Tag Archives: united states history

Cultural Literacy: Cesar Chavez

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Cesar Chavez, the legendary civil rights activist and labor leader. This is a full-page worksheet with a four-sentence reading and six comprehension questions. As I do with many civil rights leaders, I wonder what Cesar Chavez would make of the current economic and social situation in the United States.

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, 17 September 2021, Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 Week IV: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on the Gadsden Purchase

For the first Friday of Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, this week’s Text is a reading on the Gadsden Purchase with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. The Gadsden Purchase brought territory in the far southern reaches of the present-day Arizona and New Mexico into the United States, and was concluded in 1854, six years after the Mexican-American War, which was arguably an imperialist move by the United States to seize territory that rightfully belonged to Mexico.

To clear up any confusion (mostly my own, I guess), the Gadsden Purchase was concluded by Ambassador James Gadsden. He is not the namesake of the Gadsden Flag, which has become a symbol of far-right political movements in the United States, including the perpetrators of the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capital. Rather, the Gadsden Flag is named for its designer, Christopher Gadsden, who was, among other things, a delegate to the Continental Congress in colonial North America. Unsurprisingly, though, James Gadsden was the grandson of Christopher Gadsden.

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: Salvador Allende

Today begins Hispanic Heritage Month 2021. So let’s begin with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on Salvador Allende. This is a half-page worksheet with a four-sentence reading and four comprehension questions.

Allende was overthrown in a United States-sponsored coup in 1973. This was a particularly disgraceful moment in the history of United States foreign policy–though a similar event, the coup that overthrew President Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala, certainly competes. But so do so many other covert U.S. interventions in sovereign states around the world.

In fact, if you’re interested in learning more about how anti-communism informed a variety of political and social disasters across seven continents, I highly recommend Vincent Bevins’ recent book, The Jakarta Method. Mr. Bevins is a skilled journalist, and his book is a masterful synthesis of how United States foreign policy has distorted global development–and caused the deaths of over a million people guilty only of having a communitarian vision of a more just world.

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.

On the Road

Here is a reading on Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Kerouac, and particularly this novel, influenced me greatly as a very young man. I probably read On the Road five times, and The Dharma Bums another five.

I recently listened to some recording of William S. Burroughs on the streaming music service I use, and some of Kerouac’s recordings popped up as recommendations. So I listened, and realized that Jack Kerouac (and all the Beats, really) will probably always be in my life.

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.

Anarchism

Here is a reading on anarchism along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

This is a relatively short reading, but nonetheless a good general introduction to anarchist philosophy. It also effectively introduces some key figures in the history of anarchism, and allows that this was a political movement that often used violence as a means to achieve its ends. Because many of the teenagers I have served over the years have been what I guess I would call “natural anarchists,” certain students in my classes have taken a relatively high interest in this material.

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: The Grapes of Wrath

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on The Grapes of Wrath. This is a half-page worksheet with a three-sentence reading and three comprehension questions. In other words, a concise introduction to the novel’s basic plot, with an excursus on the origins of its title.

If you’re looking for something longer on this book, you’ll find it here. If you want something on John Steinbeck himself, here that is as well.

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.

Elvis Presley

Here is a reading on Elvis Presley along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. This has tended to be high-interest material for some students, so I have tagged it as such.

For other students, Elvis may be of no interest whatsoever. I’d just like to mention that he presents an interesting case study on cultural appropriation. Did you know “Hound Dog” (which has been recorded, according to the song’s Wikipedia page, “more than 250 times”) was originally a hit for Big Mama Thornton (which was answered, humorously, by Rufus Thomas in his song “Bear Cat“) and was a number one hit for her on the R&B charts? Of that the first song (and his first hit single) he ever recorded, at Sun Studio’s Memphis Recording Service, was “That’s All Right,” composed by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

In other words, this is a good reading to open a discussion about how white artists, especially in the 1950s, helped themselves to the work of black artists and got rich doing it. This is so well documented at this point that if you search “white artists not paying royalties to black artists” you will find a trove of information about this practice. Even gigantic media company BMG admits Black artists were cheated out of fair contracts and royalty payments. I salute Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy for calling for reparations to Black recording artists.

There is a lot to chew on here. The essential question here is something like “What is cultural appropriation and what is outright theft? What is the difference?”

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.

Robert Maynard Hutchins on the Caprice of the Law

“The law may…depend on what the judge has had for breakfast.”

Robert Maynard Hutchins

“The Autobiography of an Ex-Law Student,” American Law School Review, Apr. 1934

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

Cultural Literacy: George III

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on George III. This is a half-page worksheet with a reading of four sentences  and three short comprehension questions.

In other words, this is a short and basic, though, it is worth mentioning, well-balanced, introduction to the monarch whom Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, accused in that document of, among many other things, refusing “…his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

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.

Christopher Lasch

Christopher Lasch: (1932-1994) American social critic and cultural historian. Lasch, a professor of history, is best known for his penetrating analyses of contemporary American cultural and political phenomena. In The Culture of Narcissism (1979), which became an unlikely best-seller, Lasch examined the effects of an increasingly self-centered worldview on the family and the community. He consistently challenged contemporary Americans’ reliance on experts to determine standards of behavior and thought. The Minimal Self (1984) examines individual freedom and privacy in the light of the agencies for social control in our lives. Lasch’s last work, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1994), took its ironic title from Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses (1930) and argued that the greatest threat to democracy is now from a technocratic oligarchy at the top and not from revolution from below.

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