the general public, with an average score of 45%. Fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government.

Another unsurprising discovery:

“ISI examined whether other factors add to or subtract from civic literacy and
how they compare with the impact of college. The survey revealed that in today’s
technological age, all else remaining equal, a person’s test score drops in proportion to the time he or she spends using certain types of passive electronic media. Talking on the phone, watching owned or rented movies, and monitoring TV news broadcasts and documentaries diminish a respondent’s civic literacy.”

From the summary of the ISI report:

“After all the time, effort, and money spent on college, students emerge no
better off in understanding the fundamental features of American
To view the complete report visit Our Fading Heritage

Take a quiz of 33 questions click QUIZ:

By the way: I had 31 correct. How did you do???

Essential question: How do the results of this survey impact what we do in our classrooms?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Historical Thanksgiving

The First Thanksgiving (1914) by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe [1850-1936]

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? It might a chance to travel, meet family and friends; a day off work; a wide array of food that might not ordinarily grace your table; a legitimate reason for an afternoon nap; a day out of school. After all, this is a day proclaimed by Lincoln, adjusted (or an attempted adjustment) by Franklin Roosevelt, the recipient of Presidential Proclamations, and is now an established part of the American culture.

Considering all of the misconceptions on Thanksgiving history, we need to look back through history at the origins of Thanksgiving in the English American colonies. The Pilgrims, an English religious group of dissenters known as the Separatists who had fled to Holland, opted to leave their exile in Holland and to sail to the new lands in America. The reason for the move, as explained in my 1899 US History book (The Greater Republic: A History of the United States by Charles Morris), was that they “decided to make their homes in the New World, where they could worship God as their consciences dictated.” From this group came the Mayflower Compact, the first settlements in what became New England, and an event that we eventually called Thanksgiving.

The Events (the short version):

The Pilgrims arrived in the New World in December 1620. Times were difficult. A bitter cold winter descended on the small band before the settlement homes could be completed. During that first winter of 1620 – 1621, almost half of the settlers died, with many others being sick and weakened by fever and dysentery. Emerging from that grueling winter, the Pilgrims were surprised when an Indian named Samoset approached them and greeted them in their own language, explaining to them that he had learned English from fishermen and traders. A week later, Samoset returned with a friend named Squanto, who had a better command of the English language, having been captured and sold to the Spanish as a young man, then escaped to England, finally returning to his homeland on an English vessel. Squanto would live with the Pilgrims and accept their Christian faith. He taught the Pilgrims much about how to live in the New World, and he and Samoset helped forge a long-lasting peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians. Pilgrim Governor William Bradford described Squanto as “a special instrument sent of God for [our] good . . . and never left [us] till he died.”

Historian David Barton writes: “That summer, the Pilgrims, still persevering in prayer and assisted by helpful Indians, reaped a bountiful harvest. As Pilgrim Edward Winslow (later to become the Governor) affirmed, “God be praised, we had a good increase of corn”; “by the goodness of God, we are far from want.” The grateful Pilgrims therefore declared a three-day feast in December 1621 to thank God and to celebrate with their Indian friends. Ninety Wampanoag Indians joined the fifty Pilgrims for three days of feasting (which included shellfish, lobsters, turkey, corn bread, berries, deer, and other foods), of play (the young Pilgrim and Wampanoag men engaged in races, wrestling matches, and athletic events), and of prayer. This celebration and its accompanying activities were the origin of the holiday that Americans now celebrate each November.”

There are only two primary resource accounts of this first Thanksgiving festival:

Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation : (In the original 17th century spelling)

"our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that
so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the
fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a
little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst
other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst
us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men,
whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed
five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour,
and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so
plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are
so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our

William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation: (In the original 17th century spelling)

"They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up
their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health
& strenght, and had all things in good plenty; fFor as some were thus
imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd,
& bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every
family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no want. And now begane to
come in store of foule, as winter approached, of which this place did abound
when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids
water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many,
besids venison, &c. Besids, they had about a peck a meale a weeke to a
person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to yt proportion. Which made
many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in
England, which were not fained, but true reports."

The Rest of the Story (from historian David Barton):

“However, while the Pilgrims enjoyed times of prosperity for which they thanked God, they also suffered extreme hardships. In fact, in 1623 they experienced an extended and prolonged drought. Knowing that without a change in the weather there would be no harvest and the winter would be filled with death and starvation, Governor Bradford called the Pilgrims to a time of prayer and fasting to seek God’s direct intervention. Significantly, shortly after that time of prayer – and to the great amazement of the Indian who witnessed the scene – clouds appeared in the sky and a gentle and steady rain began to fall. As Governor Bradford explained:

It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in
abundance, as that ye earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith, which did
so apparently revive and quicken ye decayed corn and other fruits as was
wonderful to see, and made ye Indians astonished to behold; and afterwards the
Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather
as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no
small comfort and rejoicing.

The drought had been broken; the fall therefore produced an abundant harvest; there was cause for another thanksgiving. The Pilgrim practice of designating an official time of Thanksgiving spread into neighboring colonies and became an annual tradition.”

Essential questions: What do today’s history books use as the historic interpretation of Thanksgiving? Is the religious heritage of the Pilgrims mentioned, or is it just a ‘thank you’ feast for friendly Indians? How do we, as teaching historians, insure that historical accuracy is being maintained in our classrooms?

Friday, November 21, 2008

What did you think of the training?

Tuesday and Wednesday (11/18 – 11/19) a core group of our Social Studies teachers (Middle and High School) came together for some of the best training they had ever had. George and Carolyn Breaz visited our district to present a two-day training on gathering and using digital primary sources gathered from trusted sites on the web. Our participants ranged from new-to-teaching to really-experienced-veterans (over 30 years).

I’ve never come up with a really good title (that would translate into an acronym that I could remember, so we just call it National Archives training, or Primary Resources training. The Breaz’s trained our participants on the processes, resources, and various classroom uses for the materials gathered, culminating with an activity where the participants made lesson plans using the resources. These plans and resources will be shared between the participants and will provide further enhancement for our students. A lot of eye-opening and mind-expanding classroom strategies to involve students with primary resources were also presented. The Breaz’s have a wealth of experience in education, and were a true pleasure to have visit our district.

This training is incredible. All of the participants walked out with their head filled with information and online resources to use that contained the outline of what we did. They were very excited. If anyone outside of Citrus County are reading this blog and would like to contact the Breaz’s, just email me.

The essential question, of course, for our participants is: How effective was this training when translated into classroom use?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Follow-up to the Primary Resource Training

It has been and exciting and enlightening time for our Citrus County Social Studies teachers with George and Carolyn Breaz, our trainers for the Primary Resource training we are engaged in. At the end of the two day session you will need to meet the follow-up requirement for our trainings.

This is fairly simple: you are going to make a blog entry.

Each participant will be required to submit one blog entry. The criteria for this post is:

1. Target date for delivery to either your staff or students

2. Links to resources you are going to use

3. Comment on outcome of your presentation with reflection that could mention:

  • problems that occurred;
  • what you did well;
  • didn’t do well;
  • and/or what you might change.

You need to both present your lesson and make your blog entry prior to Christmas break.

In order to successfully post, you might need to register with the blog. It's simple, easy, and safe to do. You will have to register on googleblog. Last name, first initial is usually a good way to go.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Geography Awareness Week

"Next to the knowledge of ourselves, the knowledge of the world is essentially necessary, which can only be acquired by the pleasing study of Geography."
-George Alexander Cooke

This is Geography Awareness Week – an opportunity for all of our teachers (especially our Social Studies teachers) to teach some aspect of geography to their students. The general lack of knowledge of geography is widely published. Take the opportunity to look at some aspect of the geography of North America during this week and relate it to your course of instruction.

Teaching Math? Asking students how long would it take to walk across America… or any one of a dozen questions that could be asked on that topic alone that would involve mathematical computations. Teaching English? Teach the vocabulary of the geography of Alaska through reading stories about that bush pilots . Teaching science? Physical geography is a natural!

There are many different online tools to help teach during this week, incluidng National Geographic. A number of others are listed on our Social Studies website under the ‘recognition events’ icon.

If nothing else, how about an online game to identify the states… a challenge for students and – perhaps – teachers.

Our responsibility as educators is not limited to a single field or discipline. In today’s world, understanding others is an important aspect of education and in our global economy, understanding others is an important part of economic survival. Let’s all work together to emphasize some aspect of geography during this week.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Living History and Veterans in the Classroom

It is my privilege to be the Veterans in the Classroom contact for our District. This provides me with the opportunity to meet and talk with living history – our Veterans from World War II through Operation Iraqi Freedom. These veterans bring their sense of duty, their experiences, their patriotism, and their sense of character into our classrooms, K – 12. Some of these individuals are still on active duty – usually in the National Guard.

What a wonderful opportunity it is for our children to see these men and women – from all five branches of our armed services – and to hear them relate personal stories of sacrifice in all parts of the world, serving this nation. Some were drafted, some volunteered. Some made a career of the armed services; some went back into civilian live as soon as their commitment to Uncle Sam was over. But all are willing to share their experiences with our young folks – a much more accurate story than the media usually portrays.

Best of all, the kids get to honor the veterans, to thank them for service done to preserve this nation and its fundamental liberties that we all should appreciate. Over 150 classrooms were visited in our District by veterans during the first two weeks of November. There was also coverage in a newspaper.

My high point of this two-week exercise came yesterday when I visited the classroom of a teacher at one of our middle schools invited a young Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran into her classroom to speak to all six of her classes. I was able to watch only a few minutes of the presentation by this young man, but was able to see the connections being made between the kids and the soldier. With artifacts, souvenirs, pictures, and words, he described the events that he saw in Iraq – from the boredom of guard duty, to the sandstorms and 140 degree heat, through the privations, and the danger of convoy duty. The students were attentive, questioning, understanding, and appreciative, and – when the class bell rang for dismissal – could be heard telling the incoming class that ‘they have a good speaker that’s funny’ – setting the stage for the next session.

This veteran – who is also my #2 son – did his duty in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division, and continues to do so here at home in the National Guard. Thank you, Carol, for inviting him to your class and for giving him time to share with your students.
Question of the day: Were you able to recognize the veterans in any way in your classrooms, whether you had speakers or not?

Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Adventure

To our Citrus County Social Studies teachers:

Egads and gadzooks~! A blog! This is an attempt to enhance communications between the Social Studies teachers in our district. There are a lot of changes coming to our discipline, and we need to work together to turn the changes into positive results for our profession, our students - and ourselves. This blog is designed to encourage comments and conversations between our Social Studies teachers. What an opportunity to 'get together' and share. We have the best Social Studies crew in the state, but I firmly believe that learning from others needs to be a continual process.

Topics for the blog are unlimited, and could include comments/questions about the upcoming standards, technology in our classrooms, information from the District, methods of meeting state mandates, results of an activity in the classroom - the list can be quite extensive and, to be perfectly honest with you - I have no real idea as to the final direction this will take us, or all we can do with it.

At this point, I can only look to what Robert Frost wrote:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence

Two roads diverged in a wood

And I took the one less traveled by

And that has made all the difference.