Influenza Epidemic of 1918

While wandering around in the warehouse yesterday morning, I came across this reading on the influenza epidemic of 1918 and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Given that this historical event has become something of a touchstone for understanding our current circumstances, i.e. the coronavirus pandemic, I can’t quite understand how I lost track of this material.

That is, until I read it. Over the years, I’ve developed a great deal of material based on the mostly excellent readings in the Intellectual Devotional series; I’ve also had a lot of success in using these materials. Students who would turn up their nose at a book, or a reading from a textbook (I especially understand the latter, as most corporate-published textbooks are lethal), will take on one of these–especially high-interest readings. This reading, however, is one of the weakest I’ve seen.

Which, however, provides some grist for the critical mill. Let’s start with the title of this reading. The influenza of 1918 was by any measure a pandemic–that’s why one of the John M. Barry’s book, The Great Influenza, one of the best on the subject, carries the subtitle “The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.” So, the title for the reading in this post offers students an opportunity to differentiate, and understand the difference between, an epidemic and a pandemic. The influenza of 1918 was certainly a pandemic–remember that the Greek root pan means all. This reading, in short, presents an opportunity to teach students the importance of using language with precision.

In other words, the big question this reading raises is: Was the influenza outbreak of 1918 an epidemic or a pandemic?

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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