Wednesday, October 8, 2008

You say you want a blog about Revolution?

Let's take a moment to add to yesterday's post of brilliant El Dorado student answers

QUESTION: What did Columbus do and why did he do it?
ANSWER: Columbus wrote the Declaration of Independence

QUESTION: Who was the main author of the Declaration of Independence?
ANSWER: King George III

QUESTION:What was the first permanent British Settlement?
ANSWER: France

In spite of these answers, I think this year I took a big step in getting closer to teaching the prelude to the United States (discovery, colonies, Revolution) much better than I have in the last five years. Before then, we weren't sticklers for the standards. By that, I mean that we didn't have a real reason to get all the way through it. We would try to end the year with the Civil War, and if we were lucky, get beyond that. The standards for eighth grade don't really have a unit for the Revolution. We're supposed to teach it, as I called it before, as a prelude. It's more of an introduction until we get to the parts that we're supposed to. So I really need to condense it into about six weeks, all while getting the students used to my class, procedures, grading, and all that fun beginning of the year stuff. But how can you possibly learn anything about America without having a basic understanding of the Declaration of Independence? "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." That's probaby the most important sentence written, like, ever. The reason it's hard to teach it is because we already know it. Kids today understand that they have freedom. They know that basic idea of having rights. So the hard part isn't telling them, "Hey! You have rights!" It's getting them to understand that before this, people DIDN'T and what that meant. There are lots of facts about the colonies and the Revolution that I pretty much ignore at this point. The actual WAR for Independence? It's a side note. It's the radical idea of rights that was most important, and what leads us into the Constitution. We're in heavy Preamble mode this week. Probably the second most important sentence ever written. (The third? First Amendment. The fourth. This sentence is the fourth most important sentence EVER written.) But don't take my word for why the Preamble is important. I'll let this guy explain it to you. Why? Because there's nothing quite as fascinating as a bad Canadian actor reciting the Preamble.

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