Who’s your “most famous American?”

wineburgIf you ‘ve had a chance to spend any amount of time with me, you know what I think of historian and author Sam Wineburg.

Class?

That’s right. He’s a stud.

And I recently ran across some work he did several years ago that I think is interesting. Sam and colleague Chauncey Monte-Sano interviewed 4,000 people – half of whom were juniors and seniors in high school and the other half over the age of 45. It was a very simple survey. Wineburg asked each participant to list ten names in response to one question:

Who are the most famous Americans in history, excluding presidents and first ladies?

Feel free to post your answer below in the comments. We’ll wait.

You back?

In today’s “fragmented society,” one might expect two very different lists – one consisting of rap stars and actors and the other listing a few of the Founding Fathers, Edison, and perhaps Helen Keller. What the two researchers discovered was something very different. Continue reading Who’s your “most famous American?”

The Room Where it Happens

This week’s blogger is Joe Zlatnik, 8th grade American History teacher in the Basehor-Linwood school district near Kansas City.

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hamilton-logoThe Broadway musical, Hamilton, is everywhere! In the past year, the musical has become a cultural phenomena that has taken the US by storm. As a lover of history, I was quick to jump on the Hamilton bandwagon. History tied in with incredible music and lyrics is a powerful medium for telling a story that many Americans are not familiar with.

I always understood Alexander Hamilton as the antithesis to Thomas Jefferson. He was the “bad guy” in the story who favored strong, British-style governmental institutions and industrialization while Jefferson favored smaller government and a more agrarian society. After listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and doing some research, I discovered that this popular version of history is not entirely accurate.

But while it is true that not all details in the musical are historically accurate, the overall story is one worth listening to and one worth introducing to your students. Continue reading The Room Where it Happens

Civic Engagement & Historical Argumentation

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This week’s author is Adam Topliff: I teach 8th Grade Social Studies & Civics at Wamego Middle School in Wamego, KS.  I love all things Hamilton!

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The Kansas Standards for History, Government, and Social Studies prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, engaged citizens as they enrich their communities, state, nation, world, and themselves.

The mission statement for our HGSS standards in Kansas has pushed educators across disciplines to consider how we are working to get our kids engaged.  This push is part of the greater initiative to deliver the best education in the nation and to produce true 21st Century citizens. One of the main focuses at KSDE is the idea of creating civic engagement for our students. This can be demonstrated through any number of opportunities in which our students engage in community service, leadership initiatives, or simply study how our government works. However, we must consider how to encourage civic engagement as we study history.

One of the staples of the mission statement is “engaging to provide the enrichment to a student’s communities, state, nation, world and THEMSELVES.” To produce deep levels of civic engagement, we need to ask our students to engage in historical conversations based on questions that will also enrich them and challenge them to look at today’s civic, political, and social issues. To simply study the past will not develop these opportunities.  

This fall, as part of my attempt to develop better connections between the study of history and civic engagement, my students completed a long term project that asked them to evaluate the presidential job performance of the “Founding Presidents.”  One of the main curriculum units we study is the Constitution Period but  I relabeled it “Building A Nation” and used that theme to develop the presidential evaluation project.   Continue reading Civic Engagement & Historical Argumentation

You’ve Earned It

Some of us are starting our winter breaks, others will start this week. Let’s all agree to take advantage of the time off, okay?

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The weeks right before break are a rush of projects, grading, concerts, sporting events, class reward/holiday parties, and a dozen other little items that simply must be done before you can leave the building. And those are just your school obligations . . .

So this week I’m not going to write about some cool new tool or trick to use, I’m going to to tell you to go read a book, spend time with your family, take the dog for a walk (if you’re not in a part of the country that isn’t currently in the deep freeze). Take time for yourself and recharge; Edutopia agrees with me and TED has an entire playlist on the importance of self-care. You can do some work over break, you know we all will, but let’s agree to find a better balance during this time away from school.

We’re taking our own advice at Doing Social Studies and won’t have a new post next week so we can all enjoy the time with our loved ones (and it’s not like you were really going to wake up on Boxing Day ready to see what’s new on our site). We’ll have a fresh post for you in the New Year to get you excited about what you can do in the classroom, whenever it is you have to return.

After one more nap.