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.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The McReview of Lincoln (with a little rant on the side)

Source: Touchstone Pictures

Saw Lincoln last night. Wow.

There were so many places it was dead on that I can't completely list it.

After having the chance to explore Civil War Washington last summer, I think they got all of that right. Would have loved more about the Southern leaning Georgetown but that is probably just me.

After having read The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, it felt like they got the social structure of the era right.

One of my favorites details was Peterson's Boarding House...the size of the room, the bed itself, even the blanket is exactly right. Even having Lincoln too tall for the bed was correct.

One of my favorite moments was the meeting between Mary Todd Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens at the party. It was a joy to watch--well written and as perfect a moment as I could have hoped for between Fields and Jones.

Performances were brilliant. Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones. Pitch perfect.

James Mitchel Ashley (Source: Dickinson College)

David Constabile as Ashley (Source: Touchstone Pictures)
The character I have become fascinated by is James Mitchell Ashley, played by David Constabile. Ashley is the representative who is custodian of the 13th Ammendment in the House of Representatives. He is a really intriguing man who escorted John Brown's wife to his execution and presents the bill of impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Consabile holds his own with Day-Lewis and Jones. There is a cool progression of his character from kind of second tier politician to a force in his own right. I loved the scene where he confronts Lincoln on what Ashley believes to have a deception at his and the 13th Ammendment's expense.

The rant:

I wish they hadn't placed the last moment we get of Tommy Lones where it was. I know it was put there by Spielberg for dramatic effect, but it changes our perception of Thaddeus Steven's motives. I also see conflicting evidence whether it is historically accurate or not. The complexities of other relationships had to be winnowed down, and, I don't think we lose anything by cutting that scene. If the decision is to keep it in...I wish it had been moved earlier. This moment tells us something about Thaddeus Stevens, but it shouldn't be the defining moment. By putting this moment at then end, the last moments became about wrestling with his real motivations. The moment should end on the House floor.

Should Mr. Spielberg need a consult...I am available.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dedicating bloodsoaked sod


This is the pew Lincoln sat in while attending a service on the evening after the address. It is also the church Ike attended when he lived in Gettysburg. There is a plaque showing where Vice President Nixon sat while visiting his former boss. There is something odd about Nixon having sat just feet from where Lincoln did. Two years later, I'm still wrapping my brain around it.

This is the Will's House. Its where Lincoln stayed while in Gettysburg.

The statue of "War" on the Soldier's National Monument at Gettysburg National Cemetery

"History" on the Soldier's National Monument. The other corner statues are "Peace" and "Plenty".

The first two unmarked graves. They are within paces of where Lincoln geve his 'dedication'. The named grave stones are connected together, forming semi-circles around the  Soldier's National Memorial. There are two types of unmarked graves. Some are individual, like the ones above. There are, however, mass grave makers which read 'unknown' and the number of bodies. Several of them had penny's all over them. (Lincoln side up.)

"We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place." One of the things which hits the kids is that this dedication is not just in a pretty garden like most cemeteries. This dedication is on actual site of the battle. Men would have fought and died for the very ground Lincoln and his listeners would have stood on. This battle marker is feet from where Lincoln delivered the address and the center of controvery then and now about Lee's command to Ewell about taking the hill 'if at all practicable.' That hill (some argue it was Culp' Hill to the east) was where the national cemtery will be located.

In addition to meeting our Ford's Theater teaching artist today (YEAH JOJO!), we have been unpacking the Gettysburg Address. YEsterday we took a look at the first sentence. Today we looked at the section starting, "Now, we are engaged in a great civil war..." to "...it is altogether fitting and proper we should do this." Tomorrow we will tackle the rest. Their insights on the speech have been cool. They've noticed that he frames the speech in past present and future. They've noticed that the words dedication and nation are repeated (three times so far). One even noticed that there are no proper nouns in the piece. They are also wrestling with writing the sections in either a tweet or a haiku.
I have blathered on about how much I love the Gettysburg Address on this blog before. I am inspired even teaching it. I love it when they get 'stirred' by it as well!

In honor of all things Gettysburg I wanted to post a couple websites.

This one gives a nice analysis of the speech.

This one is Ford's Theater. I loves me my Ford's Theater.

The photos on this post are mine, except for the one of the interior of the Ford's Theater box. A buddy, James, scored that one and forwarded it to me. He cajoled the Ford's Theater folks until they opened the box for him.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Tweet to win cupcakes from DC Cupcakes!


This goes into the 'try try again' category.

Last summer I tried this contest and only one friend submitted. :( It wasn't an epic fail but it was fail nonetheless. However, like a Lost Boy in Neverland, I still believe so ...

I'm asking my students to condense the Gettysburg Address into 140 characters, twitter style. There was a cool contest done for the Declaration of Independence (here is the Slate story) that I'm liberating as an example of what I'm suggesting.


sum up perhaps the finest example of American rhetoric in 140 characters.

The contest is simple.
  • My favorite wins.
  • You must submit it with your full name (students-first name and last initial) in the comments box. You may also tweet it to d_mcintire using the hashtag #littleaddress. (I will post some of the twitter suggestions on the blog.)
  • I will only accept submissions to the blog and twitter--sorry Facebook friends.
  • There will be two categories--adult (college age and older) and student (high school and younger). One from each age group will win a dozen donuts.
Adults--first and last name please.
Students--please please only give me your first name and last initial.

I will make my selection on December 18th and have them shipped out after I notify you and then you select your dozen. What a great Christmas 're'gift!

What? You say, you need a copy of the Gettysburg Address? Here you go!

This contest is open to anyone (student or adult, teacher or administrator; friend of Dave's or complete stranger) in the Continental US. The more the merrier!!! The only thing I ask is that you read the "Gentle Reminder" at the top of every page. I teach young women and men and my kids see this blog so ...

Roller Coasters, Civil Rights and an afternoon at the Roundhouse

Friday we spent the day at WSU. We toured the Enginering Department, visited The Ulrich Museum and spent the afternoon at Koch Arena where we watched the Lady Shockers beat the Colorado State University Bears by more than a dozen points.
First of all, the ladies at the Engineering department did an amazing job. They completely got that it was a field trip and these were 13-14 year olds. They had them design rollercoasters. The young lady who was in charge explained that engineering is about designing...that it is often done in teams and that there is usually something tangible which comes as a result of this design. Our kids ate it up. Their designer were impressive given they only had 30 minutes to design and create. Most of them worked flawlessly.

Our second stop was the Ulrich Art Museum on the campus of the Wichita State. The outdoor sculptures of the museum were named one of the top ten collections on any college campus in 2006. Its inside collection is as impressive. We viewed a civil rights exhbit titled, "The Hard Kind of Courage: Gordon Parks and the Photographers of the Civil Rights Era". Parks is a nationally celebrated photgrapher, film maker and writer who is also a native Kansan. His work is shown beside other photogrpahers of the era. I was in hog heaven since three of the protos displayed were ones I use in my civil rights module. For the kids to see the works beyond my SMARTboard was exciting. The other portion of our tour was an exhibit tied to the civil rights exhibit on identity. The piece which caught my eye was the one below. I use the 1968 placard from the Memphis strike in my class and to see the Thomas painting was phenomenal for both my students and me! The Thomas painting are takes on the placards you see in the photograph below. Its important to note that it is the sanitation strike which brings Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis in April 1968 and it in Mepmphis where he will be assassinated.

I Am a Man, Hank Willis Thomas, 2009
Sanitation Workers Assembling for a Solidarity March, Memphis, March 28, 1968
I Am A Man, Sanitation workers assemble outside Clayborn Temple, Memphis, TN, 1968. (© Ernest C. Withers. Courtesy Panopticon Gallery, Boston, MA)

The last stop was Koch arena to watch the Lady Shockers against Northern Colorado. The Lady Shox had a slow start but ultimately doominated the last half and won by more than a dozen. There is something surreal about several thousand middle school students in one place. There is nothing more fearsome as hundreds of kids want to get on the Dance Cam. It was a little disturbing to be completely honest.

A great day off campus. It is one of those days where I can say... I love my job.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Luke :STOP" "I am your father :STOP"

Source: National Archives
One of my favorite primary sources are telegrams. I think part of that is that they seem so exotic. By the time I understood what they were, they were not all that common. You would see them in movies and it looked cooler than they prbably did when they were the primary form of communication.

Mostly though, its the direct manner information is communicated. Words came at a cost and so talk really wasn't cheap.

What's brought this on is that I showed the kids the telegram above. It is the form Robert E. Lee submitted telling the Confederate War Department that Stonewall Jackson was dead. "It is my melancholy duty..."

The one below is the telegraph sent to the Union War Department by Maj. Robert Anderson acknowledging that he had surrendered Fort Sumter.

Telegram Announcing the Surrender of Fort Sumter (1861)
Source: National Archives

Here are a couple non-Civil War Related telegrams:

This is one of the first telegrams sent after the iceberg hit the Titanic. Obviously Bruce Ismay was wrong!
Source: US Postal Museum

Ok, this one isn't historic but the advice should have been heeded. The single most cringeworthy thing Mark Hamill does (and there are a few).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Lord of the Flies meets Federalist One"

Source: National Archives
I'm getting ready for Student Council and my classes this morning. We should get to Gettysburg today and I decided to take a trip down memory lane. The links below are my posts while in Gettysburg. A couple years out, you forget how profound a moment in time is. I'm really glad I captured these. To anyone reading this, you need to go to Gettysburg and take in the battlefield as well as the cemetery and the town. I can't full explain it, but I think I can explain better my sense of who I am as a citizen better having spent a week there.

Gettysburg and 'history as art' (July 18, 2011)

Gettysburg National Cemetery (July 21, 2011)

Have a great day...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winning means never saying 'Manassas"

Battle of Bull (Virginia Historical Society)
Today we are in the first few years of the Civil War.
  • Fort Sumter
  • Battle of Bull Run
  • Anaconda Plan
  • Lincoln v. Davis
One of the things kids always find interesting is that the Civil War battles often had two names. For example.
  • Bull Run (North) = Manassas (South)
  • Anteitam (North) = Shaprsburg (South)
The North cued off of bodies of water or significant terrain feature while the South named the battle based on the city closest. One historian suggests that the reason is that the 'urban' Northern named them for land features noteworthy and the 'rural' South found the city the more noteworthy feature. I'm not sure I accept his premise but it is one way of explaining it.

Most people were taught the Northern names in history class. Winning has its perks I suppose.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule:
  • Pittsburg Landing (North) = Shiloh (South)
Merrimack & Monitor
Henry Bill. The First Battle between “Iron” Ships of War, 1862. Lithograph with hand-coloring.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

The most confusing of the naming conventions for my kids is the Monitor and the Merrimack. The two ironclads are the first to battle each other in the Battle of Hampton Roads in  March of 1862. The confusion comes in the fact that it is the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia which battle each other. When the South takes control of Charleston Harbor (The firing on Fort Sumter), they find the USS Merrimack seriously burned/and damaged but salvagable. The South uses the shell of the Merrimack to fashion its first iron clad ship which they christen CSS Virginia. It is the CSS Virginia which battles the USS Monitor at Hampton Roads and it is the CSS Virginia which will be sunk by the Confederates in order to order to avoid its capture by advancing Northern troops in 1862. But we are taught Merrick. Go figure.

Since we're talking about Southern and Northern interpretations of naming, how about a few suggestions for the Civil War itself:
  • Second Americn Revolution (Southern)
  • War for the Union (Northern)
  • War of Norther Aggression (Southern)
  • War of Southern Aggression (Northern)
  • War for Southern Independence (Southern)
  • War of the Rebellion (Northern)
  • War of Secession (Sourthern)
One of my favorites is the most quintessentially Southern (I can't say it without affecting a dripping southern accent):
  • This Recent Unpleasentness, or,
  • This Late Unpleasantness

Monday, December 3, 2012

John Brown--DOMESTIC TERRORIST..and hero?

Tragic Prelude by John Steuart Curry, mural at the Kansas Statehouse, Topeka. (Source: Kansas Historical Society)

My students will tell you that I am not a fan of John Brown. I don't let my opinion of historical subjects be known that much but I can't mask my feelings for John Brown. He was one the right side of an issue but determined that 'right' was more important than 'life'.  Several students have taken on Mr. Brown in their research. They want to prove he wasn't a domestic terrorist in my mind. I love the challenge they undertake. The have forced me to reconsider Brown each year. While they haven't weakend my feelings for John Brown, they have tempered my off-handed disgust. Brown is important for reasons beyond the Pottomatomie Massacre.
One thing which has challenged my interpretation of John Brown is his oration at his trial after Harpers Ferry. An except follows:
"[T]he New Testament teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them....I have endeavored to act on that instruction.  I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons.  I believe that to have interfered, as I have done,...in behalf of His despised poor, is no wrong, but right.  Now,  if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood farther with the blood of my children and the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I say let it be done."
I am slowly warming to the idea that I can still think him a terrorist but can also acknowledge why Thoreau would plead for Brown's life and Benet would, using some of Brown's own words, memorialize his death:
"Now if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my
life for the furtherance of the ends of justice and mingle
my blood further with the blood of my children
and with the blood of millions in this slave country
whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and
unjust enactments, I say, let it be done."

Harpers Ferry (from near the Engine House)

Engine House at Harpers Ferry

Engine House