This Week

Monday and Tuesday will be the an introduction to President Kennedy.  We’re going to refer to his inagural address (Covered in the blog posting Feb 6.) and try to come up with an answer to what he said.  “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”  What does that mean?  How do you personally answer that implied question? 

Are they just words?

Does it ask something profound from us as citizens?

Is it defined the same way for everybody?

Personally, I think it’s up to each person to answer that question for themselves.  I hope we can get to a place on Day 1 and Day 2 where we can begin to define it.

Day 1 and Day 2 Wednesday & Thursday will be an opportunity for us to have a Guest Speaker!  This guest speaker spent 1 and a half years in Papua/New Guinea as a Peace Corps volunteer developing a school program in that impoverished nation.  He’ll speak to us about what it was that led him to the Peace Corps, and what he learned about himself, and how he defined Kennedy’s call to action.  He’ll have an interesting slide show for us, I’m certain you’ll enjoy what he has to say.  Our guest speaker is none other Mr. Joshua Alper!

Actually, I’m really looking forward to having Mr. Alper talk about his experience.  I think you guys are going to get a kick out of it!


History and YOU!

I’ve said again and again, that we have something like 45 years of Cold War history to talk about.  We started off with the Origins of the Cold War.  The Soviets and American superpowers, each with their own set of allies divide Europe, and by extension the world, up into spheres of influence.

Nuclear Age politics create Brinksmanship, the idea that we should always be completely prepared to go to the Nuclear option when confronted with Soviet power, to go to the Brink of War every time.  Mutually Assured Destruction is the end result of that game.  Mutually Assured Destruction is the concept that says that each side will be utterly destroyed by a nuclear exchange. 

It counts on the fact that the LEAST responsible, LEAST sane group, or person will keep the nuclear peace rather than fight and be destroyed.  A very dangerous game, with no “Reset to Previously Saved Game” option.

We’ve talked about Brinksmanship, and we’ve talked about containment.  The idea that Communism cannot be allowed to spread to new countries.  We end up with the Domino Theory.  The Domino Theory says that once one country falls to communism, then their neighboring nations will be at risk.  We’ll look at this idea closer as we talk about Vietnam.

 But now what? 

I’m taking a slightly different path through the Cold War than I anticipated.  Instead of looking head-on at the individual events that shaped the Cold War, I’ve decided that we should begin to piece together our own theories about what happened.  One way to do that is to examine what it means to be a historian, and how ACTUAL historians go about examining events.

In the last period I introduced the “Primary Source”.  Like I said before, primary sources are the basis of historical research.  Secondary sources are great, and we’re going to use them constantly, but if you want to get your hands dirty and build your own interpretation, you’re going to have to look at the original data.

 So… What does that mean?

In my next post, I’m going to start to talk about something called Historiography.  Put simply, it means the study of how people go about studying history.  People study history differently now than they did in the past.  Interpretations change, new evidence crops up… We examine the evidence differently than we used to.  I won’t go too long on this now… more on this later… I hope you enjoy it.  It really is what makes History exciting.  Makes it more like a mystery to be solved rather than a boring documentary to watch.

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.

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