Makeover Column VI: Engaging Students to Think Comparatively by Placing United States History in "Real" World History Courses, Part Two
James A. Diskant, Ph.D.
Two columns ago I shared the ways in which my colleagues and I are re-thinking our world history courses and working to create "real" world history courses that include United States history (June 2007). In that column not only did I address the theoretical issues of such a new course sequence, but also I discussed our school's piloting of Grade 9, the first part of the new course sequence. Since then we have not only made some changes in the Grade 9 course, but we have also inaugurated the first year of the Grade 10 course (1820-1913). While pacing and materials are still challenges for these new courses, this year a third challenge has emerged: that of a greater focus on the Atlantic World than had been anticipated when the course sequence was initially proposed. Still, the concept of a truly world history course has considerable appeal, particularly apparent among 10th graders who now are used to the idea of an integrated course. Indeed, new colleagues continue to work hard collaboratively to design the course contextually and comparatively.
In this column I want to look at the evolution of these courses, to explore curricular problems that have emerged in both the Grade 9 and Grade 10 courses, and to discuss possible solutions to these problems. As always, I welcome comments and suggestions from readers who may be experiencing similar issues as they create or recreate new courses. A recent H-WORLD discussion (from October 2007 among teachers from Abington Friends School and Austin Prep School) illustrates that these changes are being done elsewhere, which raises similar issues, questions, and problems. At the same time, I am convinced that that this course sequence makes sense, even though it does involve some tradeoffs. Since the courses use different periodization than a more typical world history course, they have necessitated creative adaptation and collaboration among six colleagues (I teach 2 sections of each course and the ninth grade course is taught by three other teachers, as is the tenth), as well as a newly hired supportive Program Director (formerly a member of the Department).
In terms of the Grade 9 course (see Addendum A), the beginning of the year continues to start off strongly. Students enjoy learning how to create the world from memory and find that they learn this skill relatively easily. It is a good way to tap into what they know about the world and to stretch their collaborative skills, as they assist one another to master these skills. Second, the Indian Ocean Trade Networks lends itself well to a group-based kinesthetic activity (described in my previous Column V), which continues to form the basis for collaborative research and problem solving skills. Finally, an investigation of the Civilizations of pre-Colombian America lent itself well to a poster project for which some students worked well together, while others needed considerable prompting. Both of these activities lend themselves well to comparing what was going on in the 15th century when most people traded with one another harmoniously.
The second unit's focus on Cristoforo Colombo continues to interest students who are fascinated by a close analysis of documents of the encounters on the island that the Spanish named Hispaniola at the end of the 15th century. While this unit also focuses on the Chinese government's different decision on exploration, the course begins to have more of an Atlantic World focus than it had last year. One of my new colleagues agrees that we need to rethink the focus at this point so that students will not come away with the impression that developments in Asia became static in contrast to changing developments in the West. In order to streamline the course, we may have perhaps taken too much out of it!
The third unit's focus on the beginning of the slave trade allows for a continuation of a study of the interaction between the Kongolese and the Portuguese (see discussion in Column IV), while Unit IV's focus has become so Euro-centric that it takes away an understanding of the importance of the clash between absolute versus model rulers; a contrast between European and Asian ways of governing. Again this will need to be readjusted for next year.
We are now completing Unit V, and will turn to Unit VI shortly. While the next 16 weeks will focus on the creation of the United States, we flip flopped last year's sequence, so that we will end the year comparatively with the French and Haitian revolutions. It will allow for a comparative research project, but the course still continues to make more space for developments in Asia, particularly in China.
Pacing is, of course, a challenge, since four teachers teach sections of the course. While we do not have a common planning time on a weekly basis, we are able to meet in two partner groups to facilitate moving together, as well as to share some materials. The new U.S. text (Paul Boyer's The American Nation) that was ordered provides a good overview for Unit V and will do so for future units, but an old world history text means that much time continues to be spent at the copier! While pacing and materials are issues of concern, the issue of curriculum to make it a truly world course appears to the bigger one: indeed, a "final" (?) revision of the course for next year will need to "bring back" some of the Asian focus that we had last year.
Grade 10 (see Addendum B) is off to a good start, but the underlying issue is the same as that of the Grade 9 course: that of an Atlantic focus, which is, of course, affected by the four teachers who teach it. In the Introductory Unit, we had a good News Show—or Roundtable discussion—about the world at the turn of the 19th century, with representative leaders and people participating in it. Unit I is a successful overview of industrialization in Great Britain and the United States, which includes close reading of primary documents, and more role playing. It culminated in a collaborative or individual exercise where students acted out and wrote about people living in England, India, Ireland, and the United States.
Unit II revolves around similar and different political movements in Western Europe and the United States. The U.S. material has been quite rich, and the course keeps lending itself to comparative thinking. Unit II (with the creative guidance of my new colleague Randi Stern) culminated with a poster project that got 10th grade students competing with one another to "win" Dr. Propaganda's award (see Addendum C). Students rose to the occasion and created great propaganda, which compared and contrasted U.S. developments with developments in other parts of the world. The winners compared slavery and female factory workers in Brazil and France respectively.
We are now beginning Unit Three, which will become more comparative, also by a recent decision to move Chinese developments into this Unit (which is where they will belong, if not earlier in the year!). The material is rich. The U.S. textbook (Boyer's The American Nation) is more than adequate, and discussions and debates are forever present due to motivated 10th graders. Yet the three unresolved issues remain, as we need to see how this course progresses during the year and how we are able to teach it. We need to keep in mind the purpose of this course, what students can retain, and how this retention occurs best in a project-based manner (see previous column)
The solutions to the three intertwined problems—focus, materials, and pacing—involve collaboration among teachers, administrative support, and appropriate funding. To an extent all of these solutions are present, and yet to a larger extent those of us who are trying to make creative changes to the pre-existing curriculum know how hard it is to ensure that all of these pieces work concurrently. Perhaps the best way to solve these issues is through modeling, and to show to administrators, colleagues, parents, and— most importantly—one's students that it works. Yes, it is important that students at the secondary level learn to think and express themselves comparatively and contextually, and that any other approach to history education shortchanges them in a world that has for centuries been a global, connected, and intertwined world.
I am looking forward to working on the design for Grade 11 this spring and summer, as well as continuing to fine tune these two courses, so that the series of courses represent more and more genuinely "real" world history courses. And then perhaps we will get it right, as we focus on teaching and learning with our students—9th, 10th, and 11th graders—about the similarities and differences of the communities that people created in the past and in the present in a global context where United States history is a part of the world. Isn't that what world history should be all about?
Biographical Note: James A. Diskant, Ph.D., teaches at the John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury (Boston), Massachusetts, and was a Program Associate at the former World History Center at Northeastern University in Boston, from 1999 until it closed in 2003. He continues to keep the Center's ideas alive through teaching, writing curriculum, and participating in a Book Group, and hopes that the Center will find a new home in the Greater Boston area in the near future. He can be reached at email@example.com
John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science
US/World History I (Grade 9) Learning Standards
Pacing weeks are meant to be a guide. All curriculums must be covered, but there may be slight variations in the pacing schedule.
Unit I: The World in the 15th Century: Global Economies and Societies (4 weeks)
1. Describe the development and effects of the trans-African slave trade to the Middle East from the 8th century on, focusing on the 15th century (WHI.20)
2. Describe the importance of the trade routes connecting the Far East and Europe and the role of the Mongols in increasing trade along these routes, including the silk routes to China (WHI.4B)
3. Describe the relationship of trade to the growth of Central Asian and Middle Eastern cities (WHI.4C)
4. Describe the sources and uses of slaves in Islamic societies as well as the extent of the Islamic slave trade across Africa from 700 AD on (WHI 4D)
1. Identify the three major pre-Columbian civilizations that existed in central and South America (Maya, Aztec, and Inca) and their locations. Describe their political structures, religious practices, economies, art, and architecture, and use of slaves (WHI.13)
2. Identify the major civilizations that existed in North America (the Arctic and Northwest—including the Inuit, the Eastern Woodlands—including the Mound Builders and Iroquois, the Amerindians of the Great Plains, the Amerindians in the Southwest—including the Anasazi) and their locations. Describe their political structures, religious practices, economies, art, architecture.
Unit II: The Emergence of European Spheres of Influence (2 weeks)
A. European Exploration in Africa and Asia
Explain how the Renaissance influenced a renewed interest in European exploration
B. New Trade Networks and Economic Patterns
Explain the role of the European traders in Asia and contrast that with trade practices of the Chinese and Muslims
C. Columbus encounters in the New World
1. Explain Columbus's role in the exploration of the New World and the support he received from Spain
2. Explain the consequences of that encounter for the Arawak/Taino cultures
3. Explain the consequences of Columbus' exploration of the New World to the Spanish government
Unit III: Discovery, Conquest and Colonization (3 weeks)
Unit IV: European Motivations and Catalysts for Exploration (3 weeks)
Unit V: Colonizing North America (3 weeks)
A. Founding of the Southern, Middle and New England colonies
Explain the origins of the early English settlements (i.e. Virginia), the New England colonies, Middle and Southern colonies. Describe their early political and social structures, religious practices, economies, art, and architecture during the 17th century
B. Slavery in North America
Describe the economic, political, social, and cultural dynamics of slavery in 17th and 18th century North America
C. Development of North American Colonies
Describe how the political and social structures, religious practices, economies, art, and architecture evolved in the New England colonies, Middle and Southern Colonies during the 18th century
Unit VI: The Political and Intellectual Origins of the American Nation: the Revolution (6 weeks)
Unit VII: The Political and Intellectual Origins of the American Nation: the Constitution (5 weeks)
Major Debates Founders
- the distribution of political power - Benjamin Franklin
- the rights of individuals - Alexander Hamilton
- the rights of states - James Madison
- slavery - George Washington
1. Describe the purpose and functions of government. (USI 9.11)
2. Explain and provide examples of different forms of government, including democracy, monarchy, oligarchy, theocracy, and autocracy. (USI 9.12)
3. Explain why the United States government is classified as a democratic government. (USI 9.13)
4. Explain the characteristics of American democracy, including the concepts of popular sovereignty and constitutional government, which includes representative institutions, federalism, separation of powers, shared powers, checks and balances, and individual rights. (USI 9.14)
5. Explain the varying roles and responsibilities of federal, state, and local governments in the United States. (USI 9.15)
6. Describe the evolution of the role of the federal government, including public services, taxation, economic policy, foreign policy, and common defense. (USI 9.16)
7. Explain the major components of Massachusetts' state government, including the roles and functions of the governor, state legislature, and other constitutional officers. (USI 9.17)
8. Explain the major components of local government in Massachusetts, including the roles and functions of school committees, town meetings, boards of selectmen, mayors, and city councils. (USI 9.18)
9. Explain the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship and describe how a democracy provides opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process through elections, political parties, and interest groups. (USI 9.19)
10. Explain the evolution and function of political parties, including their role in federal, state, and local elections. (USI 9.20)
11. Describe how decisions are made in a democracy, including the role of legislatures, courts, executives, and the public. (USI 9.21)
Unit VIII: The Federal Era and the Early Republic (5 weeks)
A. Political Democratization, Westward Expansion, and Diplomatic Developments, 1790–1823)
1. Summarize the major policies and political developments that took place during the presidencies of George Washington (1789-1797), John Adams (1797-1801), and Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809).
a. the origins of the Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties in the 1790s
b. the conflicting ideas of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton
c. the Alien and Sedition Acts
d. the Louisiana Purchase (USI 9.22)
2. Trace the influence and ideas of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall and the importance of the doctrine of judicial review as manifested in Marbury v. Madison (1803). (USI 9.25)
3. Describe the causes, course, and consequences of America's westward expansion and its growing diplomatic assertiveness. Use a map of North America to trace America's expansion to the Civil War, including the location of the Santa Fe and Oregon trails.
a. the War of 1812
b. the purchase of Florida in 1819
c. the 1823 Monroe Doctrine(USI 9.26A-C)
Unit IX: Influence of the American Revolution (5 weeks)
A. The French Revolution and Napoleon
1. Summarize the important causes and events of the French Revolution.
A. the effect of Enlightenment political thought
B. the influence of the American Revolution
C. economic troubles and the rising influence of the middle class
D. government corruption and incompetence
a. the role of the Estates General and the National Assembly
b. the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789
c. the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen
d. the execution of Louis XVI in 1793
e. the Terror
f. the rise and fall of Napoleon
g. the Congress of Vienna (WHII 11.3A-G)
2. Summarize the major effects of the French Revolution.
a. its contribution to modern nationalism and its relationship to totalitarianism
b. the abolition of theocratic absolutism in France
c. the abolition of remaining feudal restrictions and obligations
d. its support for the ideas of popular sovereignty, religious tolerance, and legal equality (WHII 11.4A-D)
1. Identify the major developments of Latin American history to the early 20th century.
a. the wars for independence, including the influence and ideas of Simon Bolivar, Jose de San Martin, and the American and French Revolutions
b. economic and social stratification
c. the role of the church
d. the importance of trade
e. the growing influence of the United States as demonstrated by the Spanish American War and the building of the Panama Canal
f. the Mexican Revolution (WHII 11.16A-F)
United States and World History II, 1800-1913
Grade 10: Course Overview and Pacing Guide, 2007-08
(Pacing weeks in bold)
United States and World History II investigates key aspects of the 19th century industrialization and imperialism, the creation of the United States, its similarities and differences with other nation-states, and the role of the United States in the world by the turn of the 20th century. The course will use central themes in United States and world history as organizing principles: creation of communities, development of states and/or empires, evolution of belief systems, expansion of technology, extension of constitutional theories, and globalization of exchange and contact. Case studies from different regions of the world will be used to illustrate a particular theme in different historical periods to demonstrate connections, comparisons, and conflicts in the world. Examples will be used to understand events from multiple perspectives by using primary and secondary source materials.
This course corresponds to the following standards:
State standards: WH II.5-II.16
U.S. 11.1-11.6; as well as
BPS standards: U.S. I.32–54;
U.S. II 16-22; &
World: II. 20-31
Introduction: Issues in the World, 1800: Review Term I: 1.5 weeks
Unit One: Industrialization in Great Britain and the United States Term I: 4.5 weeks
Unit Two: Growth of Western Democracies: Social and Political Changes in Europe and in the United States Terms I & II: 6 weeks
Unit Three: Nationalism: U.S. Civil War, Russian Nationalism, and the Emergence of Germany, 1860's and 1870's Term III: 9.5 weeks
Unit Four: World Industrialization: Reconstruction and Imperialism, 1845-1913 Term IV & V: 14.5 weeks
United States and World History II
The United States in the World of the 1830's-1850's:
Concluding Propaganda Project
Imagine that it is early 1849 and that you are a famous critical and eccentric artist living in one of the following countries: France, Great Britain, Prussia, or Russia. You have heard and read two contradictory views of the United States since 1820:
• It is a special place and that it is in essence superior to your own country. You have been also told that the American people, or at least its leaders, are better than the people and leaders of your country.
• It is no better or worse than your country and that its leaders are no more able to solve its problems than your leaders are.
You learn that Dr. Propaganda, the editor-in-chief of Reform is having a contest for a visual description that addresses this question. Since the honorarium for the winner of this contest is a quite high (and obviously secret!) amount of money, you immediately decide to enlist your creativity to submit a proposal. Time is short, and you learn the following:
First, you must focus on the experiences among one of the following 6 groups of people to illustrate:
1.) Native people,
2.) Factory workers,
4.) Farm workers, free
5.) Farm workers, enslaved, OR
Second, Dr. Propaganda is looking to illustrate your idea by comparing developments in the United States with those of developments about the same or similar people in your country! You must include an abstract, a brief summary of your artistic expression to accompany your poster. You come to understand that your task is to create propaganda that either illustrates one way in which the United States is better than your country OR that shows that it is not.
Third, the following parameters must be met:
• You must use poster-quality paper no smaller than 2.5 ft by 2.08 ft to display your artwork.
• You may draw, paint, use cut outs from magazines or photographs (with proper citation, of course!) to create your work.
• You may illustrate your expression directly or through a political cartoon.
• You must have no more than 50 words on the poster (not counting the abstract).
• You must have no fewer than 5 words on the poster (not counting the abstract).
• Your abstract must be one page, typed, double-spaced 12 point Times New Roman font describing your artwork and the topic that you have chosen to present.
• Your abstract must appear on your poster's top left corner.
• You must include a title for your artwork, which should be prominently displayed among the top of the poster.
Finally, the following deadlines must be met:
1.) Select your theme, topic, and comparative country by Friday, December 7th
2.) Submit your proposal—a one paragraph explanation for your poster—by Monday, December 10th
3.) Submit your rough draft abstract by Friday, December 14th AND
4.) Submit your poster and final abstract by Tuesday, December 18th
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