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Recent reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria in 2017, 2018 and in the UK in 2018 (an apparent assassination attempt with a nerve agent) and the international responses help demonstrate the way that international law works. A treaty to ban the use of chemical weapons officially became international law in 1997 when the minimum number of countries (a number designated in the treaty itself) ratified the treaty in their own ratification process. Following ratification, each country is then expected to integrate the conditions of the treaty into their own domestic legal system and enforce it. As others signed on, and support grew internationally for ...
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Words come and go and meanings change over time. Exploring the history behind unknown words in primary source texts illustrates changes technology, daily life, and social behavior over time. Learning the origins of a word is something usually associated with vocabulary lessons or English classes. Etymology also has an important place in the study of history and social studies classrooms. Tracing the origins of words is especially important when reading primary source texts. Students may think they know the meaning of a word; when in fact they only know the modern definition. Or, they encounter words that have fallen out of usage. Archaic words such as cordwainer, ...
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In addition to violence from firearms, we all face a risk from nuclear war. Like the proliferation of guns in the United States, the proliferation of nuclear weapons across the globe, and threats about their possible use, have increased the risk to the public generally.  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warns in 2018 that the danger of that global disaster is "obvious and imminent."  The online newsletter TSSP has posted some resources on how to teach about  preventing nuclear war as well as on gun violence .  In tribute to the current efforts by Parkland students and their initiatives to address gun reform in our country, by way of a "book ...
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When we say “I’m a practical sort of person who does not put much stock in theories,” we mean that we’re not thinking about what we’re doing, which of course isn’t true. Actually, we are, all of us, loaded up with theories and experience. Everyone inhabits both planets. They are, in fact, the same planet. Together, “Research and Practice” equals learning.                                            ~Walter C. Parker In 2001, Professor Walter C. Parker of the University of Washington initiated the column “Research and Practice” in Social Education (now edited by Patricia G. Avery of the University of Minnesota). The purpose of the column was to feature ...
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Dimension three of the C3 Framework calls on students to evaluate sources, use evidence and formulate strong arguments. Unfortunately, students often don't care enough about the subject matter to want to master these skills.  As a result, teachers' efforts to help them are met with resistance or indifference. So the teacher question becomes-- What type of environments can we create which will best motivate students to work on these skills? Answer:  the classroom simulation. In a simulation students are first asked to assume the character of another person. Think about that for a moment. Playing a character has little to do with "evaluating sources ...
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Teaching about Disarmament – An introduction to Global Disarmament Welcome to Teaching About Disarmament. This new blog is devoted to building our knowledge of disarmament efforts then and now, with the goal of helping to create a more peaceful world with much fewer weapons.  As the UN Charter indicates , there is a real need for security, and provision is needed for some measure of control, but certainly not at this level of such ridiculous military expenditure and ongoing military undertakings. Disarmament is nothing new, but neither is war. For millennia, war was considered the legitimate means of righting wrongs. As described in the new book ...
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How we live and what we do demonstrates socio-economic position. Today, huge televisions and the newest home electronics are not just for entertainment; they also demonstrate a family’s income and social status.  In the late 19 th century, a piano or reed organ in the parlor was a symbol that a family was a part of the new middle class. An organ or piano demonstrated the family could afford to purchase a large musical instrument, had the leisure time to enjoy it, and the culture and education to play it.   Nineteenth century parlors and their contents were symbols of the middle and upper class. Working-class homes were often too small for a parlor, but the ...
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Social studies teachers and history professors all too often face students who question the relevance of history to their lives.  Among the many aphorisms and explanations that we can cite for history’s importance, we can now add this one, from Bruce Springsteen’s sprawling autobiography, Born To Run (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), when the rock and roll legend was describing a new urgency in his song-writing in the late 1970s, when he was about to turn thirty years old:  History was a subject that had bored me in middle and high school, but I devoured it now.  It seemed to hold some of the essential pieces to the identity questions I was asking.  ...
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A month ago, my brother, who is an attorney in northern California and spends a lot of time in his car, heard an interview on the radio with Elizabeth Cobbs, author of the book, The Hello Girls: America's First Women Soldiers (Harvard University Press, 2017). You can listen to this interview at: https://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2018/01/03/the-hello-girls-chronicles-patriotic-women-soldiers-of-wwi/ . A full review of the book is available at: https://www.npr.org/2017/04/06/522596006/the-hello-girls-chronicles-the-women-who-fought-for-america-and-for-recognition . Since he has long been familiar with my passion for women’s history, he quickly ordered the book ...
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I firmly believe that our democratic government is in danger.  I know many teachers who agree with me and several who disagree.  But, it is certainly a "hot topic" in the papers, the magazines that I read, and all the television news-focused channels...even Fox news explores this issue. But, how do classroom teachers bring this issue up without appearing to be biased against President Trump and his advisors?  I have talked with several teachers (and former teachers) that I know, and most tell me that they try (or, if no longer teaching would try) to avoid the specific topic.  They do this so much that they avoid talking about many current events topics, such ...
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Robert Shaffer, Ph.D., Professor of History, Shippensburg University, and co-coordinator, secondary social studies education President Trump’s widely quoted remarks at a January 11, 2018 White House meeting with Congressional leaders, in which he railed against further immigration from “s-hole” countries such as Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, pose challenges to social studies educators. The vulgar terminology itself, if used in many schools, would land a student in the principal’s office and subject to discipline.  The Student Handbook in the Mechanicsburg (PA) Area School District, for example, where my own children went to school, ...
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What do this mid-20 th century recipe clipping scrapbook and Pinterest have in common? The obvious answer is recipe collections; recipes prepared and recipes to try. These scrapbook pages, one digital and one paper, are also primary source documents that tell the story an individual and a wider culture. A scrapbook, today and in the past, is personal story created from re-purposed media (electronic or paper) and ephemera of the era. Scrapbooking as a hobby is not new. In the 1820s, as the mass media grew (magazines and newspapers), men, women, and children made clipping scrapbooks.  They used scissors to cut information related to their ...
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We often think there’s one way to organize our units and it goes something like this: Introduce a study guide of terms, list out some goals and objectives, add in some unit-specific questions and then give a picture of what the summative assessment may look like, usually coming in the form of either a multiple choice test, essay or both. At the end of the unit, we start over.  Sound familiar?   Think about it, though. When we do this, we are sending a subtle message that learning begins and ends with self-contained units and that knowledge builds in sequential steps along a predictable path which ends. Our intuition tells a different story:  learning ...
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Relations between the U.S. and Cuba are rocky lately due to the mysterious “sonic wave” attacks on U.S. diplomats stationed in there during 2016-17, the cause for which is still undetermined. This reminded me of a time when I had students meet with a Cuban diplomat. Our visit was on December 10, 2003.  Photos from the trip are here:  http://dgraney.com/03cuba1.htm Almost 15 years ago, while scrolling through the list of nations on the embassy.org, site I came across Cuba. How can that be? We don’t have diplomatic relations with Cuba, so how could they have an embassy in the United States? I clicked on the link and saw “Cuban Interests Section,” ...
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I’m one of the “digital immigrants” who came to the use of computers late in life, that is, as a New Jersey high school history teacher back in the digital “dark ages” of the 1980s. Perhaps you remember the Apple IIE? The first Apple Macintosh?   Oregon Trail software? During these long-ago years, a fellow history teacher (Neale McGoldrick) and I collaborated on using “desk-top publishing” software to produce historical newspapers with our students and created an historical monograph on women's suffrage that was distributed to schools and libraries in the state ( Reclaiming Lost Ground: The Struggle for Women’s Suffrage in New Jersey , New Jersey Historical ...
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Food is a hot topic in modern America and can be used as a theme in the social studies classroom to illustrate many historical trends and indisciplinary concepts. A traditional holiday treat – the mincemeat pie – is just one example. First, take a short quiz to test your knowledge of mincemeat.  Quiz: What is in a Mincemeat Pie? Mincemeat pies are associated with the winter holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Traditionally, the filling was made of chopped meat and animal fat, dried fruit, spices, sweetening (honey, molasses, or sugar), and alcohol, often brandy. Mincemeat was prepared and preserved in the late autumn or early winter when animals ...
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My Political Science class and my Philosophy class met a man who I consider to be “The Greatest Living American.” Congressman John Lewis is one of the giants of the Civil Rights era. Early on, he participated in sit-ins in Nashville and then became leader of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. It was in that capacity that he gave a hard-hitting speech at the March on Washington. His biggest achievement was bringing black people the right to vote in the South. He marched for voting rights and, of course, was the leader when state troopers attacked him and other marchers in Selma, Alabama—on Bloody Sunday. Since then he has had a distinguished ...
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Real or ideal? Historians and students must ask this question when examining primary source images and texts depicting daily life. Many primary sources texts and images are nostalgic, skewing our views of the past. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing for the past. We’ve all heard nostalgic references to the halcyon days when people didn’t need to lock the doors of their homes, neighbors always helped neighbors, men were brave and chivalrous, women virtuous, and students always did their homework and behaved. In every historical era, references are made to previous golden age. But was a previous era really that good? Did everyone live in this perfect world?  ...
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“This is me. This is where I live.” This book review is the second in a series of reviews of exemplar children’s books for teaching social studies. Building on the first featured book in this series of reviews, Mirror , by Jeannie Baker, I have selected a second title which features cultural universals as well as global families and basic concepts of geography. This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids Around the World  by Matt Lamothe  is a nonfiction picture book released in 2017. In this book, Lamothe uses simple prose and vivid illustrations to guide young readers through the stories of seven children from Italy, ...
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There was one more very cool event from my Connecticut days. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was making his first visit to Washington, D.C. in December  of 1987. There was a large Jewish minority of students at Amity High (where I was teaching one section of U.S. History) and Amity Junior High. They told me there was going to be a march and rally to protest Soviet Jews not being allowed to immigrate to Israel, and asked if I wanted to join them. I had never been to D.C. before, and it was a good cause, a chance to bond outside the classroom with students…heck yeah! I told my friend Steve Goldman about it and he was in too. With junior high and high school students, ...
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