One personal effect of the budget cuts in the School District of Philadelphia has been that my teaching load has switched from a combination of English and History classes to all History. I miss teaching English but it is amazing how much I become immersed in whatever is in front of me. I find myself spending large amounts of time thinking through curriculum for the new courses that I am teaching and I get really excited about the work that students are doing.
In the American Government course the 12th graders have been developing ideas of different historical lenses in preparation for their projects as modern day Alexis de Tocquevilles. (More on that in a future post). As part of our studies of the foundations of US Government students investigated the question of American Exceptionalism, they read different theories about Nationalism and Patriotism, they read Gordon S. Wood and Howard Zinn’s accounts of the American Revolution, and the intro to Zinn’s book Declarations of Independence. All of these readings and the different writing assignments and notes that went along with them were used for a Formal Discussion that we had as a class.
The product from the Formal Discussion was a list of different historical lenses generated by the classes. This list has been a guide for us to evaluate different history museums and historical sites in Philadelphia. Among other things, students have noticed when the primary message conveyed was one of patriotism and when history was presented in a way that acknowledged struggle and conflict as part of our nation’s history. On each of these trips students have also conducted interviews as part of an inquiry into the ways different population groups frame, interpret, and prioritize different parts of US history.
I am missing teaching English…
(And/But/Also…) I am really enjoying the rigor and excitement of what we are doing in my new courses.