Napoleon thought that the port at Antwerp was “a pistol aimed at the head” of England. Likewise, the information revolution is also a pistol, aimed at the core content of the high school survey course in US History.
While waiting for the start of a NJ DOE presentation on the High School redesign project, I’ve been enjoying the early morning silence of Kean University’s student center. Having learned to steer clear of the Route 78 beast by commuting early, I’m using the extra time to wrestle with my school’s US History I content survey results. Social Studies teachers poured over lists of names, dates, events, people and laws, and ranked them on a 1 to 5 scale, weighing their importance to the curriculum. Ultimately, we’re going to have a “must understand ” content list for students and a “may include” content list for teachers. So I’m averaging the top two categories, organizing the items in categories and themes and compiling lists for every unit in the course. And, not expectedly, realizing how much I’ve forgotten in the process.
Perhaps is the deterioration of a middle-aged mind, but right there in the middle of the lists, I came to a horrible realization. I can’t remember a name!
I taught AP US History for years, and remember fondly the lesson that traced the first steps of the independence movement in the colonies because it started with a story. Lifting A.J. Langguth’s first chapter from his book, “Patriots”, I described the Superior Court of Massachusetts in Boston and the first test of a British law allowing customs officials to search and seize colonial property without a warrant. Langguth framed his explanation of the Writs of Assistance with the perspective of a young lawyer, John Adams, a spectator at the trial. Do the “Writs of Assistance” belong in the US History curriculum? How about the lawyer, who argued the case for the colonists? He made a passionate defense of liberty and said that a man should be safe in the “castle” of his home. Without a warrant and a reasonable suspicion of a crime, royal soldiers could not search homes and warehouses of law-abiding colonists. It’s a great way to start a discussion of the foundation of the independence movement. But wait…I can’t remember the name of the lawyer!
What the heck? What was his name?
I know he was overweight, but the only obese colonist I can remember at the moment is Henry Knox, who was busy selling books at the time of the trial, yet to rise to fame dragging captured British cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to the continental army at Boston.
But there’s hope. I’m in a university student center, the ghost-like “wireless network found” floated on the screen when I logged in. My ignorance should only last a second. Opening FireFox, throwing “Writ of Assistance wiki” in to the search box and clicking twice should only take about five seconds.
Curses! Kean only allows people with accounts to use their wireless.
My ignorance will last as long as my beleaguered brain decays and as long as I am “disconnected”.
Here the point. Once we get beyond the 1840 railroad internet infrastructure to get to “all access, everywhere, all the time” remembering such facts won’t be important. Most of the people who are fine democratic citizens and contribute much to our society are ignorant of the facts we insist students remember in high school. The information revolution proves that process obsolete.
Note to former students reading thus stuff – go ahead and laugh at me. Live it up.
Meanwhile, I’ll wait for that delicious “ah-ha” moment, when I get reconnected to the cloud and reacquainted with a name.