And, I really hope that it is for you and yours. For K-16 educators, August is the cusp, the apex of the summer season lying somewhere between a period of much needed rest and the often frenetic activities that open the school year. I recall the principal of the school where I once taught telling me, “If you don’t feel exhausted after the first week in September, you haven’t been here.” September also is a notoriously bad time to present anything about content and pedagogy before teachers, who mercifully, and sometimes unmercifully, are completely absorbed in their classroom work. So, given that it is that last weekend before the September rush begins, I want to bring a few things to your attention, regarding history and the teaching of history.
First, I encourage you to check the Montana Council for History and Civics Education Facebook page. Danice and I try to select the best history content and pedagogy that we find on the Internet and provide links on our page. We are featuring several resources, including the inventor of television and the work of the historian Richard White whose recent book (Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America) provides a stunning revision of previous accounts of the nature and impact of America’s transcontinental railroads as well as accounts of the impact and rise of the business corporation, which had its birth in late 19th Century. If you do not have access to Facebook, go to the Youtube video of Richard White’s talk before the Commonwealth Club of California. Similarly, we posted a link on MCHCE’s Facebook page to Stanford University’s Spatial History Project, which Richard White directs. Browse the entire site and discover the wealth of projects in all areas of visualizing and animating history that this crew of young historians have undertaken visual and animated representations of every thing from Chinese immigration to a non-state mapping of economic and social growth, but specifically the visual and animated supplement to White’s Railroaded book. You won’t be disappointed. Middle and high school teachers, consider using this resource with your students.
Our students need to know something about the guts of modern technology but also its history. Railroad technology was the pivot of 19th century American industrialization just as digital technologies are today. However, the I-Phone did not explode full-formed from the mind of Steve Jobs. It too has forebearers. World’s Fairs, past and present, played a pivotal role in technological innovation, a point made by our Teaching American History Co-Director, Dr. Bob Rydell made in a recent address on C-Span, which you can view by clicking the link. Danice also recently posted on our Facebook page the story of the amazing Philo T. Farnsworth who, at the age of 15, invented the first electronic television. You can find no better place for you and your students to explore the history, particularly of electronic technology than The American Computer Museum in Bozeman.
During our Summer 2012 Teaching American History Institute this past June, the incomparable Elliott West was one of our institute historians. One of his presentations was "Theodore Roosevelt's West." This talk was a strong echo his keynote address, "Roosevelt's West" at the 2011 Theodore Roosevelt Symposium at Dickinson State University in October of 2011. We can’t provide you a video of Elliott splendid talk at our Institute, but we can link you to his earlier talk at Dickinson State as well as the question and answer session that followed his address.
Until next time,
Jim Bruggeman Executive Director, The Montana Council for History and Civics Education Bozeman, MT