Tag Archives: united states history

“The Road Not Taken”

Here is a reading on Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” accompanied by its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. This is a rare two-page reading in the series of materials I have prepared using texts from The Intellectual Devotional series; it includes a full typescript of the text of the poem as well as a surprisingly thorough exegesis of the poem itself.

I only wrote this recently, but I did so because in the years that I worked in New York City, especially in the South Bronx, a number of paraeducators with whom I worked were students at Hostos Community College on 149th Street and the Grand Concourse, one of the Bronx’s great intersections. “The Road Not Taken” was at the time and may still be a staple of one or more of the American literature courses at the school. As this reading points out, this is a difficult poem to interpret; Frost himself said so (his remark is one of the “additional questions” on the reading and worksheet), calling the poem “tricky.” Even The Paris Review weighed in on the subject of “The Road Not Taken,” calling it “The Most Misread Poem in America.”

So, for students everywhere wrestling with these verses, this post may be useful to you.

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.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. on Reading the Classics

“Have I uttered the fundamental blasphemy, that once said sets the spirit free? The literature of the past is a bore—when one has said that frankly to oneself, then one can proceed to qualify and make exceptions.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

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

Cultural Literacy: Marbury v. Madison

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Marbury v. Madison, the United State Supreme Court’s legal decision that established the principle of judicial review–i.e. that the Court is the final arbiter of the constitutionality of any legislation drafted and passed in this republic.

This is a half-page worksheet with three questions that serves only as on introduction to this decision and its implications. I’m not an expert in United States history, but this is clearly a big conceptual moment in the history of this nation, so I must assume Marbury v. Madison merits–indeed requires– a much deeper dive than this document affords. For example, the Court, before Marbury v. Madison, had in 1796 exercised judicial review in the Hylton v. United States case–the adducing of which would help students understand a key concept in Supreme Court jurisprudence: stare decisis, also known as precedent.

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.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Here is a reading on F. Scott Fitzgerald along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

This is a biography of Fitzgerald. While it does include a paragraph on The Great Gatsby, this short reading supplies the author’s personal details. There are other materials on Fitzgerald and Gatsby (and more forthcoming) on this site–simply use the search bar in the upper-right of the home page.

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.

Book of Answers: Ernest Hemingway

“In what Hemingway short story does Nick Adams first appear? Hemingway’s alter ego, the central figure of In Our Time (1924), makes his first appearance in ‘Indian Camp.’”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

The Algonquin Wits: Heywood Broun

“On his first meeting with Ruth Hale, whom he later married, Broun took the young lady for a stroll in Central Park, where she became intrigued with a squirrel which had come begging for food. After listening to Miss Hale’s repeated regrets that she had no peanuts to give the squirrel, Broun remarked, ‘I can’t help you except to give him a nickel so he can go and buy his own.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

Edgar Allan Poe

Here is a reading on Edgar Allan Poe along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I believe he is taught at the secondary level. This is a good introduction to Poe’s biography and his bibliography.

Have you read Poe, beyond hearing James Earl Jones read “The Raven” on The Simpsons first “Treehouse of Horror” episode? I confess my own reading of Poe doesn’t extend very far beyond that. He is a very influential figure in the history of American letters. His first editions are some of the most sought after in the antiquarian book trade; his very first book, Tamerlane, which doesn’t even bear his name (the author is given as “A Bostonian) is a high spot in book collecting–it is known as the “black tulip” of American literature. The last copy that came up at auction sold for $662,000. His influence abroad may be even more pronounced, especially in France.

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.

Book of Answers: Upton Sinclair’s EPIC

“What did Upton Sinclair’s campaign slogan—EPIC—stand for? End Poverty in California.” It was the umbrella term for his democratic platform for his 1934 campaign as governor. This platform contained such programs as a graduated income tax and retirement pensions. Sinclair won the Democratic nomination, but after a bitter campaign lost to Republican candidate Frank Merriam.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Dashiell Hammett

On Memorial Day 2021, here is a reading on Dashiell Hammett along with its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

Why Samuel Dashiell Hammett, the author of numerous short stories and several novels, including The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man (from which a successful six-part film franchise, then a television series, was produced) on Memorial Day? I don’t think most people realize that Hammett served in the United States military twice, enlisting in 1918, then again in 1943. At the height of his literary fame, at the age of 48, he joined the army as a private and was stationed in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, where he edited The Adakian, the camp newspaper.

Hammett identified as a leftist, which made his voluntary service in the U.S. military even more baffling to his left-leaning social circle, including his lover, playwright Lillian Hellman. In fact, after the war, Hammett began teaching writing courses at the Jefferson School of Social Science, operated by the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) in New York City. Later, famously, Hammett was summoned to testify on his activities with the Civil Rights Congress, of which he was elected president in June of 1946. He inculpated himself in the group’s activities, but refused to name the other people involved in the organization. For his refusal to name names, this veteran of the United States Armed Services served a six-month jail sentence for contempt of court.

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.

The Weekly Text, May 14, 2021, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Week II: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on the Transcontinental Railroad in the United States

This week’s Text, in this blog’s ongoing observation of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021, is a reading on the transcontinental railroad in the United States along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

The utility of this reading lies–or would if I were teaching it–in the scant mention it makes of the labor force that built the first transcontinental railroad in this nation; indeed, the one mention of it is in the “Additional Facts” section, which I always include in the activity, but for many students by their own admission is an afterthought. The fact remains that without Chinese laborers, progress on building the first transcontinental railroad, a critical piece of infrastructure in the then rapidly expanding United States, would have proceeded at a much slower pace.

As many as 20,000 Chinese workers helped to build the railroad; hundreds, perhaps even a thousand, died in the effort. For their work, these Chinese railroad workers were rewarded with unfair labor practices, general bigotry, and in 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act.

So, perhaps it’s time to lift the general erasure of this piece of American history so that students in the United States are exposed to the full spectrum of facts, in context, about the contributions of Americans of Chinese descent to the wealth of this nation.

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.