Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The War That Defined A Century

Today is the ninety-fifth anniversary of the war that defined the character of the 20th Century and – to an extent – the experiences we have had in the 21st Century.

The men and women who lived during that time, fought the battles in the mud and trenches of France and other places around the world – they have by and large passed on, and often their stories with them. Great Britain reported in the last month the passing of their oldest WW I veteran and their last survivor of the trenches from the war. The US has two WW I veterans still living.

We are also losing our World War II veterans. Once source indicated almost a thousand of these veterans are dying in America every day. Then we have our Korean War vets, who are most likely retired by now, and our Vietnam vets, who – if not retired – are in their mid- to late-fifties.

If you personally know any vets from any era, see if they won’t talk to you about their experiences – and video tape it if you can. If you videotape it, make several copies – one for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, one for your local historical society, and one for the home town historical society of the veteran – and one for the veteran to share with his/her family. We’re losing precious stories of history every day – perhaps we need to make one small act of trying to preserve what we teach.

And – we’re not only losing the stories of the veterans, but also of those who stayed at home during these wars. They all have their own story to tell – and those stories can be a revealing and fascinating look at the past.

All of this takes a little preparation in preparing questions, filming, etc., but is well worth the effort.

Essential Question: What is our responsibility as instructors for preserving the voices of the past?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Book Review: The Lions of Iwo Jima

I just finished reading “The Lions of Iwo Jima: The story of Combat Team 28 and the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history” by MG Fred Haynes and James Warren. The book is in our county library system, and was published in 2008.

If you have an interest in World War II, the Pacific arena, this would be a good read for you.

Combat Team 28 was assigned to participate in the invasions of Iwo Jima, to capture Mount Suribachi, and after the capture went on to fight throughout the Iwo Jima campaign. It was captured the last of the island after a bloody, draining month-long battle.

Fred Haynes was a young Marine captain in the 28th Combat Team. His memories, combined with solid research by Warren, provide an excellent first-person account of the action. His descriptions bring forth the horror of war and the dedication of those who fight it.

From the destruction at the beach to the raising of the flag (twice) at Mount Suribachi and from the constant deadly battle with snipers to the final bloody, exhausting days at Bloody Gorge a month after the invasion took place, this book provides an insightful view of what happened, with extensive research of documents, survivor interviews, and an intricately woven story.

Especially interesting is the chapter titled “The Enemy” which investigates why the Japanese fought as doggedly and self-sacrificing as they did, preferring death to capture.

For additional reviews, check at Amazon, Large Print Reviews, and McMillan.
Essential Question: What would be the effect today - given increased communications availability - of a battle such as Iwo Jima?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Civics in Action - Local Constitutional Issue

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
How valuable are our First Amendment rights to us? I saw both sides as I watched the progress of debate over a Constitutional issue that occurred right here in the county seat of Citrus County.

Background: On July 3rd the City of Inverness hosted an Independence Day celebration with entertainment and fireworks at the city-owned Liberty Park. It was designated as a public event, starting at 6:30 PM.

At least three local pastors with members of their congregation went to the park – arriving around 4 PM - to distribute tracts to those interested in taking them, with the intent of stopping when the formal activities began at 6:30. This was not a collaborative planned effort by the pastors – each went independently from the others.

A Sheriff’s deputy ordered one of the pastors - Pastor Sheppard, pastor of Citrus Baptist Missionary Church, to stop preaching and distributing tracts. Sheppard stated that it was a public event, public property, and that he was allowed by the Constitution of the United States to do so.

Contradictory advice was given by other deputies stationed in the park as to the legality of preaching and passing out tracts prior to the scheduled City activities, so Sheppard continued preaching and handing out tracts.

The deputy came by later and again ordered him to stop, threatening arrest for trespassing, and then ordered him out of the park. Later he ordered the pastor’s wife and 5 children (ages between 1 and 8) from the park for creating what he termed “a religious compound” (a child’s wagon with two Scripture verses on it) – perhaps a reference to the Branch Dividians?

Sheppard left, and began preaching and distributing tracts on the public right-of-way outside of the park. The deputy came again and ordered the pastor to stop. Sheppard refused, citing his Constitutional rights, pointing that he was outside of the park, on a public right-of-way. The deputy left, and later brought back the Park Director, who told the pastor that he could not preach or distribute tracts in the park – it was against a city ordinance. Pastor Sheppard pointed out again that he was no longer in the park, but on a public right-of-way, and that the park director’s stance was unconstitutional.

Another pastor – Pastor Stine of Bethel Baptist Church - arrived, and was informed that he could not preach or distribute tracts in the park either. Stine had been doing this at the Independence Day event for several years, and was surprised at the restriction. He also wound up distributing tracts outside of the park.

The tracts were simply offered to people and not forced upon them, and all preaching was done by voice only, without the assistance of any electronic amplifiers.

The Process:

The issue was brought before the Inverness City Council at their regularly scheduled meeting July 21st. Their agenda provided time for Sheppard to speak, and contains letters between Sheppard and the Inverness city manager, Frank DiGiovanni, requesting time to address the City Council, as well as a letter from a law firm reiterating the legal protections found under the First Amendment.

Over seventy people attended the meeting – the majority to provide support for the pastor’s cause. Pastor Sheppard presented his case, including a listing of some city ordinances that were in conflict with county, state, and federal law. He also pointed out that the Sheriff’s Department had never harassed him before, but that his concern was that there was inconsistency in the laws of the city affecting public speaking, as well as a lack of training to so officers could provide a consistent answer to question relating to citizen rights.

Sheppard pointed out the incongruousness of the issue: the restriction of his rights occurred at Liberty Park, celebrating Independence Day.

The city attorney commented that some of the ordinances were of ‘dubious constitutionality’ and that he and the city manager planned to rewrite the city code. The Council was attentive and supportive in its statements – but deferred any decisions until the codes are rewritten.

The Concern:

They are two-fold:

One: What is the concern of the citizenry for maintaining their rights? The quote by Martin Niemoller, the pastor of a Protestant congregation in Germany who was imprisoned in a concentration camp during the reign of Adolf Hitler, comes to mind:
They came after the Jews,
But I was not a Jew, so I did not object.
Then they came after the Catholics,
But I was not a Catholic, so I did not object.
Then they came after the Trade Unionists,
But I was not a Trade Unionist, so I did not object.
Then they came after me,
And there was no one left to object.

While the clear majority of those at the City Council meeting were concerned and supportive, two thoughts come to mind:

-One lady – after Pastor Sheppard finished speaking and another gentleman asked if he could address the Council on the issue – whispered to her husband ‘Isn’t this ever going to end’, then proceeded to focus her attention on a grocery sales receipt for the next ten minutes. She was attending the City Council meeting for another agenda item.

-Where were the other pastors, deacons, church members of the area? Is this not a concern of theirs as well? Yet only two or three pastors came, and perhaps forty church members.

Two: Unlimited and unregulated power for any agency will result in the loss of rights and legal protection. I’m a strong supporter of law-enforcement and the work our officers do – but they are not always right, and some of them need to recognize that fact. Stubbornness, prejudice, and rash action took place over consideration of the rights and intent of the law – by those who should be enforcing it. My hat is off to the City Council for their attention and thoughts on the matter, and to the city attorney for his honest evaluation of the pertinent city ordinances and code, and to pastors Sheppard and Stine - as well as the other speakers - who were willing to defend their rights.

The story isn’t finished yet, and a final resolution hasn’t been reached. Only time will tell the final direction that this Civics in Action lesson will take.

Hopefully everyone will learn about the Constitution a little better than the person in this video clip.

As John Adams stated:

"But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”

Essential Question: How can a local incident like this be used to teach civic rights and responsibilities to our students?


Bill of Rights


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Morphing Presidents

I was reading the Presidents Blog this weekend titled ‘Mighty Morphing Presidents’, and saw an article based on a video created by ‘poldivideo’ for YouTube. It’s rather neat, and could be used as an introduction to a unit on the Presidents. The YouTube title is “From George Washington To Barack Obama - A Long Way - Original Video”. Turn on your speakers and enjoy – it’s only four minutes long.
Mount Rushmore, on Wikipedia

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man Steps on the Moon - 40 Years Ago

We don’t seem to like to celebrate the fourth year, or eighth, or ninety-first anniversary of something. It seems as though if there is not a “0” as the last digit, it’s not worth celebrating.

Monday, July 20, is the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. It is a historic occasion – the record of which was almost lost to posterity. NASA released information in 2006 that the original data disks recording the event of man’s first steps on the moon had been erased years ago in order to reuse the disks.

Fortunately, history was preserved. Copies were found in the Johnson Space Center, a tracking station in Australia, and the archives of CBS News. Lowry Digital, a recording company in California, is in the process of digitizing the copies.

A sample of the digitized videos is on the NASA webpage – and the complete set of which will be released in September. There will eventually be about two and a half hours of video available.

A couple of other tidbits: The Daily Telegraph (UK) had an article on trivia about the landing that is interesting, as well two BBC News articles - one titled Weaving the Way To The Moon and the other titled Audio slideshow: Man on the Moon.

I remember watching on television (live) as Neil Armstrong decending the ladder from the Eagle to the surface of the moon. It was almost 10 PM Central time.

History has been preserved… but what lessons have been learned?

Essential question: What value can be placed on preserving documentation of the historic moon landing?


Landing Module Eagle: Wikipedia


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Citrus County TEA Party

On April 18, 2009, Citrus County joined with numerous other sites across the United States and held a TEA Party at the old Courthouse. Over 1,000 citizens came to voice their protest on what they perceive as reckless spending and the cost of increasing taxes - local, state, and Federal - as well as a more drastic move toward creating a socialist state.

Here is a YouTube summary of the event. Civics in Action!

Essential Question: What rights listed under the Bill of Rights were the citizens exercising during the TEA Party?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

National Day on Writing: October 20, 2009

In order to show competency, understanding, and the thinking process of any of the various areas that fall under the concept of Social Studies, one must be able to write, and write effectively, in a variety of formats.

Often writing is an overlooked aspect of our work, or one of a continue debate of “that’s the English department’s job”.

The NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English) is emphasizing the need for effective writing in all formats through the National Day on Writing, which is on October 20, 2009 this year. Their website contains a wealth of information concerning the National Day of Writing.

From their site:

Why a National Day on Writing?
In light of the significance of writing in our national life, to draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in, and to help writers from all walks of life recognize how important writing is to their lives, October 20, 2009, will be celebrated as The National Day on Writing. The National Day on Writing will
-celebrate the foundational place of writing in Americans' personal, professional, and civic lives.
-point to the importance of writing instruction and practice at every grade level, for every student and in every subject area from preschool through university. (See The Genteel Unteaching of America’s Poor.)
-emphasize the lifelong process of learning to write and composing for different audiences, purposes, and occasions.
-recognize the scope and range of writing done by the American people and others.
-honor the use of the full range of media for composing.
-encourage Americans to write and enjoy and learn from the writing of others.

I would encourage our teachers to think about implementing a special writing activity on October 20th in order to help emphasize the importance of writing in our lives.

Essential Question: What place does writing hold in the Social Studies classroom?


Hephaestus Audio


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lessons Life Taught Me

Regina Britt wrote the following in the Plain Dealer in 2006, and on Britt's blog in 2007. It's being presented here just for something to think about as a new school year starts.
To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me.

It is the most-requested column I've ever written. My odometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here's an update:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Overprepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In five years, will this matter?"

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative - dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don't ask, you don't get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Essential Question: How might these lessons on life be used in the classroom?

From BBC News: Nine Reasons to Celebrate America

In celebration of our 233rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, BBC News correspondent Kevin Connolly provides his lighthearted list of reasons why America should be celebrated. This is one man’s view, focusing on technological, industrial, and social facets of America rather than political ideals.

Still, it’s rather interesting to see the view of our cousins across the pond.

To read the article, go here.

Essential Question: What type of list of reasons to celebrate America would our students compile?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Book Review: Visions from a Foxhole

I just finished reading a book written by a World War II veteran, and found it fascinating enough to share and encourage others to check it out and read it.

I always like the ‘grunts’ view of war – not the huge strategic plans moving armies and tens of thousands of men hither and yon. I like to read and share somewhat the experiences of the man in the trenches (World War I) or the foxhole (World War II) or the trenches again (Korea) or the fortified hamlets and firebases (Vietnam). These are men who did not know the whole scope of the war – their focus was on surviving day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

Visions from a Foxhole: A Rifleman in Patton’s Ghost Corps was written by 94th Infantry Division veteran William A. Foley Jr. – who was eighteen years old when he joined with the division in January 1945.

In his book Foley graphically describes the infantryman’s view of war – the shelling, the mines, the snipers, and the intense combat that, even in the last stages of World War II in Europe, was up close and personal.

What really stirred me with this book was the artistry of the author. He drew during the war, fleshed out the images, and now presents a selection of them in his book.

The author readily admits a lack of ability to remember names – I can relate to that – and some of the flow of events (though not the experiences) have faded over the years since the war ended. Combining his experiences with research on the 94th Division, Foley has created a credible story of survival during his five months ‘over there’.

Foley is was interviewed for the Library of Congress Veteran’s Project, and four of his drawings are posted there. It might be helpful to read the Amazon reviews as well.

Our local Citrus County library has this book available.

Essential Question: How could a resource like this book be used in a Social Studies classroom?


Library of Congress Veteran’s Project


Friday, July 10, 2009

The 45 Goals of Communism in America: 1963... and Today?

After posting an earlier blog on a Russian’s view of America’s path, I remembered something I heard when I was at a conference in May. There I heard one speaker refer to ‘the 45 Goals of Communism’ and how they were being fulfilled. Curious about this, I looked them up.

Florida Congressman Albert S. Herlong, Jr read the now-famous ‘45 Goals of Communism’ into the Congressional Record on January 10, 1963. Herlong served in Congress from 1949 to 1969.

This list was derived from a book titled “The Naked Communist”, by Willard Cleon Skousen.

The list is interesting both historically, and as application to events that have occurred during the last forty-six years. To read all of them, go here.

Below are just two or three highlights from the list that are particular to our discipline:

29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.

30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the "common man."

31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the "big picture." Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.

I find of particular interest how many of these are either fulfilled or in the process of being fulfilled. I’d encourage readers to look at these claims for themselves, and see what they think. I know there are a few claims I’d like to find out more about, and how it will influence my country.

Essential Question: In a world where the term ‘Communism’ is not really known nor frequently studied in American classrooms, what use would a document like the one above have for applying the concept of history and historical trends to our students?


Albert S. Herlong portrait, Florida Memory
Albert S. Herlong talking, Florida Memory

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cross of Gold

One hundred thirteen years ago, on July 9, 1896, William Jennings Bryan stepped to the podium at the Democratic National Convention and made what was to become one of the most famous speeches in American History.

The Democratic National Convention was debating the issue of bimetallism – the keeping of silver and gold as backing for the economic system versus following the trend of many European countries and use only a gold standard. The idea of bimetallism was popular with the common man – and was a standard for the Populist Party – but it was unpopular with big business and banking interests. The issues centered on helping those who were in debt by making money more available or protecting those who loaned money – the business and banking interests. A similar argument seems to be going on today – as well as the trend toward following others versus leading others on the international scene.

There was a reason for the debate: The People’s Party (popularly known as the Populists Party) was a popular third party. Traditionally in America when the issues backed by third parties become too popular, one of the two major parties adopt them, thus taking the steam from the upstart newcomer. Hence we’ve remained primarily a two-party system. The Populists had several popular issues that the Democrats were addressing in their platform in 1896.

Bryan – thirty-six years old – stepped to the podium and gave a speech that rocked the convention and rocketed him into the limelight.

His speech was so well received that he was nominated as the Democratic candidate for President the next day. He would lose the election, and gold would become the monetary standard for the United States from 1900 until 1975, when the dollar became our ‘fiat’ money (money with no intrinsic value other than the faith and credit placed on it).

You can here Jennings recreation of the speech for a recording twenty-five years after his original speech here. YouTube has an interesting 3-minute presentation here. You can read the entire speech here. Finally, a lesson plan on bimetallism can be found here. This lesson includes an excellent video explaining the issue of bimetallism - click here to see it.

While the Cross of Gold speech is not often studied today, perhaps it is one we should take a look at again – with 113 years of perspective.

Essential Question: What relationship do the famous historic speeches of the past have on the world we live in today?

William Jennings Bryan portrait, Library of Congress ID cph 3a00786
William Jennings Bryan at the Convention, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities
Opposing cartoon, Wikipedia

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

“American Capitalism Gone With A Whimper”

An article appeared in the April 27, 2009 online issue of Pravda that could engender some conversation in the classroom – teaching the students to move from thoughts based on opinion to thoughts based on facts.

I like to look at news articles from a variety of national sources when I have the time (the only one I regularly peruse is the BBC Minute News online, but I have a couple of other sites that I check on occasion) as it gives an interesting and sometimes disturbing perspective that is not presented in the American news media for a variety of reasons. Sometimes I find articles on other blogs I read. This article came via The Examiner.

The title of the article is “American Capitalism Gone With A Whimper”, and is attributed to Stanislav Mishin. While the article is in the opinion section of Pravda, it must be remembered that Pravda is the newspaper representing the State. Hence, is it incorrect to assume that articles published represent the view of the State, or at least of the individuals of influence in the State?

While his article is not something most American’s want to hear or think about, it does have some interesting points. It’s basic premise is that the United States is rapidly and inexplicably moving toward Marxism – and he presents his evidence. I’d encourage you to read it and see what you think.

Essential Question: What is the value of using the perspective from other nations – so readily available on the Web today – in the classroom?


Monday, July 6, 2009

Library of Congress: Teacher Site

I was reading through the Library of Congress blog last week and came across an entry of interest.

We have been emphasizing the use of primary resources in the classroom recently, and the Library of Congress is one of the primary resources that we used in our trainings. This LOC offering is an excellent tool for teachers – and students – to use in learning how to utilize the LOC as a powerful resource for the classroom.

The article was titled “New Teachers Site Is All Class”, and is one that is worth reading. If you click here you will go to a LOC page called “Resources for Teachers”, which lists classroom materials the teacher can access and use, as well as the professional development available. If you click on TPS Direct you will link to the first of six self-paced professional development modules: Introduction to the Library of Congress. The other modules will be added

As you go through the module, take your time – even if you ‘know’ what it’s talking about. First, it’s a good refresher and second, it doesn’t take all that long. I went through the “Getting Started” portion of the module prior to beginning the program.

I’ve started the initial course – am on Chapter 4 of 7 chapters - and am finding the material engaging, informative, and useful. I believe at the end the participant receives a certificate – which you can use to get inservice hours in our District’s Professional Development plan.

Just heed this bit of advice… don’t skip anything as you go through.

Essential question: How could the use of Primary Resources be used to enhance a student’s reading and analytical skills?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

How the FBI Broke Saddam: The Whole Series

James Gordon Meek has completed his series on How the FBI Broke Saddam in the New York Daily News “Mouth of the Potomac” blog.

If you have a chance, it would be worthwhile to read this engaging and interesting story which provides insight into Saddam, the war, and the FBI. The links are:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

There are also links to the FBI interrogation reports.

These articles could be a powerful tool in teaching this era of our history.

Essential Question: What type of classroom discussions could you foresee based on this (and the future 'to be published') articles?

Photo Resource:Saddam Hussein, Wikipedia

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Civics Question from the Past Still Relevant Today

My hobby is collecting old time radio shows (OTR). Recently I was listening to the March 18, 1939 broadcast of Information Please, hosted by Clifton Fadiman. The show has a panel of four noted and wise individuals, and the premise of the show is that it gives the public a chance to stump the experts.

These experts, including regulars such as writer, actor, pianist Oscar Levant as well as newspaper editor, columnist and intellectual Franklin P. Adams and sports columnist and intellectual John Kieran, along with guests such as playwright Moss Hart and mystery author Rex Stout (who created the fictional crime fighter Nero Wolfe) who would field an amazing array of questions, and – in the midst of fun and entertainment – answer a significant number of them correctly. After all, they were the experts.

One that stumped three of the four of the very intelligent members in the March 18th episode was one that every American should know.

Having said that, I need to come down off of my high horse and admit that I did not know the complete answer either.

Can you, without using outside resources, answer this question from the show?

From Information Please, 3/28/1939: This question has three parts.

1. Name of your Congressman.

2. Name the Congressional District you live in.

3. Name your Congressman’s political party.

What is yours?

If you are stumped on the complete answer, as I was, check here.
Essential Question: Why is political awareness a valuable and essential attibute for American citizens to have?
Information Please Panel, from Old Time Radio Catalog.