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As a newly hired, tenure track assistant professor of Social Studies Education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, I was excited to attend and present my research at the NCSS (National Council of the Social Studies) Annual Conference in San Diego Nov 30-Dec. 2, 2007.  At some conferences, education attendees often leave early to keep within a particular travel budget (no Saturday night stay, cheaper weekend airfare). But, the auditorium at the San Diego Convention Center was packed.  Everyone stood and applauded the keynote speaker, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, as she rose to the podium. Justice O'Connor shared her story ...
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Many years ago, around our familily dinner table, we were discussing the first day of school with our children (now all out of their respective university programs and into their professional careers). When my youngest child was asked how his first day of middle school was, he breathed a sigh and said “oh, it was like every first day in every class; we just made rules and went over a syllabus.” I have not begun a first day of my class by setting rules or explaining a syllabus since. Rather I begin by engaging students in our first “timeline,” saying a few words about the class (essentially I give them my three guarantees; you will explore a lot of history ...
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The Joys of Summer Reading  One of the pleasures of summertime for me has been the chance to read fiction. It may be a stretch to call these social studies but all of them are either political or sociological in orientation. Daniel Silva’s “The Other Woman”: I’m a big fan of Silva’s stories about the Israeli spy Gabriel Allon. I’ve probably read 7 or 8 or these books. Despite their length (typically 400 pages or so), the excitement of the story makes the reading go quickly. Anne Tyler’s “Clock Dance”: Tyler is a very good writer, some of whose other works I’ve also read. This one wasn’t my favorite, but the stories she tells always include intriguing ...
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Over the last several months, I read two books that any teacher of US History should be aware of: "The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery," edited by Rochelle Riley, with a foreword by Nikole Hannah-Jones, and "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America," by Richard Rothstein. The first book is a set of shorter and longer essays by a range of authors on topics such as Black women and the "legacies of defiance;" a military family descended from slaves; "sports industries as plantations;"  "everyday rebellions;" and civil rights and schools, among other topics. All of these essays are compelling; some ...
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The Lynching Museum

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They hung in reverend silence, those slabs of steel stained with orange, gold, sienna, burnt umber, chocolate, ebony identified by county and etched with names and dates – sometimes “Unknown” and the date. There were hundreds of slabs in staggered rows, a memorial to the 4000 victims of lynchings all over the southeast. It was somber and serious, yet peaceful and serene. It was the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Memorial Park now open in Montgomery, Alabama. Racial terror lynchings were not restricted to the South but the 20 states identified in the park had the largest number. They included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, ...
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The venerable “American Experience” series on PBS on May 29, 2018 aired a 2-hour documentary on “The Chinese Exclusion Act.”  The directors were Ric Burns (brother and sometime collaborator of Ken) and Li-Shin Yu, and it featured an impressive cast of historians discussing this seminal episode of American racism.  All social studies teachers and those seriously interested in U.S. history should see the documentary, which is available for streaming (at least for now) at https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/chinese-exclusion-act/ . It is also available for sale as a dvd or as an iTunes download, and material about the documentary, and selected clips, ...
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With the issue of chemical weapons recently in the news, students might find this of interest, especially since little is known of the success of this convention in destroying stockpiles of this weapon of mass destruction. Links are included for further research. Toxic weapons made of chemicals are nothing new. They’ve been around for thousands of years as poisoned arrows, lethal smoke or noxious fumes, but -- following their use-- they were eventually considered too cruel and unfair for ‘civilized battle’, and efforts were made to ban them. Nevertheless during World War I toxic chemicals such as chlorine or mustard gas were released causing over 90,000 deaths ...
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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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