Today, President Obama and his family will leave the White House as the 45th President takes the oath of office. President Obama is the 44th person to embark on a post-Presidential journey. This Smithsonian Interactive maps out the lives of Former Presidents.
This is the first election cycle where my students are voluntarily and eagerly tuning in for the Presidential Debates. This offers many of us a unique opportunity to further educate them about Presidential Politics.
This week’s Backstory podcast explores the history and impact of Presidential Debates in American History. You can access it here: Fighting Words – A History of Debate in America. Not only is this a wonderful educational podcast, but it’s interesting and engaging.
These are great resources!
As more and more schools are moving away from paper textbooks and materials, teachers are working to answer the obvious question:
where can I find digital resources appropriate for kids?
If you and your building is using Mac computers or IOS devices such as iPads or iPods, at least part of the answer is the Library of Congress. The folks over there recently released six free iBooks that can be quickly downloaded and are perfect for having students interact with primary source evidence.
The Student Discovery Sets bring together historical artifacts and one-of-a-kind documents on a wide range of topics, from history to science to literature. Based on the Library’s Primary Source Sets, these new iBooks have built-in interactive tools that let students zoom in, draw to highlight details, and conduct open-ended primary source analysis.
(Aren’t an Apple school? The LOC is still an awesome place to find online…
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In honor of Black History Month, the Library of Congress is hosting the electronic exhibit “African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship.” The exhibit displays more than 240 artifacts, including documents, images, videos, and more.
The exhibit “explores black America’s quest for equality from the early national period through the twentieth century.”
This is a rich, multimedia exploration into the experience of African Americans in this country for over 200 years.
Recently, my friend who works at the World Affairs Council in Dallas invited me to a talk by the author David McCullough. McCullough, the writer of such books as John Adams and 1776, is here in the Lone Star state promoting his new book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. His new work explores the lives of 18th and 19th century Americans living and studying in Paris.
The World Affairs Council was exceptionally generous and comped me and my colleagues at Trinity Valley School five tickets to watch Mr. McCullough talk about his research and new book. You can view a great website that includes the several talks by the author and interactive timelines here.
David McCullough’s talk was vivid and engaging. He used no visual aids and focused on the main themes of the book and highlighted his primary points. Most inspiring, he spoke about the role of educator’s in American Society – that they are important for shaping the future of our country. He went so far to say that his new book is primarily about teachers, as all of its subjects returned to the United States and taught (in some capacity or another, formally and informally). Most pointedly, he began his talk by saying:
“I think our teachers are the most important people in our society and yes they should be paid more and given a lot more of our attention, appreciation, and help. This country was founded on a belief in education.”
He then quoted Thomas Jefferson saying:
“No nation has been permitted to live in ignorance with impunity.”
He then began to discuss the core topic of his book, the early relationship between France and the birth of America. Many Americans forget the intimate and joined relationship that nascent America shared with France, preferring to focus more on our connection with Great Britain. However, as McCullough pointed out:
- Our capital city was designed by French-born architect and civil engineer, Pierre Charles L’Enfant
- The Louisiana Purchase allowed America to, in an instance, more than double in size
- The Statue of Liberty was given as a gift to the American people by the Republic of France
- Our maps and geographical points often are marked with French Names (New Orleans, Marseille, Baton Rouge, Paris, etc).
- More American servicemen are buried in France than they are in any other country, save the United States.
He highlighted the academic expertise and renown of French Universities, especially in the 19th century when they were the pinnacle of the West. Most specifically La Sarbonne, the prominent academic institute of art and science, and the Ecole de Médecine (the preeminent Medical School in the World). At this time, the French government provided University education for free (even to ‘foreigners’), they only needed to pay their transportation to France (which was expensive, long, uncomfortable, and dangerous) as well as room and board.
He was also quick to point out that the Americans living in France at this time were not expatriates living away from their country due to some form of disconnect or frustration at their home country. In fact, most of these Americans were incredibly patriotic and wanted to bring their new-found knowledge and wisdom back to their own country – which they all ultimately did.
He proceeded to highlight some of the lives that he explored in the book. What struck me was who he chose and why. He intentionally largely avoided politicians and generals (although not entirely) as he pointed out that history is made by more than just politics and war. He focused primarily on artists, scientists, inventors, and philosophic statesmen (both men and women). He pointed out that the arts are as (or more) significant in shaping a culture than specific events, indicating the great cultures of the past whose history we know very little about but whose art still graces the walls of our museums. He quoted President Kennedy with these words inscribed in the wall of the Kennedy Center,
“This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor”
He finished up his talk emphasizing the importance of being globally aware citizens and incorporating broader perspectives and experiences in the classroom. We live in a connected world and finances and time are no longer the impediments they once were. If we are to stay a tour de force in the world, we cannot ignore our relationship and kinship with the world around us.