The Public Humanist

Seven Things You Might Not Know about the World

This summer, educators from across Massachusetts and the U. S. are putting on their “student caps” as they attend in-depth, content-rich institutes designed by Primary Source, the nonprofit organization where I have the great pleasure of working. These graduate-level courses introduce K-12 teachers to new knowledge and resources for teaching about world regions, diverse cultures, and U.S. history in a global context.

While teachers of history and language arts comprise the majority of our participants, high school science teachers, middle school geography teachers, and elementary school art specialists are among the educators attending lectures, engaging in small-group discussions, and reflecting on integrating their new knowledge in the classroom.

How much do you know about U.S. and world history? Join us on a brief tour of this summer’s institutes and learn 7 new things (we hope)!

1. Did you know that in 1942 a nationwide speed limit of 35 miles per hour was established to conserve fuel and tire rubber? War and Society from the American Revolution to the War in Vietnam, a Teaching American History funded institute, brought educators to the Strawbery Banke Museum where they experienced what it was like to shop in the 1940s using wartime rations. With 28 ration points and just under $4 per week to spend on food, participants in this institute learned what it was like to make do with very little during wartime.

2. In the history of the post-Civil War West, federal Indian policies had a devastating impact on Native American Indian lives – but did you know that some Native American communities were able to thrive economically even within the constraints of these policies, as in the case of the Makah of the Pacific Northwest? Professor Josh Reid, Assistant Professor of History at UMass Boston, shared this insight with teachers during the institute titled, From Reconstruction to the Gilded Age: Power, Conflict, and Capitalism in U.S. History. This Teaching American History funded course reexamined the tumultuous decades that followed the Civil War, and considered how teachers could bring these years to life for students.

3. Did you know that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that outlines the rights of all people around the world, was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948? We Are All Born Free is a beautifully illustrated book that introduces all 30 rights in a simplified version appropriate for elementary school students. This and other classroom-friendly resources will be shared with educators during this summer’s Teaching for Global Understanding in the 21st Century institute. During the week, educators will explore the skills students need to succeed in today’s interconnected world through key global themes: human rights, the environment, the global economy, health, and peace.

4. Did you know the Silk Road is actually a series of trade routes and paths that stretched from Xi'an, China, to the Mediterranean Sea? Goods and ideas spread across these routes in what was one of the earliest examples of globalization. Crossroads of Culture: Interconnections in Asia from 600 – 1500 CE, an institute offered in collaboration with Boston University, will engage educators in a study of interactions along the Silk Road between people from East Asia to the Middle East.

5. Did you know that in 1942, the U.S. government relocated and confined approximately 110,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants living on the West Coast – half of whom were children? President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing military leaders to create special “military areas” from which they could forcefully “exclude” or remove people. Paul Watanabe, associate professor at UMass Boston will explore this topic with teachers during the Asians in the U.S.: Migrations, Challenges, and Achievements summer institute. Participating educators will also learn about the experiences of other Asian peoples in the United States throughout history.

6. Did you know that African writers of the mid-twentieth century expressed their opposition to colonialism through poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and parables (such as Jomo Kenyatta's 1938 “The Man and the Elephant”), and many were jailed for their writings? This summer, educators in the Africa in the 19th and 20th Centuries: Colonialism, Independence, and Legacies institute (offered in collaboration with Boston University’s African Studies Center) will learn about the shaping of the modern continent of Africa from multiple perspectives, exploring the literature and films of major writers and regions.

7. Did you know that in 1913, the U.S. debated whether to recognize China as a nation? In the Changing China: History and Culture Since 1644 online course, educators will read and discuss an essay by Dr. Ching Chun Wang published in the Atlantic Monthly in January, 1913. Dr. Wang, an accomplished Chinese citizen who was educated in the U.S. and earned his PhD from Yale, was an example of the optimism widely shared by Chinese intellectuals regarding China’s potential as a new nation. Educators from across the country are also taking part in The Enduring Legacy of Ancient China, an online summer institute that encourages exploration of primary sources and provides a facilitated yet flexible learning environment.

Our summer institutes are currently filled to capacity, but educators interested in learning about world histories, global issues, and U.S. history in a global context are invited to register for our school-year seminars and workshops. A sneak peek of these courses is now available on our website and registration will open in August. Members of the general public are invited to join us in exploring the world at a series of public programs, to be announced this fall. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates!

© 2014 The Valley Advocate