Monthly Archives: October 2009

Reminder for Our Poll – “History’s Greatest A**hole”

90275679I’ve been pretty swamped here, with kids gearing up for the state tests, assessments that I still have to design with rubrics to match, workshops I have to present, trips I need to plan, etc.  I need a breather to get some creativity back.

Just a quick reminder that our Poll for “History’s Greatest A**hole” is up and running, thanks to the good folks at PollDaddy.  Please vote as soon as you can: the polling ends next Saturday, November 7.  The poll is designed to not accept multiple votes from the same IP address, so it’s strictly one vote per person.

Next post should be a good one for next week: a look at the minor “incursions” or “police actions” in American history.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Videos for the Classroom: African American Training During WWII

THE “HISTORY’S GREATEST ASSHOLE” POLL IS UP!  POLLING WILL BE OPEN UNTIL SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7.  VOTE NOW!

Recently, the good folks at the Social Studies and History Teachers blog presented a great video from the Office of War Information about the war effort in black colleges during World War II.  I posted the video, along with a video of a Bugs Bunny cartoon advertising war bonds.  The juxtaposition between an “official” view of blacks in the war effort and the blatent racist stereotypes in the cartoon is too juicy to resist–especially for students.

Let me know how they work in your classroom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“History’s Greatest A**hole!” – The Finalists!

Thanks to everyone who sent their submissions!  Based on the quality of the candidates, and space/time issues for a proper poll, here are the five finalists (for sake of fairness, the contestants’ names have been left out):

Hans_Holbein_d__J__074

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Henry VIII (1491-1547)

Assholes like to make history-making dick moves, and few moved their member with such ferocity as Henry Tudor, or King Henry VIII of England.  Apart from going through six wives–and countless chambermaids–to secure that elusive male heir, he decided to make himself head of a church, which helped lead to centuries of religious violence.  As we all know, all assholes think they’re God, and fat Harry was no exception. Even his portraits are symbols of douchebaggery.  By Henry’s death in 1547, Hans Holbein the Younger needed double-wide canvasses just to do His Lardness some justice. 

Fidel_Castro_-_MATS_Terminal_Washington_1959

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Fidel Castro (1926-       )

If Fidel wins this contest, I’m blaming Miami and Union City, NJ with stuffing the ballots (just kidding).  Fidel Castro is certainly worthy of this list.  His 1959 revolution in Cuba created the first Communist regime in the Western Hemisphere.  Thousands have been killed, tortured and imprisoned for defying him and his brand of Communism.  His programs have driven the country into ruin, while aid continues to enter the country just to make the US look bad.  He makes lefties swoon and right-wingers squirm, and is personally responsible for Miami and Union City, NJ.  Yet the real reason he’s on here?  According to legend (and we can’t really substantiate this) Castro made ice cream cones illegal.  Now that’s an asshole!

Pol_Pot2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Pol Pot (1928-1998)

Here’s a wacko that deserves a well-placed kick in the nuts.  Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge guerrillas to power in Cambodia in 1975.  For four long years, Pol Pot systematically reduced his country to the Stone Age, literally.  He changed time so that everything started at “Year Zero”, forcing cities to be evacuated for slave labor in the countryside.  Almost 2.5 million people, or 21% of the population, died on his watch from starvation, torture and execution.  The guy hated everybody: foreigners, intellectuals, the disabled, even hated people wearing glasses.  It took the Vietnamese, of all people, to end this nightmare with an invasion in 1979, forcing Pol Pot into the hills as his country still recovers from the lunacy.  They say he was poisoned–let’s hope its by Pearle Vision.

Andrew_Jackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)

It is now common knowledge among academics that the father of Jacksonian Democracy was also a bit of a scumbag.  As President of the United States from 1829-1837, he was a steadfast supporter of slavery, killed the Second Bank of the United States as a gesture to create an “agricultural republic” (or “plantation republic”, for those with less taste in bullshit) and supported the forced removal of almost 45,000 Native Americans from the eastern US, resulting in almost 4,000 deaths along the way–in defiance of the Supreme Court.  If this wasn’t bad enough, consider his temper: he fought 13 duels, killed a man in one, had bullets lodged all over his body, and even had to be restrained from killing an assassin who botched an attempt on his life.  No wonder he graces the “yuppie food stamp.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997)

Only a truly global asshole would change his name.  Joseph-Desire Mobutu took over the Congo in a bloodless military coup in 1965.  He then proceeded to create a totalitarian regime unequalled in Africa.  His personality cult silenced all opposition.  Mobutu personally embezzled $5 billion dollars from his country, forcing it into the economic shitter–which was hard considering it was the mineral breadbasket of Africa.  He renames the country Zaire, and forced the whole country to adopt African names and dress on pain of imprisonment or death.  Finally, in a real classy move, he changes his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.”).

I will create the poll in a separate post, along with the dates of the poll.  May the worst asshole win!

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

CONTEST ENDS TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT

71559918THIS IS IT!  “HISTORY’S GREATEST ASSHOLE!” ENDS TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT!  MAKE SURE YOUR SUBMISSION IS IN BY THEN!  WE GOT SOME GREAT ONES, BUT WE CAN STILL USE MORE! 

LET’S GO PEOPLE!  LET’S SEE WHO THE BIGGEST ASSHOLE CAN BE!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Teaching the Bill of Rights to those who Shouldn’t Use them Yet

ONE DAY LEFT FOR “HISTORY’S GREATEST ASSHOLE” CONTEST!  DON’T BE LATE!

Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal. He loved his Fifth Amendment

The Founding Fathers never counted on kids who know too much for their own good.

My students, in their urban-battleground existence in the Bronx, have seen enough bad situations to turn your Nantucket Reds a deep brown.   As much as they don’t want to admit it, their childhood has been accelerated.  They think grown-up thoughts, grown-up ideas, even grown-up vocabulary (especially what you can’t say in school.)

In spite of this, they are still children.  Still the ward of their parents. 

Now try to explain the Bill of Rights to them.  It’s as if you’re dangling the keys to a Porsche, yet you keep snatching it away until the drivers’ test.

The United States Bill of Rights, written in 1789 and ratified in 1791, outline the basic freedoms and rights enjoyed by all Americans.  It takes its rightful place among the faded parchment of our lore: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  The Bill of Rights is also the most controversial of the three crinkly papers in the National Archives.  The exact meaning and extent of these rights is still hotly debated.  Conservatives want to go over the thing with White-Out and a Sharpie.  Liberals want to tack on another ream of paper covering everything from environmental awareness to Hacky-Sack regulations. 

Yet whatever your persuasion, one thing is clear: this is not kid stuff.  The Bill of Rights was meant for adults.

Many of your high-minded, Kum-Ba-Yah teachers of the granola type forget this mantra, with disastrous results.  After 30 minutes of finally getting a semblance of quiet from his little hellions, Mr. Patchouli diagrams how the Bill of Rights protects the freedom of everyone–even the students.  “That’s right, boys and girls, you have the right to say what you want, do what you want, read and write what you want…”

Think he’s getting his book reports on time anymore?  That science fair project ever get done?  How about the assessments he needs to perform his “data-driven instruction”? 

By January, this class has gone completely unhinged.  And all of them utter the same thing: “I’m allowed to!  It’s in the F***ing Bill of Rights!”

Many liberal-minded teachers are, unfortunately, like Mr. Patchouli.  They’re not bad people, and I’m sure they mean well.  Their problem is their audience–a pack of self-absorbed, out-of-control, feisty, moody, bored, defiant snot factories.   This is not the informed citizenry that Madison and Jefferson envisioned.  Yet these teachers treat them like adults, forgetting to be honest with them about their status.

So for those who must teach about American freedoms to children, here’s a step-by-step guide. 

AMENDMENT 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. 

This one is simple.  Make sure you stress two important caveats:

(1) You have all of these rights, but you can’t hurt anybody or cause anybody to get hurt.  (Conservatives can include caveats about Communism, terrorism, atheism, hippies, etc.  Liberals can include caveats about neo-Nazis, racists, Klansmen, fascism, capitalism, anyone remotely resembling Barack Obama, etc.)

(2) You’re a kid.  In school, at home, in life, you’re the property of adults until you’re 18.  You don’t have these rights yet.  Deal with it.

AMENDMENT 2: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This one should be a no-brainer, just be careful of your students.  “Well-Regulated” is key: to legally own a gun, you have to abide by the gun ownership laws of your state.  The gun Ramon got “from his friend” who “just got out” probably doesn’t count.  Finally, for God’s sake, don’t mention Texas.

AMENDMENT 3: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

This antique of the Revolutionary War served a purpose.  Stress the bad things the British did to houses, money, furniture and goods when discussing the quartering situation to younger students.  In high school, mention what the redcoats did to women–that’ll perk up the back row.

AMENDMENT 4: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendments 4, 5, 6 and 8 are often grouped together.  I call them the “Law and Order/CSI/NCIS Amendments” since my kids probably know all these rights from these television programs, if not from their own experience.  Sit back and enjoy when your tough boy does his best Eliot Stabler impression and mimicks “tuning up” a suspect.

As for Amendment 4, this is when personal stories arise of families dealing with law enforcement.  If they’re guilty as sin, don’t tell it to the kid’s face.  Besides, he may get that gun he bought from Ramon and train its business end on you.

AMENDMENT 5: No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Few amendments have such legendary status as the fifth.  It’s chock full of protections for the accused, as well as the old eminent domain clause (to be avoided if in the Bronx, as the Cross-Bronx Expressway can be a touchy subject).  Just make sure they know that double jeopardy has nothing to do with the game show.  The “Right to Remain Silent” comes from this amendment. 

Finally, include a funny anecdote about “taking the fifth”, such as Las Vegas gambling kingpin Lefty Rosenthal invoking his rights 37 times to a Congressional subcommittee, thus earning his nickname.  Administrators love when teachers use organized crime: the RICO charts help kids with their organizational skills.

AMENDMENT 6: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Kids may get the impression that this is how all criminal trials are conducted.  Well, “Assistance of Counsel for his defense” does not mean GOOD assistance of counsel.  Again, as before, try to avoid personal stories with Amendment 6.  Last thing you need was a fistfight over why a cousin got a 10-year bit due to a dumbass public defender screwing up their case.

 AMENDMENT 7: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

This is why the Enron people, the Adelphia folks and Bernie Madoff could not go to Judge Judy–to our chagrin.

AMENDMENT 8: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

This is why we don’t have public flogging, disembowelment, breaking at the wheel, the stocks, the pillory, crucifixion, public beheadings, or body parts on pikes–don’t you just love the old days?

AMENDMENT 9: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

This is the “dumbass” amendment.  Opponents of the Bill of Rights thought that such a bill was nonsense because it would be impossible to list all the rights a person had.  What about slapping your little sister?  How about dressing in your mother’s nightgown on the street?  When a fat kid takes your Twinkie, do you have the right to belt him in his chubby kisser?

Obviously, you have other rights.  These aren’t all of the rights, and Amendment 9 takes care of that.  Now shut up and finish your long division, you little pissant!

AMENDMENT 10: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

This is the one that caused a lot of trouble.  Southern rednecks thought this amendment gave them a green light to put on bedsheets and go buck-wild on blacks.  Some states thought it gave them carte-blanche to insert a prayer into public schools.  The fat kid invoked the Tenth as reason enough to take your Twinkie.

Legislation has taken a lot of the loopholes out of the Tenth, so much of the damage has been undone.  Thankfully.

Let me know how you do with this.  If there’s any questions about this method, let me know.  I’ll send that fat kid with the Twinkie.  That’ll straighten those little bastards out.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database – Website Review

TWO DAYS UNTIL THE END OF OUR CONTEST.  SUBMIT YOUR ENTRY TODAY!

Slave_Auction_AdThis is a first for the Neighborhood, but not the last.  In the past, I’ve been pretty cavalier about my website recommendations, especially when it comes to the details.

In this case, the details tell the story.

Few educators in America go a year without at least touching upon the great tragedy that is the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, the nearly 400-year old program of kidnapping Africans and selling them into servitude in the Americas.  Though estimates are all over the place, a conservative estimate is that between 11 and 15 million people were transported from Africa to the Western Hemisphere, from the shores of New England to the coasts of Brazil.

The effect of this trade extends beyond the mere color line that exists in many places on these continents.  In short, the contributions of these enslaved Africans to our society, our culture and our way of life vastly outweigh our repayment for their labor.

One of the most remarkable websites I’ve encountered about the slave trade itself was sent to me by my old friend Deven Black.  Deven’s library of educational websites for social studies can rival the Library of Congress in its complexity, and he shared this gem with myself and some other colleagues.  The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities that is, by far, one of the best sources of data on the slave trade that I could ever find.

The database, which is growing amid ongoing research, has catalogued approximately 35,000 voyages of slave ships across the Atlantic.  It details each ship, their country of origin, their destinations, their cargo, and how much cargo was actually sold, since deaths on slavers were fairly common.  Maps are also provided to show the course of each of these voyages.

If the database itself were not enough, there is also essays that detail the history of the slave trade in the Atlantic, along with primary accounts, vignettes and notes for research.  An even more useful tool is the “Estimates” page, where graphs, charts, and maps detail the impact of the slave trade country by country, destination by destination. 

Furthermore, the African names database catalogs the names of thousands of Africans on various ships.  The collection of images includes ship manifests, journals, logs, and pictures of the slave trade.  Finally, the education section carries some nice lesson plans and web resources for further study.

I’m simply amazed that so much of the slave trade was able to be recovered and documented.  So much primary source material from the time period is lost through different eras, yet much of the records of the slave voyages have been preserved.  This probably has much to do with the importance of the slave trade in its day.  It was a lucrative enterprise, and many merchants, investors, and ship captains made their fortunes in the sale of human beings.

Take the time to explore the database for yourself.  There is lots to uncover, and all of it within easy reach for student research, for presentations, or for lessons on slavery and the slave trade.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mr. D’s Contest, Housekeeping, and other chores

ONLY THREE DAYS UNTIL THE END OF OUR CONTEST “WHO IS HISTORY’S GREATEST ASSHOLE!”  GET YOUR SUBMISSION IN BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!

53328933There’s some housekeeping issues that have to be resolved in my planning for this week.  Being that it’s getting close to the date of the state social studies test, my planning has kicked into overdrive, as well as assessments, mentoring, modeling lessons for teachers, working with small groups, etc.  I need to get back to that, but just wanted to remind everyone of  a couple things:

  1. Our inaugural contest has gotten some great word-of-mouth…the submissions, however, have not met expectations.  I have received a good handful of official entries, but I still need more to pick some good “assholes” for our poll, which will start next week.  Remember, we need a good set of “assholes”, so please get your submissions in writing by 12:00 midnight EDT this Friday, October 23.  Many have given a verbal submission, but we must have it in writing.  The details of the contest are available here, and you can either post your submission on the that post or e-mail it directly to me.  LET’S DO IT, EVERYBODY!
  2. I’ll be posting more links to informative sites for teachers, as I’ve noticed that the links are being used extensively.  Any comments or suggestions about our linked resources would be most helpful.
  3. It seems that my Cuban Missile Crisis lesson has gotten some publicity!  Neat-O-Rama, from which I featured their Roman rotating room previously, did a write-up about my lesson, as did the Spanish language blog Penultimos Dias.  Apparently, the Penultimos Dias blog generated some heated discussion over my experiment.  Check them out.

That’s all for tonight.  Tomorrow I’ll be showcasing an awesome new site about the Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized