Wednesday, December 5, 2018

African Americans in the post Civil War South

Image result for emmett till coffinIn August of 1955, fourteen year old Emmett Till went to visit his uncle and cousins in Mississippi. He was warned before he went there to "behave." This meant, of course, behaving like a second class citizen in the segregated Southern states. He was told not to look at white people in the eye, or act forward, or draw attention to himself in any way.

The facts are unclear, but Emmett may have playfully whistled at a white woman in a grocery store while he shopped with his cousins. Two days later, he was pulled from his bed and taken away, where he was beaten, mutilated and shot. His body was pulled from the Tallahassee River a few days later, maimed beyond recognition.

Emmett Till's brutal murder is to the Civil Rights Movement as Pearl Harbor was to the start of World War II. His body was returned to Chicago for burial. His mother demanded that the coffin be open so she could see for herself what had been done to her son. She then said that she wanted the coffin open...so that the 50,000 mourners would also see the truth of the segregated South.

A few months later, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. When asked, years later, what she was thinking at that moment, she said: I was thinking about that boy, Emmett Till, and I just couldn't go back.

Students in 9th grade and 10th grade cover the era after the Civil War, when lynching, murder and  terrorism of African Americans was not uncommon.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Immigration to America


Image result for the circuit francisco jimenez


Image result for the circuit francisco jimenez


The great wave of immigration came to America through Ellis Island from 1892 through the 1950s.  Though Ellis Island is now closed, the port of entry for most Americans is through our southern and northern borders, or in an international airport.

When I moved to Canada in 1984, I also went through the immigration process.  I was first given a green card, then I became a landed immigrant, and finally, because I was a school teacher, it was required that I obtain Canadian Citizenship after I taught in the schools for seven years.  I studied very hard for my citizenship exam.  Since 2001, I returned to the United States, but I still hold dual citizenship though the United States only recognizes by birth citizenship.  I was born in Salem, Oregon.

Students  in 9th grade will be reading a book through the first week of December called the Circuit.  It is by Francisco Jimenez and it is about a family of Mexican migrant workers and the obstacles they face as they work in the United States.  It is an outstanding book, a true story, and is an opportunity for students to gain empathy about others' experiences when they journey to a new country.  The family in the book comes to America "illegally" but we will learn how many changes have been made since then.  This book is not a political statement by me, as the teacher, but a window into many challenges that people face when they come to a new country.  Parents are welcome to ask for a copy to read---we have a few copies available for them to check out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Crush your enemies....

Image result for abraham parnassus

In the time of the Robber Barons, one man, Andrew Carnegie, was the closest associated with Vertical Integration.    To ensure that Carnegie Steel made the maximum amount of profits, he owned the trains, ships, iron ore fields, and coal fields for his tremendous steel works.

Carnegie later gave money to communities around the world for libraries.  As of October, 2018, there are 17 Carnegie libraries in Oregon communities---that is, the libraries are still housed in the buildings that Carnegie helped to pay for.  Salem, Oregon received money from the Carnegie library grants, which helped to pay for half of our library (the community had to pay the rest).

Andrew Carnegie was just one of the Robber Barons---who liked to be called Captains of Industry, instead.  The names Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Vanderbilt are other famous families of this era.  As an introduction to this era, students viewed a shortened version of the recent Saturday Night Live skit, where Abraham Parnassus, an oil baron, teaches the students to Crush their Enemies during Career Day.  I was a bit surprised to hear the same words used in the brief Rockefeller film clip the students viewed as we were taking notes.    Some of the students did a pretty good imitation of Mr. Parnassus words of advice, CRUSH your ENEMIES, when he described how he got ahead in the oil industry. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lord Shaftesbury and the young miners.


Ninth grade students are now learning about the early Industrial Revolution and the effect it had on children.  They have also viewed a film about a young girl, Lyddie, who lived and worked in an Industrial Revolution Cotton Mill town.

Students also learned about the good earl, Lord Shaftesbury, who chose to use his background of wealth and education to make conditions better for children and their families in England during the middle of the 19th century.  Lord Shaftesbury's tireless reforms changed history.

This etching shows Lord Shaftesbury going down into the mines himself.  He saw the young boys and their mistreatment and spoke about it in Parliament.  There, no one could question him about his information--for he had been in the mines and seen the abuse of young people with his own eyes.  His testimony helped to contribute to the passing of important reform legislation, including the Mines Act of 1842.

One of his biographers, Georgina Battiscombe, has claimed that "No man has in fact ever done more to lessen the extent of human misery or to add to the sum total of human happiness

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Welcome Students

Image result for nikko


Mrs. Olsen is back at Sprague, ready and willing to teach 189 Freshman students history.

Mrs. Olsen is a graduate of Sprague High School, and though she looks about 29, she can remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the Moon landing.  That's a lot of history since then.

For the past several years, after teaching AP classes, she has been devoting herself to Freshman classes.   You will learn a lot of things this coming year and you should find the class very interesting.

This summer, she visited Japan for several weeks.  She was hoping to become a zombie, because she is fond of Japanese zombie films, but that did not happen.  No one bit her.  Instead, she visited several Japanese schools and went to Kyoto and Nikko where she saw the shrine in the picture above.  She also brought back a lot of incense, so her house now smells like a shrine and her two dogs and two cats think that she is worshiping them.

She at a lot of Sushi and other things like entire fish, eyeballs and all.  It was a great experience.  We are fortunate to live in Oregon and enjoy the beautiful Sprague campus, surrounded by trees and parks.

I will be emailing parents and students every week or so just to keep them informed about what we are doing.  I know this will be a great year as usual!


We will start this year reading a great book about a boy growing up in a New York tenement called Finn Reardon.  This will be one of many books we will read this year.  I'm looking forward having a great year in my room, Room 161.

Monday, June 11, 2018

End of the year and have a great summer



Well, it's a wrap for the summer, with students finishing their exams this week.  I hope that all my students have a great summer.  We finished with World War II and I warned all students to be careful if they run into any FUGO bombs while out hiking in the great Northwest Forests.   After learning about the people who were killed on May 7 1945 near Bly, Oregon, students are well aware that a FUGO bomb could still turn up...and if so, it would  be a remnant from when the Japanese sent over the bombs to start forest fires in the United States.

Mrs. Olsen will also be traveling this summer to Japan.  This has been on her bucket list for some time, so wish her luck.  If she doesn't come back, she could be killed by a bullet train, or a Japanese zombie, or better yet, she will get lost in the forests of Mt. Fuji, and her restless spirit will haunt the tourists who visit there.   Hopefully, though, she will come back in one piece.

Image result for kyoto temples



 Japanese culture has always been of high interest to her, including the beautiful temples and shrines.  She will also visit some Japanese schools and some of their major businesses.   Ask her what her trip was like when you come back in the fall.

Most of all, thank you students for being such great kids!  You were a delight to teach.  If you miss Mrs. Olsen, you might want to take a trip out to the goodwill bins on Portland Rd, where she will be looking for treasures to share with her students next year.  You can grab some things for yourself, and also say hi and see how her summer is going.

Most of all, she has great hopes for her pumpkins.   This is the year she is convinced she will have an abundance of large pumpkins because of the amount of horse manure she has been hauling into her pumpkin patch.  If you thought she stunk near the end of the year...this could be the reason.  She'll be posting her pumpkins on instagram.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Hoover Dam

Before President Roosevelt took office in 1933, President Herbert Hoover was President during the critical early years of the Great Depression.

When I was growing up, my parents revered President Roosevelt.  However, I did know that President Hoover had grown up in Oregon, and was raised in Newberg where his home is still a visitor's center. 

One of the projects that began in the Hoover administration was Hoover dam, which was, at the time, the largest dam in the world.  It remains an engineering marvel. There was a controversy about the name:  though the original name was Boulder Dam, it became referred to as Hoover dam, in honor of the president who was in office at that time.  It was only in 1947 that the name Hoover dam was officially assigned to the dam, at it remains Hoover dam to this day.

Most of my students have not had an opportunity to visit it...and I only remember seeing it when I was six years old!  However, I guess the fact I remember it must have been a big deal!  I do remember the terrific height of the dam.  I was always terrified of heights. 

We were able to watch a video clip of Hoover Dam from the air, and it still looks spectacular!