Teaching Religion in Early America: Struggles and Successes

I often receive comments on my evaluations for the US I survey that I spend too much time on religion. I explicitly discuss religion in quite a few cases throughout the semester – colonial missionaries, Calvinists and Quakers in 17th c. New England, the First Great Awakening, abolitionism, new 19th century religions, and Lincoln’s second…

Admitting defeat

I had a great new idea for a final project for my survey classes this semester. It was going to be awesome.┬áThis assignment was going to draw on the skills my students were practicing every week but then take it all to a new level. Critical thinking! Public writing! Digital tools! The semester started, and…

Progressive mastery in historical thinking

Recently I caught another article about an approach to high school writing instruction that many of you are familiar with: “progressive mastery.”1)Full disclosure: I have not read the deeper literature on this, and much of what I’m doing in this post is simply riffing on some of its broader ideas. If I have fundamentally misunderstood…

Un-collapsing history

Teaching the US I and II surveys every semester, one of the first challenges is getting the material to “catch” with students. It’s usually a little easier with US II, but there’s no magic formula. Getting students to see people in the past as people, living complicated lives and facing difficult choices, is key to…