Still Standing is Standing Right in Front of Me

That’s right, my copy of the new documentary Still Standing: The Stonewall Jackson Story has arrived. I plan to give it a thorough review very soon so stay tuned.  My comments about one line from the trailer caused quite an irrational outburst on a few fronts.  First, I never claimed to have seen the movie when I commented on the idea that Stonewall Jackson should be seen as the "champion of enslaved men and women."  No amount of argument, whether its religious, historical or moral could possibly convince me otherwise.  Sorry, I just have a problem with the idea that a slaveowner can be properly labeled as such.  I don’t know, call me old-fashioned. 


Fun Weekend in Store

Let’s see, I have 79 student comments to write by next Tuesday, fifteen letters of recommendation to write by Nov. 1 and one paper on Robert E. Lee to write by next Wednesday.  Finally, I have to write a report on why we should dump the AP program. 

In other words, don’t expect to see anything along the lines of entertaining, insulting, or informative posts over the next week or so. 


And We Wonder Why Textbooks are So Expensive

Tindall_2My blogging buddy Rebecca Goetz blogged about this some time ago [scroll down], but given what happened yesterday I just had to chime in.  Yesterday our department received two packages from Norton publishers.  I received one and my department chair the other.  Both packages included the second edition of Eric Foner’s Give Me Liberty! which I am currently using in my AP classes.  Keep in mind that my department chair does not teach American history so she gave me her copy.  Also in her package was a copy of the 7th edition of America: A Historical Narrative by Tindall and Shi.  Since she has no use for the book she gave it to me.  That makes two copies of the 7th ed., one copy of the 6th ed., and one copy of the Fourth ed. that are currently gracing my bookshelves here at school.  Keep in mind that I’ve received these books over the past two years.  Has Tindall and Shi really changed that much that they feel a need to send multiple copies to people who will never use it in class. 

Why not send emails out to instructors and professors asking if they are interested in receiving sample copies.  By the way the hardcover version of Give Me Liberty! is $97.50 while America: A Historical Narrative is $50.  I can’t tell you how much fun it is when a textbook representative calls me only to hear that I don’t use them in half of my classes.  There is this awkward pause followed by the uneasy question, "So what do you do in those classes?"  Ten minutes later he wished he never asked that question.


“Stonewall Jackson Sex”

Someone found my blog by doing a Google search of "Stonewall Jackson Sex".  Civil War Memory is the first site listed and I couldn’t be more pleased.


Questions Matter

EllisI had one of those special moments today in my first period class where a student’s question forced me to completely change gears.  We are reading sections of Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation and focusing specifically on a chapter called "The Silence" which covers the 1790 debate in the House of Representatives over slavery and the slave trade.  Even before we started one of my students asked why the book is called Founding Brothers instead of Founding Fathers.  I absolutely love these moments.  It was a wonderful question so I spent the next 20 minutes going around the class asking for their opinions on the matter.  I was pleasantly surprised as most of the students had something to say.  They tended to focus on the intention of the author to bridge the great divide that exists between the generations that followed and the awed reverence that we are taught to extend to these men.  One of Ellis’s goals in the book is to describe these men as every inch a part of this world; they lived during extraordinary times, but they were men with the same weaknesses and agendas that drive leaders regardless of time and place.  Students thought that describing them as brothers rather than fathers helped to make this point.  This doesn’t mean that we should not respect their accomplishments; in fact it is this acknowledgment that helps place their accomplishments in sharper relief.  Students pointed out that the idea of a father implies or demands respect and/or admiration.  I should have known to begin this book with that very question, but it is nice to know that I can count on my students every once in a while to point out what I miss. 

One of the things I’ve noticed this year in going textless is that more of my students are engaged in what they are reading.  This can be seen clearly in the sophistication of their questions and the one discussed above is just one example.