June 2009

The Hemingses of Monticello
By Phil Hamilton on June 01, 2009

I learned today that Annette Gordon-Reed's massive new book, The Hemingses of Monticello, won the George Washington Book Prize, which is supported by the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History and George Washington's Mount Vernon. I've only started reading this book, which has also won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award; but given the many accolades it has garnered, it seems to be a work of considerable insight and perception.

Although I have not read her latest work, I adopted Gordon-Reed's first book, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, An American Controversy, several years ago in my course on Virginia history. For those not familiar with this book, it essentially presents a formidable legal brief as to why Jefferson and Hemings likely had a long physical relationship with one another.

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How has Technology Changed the Teacher-Student Relationship?
By Steven McGuire on June 03, 2009

It may be that technology is morally neutral in the sense that it is always up to human beings as moral agents to decide how it should be used. But it is also true that technology can change the way that we interact with other human beings (and the world in general) without our even recognizing it—except, of course, that we always have the capacity to step back and realize that a change has taken place. That is what I propose to do here, using as examples email and Blackboard, both of which have changed the way that students and professors interact with one another. The question is, have we allowed these technologies to change the student-teacher relationship for the better, or for the worse?

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The American Historical Association's Teaching Moment
By Anonymous on June 04, 2009

A few months ago, the American Historical Association Executive Director Arnita Jones stated that at the 2010 annual meeting, the association "would seize the opportunity to create a significant teaching moment." This made sense to me and seemed agreeable, after all, the AHA is committed to teaching, why pass up a "significant teaching moment." Yet, then I read what that moment will be, and what they intend to teach.

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The President as Facilitator not Statesman
By Gerson Moreno-Riano on June 04, 2009

We have reached a new era in the history of the American presidency. No longer should Americans expect the President of the United States to be a person of extraordinary leadership – to be, in other words, a statesman in the tradition of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, or Ronald Reagan. Rather, we have been told and have come to accept the notion that one of the President’s chief tasks, if not the primary task, is to be a facilitator – a guide by our side and not a sage on the stage of American and international politics.

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Primary Texts in an Introductory American Government Class
By Anonymous on June 05, 2009

I am putting together a syllabus for a large introductory course in American government. Most of the students are non-majors fulfilling a legislative requirement. In terms of pedagogy, I'd be interested to hear from experienced teachers what they think are the benefits and drawbacks to assigning only primary texts in a course of this sort.

Can we be serious for a moment?
By Warner Winborne on June 11, 2009

All too often junior faculty, apprehensive about their first foray into the classroom, are advised to consider their audience, to tailor the message to a classroom increasingly populated with students whose formative experiences and frame of reference are wholly foreign to those only a decade their senior. But education, especially liberal education, is serious business. It is education in being an adult, in being a thoughtful, articulate, productive member of a larger community.

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Becoming more engaged
By Anonymous on June 11, 2009

ISI has been helpful to me for many years. Except for bringing a few students each year to Indianapolis, I would like to know how a person becomes more involved in programs, seminars, lectures, and the like. How do I give back? What are your suggestions? I would be interested.

A couple of caveats. I am not a new faculty member, so I wouldn't qualify for many opportunities. Also, my field of study is unconventional: Organizational Leadership.

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The Elusive Quest for the Perfect PS 101 Course Design...
By Stephen Clements on June 12, 2009

Numerous design options are available for a freshmen/sophomore level American government and politics course. Here is an approach I have developed that seems promising, but I could use feedback from a group of thoughtful scholars.

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Twittering, Writing, and Politics
By Anonymous on June 12, 2009

As a new "twitterer" I am often asked whether Internet culture has finally and disastrously reduced discourse to 140 character blurbs. The question is fixed on Twitter's effect on the writer, not the existential questions raised by projecting oneself into the impersonal Web (blogging, which often seems to be little more than a version of talking to oneself in a mirror, has exposed that concern already). As a professor who daily confronts the tragedy of today's student's writing, I however, find something hopeful in the craft of twittering.

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Teaching the Philadelphia Convention with Madison's "Notes"
By Anonymous on June 13, 2009

I am looking for comments and suggestions regarding the use of Madison's Notes in teaching the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. I am putting together a class for junior and senior history majors on Early American History. I plan to use a mixture of primary and secondary sources in the course but I want to focus on primary sources to teach the framing of the Constitution. I have used selections from Madison's Notes before, but have not had much success. Students found the notes hard to understand. This is not surprising given the decline in reading habits of today's students. Previously, I coupled Convention speeches so that students could compare two arguments on a given topic (slavery, representation, etc). I want, however, to have the students to read a selection of speeches that will give them an understanding of how the Convention unfolded. Are there, let's say, eight to ten speeches that could do this?

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