Tag Archives: united states history

Democracy

Democracy: An existential system in which words are more important than actions. Not a judgmental system.

Democracy is not intended to be efficient, linear, logical, cheap, the source of absolute truth, manned by angels, saints or virgins, profitable, the justification for any particular economic system, a simple matter of majority rule or for that matter a simple matter of majorities. Nor is it an administrative procedure, patriotic, a reflection of tribalism, a passive servant of either law or regulation, elegant or particularly charming.

Democracy is the only system capable of reflecting the humanist principle of equilibrium or balance, The key to its secret is the involvement of the citizen.

Excerpted from: Saul, John Ralston.The Doubter’s Companion. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Cultural Literacy: Fascism

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on fascism. This is a full-page worksheet with a seven-sentence reading (a couple of which could easily be broken up) and nine comprehension questions.

Fascism, as you may know, is a notoriously slippery concept, but is nonetheless thrown around casually–I myself once (fortunately, before I was of voting age) ludicrously characterized President Jimmy Carter as a fascist. I studied authoritarian political movements as an undergraduate and can report that even experts on fascism–e.g. Walter Laqueur and George Mosse–were careful with the term and were circumspect about using the word casually. Indeed, Professor Mosse in particular, with whose work I am quite familiar, grappled for much of his career with his agnosticism about fascism and fascist movements.

All of this is a long way of saying that while this worksheet is far from perfect, it is a decent general introduction to some of the cultural, economic, and political aspects of fascism. As much as the seven sentences of text in this document expose, they are notable for the questions they leave unanswered and therefore arouse. In fact, this may be a good document for starting students’ questioning of the conceptual elements of fascism (trust me, they are wide-ranging, disparate, and frequently just plain crazy).

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.

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin: (1942-2018) U.S. popular singer. Her family moved from Memphis to Detroit when she was 2. Her father, C.L. Franklin, was a well-known revivalist preacher; his church and home were visited by such luminaries as Aretha’s aunt Clara Ward, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, and Dinah Washington. She made her first recording at 12. At first she performed only on the gospel and ‘chitlin’ circuits, but in 1967 her powerful and fervent voice took the country by storm in a string of songs including “I Never Loved a Man,” “Respect,” “Chain of Fools,” “Think,” and “Natural Woman.” Her later albums include Amazing Grace (1972), Sparkle (1976), Who’s Zoomin’ Who (1985), and One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism (1989). She was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, 24 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 4

Here is the fourth and final lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit I wrote earlier this year. This lesson opens with this short reading with three comprehension questions on the concept of “a seat at the table,” i.e. joining in decision-making processes, particularly where those decisions concern oneself. The mainstay of this lesson is this reflection and assessment guide for discussion and note-taking at the end of this unit.

Because this is it. You now have access to all four lessons in this unit. If you expand this, or otherwise change it, I would be very interested in hearing what you did. I wrote this unit quickly to capitalize on student interest (Summer of Soul won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 94th Academy Awards in 2022). Even as I presented the unit, I recognized that there is a lot of room to expand and improve 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.

The Algonquin Wits: Dorothy Parker Eavesdrops

“Sitting next a table of visiting Midwestern governors in a New York nightclub, Mrs. Parker summed up their conversation: ‘Sounds like over-written Sinclair Lewis.’”

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

Cross of Gold Speech

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold speech,” delivered to the audience at the 1896 national convention of the Democratic Party. Bryan is often used as a metaphor for the 19th-century American Populist movement–known as the People’s Party–and indeed the party nominated Bryan as its candidate in the 1896 presidential election.

The speech itself is both a representative ideological screed of populism, but also one of the classic pieces of American rhetoric. Bryan was a gasbag, so this speech is a stem-winder. As an illustration of certain tendencies in American political discourse, this speech is nonpareil.

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.

Book of Answers: Sam Spade’s Partner

“What was the name of Sam Spade’s partner in Dashiell Hammett’s (1930) The Maltese Falcon? Miles Archer. He was killed early in the novel by Brigid O’Shaughnessey.”

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

Bessie Smith

“Bessie Smith: (originally Elizabeth) U.S. blues and jazz singer, one of the most distinctive stylists of classic blues and the most successful black entertainer of her time. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Smith sang popular songs as well as blues on the minstrel and vaudeville stage. She began recording in 1923 and appeared in the 1929 film St. Louis Blues. Her interpretations represent the fully realized tradition of the rural folk tradition of the blues to its urbane structure and expressiveness. A bold, supremely confident artist with a powerful voice and precise diction, she became known as ‘Empress of the Blues.’ She died from injuries sustained in a car crash, having apparently been refused treatment for reasons of racial prejudice.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

The Weekly Text, 17 June 2022: Summer of Soul Lesson 3

If you’ve been following along for the past couple of Fridays, then here is the third lesson plan of the Summer of Soul unit I wrote last spring to take advantage of high interest in that superb documentary and the events it records and assesses. To carry out this lesson, the third of four, I begin with this short reading with three comprehension questions on the Baby Boomer generation as a do-now exercise. The primary work of this lesson involves this truncated reading on Woodstock and its accompanying discussion guide and note-taking worksheet.

If you would prefer longer-form materials on Woodstock, you’ll find those here. Otherwise, that’s it for another week.

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 Thin Man

The Thin Man: A comedy-mystery film (1934), starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as the ever-bantering and happily tippling husband-and-wife team Nick and Nora Charles, who, with the aid of their wire-haired terrier Asta, investigate the disappearance of the tall, eccentric inventor Clyde Wynant (Edward Ellis), who is the ‘Thin Man’ of the title. The screenwriters Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich based their sparkling script on the novel The Thin Man (1932) by Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961), who is said to have based the wisecracking and mutual teasing of Nick and Nora on his own relationship with the playwright Lillian Hellman (1905-84). There were several more Thin Man films, generally less successful than the first.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.