Sunday, October 28, 2007

Trial update

We put Christopher Columbus on trial this past week. The verdict: Guilty.

Who, me?


First of all, I have to recommend the Mill City Museum to my fellow Twin Cities social studies teachers. Small and manageable, the museum does a good job of providing a coherent (if a bit monochromatic) narrative of the city's history. I'd bring students here for examples of material culture and oral history, or for a unit on urban planning and geography.

The School of Bloggers had a lovely day walking around downtown yesterday to the museum from the central library (which I also hope to make into a field trip someday). At the museum, we found ourselves on a double date with a Minnesota Timberwolves player and his (much shorter) female companion.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hyperbole at the World Series

Last night on FOX I heard the Red Sox announcer call John Williams "the epitome of our culture."

I like John Williams as much as anyone -- I will inevitably like a movie if he is the composer, even if it's The Patriot. But the epitome of our culture?

Sadly, I think if anything is the epitome of our culture it's FOX.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Usually the unsolicited emails we get at theschoolofblog AT gmail DOT com are pretty relevant to our interests. A tip of the hat to the people who troll blogs and manually enter in email addresses to send out press releases on various to-dos.

The most recent one, however, is sort of puzzling and also intriguing: Announces North America’s Oldest Appliance Contest, an appliance parts website, announces North America’s Oldest Appliance Contest. Visitors to the site can enter to win $15,000 in Cash and Prizes.

Buffalo, NY October 15, 2007 – announces North America’s Oldest Appliance Contest. Do you know of an old appliance? We want to see it!


North America’s Oldest Appliance Contest is a nationwide call to find the oldest appliance, working or not, in the United States or Canada. Contestants wishing to enter should send a 2 minute video of themselves and their appliance to .

The contest has six categories and each will have a winner. The grand prize winner with the Absolute Oldest Appliance will win Three Brand New Whirlpool Appliances plus $1,000 in Cash! There will also be winners for the Oldest Refrigerator, Oldest Range, Oldest Dryer and Oldest Washer.


For More Information:

Christine Smith


Even though this is sort of weird and random, I am actually really interested in seeing North America's oldest appliance!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Airport Airblade Air-someness

The bathrooms in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport have gotten a lot of publicity lately. (My favorite was a song Garrison Keillor sang a few weeks ago -- listen to it here, it's right after the shout-outs.)

But what the bathrooms REALLY should be famous for is having the BEST HAND DRYERS OF ALL TIME.

I have never looked forward to using a bathroom hand dryer before. Now I'm considering taking a trip down to the airport just to use it.

Friday, October 12, 2007


So in my Early American History class we're putting Columbus on trial. I got the idea from the teacher I worked with last year and also from the book Rethinking Columbus, but I'm still finding myself making everything up from scratch. So any resources you all might have would be very welcome!

Last class I had the defense and prosecution teams come up with a list of witnesses. The jury members each had to come up with an identity (past, present, real, fictional, etc). Before they did that I had them examine these images:

(actually it was a different illustration from this same book)

I had planned to hold the debate ON Columbus Day (which we do not have off), but like everything else that plan ganged aft agley.

P.S., in my insomnia I finally got around to updating my blogroll! Apologies to anyone I've left off.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Pence saved are pence earned

I just bought the new Radiohead album for ₤0.65.

I feel like I'm taking part in a big Econ 1 experiment.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

National Anti-Quartering Association

Gotta find some way to work this article into a lesson ...

Friday, October 05, 2007

History alive

I'm team teaching a course in which the students are looking at epidemics in history (bubonic plague, smallpox, TB, etc), leading up to an intensive study of the current AIDS crisis. This was all going to lead up to an event called Peace Jam in the spring, where students would have the opportunity to meet Desmond Tutu.

Now it's not clear if he's going to be able to speak. He's been uninvited from the University of St. Thomas, where Peace Jam is scheduled to take place.

Tutu was uninvited because of this:
The mention of Hitler in the speech comes during a section in which Tutu urged the audience not to assume that the status quo lasts forever, and in which he urged those listening to challenge to “Jewish lobby” in the United States. “People are scared in this country [U.S.], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful, very powerful. Well, so what? This is God‘s world. For goodness sake, this is God‘s world. We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end, they bit the dust.”
I'd be REALLY bummed if the students did not get to meet Tutu. But as a Jewish person with extremely conflicted feelings toward Israel, I'm finding this very hard to discuss with my students.

I am in complete agreement with Tutu (aside from his equating the pro-Israel lobby with the "Jewish lobby"). I find it to be a serious problem the way all conversation shuts down the moment it heads toward a certain comparison. I was once at a training session with a horrible organization called "The David Project" whose mission is to teach adults to work with students to reframe Israel as "David" and the Palestinians as "Goliath," rather than the other way around. At the training they went over how to teach students the "red lines" when it comes to discussing Israel, and what to do when another student crosses the line. Needless to say, one of those lines is any comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. I was repulsed and offended by their curriculum.

So I support Tutu and oppose his St. Thomas ban on many levels, personal and professional. But when it came up in class today, I became very defensive.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the other day a student at my school called a (non-Jewish) teacher a "fucking Jew," or that the kids have been known to use the phrase "That's so Jewish" (part of the South Park Syndrome). For some unknown reason, this brings out my defensive pro-Israel reflex.

Anyway, this is something I'm going to have to figure out if I am going to be a social studies teacher. Why am I as critical of Israel as can be when I'm among other Jewish people, but defensive and weird when I'm not?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Discipline part II

Thanks, Ms. Frizzle (or Ms. V) for the encouragement!

Last week was exhausting -- I didn't feel good about any of my classes. I felt like I had been teaching my students from one end of a long tunnel and none of it had reached them on the other side. It took me a while to figure out that part of the problem was classroom management. Even though they weren't being blatantly disruptive, the students weren't really paying attention.

So last night I started reading this book my mom gave me, Positive Classroom Discipline. The first couple of chapters are basically a Klutz Guide to classroom management. It goes through, step by step, how to use body language to communicate to students that you "mean business." There are detailed diagrams of teachers in 80s clothing and various serious faces and poses.

I was so relieved to learn that what I'd heard in grad school -- that if your curriculum is good enough, you won't have discipline problems -- is a myth. And it was really illuminating to see how my body language (smiling, averting my eyes, rushing around, etc) has been working against me.

So today I tried an experiment. I was at the door when the kids came into class giving them immediate instructions. I had them rearrange the tables and gave them new seating assignments. I stopped class whenever someone was not paying attention and practiced my serious face. It was EXHAUSTING. But the students in my classes were much more engaged.

They definitely chafed a bit at the new level of structure. We'll see how they react to day 2 of the experiment.