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Every high school student should read On Tyranny. Yale Historian Timothy Snyder has written a powerful and timely book. His slim volume’s subtitle is Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth-Century. He aptly describes it as, “a guide for surviving and resisting America’s turn towards authoritarianism.”   The author's message is one we often tell our students: each generation must defend democracy, extend its freedoms, and make improvements in our institutions. In our present moment, he argues, “American democracy must be defended from Americans who would exploit freedoms to bring about its end.” Snyder’s book is a non-fiction cautionary tale. He reminds ...
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As students return to the classroom this fall social studies teachers face unique challenges to teaching about our American democracy. We have a former President who refuses to accept the results of the 2020 election, unprecedented in our history. In January, our students watched news footage of a mob attacking the US Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power. Dozens of statewide bills have been introduced to suppress voter turnout, with some becoming law. In addition, various media and social media outlets propagate misinformation and conspiracy theories, undermining citizen’s ability to sort out fact from fiction. It is a daunting terrain for any social ...
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Most would-be entrepreneurs dream big, and while there is nothing wrong with that, they should remember that starting small and slowly building a business is a better recipe for success.  Owning a profitable business is a marathon, not a sprint. Those who start on too grand a scale fare much like Icarus, who burnt his feathered wings because he flew too close to the sun. Here are some tips for starting small and building your business from there: Keep your initial investment small According to PersonalMoneyStore, among the five money mistakes you might make are overextending yourself financially to start a business. Going into debt to start ...
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China’s e-commerce market is the largest in the world, being worth 1 trillion US dollars by 2019. Small wonder then that so many entrepreneurs and businesses are looking to Chinese consumers as a lucrative but cost-effective market.  The Chinese want to have access to foreign and domestic products that have always been unavailable to them and they are spending more than ever before on online marketplaces.   Get help with activating your e-commerce business   If you want a piece of the e-commerce market in China, you need to know that Chinese consumers are well-informed, smart online-shoppers. The Chinese are willing to open their purse-strings ...
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Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, many schools have either closed and paused all learning, or they are continuing with some form of distance learning, which means that many parents are being introduced to homeschooling for the first time.  The good news is that for the schools continuing with classes, it’s a legal requirement to provide learning resources to students equally.  However, some schools don’t have the funding required to provide each student with Wi-Fi, laptops, and tablets.  If as a parent you find yourself in a situation where you have to homeschool your child for the first time, then you’ll benefit from the following tips, ...
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It is no secret that social studies teachers across the country have been using the Broadway smash hit (and now a Disney+ film) “Hamilton” to help teach about Alexander Hamilton, the American Revolution, and the early national period.  There are many reasons why Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical has resonated with students and teachers, but surely among them is the idea, drawn largely from Ron Chernow’s biography of Hamilton, that he was an abolitionist.  A newly-released research paper by Jessie Serfilippi, released by the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site of New York, however, details Hamilton’s trafficking in slaves, which should dampen the over-enthusiasm for ...
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Anniversaries provide a natural tie-in to history, which social studies teachers can use to stimulate student interest in our subjects.  Often the best treatments of important historical anniversaries, whether in feature newspaper and magazine articles, films, or public commemorations, tie the past to the present.  For example, I began a college course on “historical methods” in January 2020 with a discussion of an Associated Press report on the 100 th anniversary of the Volstead Act, which enforced the 18th amendment to the Constitution; the author, David Crary, appropriately tied the problems of Prohibition with recent debates over legalization of marijuana:  ...
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Election season is upon us. High school civics and government teachers play a special role in introducing students to civic engagement, encouraging our young people to cast their first votes regardless of party or candidate. And this 2020 election cycle has special challenges for high school teachers seeking to convince students of the efficacy of voting. Here are some resources and lessons that may help you. In my classroom, election years began with lessons on the demographic data of voting groups, the type presented by the US Elections Project website. Unfortunately, this data shows young people 18-29 vote in the lowest percentages of any other age group. ...
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Virtual Reality (VR) field trips provide exciting educational experiences for students, whether you're teaching kids in a virtual classroom or a real one.  In my last year of teaching, my social studies students took VR visits to iconic World War II locations, met a Syrian refugee in a Jordanian refugee camp, explored coral reefs, and learned about Cuban dance.  Preparation for VR field trips was easy. Since many of my students already had smartphones, the investment in a VR lab was relatively cheap. The goggles are inexpensive, about $6 a pair. They are made of cardboard and contain two lenses. Smartphones are placed inside the goggles, allowing students ...
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The Age of Illusions:  How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory, by Andrew Bacevich. New York:  Metropolitan Books 2020.  236 pages.  $17.99 hardcover.   Although Andrew Bacevich came late to academia after a long career in the U.S. Army, he has nevertheless produced an impressive array of books and articles dedicated to modern American history.  The latest work in his oeuvre, The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered its Cold War Victory , examines the period from the end of the Cold War through the first years of the Trump administration. Like much of his earlier writing, this book advocates for a more modest American foreign policy and ...
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Discussion and debate over the Electoral College has long been a mainstay of Civics and Early U.S. History courses.  Why did the framers of the Constitution institute an indirect and even convoluted system of selecting the President, rather than relying on the popular vote?  Does the winner-take-all system within each state protect the rights of states within our federal system, or does it distort elections by encouraging candidates to focus on the so-called swing states?  Does it give too much power to small states such as Wyoming and Vermont, whose electoral votes are out of proportion to their population, or too much power to large states, such as California ...
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Social justice and anti-racist education are finally having their moment. As a teacher of color, I’m proud and excited that my colleagues, districts, and local officials are ready to acknowledge the need for diverse studies that reflect the students we teach. At the same time, I hope that our anti-racist social studies teaching paints a full picture of those we hope to teach about, one that does not shy away from the vast history of oppression, but one that also depicts joy and culture as well.  A lot of the anti-racist teaching discourse focuses on shedding light on the severity of oppression inflicted upon communities of color as a side of the American ...
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July 17 th our country lost a living legend. John Lewis began his quest for civil rights as a teenager. He was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington. A famous 1965 photograph shows Alabama state police swinging a club at Lewis’ head while he demonstrated for African American voting rights in Selma. Unbowed, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1986 serving 17 terms. He became known as the “conscience of the Congress”. An Alabama State Trooper swings his club at John Lewis' head during the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on May 7, 1965. (Newscom/Everett Collection) The lessons of ...
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One of the benchmarks in the revised 2017 NCSS guidelines for accreditation of teacher education programs is that candidates demonstrate “civic engagement.”  Just as we expect social studies education to foster civic engagement among our secondary school students, our future social studies teachers should model such activities as well, according to NCSS.  Zachary Tayler, who was in my Teaching Social Studies Methods course in Fall 2017 and then did his student teaching in Spring 2018, was in the first cohort of secondary social studies education students at Shippensburg University for which the civic engagement project was a requirement.  I am pleased to report ...
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The landscape of the social studies classroom will be different this fall. Our students will have witnessed, and in some cases participated in, the outpouring of protests against police brutality prompted by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis officers. And as Confederate statues fall and we debate military base names, no doubt our discussions will go beyond the issue of police misconduct to the larger topic of racism in the US. An excellent book, one that can help you and your students navigate this moment, is The Color of Law written by Richard Rothstein in 2017.  The subtitle of the book is A Forgotten History of How Our Government ...
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It has been jarring to see current images of US farmers dumping milk, destroying crops and animals, while long lines of hungry Americans wait at food banks. For those of us who teach US History, it is sadly reminiscent of the Great Depression when farmers poured out milk and plowed under pigs, while famished Americans stood in breadlines and soup kitchens. “History never repeats itself but it often rhymes,” seems tragically true today.  To give context to what students are seeing in the news today, have students explore these historical parallels with a variety of written and online resources.        Farmers Dumping Milk During the Great Depression ...
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The coronavirus health crisis has sent the US economy reeling. To help high school students make sense of the headlines this May, economics teachers can provide online instruction with several websites that track unemployment rates and the gross domestic product. In addition, students at home can play two online macroeconomic games, simulating difficult monetary and fiscal policy decisions faced by our government leaders. Economists now predict a rapid increase in unemployment as large sectors of the economy shut down. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) contains both current and historical information on unemployment and inflation rates . Teachers can ...
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Schools around the country are closed in response to the novel coronavirus. It is a tough and uncertain situation for students, their parents, and teachers, too. In California, we don’t know if schools will reopen this school year. Many districts are asking teachers to continue to provide instruction to students through various types of online learning. Social studies teachers are scrambling to find web resources and downloadable lessons for their students to access at home. I’ve posted my favorite social studies/history web resources on my A Veteran Teacher’s Lessons website .  In addition, I’ve shared my lesson handouts and materials that can be downloaded ...
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As teachers, we use lots of informal methods to find out what our students know and don’t know. During the year, a quick scan of a homework assignment, a quiz, or a student’s confused look tells us when students need more instruction or practice. When I started teaching I made tests at the end of a unit. After several years in the classroom, I realized it was much better to make an assessment before designing a teaching unit. Creating the unit test first meant I had identified key content knowledge and skills for the unit, ensuring I would make a thoughtful sequence of lessons with the final test in mind.  To my way of thinking, well-designed multiple-choice ...
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All of us have favorite books. I am guessing yours include beautifully written memoirs and histories; perhaps during your younger days a novel with a historical setting inspired your interest in the past.  We need to give our students the insights and exhilaration that comes from reading powerfully written books, both non-fiction and historical fiction.  A well-chosen non-fiction book can help students tackle difficult controversial issues. For example, our students read Sonia Nazario’s book on immigration,   Enrique’s Journey . Nazario is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who chronicles the journey of a 12 year Honduran boy to the US in search of his ...
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