Episode 26: The Way of Improvement Returns to the Classroom

podcast-icon1Host John Fea and producer Drew Dyrli Hermeling have returned to their classrooms for another semester of college teaching. What better time to once again explore the importance of pedagogy? John discusses issues surrounding secondary history standards and the way we train our teachers. They are joined by “The Tattooed Prof” Kevin Gannon (@TheTattooedProf) who unpacks his own “Teaching Manifesto.”

 

2017 Princeton Seminar: Day 6

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Very happy teachers!! Gilder Lehrman “Princeton Seminar” participants enjoying their last day on campus

The 2017 Princeton Seminar on the “Colonial Era” wrapped-up yesterday.

The day began with lectures on the “Enlightenment in America” and the “First Great Awakening.”  The Enlightenment lecture focused largely on the lives of Philip Vickers Fithian and Benjamin Franklin.  The teachers read my The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America and spent a lot of time on Wednesday touring Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia with historian George Boudreau.

The First Great Awakening lecture focused on George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Chauncy, Gilbert Tennent, James Davenport, and the legacy of evangelicalism as it relates to American oratory, American religion, the transatlantic world, and colonial education.

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My attempt at drawing a primitive graph illustrating the spike in church membership during the First Great Awakening

After lunch we wrapped things up with a lecture titled “From Colonials to Provincials: The American Colonies on the Eve of the American Revolution.”  This lecture is adapted from Ned Landsman’s From Colonial to Provinicals: American Thought and Culture, 1680-1760, but I also take it in a few different directions.  In this lecture I try to get the teachers to understand the Anglicization of the British colonies and the sense of British nationalism pervading the colonies at the end of the French and Indian War.

During the rest of the afternoon the teachers met together to discuss the lessons plans they designed during the seminar:

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Throughout the week I wanted the teachers to think about British colonial America on its own terms, rather than through the grid of the American Revolution.  We tried to imagine what the story of the colonies might look like if the Revolution had never happened.  Those who took this exercise seriously began to move from a Whiggish, civics-based view of the era, to an approach defined by the “unnatural” act of historical thinking.  This is not easy for most teachers and I appreciated their efforts to reorient their thinking and their lesson plans in this way.

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Another Princeton Seminar is in the books. It was a great week of teaching, learning, and collaboration with 35 K-8 teachers from around the country.  Special thanks to Nate McAlister, my partner-in-crime, master teacher, heart and soul of the Princeton Seminar, and an all-around great guy.  I couldn’t do it without him. Nate is a history machine! Next week he will be in Mount Vernon doing research on George Washington and Native Americans. I also want to thank the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History for giving me the honor to lead this seminar.

And I am also happy to announce that the Gilder Lehrman has informed me that we will be back again next year!  Stay tuned for more details.

2017 Princeton Seminar: Day 4

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Yesterday the 2017 Princeton Seminar spent the day in Philadelphia.  Our host for the day was the legendary George Boudreau, the man who I consider to be the greatest Philadelphia history tour guide of all time!!

George gave us a phenomenal introduction to the colonial city.   We made several stops along the way:

  • Welcome Park:  George oriented us to the layout of William Penn’s city.
  • Christ Church:  The teachers got their photos taken in George Washington’s pew and we paused at the gravestone of Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson where George told us about her life and taught us about the vulnerability of women in colonial America.
  • Betsy Ross House:  George told us about George Washington’s visit to “Mr. Griscom’s upholstery shop.”
  • Arch Street Quaker Meetinghouse:  George told some gruesome tales of Philadelphia Quakers building this meetinghouse atop the meeting’s graveyard.
  • Benjamin Franklin’s Court:  The teachers spent some time in the museum, George signed copies of his book, and George and Ben Franklin sang us a song.
  • First National Bank: This was not part of our “colonial” tour, but all the teachers are obsessed with “Hamilton” so we had to make a quick visit here.
  • Carpenter’s Hall
  • The site of Anthony Benezet’s school for women and African Americans,
  • The American Philosophical Society:  George rattled off several dozen collections held by the society.

We ended the day at the Pennsylvania State House.  In the early 19th-century people started calling this place “Independence Hall.”

We are back in the lecture hall today.

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I introduce the teachers to George Boudreau

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George tells us what we can expect in Christ Church

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Sometimes we let the teachers break out of the 17th and 18th centuries

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We met Ben

Princeton Seminar Is About To Kick-Off Its Fourth Year

36167-nassau_hall_princetonNext week I will be at Princeton University to lead a Gilder-Lehrman Institute seminar of the “Colonial Era” for history teachers.  This is the fourth year that I have joined my partner in crime, 2010 National Teacher of the Year Nate McAlister, in leading this seminar. The Princeton Seminar (as we call it) has become one of the professional highlights of my year.

Stay tuned for updates as the week progresses.  In the meantime, here are some pics from previous Princeton seminars:

Welcome Park

The 2015 Princeton Seminar at Welcome Park in Philadelphia

Boudreau

George Boudreau of LaSalle University, the man who many believe to be the greatest tour guide of colonial Philadelphia that has ever lived, will be back in 2017!

McCalister

Nate likes to take the teachers into Einstein’s old classroom

Witherspoon

There is plenty of time for impromptu tours of the 18th-century Princeton campus

Documents

Teachers spend a lot of time working with primary sources

Fithian Wall

The teachers read The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  The ghost of Philip Vickers Fithian (Princeton class of 1772) hovers over the events of the week

Cemetery

Our visit to the Princeton Cemetery (Aaron Burr, Jonathan Edwards, John Witherspoon, etc.) is always a highlight–rain or shine.

Wheatley

One my favorite moments of the week is when we take the teachers to Firestone Library to look at rare 18th-century books

Lecture

And yes, there is the occasional lecture

Student and Teacher Fellowships at the Massachusetts Historical Society

mhs-logoSome great opportunities here for history teachers and history students.  At taste:

Each year the MHS offers at least three fellowships to K-12 educators. Applications are welcome from any candidate (living anywhere in the United States) who is interested in developing an engaging series of lessons using documents and artifacts from the Society’s collections. Each fellow receives a $4,000 stipend in exchange for approximately 4 weeks of research and writing. Our 2016 teacher fellows investigated topics including the coming of the American Revolution in Boston, Bostonians’ experiences in World War I, and the Transcendentalist movement and the creation of Brook Farm. Other fellows explored the role of women in the abolitionist movement and how Boston’s abolitionist movement influenced ideas about Black identity and racial equality. Throughout 2017, we will be adding these (and more) curriculum units to our website, so visit our education pages frequently. (http://www.masshist.org/2012/education/lessonplans)

Our Winthrop Student Fellowship encourages budding historians to engage with primary sources to write a paper, create a website, or design an exhibit … whatever piques the student’s interest. Prior to applying, a student should consult with his or her teacher to agree upon an appropriate topic and product. This year’s Winthrop Fellows were a group of students from Stoneham (Mass.) High School. They created an exhibition for National History Day on the Boston Post Road, and described their research experiences in a recent blog post. (http://www.masshist.org/blog/index.php?series=46) Both the teacher and the student(s) receive a stipend upon completion of the fellowship, as well as an opportunity to attend a behind-the-scenes tour of MHS.

Applications for teacher and students fellowships must be postmarked no later than February 16, 2017. Learn more about application requirements, suggested topics, and other guidelines on our website (http://www.masshist.org/education/fellowships), or contact education staff members for more information (education@masshist.org).

A Middle School History Teacher Reflects on Martin Luther and the Usable Past

lutherThe Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association ended yesterday afternoon, but reports from The Way of Improvement Leads Home correspondents who covered conference continue to roll in.  We were pleased to have Zachary Cote write for us this weekend.  As a middle-school history teacher he has brought a unique perspective to this annual gathering of historians.  In his final post, Zach reports on a couple of sessions he attended on Martin Luther.  Read all of Zach’s AHA 2017 posts here.–JF

One of the perks of attending the 2017 AHA annual meeting was being able to sit-in on a couple panels that were created with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in mind. As a Protestant, I have always been interested in Luther.  So I was eager to see how historians were going to commemorate the quincentenary of his 95 Theses. I attended two sessions, the first entitled “Memories of Reform: German Commemorations of the Reformation” and the second, “Luther and the ‘Second Reformation’. A common thread in both of these panels was how generations after Luther interpreted his work, impact, and theology.

In the 1617 celebration of the 95 Theses Luther was used to either remind a town of the perceived horrors of Catholicism or to promote local exceptionalism, as was the case in Ulm, Germany. The tercentennial celebration looked at the German monk as a “Luther for Everyone.” For Luther’s 400th birthday, in 1883, the new nation-state of Germany used the anniversary to promote German unity; after all, even “German Catholics were better than the others.” In 1967, on the 45oth anniversary of the Reformation, communist East Germany had to come to grips with the fact that so much of the Reformation originated in that region.  East Germany interpreted the Reformation to fit its own agenda, and therefore made it a secular event heavily attached to the Early Bourgeois Revolution of the Peasants’ War. Luther took on a new identity for each of these commemorations.  He became the Luther that the people of each specific time and place needed.

Luther’s impact on others in the “Second Reformation” revealed similar insights. For example, Luther informed John Wesley’s doctrine of sola fide. While Wesley’s theology often looked much different than Luther’s, his scant references to the German reformer point to an implicit influence on his theology of justification.  Seventeenth-century Puritans, too, found encouragement from Luther when it came to the importance of temptation in the lives of Christians. To these Puritans, Luther “was clearly recognized as a symbol of piety” despite his stronger emphasis on the Holy Spirit. Lastly, in mid-eighteenth-century Denmark, Luther’s historical reading of the Old Testament would eventually lead Danish theologians to end their traditional evaluations of civil law in Amsterdam. This, in turn, actually led to a secularization of Amsterdam’s government.

Listening to these panels enlightened me on the role of Luther over the centuries and left me questioning what Luther will look like in this year’s festivities. But perhaps even more importantly, the research presented by the historians at each panel illuminated a larger theme within history.

Something that we emphasize in our classes is that history is the study of change (and yes, continuity) over time. But the study of Luther demonstrates that history itself changes over time. Not simply in the academic historiography of any given subject, but also in the public’s use of the past.  Luther was perceived very differently by people over time, and perhaps may not even recognize himself in those perceptions; nonetheless, it is through perceptions like those that most understand history. I am reminded of what George Orwell wrote in 1984: “The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon.” How true that is for American society today.

With this in mind, may we, as those who study and teach the past, recognize that history itself is changing, and continue to pursue the goal to teach our students how to navigate those changes in order to paint the most accurate picture of the past available.

The Princeton Seminar is Back!

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On July 23-July 29, 2017 we will gather together with a group of K-8 teachers to study Colonial America.  I hope you will consider joining us.  Learn how to apply here.

LOCATION

Princeton University

DIRECTORS

John Fea, Professor of History, Messiah College

OVERVIEW

Rather than thinking about colonial America as a necessary forerunner to the American Revolution or the birth of the United States, we will make an effort to understand British colonial life on its own terms, examining how the colonies developed from remote seventeenth-century English outposts to well-connected eighteenth-century provinces of the British Empire. In the process we will critique the so-called “Whig” interpretation of the colonies and think together about how this particular period in the American past provides a laboratory for teaching historical-thinking skills in the K–8 classroom.

TRAVEL & ACCOMMODATIONS

Participants will be staying at Princeton University in Princeton, NJ. Princeton is equidistant from New York City and Philadelphia and is easily accessible by train. The nearest airport is Newark Liberty International Airport. For more information on travel to Princeton, please click here.

Workshop participants will stay in on-campus residence halls in their own room, but share bathrooms and common space on each floor. The university provides basic bedding and towels only. Please note that participants should plan to bring alarm clocks, shower shoes, hangers, irons, and hair dryers. Participants should plan to bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited.

MEALS

Meals will be served in a university cafeteria in space shared by other programs. All on-campus meals will be paid for by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar. Each seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Please read our complete travel reimbursement policy before applying.

COURSE REVIEWS FROM PAST PARTICIPANTS

“Dr. John Fea did a remarkable job sharing his knowledge in the area of the 13 colonies. His passion for history is evident in his lectures and I am more motivated today to teach tomorrow. I have always been intimidated by the 13 colonies because each colony’s background is so diverse. I have a better grasp on the colonies and I will be able to share primary documents to support the classroom learning. I am looking forward to teaching this in the coming weeks.”

“Thoroughly enjoyed the week in NJ. Strengthened my content background & walked away with tons of resources (primary specifically) to take back to my classroom.”

“This seminar was the best thing I have experienced in 25 years of teaching. Dr. Fea was outstanding and his lectures were riveting. I appreciated the content, the setting, and the master teacher’s assistance. It was amazing and memorable. I will certainly be applying this content and these principles to my teaching this year.”

GRADUATE CREDIT

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit to participating seminar teachers. For more information, please click here.

QUESTIONS?

Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

When
July 23rd, 2017 5:00 PM   through   July 29th, 2017 9:00 AM
Location
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ
United States

History Teachers Who Did Not Study History in College

It has been said that most high school history teachers go by the first name “coach.” The idea behind this adage is that anyone can teach history.

School districts demand that their music teachers have a college degree in music and are certified to teach music.  The same goes for foreign language teachers, art teachers, science teachers, English teachers, and math teachers.  Yet, according to this study brought to my attention by Robert Townsend of the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, only 27% of public high school history teachers have a college major and a state certification in the subject.

Over the course of the last ten years I have been doing a lot of work with teachers. Townsend’s statistics confirm my anecdotal evidence.  Most history teachers I encounter did not major in history. Instead, they majoed in social studies or social sciences, subjects that require a small smattering of history courses–perhaps two, maybe three.

Things get worse when we consider the qualifications of middle school teachers.  Only 17% of middle school history teachers have a history major and a state certification.  Over half of the middle school history teachers in the United States do not have a history major or a certification in history.

So not only are public schools eliminating history from the curriculum, but when history IS taught, it is likely taught by someone without a history degree or certification in the subject.  (Not all states have a history certification).

This information tells us that we have a long way to go in trying to convince school districts and state boards of education that history is more than just the memorization of “one damn thing after another.” It takes training–training in the discipline of history–to excel at teaching a primary source, getting students to think historically, and having them think about things like complexity, contingency, causation, change over time, and context.

Let’s keep working on this…

American Historical Association Is Addressing the Needs of Pre-Collegiate History Teachers

I love this idea.  The AHA is developing a new membership status to encourage more secondary teachers to join the ranks of the organization.  As someone who has spent a lot of time with history teachers and future history teachers as a history professor, former AP exam grader (seven years), and a workshop historian with Gilder-Lehrman and Messiah College’s “Teacher as Scholars” program (in addition to my own short stint as an AP U.S. History teacher), I can attest to two things:

1.  History teachers are starving for professional development opportunities.

2.  Academic historians can learn A LOT from history teachers about how to teach.  Some of my most rewarding experiences as a historian came while spending a week sitting at a table in a overly air-conditioned Trinity University gym grading AP exams with teachers.  We need to rub shoulders, share conversation, and learn from the expertise that K-12 teachers bring to the profession.

Read all about the new AHA program here.  Some of the benefits they are considering include:

  • Discounted membership fees for secondary educators (as compared to Individual Membership rates)
  • Travel scholarships to attend the annual meeting
  • Increased number of panels for secondary educators at our annual meeting, including special breakout sessions to discuss how the historical content from the panels can be applied in the classroom
  • Sponsored networking events at the annual meeting
  • Featured articles in AHA outlets that provide reviews of books and textbooks, historiographical debates, and pedagogical news and information
  • Access to online resources, curriculum units, and webinars that highlight the latest historical scholarship
  • Access to online discussion groups that address current pedagogical and content-related issues
  • Facilitated partnerships between secondary educators and university-level faculty to develop resource materials