Deviating from the Standard(s)

The timing of the Civil War is suspect. While we might trace the conflict to April 12, 1861 and the shots fired at Fort Sumter, one could argue that it began in Kansas four years earlier. Still others would argue that the civil conflict was raging in 1850, 1820, or in 1787 as delegates wrestled…

“Revising” the survey with Ben Franklin’s World

We often emphasize to our students that our lectures, and even our entire courses, have arguments and use evidence to make those arguments. We also talk about historiography, even if we don’t use the term, and show students how historians produce new historical knowledge. This semester, my US I class is using Liz Covart’s podcast…

Admitting defeat

I had a great new idea for a final project for my survey classes this semester. It was going to be awesome. This 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…

Sophie’s Syllabus: What Gets Left Behind?

Planning any class requires separating the essential from what can be surgically cut away. I always start second-guessing myself as soon as a few weeks into the semester. Sometimes this syllabus maker’s remorse comes from a student’s question, something that makes me think I should have devoted more time on a given topic. Other times…

Why Do We Fall Down, Master Bruce?

We often tout that history, and indeed the liberal arts experience, teach critical thinking skills.  We are often less clear what that phrase actually means.  I’ve been trying to define critical thinking over the past few weeks and have decided that it has a few possible meanings. An ability to assemble and disassemble an argument…

Researching in the History Survey

It is the beginning of another academic year and here I am at another new institution with a new student body, new curriculum requirements, and a new conception of the purpose of the history survey.  Centre College, my new academic home, has a general education curriculum and the history surveys serve as the gen. ed.…

The End Days are Nigh! Where to End the US Survey?

The clock is the real ruler of the history survey. One can begin a semester with a million different goals that involve deconstructing narratives, incorporating historiography, or flipping the classroom. By late April and early May, some of those dreams are stripped from us, especially when we look at the calendar and realize we only…

Teaching Outside the Wheelhouse

Classes start this week, probably a week or two later than most. Like Nora, I am thinking about teaching resolutions for the semester. Along with the first half of the US survey, I will be teaching a Western Civilization course covering the Ancient World through the Renaissance. A lot of us teach fields outside United…