So I’ve been reading a lot of pushback against the new AP US history curriculum lately, much of it from the political right, and almost all of it lamenting the lack of emphasis on “American Exceptionalism” or “what made the country great.” A good amount of it is the standard hand-wringing along the lines of “Where are all the famous white people? George Washington was more important than Harriet Tubman, for Crissakes!” and “We’re the good guys [and it is always ‘we’ in these screeds]! Democracy, freedom, and [insert platitude here] are our gift to the world.” Most of this stuff is easy to ignore because it’s so predictable, and it descends into unintentional self-parody quicker than you can disprove the Laffer Curve. Continue reading ““American Exceptionalism,” Teaching Patriotism, and Other Lazy Fallacies”
Every semester, I do it.
I plan on comparing my syllabi to make sure that I spread out exams and papers between my various classes so the assignments aren’t all dumped on me at once, and EVERY DAMN TIME I screw it up and get bombed with exams and papers on the same day. Then I drag them all home in an oversized publisher’s tote bag I got from some conference, muttering and cursing about my inability to perform such basic tasks as comparing calendars. MATH IS HARD, OK? QUIT JUDGING ME!
They’re on display in the “1863” half of the 1863/1963 exhibit in the African American History Gallery on the second floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In a display case, next to the ads for a slave auction and text describing the ways in which humans were bought and sold as chattel in the American South, they sit: a petite-sized set of cast-iron leg shackles, the spare, stark description reading “shackles used for slave children.” Continue reading “They Shackled Children.”
Thanks to enrollment-related course-schedule-shuffling, this fall I will be teaching a section of one of our world history surveys, “The Medieval World.” The rub: I am trained as a historian of 18th and 19th century US and Latin America. Welcome to the world of small-college teaching!
In part one of my survey-course manifesto, I argued that the way in which historians in higher education approach the survey course–as a content-driven venture–is inadequate for the goals which I think college-level History courses ought to embody. In a climate where students have ready access to more information than ever before, we need to abandon the older paradigm of Professor-as-Sole-Purveyor-of-Content. And in relinquishing that mindset, I believe we need to also strongly consider jettisoning the standard pedagogical operating procedure of the history professoriate: the lecture. Continue reading “Death to the Content Dump, part deux: More Survey-Course Thoughts”
Lately, in preparation for my upcoming gig as Director of my university’s Center for Teaching & Learning, I’ve been immersed in the scholarly literature on teaching and learning. More than anything else, this immersion has affirmed my sense that in my native disciplinary land of History, we need to reassess (or–gasp!–ditch) the survey course. Now, this may seem counter-intuitive. The Id of my profession is yelling: isn’t this course where we serve our institutions’ core curricula? Isn’t it through the survey courses that we reach the most students? If we modify or scrap the survey, won’t college students become even more historically illiterate and thus bring about the collapse of all that is good and holy in western civilization? DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER! ANARCHY OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS!