Like a Never-Ending Review Session
I’ve been dreaming of thematically outlining U.S. history for some time. I have it down just about perfectly.
The theory is that by having each unit build on the previous units, students will have reinforced the basic timeline and major events, while better students can concentrate on the rest of the minutiae.
Politics will be taught as a mirror to economics — generally, the cause of wars and wars’ greatest lasting effect. Media history — including yellow journalism and that 1960 presidential debate — could fit before the unit on wars or afterward, depending on how much a teacher wants to stress the Spanish-American War.
Approaching history like this has a number of advantages, including from the “reinforce basic stuff” angle.
Moreover, it really impresses on students the longevity of some national issues.
The way I remember my high school history classes, we first really learned about Jim Crow laws once a class hit the Civil Rights era, even though those laws had been on the books almost as long as the 13th Amendment.
By teaching this as a whole unit, students will understand rather than just hear that however likable Eisenhower was, he did very little on the civil rights question. Students should understand that racial issues didn’t just skip from Lincoln to Kennedy or, in Supreme Court decisions, from Plessy to Brown.
My students will forget Henry Clay and John Calhoun, but they will bloody sure remember when the Vietnam War was without feeble guessing.
For the moment, I teach government. However, as my goal is to teach AP U.S. History, this preparation will certainly come in handy.
I told my master teacher what I planned to do during Spring Break, and she was enthusiastically supportive.
Don’t forget to outline the next unit in government.
She’s more of a realist. I may be a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
Moral of the story? First things first, unless inspiration strikes.