Category Archives: Social Sciences

Lessons, documents, and quotes from branches of the social sciences including history, economics, sociology, and psychology.

High Renaissance Art

“High Renaissance Art: Climax of Renaissance art, ca. 1495-1520. In the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo, Italian art attained the High Renaissance ideal of harmony and balance within the framework of classical realism.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Term of Art: Year-Round Schooling

“year-round schooling: A modified school calendar that gives students short breaks throughout the school year instead of the traditional three-month summer break. Year-round calendars vary, sometimes within the same school district. Some schools use the staggered schedule to relieve overcrowding; others use it because they believe the three-month break causes students to forget much of what they learned the previous year. Some schools are on a single-track schedule, in which all students are on vacation at the same time, whereas others operate according to a multitrack schedule, which allows students to take their vacations at different times during the year. Advocates of year-round schooling claim that it saves money, maximizes use of facilities, reduces vandalism, improves student retention of academic content, and reduces dropout rates. Critics contend that the intensive use of school facilities creates maintenance problems and extra expenses (e.g., air-conditioning in the summer); that multitrack schedules cause difficulties for family vacation schedules; and that scheduling extracurricular activities is complicated when team members attend schools in different cycles.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.

Approbation (n)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the noun approbation.  It means “an act of approving formally or officially: COMMENDATION, PRAISE” and has an adjectival form in approbatory.

Approbation is not exactly the most commonly used word in the English language. That may in fact be its strength in using this document to teach inferring from context as a reading strategy. When students don’t know a word this obscure, in my experience, they derive satisfaction in the act of defining it from the context in which it is embedded. Will your students begin expressing to their friends and siblings about their approbation and disapprobation (which means, unsurprisingly, “the act or state of disapproving : the state of being disapproved : CONDEMNATION”) for menu choices, girlfriends or boyfriends, or musical preferences? Probably not. But they will have an opportunity to practice an important, indeed key, reading comprehension strategy by defining this word from the context in which it appears.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold

“Culture and Anarchy: (1869) The full title of this work by Matthew Arnold is Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism. Arnold felt it was necessary to shake the members of the Victorian middle class, the ‘Philistines,’ out of their smug complacency, and to show them the need for incorporating ‘sweetness and light’ (a phrase taken from Swift’s The Battle of the Books) into their daily lives. The book is known for its definition of a three-tier class structure of Barbarians, Philistines, and the Populace. Arnold also opposed Hellenism, which is concerned with beauty, knowledge, and imaginative free play, to Hebraism, which involves ethics, responsibility, and self-control. He felt that society was too Hebraic, and should show greater respect for ‘culture,’ which he defines famously as a canon of ‘the best that has been thought and said,’ but also as an action, ‘the study and pursuit of perfection.’ He believed culture should be disseminated throughout society with an aim toward social equality, though his own elite position blinded him to biases about race, sex, and class, and the destructive homogenization implied by his claim that individual perfection depends on the realization of the state as the ideal expression of community.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

The Devil’s Dictionary: Libertarian

“Libertarian, n. One who is compelled by the evidence to believe in free-will, and whose will is therefore free to reject that doctrine.”

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. David E. Schultz and S.J. Joshi, eds. The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2000. 

Rutherford B. Hayes

Here is a reading on President Rutherford B. Hayes along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet

Hayes was basically a cipher (in the sense of “one that has no weight, worth, or influence NONENTITY“), but his election in 1876, a result of the famous Compromise of 1877, was consequential indeed. The negotiations that elevated Hayes to the presidency directly brought about the end of Post-Civil War Reconstruction Era in the former Confederate States, but also engendered the Jim Crow laws that oppressed Americans of African descent, in most respects, to this day. When you think about the horrors that black people suffered and continue to suffer, think about the installation of Hayes in the presidency as a result of this chicanery.

This is a relatively short reading. But I think it could be the basis of a unit that I would like to think contained adapted text and teacher-made materials from C. Vann Woodward’s seminal treatise on this period of United States history, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001). If we want students to make sense of the present, then we must help them understand the real past–without obfuscation or euphemism.

Incidentally, I’ve attached the black history tag to this post, not because Hayes’ biography is black history–it manifestly is not. But the man’s effect on the lives and history of Americans of African descent really speaks for itself: generations of extrajudicial murder (including of children), apartheid laws, an unearned and misplaced sense of ethnic superiority attached to white skin–do I need to go on? Unfortunately, Rutherford B. Hayes is part of Black History in this country.

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.

Term of Art: Cognitive Style

“cognitive style: The preferred way an individual processed information, usually described as a personality dimension that influences attitudes, values, and social interaction. Unlike individual differences in abilities that describe peak performance, styles describe a person’s typical mode of thinking, remembering, or problem solving. Having more of an ability is usually considered beneficial, while having a particular cognitive style simply denotes a tendency to behave in a certain manner.

Field Independence/Dependence A number of cognitive styles have been identified and studies over the years; field independence/field dependence is probably the most well known. Individuals view the world in different ways. Those who are called “field-dependent” perceive the world in terms of larger patterns and relationships, whereas those who are “field-independent” perceive the world in terms of discrete elements–they look at the pieces that make up the whole.

Most schools in Western culture favor a field-independent approach, rewarding students who tend to work and organize information on their own. These learneer are objective in that they make what is being studies into an object to be analyzed and understood.

Studies have identified a number of connections between this cognitive style and learning. For example, field-independent individuals are likely to learn more effectively by studying by themselves, and are influenced less by social reinforcement.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Achieve (vi/vt)

Here is a context clues worksheet on the verb achieve, which is used both intransitively and transitively.

More importantly, perhaps, it is very commonly used among educators and with our students;  we use it, albeit in adjectival form, in terms of art like “achievement gap.” If we’re going to use this word, which can be in some cases a value judgement, then we owe it to our kids to help them understand it in both its denotative and connotative senses. Moreover, I would argue, we need to help students understand that achieve and achievement are words that can be and often are used in highly subjective–and again, judgemental–ways.

So we might want to ask critical questions, and by extension help students gain an understanding of asking such questions, like: “What is achievement?” “Who defines achievement?” “How do people know when they achieve something?” “Why is achieving things important?” “According to whom?” “How does one know when one has achieved something?” You get the picture.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Cultural Literacy: Lenin

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on V.I. Lenin

Did you know that his real name was Vladimir Illyich Ulyanov? You can see from his patronymic that his father was named Ilya Ulyanov. Interestingly, given Lenin’s later revolutionary activity against the Russian state and its underlying structure of rank and status, Ilya Ulyanov was elevated by dint of education and talent to the position of Active State Councillor, which endowed him with the status of hereditary nobility

Lenin’s older brother, Alexander Ulyanov, on the other hand, fell in with the Narodnaya Volya, which attempted on March 1 1887 (six years to the day after the assassination of Emperor Alexander II) to assassinate Emperor Alexander III. Alexander Ulyanov was arrested, tried, and hanged along with his four co-conspirators for this failed plot.

If you find typos in this document, 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.

Walter Page Hines on Woodrow Wilson

“The air currents of the world never ventilated his mind.”

Walter Page Hines on Woodrow Wilson

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.