A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

How do we remember ...?

I've been thinking a lot about how we remember history in America in the 21st Century. I'm sure it has partly to do with Memorial Day and partly because my brother and I were born into a career military family on Memorial Day and partly because the first book I chose to read for the Presidential Academy is Dr. Gallagher's Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War. I'm almost done with the book and I would recommend it to anyone who is curious how popular culture affects the lens by which we look at history. His argument is that there are four lenses by which we look at the Civil War in our media:

  • Lost Cause lens--the South as noble victim of an 'experiment in nation building'. The war wasn't about slavery or unification but cast Lee as a latter-day Washington fighting an un-winnable war.
  • Union Cause lens--the war was about keeping the union together. Slavery might be a secondary issue but the main point of the war is to honor the Founders and their vision of America and ensure a Union for future generations.
  • Emancipation Cause lens--the war's focus was the liberation of millions of slaves and cleanse the 'cancerous influence' slavery had on the United States. 
  • Reconciliation Cause lens-The war was an evidence of our 'American-ness'-both North and South. It is almost exclusively a 'white' focus and celebrated the noble and valiant white leaders on both sides. 

Dr. Gallagher then looks at a number of films, from Birth of A Nation and Gone With the Wind to Gettysburg and Cold Mountain and CSA: Confederate State of America. e also looks at popular art in the 21st Century as well with the same focus.
I have to say I've been wrestling with this book and my role as a history teacher. I have a huge movie poster of Gettysburg on my door. I've used clips of Glory and Gods and General and and several of the images in my instruction. I have to admit, I spend a lot of time asking kids to look at the paintings and writing from the Founding Era to determine what the artist or writer wanted us to see and take away from their work. I don't think I've done due diligence for the Civil War. I'm not sure how this'll all play out but it is part of what I like about these summer programs and the flexibility that summer brings. It is difficult to do this kind of reflection during the school year but an important part of what a teacher does.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. It is one of the 'must-stop at' sites for me in DC. I go there every trip I make to the city. If I'm there, I'll be the doughy bald guy openly weeping. Get over it.

This flag was left at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial last summer. You can't go there an not be moved. I was and I wanted to remember that moment.

A lot of people on tours skip the Korean War Memorial when they tour the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials. That is their loss. I think it is one of the most well-conceived of the monuments. The confusion and fear of war is palpable. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

'Let the wild rumpus begin!'

I'm quoting a colleague (Mr. Ben Rivers) above on a completely separate matter but I liked it and I stole and am unabashedly using it. I have received my books for the academy. Twenty-eight of them. About twenty of them are full editions, the rest compilations. The participants have been emailing back and forth about the netbooks and flashdrives we were given as well as the 42 pounds of books. Some discussion has been had about how to transport said books. One teacher pointed out that all the books left eight pounds for clothing if we fly. I guess I'm actually going to stow an extra bag. Either that or mail them to Philly. Have decided the first book I'm going to read is by Gary Gallagher, Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We know About the Civil War. I've decided to read all the presenters books first and then on June 10th start doing the readings for that day in July.We'll see how that goes.

To all my former and future students whining about summer reading ...I feel your pain

Monday, May 23, 2011

"People don't talk like that anymore."

I was watching National Treasure last night and think I annoyed my wife with my my giggling and "I'm gonna be there in six weeks." There is something that Nicolas Cage is told when the trio is in Philly that has me thinking. One of the characters says, "People don't talk like that anymore," when the Ben Gates character starts waxing poetic on something 1776. His response is, "No, but they think that way."
No, but they think that way...
I guess one of the reasons I teach is to help my students wrestle with the ideas (ideals) we think in our heads versus the world we live in. Citizenship is that reconciliation of what we believe to be true in a world in which sometimes the lowest common denominator prevails.

This is a video from www.declareyourself.com (via youtube). The Morgan Freeman intro is excellent and the readings quite good. Look past Kathy Bates as the nurse who hobbles James Caan in Misery and five finger discount Ryder and Mel 'how many rants can a career take' Gibson.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Test driving the blog ...

With about six weeks before the trip and school out, I'm finally getting around to setting up the blog. I figured it'll take me about that long to get it all figured out so I can seamlessly post on the fly. I'm also going to post thoughts before I leave on the readings they've asked us to do. According to the online itinerary, there will be 30 different sessions and each has a raft of reading to do before. This'll be the place I process. There are almost 30 books to get through before I leave so I'll need this blog just to process all that information.
BTW-thanks for following my travels out east. And don't hesitate to comment, ask, point out, ... whatever. Especially my past and future students. What can I bring back to the classroom to make out time together better? -Mr. Mc

Monticello-Jefferson's home in central Virginia. I took this a few years ago. Figured a picture of something TJ would be appropriate to for the first picture on the blog. For all my students ... yes I still have a mancrush on James Madison ... yes I still believe Jefferson is a big hot mess of contradictions ... but the fella could design a pretty house, couldn't he?

Mr. Lincoln at his memorial. A great writer. A great leader. A great vampire hunter (read the book).

I tripped into this shot at Arlington Cemetery the first year I went to D.C. It's one of my favorite pictures, ever. The power of ideas, leadership and sacrifice.