Writing Assignments: Depth and Breadth

In crafting assignments, we strive to help our students find depth of knowledge while allowing them to explore topics located off the beaten path. In my course, Witnessing the Sixties, students read classics like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and yet I also want them to encounter Sixties phenomena that are revelatory due to their…

Teaching Slavery and Identity in the American History Survey Course: Part One

Every semester I assign the chapter titled, “Turning People into Products” from Walter Johnson’s book, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Marketto my survey-level American History students. As historians are painfully aware, slavery is one of the most misunderstood, overgeneralized, and downplayed topics in American history. My objective is to expose my students to…

How did our ancestors “tame” a continent?

Last May, Donald Trump delivered the commencement address at the Naval Academy. There, he stated that “our ancestors tamed a continent,” and he followed this statement up by adding, “we are not going to apologize for America.” What does this mean? What does it mean to “tame” a continent? What does it mean to be…

Teaching ‘The Sixties’

  We routinely offer courses on the transformative decades of US History. Departments place “The 1970s” or “The Eighties” in course catalogues, hoping these tidy chronologies will inspire enrollment. These deep dives are an efficient means of focusing our students on, say, Global Oil Shocks, Nixon’s machinations, or Ronald Reagan as a cultural icon. It…

Teach My Book: Cassandra A. Good on Founding Friendships: Friendships Between Men and Women in the Early American Republic

Founding Friendships argues that friendships between elite men and women in the early American republic were more than possible—they were commonplace. These relationships exemplified key republican values of the era: choice, equality, freedom, and virtue. Men and women found affection, emotional and practical support, and political benefits from these friendships. The book begins with an…

Power Manifested in Language

Words, simply put, matter! The lexicon that we use to describe events or refer to individuals carry weight and meaning beyond what we may consider. On my blog, I have written about this topic numerous times. See, for example, “Our Linguistic Entanglements.” Lately, I’ve still been thinking about this topic, especially when I teach my…

The World Outside: Content Knowledge vs. Content Fluency

“…the social world is always a part of the classroom, that classrooms themselves are social spaces and essentially microcosms of the world outside their wall. All learning, then, happens in a social context because we are learning with and from one another.” –Joshua R. Eyler, How Humans Learn, p. 66 In the above passage, Eyler…