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  • Originally published 01/16/2014

    The Secret Life of Teaching

    The first in a series: In which we finesse the occupational hazard of keeping student names straight.

  • Originally published 05/08/2013

    Sam Wineburg's "Reading Like a Historian" makes cover of Stanford magazine

    Sam Wineburg, Margaret Jacks Professor of Education and (courtesy) History, is the director of the Stanford History Education Group. Their signature project, "Reading Like an Historian," which promotes a secondary school curriculum based around critical engagement with primary sources, recently made the cover of Stanford's alumni magazine:Designed by the Stanford History Education Group under Professor Sam Wineburg, the website offers 87 flexible lesson plans featuring documents from the Library of Congress. Teachers can download the lessons and adapt them for their own purposes, free of charge. Students learn how to examine documents critically, just as historians would, in order to answer intriguing questions: Did Pocahontas really rescue John Smith? Was Abraham Lincoln a racist? Who blinked first in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Russians or the Americans?Apparently the program has struck a chord. In school districts from red states and blue, New York City and Chicago to Carmel, Calif., history teachers are lining up for workshops on how to use the materials. The website's lessons have been downloaded 800,000 times and spawned a lively online community of history educators grateful for the camaraderie—and often desperate for help.

  • Originally published 05/05/2013

    The Problem with School "Accountability"

    Image via Shutterstock.As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century two seemingly mutually inclusive factors are becoming prominent in the debate about improving public education: the high-stakes testing movement and paying and retaining teachers based on test results. These "solutions" have become popular across the political spectrum and while it may sound logical to people outside of the education, those of us on the inside know that this is a simple answer to a complex problem.

  • Originally published 04/05/2013

    Historian invites former students to dinner as part of ‘retirement odyssey’

    Silvio Laccetti was cleaning out his office after 43 years of teaching at the Stevens Institute of Technology, a science and technology school in Hoboken, New Jersey, when he stumbled across a pile of unreturned reports, assignments and examinations from some of the thousands of students he had taught over the years.It gave him an idea: invite some of his best former students for dinner. Not all at once, however: one at a time.What Dr Laccetti, who taught history, called his “retirement odyssey” involved 83 dinners and lunches consumed over three and a half years with 104 of his one-time students, mostly individually but a few in small groups.He spoke by phone with another dozen who lived too far away to meet in person.The odyssey gave him an opportunity academics seldom get: to measure his impact on the world.“They had listened to my advice,” Dr Laccetti, 72, said. “They maintained an interest in the humanities. They even talked about me to their kids, and taught their children some of the things that I taught them.”...

  • Originally published 03/15/2013

    Let the Teachers Teach

    Image via Shutterstock.I have found it! After little thought and less reflection, I have found the answer to the problems of American public school education. Best of all, my solution will cost no money, save the taxpayers millions, and produce a well-educated citizenry. The solution is simple: eliminate any and all high stakes proficiency testing and unleash the power of the teachers to do what they do best, educate our children.

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    What are the 10 Most Important Documents in American History?

    Announcing the winners in the reader poll "What are the 10 Most Important Documents in American History?" Nearly 800 readers voted -- the most important document in American history is the Marshall Plan!*Note: The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights were specifically EXCLUDED from the poll, since they'd be in the top three practically by default. We wanted to give other documents a chance!

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    History prof's tirade against class-skippers draws attention

    When students failed to show up for a lecture given by Guy Halsall, professor of history at the University of York, you might imagine that he suffered a flicker of self-doubt and that the empty seats bruised the confidence of a sensitive scholar.Not a bit of it: Professor Halsall berated his students for missing a lecture from "probably the most significant historian of early medieval Europe under the age of 60."He posted the comments within the university's virtual learning environment, which is used for online contact between students and tutors.According to York student newspaper Nouse, Professor Halsall responded to an underattended second-year lecture by telling students they were failing to make the most of the "obscene amounts of money" that "mummy and daddy" were paying for their education....

  • Originally published 01/14/2013

    We All Politicize History

    American flags on the National Mall. Credit: Wiki Commons.Here’s an interesting question for historians: Why do ideologues never seem to be aware of their own ideology?Such is the case with the recent report from the Texas Association of Scholars and the National Association of Scholars’ Center for the Study of the Curriculum, “Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?”The groups’ answer to the title’s question is “yes,” which is hardly surprising given the NAS’s longstanding critique of scholars who raise questions about the mythology of American greatness.

  • Originally published 01/09/2013

    How to Revitalize Public Education

    P.S. 9 in Brooklyn, New York. Credit: Flickr/calculat0r.I have a very different vision of what public schools should be doing than Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Jeb Bush, Arne Duncan, Michael Bloomberg and the current generation of “school reformers.” My vision involves making schools centers of community revitalization where young people's curiosity and creativity are nurtured, where student differences are recognized and respected, where the physical and emotional health of children is promoted, where teachers have long careers, and where parents and community members are welcome.

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