Blue Cereal's blog

MLK's "I'm Living The Dream" Speech

Happy MLKFive score years ago, a great Republican (let’s not ever forget he was a Republican) signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This largely symbolic decree verified the great beacon of hope already guiding millions of Negro slaves who had been freed by the fire of American greatness. It came as a joyous reminder of their long flight from their REAL captivity (which started in Africa - let’s not ever forget that slavery started IN Africa) to the glorious shores of America. 

But 100 years later, the Negro is even more free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is far better than the manacles of tribalism and the chains of paganism. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a prosperous continent in the midst of a vast ocean of freedom and prosperity… And so we’ve come here today to celebrate our ever-improving condition.

Trying To Simplify The Thirteen Colonies

I surveyed thousands of teachers and students (well, OK – I asked, like... seven or eight of them) which topics were hardest to teach, care about, or remember, and selected two dozen of the most common responses. The Whigs. The Bessemer Process. The Interstate Highway System. All real knee-slappers in their own way, but so few Crash Course videos or feature films to substitute for an actual lesson plan.

Many of the responses were variations of “trying to remember stuff about the original thirteen colonies.” Most of us do pretty well with Jamestown, at least in its earliest incarnation, and we can fake our way through the Puritans or Roger Williams. Somehow, though, we’re expected to juggle things like joint-stock company charters vs. proprietary charters or remember which sections relied most heavily on the export of natural resources and how that shaped their feelings about potential rebellion.

After what feels like several millennia of wrestling with it, I have a rough draft of what might be the chapter about the thirteen colonies. At the moment, it’s subtitled “Three (or Four) Regions – Three (Evolving) Formats – Three Approaches To Religion.”

I know. Even the subtitle needs work.

The Bessemer Process (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

1. The Bessemer Process made better steel more quickly and more cheaply.

2. Better, affordable steel played a significant part in the Second Industrial Revolution. It may have been its primary cause; it was at least a major catalyst.

3. Bessemer steel made it possible to build skyscrapers, massive bridges, and reliable railroad tracks, as well as lots of other cool stuff. That makes it way more interesting than it sounds.  

Keeping, Culling, and Forgetting

Edward Scissorhands

Of course, certification is one thing; being able to actually teach ELA effectively is something else entirely. I could read and write well enough, and I considered myself respectable enough when it came to analyzing literature or composing a coherent argument. But a real English teacher? Hardly.

I worried I’d show up to my first department meeting and we’d all be taking turns reading from The Dubliners in the original Greek and discussing how James Joyce Carol Oates used it as inspiration for his adaptation of Undercover Brother, Where Art Thou?

I needn’t have been concerned. We haven’t had a department meeting in the entire two years I’ve been there, so the danger seems fairly minor at this point.

"In God We Trust" (Or Else)

Team JesusThere are certainly plenty of wonderful individual people of faith around, including many Christians.

I feel obligated to open with this acknowledgement (disclaimer?) because my next several posts are going to focus on clashes between religious folks and public education which have been in the news recently, and it seems like every time you come across a story about someone asserting their Christian beliefs via legislation or the courts, they’re doing it for one of three reasons: (1) they want more government money for something without having to follow the same rules as everyone else, (2) they want the government to like their religion best and tell everyone about it more often because that’s “freedom of religion,” or (3) they want to be horrible to some group of people everyone else is supposed to be kind to.

The Interstate Commerce Act & The ICC (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

1. After several states attempted to limit the power of railroads and grain storage facilities on behalf of farmers and other citizens, Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act (1887). This established the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate railroads, including their shipping rates and route choices.  

2. The ICC was the first federal regulatory agency; it’s “success” spawned hundreds of others in subsequent decades. When you hear people complain about “big government,” these are a big part of what they mean. At the same time, they remind us that economic systems are not natural rights; they’re practical mechanisms designed to serve the largest number of people in the most efficient ways possible – at least in theory.

3. Ideally, regulatory agencies attempt to balance the good of society and the general public with the rights of companies to make reasonable profits from providing useful goods and services. They oversee “public services” – things considered essential for most citizens but which don’t easily lend themselves to a competitive marketplace due to the infrastructure required or the necessary scale of the service.

The XYZ Affair (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things 

1. France was mad because the U.S. was making nice with England, who France had only recently helped them break away from and who France hated most of the time anyway.

2. U.S. efforts to make nice with France led to serious drama when French representatives (code names “X,” “Y,” and “Z”) made demands the U.S. contingent found offensive.

3. The resulting kerfuffle led to a “Quasi-War” abroad and more pronounced divisions between political parties at home before being resolved by a new round of diplomacy and a new treaty. The dispute also prompted the Federalists to push through the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts (which didn’t turn out all that well).

Can You Teach Us?

Darth TeacherPublic education has been overlooking – or worse, neglecting – a golden opportunity to improve. It’s not only been right in front of us all along, it’s been kicking us and taking our lunch money! And yet, somehow, where we should have recognized an opportunity, all we’ve seen is a competitor. In some cases, maybe even a threat.  

Pages