Friday, May 30, 2008

Fess Up! Are You a Sampson Man or a Schley Man?

When you approach the steps of the chapel on the grounds of the United States Naval Academy you can’t help but notice two very large anchors arranged on each side of the walkway. As with most things on the grounds there is also a plaque advising the significance of the important thing you are looking at. Written upon the plaque presented below one of the anchors is the following:

These anchors known as “old fashioned” anchors were fashioned for our Navy’s first armored cruiser “New York” the flag ship of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson during the Spanish-American War and weigh approximately 10,500 pounds.

I snapped a picture of one of the anchors, and I snapped a picture of the plaque so I wouldn’t forget what it said because I wanted to know more. The simple placement of the anchors in front the chapel and the simple wording on the plaque made me want to know more.

This is something I would certainly use in the classroom with kids to get them to see how a simple vacation moment can lead to learning. What’s so important about this Sampson guy that his name is on a plaque? Couldn’t they have just as easily said the anchors were from the “New York” and leave it at that? Why should the “New York” be remembered for her service during the Spanish-American War?

William T. Sampson graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1861 at the head of his class. One of his first assignments was serving upon the USS Patapsco as her Executive Officer. After the Patapsco was blown from the water in January, 1865, Sampson was one of very few surviviors rescued from the harbor waters at Charleston.

Following the Civil War, Sampson steadily rose in the ranks of the U.S. Navy where he gained a reputation as an ordance expert. Along with Joseph Strauss he devised perfect superimposed turrents. During his stint as Chief of the Bueau of Ordnance he instituted smokeless powder and improved gunnery training. He was also appointed as Superintendent of the Naval Academy from 1886-1890, and following the explosion of the USS Maine in Havanna’s harbor in February, 1898 Sampson served as President of the Board of Inquiry.

Once war was declared Sampson became the acting Rear Admiral of the North Atlantic Squadron with 125 vessels under his command.

From the Arlington National Cemetery Website:

On declaration of war against Spain in April, [Sampson] proceeded from Key West to institute a blockade of northern coast of Cuba, his own plan to attack Havana directly having been overruled by the Navy Department. In May while location of the Spanish fleet under Admiral Cevera was yet unknown, he made a cruise east to Puerto Rico and on May 12 bombarded San Juan. He then returned to blockade and joined by "Flying Squadron" under Winfield Scott Schley, who, though technically his senior, was placed under his command for the campaign. He sent Schley to reinforce the blockade of the southern coast, particularly at Cienfuegos and Santiago. Schley was tardy in movements, and Cevera slipped undetected into easily defended harbor at Santiago. When he was finally discovered there, Sampson concentrated his forces outside the harbor. He supported landing of Shafter's army at Daiquiri, June 22, and the capture of Siboney next day, and the subsequent advance to Santiago.

Following capture of San Juan heights commanding the city on July 1 he and Shafter arranged a shore conference to plan a coordinated land-sea assault. On the morning of July 3 aboard the USS New York, headed for the conference point some miles to east. Half an hour later the first of Cevera's ships appeared, steaming out of harbor to west. The Blockade Squadron, under the immediate command of Schley, went instantly into action and in less than 4 hours entire Spanish fleet was sunk or run ashore. The battle took place entirely to west of harbor entrance, and the New York was out of it altogether.

From the Spanish American War Centennial Website more can be learned:

Sampson unwittingly sowed additional seeds of discord as he approached Schley’s ship after the battle. After receiving an effusive signal from the bridge of the BROOKLYN (“This is a great day for our country!”), Sampson responded with a terse “Report your casualties.” Nonplussed, Schley reported the small number of American casualties (one dead and two wounded), and continued sending congratulations to the other ships that had contributed to the victory. In a subsequent telegraph to Washington from the base at Siboney, Sampson did allow himself some elevated prose (which conspicuously omitted Schley’s name): “The fleet under my command offers the nation as a Fourth of July present the whole of Cervera’s fleet.” In Sampson’s home town of Palmyra, New York, the local citizens gave him a 100-gun salute on the Fourth of July. A New York Times article recounting Sampson’s hometown welcome can be found here.

The wartime discord with Schley and Shafter would plague Sampson for the rest of his life. Controversy brewed over who deserved the credit for the destruction of Cervera’s fleet. In the days immediately following the naval battle of Santiago, reporters attached to the American forces noted that Sampson’s initial report of the victory failed to mention Schley by name, and speculated about possible dissension between the two commanders. Although some newspapers sided with Sampson (the Atlanta Constitution, for example, trumpeted as its headline “Sampson Burns and Sinks Cervera’s Ships” and asked its readers “Now, what ‘Dewey’ think of Sampson?”), many hailed Schley as the true hero. On 6 July, the Baltimore American, which was owned by Schley’s friend General Felix Agnus, declared Schley the victor and accused Sampson of “not having the grace even to mention Schley’s name.”

A Court of Inquiry over the matter was held in 1901 with Schley finally getting some recognition. While many don’t realize it today the whole matter was a very devisive one for the U.S. Navy with many having to make the choice of being a “Schley man” or a “Sampson man”.

An American Heritage article relates most of the devisiveness began with a 1901 Annapolis textbook. The book, a history of the U.S. Navy, accused Schley of cowardice at the 1898 Battle of Santiago. Schley, of course, took great issue with this. The article goes on to state that the Court of Inquiry actually had a split verdict, the majority supporting Sampson and the minority backing Schley. They also pointed out that Sampson had not reached the fray until the shooting was over and Schley had defeated the entire Spanish fleet. The American Heritage article further purports that Sampson Hall, located on the campus of the Naval Academy, attests to the Academy’s acceptance of the majority verdict. To find an image or reference to Schley you have to visit the Maryland State House where a bust is on display. There is a bit of irony here……the issue came to a head from a history textbook. The building that carries Sampson’s name houses the history department.

Per the Spanish American War Centennial Website:

In the years that followed, Sampson’s adherents repeatedly emphasized that, though Dewey and Schley had reaped much of the glory of victory in the naval war of 1898, it was Sampson who had laid the foundations for their successes. In the words of naval historian Carroll Alden, Sampson had proven his mettle as “the great builder and organizer” of the Navy at the end of the nineteenth century. He had zealously championed a scientific education that would better serve American officers in a technologically evolving Navy. Further, the American Navy of 1898 owed much of its firepower to Sampson’s prewar tenure as Chief of the Ordnance Bureau. Ninety-five percent of the American guns used at the naval battle of Santiago, as well as a large portion of the guns used at Manila Bay, had been forged under Sampson’s direction: “From 1892 until the outbreak of the Spanish War, every gun built for the Navy was designed and constructed under the supervision of Sampson, and the large guns were all upon his personal design.” For Alden, the triumph of 3 July 1898 was “the logical fruition of plans which (Sampson’s) own genius had devised and set in motion; that is, it was won by officers whom he had drilled, on ships that he had constructed and armored, equipped with guns he had built.” At this “grand climax,” Sampson was “as much in the background as is a dramatist at the initial performance of his play.”

You really never know where a bit of research will take you. This is probably the most facinating thing about history and history research that propels me to do what I do. You see, through my research regarding finding out a bit more about William T. Sampson I discovered that in 1909 a memorial window was unveiled at the chapel in Annapolis as a tribute to Sampson. It was reported in the New York Times. This led me to search for a description of the window. I knew I had taken several photos within the chapel and many included the priceless Tiffany stained glass windows, but I didn’t know which one had been dedicated to Sampson. After several failed Googles I discovered the Sampson window is also known as the Angel of Peace, and it is one of the three main windows. The other two are dedicated to Admirals Porter and Farragut. I knew the main window was dedicated to Admiral Porter, and I knew Farragut’s window contained an image of the Archangel Michael. This led me to realize I had taken an image of the Sampson window and here it is:

So….I do believe the next time I pull out that dusty old Spanish American War unit I might have students learn a bit more about Rear Admiral Sampson and his “opponent” Schley.

I could put the question to students….”Are you a Sampson man or a Schley man?” and have them back their answers up with proof in the form of research.

Which man are you?

Other Sources:

*William T. Sampson's obituary in the New York Times

*The page for William T. Sampson at the Arlington National Cemetery Website (scroll all the way down to see images of the graves of Sampson, his wife, and sons)

Over at Got Bible I’ve posted more images of the chapel at the Naval Academy

It's Happy Dance Time!

It's all over now but post-planning, isn't it? Now it's on to spending the next eight weeks tweaking those lesson plans, creating new slide presentations, looking for new sources, and research, research, research. Oh, and don't forget team meetings to plan, professional development classes to attend, college classes to finish up at break neck speed, and reading all of those professional manuals and research books you've stacked up for the summer.

....and you just thought we sat around and ate bon-bons all summer, didn't you?

If you are a parent, I sympathize with your plight.

If you are a fellow educator, HAVE A GREAT SUMMER!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Travel Log Complete With a Few Pictures

Well, as you can tell by now posting has been a little sparse this week. I’m still recovering from our wonderful trip to Annapolis and Washington D.C., however, our trip was jam packed with so, so much more. In five short days here are 13 things I did:

1. Fought Atlanta rush hour traffic as we finally got on the road around 3 p.m. last Wednesday. Egads! I’m glad we don’t do this every day.

2. Got to Archdale, North Carolina around 10:30 p.m. and spent the night. (Reminder to hubby… NEVER accept a room again where we are going to have to sleep together on a double bed.)

3. Reached Washington D.C. at rush hour, but it wasn’t too bad. This is the scene that met us. Wow!

4. We exited and instantly realized we weren’t in Atlanta anymore…..pedestrians EVERYWHERE and instead of red lights hung on a wire in the middle of each intersection they were positioned on poles on each corner. It takes a bit to get used to it. I’m glad I’m not driving. All hail the pedestrian!

5. We checked into our hotel, an old bank building, on F Street. Everyone is friendly and courteous from the valets to the maids. We soon head out to Union Station to look around, and we see the Capitol Building as we head down Constitution Avenue. Dear Daughter gets this great shot.

6. We had a great dinner at Union Station, enjoyed the wonderful architecture, and felt the rumble of the trains as they entered and departed from the station. I arrived in Washington at Union Station in 1974 during my 7th grade trip, and in 1985 my mother had a layover in D.C. when she came to Virginia Beach, Virginia to visit me. Mother didn’t venture too far from the station…..I wonder now if she even realized back then how close the U.S. Capitol Building was to her.

7. After dinner we headed out to the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. They are more than magnificent at night. We walked, walked, walked at each location, but it was so worth it. Dear Daughter and I came away with wonderful pictures and memories of all three of us being there.

8. Friday was our one full day in D.C. We headed to the U.S Capitol to pick up tickets to take the tour. They are free, but tours groups are timed. Our tour was scheduled for 2:45, so we headed out to Arlington National Cemetery for the remainder of the morning. We timed it just perfect….as we walked up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier it was 12 o’clock, and we were able to see the changing of the guard. Afterwards we also saw a wreath laying ceremony on behalf of a middle school group. The best part of the visit…..the magnificent views of Washington D.C. from John F. Kennedy’s grave. Stunning!

9. The U.S. Capitol tour was great……I loved getting up close and personal again with the Rotunda art. Dear Hubby was really struck by the Frieze of United States History begun but not finished by Constantino Brumidi that surrounds the Rotunda.

10. We were worn out by Saturday, but managed to walk down F Street to Madame Toussad’s Wax Museum and immerse ourselves in complete tacky tourism. It was quite entertaining as we had fun taking pictures of each other with all of the famous people we ran into. Here is Dear Hubby being interrogated by J. Edgar Hoover of F.B.I. fame.

11. Finally, the time had come for the real purpose of our trip…..the wedding. We headed up to Annapolis a bit early so we could make sure we could find parking, would be admitted onto the campus, and find the chapel. What a wonderful place… I would like to visit again. Here is an image of the bride and her two brothers who both serve in the U.S. Army. These kids are friends of my son, and have all spent numerous hours in our home. We are proud of all three of them and were honored to share this special event with their family. No, that's not me with's another family friend.

12. Sunday was heading out day again. We went North again up New York Avenue and Route 50 towards Annapolis except this time we headed for the Bay Bridge where we crossed over the Chesapeake Bay and then headed down the Eastern Shore of Maryland and on into Virginia. After the bustle of horns, people, sirens, and monuments of D.C. it was very interesting to view another type of monument….farmhouse after farmhouse, field after field, small town after small town….monuments to the backbone of our American culture….where it all started…working the earth….a plot of land to own…freedom.
13. Finally it was time to cross the Chesapeake Bay a second time via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel……….during the whole two years I lived in Virginia Beach from 1984 to 1986 I never once ventured out to the tunnel. Here’s a snap of a ship where it looks as if it is going through the bridge. Actually the bridge descends rapidly into a tunnel right before the spot where you see the ship.
Virginia Beach has really changed in 20 years! Dear Hubby and I managed to locate our old townhouse, but not much else. It was kind of funny. We did manage to get a picture of Dear Daughter in front of the Francis Land House. This home has some significance to my family (I’ve written about it here), and though we didn’t have time to tour it I wanted to at least get a picture of my daughter sitting on the same steps Francis Land had walked up and down.

Sunday night was spent in Rocky Mount, North Carolina before crossing over the middle of North Carolina to High Point. Now if you aren’t aware High Point, North Carolina is the mecca for all things furniture. Needless to say Dear Hubby will have a new leather chair in about 8 weeks once they create the one we ordered.

We finally arrived back home Monday evening……so glad to be home, but so glad to have taken the trip. Wonderful meals, wonderful people, wonderful memories, and a great experience witnessing a young couple begin their married life together in such a historic way.

Visit the Thursday Thirteen hub here.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Observing Memorial Day

If I had to name one place where you should visit over a long Memorial Day weekend I can think of no better place than Arlington National Cemetery, our nation’s premire memorial cemetery, honoring those who have served in our armed forces.

My husband, daughter, and I visited Arlington for several hours on Friday. If you aren’t a proud American as you walk the grounds, exit the gates, and cross Memorial bridge back over the Potomac towards the Lincoln Memorial then you and I… sadly…. don’t have anything in common.

Today (Sunday) we are still attempting to recover from our visit as I do believe we traversed most of the 600 plus acres Arlington encompasses. I’ve never walked so many steps or climbed so many hills in my entire life, but it was so very worth it.

The images I took during our visit and the three views I've posted above best help me remember why Memorial Day is observed. I’ll post more later….

Friday, May 23, 2008

Washington D.C. in a Whirlwind

We arrived in our nation’s capital very late last evening, but we were still able to visit the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials (along with a gazillion school children). We also spent some time in Union Station for a late dinner and a look see.

Today we ventured out to Arlington National Cemetary and the U.S. Capitol building. Tomorrow we will motor over to the Naval Academy in Annapolis to witness a special young lady marry a recent graduate (today) of the academy in the chapel on the Naval Academy grounds. Tonight we are having dinner with the young lady’s two brothers. Both young men are currently serving their country. I’ve written about them before.

Pictures? Oh my, do I have pictures! Unfortunately, the connection in my hotel isn’t cooperating with my computer as well as I would like for it to, so we might just have to wait until next week for visuals….but why am I saying this? You already know I’m going to tell you all about all of the interesting things I’ve done and seen. That’s how I roll around here, isn’t it?

In the meantime until I get to post more visit the education carnival to see what is going on in the education blogosphere. The carnival is currently posted over at Teacher in a Strange Land.

Also…..many, many thanks to all of the folks who voted for History Is Elementary in the category of education/homeschooling for Best of the Blogs. If you haven’t voted or would like to vote again you can vote once each day between now and the 26th. You can vote here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

13 Things I Can Do Today as I Travel

Today is travel day as we head north to Washington D.C./Annapolis. In my never ending quest to be supermom and superteacher, I multi-task as much as possible. I always try to do more than one thing…..get the laundry going while I load the dishwasher and make beds or grade papers while I run the copier outside my door preparing handouts for the next day’s lessons.

It is the very rare occaision where I just sit and do nothing, so a car ride of several hours is a very daunting process. Here are 13 things I’ve thought about doing while we travel in random order:

1. go over my summer goals…..what do I want to accomplish by July 31st?

2. brainstorm weak areas in my American History units and come up with solutions.

3. conversate with Dear Hubby and Dear Daughter

4. look at the world passing me by….try not to miss the huge peach in Gaffney, South Carolina. For those not in the know if it didn’t have a huge leaf attached to it I swear you would think it’s a huge rear end.

5. listen to music…..not the radio…CDs all the way

6. read aloud our revised church bylaws to Dear Hubby and discuss…..we need to be "in the know"

7. help Dear Hubby prepare a meeting agenda

8. notice all the interesting names of places along the way and bore Dear Daughter with the history of each area we pass through just to frustrate her. :) Her ninth great-grandfather fought during the American Revolution at Kings Mountain and Cowpens so that's a story good for at least an hour of travel time.....

9. stay alert and help Dear Hubby with his driving….he might not see that car with its brakes on, you know?

10. sleep…..but then I couldn’t help Dear Hubby drive and I’m simply compelled to do that.

11. Listen to Dear Daughter giggle as she uses Dear Hubby’s lap top to check her email, etc. as we go down the road and receive text messages on her phone. Isn’t technology wonderful?

12. Discuss all of the “must sees” in Washington D.C. we want to get to considering we have one day there.

13. Get on the rode NOW per Dear Hubby as he does not want to hit D.C. during afternoon rush hour. Oops! Gotta go.

Don’t forget to vote for me in the education/homeschooling category over at the Best of Blogs. You can vote once each day through the 26th. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to vote.

Happy Thursday!
Visit the 13 hub here to see more 13 lists from various bloggers.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm Headin' Out

I’m headin’ out today for a long Memorial Day weekend. Can you guess where I’m going? Yes, our nation’s capital city, Washington D.C.!

I believe our capital city is another ingredient into the mix that makes America great. What about you?

Actually I’m heading to Annapolis to the Naval Academy to witness the marriage of a very special young lady. She is marrying a graduate of the Naval Academy on Saturday in the chapel on the Academy grounds. While we are that close we will be exploring Washington D.C. on the fly as well as attempting to track down a statue I wrote about here. I just have to get a picture of it.

I hope to be able to update each day while I’m gone to let you see where I’ve explored that day.

So, tell me…..if you had one day in D.C. where you go and why?

Happy Wednesday,and don’t forget to vote for me over at the Best of Blogs. You can vote once each day through the 26th. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to vote.

Visit the Wordless Wednesday hub here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Best of Blogs or the Post Where I Ask You to Go Vote for Me

This is a sticky post that will remain here at the top for a few days. Scroll down for my newest postings if you've already seen this.

Imagine my surprise and glee when I noticed that The Best of Blogs (vote using the link below in green) had named History Is Elementary as one of their nominated best blogs in the category of Education and Homeschooling.

I don’t say it much, but I do appreciate each and every visit, each and every email subscription, each and every link through Bloglines, etc., each and every comment, and of course……each and every lurker.Check out the other nine nominees as well. I’m honored to be in their company and consider all of them to be great blog buddies. :)

Apparently you can vote via a PollMonkey widget at a separate post that was created after the link I give above. You are allowed to vote once per day between now and May 26th from what I could gather at the site. Once you use the PollMonkey widget it deactivates it for your computer and shows you a tally of votes until 24 hours passes. Then you can vote again. Here’s the link:

Click here to vote for History Is Elementary for best education blog.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ah....the Month of May

Excuse the following trite beginning….I simply couldn’t help myself.

May…it is the worst of times….it is the best of times.

The month of May can be classified as the worst of times because testing has been over for at least three weeks. Students pretty much shut down after the final answer has been bubbled, answer sheets have been checked for stray pencil marks, and the standardized “gold” has been packed up and delivered to those high upon that ivory and jewel encrusted tower for analysis and much manipulation.

The month of May can be classified as the worst of times because by the time the ninth month of school rolls around students, teachers, and administrators have been about as tolerant with one another as they possibly can. The colleage or student that rubs you the wrong way seems to try to do so just that much harder once May rolls around. It gets harder and harder to sit on your hands and keep your mouth spouting positives when what you’d really like to do is cross every bridge and torch it into oblivion as you go.

The month of May is also that happy time when parents you have called, have written, have emailed continously all year to please, please engage in a conversation with you regarding their child finally shows up at your classroom door to- to- to- to NOT discuss why their child has been tardy 25 times, NOT discuss why their child has been absent 30 days, NOT discuss why their child has only turned in half of the assignments in each subject each term of the year, NOT discuss why their child has exhibited violent outbursts towards students and figures of authority on the average of at least once daily, NOT discuss your concerns regarding their child’s habit of writing essays that focus on violence and even murder, NOT discuss why their child seems to be so depressed at times, so anxious at times, so insecure at times.

No, that would too easy. Instead May is that happy time of the year when the hard to reach, never have shown their face type of parent shows up and wants to conversate with you after school for two hours telling you their life story extolling a life style that could only exist in someone’s imagination because it’s all too incredible to believe. Stories involving the botched abortion that resulted in the child sitting in your room, the never ending list of significant others parading through the child’s life, and the stints in jail that permeate their child’s life suddenly make you all too aware of why the student acts as they do. The parent doesn’t tell you these things to shock you, but rather they tell you these things to show that any and everything else might be to blame, but they are not.

You realize, after attempting to steer the conversation back to the child’s school performance without little success, the parent isn’t there to help their child. They want you to enable them by simply listening, and then saying it’s ok, but it’s not ok because you’d be fired for telling them what you really think.

On the other hand…

May is the best of times because for many students if you tune in your brain just right and use your best observation skills you can truly see growth in each and every child even the ones like I described above. All children grow in some way during the school year. For example, my dear sweet helper who cried so much at the beginning of the year and followed me around like a little lost puppy…now she is more confident, has stopped following me, and tears? I haven’t seen them in at least two months. My young man who couldn’t seem to finish an assignment unless an adult sat next to him is completing more and more things on his own. One student who has a form of Autism will now sit with the group instead of hanging out on the periphery. My sweet young lady who was literally thrown out of her home and onto the lawn one cold, blustery morning along with her mother and sister (a pox on her father) has smiled more in the last month because her mom finally secured a place for them in a shelter. Thankfully as I move about the room the conversations I hear are the true conversations of a learning community…one where students are sharing information and resourses, one where I hear the phrase, “This is how I did the assignment. What do you think?” more and more and more. Instead of hearing demanding phrases like “Give it to me now.” I hear “Can you show me?”, “Can you tell me?” and “please” fills the air more than “shut-up.”

May is the best of times because I hear, “Gee I can’t wait for summer!” mixed in with “I’m going to miss everyone.” Students get on each others nerves, but many have bonded, they have become secure with one another, and they realize many of those bonds are about to be severed. Our time together is precious over the next few days. I realize it. The students realize it, and we strive to make the most of our moments even with the frustration that May can bring.

Still….we long for summer and announce the new tally at the beginning of each day.

On Monday we will begin the day with a chorus of NINE MORE DAYS!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Easy Out...But an Interesting 13 Nonetheless

The last few days have been a series of things that had to be done yesterday and lots of go-go-going. I have several projects that all seem to be converging and convening all on the same day --- reading that must be done, food that must be prepared, writing that must be done, an already burgeoning summer calendar that makes me want to stick my head in the sand, and gee… family might want a clean towel before the end of the week as well.

All of my teacher friends are all counting down to the last day of school just as urgently as their students. They all can tick off on their fingers an ever growing list of things that must be done before the final hooray closes out the year. Grades, awards, getting that new contract signed, next year’s grade and room assignment, report card comments, end of the year party preparation, packing if moving to a new room or school, turning in purchase order for next years supplies, meeting new team members if new teachers have been hired, field day preparations, brainstorming new and innovative methods to contain a group of kids a few days longer even through young bodies are are ready to burst at their summer seams, cleaning out files, taking down bulletin boards…..oh my gosh….the list is endless….an ever growing sinkhole of gotta do, gotta do, gotta do.

So forgive me as I resort to a method of posting that is an easy way out for any teacher of history when the entries on the to do list become a bit overwhelming……let’s focus on what happened on this day……..May 15th……in history. I’m sure you will find yourself saying as you read the list, “Oh, I didn’t know that….Oh, I forgot about that…..Huh?” Leave me a comment letting me know which item spurred you to do a quick Google gaggle to find out more.

Here are 13 events that occurred throughout history on May 15th.

1. In 1602, Cape Cod was discovered by Bartholomew Gosnold.

2. In 1862, the Department of Agriculture was created

3. In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the dissolution of Standard Oil Company, ruling it was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

4. In 1916, U.S. Marines landed in Santo Domingo to quell civil disorder.

5. In 1918, regular airmail service between New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, began under the direction of the Post Office Department, which later became the U.S. Postal Service.

6. In 1940, nylon stockings went on sale for the first time in the U.S.

7. In 1957, Britain dropped its first hydrogen bomb on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean.

8. In 1964, the Smothers Brothers, Dick and Tom, gave their first concert in Carnegie Hall in New York City.

9. In 1970, U.S. President Nixon appointed America's first two female generals.

10. In 1972, Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace was shot by Arthur Bremer in Laurel, MD while campaigning for the U.S. presidency. Wallace was paralyzed by the shot.

11. In 1975, the merchant ship U.S. Mayaguez was recaptured from Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.

12. In 2003, Texas Democrats boarded two buses and returned home after a self-imposed four-day exile in Oklahoma that temporarily succeeded in killing a redistricting plan they opposed.

13. In 2006, the Pentagon disclosed the names of everyone detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison since it opened four years earlier.

If you like this 13 list, you can find all of my 13 lists here.

If you would like to find other bloggers who 13 on Thursday you can find them here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Carny Time in Georgia

The Mother’s Day edition of the Georgia Carnival is up and running over at Georgia on My Mind. This carnival isn’t just for Georgians. Post include church growth, a post regarding the effects of not vaccinating children, a video regarding wine choices with bar-b-que including the word “quaffable”, captioned movies for the hearing impaired, and many other interesting posts from fantastic blogs.

Head on over, but watch for falling trees and other storm debris. Our Mother’s Day this year found the Atlanta area enduring another round of tornados, straight-line winds, and the oft repeated phrase, “It sounded just like a freight train.”

My family is ok, but many of my fellow Georgians are not. It was a bumpy morning around here from 2 a.m. until 5 a.m.

So, go to the carnival with me and let’s take our minds off storms and cleaning up. Good reads can always do the trick!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Washington: The Making of The American Capital

The first and last time I visited Washington D.C. I was in the seventh grade. The trip served as a reward for participating as a member of the school patrol. Some of us had served alongside our school crossing guard, along the car rider lane, on our school bus, or many, like me, took up a post in the hallway or cycled in and out of the restrooms during our daily 15-20 minute tour of duty. Quite simply we told kids to stop rough-housing, to move along, and to slow----it---down. For the most part we were listened to and respected. Today….I’m sure a fight would break out because someone would think they were being disrespected.

The trip to our nation’s capital was amazing. What struck me the most was the awesome size of our nation’s marble monuments that symbolize our republic – the Supreme Court building, the Capitol, the National Archives, the Washington Monument – everywhere I looked I saw Greek and Roman facades and columns, and marble…..marble everywhere. The dazzling whiteness, the chisled columns, the carved pediments, imposing wide steps, the wide avenues, and statuary everywhere the eye looked…all designed to impress, inspire, and illustrate the greatness and power of the United States.

Pictures and video simply do not express the beauty, the grandeur, and the promise of power that seeps from every famed building, fountain, and park. Every year I attempt to do our nation’s capital justice by attempting to convey what is it like, but it’s hard. Many of my students have never even been to Atlanta, even though it is a mere 25 miles away and others, if they have gotten that far from home have only been through Atlanta, not “to” it. During all of my years of teaching I’ve only run across a handful of kids who have visited and toured Washington D.C.

Usually we discuss the creation and building of our nation’s capital soon after we have ended our look at the American Revolution and discovered how the Constitution was written. While I often feel inadequate relying on my feeble attempts to describe the nation’s city through images and my memories, I also feel our texts do a poor job as well.

If ever there was a spot in the curriculum road to go four-wheeling, it’s at this point. Texts rarely provide enough data to get across the powerful images Washington D.C. conveys and many of the most interesting details are often left out of the story.

For example, in the text published by Scott Foresman titled Building a Nation my students can learn that Congress argued for over 10 years regarding the site of our nation’s capital. They learn what the D.C. stands for. They learn the land is not far from Mt. Vernon, and in 1799 the capital was referred to as Washington D.C. rather than Federal City in honor of our first president. L’Enfant is described as the city’s designer, and Benjamin Banneker is identified as the an inventor, mathematician, astronomer, and the son of a freed slave. The text simply states that Banneker was asked to help with the project. More information is given about Banneker on another page in the textbook.

That’s it. If I was a teacher who just relied on a textbook to teach American History to students the above is all they would know. It’s not much.

Enter a new book by Fergus M. Bordewich titled Washington: The Making of The American Capital. This is the book to read if you like to know all the backstories to the larger story. This is the book to read if you like to add to your bag of tricks when teaching about a certain event or place. Bordewich provides rich detail regarding the why, the how, and the who behind the making of the U.S. capital we enjoy and should cherish today.

With over thirty pages of notes regarding references used in his research I’m confident that Mr. Bordewich is a reliable source for use by history teachers, history students, and lovers of history in general.

The thorough history Mr. Bordewich provides engaged me with every turn of the page, and I couldn’t help but mark certain things that spoke to me in some way, or things that I wanted to make sure I added to my teaching unit regarding Washington D.C.

Here are just a few of the items I marked:

*the site that exists today came about during a dinner between James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson, but it was not the original choice. Bordewich goes into great detail regarding all of the events and all of the various involved parties prior to and after Jefferson’s dinner party.

*Bordewich explains in great detail why Major L’Enfant soon faded from the story, and how Andrew Ellicott became a rising star in the planning and building process.

*I found Bordewich’s section regarding the involvement of Benjamin Banneker to be one of the most well written and detail ridden accounts I’ve seen to date. In fact, I’m planning on figuring out how I can share these pages with students either by simply reading them aloud and stopping every so often to discuss main points, or by reading a more juvenile account of Mr. Banneker’s life and have students compare it to the account given in Bordewich’s book.

*The issue of slavery is dealt with heavily in the book as it should be. It was an issue in the final location choice, and it was an issue with the labor that built the city.

*And where did the money come from to pay for the land and the buildings? Again, Bordewich lays it all out…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Oh, those backstories I love so much!

I’ve only related a smidge of the story Bordewich relates concerning the founding and building of our nation’s capital. It’s an entertaining read and I highly recommend it.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

13 Things About the Zoot Suit Riots

Here in my fair city of Atlanta there has been talk within the city council regarding young men and their underwear. Seems the young ones like to wear their pants hanging about their knees for some reason. I’m not particularly fond of the style myself. For one thing I simply don’t understand how someone can demand respect from me when they are attempting to walk towards me holding their pants up with one hand to keep them from puddling around their feet. It’s hilarious. Over the years though American youth have had their fads and fashion trends including the Flappers of the 20s and the Greasers of the 50s…….and then there were the Zoot Suits.

1. Zoot suits were popular among Hispanics, African Americans, and Italians during the 1930s and 1940s.

2. They were mainly worn for special occasions. The suit consisted of high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed pants paired with a long coat called a carlango that sported wide lapels and high padded shoulders. Sometimes a hat completed the look that contained a long feather. Sometimes a watch chain dangled from the belt to the knees and then looped back to a side pocket.

3. Just as many consider saggy pants to be a symbol of youth rebellion today the zoot suit was that same symbol in the 30s and 40s.

4. The zoot suit was first seen in the 1930s in New York at the height of the Harlem Jazz culture. Many referred to them as “drapes.”

5. In the summer of 1943 tensions were running high between Chicano youths and U.S. Servicemen stationed in Los Angeles

6. During their off duty periods and after they had been out for a night of drinking sailors and soldiers had to walk through Chicano neighborhoods in order to return to their bases.

7. Some of the interactions moved beyond name calling and erupted in brawls and robberies.

8. It didn’t help that the LA Police Department was also attempting to clean up street corners in Chicano neighborhoods where young men loitered and many participated in illegal street gambling.

9. Prior to the riots in October 1942, a young man was killed during a fracas between two rival Chicano gangs. Over 600 young men were arrested, however, convictions were later overturned.

10. Things escalated between U.S. servicemen and zoot suiters when the servicemen attacked and beat up a Chicano group stating the zoot suiters had stabbed one of their own.

11. Attacks and retaliation attacks continued in May, 1943. As U.S. Servicemen headed out to “get back at” the Chicanos those wearing zoot suits were easy to identify and they bore the brunt of the attacks. While many zoot suiters were arrested and processed throught the LA justice system the servicemen were handed over to the military police and were often let go.

12. As the days passed historical records show that thousands of servicemen joined the attacks. African Americans were involved as well as they took the side of the Chicano community providing vehicles and weapons to fight against the servicemen.

13. An eyewitness account helps to give an image of the attacks: Marching through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, a mob of several thousand soldiers, sailors, and civilians, proceeded to beat up every zoot suiter they could find. Pushing its way into the important motion picture theaters, the mob ordered the management to turn on the house lights and then ran up and down the aisles dragging Mexicans out of their seats. Streetcars were halted while Mexicans, and some Filipinos and Negroes, were jerked off their seats, pushed into the streets and beaten with a sadistic frenzy.

After several days the military intervened. Local press printed stories lauding the servicemen stating their attacks had rid the community of hoodlums and miscreants. Luckily the military designated downtown LA offlimits to servicemen in the future. Very few charges were leveled at the servicemen and the charges that were made quickly went away. When First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out against the riots stating that long term racial discrimination against Hispanics led to the problems she was accused of attempting to create more racial discord.

….and we thing these types of things only happen today.

Visit the main page for Thurday Thirteen here

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Carnivals Abound

The May edition of the History Carnival has posted over at Bay Radical while last week’s edition of the Education Carnival can be found at What It's Like on the Inside, and this week’s edition is posted over at Bellringers. Enjoy!

In case you aren't sure what a blog carnival is....the best way I know how to describe it is a carnival is a blog post with lots of links to other blogs all posting on a similar subject. It's a regular online magazine of sorts that posts on a weekly (education carnival) or monthly (history carnival) basis.

Check them out, but don't get eat too much cotton candy!

America: A Great Nation

Keeping with the theme…America---a Great Nation----this is an image of the U.S. Senate. When you analyze the three branches of government and how Congress was formed via the Great Compromise it looks and sounds pretty good, but is the U.S. Congress an ingredient that makes the United States a great nation?

Visit the Wordless Wednesday hub here.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Historical Triage

If you are a history teacher then you probably already know what I mean by historical triage. The history of America, the history of the world, the history of Georgia, and even the history of a button can be a very vast area to cover. We simply can’t do it all in the amount of time we are given. Sometimes, however, I wish I had more time to share everything I would like to with students.

That is often impossible, however, because as the teacher I’m given a set of standards with the directive of making sure those items are taught. If I deviate from “the plan” then students aren’t prepared for the next set of standards for higher grade levels, and they aren’t prepared for the state assessment. However, as a passionate history teacher I know that more information can help students see a bigger picture, more information can help students connect to information already learned, and more information can help motivate students to dig further. It is quite a conundrum though. Out of all of the possible tibits of “extra” history, which ones do I attempt to include and which ones do I sacrifice for another day, another time, or even for another teacher to cover? It’s all a matter of triage.

For example, in the fifth grade one teaching standard states, the student will describe the importance of key people, events, and developments between 1950-1975. Now that standard covers twenty-five years of history jam packed with people, events, and developments. How do I know what Georgia considers important?

Luckily elements are given with each standard to serve as a guidebook when planning lessons, so that I know how specific I should get. Element (a.) states the student should be able to discuss the importance of the Vietnam War, and (b.) the student should know something about Justice Thurgood Marshall. This leads me to the conclusion that President Johnson will need to be introduced to students along with his two-front war….the war in Vietnam and the domestic war against racial inequality, poverty, and many other social ills more commonly known as The Great Society simply because President Johnson greatly increased our involvement in Vietnam and he also appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court.

Sadly, this could mean much of the interesting life of LBJ could be triaged and left on my planning room floor. I believe sharing President Johnson’s social programs with students is key to understanding the entire decade of the sixties and on towards present day. A look at the Great Society also ties in with previous studies such as the War Between the States, Reconstruction, the resurrgence of the Ku Klux Klan, etc., but I have to be reasonable. I cannot cover everything.

One way I attempt to share more of LBJ with my students is with a discovery activity I have devised. After a few days spent in the jungles of Vietnam I turn students’ attention to the Johnson’s domestic programs and his wish to improve American society. We discuss how the Great Society was an effort to eliminate poverty, reverse racial injustice, improve education, clean up urban blight, and protect the environment. We discuss how Johnson had an incredible amount of money flooding into Asia as well as gushing into Great Society programs.

One morning students arrive to see a question I’ve written on the board in large letters, “What would make President Johnson so passionate about improving American society?”

With that question in mind, students move into groups armed with copies of one particular resource covering President Johnson’s early life. The resources stop at the point he became a politician. Every group member has their own copy, but each group has a different source. Students are instructed to keep the question on the board in mind, and I ask them to read and analyze the source. Their job is to pull out facts about Johnson that might possible answer the question on the board. For some class groups we might spend a moment or two breaking down the question to make sure students are clear regarding what they are looking for.

I love activities like this because I am allowing the student to discover the information. They love to tell me something I might not know, and as the year progresses they become very competitive with one another in an attempt to learn something new. After a few minutes we gather again, and I ask each group to share one thing they learned. As they share I begin to make a master list on the board underneath our focus question.

One group tells me the Johnson family lived in a very small home with no electricity and no plumbing. Many are amazed by this and I tell them that even as close as fifty years ago there were homes in our own community that still had outhouses. Another group shares that the Johnson’s father was a state legislator, but the family was poor as the father tried to make a living as a farmer and a cattle speculator. Someone on the other side of the room begins to wave their arm frantically. I call on Mr. Wavy Hand and he excitedly shares, “It wasn’t just his father who was a lawmaker. His grandfather was too!”

I say, “Hmmmm…..” as I begin to write that fact on the board and call on the next group. In a rush one young lady advises President Johnson was born in 1908 and his father’s name was Sam Ealy Johnson. His mother’s name was Rebekah Baines Johnson.”

Several students emit a chorus of “Ohhhhhhh!” as they now know where the “Baines” came from in President Johnson’s name. I notice one group seems to be about ready to bust with their tidbit from Johnson’s early life. I go ahead and call on them to show us how intelligent they are. Very Loud Young Man lets out a sigh of relief and states, “I thought someone else would tell you before we could.”

I say, “What? What it is?”

A girl in the group says, “Oh, EHT. This is just soooooo good. You’re going to like this.”

I put my hand on my hip and sigh as I say, “Well……..”

Very Loud Young Man finally explodes by saying, “Johnson grew up near Johnson City, Texas. Johnson City was named for his ancestors who helped settle the area. One of them was named James Polk Johnson. He went to Texas after the War Between the States and….HE WAS FROM GEORGIA!.”

There are several “ohs” and “ahs” around the room including my own, “Really? That’s so neat. Let’s put a star by that fact because if you are like me we will want to know more about Mr. Johnson from Georgia.”

A voice from the back of the room mimics what I often say during class, “Yes, let’s save that for further research.” I smile. I don’t repeat things over and over merely because I like to hear my voice.

We continue on with the facts. As a group we discover President Johnson was talkative in school and was described as awkward. Several students related to this while others related to the fact that even though he probably lived very simply his classmates elected him as president of his eleventh grade class. Another group found a quotation of President Johnson’s where he said, “Poverty was so common we didn’t know it had a name.” We discuss the meaning of the President’s remark and moved on to more facts.

He had four siblings. Someone remarked his house was probably crowded. Another quipped, “Well, he didn’t have his own room. That’s for sure.”

Another group discovered Johnson’s mother’s grandfather had been George Washington Baines. He was a Baptist clergyman and was President of Baylor University. I let student groups discuss this for a minute after wondering outloud why the Johnson family was so poor if they have a university president in their background. Students arrive at all sorts of reasons such as crop failures. and maybe the rest of the family never had the same amount of education for some reason. Someone else remarked that perhaps President Johnson’s mother’s family was better off than his father’s.

We also discover Johnson worked his way through college at Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College. The next group, however, correct my factoid on the board by stating their resource said the college is known as Texas State University---San Marcos today.

Finally, we discovered that for one year before he left for Washington, President Johnson taught school. Oh my, he was a school teacher! He taught at the Welhausen School. His students were almost entirely Mexican and were from very simple circumstances.

Through this activity students learn that politicians are often passionate regarding certain issues because of their past experiences. Now that students understand President Johnson’s zeal in wanting Great Society programs, they are ready to examine and analyze the various components of the various social programs proposed during the late 60s.

This post also appears at American Presidents.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Pop Quiz: Why is Cinco de Mayo a Big Deal, or Is It?

Ah, testing is over….Spring has sprung….and the fifth of May brings cries of Happy Cinco de Mayo, Elementaryhistoryteacher! Students discuss how their families will invade the nearest Mexican restaurant for special deals, free beer for the adults at some establishments, and lively music.

Whoa there…I like Mexican food, music, and an occasional beer as much as the next person, but exactly what are we celebrating?

It’s lunchtime and lots of people are moving about the campus, so I send out a group of kids with clipboards in hand and ask them to take an informal survey asking any adult in the hallway, media center, lunchroom, or main office why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated. I send out another group to ask students at lunch the same question.

The two groups remaining in the classroom stay busy until our survey takers return. Fifteen minutes later the data is passed along to the groups that stayed in the room, and they get busy analyzing the answers.

What they discovered is that is doesn’t really matter whether the person is old or young, white, black, or Mexican… one in our survey group can really truly can state that they know why Cinco de Mayo is celebrated. Some think they know, but they aren’t sure. A few adults stated they thought the day was set aside to celebrate Mexican independence like the Fourth of July. Others felt that the day must commemorate a great victory of some sort.

Wrong and wrong, sort of.

Cinco de Mayo is not a day of independence for Mexicans….It is September 16th. Cinco de Mayo is not a holiday recognized by the Mexican government. It is a regional holiday celebrated in the area of Puebla to commemorate the Battle of Puebla. It occurred in 1862 when the Mexican forces beat back French forces, but only for a bit. A year later Mexico was totally defeated by the French, and the Hapsburgs began to rule. The day began to be celebrated by Mexicans living in the United States to celebrate resistance to French rule in Mexico.

Should the fifth of May be such a big deal? This editiorial from the New York Times examines a little of the history and discusses why you might be ordering a Corona this afternoon or tonight.

Over the years Cinco de Mayo has become an informal holiday to recognize and appreciate Mexican culture here in the United States, and after our survey and research into the matter it was decided that learning more about a culture and celebrating it a bit isn’t such a bad thing, but perhaps we all need to know what we are celebrating before biting into that chalupa or asking for another Corona.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

An Apple a Day....

Several weeks ago I was approached by someone at The Apple….it’s a place where teachers meet and learn. Over there you will find education news, articles, lesson plans, an online forum, and much more.

Seems they wanted to include me as one of their featured writers. Of course I was honored, and I quickly accepted. You can find me along with The Apple’s other featured writers on this page.

Can’t find me? Just scroll down to the bottom until you see the name Lisa Cooper….yep, that’s me. This isn’t the first time I’ve come out behind the cartoon image with my real name, but it certainly won’t be the last.

From time to time you might find an article or two from History Is Elementary as you browse through their cataloged articles as well as many other great articles from other educators.

So, head on over to The Apple and get to know some folks who blog and some who don’t, and join in on the conversation because apples and teachers just go together, you know?