Sunday, November 28, 2010

Don't Miss School Tomorrow

Don't miss school tomorrow.  That's all I'm saying.

Hope you've had an excellent Thanksgiving!  I'm looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow.  So is someone else.  But that's all I'm saying.

Considering moving?  Maybe you'll be able to afford this place, but I sure can't.  It's called the Pumpkin House of Washington Heights, it's built on a cliff overlooking the Hudson, and it can be yours for the low price of $3.9 million.  Check out the article, slideshow, and location.  Make sure you look at the slideshow to take a look inside this place.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back from a city that is not as cool as ours

Hey everyone, looking forward to starting a new and brief week with you tomorrow!  I'm on the bus back from Boston to NYC.  We're about to turn onto 42nd Street now, so we're nearly home and I must be quick.  I had a great weekend catching up with friends who went to Boston for the Harvard-Yale football game.  Who won The Game, you ask?  Well, that's a very good question!  Thank you for asking!  Troy High beat New Rochelle last night and they'll be going to the state high school football finals!  Wait, that's not the game you were asking about?  Listen, it's not that important who won the Harvard-Yale game, because we all know that Yale's way better regardless.  But if you must know, click on this link.

Topics for the week ahead...
Grade 7: Studying primary sources from Plymouth Colony and the First Thanksgiving
Grade 8: Reviewing Reconstruction political cartoons and examining the birth of the Ku Klux Klan

Finally, are you Call of Duty fans kidding me?  Not a single person has reviewed that game on the blog...and I know that several of you have already beaten it.  Take five minutes to tell us what you thought.  Please!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Answering the Call

I've never played Call of Duty, but, from what I understand, it's a running-and-gunning military simulation video game.  In general, I don't play video games and stopped playing computer games when I started college.  But I've gotten interested in Call of Duty because some of you come in with great questions or information that you've gained from playing the game.  Last Thursday (in honor of Veterans Day?) the most recent game--Call of Duty: Black Ops--was released.  It's set during the Cold War--a time of serious tension but no direct military battles.  The Cold War lasted from the end of World War II in 1945 until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.  During that time, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for global dominance and nearly started a disastrous nuclear war.  The Cold War is one of my favorite time periods to study thanks to an excellent Yale professor.  The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.  From the New York Times:
I wanted to try to assassinate Fidel Castro during the Bay of Pigs invasion again. And break out of a Soviet prison camp in the Arctic again. And pilot a gunboat through the Mekong Delta again, shooting up sampans while listening to “Sympathy for the Devil.” Black Ops glistens with such moments. The cold war was never so much fun.
So, gamers, this is for you: What do you think of the most recent Call of Duty?  You can talk about the gameplay and that sort of thing, but also mention what you're learning or wondering about the Cold War while you've been playing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guest Blog: Ms. Sims Remembers a Great Veteran

Hope you enjoyed your day off, middle school students.  I spent my day visiting charter schools (which hold classes on Veterans Day) and getting ideas about how to better teach social studies.  At the end of the day, I learned a lot, but--honestly--I didn't meet any students who were smarter than you all, nor did I once wish I were working at any other school besides ours.  CCAA is a great place to teach and I hope you find it a great place to learn, because I love seeing you all learn.

More important than how we spent our day, though, was why we had a holiday in the first place.  Today is Veterans Day.  It was once called Armistice Day in the USA, it's called Remembrance Day in Canada and Great Britain, and it originally commemorated World War I's conclusion--which occurred on November 11, 1918.  Today, we use the day to honor all military veterans.  I asked my Facebook friends to write guest posts in honor of their most admired veterans, and Ms. Sims wrote this about her father:

The veteran I always think of and thank on Veterans Day is my father. He served in the US Army for 20 years as a helicopter pilot and was on active duty in Vietnam. He was a reconnaissance pilot, so his job was to fly in and drop off/pick up soldiers who were fighting in the field. If I had to count on someone to pluck me out of a dangerous situation, I would want that person to be my dad. He was the smartest person I've ever known, both intellectually and sensibly.

My dad died ten years ago, but I think about him a lot and am really grateful for the lessons he taught me. To name just one: he was a truly independent thinker and taught me the value of critical questioning and forming my own opinion about things. It probably wasn't always easy for him to be so critical, because the Armed Services have a very strict chain of command that requires that soldiers follow the orders of their superiors. I know my dad didn't always agree with the orders he was given, just like he didn't always agree with decisions that I made in my life, but he was always respectful of them.

I'm grateful to all veterans of the US Armed Forces for the sacrifices they made to serve our country. Thanks for letting me share about my favorite soldier and my hero, my father.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Prep for Tomorrow's Tests on Columbus and on the Civil War

Study hard tonight!  You'll do great tomorrow!

As you study tonight, be sure that you can:
  • define each of the vocabulary terms and use each of them in a good sentence.
  • analyze at least two of the three quotes, remembering to identify the speaker, identify the source, paraphrase the quote, explain why it is historically important and significant, and include necessary historical details.
To practice, here are some suggestions:
  • Quiz yourself on vocabulary terms.
  • Pretend it's the test and try to write two good quote analysis paragraphs.
  • Pretend it's the test and try to write five to ten good vocabulary sentences.
  • Ask a friend or family member to quiz you on vocabulary.
  • Ask your friends from class or your family to help you if you are confused.
  • E-mail me if you have questions--BUT I will not be near my computer between 5:30 and 10:30 tonight (no, Ruby, I'm actually not on the blog 24/7).
Here are the model quote analyses for grade 8:

QUOTE A: A. “For four years I have cursed my willful idleness and begun to deem myself a coward. I cannot longer resist the inclination, to go and share the sufferings of my brave countrymen, against the most ruthless enemy the world has ever known.”

ANALYSIS BY ODALYS AND 802: The first quote was said by John Wilkes Booth. He wrote it in a diary in November 1864. The quote means that he is mad that he is an actor and hasn’t been fighting for what he believes with the others. He wants to serve his country and he can’t take it anymore. He was part of the South so he opposed President Lincoln’s beliefs. To him—and to many people in the South—President Lincoln was the “most ruthless enemy the world has ever known.” He then assassinated President Lincoln at a theater. It was easy because there was no security. He did it so he could say he was a brave countryman fighting for his beliefs.

QUOTE B: “One white man named Lincoln supposedly fought the civil war to solve the race problem and the problem is still here. Another white man named Lincoln, again the same white man issued the Emancipation Proclamation to solve the race problem; the problem is still here.”

ANALYSIS BY 803: Malcolm X, a civil rights activist, said this in an interview in 1963. Malcolm X said that Lincoln, a white man, tried to solve the problem of racial inequality, but he didn’t get it done. However, Lincoln really fought the Civil War to end slavery and to keep the Union together. Lincoln actually believed that whites were better than blacks. Malcolm X is right that the race problem is still here, but he’s wrong about the idea that Lincoln was trying to solve it.

QUOTE C: “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.”

QUOTE ANALYSIS BY 804: Quote C is by Martin Luther King. He said this in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial during his “I Have a Dream” speech. I note that when he said five score years ago, he was referring to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He was also talking about the Emancipation Proclamation, when Lincoln ordered the slaves in the South to be freed. King said this at a time when he had wanted to make blacks equal. He thought segregation was cruel and he thought Lincoln was a great American.

Here are the model quote analyses for 7th grade:

QUOTE A: “They should be good and intelligent servants, for I see that they say very quickly everything that is said to them; and I believe that they would become Christians very easily, for it seemed to me that they had no religion.”

ANALYSIS BY NYAH AND 703: Christopher Columbus said, in his log in October 1492, that he thought the Native Americans would be smart servants because they easily repeat words and that they could easily be converted into Christians because they apparently had no religion. This quote is important because it shows what Columbus really thought of the Native Americans. It shows that he wants them to be obedient. Other necessary information that you need to know is that the Spaniards had the natives as slaves and had them search for gold.

QUOTE B: “Their reason for killing and destroying such an infinite number of souls is that the Christians have an ultimate aim, which is to acquire gold, and to swell themselves with riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high estate disproportionate to their merits.”

ANALYSIS BY HELMSLEY AND 703: This quote was written by a priest named Bartolome de las Casas in a book he wrote named, “Brief Account of the Devastation of the Indies” in the year 1542. This quote was historically important and significant because it talks about the way that Christopher Columbus treated the Native Americans. This quote means that they were killing the Native Americans for the simple reason that they wanted gold and to be full of riches in a short time and to be a very powerful state. This was the time when the people had just discovered America existed. Columbus’s voyage was motivated by finding another route to India. He found the Americas instead and wasn’t conscious of the fact that he had discovered a “New World.” He had wished to get gold, but instead took many slaves to Spain.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Path to Legal Immigration Today

Today, as we discussed the 14th Amendment, we learned that Senator Mitch McConnell believes that it should be reviewed because of questions about illegal immigration.  In August, Senator John Kyl said, "There is a constitutional provision in the 14th Amendment that has been interpreted to provide that, if you are born in the United States, you are a citizen no matter what. … And so the question is, if both parents are here illegally, should there be a reward for their illegal behavior?"

In the midst of that discussion, some of you asked how legal immigration works today.  It's very different from when my great-grandparents came to the United States through Ellis Island.  Back then, if you could buy a ticket to New York City, if you had some money in your pocket and a place to stay once you got to the U.S.A., and if you didn't have a terrible contagious disease, you could become a citizen very quickly and easily.

These days, it's different.  This cartoon is the best summary I've found of how to become a legal immigrant in the United States today.  Click on it to zoom in.
What do you think of this path to legal immigration?  Does it seem simple or complicated?  Why do you think it takes so long for people to become citizens?  Why do you think the United States favors people whose family members already live here?  Why do you think they favor skilled people (i.e. those with college degrees, especially in fields like science and engineering) over unskilled people (i.e. those without college degrees or extraordinary abilities)?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why would you ever want to go to Harvard...

I could see Harkness Tower from my freshman year window, from the window of my favorite library, and from the street as I walked into my dorm at Jonathan Edwards College.
...when you could go to a campus this beautiful?  I'm in New Haven, Connecticut, this weekend visiting Greg and Joann, my best friends who just happen to be married to each other.  My college alma mater, Yale, is in New Haven.  I spent my Saturday meeting Greg's and Joann's friends and catching up with friends from college.  (Yes, 703, I saw Max Scholz.  Tomorrow, I'll let you know how that went.)  I had a lot of fun seeing people, but I also took a little bit of time on my own to walk around Yale, to see the places where I used to live and work, and to take photos.  I'll post a few of them soon...

This was home!  Farnam Hall is on Old Campus.  Almost everyone who lives there is a freshman.  I lived there during my freshman year, but then I moved back there during senior year to be a freshman counselor.  Freshman counselors are friendly seniors who make sure that freshmen are adjusting to their new lives in college.  Miss Martinez had the same job as me--so she lived here during freshman and senior years too.

Click on the photo to zoom in and see all the activities featured on a Yale bulletin board.  There's a speech by the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, a blood drive, concerts, test prep classes, religious meetings, a chili cook-off...everything happens here.

LC 102 might be the most beautiful classroom at Yale.  On the left wall, there are priceless, beautiful Tiffany windows.  This is one of those classrooms where great professors will come to lecture for 50 to 75 minutes while you take notes.  One of my favorite classes, "Reformation Europe," taught by Professor Carlos Eire, was held here

In another classroom down the hall from LC 102, I found a student named Danielle who had used the chalkboard to write scientific equations that I will never hope to understand.  She said she wants to go to graduate school to earn a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry (I'm not even sure what that is!).  During her junior year, she's studying hard--and she has the address for our blog, too!

Yale Law School is Yale's best-known graduate school.  For every 100 people that apply to the law school, about 1 gets in.  Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor, and countless other great political minds have attended Yale Law.  I took a class on the history of the Cold War in an auditorium at the law school.

Dwight Hall used to be a library, but now it's the home of Yale's community service organizations.  Yalies get involved in overseas service trips, tutoring in local schools, homeless outreach, and many other things.  Out front, the statue of Mr. Woolsey has a shiny toe because students like to rub it for good luck.

Here's the front door to my college home (at least, sort of).  Jonathan Edwards College was home base at Yale.  Yale has a housing system that's kind of like Hogwarts from Harry Potter.  At Hogwarts, you get assigned to Gryffindor, Slytherin, or some other house.  At Yale, you get assigned to a college.  Miss Martinez and I both got assigned to Jonathan Edwards College.  JE was where we ate most of our meals, where we lived for at least two years, where we studied in small libraries, where we worked out and played basketball in a gym in the basement...JE had it all, including great, great people.  Some of my best friends in the world lived with me in JE.

They fixed up the dining hall after I graduated.  How would you like to choose your meals from this every day?  All you can eat...and if you don't like what they're serving in JE, just go to another dining hall.  There are about 20 of them on campus.

They fixed up JE's basement after I graduated too.  Now there's ping-pong, pool, and foosball down there, a big-screen TV, and a snack bar that makes greasy food late at night.  (Eat there sparingly--greasy foods aren't good for you, as we learned during advisory, 801!)

Beautiful church, right?  Nope, this is Yale's main library, Sterling Memorial Library.  There are about 3 million books in this building, along with the most beautiful places you could ever hope to read a book.

Beneath a green lawn called Cross Campus, there's an underground library that's open almost all night every night.  Take a peek inside.

On the left, Commons dining hall, the biggest dining hall on campus.  On the right, Woolsey Hall, a concert hall with a massive organ where I sang in choir, where I saw Bill Clinton give a speech, and where I saw Jimmy Fallon do a comedy show.  Underneath the sidewalk, Beinecke Rare Books Library, where some of the oldest, most valuable primary sources in the world are stored.
Guys, I'm just kidding about Harvard.  It would be awesome if you went to college there.  It takes an incredible amount of hard work, dedication, and enthusiasm to get into a university like Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, but it's well worth it.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about Yale.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ron Chernow Could Be Reading!

Ladies and gentlemen, our blog address is in the jacket pocket of a world-famous historian.

Tonight, I attended a book talk and signing by Ron Chernow, whose biography of Alexander Hamilton has been praised by reviewers as "grand-scale biography at its best--thorough, insightful, consistently fair, and superbly written."  Mr. Chernow has now written a new, expansive biography of the greatest Founding Father of them all--George Washington.

Mr. Chernow gave a fascinating talk.  It was one of those moments that we discussed in class today: he spoke for over half an hour without stopping, so I had to just take notes on whatever I thought was important.  At one point, he debunked a few myths about our first president.  For example, George Washington did not have wooden teeth.  However, he did start losing his teeth when he was in his twenties, he only had one tooth left in his mouth by the time he was president, and he had to use dentures made of ivory.

More importantly, though, George Washington was not some cold, stuffy man.  When I asked Mr. Chernow what he thought middle school students should know about the Father of the Country, he said that we should understand Washington's personality.  He was "passionate, complex, sensitive," "fierce, demanding, hard-driving," Mr. Chernow said.  Washington was so inspiring that he was unanimously chosen as the top revolutionary general, as the president of the Constitutional Convention, and as the President of the United States (twice!).  He was a great athlete; some called him the best horseman in America.  He held a rag-tag army of patriots together for over eight years--and Mr. Chernow doubts that any other patriot could have led for as long and as well as he did.

Mr. Chernow did his own share of impressive work to write this book.  The book is over 900 pages long and he spent over six years researching and writing it.  Just to start, he read through more than 130,000 primary source documents known as the George Washington Papers.  You might think that that would be exhausting, but Mr. Chernow seems to love his work.

He was happy to hear about your studies, especially given that our school is in Washington Heights.  When he signed our book (yes, it's ours, check out the photo below), I gave him our blog address.  What if this world-famous historian actually visited our website?  What would you want to say to him?  What would you want to ask him about George Washington or anything else?  Write your questions and comments and--who knows!--maybe we'll hear from him someday.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Follow the election from your computer

FiveThirtyEight at has great analysis of the polls leading up to Election Day.  It explains how likely a candidate is to win each major political race, using data from telephone polls conducted in the months leading up to the election.

CNN's Election Center will have up-to-date election results all night.  Visit "The Basics" tab to get details about different political offices (e.g. how much money does a Congressman make? and how is it possible that the same Congressman has been representing a district in Michigan since 1954?).  Visit "The Issues" tab to see what people have to say about the economy, health care, and other things that voters care about., organized by the League of Women Voters (but very useful for men and women, I promise), includes a space where you can enter your address and find out exactly who and what will be on the ballot in your neighborhood.  When you get to the page where your building shows up on a map, scroll down, click the orange "Continue" button, and you'll be taken to a page that lists the candidates for every political office that's up for a vote in your area.

I'm about to leave my teacher meetings at City College and go across the street to the school where I'm registered to vote!  Woo!  It's voting time!  Get psyched!

Update (4:08 p.m.): Ladies and gentlemen, I have, in fact, voted.  That's right: I exercised my voting rights, which are protected (at least, sort of) in that good old Constitution.  And I already know what you're thinking--you wish you were 18 so you could be in a photo as awesome as this one:
Patience.  Your time will come.  In the meantime, make sure your parents get out and vote!  And after you've done your research, maybe they'll ask for your advice when they fill out their ballots.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Day Draws Nigh

Hi everybody, it's been a few days since I've posted.  Hope you have a great day off tomorrow--and I hope most of all that you'll go with your parents to the polls tomorrow.  Candidates are running for some important political offices: the New York governor, attorney general, and comptroller are all up for grabs tomorrow.  Every member of the House of Representatives stands for election tomorrow, as do both of New York's senators.  At the state level, people are running for state senate and state assembly.

The biggest question during this election is how much control the Democrats will lose.  In 2008, Democrats won a huge amount of seats in Congress, along with Barack Obama's election to the presidency.  Two years later, the economy is still recovering and many Americans are dissatisfied with the Democrats' leadership.  Republicans will definitely win more seats in Congress--the question is how many they will win.

This is called a midterm election because it comes in the middle of President Obama's presidential term.  Obama has been out on the campaign trail, trying to persuade people to vote for Democrats.  He says that he has accomplished a great deal: health coverage for more Americans, an end to combat in Iraq, an extension of tax cuts for most Americans (but not the rich).  Republicans say that Obama's health care plan could bankrupt the country, that taxes are too high, and that Obama's liberal beliefs will weaken America.

Last week, Obama chose an untraditional way to send a message: he appeared on the popular Comedy Central show The Daily Show.  If you want to see what he had to say to comedian/talk host Jon Stewart about America, have a look here.

What do you think?  Has Obama accomplished what he set out to do?  Do the Democrats deserve to control the national government?  Would the Republicans do a better job?  Why?

AND do you have any questions about the election?  Leave a comment and let me know.