Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Homework

I'm taking it easy on you over the break.  All you have to do is this:

Write me a four-paragraph e-mail.  Reflect on the first four months of the school year.  Include highlights of social studies for you, things you plan to do to improve, and things that we could to improve the class in general.  You can also tell me how your Christmas/holiday is.  I should receive the e-mail any time before we return to school on January 3.

I'd highly recommend that you take the time to complete an extra credit assignment too!
Update: A list of options for your extra credit assignments is listed here:

Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and happy new year!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Obama Refers to Our Wednesday Lesson

On Wednesday, we simulated a car assembly line in our eighth grade classes, with varying degrees of success.  Then we learned how Henry Ford used the assembly line to produce cars cheaply and efficiently, making them affordable to most Americans.  The car changed American lifestyles in many ways.  But Ford also made a crucial decision for his workers: he'd pay them good wages.  Remember what we read in Joy Hakim's The Age of Extremes:
Henry Ford understood that if ordinary people were going to buy new products, they needed to earn reasonable wages.  So, in 1914, when the average American worker earned $2.40 a day for a nine-hour day, Henry Ford announced that he would pay his workers $5 a day for an eight-hour day.  That was an astonishing decision.  It was also smart.  That $5 a day meant that workers at the Ford Motor Company could afford to buy Ford cars.  Henry Ford was creating his own customers.
If you've been paying attention to the news, you know that many people are complaining about income inequality in America: the rich keep getting richer, while everyone else just stays the same or gets poorer.  This is the big message of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

And now, President Obama is getting in the act.  On Tuesday, he gave a major speech in Kansas, criticizing corporations for paying their workers too little and generally lamenting income inequality in America.  But there's more: he used Henry Ford to strengthen his argument!
The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her workers now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade, the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about six percent. This kind of inequality–a level we haven’t seen since the Great Depression–hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity–that’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars they made.
There, he called for the rich to pay higher taxes, claiming that this would help poor and middle-class people to get better wages.
[W]hen President Clinton first proposed these tax increases, folks in Congress predicted they would kill jobs and lead to another recession.  Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century...Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39%. Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%. One percent. This is the height of unfairness. It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay a higher tax rate than somebody pulling in $50 million...And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible.
Well, what do you think?  Are you surprised by President Obama's arguments?  Are you surprised by the income inequality that he describes?  Why do you think he referred to Henry Ford?  Would you support higher taxes on the rich?  Do you think that would really make our economy better?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Violating the 14th Amendment Today?

Hey all, it's been a while since you mostly ignored my post on Lupe Fiasco.  Grr.  Thanks, Daphne, for being willing to put fingers to keyboard and share on that topic.

Today, though, I'm writing about something entirely relevant to what we've studied in the past two weeks: the Fourteenth Amendment.  As you know, it grants citizenship as a birthright to all Americans, it requires state laws to adhere to the Bill of Rights, and--most importantly for today--it grants equal protection of the law to all people.  In other words, if the government is going to make laws that treat different groups of people differently, it had better have a good reason for doing so.

According to Linda Greenhouse, Florida is violating the equal protection clause of the Constitution.  How?  Florida runs a state university system.  Florida charges much higher tuition to students who come from outside the state than to students who are residents of the state.  That's how all states run their universities.  If you go to a SUNY school, you will pay much less in tuition than a student who comes from New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

However, Florida has decided to charge the higher, out-of-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants.  These are students who were born in the United States--in Florida--so, according to the Constitution, they are American citizens and residents of Florida.  But, because of their parents' immigrant status, they are being charged a higher rate.

Linda Greenhouse calls this "perhaps the most bizarre and pointless anti-immigrant policy" that she's heard of.

She continues: "Consider the difference between in-state and non-resident tuition at the University of Florida: $5,700 a year versus $27,936. The disparity is similar at the state’s community colleges, although the price tags are lower. It is the difference between a college education and none."

She is glad to hear that some students have decided to sue to overturn this policy: "The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of 'all past, present, and future United States citizens' affected by the policy, names five individual plaintiffs. Two were forced for financial reasons to withdraw from Miami Dade College when the policy took effect. Two others can’t afford to take all the credits necessary to complete their degrees on time, and one, who would have received a full scholarship as a resident, couldn’t afford to enroll at all. Four were born in Miami and one in Los Angeles. All are eligible to be president of the United States."

What are your reactions to this policy?  Are you surprised that it exists?  What should be done about it?  Is there anything that you can or should do to deal with this policy?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lupe Fiasco Knows His Stuff

Got to tell you how surprised I've been as I've listened to Lupe Fiasco's new album, Lasers.  I actually saw him live at a music festival a few years ago, but at that point, I thought he was just Kanye West's Chicago buddy who was able to get some airplay with "Superstar."  I bought the album in large part because he gives a shout-out to inner-city teachers in "The Show Goes On."

Apparently, there is much more to this man.  His actual name is Wasalu Muhammad Jaco and he was born in Chicago in 1982, the son of a gourmet chef and a Black Panther-turned-operating plant engineer.  At first, he didn't like hip-hop because he was disgusted by its use of vulgarity.  When he entered sixth grade, he moved in with his father in a building next to a crack house.  As Lupe tells it:

I grew up in the hood around prostitutes, drug dealers, killers, and gangbangers, but I also grew up juxtaposed: On the doorknob outside of our apartment, there was blood from some guy who got shot; but inside, there was National Geographic magazines and encyclopedias and a little library bookshelf situation. And we didn't have cable, so we didn't have the luxury of having our brains washed by MTV. We watched public television – cooking shows and stuff like that.
His music is smart.  He knows how to make a good beat, he knows what songs to sample to generate monster hits, and he writes deep and thoughtful lyrics.  He uses the n-word in about half his songs on the new album, and I'm not sure why, but that is the only concern that I have with recommending this music to you.  No Dre-style gangsta garbage or Biggie-type misogyny on this record.

And (did you see this coming?) I'm especially impressed with his knowledge of history and politics.  He takes shots at conservative talk show hosts Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.  He critiques the oppressive mentality that traps so many urban African-American kids.  He even shares with some of you the unfortunate opinion that it's not worth it to exercise his right to vote.

I find his song "All Black Everything" to be the most interesting on the album.  He does a historical thought experiment: "So there were no slaves in our history, were no slave ships, were no misery...see I fell asleep and I had a dream, it was all black everything."  So, if there were no slavery, what would the world have been like, Lupe?
Uh, and we ain't get exploited
White man ain't feared it so he did not destroy it
We ain't work for free, see they had to employ it
Built it up together so we equally appointed
First 400 years, see we actually enjoyed it
Constitution written by W.E.B. Du Bois
Were no Reconstructions, Civil War got avoided
Little black sambo grows up to be a lawyer
Extra extra on the news stands
Black woman voted head of Ku Klux Klan
Malcolm Little dies as an old man
Martin Luther King read the eulogy for him
How many key social studies terms can you drop in one verse?  It's almost like he was trying to write a rap song to teach high school students about U.S. history, but he left that to a bigger nerd in NYC.

So, dear students, what do you think of Lupe Fiasco?  What are your reactions to his life story?  Do you like his music?  Can you explain what Lupe is saying in the verse I've quoted above?  What does Lupe's music say about the value of hip-hop?  What do you appreciate about it?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Perennial Extra Credit Assignments

If you are looking to boost your grade, you can always do one of the following assignments for extra credit: write a film or book review.
If you want to write a review, you can:
·         Watch a PBS American Experience documentary or an episode of the PBS show Frontline.  Watch the entire film and then write a film review.
·         Read a book about U.S. history and then write a book review.  Ask Mr. Toomajian for a book recommendation or suggest a book and ask Mr. Toomajian if he will approve it.
In your review, you must:
·         Summarize the events in the movie, show, or book.
·         Explain what you learned from the movie, show, or book and describe how it relates to the concepts that we've learned in class.
·         Give your opinion about the movie, show, or book: what surprised you, what feelings you had while watching it, etc.
The review must be in your own words and must be typed and double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman font.  Use perfect grammar and spelling.  Indent paragraphs and organize your review logically with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.  Your grade on this review will help to boost your project and test grades.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My Favorite World Series Game

In about an hour, we'll say goodbye to October.  That means that baseball season is over, and, indeed, just a few days ago, the World Series ended with a Game 7 win by the St. Louis Cardinals.  Game 6 is being hailed as one of the best World Series games of all time: twice, the Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning the game and thus winning the series; twice, the Cardinals came back to tie the game; the Cardinals won in the 11th inning.

This World Series was so exciting that it brought me back to my favorite World Series--1996--the first Yankee Series win that I remember well.   (Argenis wears a 1996 Yankees World Series hat and I highly appreciate it.)  The best game in that series was Game 4.  The Yankees were down two games to one, playing in Atlanta, and they needed a win in Game 4 to have a good chance of capturing a World Series victory.  But the Yanks fell behind 6-0 by the fifth inning.  They clawed back to 6-3 by the eighth inning, when backup catcher Jim Leyritz came to the plate.  Off the Braves' best relief pitcher, Leyritz launched a clutch three-run homer to left field, over the head of a 19-year-old Braves rookie named Andruw Jones.  The Yankees had tied the game and they would win it in the 10th inning.  The following Saturday, they won the World Series back home in the Bronx.

What is your favorite World Series game?  Why?  What are your favorite baseball memories?  Which games of the past do you wish you'd been alive to see?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Debating Occupy Wall Street

If you've been in my Regents class, you may be aware that I have some strong, somewhat conflicted feelings about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Regardless, the movement is growing, and it will be in history books twenty years from now, so, as students of history, we have to pay attention.

So I ask you: What do you think about the OWS movement? Do you believe in what OWS stands for? Do you know what they stand for? Do you think their method of protest can lead to positive changes for United States?

There have been some fantastic essays considering these very questions. I'd encourage you to take a look at these two sites and find out what others think about OWS.

Can Occupy Wall Street Spark a Revolution?  from The New York Times
"If you stopped by Zuccotti Park in New York and asked 10 protesters what their goals were for Occupy Wall Street, you might get 10 different answers. This has led some reports to call the group unfocused, but that may be normal for an emerging movement: would 10 young Egyptians in Tahrir Square in January have been any more unanimous?

One protester, in an interview that Fox News has not aired, said he and others were calling for 'more economic justice, social justice — Jesus stuff — as far as feeding the poor, health care for the sick.' Another protester, a former Marine who was elected by Occupy Wall Street participants to speak for them, told NPR that he wanted to overthrow the government and reconstruct it. Will these big ideas get lost now that labor unions and other established interests are joining forces with Occupy Wall Street, bringing their more concrete demands?

The protest already is more popular than Congress. So what are the demonstrators doing right, and what could they be doing better? Do these people, like others worldwide who are disillusioned with their governments, have the potential to spark a mass movement? What are they missing?"
--From the NYTimes website

Liberalism and Occupy Wall Street: A TNR Symposium from The New Republic
"Last week, in our editorial, TNR asked: 'How should liberals feel about Occupy Wall Street?' The magazine took a skeptical view of the protests; a number of our writers (John B. Judis, Jonathan Cohn, and Timothy Noah) have taken a more positive stance. Over the next week, we’ll be publishing a symposium at TNR Online in which a number of prominent liberal thinkers offer their answers to this question."
--From the TNR website

Saturday, October 1, 2011

More help on Regents op-ed

Here's some more info about your op-ed homework, Regents students.  One student already e-mailed me asking for help, and this is my reply.  If you have more questions, please contact me at!

The first thing you need to do is to think about what the protesters say.  This is Step One: Develop Your Opinion.  Do you think it's true that voting isn't all that important, and that you'd need to share your opinion in different ways to make a difference in government?  This website has a number of articles about the Occupy Wall Street movement:  Here's the link to the full text of the article excerpted on your assignment sheet:

After thinking about it, doing a little bit of research, and taking a few notes, decide what your opinion is.  This is Step Two: Form a Thesis.  In a sentence or two, you should be able to state your basic opinion about voting and what the protesters believe about it.  Something like: "The protesters are misguided and wrong because voting is a vital part of democracy."  Or whatever you believe.

Then, Step Three: Develop Your Argument.  You should think of ways to prove that your opinion is right.  For this, you need to include things we've learned about in class, like social contract theory and the Constitution.  You will probably want to especially consider the idea of republicanism/representative democracy.  Ideally, you should be able to come up with at least three good reasons that your thesis is right.  For my example thesis, one good reason could be: "The Constitution allows all adult citizens to vote to determine who will lead our country."  You would need to explain your back up this reason with supporting details and examples.

Step Four: Outline Your Argument.  Once you've got ideas for an argument, start writing an outline that organizes it.  Ideally, it would follow this structure:
Thesis: The protesters are misguided and wrong because voting is a vital part of democracy.

I. Reason 1:
The Constitution allows all adult citizens to vote to determine who will lead our country.
    A. Supporting Detail 1:
    B. Supporting Detail 2:
    C. Supporting Detail 3:

II. Reason 2:
    A. Supporting Detail 1:
    B. Supporting Detail 2:
    C. Supporting Detail 3:

III. Reason 3:
    A. Supporting Detail 1:
    B. Supporting Detail 2:
    C. Supporting Detail 3:

Step Five: Write a rough draft.  Don't worry too much about that yet, but at least get started on it before Monday.

Hope this is helpful.  Please e-mail me with any questions you have.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Mr. Toomajian

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Addresses for business letters

Here are some addresses you might need for your letters:

Mr. Dennis M. Walcott
Chancellor, New York City Department of Education
Tweed Courthouse
52 Chambers Street
New York, NY 10007

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Note: no further address is needed for New York City Hall

Mayor William A. Bell, Sr.
Birmingham City Hall
710 20th Street North; Room 205
Birmingham, AL 35203
Mayor Frank Melton
Jackson City Hall
219 South President Street
Jackson, MS 39201
I haven't been able to track down Diane Nash's address yet, but I've sent some e-mails and I'm working on it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's coming...

...and it will be a workout...for your brain.

The Second Ever CCAA Eighth Grade Scavenger Hunt: Friday, October 7

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Freedom Riders Homework

Hello 8th graders,

I know all of you have been busy at work on your Freedom Riders layered curriculum level C assignments. Below are some helpful websites for the assignments. Please note that if you have any questions regarding the assignments, make sure to ask either Mr. Toomajian or I prior to the homework's due date.

If you happen to come across any other websites that you think could help with the assignments or that you think Mr. Toomajian and I would enjoy, please post the link in the comments sections. 

Have a great Friday!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Introducing the Freedom Riders

Today in the eighth grade, we launched our first unit: Freedom Riders.  The Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated South to test the Supreme Court’s ruling that outlawed segregation in interstate buses and the restaurants and waiting rooms in their terminals. The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17. Along the way, the Freedom Riders were attacked by the Ku Klux Klan, arrested, and worse. 

Over the next several days, we'll learn about these inspiring activists--many of whom were young college students.  We'll be viewing and discussing large portions of Freedom Riders, a PBS documentary.  To find out more, visit the documentary website, which includes timelines, photos, videos, maps, and more useful features.

Thanks for your strong participation in today's gallery walk.  See you tomorrow.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

Today is the anniversary of 9-11.  Ten years ago, at 7:59 a.m., an airplane took off from Boston.  Fifteen minutes later, another airplane took off.  And within an hour of that, all hell broke loose in our city.  Every one of our lives changed because of what happened that day.

This post is an opportunity to share memories.  Every adult that I know can tell you exactly where they were on 9-11.  Many of you were only two or three years old in 2001.  But even you might have memories of your own.  In your comment, you answer any of the following questions:
  • Where were you on September 11, 2001?  What do you remember?  How did you feel?  What did you think was happening?
  • Where were your loved ones on 9-11?  Have you asked your parents what they were doing, what they were thinking, how they felt?  Other family members?  Older friends?  Teachers?  What are their stories?
  • How is your life different today because of 9-11?  What were the consequences for you personally?  Did you move to a different place?  Did people in your family join the military and fight in wars?
Remember, please write at least a paragraph and use perfect grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Be sure to sign your post.  Since this is a public website, when you sign your post, use only your first name, last initial, and class number.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

President Obama's Jobs Speech

Welcome, CCAA History students!

Tonight, President Obama is giving a speech regarding the United States' high unemployment rate. Over 9% of Americans want to work but can't find a job. Obama will make suggestions about how to put people back to work.

The speech will be online at at 7 and on many TV stations. When I get home tonight, I'll write a few discussion questions. In the meantime, feel free to post with your opinions. Make sure to use proper grammar and to sign your name.

E-mail me if you have questions. See you tomorrow!

UPDATE (10:35 p.m.): Thanks to everyone who's already posted. Great comments! I promised discussion questions tonight, but instead I'm going to sleep. You can leave comments all weekend, so if you're reading this on Thursday night, you too should go to sleep so you're all ready for Day Two. Hasta maƱana.

UPDATE (10:00 p.m. Friday): Great to see you at school today. 

Here is a link to the president's speech.  Take a look.  The speech begins shortly after the 4 minute mark.  Up until then, it's mainly applause and the president shaking hands.

Here are some discussion questions.  You may want to answer one, some, or all of them.
  • Do you think President Obama's jobs plan will work?  Why or why not?
  • Which parts of Obama's plan seem most likely to work?  Which parts might fail?  Why?
  • Our country is in debt.  That means that our country spends more than the government earns in taxes, so our government needs to borrow money from other countries to make ends meet.  Is this a good idea?  Could it ever be a good idea?
  • Do you think the president communicated his ideas well?  What did you think of the way he spoke?  Is he a good speaker?  Give examples to support your opinion.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

8th Grade Test Tomorrow!

If you're looking for help with tomorrow's test, have a look here, 8th graders:

Some fine sample sentences brought to you by class 803:

Theodore Roosevelt encouraged the Panamanians to gain independence from Colombia, so he could build the Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal was dug to shorten the sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Yellow journalism caused the Americans to believe that the Spanish had destroyed the U.S.S. Maine.

The U.S. imperialized Mexico by fighting the Mexican War.

Here are your short answer questions:

1. Explain how the United States got involved in the Spanish-American War and explain how the United States benefited from the war.
2. Give TWO examples of how the United States practiced imperialism in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Mention TWO nations that the United States imperialized, explain how the U.S. gained control of each of these nations, and the effects of imperialism on these nations.
3. Explain the main causes of World War I and the immediate cause of World War I.
4. Describe the experiences of a soldier involved in trench warfare during World War I.

And some fine responses to some of them...

An answer to #1 from Robert of 801:
The U.S.S. Maine exploded in Cuba. In the papers, people started blaming Spain because they thought they were the ones who blew up the ship. This was an example of yellow journalism. At the same time, Cuba wanted freedom from Spain. After the Maine exploded, the United States got into the war and helped out Cuba. As a result of the war, when the U.S. won, the U.S. won some land. Two of those lands were Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

An answer to #2 from Jose of 804:
The United States practiced imperialism in many nations. Two imperialized nations were the Philippines and Hawaii. The U.S. imperialized Hawaii for its sugar plantations. They simply brought their battleships to Hawaii. Hawaii didn’t declare war since they thought it was hopeless. The U.S. also imperialized the Philippines for their land. They fought the Spanish-American War to get control of the Philippines. Then they fought in the Philippines to keep it.

An answer to #3 from Kimberllee and 803:
The main causes of World War I were militarism, alliances, imperialism, and nationalism. Militarism was the development of new weapons, imperialism encouraged countries to fight for distant lands, and nationalism made every country want to prove it was the best. These things caused Europe to be very tense. However, the immediate cause was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. As a result of alliances, many countries then started to attack each other. World War I was called the Great War.

Good luck! Study well!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Upcoming Eighth Grade Test

Eighth graders, you've got a test this week.  802's test is Wednesday, 803 and 804 have tests on Thursday, and 801's test is Friday.  Here are the words you need to know and questions you need to answer, just in case you don't have the test information paper I handed out yesterday.

You will need to know these 10 terms and be able to use each of them in a good sentence:
1. Corporation
2. Merger
3. Monopoly
4. Trust
5. Sherman Antitrust Act
6. Gilded Age
7. Captain of industry
8. Robber baron
9. Progressive Movement
10. Reform

You will also need to answer two short answer questions. The questions will be chosen from this list:
1. Choose either Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller. Describe the businessman, including reasons why he is admirable AND reasons why he should NOT be admired.
2. Describe how monopolies and trusts work. Explain why monopolies and trusts are unfair to consumers (the people who buy a product).
3. Why did so many people die in the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory? What were the effects of the fire?
4. Choose one Progressive Era reformer. Describe the PROBLEMS he/she wanted to change, the ACTIONS he/she took to reform America, and the EFFECTS of his/her work on America.

If you have questions, you can e-mail me today or meet with me tomorrow after school.  Good luck!

Monday, January 31, 2011

A revolution in Egypt?

Hey everyone, I know it's been way, way, way too long, and you can feel free to use the comments section to lambast me for my lack of posts over the past few weeks.  Some exciting things have been going on in the world.  Time to talk about at least one of them...

Felix knew what was up when we were talking in 703's class today: the protests in Egypt are the biggest news story of the moment.  Here's the gist: Egypt has been ruled for over 30 years by a dictator, Hosni Mubarak.  He calls himself the president and he holds elections every few years.  But the elections are always rigged so that he remains in power.  Egypt's government is made up of his friends and allies.  His political opponents are often thrown in jail.  We've learned about corruption in the eighth grade, but the word "corruption" doesn't begin to describe the injustice of Mubarak's government.

Now, days after a similar uprising in an African country called Tunisia, Egyptians seem to have had enough of Mubarak.  Two weeks ago, Egyptian political activists called for protests on a Facebook page.  Since then, many Egyptians have protested--even rioted--in the streets.  The police couldn't control the crowds, so Mubarak called in the army.  But many people in the army seem to agree with the protesters, and the army has promised that they won't shoot at protesters.  It's hard to imagine that Mubarak will be president for much longer, but we don't know how long he'll try to stay in power.  And if he leaves, who knows what will happen next?  There might be fair elections, there might not be.  The country might become more chaotic, the country might become more peaceful.  The new government could be secular (not linked with a religious group) or it could be Islamic (linked to the Muslim faith).

Ready to add another layer of complexity onto this?  The U.S. government is allied with Mubarak.  Yes, Mubarak the corrupt dictator is friends with the United States.  In fact, the U.S. government sends millions of dollars of aid to Egypt each year.  Why?  For one thing, Egypt recognizes and keeps peace with Israel, the U.S.'s strongest ally in the Middle East.  The Egyptian government has not encouraged or sheltered terrorists that target the U.S.  The U.S. is also happy to have Egypt as an ally in an important, oil-rich part of the world.  American government officials would surely like to see a real democracy in Egypt, but they're also glad just to have an ally in the Middle East.

We're learning about the American Revolution in seventh grade.  Now, a revolution seems to be unfolding in Egypt.  A new government will take control, and it will probably promise more rights and more justice for the Egyptians.

What do you think?  Should we celebrate these protests?  Should we be happy that a dictator is falling?  Should we worry about whether Egypt will be safe and stable with a new government?  Should we worry about whether the new Egyptian government will be an American ally?

Here are some links:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

An American downtown falls apart...

Detroit in 1907: Even in a black-and-white photo, you can tell the city was alive.
Happy Saturday!  Eighth graders, you know you'll be taking a test on urbanization on Tuesday.  The late 1800s and early 1900s were the time period when American cities grew the fastest.  Why did so many people move to cities?  Well, that's one of your test questions, and you'll need to know at least four different reasons, but the biggest reason was JOBS.  Inventors were creating new technology that needed to be produced in factories, and companies opened their factories in cities like New York...and Detroit.

Detroit is most famous for the automotive (car/truck) industry.  Back in 1903, Henry Ford started the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, and soon enough, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors--America's Big 3 car companies--were all based in Detroit.  Detroit was big in the late 1800s and it was huge in the early 1900s.  At its largest, Detroit was home to 1.8 million people, enough to make it the fourth-biggest city in America.

That brings us today.  Most factories have moved out of American cities, either to the suburbs or--more often--to other countries.  Ford, Chrysler, and GM have faced serious competition from Toyota, Honda, and other foreign companies, and they've lost money and cut jobs over the past few years.

Long story short, Detroit has shrunk from 1.8 million to less than 1 million people.  Detroit's downtown has fallen into decay.  Take a look at this slideshow (and the accompanying article).  It shows how Detroit's majestic downtown has just fallen apart.  The European photographers who took these photos were shocked to see just how much of a mess Detroit is.  Gorgeous theaters, libraries, offices--all vacant and in disrepair.

Much of Detroit's downtown looks like this today.

What are your reactions to these photos?  Why do you think this has happened?  Why haven't people moved in to rebuild these buildings?  What could be done with them?  What would you need in order to fix them up?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My favorite blogs are about NYC schools and the Yankees. Surprised? Didn't think so.

Which blogs do I visit the most?  One is GothamSchools, a blog written by four people who work full-time to write news stories about New York City schools.  They also collect news stories from other sources and invite volunteers to write blog posts about the schools as well.  Students occasionally write in their Community section.  Here's a post that a high school student wrote last school year when the MTA threatened to take away student's free Metrocards.  Maybe they'd accept something that one of you writes!

My other favorite blog is--what else--a Yankees blog.  The Journal News of Westchester County produces the LoHud Yankees Blog, which is constantly being updated with news and analysis about our beloved Bronx Bombers.  They reported yesterday that the Yankees have released their spring training schedule.  Some highlights:
Sunday, February 13Manager Joe Girardi addresses the media...
Tuesday, February 15"First official workout for pitchers and catchers. If we’re lucky, there will be a bullpen session. Lots of questions about Joba Chamberlain as a reliever, Russell Martin as an everyday catcher and Jorge Posada as a DH."
Sunday, February 20"First full-squad workout. Lots of questions about how Alex Rodriguez’s hip is doing and what Curtis Granderson did to keep up the strides he made late last season."
Saturday, February 26First spring training game. The Yankees open the spring schedule at home against the Phillies.

It's the beginning of January.  I'm desperate for any sign of baseball.  At least we know that we only have to wait for a few more weeks until spring training.

Anyway, I check GothamSchools and the LoHud Yankees Blog several times a day--in the morning, at lunch, and when I'm taking a break from grading papers in the evening. 

Do you read other blogs?  Which ones?  Why do you like them?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Any New Year's resolutions, guys?  I resolve to make sure my students move on to the next grade having completed a high-quality in-depth research project.  You ready?

In the meantime, it's not too late to get your holiday project done.  Here's the PBS American Experience website, in case you've misplaced it.  Having watched about six of the films in the past week, my favorite is Roads to Memphis.  What can I say?  Dr. Martin Luther King was an incredible man, and the story of his assassination is incredible too.  I also liked The Polio Crusade.  Have you even heard of polio--the disease that paralyzed President Franklin D. Roosevelt and many children in the same era?  In the early 1950s, the only thing that Americans feared more than polio was nuclear war.  A Class Apart shines a light on the Hispanic civil rights movement, which all history students could stand to learn more about (myself included).

See you tomorrow!