Fun With Primary Sources!

Frankly, the lesson today was a bit disjointed because of Senior Scheduling visit by the counselors.  Some of that couldn’t be helped at all, and I think that you got tons of excellent material to go through, and consider while you decide your future path.  SOME of it could be helped, and whatever didn’t work, was my fault.  I think we got some excellent work in during the short amount of time we had together though.

 I know one thing for sure though… I need to do more work to successfully introduce primary source materials into our class.  Primary source materials are any original item or record that has survived from the past and was part of a direct personal experience of a time or event, or any piece of information that was created at the time being studied, by the person being studied about.

For the purpose of our class we’re going to use a fairly small variety of primary sources.  These should include:



Government Documents

Video footage



Interviews (oral histories)

Historians use all of these and more to be able to interpret historical events.  Additional sources they may use are cloth, pottery, items dug from Archeological sites…  The things we will use for this class are less than 60 years old, so it’s unlikely that we’re going to need a shovel to find what we need.  BTW, all the video clips I’ve used in this blog can be considered primary sources.

 Anything else we use will be secondary sources (textbooks, documentary videos, hearsay accounts of events etc.)

A secondary source documents or analyzes another’s experience. They can be created at the time, or long after the efent.  Secondary sources may provide a perspective, ro simply describe primary sources.

There’s absolutely no reason not to use a secondary source.  We, as historians, just need to recognize when we’re using primary sources, and when we’re using secondary ones.  Primary sources can lie, Secondary sources could be misguided, or inaccurate.  We need to be careful, and work to establish what’s correct, and what’s not.  Sometimes we’ll agree on what that means, and sometimes not.

While we’re together in class I’ll work very hard to make sure I’m upfront whether I think an item we’re using is a primary or secondary source.  Let me know if you have any questions.


New Assignment

Our fine Counselors will come into the US History classes on January 31, and February 1 to set up class forecasting for Senior year.  They expect to take between 30 and 45 minutes.  The lessons on those days will be short, we’ll only have time for 1 assignment. 

Here are the two assignments we used for the January 31 & February 1 classes.  They are in .doc format

Eisenhower Farewell Address + Questions (D1 P1 only)

Eisenhower: The Chance for Peace + Questions

The Chance for Peace speech- President Eisenhower 1953

While I was looking into the kinds of things that I want to teach about the Cold War, I found a great quote, something that I think tells us a lot about what it meant to be in a Cold War.  In April of 1953, while the Korean War was still raging, President Eisenhower plainly stated what the hidden costs of the Cold War were going to be.   

What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?  The worst to be feared and the best to be expected are simply stated.

The worst is Atomic War

The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system or the Soviet system or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth. 

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.  It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, and the hopes of its children. 

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement.   We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.  This is, I repeat, the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking. 

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that comes with this spring of 1953.

Along those same lines, here’s video of Eisenhower’s Farewell Address.  This is a similar excerpt from the one we discuss in class on Thursday and Friday.


Back to the Future

We’re back into the Cold War again!  I’ve uploaded the assignments for the January 29 & 30 classes.  The crossword puzzle is a .pdf, while the word bank, and pre-test are .doc files.  Please feel free to let me know if there are any difficulties viewing or downloading the files. 

Many thanks to George Nita, Cody Wilson, and Stephanee Christensen for demonstrating Duck and Cover for us!  (everybody singing… Duck… and Cover!) 

One of the items we discussed during the day 1 classes was the Hydrogen Bomb.  We talked about them in class in the previous Cold War unit, but I’m not sure we’ve seen what they look like.  The clip is from a film called Trinity and Beyond.  It’s available from Blockbusters and Hollywood Video if you’re interested.  The piece linked here is from the very first test of a Hydrogen Bomb.   It’s a 10 Megaton bomb tested under the code name “Ivy Mike” will tell you everything you want to know about that particular test. 

How we managed to escape the 50s and 60s without blowing ourselves up is beyond me.

Assignments Day 1, Periods 1 & 4/Day 2, Period 3

Pre-Assessment Test (10 point assignment)

Reintroducing the Cold War Crossword Puzzle

Word Bank for Crossword Puzzle

Welcome to 2nd Semester!

I’m very excited to be back in front of the class. I’m going to take Mr. Alper’s 11th grade US History class over from January 29 through March 14 (the Friday before Spring Break) or so. Looking at the academic calendar, it looks like we’lll be together for 16 class periods. You were all pretty gentle with me during my first go-around, so I’m hoping that you’ll all continue to work with me as I get my feet wet again.

Most of you know that I’m a student teacher, everything I do in class is a bit of an experiment. Other teachers use blogs, I thought that it might be a great way to make the experience more interesting for the both of us.

First things first… I will use this space to post electronic versions of class materials, links to websites that I think can help you learn more about in-class topics, audio and video clips, links to podcasts and other things that I might think are interesting, as well as information about extra credit opportunities. I’m going to add additional comments, and add additional lecture notes. I intend to update this daily, so you’ll almost always have access to the latest class materials.

You’ll have the ability to leave comments, ask questions, or leave me email. Everything I add here can and will be made available to students who don’t have access to computers. It just wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t. I think most students have some access to computers at one point or another most days, but not all of you do. If you have friends in the class that don’t have regular access to the web, be a pal and give them a heads up about the stuff on the page from time to time.

Sometimes classes will go more smoothly than others, I hope that we have more smooth patches than rough ones. If you think there’s something I should know, or if you think that you have some valid CONSTRUCTIVE criticism for me, I’m always open to hear it.

Let me know what you think! I’m open to ideas about what you like in an assignment, and what you don’t like. Some of you work better with text, some with movies, some with lecture notes. I’m here for you, so if something’s not working, I need to know it.

Here’s to a good 2nd half of the school year!

Mr. Wright

Re-introducing the Cold War

For the first couple of days of the unit we’re going to be working on reintroducing the Cold War.  We spent most of the 1st semester talking about the after effects of World War II, how the United States and the Soviet Union worked to build dominance around the world, but especially in Europe.  We’re going to come back to the Cold War, picking up pretty much exactly where we left off.

 Here are some of the things specific to the Cold War that we worked on (in no particular order)…

  1. The Iron Curtain
  2. The Korean War
  3. Communist Revolution in China
  4. The differences between the Soviet and American government
  5. Freedom vs. Tyranny
  6. Duck and Cover!
  7. The Berlin Airlift
  8. McCarthyism

We’re going to be moving forward now.  In the next couple of weeks, were going to move into the last couple of years in the 1950s, and into the 1960s.  Not to give anything away, but…

  1. Stalin Dies and is replaced by Nikita Khrushchev
  2. The launch of Sputnik scares the U.S. and kicks off the space race.
  3. The Cuban Revolution brings Fidel Castro to power
  4. A CIA financed invasion of Cuba ends in catastrophe.
  5. The Cuban Missile Crisis nearly starts World War III.

 There’s much more to come, we’ve hardly even begun!

Remember to Duck and Cover!