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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

70 hours in the classroom ... 9 site, battlefield and building tours ... 3,300 pages of reading ...

This is the last day of the Presidential Academy and everyone is both exhausted and aware that our time together is winding down. As I sit and write, groups are planning their last hours of free time in DC. Some are off to the Holocaust Museum. Some going back over to House of Representatives, hoping to get in the gallery and hoping to see debate or a vote on the debt ceiling. Our last session was last night and we'll meet tonight for evaluations and a final pedagogy discussion.

Maggie asked me last night on the phone if the Academy will help in the classroom and I started spewing incoherently all the things I can incorporate, will continue to research and plan on showing my kids. The professional development sheet they gave us indicates that we have spent more than 70 hours in classes and read almost 3,400 pages of literature to prepare for those classes. What it doesn't show is time spent with talented and passionate colleagues. We've collaborated, conspired and debated. The discussions and experiences were all that much better because of them. Travel with a group of people for three weeks and you get close. Its bittersweet to think that by this time tomorrow, most will be in Philly or in the air, on their way back to their homes.

All in all, good times.

There are three Library of Congress buildings in Washington DC. The Jefferson is the one that is beautiful and impressive. The Madison is next door and where we started our tour. (The other honors Adams.) This huge medallion was over one of the research halls and I couldn't resist. The only memorial to Madison is this building. Somehow, I  think Madison would be okay with his memorial being a library.

A morning in the House ...

Another early morning. We were at the Capitol this morning by 7 a.m. for a visit to the House of Representatives. We were ushered into the chamber and the first thing you notice is how much bigger, and then, smaller it seems. Bigger, much bigger than the Senate. Its has five times the number of members so that is understandable. Smaller in that when you see it on TV for the State of the Union, it looks so much bigger.
The freshman congressman from Northern Mississippi, Rep. Alan Nunnelee, spoke for almost an hour about serving in the house. Sen. Alexander and Rep. Nunnelee were interesting bookends.Yesterday we met with Sen. Lamar Alexander, one of the longest serving Republican in the Senate, today a first term Congressman. To distinct perspectives. He talked about service, time management and balancing both governing and running for election. He then opened it up to us and we spent about 20 minutes asking him questions. His aide reminded him a few minutes before 9 a.m. that he had another meeting. The meeting was with House Republicans to set talking points for the debt ceiling discussions that day. Another reminder that this is not a normal week for them, or us.

The photo of the House of Representative comes from MSNBC.

We spent the rest of the morning touring the Library of Congress. The Capitol is beautiful and impressive and was designed to be both an office building and political hall. The Library of Congress is both beautiful and impressive as well, but its day job is as a working library and research facility. I've been to the LOC before but I had forgotten how beautiful it is. There is an exhibit of Thomas Jefferson's library, which he donated after a fire in the early 1800s. 6,500 books. To see them all together is really cool. The pictures below are mine.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A day in the Senate ...

We were up at dawn this morning and trekked to the US Capitol for the first half of our time with Congress. We were honored by being invited to sit in the 'well' of the Senate. The only way you can enter is as a guest of a senator. We were the guest of Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. I sat in the chair occupied by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingham. (Thank you Sen. Bingham for the loan of your seat) Sen. Alexander, who wrote the legislation which founded the Presidential Academy six years ago, spoke to us from the floor of the Senate for about 15 minutes. You can't but help to reflect on what it might be like to be sit at those desks and make those decisions. Last night, President Obama and Speaker Boehner held separate press conferences regarding competing outlooks and the debt ceiling debate.Yesterday, they were making me really really frustrated with their intractability, but today, I decided I had to cut them a little slack. These and women and men who serve, by in large, are earnestly and honestly trying to serve the country in a difficult and corrosive time. We've been talking in the sessions about looking at history from a high road or low road. Those moments in the well of the Senate reminding me of what a wonderful and messy thing this American experiment is.
The pictures you see below are not mine. You are not allowed to bring cameras onto the Senate floor and so I left my camera at home. The rest of the Capitol is photo friendly but I pulled these from the Library of Congress, Architect of the Capitol and National Archives websites.
Tomorrow is the morning at the House of Representatives and Library of Congress.

This is a shot from the Senate gallery. we were in the 'well' of the senate. Sen. Bingham sits almost dead center, three rows back-you can see only part of the desk in this picture.

This is a typical Senate desk. To temper your curiosity, they remind you not to open the desk. That would be considered disrespectful to that Senator's privacy. It is temping, though.

Senators will scratch their names in the bottom of their desks. As 'honored guests' of Sen. Alexander, it would been rude to lay on your back and see who sat where you sat. I can't say I wasn't curious though.

This is the mural on the ceiling of the U.S. Capitol. No image I found does it justice.

This is part of the detail of the ceiling. The mural is titled The Apotheosis of George Washington. GW is in the lower center portion of this detail. Apotheosis means exultation and exultation of a person to the rank of god. He sits between goddesses Victoria and Liberty with 13 maidens. The 13 maidens represent ... yeah, the first batch of states.

Each state has been invited to contribute two statues to the Capitol building. President Eisenhower sits in the Rotunda.

The other statues sits in the Hall of Statues in the old house of Representatives Chamber. John James Ingalls was a Kansas Senator for 18 years and was so well respected that he was named President pro tempore of the Senate in 1887. There is a move to replace Sen. Ingalls with a statue of Amelia Earhart.

Monday, July 25, 2011

... and now for something completely different ...

Achelous and Hercules by Thomas Hart Benton (1947)
As I wind down the Presidential Academy, I'm prepping for the Smithsonian's teacher institute. They've asked me to select a peice of art in their collection to research. This is the one I've selected. Its called Achelous and Hercules by Thomas Hart Benton. I'll tell ya'll more about it later.

BTW-when I say winding down, I mean sprint. Tomorrow and Wednesday, we spend most of the two days at the Capitol taking private tours and sessions in the Senate (tomorrow) and House of Representatives (Wednesday). I'm sure the debt ceiling will be a subject of discussion. We start at 6 a.m. and won't be finished either day until 9 p.m.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some pictures from DC ...

Iwo Jima at night

Viet Nam Memorial

Mr. Lincoln

Arlington National Cemetery

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

 JFK and the eternal flame

The JFK memorial at Arlington with the Washington Monument in the background

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I want to like Woodrow Wilson, I really really do ...

In our discussion of the Declaration of Independence, Gettysburg Address and the I Have a Dream speech, President Wilson is a bridge of sorts to get us to the modern civil rights era. He was a progressive and an academic and has a view of the what a president should be that will be personified in FDR. But ... Wilson is pure academics. He is brilliant and controversial and one of the important voices of the Progressive movement. Dr. Burkett, the guest lecturer this week, is passionate about Wilson and I want to be won over. I'll keep working ... I may need to put him in the column with Andrew Jackson. I see their importance but I'm still wrestling with how I feel about them.

Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II

This memorial never fails to move me.

What you see going through the bird's beak is barbed wire. One of the most powerful images in the whole of the city.

Friday, July 22, 2011

John Brown-domestic terrorist

We stopped in Harper's Ferry yesterday. The city itself is situated on the Appalachian Trail and it is beautiful. Below are pictures of the city and the firehouse where he was captured. There is also a monument to John Brown and his sacrifice for a 'new birth of freedom.' What surprised me was the visceral reaction to that plaque. John Brown, whether in Pottawatomie County, Kansas or Harpers Ferry, West Virginia is a terrorist, a thug with a cause. The abolition of slavery is a noble thing. His actions were not noble. Thus ends the sermon.
Washington DC is both beautiful and amazingly hot! 116 degree heat index. It is just plain hot. Know that its hot back home too so I'll keep the whining to the minimum.
The view of Harpers Ferry from the firehouse John Brown was captured

 The memorial on the firehouse. I will refrain from any other comment.

A memorial to one of Brown's victims. 

The firehouse 

What remains of one of the three armory buildings. The three buildings are about 10 yards from the firehouse.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

On to DC ... 'talk may be cheap but it is necessary'

I've shared pictures more than I've written lately. That's probably a good thing. Part of what I'm trying to do while I'm at each place is to understand how the three sites and documents relate to each other. They are American icons, to be sure, but what is their common ground or, even, points of difference which might be instructive? What you see below is more a thought experiment than anything else. The 'self-evident truth-proposition-creed' connection came from the second lecture of the academy-it has been on my mind since. The stuff you see that looks scholarly and deep-I would bet came from men and women smarter than me. Spoken while on break and over meals. Their insights by themselves are worth the trip

Declaration of Independence--
Jefferson speaks of self-evident truths.
Truths are: absolute ... knowable ...obvious
Truths are truth whether we've 'evidentented' them or not.
Jefferson calls the document a 'declaration of the American mind'.
This idea of self-evident truths is the thread which goes through our best and worst days.

Gettysburg Address--
Lincoln speaks of the republic as a proposition.
A proposition is essentially a question or a premise.
(By 1860 we were the only large republic left)
The self-evident truth of equality is the central theme of the war.
(To my Lost Causers out there ... look up AH Steven's Cornerstone Speech, then, let's talk.)
The beauty of the Gettysburg Address is is humility and reverence.
The real work was done on the first three days of July in 1863.
Their actions are more important than any words Lincoln could offer.
However, its through words by which we remember and are spurred on to further action.
Talk may be cheap, but it is necessary.

As we head to DC and a discussion of the modern civil rights era, we'll start wrestling with the idea of Dr. King's American 'creed' as compared to Lincoln's proposition and Jefferson's self-evident truths. The idea I'm mulling as we board the bus is by Fredrick Douglas, " I think the American people are disposed often to be generous rather than just." Not done with the thought experiment yet, ... we'll see where it takes me.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

The Gettysburg Address was given in this general area. When you see Cemetery Ridge on the map you realize why. About ten years before, the people of Gettysburg started burying their dead in their new city cemetery. During the battle, all of these headstones were uproots and used as a barricade. In the aftermath of the battle and the process of buring the thousands of dead, the repositioning of the headstones was a low priority. Do you see the three headstones with the circles? Historians think he would have been near the one all the way on the right.

The next three pictures are from what is called the Cyclorama at the Visitors Center. This painting has recently been restored but was painted in less that a year only a few years after the Civil War. The painting is a mural probably twice as large as our gym at the middle school! Painted in a circular building you get a panoramic view of the battle. These pictures don't do it justice.
All of these pictures are of Pickett's Charge

A 34-Star American Flag. And what state was Kansas? The flag celebrating our entry into the war would have been the flag flown during the first two years of the war.

Gettysburg National Cemetery was the first federal cemetery. It's dedication is why Lincoln comes to Gettysburg in November of 1863. Arlington National Cemtery is actually the third national cemtery. Any guesses as two number two? 

The cemetery is laid out in a circle. The statue they encircle is below. Note that the soldier at Gettysburg don't have individual headstones. You won't see those until later.
(I apologize for not rotating these...Blogger and I are at odd on doing this-I rotate and it undoes it.)

Markers for unknown soldiers at Gettysburg.

All of the headstones encircle this statute.

This part of the statue repesents war. He has a brother on the otherside which represents peace and prosperity.

This muse represents history. Her sister on the other side represents plenty.

(Again,sorry for the wonky perspective.)

Unknown markers for soldiers from Pennsylvania.

They allow soldiers who either fought at Gettysburg or soldeirs who died in later wars to be buried in what is called the annex.