Tag Archives: Communications

Videos for the Classroom: History of the World in Seven Minutes

Why can’t all our units of study be this concise?!

The good folks at the Social Studies and History Teachers Blog put up an interesting little video about world history.  World History For Us All created this film to show the birth and development of our planet.

Its informative, interesting and well made.  Yet what should strike students is how the time is broken up.  In a video that is over seven minutes long, only the last two minutes are devoted to recorded human history.  It should give a sense of how infinitesimally short our existence has been on this Earth.

Enjoy.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Occupy Wall Street Videos for the Classroom

The Occupy Wall Street protests are obviously on many peoples’ minds lately.  In my scotch fog (more like cheap Bourbon, in my case) not only did I not take into account my lack of activity on this blog, but also my lack of real analysis of these protests.

So here’s some video to share with your students–hopefully with as little editorializing as possible.

The YouTube channel OccupyTVNY provides a pretty good snapshot of the various protests in New York, where the movement began (obviously…does anyone really want to occupy Wall Street in the middle of Montana?).  Furthermore, the Manchester Guardian’s Teacher Network provides a cool set of stats and classroom resources for teachers covering the protests.

Given the Guardian’s slant, its pretty even handed.

I’ll be giving my own take on these protests shortly.  If you read my reports on the Save Our Schools March in July, you probably get a sense of where I’m going with this.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Videos for the Classroom: 1960 Mel-O-Toons Cartoon about Christopher Columbus

Its amazing what used to pass for education in our youth.

A year ago, I wrote about the conflicting personality of Christopher Columbus, his downward spiral in the eyes of historians, and his controversial image among Americans today.  A year later, and I still haven’t found a decent answer to this problem.

So I resorted to the next best thing–making fun of how we celebrated the old myths, through video.

Today’s video is a 1960 Mel-O-Toons classic cartoon about Columbus and his exploits.  The younger kids…and I mean REALLY young…will enjoy the cartoons and songs.  Older students can sit back and laugh at the absurd notions we were taught, such as:

1. All Native Americans looked like Crazy Horse‘s extended family and lived in “huts or wigwams” (I’m not kidding)

2. White people were better because they learned to build houses and large sailing ships. (Again, I’m not kidding)

3. Columbus had doubters who thought the Earth was still flat. (Most educated people of the time understood it was round).

4. Ferdinand and Isabella were decrepit senior citizens.

5. Columbus’ sailers looked like fat gondoliers with handlebar mustaches.

6. The natives Columbus encountered were slack-jawed yokels with no personality.

7. Bad acapella singing can apparently conquer the world.

Have fun ripping this apart as I did.  Enjoy.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Will 9/11 Become Just Another Holiday?

I once heard a comedian on cable say that in a few years, people will celebrate 9/11 with parades and barbecues.

I really wish it wasn’t true…even if history bears out his theory.

Like all civilizations, American society has, at least for itself, a very acute sense of amnesia.  No, there weren’t always sales and days off during Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the like.  There was a time when these days actually meant what they were supposed to mean: days of remembrance for those who served and died for their country.

Yet along the way, the original purposes of these days has tended to fade, and in the vacuum comes the parades, the holidays, the outings to the shore, the midnight blockbuster sales and the 24-hour oldies nostalgia countdowns on the radio.

More than ever, they are days that delineate less about sacrifice, and more about our excesses.

September 11, a day that brings little joy to anyone, shouldn’t suffer the same fate.  Yet at one time, Memorial Day and Veterans Day (or Armistice Day, in its original form) wasn’t that joyful either…and look where they ended up.

Today, I made it a point to not watch anything related to 9/11.  It was not out of disrespect–my own story of that day is very personal and painful.  It certainly was not out of creating a false holiday for barbecues and such.

I was afraid–deeply afraid–that the events of that day, raw as they were, would somehow morph into the nostalgia that provides a veneer to other holidays cheapened by merriment and shopping sprees.

Yes, the wounds are only ten years old.  Yet the memory of the American people is short and selective.  It shouldn’t be.

This day is not like any other day.  Nor should it be like any other HOLIDAY either.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

This Day in History 8/15: The Beatles’ 1965 Concert at Shea Stadium

Who brought out Shea Stadium‘s biggest crowd in 1965, perhaps in its history?  Well, it certainly wasn’t the hapless Mets (with all due respect to Mets fans).

On August 15, 1965, Beatlemania reached on of its true zeniths, as the seminal British rock band The Beatles played in Shea Stadium, the Mets’ home field, for their second US tour.  The band would play once more there the next year, and would never play in public again after that tour.

Over 55,000 people packed into Flushing to see the Beatles play on a small stage below center field.  The noise was deafening, but not due to the music: the fans’ shouts and screams–as well as the distance of the band from the audience, meant nobody really heard much of anything.  It was only when Ed Sullivan released a documentary of the performance that anyone actually heard the setlist.

Furthermore, the Shea concert began a revolution in live music, for both good and ill.  Its massive profits proved to promoters that massive outdoor arena shows can indeed be good business.  The subsequent decade, particularly into the 1970s, saw the rise of “arena rock” as bands with giant speakers and screaming guitars blasted their way through stadiums and outdoor venues.

However, the “arena rock” phase would often be criticized as formulaic, sterile and commercial.  Ironically, it would prove to be the catalyst of a countermovement, punk, that re-captured the indoor rebellious spirit of rock.

Attached is Ed Sullivan’s introduction of the band, and their rendition of “Twist and Shout.”  Believe me, be lucky this documentary exists: you would’ve heard nothing but the white noise of screaming adolescents if you were there.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Staples Back-To-School Commercial

School may be a few weeks away for me, and it may be sooner for many of you.  Yet I still get a kick out of this commercial–one of the best ever made.  There’s a poetic justice in the misery of those children, don’t you think? 😉

Here’s to a great beginning of a new school year.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Calling out all Teachers “converted” by Public Education!

Like St. Paul on the way to Damascus, many of us undergo a “conversion” experience.

We enter the world full of lofty goals, high-minded principles and some complex vocabulary. Sometimes, we even attempt to make those goals real, entering the “real world” to “inspire young minds” and “do some good in the world.”

Yet when the cold backhand of reality comes crashing across our faces, the sting often exposes a greater truth—a truth often masked behind the rhetoric.

I am not immune to this. When I began as a teacher, visions of gleaming charter schools and smiling faces with vouchers to private academies danced in my head. I couldn’t sing the praises of privatization and Teach for America loud enough—as well as shout my disdain for veteran teachers “not doing their job.”

It didn’t take long into my first year for reality to sink in. The magic bullets, the fab theories and the rhetoric of the NCLB crowd were smoke-and-mirrors in the everyday grind of an inner city classroom. The handbooks—TFA, NYC Teaching Fellows, or otherwise—had no answer for the problems I faced each day in that place. The best help I got was from (Surprise, surprise!) veteran teachers who long ago discarded the guidebooks to best educate their students.

My mind changed when I encountered the realities of public education. And I am sure I’m not alone.

At the recent Save Our Schools Conference, I had spoken with fellow blogger James Boutin about our experiences, and we got to thinking about people like us—people who “crossed the floor” as it were on public education. One workshop we attended involved two Teach for America alums. They quit the organization over their tactics and approach in regards to teacher training.

Surely, we thought, there are many others like them—and us—who also had an epiphany about education and the real problems in our public schools.

There’s a very public example of this “epiphany” in Diane Ravitch, the former assistant Secretary of Education and co-author of No Child Left Behind who saw the dangers of the monster she helped bring to life.

However, what could be even more powerful are the stories of everyday teachers—be it from TFA, Teaching Fellows, or anywhere else—who had once bought into the rhetoric of education “reform” and have been transformed by their experiences in today’s classrooms.

James and I are collecting stories of similar individuals, those with similar transformative experiences as us. If you have a story to share, please contact James or myself. Include your contact info, as we’re not sure how to best use your information, and we want to keep in touch with you.

Finally, please send this to anyone whose life was changed by teaching in a public school classroom. Your stories are important and incredibly valuable. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized