Sunday, February 24, 2008

Abbott and Costello - Who's on First - Computers

This is great.
They've redone Abbott and Costello with Humor: Who's on First - the computer version
The Cate's are great.


Monday, February 18, 2008

History Today - Kosova's War of Independence or Serbia's Civil War?

I would love to be teaching history or social studies. Particularly with a little freedom from standards and lesson plans. Today for instance, I'd start with this news story:

Kosovo Breaks Away: Province declares itself sovereign; Serbia says it's illegal

Kosovo's regional parliament declared independence Sunday, a much anticipated break with Serbia that swiftly triggered an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.

The vote during a special session of parliament — boycotted by 11 Serb members but approved unanimously by the 109 other members — set Kosovo on a road to be recognized as the world's youngest nation.

By dusk, this icy-cold city turned into a giant street party, its skies twinkling with fireworks and its main streets filled with families strolling in wonder and youth dancing with joy."Now we have our flag and our state," said Minire Deliu, whose 12- and 7-year-old sons twirled to the beat of folk music in the open air. "During war, my children cried. Now they are dancing."Serbia promptly called the declaration by its southernmost province illegal. Thanks to the Sun Sentinel for this article excerpt.

I would start the discussion by asking how people might feel if they were part of such an effort. Why would they do it? What would they expect to happen? How will Serbia react? Eventually, we'd compare all these questions with what happened when the US declared it's independence. I'd have the kids research whether Kosova had their own declaration of independence. I'd compare it with others. Will there be a war of indepence afterwards? Or should we call it a civil war? What would decide whether it will be a civil war or war of independence?

Like I said, textbooks only get in the way. History needs to be alive and vivid to be worth studying. I have no idea how comparable this declaration of independence is to the American declaration of independence or the Succession by the South from the Union. But, give me a classroom of kids and I'm surely we could learn more from asking, researching, and debating the questions than we could from any of the textbooks.

I wonder if this would work online? That's one of my projects for this year. Want to help?


Textbooks & Education

One of the reasons that I'm interested in developing curriculum is that I'm convinced that we need to end our reliance on textbooks to teach history. Here's the reason.

1. History is gripping riveting stories of empires in balance, public trust betrayed, unlikely heros, tragic downfalls, economic realities, and the march of ideas and progress. It's gritty real-world stuff which told properly, is amazing.

2. Textbooks are committee-created sanitized versions of what some conservative committee felt that history should have been. Almost everything that is interesting seems to disappear in the process. All the drama is replaced with dry factual analysis.

Why does this happen? I'm not sure.
How do I know it happens? Read any decent novel or watch any historical film. Compare it with a so-called educational textbook. Which one has a chance of holding anyone's interest?

So, I'd like to develop some history curriculum in which the "curriculum textbook" connects the dots between popular novels and films which tell the story. And while a school system would surely seek to avoid such an approach, I think the homeschoolers would adopt it in droves.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why did we adopt the constitution? Part 2

The paper (see Why did we adopt the constitution? Part I) that I wrote was on Shays' Rebellion. Rather than quote my old paper, I'll summarize from the web.

Shays' Rebellion "had a great influence on public opinion," as Samuel Eliot Morison notes; it was the fiercest outbreak of discontent in the early republic, and public feeling ran high on both sides. After the rebellion was defeated, the trial of the insurgents in 1787 was closely watched and hotly debated...The rebellion arose in Massachusetts in 1786, spread to other states, and culminated in an abortive attack on a federal arsenal. It wound down in 1787 with the election of a more popular governor, an economic upswing, and the creation of the Constitution of the United States in Philadelphia. Calliope Film Resources. "Shays' Rebellion." Copyright 2000 CFR. Feb 2008

Shays' Rebellion had a generally unifying effect upon the supporters of a stronger national government. It provided the motivation that led to the success of the Federal Convention during the summer of 1787 and the recreation of the US under a Federally oriented constitution and the abandonment of the Articles of Confederation under which the US had originally formed.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Why did we adopt the constitution?

I found a paper that I wrote in college the other day. It was around 10 pages, beautifully written, received an A-, and on a topic that I know nothing about. In fact, if it didn't have my name on it, I would not have known that I wrote it.

It turns out that I used to know alot. And once I started reading it, the subject matter came back to me (in part). Right now, the name escapes me.

The question behind the paper was this. We became an independent country following the success of the Revolutationary War. Then we elected George Washington president, adopted the articles of confederation, and started out as a new country. However, a number of years later (I think 10, the United States decided to change our form of government. We convened a very painful Constitutional Convention and over a long painful summer, wrote the constitutional basis for a new government which is the basis of our country and government today.

What moved the young country to start again after that first decade? I think this is an overlooked point in American history which we can learn from....