Cotton Gin

Because it was one of those advances in the technology of human, and because it had enormous economic, political, and social consequences, this reading on the cotton gin and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet are key parts of any “social studies” curriculum and integral to the United States history curriculum. This reading really serves as a beginning to the bigger historical and conceptual questions about technology, continuity, and change. Those conceptual questions about continuity and change, in my experience, turn up on high-stakes tests. 

For starters, where those questions of change and continuity are concerned, any study of the cotton gin must reckon with its role in expanding slavery in the United States.

Incidentally, students tend not to see a device like the cotton gin as “technology.” That young people who came of age with Cold War computing power in their pockets would labor under this misconception is unsurprising. I use every opportunity that presents itself to remind students that technology is “a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge.” Under that definition (from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition), technical processes are a relative area of endeavor, and context dependent. For the very earliest humans, even a sharpened stone used as a knife is a technology used for accomplishing a task.

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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