History In Halstead

Location: Halstead, Kansas, United States

This is my seventh year at Halstead which is also where I live with my wife and my soon to be two year old daughter.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Pretty Tough Weekend

Some weeks go really well while others are just a bit rough. I was anticipating a great weekend but it just seemed that bad things kept happening. Let's take a look:

1. My 10 month old daughter slipped and cut her lip. This was the second mishap of her life so we have been lucky but her crying just broke my heart.
2. The Royals gave up a five run lead with one out in the bottom of the ninth to the dreaded Yankees. The worst part of it was the fact that they had a double play grounder to end the game and muffed it. Also, I hate the Yankees and any time my Royals can damage their chances of making the playoffs, I am thrilled.
3. Pitt State lost their season opener to Delta State. Delta State was ranked 17th in the nation so I suppose it is better than them losing to an unranked team but this is an early shock to the team.
4. I got swarmed by mosquitos this weekend mowing my lawn.
5. Oil prices will jump due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. I wonder if this is the storm of the century that New Orleans always fear, personally I think it will veer to the east but what do I know, I am a history teacher in Halstead Kansas:)
6. We cancelled Big Blue Night which is a big community event that kicks off our fall sports season but we have had major rain and it was washed out.

The one good part was that I saw the Wichita Air Show with my in-laws and it was really neat. The sun was brutal but we sat underneath my father-in-law's plane so that is a good.

I hope your weekend was a good one and of course there is a three day weekend coming up.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sociology Connections To History

We have been considering the ideas of the three main perspectives used to look at social problems. How could you apply one of those perspectives to some aspect of US history? Give the specific event.

PS: I would think the functionalist or conflict approach would be the easiest.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

US History Today

We began a project comparing the reconstruction of the south after the Civil War today and the current reconstruction of Iraq. The comments and questions in each of my classes were excellent and I think that there is a chance that my students will reach some interesting conclusions about which reconstruction was smoother. Here is one of the sites we used as a basis for the discussion:

Rebuilding Iraq From MSNBC

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Two Days Down and Not Too Shabby

The first two days of the school year are now in the record book and I must say that I am quite pleased with how things are going. My classes have a great variety of students and I think there is potential for some nice class discussions. My main concern for the year is that a lot of my classes are pretty large which means things can get loud and out of hand fairly quickly but I am not too worried.

I Love Pitt State but...

This is a sad new class that my alma-mater, and self proclaimed Mecca of Education, is offering.

SSLS 600 Foundations of Leadership:


Fall 2005
Hughes Hall Room 314
11 to 12:15 p.m.
3 hours credit

Open to all students

Television's THE APPRENTICE will serve as the springboard for
developing and refining your leadership skills.

You and your classmates will:

-view and analyze each episode of THE APPRENTICE and
-complete challenges similar to those faced by the Trump "“wannabes.Â"
You'’ll learn how to successfully:
-lead a group to complete tasks under deadline pressure.
-resolve conflict among group members.-motivate people.
-solve problems.
-make decisions.
-perform as a productive team member.
-apply your "book smarts" and "street smarts"” to real-world challenges.

Monday, August 15, 2005

An interesting thought

This idea came fron Econlog, I won't comment on it right now but it's bouncing around in this educator's mind:

Indeed, once people accept you as a Great Man, it's easy to get them to do all sorts of things. Men will kill for you, bleed for you, and sit around doing nothing for you. There are limits, but there is tons of slack. The really interesting question, which game theory has only begun to address, is how society turns a short Corsican into a Great Man. Personal ability and a charismatic personality are clearly part of the story.

It's Go Time

School starts tomorrow. I am ready, a little bit excited and looking forward to a really good year. My classes are large but hopefully that will mean that we have better and more diverse discussions. There is no way to predict exactly what the year will be like but I am going to try and keep a positive spin on everything that comes up.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Calling Clemens...Please Help

I saw this today and it seems other industrialized nations are having some conservative / liberal debates:

Germans cannot agree on how to spell simple words. What then are the chances they will successfully tackle complex economic and social problems?

A dispute over reform of spelling rules highlights the difficulty of implementing change in Germany as reform-minded Christian Democrat leader Angela Merkel may find if, as polls predict, she becomes chancellor in an election in September.

In Germany's consensus-model of decision-making, she would likely need backing from a smaller coalition partner, but must also beware of infighting within her own conservative camp.

Germany's 16 states were all to have enforced new rules designed to simplify spelling in their schools by August 1, but the two largest, Bavaria and North-Rhine Westphalia, both conservative-ruled, decided to permit the old spellings as well.

Ulm and Neu-Ulm, on opposite banks of the Danube and in different conservative-led states, cannot agree how to spell the word "river," while "shipping" could have two "F"s in one town, but three in the other (Schiffahrt/Schifffahrt).

The new rules have been decades in the making. Unveiled in 1998, Germans have had seven years to get used to the changes. But a survey carried out at the beginning of August showed that two-thirds of Germans were still using the old spelling system and only one in five had made the full switch.

Germany's inability to sort out the issue illustrates a wider resistance to change which threatens to make the country a laughing stock, say media commentators.

And You Thought The US Had A Media Bias

A man in California has started to archive the press releases of the KCNA. For those who do not know, the KCNA is the official news agency of North Korea. The archives of NK News has all of the classic slurs against "imperialist ogress" and "class enemies". The site has both a most popular category and a random insult generator. My favorite random insult:

You politically illiterate aggressor, your accusation against the DPRK is no more than barking at the moon!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Forgive Me If This Meanders

Today was the first professional development day of the school year (for all you old school people this is what we used to call in-service days). It was a typical day of meetings, regulations, optimism for a good school year, and reminders of our professional duties. All together, it was not too bad. During the day, we were reminded at least twice that the staff is the most valuable part of the district. This has been said to me and my colleagues many times and I always take it as a genuine comment but at the same time I have never totally agreed with the statement. I never knew why until tonight.

It is always at this time of the year when I seriously think about my job in a conceptual abstract sense. I think of all of the things I know, along with my beliefs, opinions, and visions of what education should be and let them intermingle. During this time I usually do a lot of reading and I have been reading a lot of educational research, history, economics and political science lately. I mention this to set up what I came up with tonight.

I have recently finished Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat. It was a fine book with some interesting concepts and a few excerpts that I will use in my classes but I wanted to read some other reviews of the book. I went to one of my favorite sites, Tech Central Station and searched Friedman’s name. One interesting article pointed this out:

You can thank globalization for our dawning Age of Aquarius. As national economies weave ever deeper into the fabric of international trade, as multi-national corporations source components and manpower from diverse corners of the globe, as cooperation nets more than competition, our glorious dawn sweeps the war-like nations into the dust bin of history.

At least, that's the theory. And it's one that is enjoying a robust hearing of late. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's new book, The World is Flat, is devoted to just such a thesis. If globalization-as-national pacifier sounds familiar, it's because we've heard it before.

In 1913, the British economist Norman Angell published a widely celebrated book arguing that in an age of interconnected international trade and enmeshed national economies, war was quickly becoming an expensive anachronism. Angell reasoned that thanks to deepening economic ties among powers, war would cost the aggressors more than any hoped-for gains. States, appraising this calculus, would conclude that war was not a worthy option. Global peace ensues. The book's title was grimly ironic, The Great Illusion…Two devastating world wars and 50 years of global conflict later, it's easy to laugh at the naïve certitude of Angell's thesis, but at the time such certitude was widely and deeply held.

I found the parallel interesting and the rest of the article was even more fascinating but it did not influence me as much as a reference in another article did. I found this example to have a direct tie to my profession:

"Gourmet's editor, Ruth Reichl, when she was still the restaurant critic of The New York Times, once launched a review of Thomas Keller's Napa Valley restaurant, the French Laundry, with the observation, "The secret of the French Laundry is that Mr. Keller is the first American chef to understand that it takes more than great food and a great location to make a great restaurant: it also takes great customers."

Wow! I have been doing serious thinking of how to make my classes better and more productive and then I read that idea from Ruth Reichl. I had never thought about the need for great customers or students to make my classes better. Currently, Halstead does have great teachers and it is in a solid community. The thing that we need to realize is that the students that enter our building can have observe and appreciate the greatness of the education being offered as the coinsurers of The French Laundry. Once, I can get the students is my classes to see their potential ability and the quality the can support their potential than I think my classes will become that much better. You see, it is not a new teaching technique or piece of technology that will lead to better long run quality; it has got to be an appreciation of the potential of the minds in the classroom.

I was looking at some old history books that our school had around. These were not classical history books but really really bad ones from the late seventies and early eighties. They were so dumbed down that they barely offered any historical knowledge. These books never asked the reader to think let alone challenge any ideas. They basically seemed to say rely on the idea that students did not like school, so let’s try to make it as easy as possible to get through the necessary evil of secondary education. It does not amaze me that education hit a low point at this time. It wasn’t that students couldn’t read, or do any higher level thinking, it was as if educators decided it would be wrong to ask students to such things. So everything got watered down, students became less interested, teachers became unmotivated and education went into a malaise. To be honest, this has happened in my classes from time to time but my goal this year is to fight that idea every day.

I hope to challenge students to constantly demand a purposeful history education and accept nothing less from me. It might lead them to have to do more work but I think there possible gains are impressive. Of course my idealism might totally backfire in which case it will be time to pull out the old worksheetsJ Anyway, Have a good weekend and a great school year.

One part of my summer vacation

While in Topeka with the Brown vs. Board of Education Teaching American History Grant, we worked on creating document based questions. They ended up pretty good and I think some of them can easily be adapted to any level classroom. Take a look at:

Legacy Of Brown

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A New Drug Test Policy

There was an interesting article in the Wichita Eagle looking at a new drug policy in the maize School District. Here is the overview of the policy:

Maize school students this year must be willing to submit to a drug test at the request of school staff or they won't be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities. School district officials said the new drug and alcohol testing policy is intended to keep schools safe. Any student who wants to participate in school activities must sign a form in which he agrees to come to school drug- and alcohol-free. Parents must also sign the form.

If a student and his parents don't sign the form, the student isn't allowed to participate. The policy says that if a student is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the student will be taken to a local drug testing facility and asked to undergo a test.

This policy is a little different than most schools' drug policies and I am not sure that I like it. I don't like the idea of saying that students will be tested based on suspicion. I like the drug testing idea but I believe it should be random. In a perfect world I would randomly test all students who go to school but that's not going to happen.

FOR DISCUSSION: Will the Maize policy be successful in keeping their schools safer? What would help keep drugs and school out of schools?

Quick Update...

1. Pittsburg State is picked to win the MIAA in football again this year
2. Our district negotiated a new contract for teachers and it worked out to an 8.4% raise for yours truly.
3. Teachers head back to school tomorrow for a work day
4. My daughter is still giant for her age and is starting to say words and act more like a person. My only two concerns are that she does not know how to feed herself with a spoon yet and she still doesn't grasp the concept of 'yes' and 'no'
5. Our school is the scene of mass construction which I think is going to interfere with a lot of activities this year but will be beneficial in the end.
6. I need to lose eight pounds by basketball season.


I am ready for school to start and am even getting excited about it. Each summer, I usually try to relax as much as possible and get recharged for the next school. During my down time I try to think of new ideas to putting into action for my classes and usually around August the Zen like state of my mind kicks in and the ideas start to come.

Well, this past week has been a tidal wave of ideas that I am going to try this year. My class schedule looks pretty good and now I have new ideas to try in my classes that will hopefully keep the class fresh, students involved, and make the subject material more relevant.

What are the ideas??? I am going to hold off on putting them downin writing for a while just so I can better formulate them. However, I will say they involve the new technology that our school has purchased (yeah!), more primary source materials (less textbooks!!) and more student interpretation of the social sciences (more writing!!!).

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