One, running for some time now, has been an effort to watch the build up to the United States Civil War 150 years ago. I cannot recall the Civil War Centennial, but I'm old enough to have grown up with the aftermath - that is textbooks and lessons which often emphasised a "morally neutral" vision of that war. "In these sensitive times [the 1960s] we need not offend the South," I came to presume before I knew of the bizarre power of the Texas State School Board over American curricular content.
The view the Times is offering this year is much deeper, much more conflicted, much more interdisciplinary, and much darker.
|Slavery Visualized: from The New York Times|
In this series you will find ways to lead your students into history, literature, geography, map-making, statistics, music, art, political theories, calculus if you wish (can't discuss artillery without calculus), all based in fantastic stories.
This week that series has been joined by a story from a hundred years later, December 16, 1960, when two airliners, a DC-8 and a Lockheed Constellation, collided in fog-bound skies above New York Harbor.
This was a traumatic moment for New Yorkers, even those of us too young to really recall it...
Years later "older kids" would scare us with stories about planes "falling from the sky" - or worse - "boys falling from the sky." The event was a critical marker - where jet travel became something other than simply glamorous - a little taste of the loss of RMS Titanic48 years before. More than that, for those raised after World War II, but with the constant threat of 'death from above,' this was a frightening manifestation of that.
You can start here and follow this story. One of inexact sciences, yes, and mathematical equations, but also a depiction, in words, sights, sounds, of another time. A depiction of both the apparent simplicity of the 1950s and the complexities our nostalgia hides.
Now, take a minute and imagine how boring any of these topics - James Buchanan, the speed of a falling object, block-busting in Brooklyn - might be if separated from other stories which give them context, which create avenues for student interest. You know, like the classes we've all attended.
- Ira Socol