Tag Archives: United States History

Henry Adams on Politics

“Politics as a practice, whatever its professions, has always been the systematic organization of hatreds.”

Henry Adams

Excerpted from: Schapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Historical Term: Billeting

[Given the post immediately below this on, it’s worth mentioning that the Third Amendment to the United States Constitution–i.e. the third of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, guaranteed this freedom: “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”]

“Billeting The custom of requiring householders to provide accommodation for members of the armed forces. The system was widely abused in the 17th century under Charles I and protests against it were included in the Petition of Right (1628). Despite the forbidding of forced billeting in 1679, it continued under Charles II and James II, ending only when parliament agreed to the building of permanent barracks in 1792.”

Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.

James Madison

A few years back, I read several news accounts like this one from CNN that indicated that Americans, particularly those who fancy themselves experts on the subject, know vanishingly little about the United States Constitution

This reading on James Madison and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet will go only a short distance to ameliorate ignorance of the U.S. Constitution, but it will serve as a reasonable introduction to deeper inquiry into this quintessential document from the American Enlightenment

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.

Cultural Literacy: Habeas Corpus

As I worked on revising a number of blog posts this morning, I listened to news coverage of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the indecent haste with which our legislative branch moves to replace her.

Now, I think, would be a good time to post this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the legal concept of habeas corpus–an important element of any civil society.

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.

The Weekly Text, September 25, 2020: Hispanic Heritage Month 2020 Week II–A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on American Imperialism

This week’s Text–and it may seem odd as an offering for National Hispanic Heritage Month–is this reading on American Imperialism and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. The United States has violated the sovereignty of Latin American nations repeatedly since the early-nineteenth century. This meddling in the affairs of Latin America arguably began with the theology of Manifest Destiny and the foreign policy of the Monroe Doctrine.

Even the easygoing researcher will locate dozens of examples of United States involvement in Latin America. Three are most salient for the purposes of this blog post, mostly for their egregiousness: the 1954 coup in Guatemala that overthrew the democratically elected Jacobo Arbenz; ten years later, the 1964 Brazilian coup that toppled the leftist government of Joao Goulart; and, in my own historical memory, the 1973 coup against the democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende. The latter, incidentally, has been extensively documented, with Henry Kissinger’s role in the Chilean coup examined by, among others, the late Christopher Hitchens and, most comprehensively, by the National Security Archive.

Finally, I’ve always found it useful to turn to one of American history’s most famous quotes, from General Smedley D. Butler, on American imperialism:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

(Smedley D. Butler, War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier (Port Townshend, Washington: Feral House, 2003.)

Enough said.

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.

Andy Warhol

We’ve had early frosts in Vermont. According to Vermont Public Radio’s excellent weather service, “An Eye on the Sky,” these are some of the earliest killing frosts in this state in decades.

All of this is the long way around to say that while I wait for the air to warm this morning before I go out on my constitutional, I’ll take a minute to post this reading on Andy Warhol and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Whatever one thinks of Mr. Warhol or his artistic output, there is no denying his presence and perhaps even his importance in American culture.

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.

Cultural Literacy: Populist Party

It’s important to remember that Populism is a fairly dense concept and does not refer to either end of the political spectrum that ranges, in our vernacular, from “right” to “left,” or from radical to conservative. Indeed, there can be both right-wing and left-wing populists. As my late, dear, friend Lloyd Mueller use to say, “Populism is the cynical manipulating the stupid.”

So this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Populist Party in the United States doesn’t delve very deeply into the broader subject of Populism. It is a short introduction to one manifestation of Populism in the United States in the nineteenth century. It is, however, an introduction to the concept of Populism; moreover, as a short exercise, it will probably suffice to supply students with the information needed to answer the kind of superficial question about the Populist Party that appears on the standardized tests that  plague teaching, learning, and intelligence.

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.

Modernismo

“Modernismo: A literary movement that arose in Spanish America in the late 19th century and was subsequently transmitted to Spain, In their quest for pure poetry, the modernists displayed a dazzling technical virtuosity and technical perfection that revolutionized Spanish literature.

According to some critics, the publication of Jose Marti’s Ismaelillo (1882) marks the beginning of the movement. Others assert that, while Marti exerted enormous influence on Spanish-American writing and thought, his poetry is so individual that he cannot be considered even a precursor of modernism. There is no disagreement, however, as to the dominant role of Ruben Dario, whose work defined and stimulated modernism in America and in Spain. The publication of his Azul (1888) is sometimes said to signify the birth of modernism, and Prosas profanas (1896) is held to show modernism at its zenith. Other early modernist poets (often considered precursors of this movement) were Manuel Gutierrez Najera, Jose Ascuncion Silva, and Julian del Casal, the Cuban. Modernists of the later, post-1896 phase include Leopoldo Lugones, Jose Enrique Rodo, Julio Herrera y Reissig, Jose Santo Chocano, Amado Nervo, and Rufino Blanco Fombona.

In rebellion against romanticism, from which, however, they were not always able to free themselves, the modernists drew their initial inspiration and technique from European, particularly French, sources. From French Parnassians and symbolists, such as Gautier, Coppee, and Verlaine, came their pessimism and melancholy, their belief in art for art’s sake, their zeal for technical excellence and musicality, their love of exotic imagery and a vocabulary in which swans (one of Dario’s favorite symbols), peacocks, gems, and palaces abound. Another distinctive characteristic of the modernists was their unceasing experimentation with old and new verse forms, In their desire to escape from the sordidness of reality, the early modernists usually shunned political and native themes. Their successors, however, inspired no doubt by impassioned verses that Dario hurled at Theodore Roosevelt in his ode to Argentina, turned increasingly to American subjects, as exemplified by Chocano’s Alma America (1906). In prose writing, particularly the essay, modernismo fostered a new simplicity and elegance, the finest examples of which are to be found in the works of Rodo.”

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

Cultural Literacy: Allies

Given the rise of tyranny around the world, and given the dismal state of United States’ foreign policy, I think now is the time to post this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Allies in both World War I (opposed, in that conflict, to the Central Powers that arose in turn out of the Triple Alliance in Europe) and World War II (opposed, in that global war, to the Axis powers).

This might make a handy learning support for students with less than adequate funds of memory. Questions about the members of alliances are the kinds things that pop up on standardized tests.

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.

Two Independent Research Projects on the Bloods and the Crips

Some time ago, I put up a series of independent research assignments I’d developed for students whom I sought to reach with differentiated instruction. This work had everything to do with motivating students by supplying them with high interest material.

However, I held back two from that original release of documents, to wit this independent research assignment on the Bloods as well as this one on the Crips. I can’t remember now why I didn’t throw them up with the rest, and that leads me to believe I had some misguided notions of propriety. So, let me say that one of the things that animated the development of these documents was the 2008 Independent Lens documentary Crips and Bloods: Made in America. The film does an excellent job of tracing the history of the Crips and the Bloods, explaining along the way the complex sociological and economic forces that move young men to join gangs.

These assignments are structured to follow closely the Wikipedia articles about the Bloods and about the Crips.

Another thing that moved the creation of these documents was the fact that I was working with some students who were themselves either considering joining either the Crips or the Bloods, were already involved, or had family members involved in either group. In any case, if one lives or works (or both) in a tough neighborhood in one of New York City’s Five Boroughs, there is a good chance one sees members of the Crips or Bloods operating daily in one’s neighborhood.

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.