What pulled you into teaching history, and eventually, becoming a history textbook author?
I grew up with maternal grandparents who spoke German as a first language; my grandmother was born in the US but into a large German-speaking farming family and my grandfather emigrated from Ukraine (at the time we called it the USSR or Russia). This made me curious about European history and languages so I first studied German, then French, and finally ended up in French history because of my interest in the French Revolution. I loved studying history and also teaching it, both in large undergraduate classes and small seminars. It seemed to me then and still seems to me now that studying history gives you a new perspective on yourself, your family, your community and your nation and a sense of belonging to a wider world. Textbooks are essential because they provide an introduction to all the fascinating questions that could be studied in greater depth and they also, when they work well, give a sense of how things fit together, whether it’s different kinds of experience (war, economic change, cultural variations) or developments over time (how much we have inherited from the past).
Can you tell us a little bit about the courses you teach/have taught and where you've taught?
I began my career at the University of California, Berkeley teaching Western Civ, general European history and French history in particular. I have taught very large lecture classes (many hundreds of students) and small seminars, both undergraduate and graduate, and everything in between. Berkeley was somewhat unusual (aside from the fact that it was Berkeley, the home of radicalism) in that the history department required every major to write a thesis, not just the honors students. This got students involved in original research and writing and was often very rewarding both to students and their professors. After Berkeley I went to the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, but I still taught the same variety of courses. Then I went to UCLA where I continued to teach a variety of courses. I still teach an online summer version of Western Civ. I loved all the places where I taught and found the students always very engaged (not every single one, of course!), though I also learned that students respond to their professors – if they sense enthusiasm and passion for the subject, they tend to feel the same way themselves.
With The Making of the West going into best-selling 7th edition, and a new Achieve platform, what are you most excited about showing your fellow history professors this fall?
The online component of teaching is only going to grow, and the most important thing is that that component reflect the same research and analysis that go into textbook writing and the research and writing of history more generally. What I like about the Macmillan platform for the 7 th edition is that it had great input from my co-authors and myself. It reflects our interests and priorities, not some generic template. At the same time, Achieve offers so many choices. No one has to do the same thing as everyone else; the customization possibilities are endless, as I discovered for myself teaching this course with Launchpad over the last few years.
What are the biggest themes that you try to convey? What are the organizing principles of The Making of the West?
Interconnection above all else: we have tried to bring all the different kinds of history (from military to women’s and gender history) together into a seamless (in so far as that is possible) narrative without privileging any one aspect or region. Interconnection in the sense, too, that Europe is part of a wider world and we would like to think that we were very much in the forefront of emphasizing that aspect of Western Civ.
What has been the best "teachable moment" to emerge from teaching in the era of the pandemic?
I am not sure that enough has been made of how the online format can actually increase professor-student interactions. If you teach a bricks and mortar version of Western Civ as I have, it is very hard to get to know individual students if you have a class of 150-500 students (except those in your own section if you have one). And it’s very hard to get students to come to office hours because they have busy schedules and are often convinced that no one will be very interested in their problems when there are so many other students. With the move online during the pandemic, students have been more willing to email their professors because it’s the only way to contact them. Yes, in synchronous classes, you can stay and ask a question after the lecture but in asynchronous ones, you cannot. But you can email the professor or attend his or her zoom office hours. Without this, I’m afraid that the pandemic would have been even more disastrous for learning.
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The Tokyo games will begin this Friday, July 23, and there has been recent news around Rule 50 of the Olympic games which bans “demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda in Olympic venues.” The Olympics, though, have a long history of protests, and I think it’s helpful to view current events in the context of this history.
Here are three stories of protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. If you watch or follow the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and the associated protest that might occur, you can think of them within this larger context of historical protest at these world games.
Tommie Smith’s and John Carlos ’ protest is probably the most famous of these games. The two men won the gold and bronze medals in the 200 meter race. When receiving their medals, Smith and Carlos wore black socks without shoes to symbolize African-American poverty and a black glove to symbolize African-American strength and unity, and they each raised a fist with lowered heads during the national anthem.
Smith and Carlos were then suspended from the US team and forced to leave the Olympic Village, but they were not forced to return their medals.
Wyomia Tyus is mostly known as a former world-record holder in the 100 meter race, and the first person to win gold in this event twice. During her 1968 gold-medal performance, she also protested against racism and human rights abuses through her clothing.
She did so by wearing dark blue running shorts , in contrast to the white ones the other Americans in this event wore. She also criticized the actions taken against Smith and Carlos for their own protest. Her shorts are now in the National Museum of African American History and Culture , and she recently published a memoir detailing these games.
In gymnastics, Věra Čáslavská also protested at these historic games. When receiving her four gold and two silver medals, she turned her head from the Soviet flag. Two months earlier, the Soviet Union had invaded Čáslavská’s home of Czechoslovakia. She then fled to the forest and trained by swinging from trees and doing floor routines in a meadow.
After the games, Čáslavská was barred from the sport in Czechoslovakia, so she decided to coach in Mexico.
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In May I described my plans for a deconstructed research project to be assigned during my six-week summer intensive course in place of a traditional writing assignment. (See “Summer Project: Assignment Reboot” for details.) My goal was to have the students complete the key elements of a research project in structured sections, due over four weeks, rather than handing in a finished product at the conclusion of the course. Having just finished reading spring-semester research projects, I hoped that with this new approach the summer projects would be academically stronger if they were broken up into sections even though the summer students would have less time to complete the project than the spring semester students. Thanks to everyone who wrote to me after the blog was published to share their experiences with deconstructed projects! So what did I find? Here are some observations from my first experience assigning this project with a class of 24 online students. First, seasoned students who had completed research projects in other courses were initially confused about “the point.” I had a handful ask if they could “just write the whole paper” instead of breaking down the projects into my four step process. Although some students clearly already knew how to complete a research project, I explained that all students could benefit from slowing down the process. Part One of the project asked students to explain their topic and identify three secondary sources in MLA citation form. Right away some students hit a roadblock because they did not know where/how to locate secondary sources and/or they were unfamiliar with MLA. Since they had only seven days to complete the assignment, however, there was no time to procrastinate. Anyone who needed assistance with the sources had to immediately schedule time with our reference librarian, and the majority of students did just that. Having students focus Part Three of the assignment on primary sources provided an opportunity to once again offer help. Part Two asked students to summarize the basics: who/what/where/when/how. Part Three required them to find primary sources to illustrate the details. In semester-long research projects I have consistently seen students ignore the differences between primary and secondary sources as they rush to complete a project in the crunch of a deadline. In the deconstructed project the students had seven days to identify three primary sources. For most students, successful completion of this part of the project meant brushing up on what a primary source is -- I provided links to several online resources as well as a sample of my own work for students to mirror. Again, I reminded students of the short window of time and encouraged them to ask for help. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many students booking virtual appointments with our college librarians and the college Writing Center. Finally, Part Four required students to submit two paragraphs on the historical significance of their topic along with a final Works Cited page in MLA format. I provided several prompts to help the students to think more broadly about their topics and to draw connections to contemporary issues when possible. Once more the students had seven days to complete this part of the project. No time to procrastinate. Ultimately, my trial run with a (time-sensitive) deconstructed research project was a success. The vast majority of students completed all four parts of the assignment on time and I was pleased with the effort put forth. It’s difficult to judge whether the results will be the same during a semester-long course because in my experience students who take summer-intensive courses are extra motivated by the need to earn those last few credits that will allow them to graduate and/or transfer. I’ll try the project in a semester-long format this fall and am considering whether or not to maintain the same four-week plan. I’m curious to see if the four-week approach reduces the amount of procrastination that tends to seep into semester-long research projects. Thoughts? Suggestions?
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As I’m thinking about the start of the new school year I’m brainstorming the return to campus. At my community college, a return to campus in September will mean students in the physical classrooms after nearly eighteen months of remote learning. I’m wondering how to help students reconnect in that physical space after working independently for so long. Usually the first day of classes is spent discussing the syllabus and course expectations. While these tasks will still be part of my plan, I’ve decided to also have students group-share on that first day to discuss how their working lives have changed as a result of the pandemic. Here are some of the questions I will have students address in small groups: Did you work before the pandemic began? If so, what did you do? How did the earliest months of the pandemic impact your personal work life or the experiences of those with whom you live? Did you change jobs during the pandemic? If so, why/why not? What was your experience seeking work during the pandemic? How could a historian document your pandemic work experience? What artifacts may exist that could help tell the story of your experience in the future? What do you want students one hundred years from now to know about your pandemic-era work experiences? I’m inspired to start the semester with this discussion because I believe that the majority of my students or their families will have experienced some significant work-related changes during the pandemic era. We spend a great deal of time in my US history classes studying the changes that came about during the First and Second World Wars in regards to work. The most recognizable icon to students on the first day of US History II is always “Rosie the Riveter” -- even if they cannot explain her significance they are able to link her to World War II. I’m hoping to help students to see that their experiences during the pandemic will one day be the subject of study in history classes. In addition, I’m hoping that by focusing on work rather than health issues during the pandemic I can help the students connect to each other without delving too deeply into painful personal experiences/losses that may have occurred as a result of COVID-19. I want the students, from the very first day back together in the classroom, to be reminded of their shared experiences as a society over the past eighteen months. Do you have any plans for re-integrating students into the physical classroom this fall? Please share.
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Vice President Kamala Harris faced criticism this week for telling Guatemalans not to come to the US/Mexican border seeking entry without first following other pathways to citizenship. Whether or not we concur with the White House’s stance on undocumented people and conditions at the US/Mexican border, as historians we can agree that our students know more about the political mud-slinging that goes on in relation to immigration policy than they do about the countries that are the birthplaces of millions of people who desire economic opportunity and security here in the United States. I am acutely aware of the students’ frustration with this lack of knowledge because I teach at a community college with a large population of students whose families are from the Caribbean and Latin America. In most cases, the students themselves were either born in the United States or were brought to this country at such a young age that they do not remember the living conditions that led to their families’ migrations. Often they will say they know only that their families were “extremely poor” or that one or both of their parents sought political asylum in the United States. Family members, the students tell their professors, are often reluctant to discuss the conditions that led to the immensely difficult decision to leave their homeland. It’s time for us, as historians, to help these young people understand their families’ origin stories. At my college we hope to start this process by hiring an historian who can teach courses specifically related to Latin America and the Caribbean, while also helping us to create a more globally-based survey course. None of this may sound groundbreaking to those of you who teach at universities with dozens of fields of specialization. However, those who teach at community colleges across the United States have long faced the challenge of teaching outside of our fields of expertise so that we can offer as many courses as possible. For an increasingly diverse student population, we must do better. Consider, for example, that the American Association of Community Colleges reported in 2019 that approximately 41% of all undergraduates in the US are enrolled at community colleges. When we look at statistics for Native American, Hispanic, and Black college students those numbers increase to 56%, 53%, and 43% respectively. It’s well past time, then, for community colleges to commit to more diversity in their history curriculum and to offer content beyond the traditional US history and Western Civilization courses that have typically transferred seamlessly to four-year colleges. If students of color are taking their first college history courses at community colleges, those courses need to not only educate them about important historical events but also help them to see where they -- as people -- fit into the narrative of world history. For first-generation Americans and first-generation college students this need is especially great. To my fellow community college faculty, a question: what courses is your department offering outside of the traditional US and Western Civilization surveys? How have students responded to the offerings? Is enrollment strong or struggling? I’d love to hear from Macmillan Community faculty grappling with this important challenge.
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This past semester a kind of remote-learning fatigue seemed to set in amongst my students. Coupled with my own remote-teaching fatigue, final projects were less ambitious than in previous years and took me much longer to grade. I’ve decided that summer is a good time for a reboot of the semester-long research project to re-energize my instruction and help students to focus on the quality of each individual part of their research project. I’m teaching a six-week intensive Black History course this summer and instead of assigning the research project at the start and then waiting to see the results at the end of the session, I’m breaking the assignment into four parts that will be submitted separately. The goal of the project is for students to research an aspect of Black History that we will not cover in detail as a class but relates directly to the larger themes and content. Together the four parts will comprise a research project, but students will be graded on each individual section as it is completed rather than on one document at the course’s end. Here is my work-in-progress plan for what will be submitted in each part of the project during the six-week course: Part One (due Week Two) Topic with thesis statement and defined parameters. Example: a study of the life/work of Martin Luther King, Jr., would be too broad for this project but a study of the significance of MLK’s work in Montgomery in 1955 or Birmingham in 1963 would work well. Draft Works Cited: three secondary sources in MLA format. Sources will be articles retrieved from College Library’s databases; students will receive support from a reference librarian. Part Two (due Week Three) In 2-3 detailed paragraphs, explain the who/what/where/when/how of the topic. Use in-text citations (MLA format) to identify sources used. Part Three (due Week Four) Three annotated primary sources providing examples to support information presented in Part Two and illustrate key aspects of the topic. Examples: images of subject/events, newspaper/magazine articles from period, segments of speeches/letters/writings from period. Each source should have a 1-2 sentence annotation to explain its relevance to the topic. Primary sources may come from academic databases or from the general web. Sources must be cited in MLA format. Part Four (due Week Five) Two paragraph conclusion that addresses historical significance Where does the topic fit within the wider framework of our course? What was the long-term impact of the topic on the history of the era we are studying? Final version of Works Cited page It is my hope that by deconstructing this research assignment my students will experience the value of producing quality components that together create a well thought-out project. I would love to hear from anyone who has tried this kind of piece-by-piece assignment and whether they were satisfied with the results. Any pitfalls I need to be prepared for? Suggestions welcome!
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Last week in his blog post “History of Violence in the Chinese Community ” my Macmillan Community colleague Steven Huang emphasized the importance of studying the historical origins of the anti-Asian violence that we have seen dramatically increase since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. In particular, Steven encourages us to listen to the voices of Asian-American people across the United States as we search for a more comprehensive approach to anti-racism. I’ve been particularly struck by the increased media attention on anti-Asian violence because so many of the students at the community college where I teach identify as Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI). In my US History II survey class we study the nineteenth-century origins of anti-Chinese and anti-Japanese sentiment in the western part of the United States. Students in the course have researched Angel Island and Japanese Picture Brides for their independent projects, and the centerpiece of our discussion of World War II is the internment of people of Japanese descent from 1942-1945. And yet, there is so much more that we could/should be covering to gain a more complete picture of the history of AAPI people in the United States. It stands to reason, then, that many of us who teach US history need to increase the presence of AAPI in our survey courses. Here are some web-based resources that I have found useful: A great place to start the search for new material to share with students is Elizabeth Kleinrock’s article “After Atlanta: Teaching About Asian American Identity and History” ( Learning for Justice, 17 March 2021). “ I can’t change the past...” Kleinrock writes, “But what I can do in this moment is direct these emotions into action to take one step towards ensuring that no Asian child is called ‘Kung-flu’ by a classmate and that my students will not grow up to harass and attack people of Asian descent on the street.” Kleinrock shares the results from having surveyed her students about their knowledge of Asian Americans after the Atlanta attack, and then identifies materials that can help begin the conversation about AAPI history in the classroom. Numerous government historical repositories including the Library of Congress and the National Archives are hosting a joint web site for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month . In addition to finding links to videos from the Smithsonian’s historical collections, teachers and students can access numerous primary sources and lesson plans on such topics as the annexation of Hawaii, immigration, and exclusion. The University of Southern California library system has developed an extensive digital finding aid for primary sources related to AAPI . In addition to print sources and dozens of photographs, the site contains images of artifacts found as the result of archeological digs in California. Students will be fascinated to see the items retrieved from the site of a former Chinese laundry (circa 1880-1933), among other interesting pieces of social and cultural history. Any conversation about the history of immigration to the United States is incomplete without discussion of Angel Island, the Pacific Coast’s point of entry from 1910 to 1940. It has been my experience that the majority of college students have no idea that immigrants entered the country through any place but Ellis Island (New York). The Angel Island Immigration Foundation site documents a period when people from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, South America, Russia, Asia and the Pacific Islands sought entry to the United States through the island off of San Francisco. Immigration restrictions placed on people of Asian descent made the process extremely complex and stressful in these years, and Angel Island served as a location at which authorities could separate the immigrants by nationality to prevent the entry of “excluded” people. A simple Google search for AAPI-related historical materials will lead to many more open resources -- what I’m offering in this blog is merely a starting point. It is critical that we convey to students that any discussion of race/racism must include the challenges faced by the AAPI communities throughout our national history. The willingness to include these groups in our course curriculum is a great way to start students on the path to deeper understanding.
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As a historian, I’m thinking a lot lately about when the “era of 2020” will begin and end within the US survey. In addition to the presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic (social, political, and economic factors) will be center stage for any discussion of the historical events of 2020. In US history classes there will undoubtedly be coverage of the efforts of Black Lives Matter and other civil rights organizations to draw attention to systemic racism after a series of high-profile murders of African Americans during the year. With this week’s conviction of Derek Chauvin in the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, I’m cautiously hopeful that historians of the future will be able to offer students 2021 as a pivot in the American narrative. Perhaps at some point in the future, this week’s verdict in Minnesota will be a marker. Those of us who teach US history have no shortage of examples of times in our national past when the government or the courts have been on the wrong side of history. On April 20, 2021, however, we as a nation watched as a jury of our peers unanimously voted to convict a man of brutal crimes, and for many of our students there is hope in that jury’s decision. Future historians will be looking at the period in which we currently live for evidence of how the nation responded to the verdict. This moment offers us a unique opportunity to reflect upon the events of the last thirteen months while encouraging students to be part of the historical record. Ask your students to write a letter or journal entry responding to the Chauvin conviction. Guide their writing with some historically relevant questions: Identify yourself; categories such as age, gender, race, and level of education will be helpful to historians reading your writing in years to come. When do you recall first learning about the death of George Floyd? What media sources did you rely upon for information? Did you feel confident that you could trust these sources? Why/why not? Did you attend any events related to social justice issues during 2020? If so, where/when? Did you follow the public debate about police reform? Did you see any specific changes take place in your community related to the subject? Did your friends/family discuss/follow the case? How would you characterize the conversations about race and policing that took place around you? How did you/your community respond to the verdict? Finally, ask your students to think about bias. Did the knowledge that future generations might read their reflections of the Chauvin conviction influence what they wrote? How? Assigning this responsive writing as an extra-credit or low-stakes assignment provides students the opportunity to be reflective while also documenting perspectives in this historic time. Brainstorm with the students how best to preserve their writings. As someone who loves archival research, I would be partial to donating paper copies of the students’ work to archive at my college. Students who feel less inclined to share their views, however, might embrace the idea of sealing their essay in an envelope and stashing it away somewhere for safe keeping. Even those who chose not to share their work as part of an archive donation will no doubt be interested in revisiting their 2021-perspective later in life.
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It shouldn’t go unnoticed that as millions of people across the United States were being vaccinated against COVID-19 last week, jury selection was concluding in the criminal case against Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of murdering George Floyd in May 2020. Two of the most significant news stories of 2020 continue to captivate the public's attention in 2021. No doubt in years to come history textbooks will chronicle the events of 2020 as reflections of each other: the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis; the horrific deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd; the historic election that put into office the first female vice president. Future historians will be asked to measure the impact of each of these touchstones in our national history as these events will forever be connected in the historical narrative and the public’s collective memory. This week, therefore, I’m asking my students to identify aspects of American life that they believe have permanently changed as a result of these national and international events. I’ve created an optional discussion board (extra credit) for students to reflect on the past twelve months. In particular, I want students to evaluate what they perceive as the pace of or lack of change. A point of context for this discussion: in women’s history classes we examine the dramatic shift in employment from service areas to the defense industry experienced by American women during the two world wars. In 1917 and 1942, for example, millions of women saw their work lives change dramatically with higher wages and better opportunities. The post-war periods, however, saw those same working-women struggle to maintain the economic gains they had made during the war years. Ultimately most returned to low-paying jobs. In other words, short-term change came and went quickly. Long-term change is still a work in progress. I’m hopeful that this no-stakes assignment will provide the students with an opportunity to share observations and insights about the past twelve months across their diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. I plan to leave the discussion board open for several weeks so that students have time to consider each other’s perspectives and contribute thoughtful responses. I’d love to hear from other faculty seeking ways to help students to grapple with the events of 2020.
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The controversy surrounding six of Theodor Geisel’s books that will no longer be published or licensed by Dr. Seuss Enterprises has led several of my former students to reach out and reflect upon the brief time we spent studying the illustrator’s World War II-era cartoons. Every semester my US History II students use the digital collection Dr. Seuss Went to War as part of our discussion of race on the home front. In light of the current debate, Geisel’s war-time cartoons offer a hands-on way for students to examine the artist’s controversial works without directly having to access the six books in question. More importantly, the cartoons create an opportunity for reflection on how depictions of people of color in popular culture have changed over the course of our national history and the evolution of what we as a society deem “acceptable.” When studying the World War II-era cartoons, I ask students to think about how a person of Japanese heritage might have responded to Geisel’s stereotypical renderings of Japanese leaders. Year after year, my students consistently cite Geisel’s depiction of legions of Japanese-Americans lining the Pacific coastline to receive their share of dynamite in “Waiting for the Signal from Home” (February 1942) as problematic: a group of people, the vast majority of which were US citizens who expressed no support of a Japanese invasion of the United States, were portrayed as willing participants in a possible attack on the nation. How, the students ask, could people of Japanese descent counter accusations of sedition and treason in a climate in which the mainstream media depicted them as guilty? In a piece for The Atlantic titled “In Our House Dr. Seuss Was Contraband,” (March 2021) Michael Harriot describes his African-American mother’s disdain for Seuss’s depiction of people of color as the primary reason why his books were not allowed in Harriot’s childhood home in the 1970s. “I assumed most people knew that Seuss, despite the support he expressed for civil rights, was capable of depicting human beings of other races in demeaning ways,” Harriot writes. “Painting Seuss as a victim of rabid ‘wokeness’ is like saying police brutality is a recent epidemic that began when people started uploading cellphone footage.” Harriot’s piece ends with a cautionary note: “The issue matters because the images children see and the words they hear are small but important parts of the person they eventually become.” Recognizing the errors of our national past does not erase or “cancel” them, but instead opens the proverbial door to deeper dialogue and greater understanding. As historians, it is our job to help our students embrace the collective walk through that open door.
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For the past year, Macmillan Learning has been auditing our textbooks in an effort to ensure our content is fully inclusive and reflective of the diverse audiences who use our resources. During this process, we discovered unacceptable content in our World History textbooks, Ways of the World (all editions), by Robert Strayer & Eric Nelson. We recognize how deeply hurtful it is to see language like this and we apologize unreservedly for its inclusion.
While the authors included this historical reference to demonstrate the deep and widespread racism that fueled the British colonial era, this could and should have been illustrated without the use of offensive terminology.
Creating educational products that are diverse, inclusive, and non-offensive is a priority for us as a company. Copies of the textbook that include this language will no longer be delivered to any colleges or universities. We are in the process of revising our student editions and e-books to remove this reference.
Moving forward we will include a broader and more diverse group of reviewers and apply stricter guidelines that have been developed in the last year to all of our teaching and learning materials to create better and more inclusive content. Our audit will continue and we will take immediate action on any further issues that are identified.
If you want to participate in our process or if you find content that you feel needs to be reviewed, we invite you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Executive Vice President, General Manager
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One of the greatest professional disappointments of the COVID-19 pandemic for me personally was the necessary cancellation of the 2020 Organization of American Historians (OAH) Annual Meeting. I had been super excited to participate in a panel called “State, Society, and ‘Correcting the Body,’” during which I would have presented research begun during my 2019 sabbatical. Instead I spent that April weekend in lock down, at home, helping my students and my own children transition to fully remote classes. I truly missed the opportunity to engage with fellow historians and teachers, and to hear about the new research happening in our field. This week, therefore, I want to encourage us all to visit the online resources of the many professional organizations dedicated to supporting our teaching and research. Most of us belong to at least one professional organization. Maybe, like me, you have a pile of publications in your home office waiting to be read when the challenge of recording online lectures and holding virtual meetings with students wanes this summer. Don’t wait, however, to visit the organization’s web sites, many of which have been updated to support remote teaching and learning. Here are just a few examples: The Organization of American Historians (OAH) is moving forward with this year’s Annual Meeting, Pathways to Democracy , virtually and has a robust schedule of panels and speakers available through their website. The event features both live and on-demand content this year, as well as workshops and discussion groups. The American Historical Association (AHA) has a particularly useful collection of online resources available through their Teaching & Learning Remote link, which reflect the wide-range of areas studied by AHA members. Materials are listed chronologically, geographically, thematically, and by resource type. Visit the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations website for a list of articles on teaching foreign relations to secondary and post-secondary students, in addition to suggested syllabi and assignments . The site also includes an extensive list of digital archives useful for students researching US foreign relations. The Society for History Education has past issues of their publication, The History Teacher, archived on their website, allowing visitors access to dozens of articles on the practice and process of teaching history. Scrolling through the vast collection is a great way to think about refreshing lectures and topics in our courses with new research. Finally, check out the American Social History Project ’s list of History Resources for educators. Their current work on Teaching Elections and Mob Violence in US History may be of particular use this semester. If you’ve let your membership to a professional organization lapse, still visit their site! Many of the resources are offered free-of-charge for student and faculty use. And, of course, consider renewing your professional memberships if you are able. As we approach the one year mark of teaching and learning from home, connecting with fellow teachers and researchers through professional organizations’ web presence is a great way to re-energize ourselves and our virtual classrooms.
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In a January 2019 blog titled “Making Connections: History & Medicine” I wrote about the importance of incorporating the history of health care into survey history courses. At the time I was deeply entrenched in sabbatical research on women and the treatment of the mentally ill, which afforded me the opportunity to explore lots of sources that were new to me as someone who had not previously studied the history of medicine. Fast forward two years and healthcare in the United States has become even more central to the narrative of general US and world history. Thankfully, there are numerous online sources that can supplement our courses as we navigate the constantly changing world of science and medicine. As we have now entered the vaccination stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s useful to encourage students to look at the long and controversial history of vaccines in the United States. The College of Physicians of Physicians of Philadelphia has a fabulous interactive site that allows students to examine the history of vaccines worldwide through 2018 as well as an article titled “The Scientific Method in Vaccine History” that enables comparison of earlier practices in the development of vaccines to what we as a society have witnessed over the last twelve months. Ask students to think about the time frame that today’s scientists and public health officials have worked with in comparison to early efforts against smallpox and measles. Film footage of mass-vaccination efforts are another interesting way to connect what students are seeing in news reports to historical events. Internet Archive enables students to search internationally-produced government films on vaccination efforts. Of particular interest to today’s students is “Unconditional Surrender,” which documents the story of the first child to be vaccinated against polio in the United States in 1954. The American Social History Project has created “Epidemics in US History” as a gathering point for primary sources on smallpox, cholera, influenza, and AIDS. The site provides links to online exhibits by the United States Library of Medicine, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Museum of the City of New York, each of which enable students to consider how American society has dealt with infectious disease in earlier periods. Finally, the advertising industry’s long-standing relationship to healthcare is illustrated by the nearly 600 examples of health-related ads curated by the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, & Marketing History at Duke University. Who knew, for example, that Scott Tissue was once marketed as a protective face mask? Encouraging students to study such healthcare-related advertisements is yet another innovative way to advance discussion of our historical understanding of germs and disease, health and wellness.
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Historians are supposed to have the luxury of time to gain perspective and evaluate sources. Right now, however, we are living through a period in which our silence on current debates does not help our students to grapple with the seriousness of events happening around them. So where do we place ourselves in the discussion? Do we focus on the past, the present or the future? This week I’m encouraging students to look at inaugurations of the past for symbols of how dramatically different current conditions are in the United States today. A visit to the National Archives website for A Promise to Faithfully Execute the Office: Presidential Inaugurations offers students numerous examples of the way the inauguration as a ceremony has changed over time. Students can also read the original version of George Washington’s first inaugural address and consider transitions of power that took place during other times of national tumult, such as the Civil War. The striking visual differences between today’s inaugural events (with a tiny audience) and those past ceremonies held with millions of Americans bearing witness on the National Mall should strike students as symbolic of the problems our new president will inherit. Today’s students have the privilege of witnessing a woman being installed as vice president. As the child of immigrants and a woman of color, the success of Kamala Harris should be marked for the amazing significance it holds -- the culmination of centuries of activism by historically under-represented groups of Americans. Many of us are old enough to remember the 1984 presidential campaign and the novelty of Geraldine Ferraro as a vice presidential candidate. When hopeful voters supported the failed Mondale/Ferraro ticket in 1984 could they have imagined it would be thirty-seven years before a woman reached the vice presidency? We can’t celebrate Harris’s victory without remembering all of those women who broke ground before her. Smithsonian Magazine offers students an introduction to Ferraro’s campaign in this piece “The Woman who Paved the Way” (August 10, 2020) , which will help them to draw comparisons to Sarah Palin’s run for vice president in 2008 as well as Harris’s successful 2020 campaign. Finally, we need to encourage our students to look to the future with hope and a healthy dose of realism. Millions of American voters supported Donald Trump’s bid for reelection. The Biden/Harris administration faces the enormous task of reunifying the nation. Suggest that students consider other times in our history when newly-elected presidents have faced seemingly insurmountable challenges. Several journalists and historians have written recently about what the rebuilding of the nation might require. The Boston Globe this week offered an interesting starting point for students to consider the historical challenges ahead, see “Unity without justice is dangerous, historians say. Just look at the Civil War” (January 16, 2021) No matter our personal political beliefs, the inauguration of a new president is the perfect time to ask students to assess how the past has affected the present, and in what ways it might continue to influence the future. How are you tackling these challenging historical questions? Please share.
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