American History – Middle & High School: Draft Syllabus

Starting next Friday, I’ll be teaching a class in American History at this school, to an uncertain number of kids – 2? 10? – of an uncertain mix of ages – probably middle and high school, but could be some younger, even much younger kids involved.

Although I’ve never taught history to anybody, I’m going to make up my own syllabus because I can. The kids are unlikely to know anything, but are taking the class because they want to, which means engagement is a given.

From an old Sci Am cover.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

– Lots of background;

– Lots of fun stories;

– 1 date to remember each class. Catch: You need to have a basic idea of when things happened to have any context at all, yet dates don’t mean anything out of context. So, we’ll start ’em slow.

I’m thinking 10 45-60 minute segments, as follows. Only expanding on the first couple for now:

1. Prolegomenon: World Geography, Food, how people got where they are, American Indians.

We’ll start by reviewing basic world geography. Think I might introduce a few of Diamond’s more credible observations about resources and migrations. Talk about food – getting it, keeping it, fighting over it – and how it figures into how big and sophisticated your cities can be. Arrival of first Americans. Mound Builder cultures. The migration of maize.

This week’s date: 13,000 BC – about when American Indians are thought to have first arrived.

2. European Discoveries: Vikings; Italian Navigators (Columbus, Zuan Chabotto, Amerigo Vespucci); conquest; diseases.

This week’s date: 1497  – when John Cabot found a Basque cod fishing fleet off Nova Scotia.

3. Colonial Period

4. Revolution & Federal Government

5. Antebellum America

6. Civil War

7. Reconstruction to WWI

8. Great Depression to WWII

9. Post-war to Reagan

10. Modern Times

Well? Sounds like fun to me.

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Author: Joseph Moore

Enough with the smarty-pants Dante quote. Just some opinionated blogger dude.

7 thoughts on “American History – Middle & High School: Draft Syllabus”

  1. Three migrations: Amerinds, Athabaskans, Eskaleut. Eskimos reach Greenland about same time as Vikings from other direction. THE PENGUIN ATLAS OF NORTH AMERICAN HISTORY is a good geographical template.

    Diversification of Amerinds: Algonquians called the “Grandfather People” by the Iroquois because they were already there when the Iroquois migrated into the East. The different culture areas. Band level (Cree), tribe level (Dakota), chiefdom level (Choctaw, NW Coast), state level (Toltec).

    Nigel Calder in TIMESCAPE wrote of Martians observing Earth and deciding that grass (wheat, rice, millet, maize, etc.) was the dominant species, which had domesticated humans to take care of it: grooming, irrigating, saving the seed-corn for planting. Our Martian discovers that there is a game played by the humans who tend the grass: who can get the most tokens without actually having to grow any grass themselves?

    1. And here I was a Clovis-First dogmatist and I didn’t even know it! Guess one has to revisit the literature every few decades, just in case anything changes. The hard part is figuring out how many minutes I can dedicate to this topic…

      That we might be domesticated by dogs was a humbling enough thought. That grass might own us requires a higher level of spiritual detachment yet.

    1. I get to tell stories to kids! what could be more fun than that? And I get to use big words if I want to.

      Sounds like heaven on earth. The only catch is that there’s no compulsion – if the kids don’t like it, they can fire me, or just not show up. The good news is that anybody who show us wants to be there – which I’m betting is a treat few k-12 teachers ever experience.

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