Monday, July 12, 2010

Great Interactive Map Review
This site asks you a world history question and then the student has to answer it by finding the place on the map. Incredible! It also is timed so the student has to really know their stuff.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tiny Url For E-Mail To Text
If you ever have a long url and want to shorten it (say for a text), you can go here and it will be done for you. So what would you use this for? Well most of my students do not like e-mail. If you go here I have links for how to input their cell phone into an e-mail database. Then you could send them an e-mail message with the "tiny url" of your blog post and the kids could get the message (since texts can only be 140 characters long).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Great Tech Resources
The booklet above is a short list (Google, Wikispaces, Skype, Titan Pad, Wordle, Blogger and more) and descriptions of items you can find on the Internet. I found it
here. You can see a much longer list on my Twitter feed of "kenhalla". If you click on the book, you can turn the pages and the booklet will grow in size.

Chinese Dynasty Song
With the Chinese dynasty names often hard to remember for our students, one of the sure fire methods is to teach them the song above.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

School's Out For Summer - But Not Here!
Believe it or not, my students are STILL in school until June 24th, but since I teach summer school, I plan on continuing to post blog entries all summer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Anne Frank House Online
Here is a site where you can take a virtual tour of Anne Frank's House. You can also see some short movies about what life was like for Anne Frank as well as find out about the people who were living with and near her. As with the item below, I found this from a Tweet, this time from "ShellTerrell" who is a teacher I follow from Germany. Above is the only know video of Anne Frank.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Finding People on Twitter
I just got back from my grading for the AP exam where I spent some time trying to explain why I like Twitter so much. If you have never used it and want to find hundreds of resources, then watch the video above which explains how to find people and subjects. Also, if you type "Twitter" in my search engine on the upper left part of this page, then you can find some posts I have done on people to follow in education circles. I found about this video from a tweet from "larryferlazzo".
US Navy Footage, 1915
If you want to talk about Roosevelt in 1907, you could use this footage, taken a few years later in 1915, to highlight the strength of the navy. This footage is clear and extremely interesting and is nicely broken up into segments that explain what you are seeing. I found it from a tweet from "KevinLevin".

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This past semester I used Edmodo in my AP class, and I thought it would be a great time to post about it on this blog since we are winding down/finshed with the semester and we now have time to explore ways to enhance our curriculum. Here is essentially a "review" of Edmodo.

According to their website, Edmodo is "a private social platform for students and teachers to share ideas, files, events and assignments." According to my students, Edmodo is a lot like Facebook for school (except it is unblocked!). According to me, Edmodo is awesome!

The process to sign up is easy and painless, and within 2 minutes you have created a class and have been given a code for your students (and only your students) to enter so they can enroll in the class you have created. From there you can send links, alerts, files, and assignments to all the students enrolled in the class. Here are some thoughts:

The Good:

  • Ease of use Edmodo is one of the easiest learning applications I have ever used. The students are familiar with the layout because yeah, it is a lot like Facebook and they can Facebook in their sleep. From a teacher's perspective organizing and publishing is also pretty easy.

  • Ability to stay connected with students From snow days, swine flu, extended absences, or just attending to a conference teachers are able to always connected with their students and give them new homework or remind them of homework that is due, or other upcoming events.

  • Its mobile Students can sign up to have alerts, notifications, links, or events sent directly to their cellphones. Also, Edmodo has a great interactive mobile site for iPhones and Droids (more on the Blackberry later).

  • It collaborative Students are able to post on the main message board for the entire class and have discussion about upcoming tests, assignments, readings, etc.

  • Its private Since you need an access code to sign up for the class, if you do not have one of those codes, you cannot participate in the class. This high standard of privacy has given me (and my administrators) great piece of mind and allowed for more leeway with allowing more social networking for classes.

  • Support The support Edmodo offers is amazing! I had a question, sent them a message and had a response within an hour. From what I hear this is true throughout their network.

The Drawbacks:

  • Student-student communication Students are not able to direct message each other unless you create specific groups that students can join. I can understand wanting to control this for younger students, but it should be an option for each class you created so older students could collaborate in real time on assignments by talking directly with each other instead of posting on the board for all to see.

  • Digital Divide Some students in our district do not have access to internet at home and do not have a cell phone (or with one text messaging) so being able to log on to check assignment becomes a little more difficult because they will have to access Edmodo from the school library.

  • Doesn't play well with Blackberry I have had a hard time navigating the mobile site on my Blackberry for whatever reason. It won't let me post/update from the browser. I hope they are able to change that soon so I can have the same accessability from my Blackberry as my students with iPhones and Droids do (I know, I know, fix the problem permanently by joining the iPhone dark side!)

The "Not Quite Explored Yet"

  • The Edmodo Calendar Ok, to be honest I have explored that a bit, but right now it seems a little too clumsy for me to do all my lesson planning in.

  • RSS Feed You can have an RSS feed from your favorite blogs fed right into your class page so the updates can be viewed by your students with ease. I am going to spend some time this summer looking for blogs to incorporate into my class sites.

  • Assignment Grading There is a feature that allows students to turn in their homework online. You can then grade it and score it right there online. The score will then show up on the students home page. A pretty cool feature that I look forward to exploring in the near future.

In closing, if you are looking for a great social networking site that is private, safe, easy to use for both you and your students check out Edmodo. If you already use it in class, I'd be interested in hearing from you and how you use incorporate it in your classroom. Feel free to comment below or contact me via Twitter @jjanczak

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More Ancient History
I just received an e-mail which told me about this page which looks at ancient history across the world. In fact I am going to be teaching a world history to the Renaissance next year and this site will give me lots of good history, pictures, video, etc.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ancient Egypt
Here is a site
that tells you all about ancient Egypt (yes I know you aren't going to teach this until the fall). It has lots of pictures, geography, mumification, pyramids and much more.

Monday, May 31, 2010

AP Summer Assignments
This is a summary of some of the summer assignments I found online. Most are in pdf format, so if you like it, download, go to, upload it and in about two hours, you will have it in doc format and then can make it your own.
  1. This one has vocab, geography skills, readings on pre-history and religion
  2. This one is similar to the one above, but less work for the students
  3. This one uses an embedded assignment (always like more helpful technology) and has the students fill out charts, maps and yes, vocab definitions of the early needs for world history
  4. This may be the best of the first four (and uses Stearns).
  5. Here is one for Guns, Germs and Steel and another and still another and one that talks about how to be a critical reader
  6. Here and here are one for one of my favorite books History of the World in Six Glasses
  7. This one allows you to choose from a list of books
Intro Video to AP World History
I found this video from a newer blogger out there who can be found AP World Guru on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Geography Matters
This is a nice video put together by the Google Earth crew that shows the many things you can do with Google Earth in the classroom. I found it on FreeTech4Teachers. Go here to learn about how to use Google Earth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Arial Radar Mapping of Mayan Cities
This is a very interesting article which details how two scientists mapped by aerial radar in two days what took other scientists two decades to do. The two used lasers to find the outlines of Mayan civilization. This certainly is an article I will use early next year in my classes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Statistics on the World
This site has an a large number of statistics that you can show your students such as unemployment rate, agricultural land, children in school, epidemics rates and and a total of 430 different categories. You can also download the statistics and there is a page for teachers.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Video Chat with Author Pat Hughes

Today my 8th grade American history classes in Liberty, Missouri participated in a live video chat with Pat Hughes, author of Guerrilla Season. Guerrilla Season is a book with a focus on Clay County (the county in which we live) in the years just before the Civil War. We used G-mail video chat - free - to visit with Pat from her home in Philadelphia.

I also used a Flip cam to record the conversation for students who missed it and wanted to watch it. Pat spoke with us from her sun room and then took us upstairs to show us her office and shared some of the resources she uses to write books about Civil War era Missouri.

Pretty amazing that this all took place today with no technical glitches at all and we were able to have a great conversation with an author 1,200 miles away! Why aren't classrooms doing more of this?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Podcast #210 - Update on 365 Photo Project

Hello. Today's podcast is an update on my 365 Photo Project for 2010. I am taking a picture each day this year and posting it on Flickr. You can check out my photos so far this year below on the slideshow.

Click to subscribe to the Speaking of History Podcast at i-Tunes here

Direct link to Podcast #210 - Update on 365 Photo Project

Press PLAY button below to listen to podcast on this page.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Computers for All Students
Certainly the aim of this blog is to get to have students using computers much more often in the classroom. If you think about it, the interconnectivity that computer bring, the ability to create and the chance to meet students in their own world (as opposed to the worksheet one) is a great reason to go online. Above is a nice video from PBS on a school in NY that was turned around with a visionary principal and the use of computers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Podcast #209 - Review of "The Monuments Men" by Robert M Edsel

Hello. For the past couple of weeks I have been reading "The Monuments Men" by Robert M Edsel. This books tells the fascinating story of American troops racing across Europe to find and save the priceless art work taken by Hitler and the Nazi war machine.

This podcast is my quick review of this novel and how it could be implemented into an interdisciplinary lesson in the classroom.

Click to subscribe to the Speaking of History Podcast at i-Tunes here

Direct link to Podcast #209 - Review of The Momuments Men by Robert M Edsel

Hit Play button below to listen to Podcast

Great Review Site for AP World
This teacher has a site for both AP World as well as regular world history. However, the better site by far is the AP World one which includes "how to" sheets as well as links to five books' ancillaries, review sheets and more.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ways to Use Youtube Videos in the Classroom
Ever had a youtube video of yours blocked in the classroom? For one, you can upload your videos to TeacherTube, but that won't solve your problem for other videos that aren't yours. Watch the video above as is it give you three sites which can a) allow you to copy and move any youtube video to another site very quickly so you can access it at school b) cut any youtube video down to just what you might want in the classroom c) create a storage area of your own where you can quickly copy and store videos from youtube. Thanks to "web20classroom" for the tweet that told me about this.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

50 Digital Sites in 60 Minutes
Thanks to Technology Tidbits for this amazing set of technology ideas. You can blow up the screen to view the slide show or click on anyone of the links to go to the different pages.
History of Religion in 90 Seconds
I've run this one before, but it is a super video and a nice way to review the spread of religion.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review Sites
Here is everything you need to review for the AP or end of the year state exams. Please leave a message if you find other sites (Links are fiexed).

Outlines & Textbooks
AP Outline
Textbook - this is for early civ to Renaissance. It has a great search engine and is broken up nicely by topic. More on this in a later blog.

Quizzes - All of them have answers except the Regents one.
AP World Quizzes for each unit (and answers)
Bubbabrain - makes games out of questions
Cenage - broken up by topic
Course Notes - these are essay questions that would be help for the kids to do - possibly in groups
Glencoe Quizzes (third item down on the list)
Global Studies' Quizzes (lots and lots of them)
Interactive Map Review (questions are asked and the student has to locate the place on a map)
Map Quizzes - Early Civilization to the Renaissance
McDougal Littell - select your state and level of students, find your text and then you will be able to get the questions.
Regents Exam - lots of questions -but no answers
School District Made - geared for the VA end of the year tests, but lots of questions by topic
School District Made - again geared for the VA end of the year tests
SparkNotes - this has notes, 45 question review quizzes for each section, detailed outlines, analysis, test questions, summaries.
Teacher Made - Early Civilizations - Renaissance
Teacher Made - Renaissance - Modern
World Civilizations (AP text) - select a chapter and the questions will be on the left.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bridging World History
This site has videos, maps and more and is broken up into many themes. I actually wrote about it two years ago, but was reminded about it by @APWorldGuru
Roman Mummy Found in Egypt
We know that Alexander the Great took over Egypt, but this is pretty interesting that a Roman mummy has been found. Having just returned from Egypt a week ago, it is amazing that they are still digging up artifacts - even in downtown Luxor - under people's homes. More and a hat tip to A Blog About History .

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Improvements to Google Docs
Yes, I love Google Docs and am getting more and more into the cloud. These changes only want me to go further!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rival Revivals and Liberal Protestant Recovery

Rival Revivals and Liberal Protestant Recovery
Paul Harvey

Just back from the Organization of American Historians (OAH), I had planned on doing an extensive post on the excellent panel I saw there, “Rival Revivals,” featuring papers by Alison Greene, Jarod Roll, and Matt Sutton, and with commentary by Kenneth Fones-Wolf and chaired by Lizabeth Cohen. But now I don’t have to, as we have an excellent summary of the panel from the OAH reporting at HNN, with full videos of the presentations and summaries of the papers. I would just say in addition to what is there that the panel featured the interesting twist of having the fundamentalists of the 1930s/1940s (discussed in Matt’s paper) as the northern, educated elites, in comparison to the various folk preachers, Garveyites, and premillennial radicals discussed in Alison and Jarod’s papers, turning the usual stereotypes about recent fundamentalism on its head.

Cover for ROLL: Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South. Click for larger image

The material in Jarod Roll’s paper came from his book, out any day now (I saw it at the University of Illinois press table at the OAH, but wasn’t between regular hard covers yet), entitled Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the Cotton South. A bit more about the work here:

In Spirit of Rebellion, Jarod Roll documents an alternative tradition of American protest by linking working-class political movements to grassroots religious revivals. He reveals how ordinary rural citizens in the South used available resources and their shared faith to defend their agrarian livelihoods amid the political and economic upheaval of the first half of the twentieth century.

On the frontier of the New Cotton South in Missouri’s Bootheel, the relationships between black and white farmers were complicated by racial tensions and bitter competition. Despite these divisions, workers found common ground as dissidents fighting for economic security, decent housing, and basic health, ultimately drawing on the democratic potential of evangelical religion to wage working-class revolts against commodity agriculture and the political forces that buoyed it. Roll convincingly shows how the moral clarity and spiritual vigor these working people found in Pentecostal revivals gave them the courage and fortitude to develop an expansive agenda of workers’ rights by tapping into existing organizations such as the Socialist Party, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the NAACP, and the interracial Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union.

Yesterday morning I attended an equally excellent panel of a very different sort: “Putting Faith in American Democracy: Remembering Liberal Protestantism in the Twentieth Century,” featuring papers by Mark Edwards, Matthew Hedstrom, and Bryan Peery, and with commentary by Mark Hulsether. Mark discussed Protestant ecumenicism in the post WWII era, emphasizing how it dovetailed with a one-world liberalism rather than a Cold War realism that we associate with Reinhold Niebuhr. Matt’s paper discussed the Protestant liberal influence on the American Library Association, which created a sort of quasi-canon of books to read each year (sort of a well-publicized “top 50” list), one which pushed a reading public towards Protestant liberal thought and thus exerted more influence culturally than we might recognize looking only at the Protestant liberals and politics. Bryan Peery, a graduate student at George Washington, covered the course of Protestant-Catholic dialogue after WW II and the vital influence of Robert McAfee Brown in the same, who held that “dialogue itself was valuable, even if it only led to more dialogue.” Those views competed with an upsurge of anti-Catholicism signaled in Paul Blanshard’s 1949 screed American Freedom and Catholic Power, which compared the Vatican to the Kremlin.

Hulsether called for more appreciation and respect for mid-century liberal Protestants. Often they are interpreted as being powerless -- thus, nowhere -- or as leading the charge for a “secular neutrality” that was just liberal Protestantism in disguise -- and hence, everywhere. He suggested that the Protestant liberals assumed a position sort of like the UN non-aligned movement in distinction to the choosing up of sides going on in the Cold War, and that their vision should be given more respect and credence than is usual in a scholarship which in recent years has made the Protestant liberals the object of target practice.

Politically radical premillennialists, preachers jumping out of airplanes to call attention to the imminent millennium, Garveyite devotees picking up the cause of radicalism in the South, Protestant liberals demanding alternative visions besides those given to them during the Cold War, northern fundamentalists wondering if the “Blue Eagle” of the NRA was the mark of the best -- who said 20th century Protestants were boring?

Friday, April 9, 2010

From the Record Bin: Jewish Folk from the Fabulous 60s

Randall Stephens

Get out the hand sanitizer. It’s time to rummage through the dusty, moldy, old albums at your local Salvation Army, book store/cat sanctuary, or record shop. When I'm thumbing through LPs by Tijuana Brass, Ray Conniff, Henry Mancini, The Commodores, and Captain & Tennille, I’ll spot the occasional religious album. It might be the bicentennial/patriot/gospel mishmash of the Heritage Singers, hymns rendered for pipe organ lovers who were born before 1920, or the Jesus anthems of the Imperials. Once in a great while, I’ll come across a real gem.

I picked up a copy of the Rabbis' Sons' 1967 folk romp at a used bookstore in Bennington, Vermont. I know next to nothing about beatnik-lite Jewish folk music. So, I’ll let the liner notes and the music itself do the talking/singing. (The notes below remind me of the wordy, awkward prose that fills a typical college yearbook. It doesn't quite capture the beauty of the music.):

With the emergence of the state of Israel, folk songs became the natural vehicle of expression for the renascent spirit of a people bursting with a longing for freedom and national independence. Songs of faith and thanksgiving were mingled with exultant tones of Jewish heroism to produce a colorful array of melodies that we now know as Israeli folk music.

With this album, however, a new creation in Jewish music makes its debut. It offers an harmomous blend of Jewish liturgical texts with traditional melodic warmth, uniquely set to a modern folk beat--by The Rabbis' Sons. On this LP recording, eleven songs are presented; nine were composed by Baruch Chait, one by Mark Davidowitz, and the last is a stirring revival of a somewhat forgotten Yiddish folk song.

[Listen to my favorite track: "Hu Elokeinu (Sabbath Prayer)"]

Two guitars and a bass fiddle provide the fundamental instrumention for this complement of musical innovations. The penetrating resonance of a steel guitar is skilfully produced by David Nulman, who assisted in the guitar arrangements. Mickey Lane, as master of the bass fiddle, carries the rhythm with striking artistry.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Podcast #208 - Ask the Experts Donner Party Project

Hello. I am a big fan of the American Experience series from PBS and WGBH. This series has produced some of the most fascinating and engaging historical documentaries I have ever seen. One episode that I have used repeatedly in my class over the years is "The Donner Party" by Ric Burns. This documentary is both haunting and descriptive in telling the tale of this group's fateful journey west.

For the past several years I have had my students participate in a debate after finishing the video. The debate is centered on the role of Lansford Hastings - the person who told the Donner Party to take the shortcut that cost them valuable time on the attempt to reach California. The Donner Party becomes trapped in the mountains and some resort to cannibalism. The class is divided into two groups and debates whether the blame should be placed upon Hastings or the Donner Party themselves. While watching the film students have been recording events and information which could be used to defend both sides of the debate.

Two years ago I started recording the debate in audio format. I then contacted several Donner Party experts - authors and writers who have experience with the Donner Party - and asked if they could critique the debate and provide feedback for my students. I sent the audio file as an attachment with the e-mail. This was very successful and my students loved the feedback.

This year we used a Flip camera to record the debate in video format and I then posted it to YouTube. I contacted a variety of Donner Party experts through web searches and found five individuals who were willing to take the time to comment on the student debates. I then gathered the responses from all the experts and created a handout for my students. I am always amazed at the amount of detail these experts provide.

The technology used in this project is pretty simple - posting a video on YouTube and then sending an e-mail but the ability to find experts in the field and then have them comment directly to students is extremely powerful.

Special thanks to my experts who were willing to share their time and respond to my students :

Dr. Julie M. Schablitsky, Archaeologist with University of Oregon

Daniel James Brown, author of The Indifferent Stars Above : The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride

Kristin Johnson - Historian for Donner Party Archaeology Project and author of The Donner Party Blog

Chelsea Walerscheid - Truckee Lake Historical Society

Katie Holley - Truckee Lake Historical Society

To learn more about this project please listen to the podcast. I have also included the links to the student debates and included one video as a portion of this blog post. I am also posting the feeback from the experts as a PDF if you would like to see the comments the experts returned to my class.

If you have any comments on this project please feel free to leave a comment on this blog post.

Period 2 Class Debate

Period 3 Class Debate

Period 4 Class Debate

Period 5 Class Debate

Period 7 Class Debate

Period 8 Class Debate

Click to subscribe to the Speaking of History Podcast at i-Tunes here

Direct link to Podcast #208 - Ask the Experts Donner Party Project

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Black Church(?)

by Matt Sutton

There has been a lot of debate
recently among academics about the “black church.” First Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., buried it on the Huffington Post. Then, Religion Dispatches asked some prominent scholars to respond to Glaude. Some dumped more dirt on the grave, others claimed that the church had never died, and others still asserted that it had never existed in the first place. In the midst of the forum Ed Blum inadvertently provoked a firestorm. Now he turns his attention away from the bizarre-o world of the academy to take on a bigger churcher—Barack Obama. See his excellent piece in the Washington Post here. Nice work Ed!

Mount Vernon Summer Institute

I recently learned that I've been selected to attend the 2010 Gilder Lehrman Summer Institute on George Washington at Mount Vernon this summer. I'm very excited for this opportunity. I visited Mount Vernon a couple of years ago with my wife and we spent the entire day in awe of this location. I'm looking forward to visiting and of course will be blogging as well as posting pictures and recording some podcasts from Mr. Washington's house.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

We All Got A Sacred History

Paul Harvey

“Africa is no historical part of the world,” wrote Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in the nineteenth century. Blacks, he thought, had no “sense of personality; their spirit sleeps, remains sunk in itself, makes no advance, and thus parallels the compact, undifferentiated mass of the African continent.” In short, Africans were a people without history. The World Historical Spirit that moved history forward never breathed over the continent.

"We all got history . . . It's there. You just got to look for it," said Ellen L. Hazard, descendant of a friend of Amos Webber, a free black Union Army veteran, churchman, political activist, and fraternal order member in mid-nineteenth century Massachusetts (and a personage recovered in 1996 by historian Nick Salvatore; see the link above).

Webber and his family and friends (and his descendants) knew that they lived through some of the most dramatic and revolutionary events of nineteenth-century history: the Civil War and Reconstruction. Black Americans were not just a people with history; they practically embodied American history.

With honorable exceptions, white Americans from the Revolution to the early twentieth century were Hegelians at least in terms of their relegating of Africans and African Americans to the historical dustbin. Black Americans like Amos Webber knew otherwise. And so did the legion of authors, intellectuals, philosophers, poets, schoolteachers, journalists, and sociologists, both educated and self-taught, which Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp discusses with consummate skill in her new (and long-awaited book) Setting Down the Sacred Past: African American Race Histories.

I'll have much more to say about this important work later in the summer when I have the chance to review it fully for
Books and Culture. I'll save the full-length review for that venue. For now, here's a bit more from the book's website:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Christian Militias, White Supremacists, and Scholars Who Study Them

Kelly Baker

I know that many of you who know me well for just waiting for me to comment on the Hutaree, the Michigan Christian militia group, the nine arrests, and the larger white supremacist plot to reclaim America. What might be more surprising is that I sort of don't want to. What?, you say, How could a girl who works on the 1920s Klan, religious intolerance, and the hate movement not want to talk about this? What have you done with the real Kelly Baker? Is she locked up somewhere? Has her course load gone to her head?

No, I think I might be suffering from white supremacist fatigue. For the past two weeks in my Religious Intolerance class, we have been discussing terrorism (more later, I pinky swear), domestic terror and (surprise) white supremacy's relation to religious intolerance. We examined the SPLC's new report that caused much news fervor. We looked at the racial slurs flung at members of Congress about health care reform. Menacing phone calls, faxed nooses and scary racist slurs became topics of interest. This week before the Hutaree story broke (or before I knew it broke anyway), we covered the World Church of the Creator and Christian Identity. We've debated fantastic and terrifying racial theologies, yearnings for a racial apocalypse, the weird insistence that Obama is the anti-Christ. This is the part of the semester, in which I start to feel guilty about the focus on white supremacy and domestic terrorism. This is, generally, because students aren't aware of Christian militias, The Turner Diaries, and the promotion of racial separation and longing for a return to white America. This semester, however, my students are hyperaware because of recent events and their frequency in the news cycle. We, ny students and I, have covered this topic in length, and I am terribly unsettled.

In all fairness, my students could be unsettled too, but my discontent comes the realization of something that has always lingered in the back of mind when I decided to study groups like this: Despite how fantastic and racist these worldviews are, people believe in them and act upon these ideologies. Many of you might be saying, "Well, duh." But, there is a keen difference in knowing this intellectually and watching these sorts of things happen in real time. I recite these words like a mantra to my students, to public audiences and to my peers to showcase how important work on groups like the Hutaree is, but there is often a disconnect between my study and actual events. Part of this is from the obvious, my work now centers on the 1920s Klan, whose members are long gone or aged and the structured movement no longer exists. Sure, there have been more recent incarnations of the Klan but they aren't central to my more historical case study. The disconnect has allowed me to write on the 1920s Klan in depth and to showcase how common prejudices and positions that the order held dear were. The recent upsurge in coverage on the contemporary movement gives me the opportunity to showcase how my historical work is important to our particular moment, but it also gives me pause. Part of me wants to retreat into my historical work and ignore the Hutaree altogether.

The other part of me wants to proclaim how these movements are similar to the 1920s Klan and how these movements feared the loss of white dominance in America. The Hutaree don't present a complete picture of our nation in this moment but they do signal the growth of white desperation about the direction of our nation (Chip Berlet catalogues Hutaree's beliefs at Religion Dispatches). For this particular movement, America has lost her religiosity and her racial hue, and this Christian militia also continues a long tradition of Hofstader's "paranoid style"in American culture. Their positions aren't new, but they are important to understanding why certain segments of white America finds these ideas appealing. It, of course, is about more than loss of dominance, frustration or anxiety. It is also about the soul of America, the religiosity of Americans, and America's role in a global affairs. The Hutaree tells us something how Americans envision our nation and the place of religion and race in that vision. Somebody has to study these groups, even if we (myself included) sometimes might not want to.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jonathan Z. Smith at CU Boulder: The Future of the Study of Religion Over the Next 40 Years

The following announcement comes to me from Deborah Whitehead, Professor of Religious Studies at CU-Boulder, and is especially directed for blog readers along the Front Range, Denver, Boulder, and northern Colorado.

Religion in the 21st Century: Renowned Scholar of Comparative Religion
Jonathan Z. Smith to Lecture at CU-Boulder, April 12-13.

Jonathan Z. Smith, distinguished professor of religion at the University of
Chicago, will visit CU April 12-13 as the Cox Family Visiting Scholar for 2010,
hosted by the Department of Religious Studies. Professor Smith will deliver a
lecture, "Now you see it, now you won't: The Future of the Study of Religion
over the Next 40 Years" on Tuesday, April 13, at 7pm in HUM 150. Prof. Smith
will also participate in a roundtable discussion on Monday, April 12, from 3-
5:30 pm in Old Main Chapel. All are invited to attend both events.

Jonathan Z. Smith's academic career at the University of Chicago has spanned
more than forty years. For a dozen years he served as Dean of the College. As
the Robert O. Anderson Professor of the Humanities, his consistently
provocative work has deeply influenced the academic study of religion. Having
powerfully shaped the last forty years of the study of religion, Smith's Cox
Family Visiting Scholar Lecture embarks on the bold venture of charting the
future of the study of religion over the next forty years. His distinguished
career includes the publication of seminal works on religion including Map Is Not Territory: Studies in the History of Religions (1978),
Imagining Religion: From Babylon to Jonestown (1982), To Take Place: Toward a
Theory of Ritual
(1987), and Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion

For more information please contact the Department of Religious Studies at the
University of Colorado-Boulder, (303) 492-8041, or email AT colorado DOT edu.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What if Jesus Had Come to Earth as a Cucumber? American Religious History Counterfactuals

Randall Stephens

The above was Erasmus's tongue-in-cheek version of counterfactual scholastic flimflammery. He reduced his angel-dancing-on-pinhead opponents to stuttering monkeys.

Certainly, not all counterfactuals are worth their weight in imaginary gold. Plausibility is important. That seems to rule out the cucumber incarnation. John Lewis Gaddis writes that "the use of counterfactuals in history has got to be highly disciplined. . . . You can't experiment with single variables that weren't within the range of the technology or culture of the times" (Landscape of History, 102). No crusaders with tommy guns. No famous atheists in 17th century Boston.

Some, like John Luckas have called into question the very term and thrown doubt on the whole enterprise: "In any event, 'what if?' or 'if it had happened otherwise' are better terms than the clumsily cobbled word 'counterfactual' about which much nonsense has been recently written, as for example Virtual History by Niall Ferguson, so often too clever by half. . . . Good history does not need counterfactuals. Good history is the result of good historians" ("'Counterfactual' is Wrong," Historically Speaking, Nov/Dec 2005, 3).

Still, I think that counterfactuals make useful thought experiments. So, Maura Jane Farrelly and I emailed back and forth and came up with a handful:

What if the Shakers had thrived (through recruitment, ya know) and were still 6,000 strong? What sort of causes and handiwork would they have put their hearts and hands to? Karate? (Might break that plausibility rule.)

What if Flannery O'Connor had not died of lupus in 1964? What would she have made of the the post-60s American religious landscape? Would she have become politicized?

What if Walker Percy had not contracted tuberculosis from one of the cadavers he was working on? Would he still have converted to Catholicism? Would he still have left medicine to devote his life to fiction?

What if Joseph Smith had not been martyred in 1844? Would Mormonism have looked significantly different?

When Ellen White, founder of Adventism was nine, she was struck in the head with a rock and fell into a coma for three weeks. What if she had died as a result of that injury? How would America's breakfast table look? How would grrrrrrreatness be defined?


Monday, March 29, 2010

The Evolution of Religion, on The Really Big Questions

Paul Harvey

Can science explain the evolution of religion, or why there is religion at all? The somewhat obscure public radio show The Really Big Questions, hosted by Lynn Neary, explores this. Just caught the show this weekend, and it was a terrific hour of radio which summarizes a lot of the contending thought on applying evolution to the study of religion in human societies. Hear it here. A bit more on the show below:

Wherever we look, in every corner of human history, we find religion. No other living species has it—why do we? How did it evolve, and what’s it for? Scanning the globe, The Really Big Questions explores the power of religion to create nurturing communities and vengeful armies, to console sufferers, and control non-conformists. We meet scientists searching for the underlying causes, and theologians, secular scholars and ordinary believers, who argue that these scientists are asking the wrong questions about the wrong things. Why do religions insist on truths that are either objectively false or unverifiable? Why is science unable to speak intelligibly about God, or Spirit, or the Divine? And can scientists trying to “explain” religion really do what they say?

There are also shows on "consciousness," "emotion," and "death" available for download at the site. You can read more on all of this also at the website The Evolution of Religion: The Adaptive Logic of Religious Beliefs and Behaviours.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Immigration and Religion in America

Paul Harvey

Surveying the books reviewed in the new Journal of American History gives a quick overview of the variety and vitality of American religious history. From the eighteenth-century Moravians, to Catholic feminism, to W. E. B. DuBois, to Holiness/Pentecostalism, to the memory of the Salem witch trials, to religion in the life of George Washington, and much else instead, even a quick scan and assessment of these newer titles suggests continued strength in the field.

Here's a title I was completely unaware of, and haven't seen yet, but looks promising:

Immigration and Religion in America: Comparative and Historical Perspectives. Ed. by Richard Alba, Albert J. Raboteau, and Josh DeWind. (New York: New York University Press, 2009. vi, 407 pp. Cloth, $78.00, ISBN 978-0-8147-0504-9. Paper, $26.00, ISBN 978-0-8147-0505-6.)

Immigration and Religion in America: Comparative and Historical Perspectives

The book pairs comparisons of earlier and more-studied immigrant groups (Italians, Japanese, Jews, and northward-migrating African Americans) with newer immigrant communities (Mexicans, Koreans, Arab Muslims, and Haitians). Each pairing comes with an introduction focusing on the religious history of the groups. Here's a bit more, from the review (access required for History Cooperative):

Several essays stand out. The sociologist David Lopez's "Whither the Flock? The Catholic Church and the Success of Mexicans in America" argues that, unlike the Italian case, "it is difficult to point to any important ways in which the church has facilitated their climb up the ladder of success" for Latino Catholics (p. 71). In "The Shaping of Arab and Muslim Identity in the United States," however, Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad shows evidence of Islam facilitating the acculturation of Muslim Arabs—much as Judaism did for Jews—by providing women the opportunity to participate in public life. Elizabeth McAlister and Karen Richman's "Catholic, Vodou, and Protestant: Being Haitians, Becoming American—Religious Pluralism, Immigrant Incorporation, and Transnationalism" illustrates the complicated ways that varied religious traditions and history provide meaning for Haitians in a new land.

Two essays challenge the notion that declining participation in religious rituals means that immigrant religious roots are less important to later generations. Despite the decline of traditional Buddhism among the Japanese, Jane Naomi Iwamura's "Critical Faith: Japanese Americans and the Birth of a New Civil Religion" argues that "what has emerged from the collective experience of war and internment is a faith that is tied to no particular religious tradition but that takes racial-ethnic identity as its starting points" (p. 137). Calvin Goldscheider's "Immigration and the Transformation of American Jews: Assimilation, Distinctiveness, and Community" suggests that for Jews the issue is not how much they have assimilated but "what factors sustain ethnic and religious community" (p. 198). He argues that the economic stratification of education and occupation, built on the demography of the first generation, allows this immigrant group to challenge the assumption that Jews (as a group) have become secularized in America.
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