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, October 30, 2005

Miner Chapter 4: Toward A Brighter Day

Kansas history as represented in most survey textbooks gets mentioned only three times. Bleedings Kansas is discussed with the prelude to the Civil War, Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education is talked about within the civil rights movement and finally the People’s Party and Kansas Populism in the late 1800s is referred to as one of the radical movements in our nation’s history. This chapter covers the end of the nineteenth century and the movements that make Kansas known as a politically eccentric state. This includes prohibition, populism and once again the rights of women and minorities including the Exoduster movement. The book gives a lot of good information on all of the topics including a good commentary on how most history looks at the far radical elements of the People’s Party while ignoring other more conventional aspects of the movement. Miner also gives a great overview of Governor St. John’s actions and motivations in running the state. As far as using this chapter in my classroom, there are a variety of different methods. One idea might be to have the student s make biographical sketches based on some of the men or women mentioned or maybe to make a timeline showing the progression of event leading to more radical ideas; but I think the best idea might be to focus on suffrage, prohibition and populism as individual ideas and have a discussion of what the goals of each idea was. Then discuss whether the ideas were good or bad and maybe discuss some alternatives.

Favorite Quotes From Chapter 4

“The boom and bust was only one of the many instances of over momentum in the west”

“Kansans will vote dry as long as they can stagger to the polls.”

“John Ingalls put it as harshly, referring to all reformers, male and female, as sexually unemployed.”

“We want to restore the supremacy of the people, and we propose to do it”

Any quote from a critic of Populists

Miner Chapter 3: How the Iron Must Burn

The third chapter of the book covers the spread of the railroad throughout Kansas along with the dealings of Native Americans, the establishment of universities and to a lesser degree the role of women and African-Americans in the state. While this is a lot of information, the key to it all resides in the economic progress that the railroad could potentially bring to the state. The potential of the railroad and the extension of pioneers to the western parts of the state led to some conflict with Native Americans who had control of the land. My classes could look at the contradicting views of Native Americans. Governor Samuel Crawford gives a very hostile and negative assessment while James Mead describes his interactions with the Indians in a much more positive light. Still, the main crux of the chapter revolves around the establishment of railroads in the state. My classes could look at the similarities between the importance of railroads in the second half of the 1800s and draw some comparisons to economic development today with meat packing, gambling and other potential business ventures. The final are that I found interesting and teachable was the approach that Kansas took to black and women’s suffrage. I am sure that some of my students would like to know about why the measures were voted down and some of the opinions about the idea from the time period.

Favorite Quotes From Chapter 3

“Railroad corporations, those artificial beings with no body to kick or should to damn”

“I have thought much on this matter but am too confounded poor to put into execution”

“Now before we can have 2,000 miles of RR we must begin somewhere and build one mile. And then another.”

“To see a man squatted on a quarter section in a cabin which would make a fair hogpen… waiting for someone to come along an buy out his ‘claim’ is enough to give a cheerful man the horrors.”

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Miner Chapter 2: Trampling Out the Vintage

The second chapter of the book covers only one decade in Kansas history, 1855-1865. This decade only encompasses four years of Kansas statehood but the importance of the territorial period is paramount to the history of the state and is a tremendously significant event leading to the Civil War. This connection is the origin of the title of the chapter, Trampling Out the Vintage, which is a reference to Julia Ward Howard’s Battle Hymn of the Republic. The chapter covers a variety of topics in detailed fashion including biographical sketches of key Kansans such as Charles Robinson, James Lane, and James Denver (I was surprised that John Ritchie was not mentioned in the chapter). The chapter also gives insight to how the local politics of territorial Kansas influences and were shaped by the situation in the rest of the United States.

The one part of the chapter that I believe could easily be integrated into the classroom is the myths and reality of “Bleeding Kansas”. The phrase “Bleeding Kansas” is mentioned in almost every high school history textbook and is probably misunderstood. Most students come away with a misguided notion that Kansas was in full-scale war over slavery before the outbreak of the war. This chapter clarifies what caused the violence the ramifications it had. Students could compare and contrast this books interpretation with how the survey textbooks describe the violence in the state.

Favorite Quotes From Chapter 2:

On the proposal to give up rifles and ammunition during the Wakarusa War “We will compromise, we will keep the rifles & give them the contents.”

“The admission of Kansas as a state on January 29, 1861 (an unfortunate date for later chilly celebrations) was an anticlimax.”

According to John Ingalls, there was in the later 1850s no observation of the Sabbath, “no change of dress or manner indicates the advent of holy time and most of the citizens employ the day in hinting prairie chickens, and the whiskey shops were full of cursing Democrats and the click of billiard balls”

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

My Daughter turned one year old today. We will have a big party for her this weekend. Take note that she is wearing shoes, which means she can walk on her own!!! Posted by Picasa

A New Idea In My Classes

Every year I try to do some new things in my classes but this year has been much different. Our school is doing all right but as I have mentioned in earlier posts things can be better. This has led me to try a lot of new ideas in my classes and some will work and some will fail miserable but my goal is that if students feel more comfortable in my classes, enjoy the type of work and feel that their views are important then the amount they learn will increase.

It is never a problem for me to be interested in my students. I try to be a mentor to them and expose them and get them to think as much as possible. My job is to teach subjects but I am always interested in my students future plans, and their views on current events as well as their opinions on fried chicken, ranch dressing and favorite vacation spots. The tougher part is finding out how a diverse group of students best learn a subject. My World History classes are going well and my Sociology class is fine but the classes I usually teach the best, Honors and Regular US History are floundering a bit. Things are fine but I feel that I am not getting as much out of my juniors as possible. My most recent idea is to allow the students to create their assessments then I am giving them options on how they gain the content. The assessment will be a STRUCTURED group debate which will commence this Friday. It looks like this might be a slight success but some of my students are really lacking motivation and this could drag down the whole thing. Anyway, I have more ideas to try and am always open to ideas from other people. Have a good evening.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Update For Kansas History Paper (eHIKES)

My research paper over African American in Wichita during the first half of the twentieth century is going fairly well. I am still researching the topic and have found a decent amount of material. There is not as much as I thought there might be but it still should be sufficient for the requirements of the paper. One area that I had previously not thought about looking at was the Kansas Historical Society but I believe that there might be some good information there. They have a lot of information on the spread of Jazz and then the Blues in Kansas during this time period and some of it relates to events in Wichita. Overall, the paper seems to be taking shape and I believe it will be fairly good.

School Improvement (extra credit)

Recently, our high school has become part of a nation wide project known as Breaking Ranks II. It is sponsored by the Gates Foundation and its goal is to bring about high school reform. It's focus is adding rigor to the curriculum and instructions and personalization of the school environment which I do not think anyone can argue about (in fact this seems pretty obvious). However, the question comes up about how to do these things? For our school of 250 students with a good track record, I would think we would have the ability to do some impressive things if we want to.

FOR DISCUSSION: What changes can Halstead High School implement to increase student performance?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Excerpts from Sec. Spellings

Sec. Of Education Margaret Spellings made gave a speech on September 28th to the National Association of Manufacturers. The speech focused on high schools and the attempt to prepare students for the future work place. I have only taken some sections of the speech but the entire speech is located at the Department of Education website if you want to read it. Spellings seems to be clear that there is a need to change the way high schools operate and in the end it is a moral obligation, that will have positive economic ramifications, to make the changes necessary to help students fulfill their potential. The speech was sent to me by Kelly W. and I appreciate her sending it to me.

From Sec. Spellings

If Katrina shows us anything, it shows how vulnerable we are. In fact, Tom Friedman's latest bestseller, The World Is Flat, spotlights some challenges to our future. Many of Friedman's points about America's waning competitiveness speak directly to education, and I want to highlight a few of these. But there's also one passage I want to address head on. That's the page where Friedman chides political leaders for too often downplaying the challenges of foreign competition. It's hard to have a national strategy to stay competitive, he says, if "people won't even acknowledge that there is an education gap emerging and that there is an ambition gap emerging and that we are in a quiet crisis."
Well, I agree and I'll say it: There is an education gap. And we are on a mission to close it.
As the international playing field becomes flatter, our students need better education and training to compete. Manufacturing executives rank a "high-performing workforce" as the most important factor in their firms' future success. But how can you be a high-performing worker when you don't even have a high school diploma?
If you're not scared yet, take a look at our high school graduation rates. Among ninth-graders, five out of 10 minority students fail to finish high school on time. Overall, three out of 10 ninth-graders don't finish on time.
Leaving our high school students behind is not only morally unacceptable, what the President calls "the soft bigotry of low expectations." It is also economically untenable. Studies show the staggering cost of high school dropouts. In addition to lost earnings for the individual, consider the cost to society.
The one million students who drop out of high school each year cost our nation more than $260 billion dollars. That's in lost wages, lost taxes, and lost productivity over their lifetimes. That equals the combined 2004 earnings of DuPont and Delphi and Intel and Verizon and Xerox and IBM! You and I know this is more than just bad for business, it's also bad for the future of our country's economy. When you lose a million students every year that has a tremendous impact on our economy. And it represents the American Dream ... denied.
Clearly, it's time to focus on improving high schools.
That's why the president and I are supporting high school reform to help more of our students reach the finish line on time and ready for college or work.
The more technology levels the playing field, the more critical postsecondary education becomes. You know this because you're living it. Thirty years ago, a majority of manufacturing workers did not have high school diplomas. Today, not only do most of them have high school diplomas, almost one-third have studied at the college level.
The problem is, not enough people understand how important this is. One of the parts I like best about Tom Friedman's book is what he calls the "dirty little
secrets": the ambition gap, the numbers gap, and the education gap. These secrets matter to business leaders and educators alike, and they certainly matter to those of us who have children. Parents must understand that their children will need math skills to succeed in the 21st century.
Friedman says, "Compared with the young, energetic Indians and Chinese, too many Americans have gotten too lazy." The numbers gap refers to the fact that we are simply not producing enough engineers and scientists. And the education gap means that U.S. high-tech companies are seeking employees abroad, not just because they can pay them less, but also because they are more skilled and more motivated. In other words, they're not following the money, they're following the brains. So the first thing all of us need to realize is that this is not the same world we grew up in. As a nation, we have no more important task than to help our children develop academic skills, and character, and a little ambition if we are going to succeed in this flattening world. I know I can count on you to continue speaking loudly and clearly about the need for continued reform, especially in our high schools and especially in math and science.
Today, there is no Sputnik to galvanize the nation into action, but Katrina has! This tragedy is a wake-up call, and people from every part of our country are responding. The N.A.M. and Monster.com are helping hurricane victims find jobs. Educators are opening their hearts and their schools to displaced children.
But the long-term solution is to make sure that every member of our rising generation has the education and skills to succeed in the 21st century. The education gap, the achievement gap—the quiet crisis—will cast a very long shadow over our future if we do not summon the will to stay competitive. And competitiveness begins with education.
This is our mandate and our mission, and it's also the right thing to do. Our children and our country deserve no less.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Good Weekend Except For Football

We went to Kansas City this past weekend to see our parents and it was a very nice trip. Lindsey behaved well and we did quiet a bit in a small amount of time. You can see the most recent pictures at Lindsey's Mom. The sour note of the weekend was the performance of local football teams. Among the losers: Pittsburg State, Kansas City Chiefs, KU, K-State and Halstead. The good games included Missouri losing and Notre Dame winnning. Have a great week.

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