Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I'm buried under summer reading stuff and generally need to pay attention to school.  In the meantime, enjoy the travelogues of my colleague, Matt Noricini.  Funny stuff:

Picture, for a moment, your fondest – or most horrifying – memory of a middle school roller skating party. The intense awkwardness. The desire to impress. The gawkers and the showboaters – the whole intense, adolescent mess that was the rollerskating rink at that moment. That is giro in Albania, and it happens every night.
Read more here:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Yik Yak Yuck

Anybody have any bright ideas on how to deal with Yik-Yak in schools?  For background see here.  We will do the usual exhortations to not be jerks on social media (which has worked somewhat well in the past) but this is a whole new level of yuck. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

More on SHEG

So if you're teaching a lesson on the Philippine-American War and you go to the SHEG website, you get this lesson.  On the surface, it's okay.  It presents two views of the War from a supporter of the war and someone who opposed it.  So far so good.  But the questions that go with it are kind of horrible. 

Here's the second source:

Document B: The following is an excerpt from a letter to the editor of the Kansas City Journal by Colonel Frederick Funston on April 22, 1899.  Funston, who was a war hero for his extensive service in the Philippine-American War, wrote and spoke often about the Philippine-American War in order to increase public support for American involvement in the conflict.
“I am afraid that some people at home will lie awake [at] night worrying about the ethics of this war, thinking that our enemy is fighting for the right to self-government ... [The Filipinos] have a certain number of educated leaders – educated, however, about the same way a parrot is.  They are, as a rule, an illiterate, semi-savage people who are waging war not against tyranny, but against Anglo-Saxon order and decency . . . I, for one, hope that Uncle Sam will apply the chastening rod good, hard and plenty, and lay it on until they come in to the reservation and promise to be good ‘Injuns.’”

Now this source raises a lot of questions in my mind.  Like, "what does the source tell you about how racial ideology played into justifying the war." or "How did recent experiences with Native Americans effect Philippine policy?"  or "What similiarities do you see in this document to recent justifications to end Reconstruction?"  You know what question is pretty far down that list?  This one:

Question 2: How does Document B also provide evidence that many Americans opposed the war in the Philippines?

No questioning of the ideology apparent in the document, no disclaimer about Aguinaldo (who is compared to a parrot).  Nothing.  It's like the last thirty years of history writing never happened.

By the way, here's one of the documents I use to teach the War.


After reading the review and the comments the only question left is how soon until Sam Wineburg wonders if there might be some merit in the argument and leftists are over-reacting. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

School starts tomorrow....

so it's not like I'm going to sleep tonight.  What better time to compile the 10 book challenge.

Books and some articles, one soundtrack.
Waterland - Graham Swift A wonderful book about teaching, history, the environment, men, women, families, pain, memory and forgetting.
My Side of the Mountain - I read it at least 50 times. Along with the Boxcar Children (the first one) it shaped many of my fantasies about wanting to run away and live in the woods.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. I spent days one summer looking for a passage to Narnia. Mom had to ruin it by pointing out that Aslan was Jesus and books were never the same again. But in a good way. Reread the series recently and was appalled at how bad and preachy the books were. Still, lifelong fantasy and sf geek here and probably because of that book.
And while were on Jesus books, Stranger in a Strange Land. Because apparently I'm a sucker for SF/fantasy books about religion (setting up my later fascination with Orson Scott Card. Mom "ruined" this one too by helping me analyze it, though I appreciated it much more at the time. (While we're at it, I can still remember mom watching videos with me on early MTV and analyzing them. "That Sammy Hagar - it's just the angry young man trope" (on watching "I Can't Drive 55") I still can't decide whether this has ruined pop culture for me or made it that much better.
William Cronon, Nature's Metropolis. Michigan had no Western historian my first year of grad school. I read this instead. It was better than almost any class I ever took.
Allesandro Portelli - The Death of Luigi Trastulli You'll never look at memory the same way again.
Susan Lee Johnson - A Memory Sweet to Soldiers: The significance of Gender in the American West. David - gender. Gender - David. Nice to meet you. Oh and by the way, Susan, be my advisor? She said, Yes.
Keith Basso - Wisdom Sits in Places. Place - David, David- Place. OHHHHHH!.
Edward Abbey - The Monkey Wrench Gang. I regret my Edward Abbey phase now. And Desert Solitaire is better. But when I was 16 I loved this one more.
Sweeney Todd - The moment when I went from a kid who likes musicals to hardcore fanboy. I had the soundtrack memorized before I saw it. And then I saw it. From "the birthday seats." Wow.   It's very tempting to put South Pacific in here, because it was the first musical I loved.  Or West Side Story, which was the second (and I got to act in one summer) but this was Soundheim and a whole new world opening for me.  Again, the criticism thing from mom and my Aunt Naomi helped me understand this show so much better opening new worlds to me. 
Harry Potter (all of them) - duh

10,000 somethings

Is getting 10,000 page views like doing 10,000 hours of practice?  Can I officially call myself a blogger now? 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The most loaded question evah.

I was very fortunate to participate in some fabulous training today by the Stanley H. King Institute.  As part of the training, Sam Osherson ( told a story which I’ll paraphrase the gist of:

Growing up in Westchester County, I went to New York City a lot.  And as I would walk down Park Avenue, I would think:  I want to work in one of those office buildings.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in there, in fact, I had no idea what I might do, just that I wanted to work in a New York City office building.  People would ask me “what do you want to be when you grow up and I couldn’t really answer them.” 

And apologies to Sam, but I don’t know what came next because I had an a-ha moment.  If you’d asked me in elementary school, what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said one of the following:  President of the United States, rabbi, or archeologist.  

By high school, I’d added actor, writer for Saturday Night Live, and stand-up comedian to the acceptable choices.    Needless to say, I’m not any of those things.  And that's ok.  I like my life, and I'm happy with the choices and accidents that led me to where I am now. 


 I’m disturbed by the whole conversation in our present moment.  It might have been cute to ask an elementary school kid in 1976, “what do you want to be?”  Now it feels like another high-stakes test.   Pre-professionalism pushes into lower and lower grades.  Our national conversation around education has moved to the point where we can write parody articles about kindergartners not having their act together.  We waste all this time talking about “preparing kids for jobs that don’t exist” and other predictions that we miss the main point. 

I’m 47 years old.  I’m a father and a husband, a scholar and a teacher. 

I may be a grown-up, but I don’t think I’ll ever finish growing up.  What do I want to be?

My answer, indeed what I have come to realize is the only acceptable answer, is: “Good.  I want to be good.” 

I’d like to think, I’m part of the way there.  Anybody who has ideas on how to finish the journey, leave them in the comments below. 

Thanks to Sam for encouraging me to blog this.