Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Break

Wow...I hope by now all my students had a happy holiday. We finished up the last few weeks of the semester with this:

9th grade: Students continue to work on your Imperialism Poster. It will be due the first week when we get back. By the way, the Imperialism exam results were very strong across all three classes. Congratulations, guys!

11th grade: We were now entering the later stages of the Civil Rights Movement. Students will be learning about the Nation of Islam, Black Power, and Malcolm X. They were also given an opportunity to watch the films Malcolm X or Mississippi Burning for extra credit These are R rated films and cannot be shown in my classroom, but their historical content is excellent. Again, sorry about the R rating---history is often rated R.

European History: My students should be working on a French Revolution question packet, and questions 18-22 on the Industrial Revolution. They were also given a list of extra credit films--all excellent (none rated R).

See you in a week everyone!

Monday, December 13, 2010


Students in Advanced Placement European History are learning about the French Revolution. They were able to view a few excerpts from the movie, Marie Antoinette.

Marie Antoinette was a teenager when she left her home in Austria and traveled to France to marry the Dauphin (crown prince) of France. Because it was an arranged marriage, it was difficult for her, but she grew to have a close friendship with her husband. They would both die by guillotine during the French Revolution.

In the movie, the director, Sofia Copolla attempted to show the luxury of the court of Versailles. She even commissioned the famous pastry house, Laduree, to provide the pastries for some of the scenes. It was a perfect contrast to the wide-spread hunger that existed among the lower classes of the third estate in pre-revolutionary France.

Laduree remains very famous, and there are several branches in Paris. Just browsing the site is a feast!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wikileaks--THEN and NOW...

Leaked telegrams and cables are nothing new in European and American History. They have started wars and insulted national leaders...something that remains to be seen with the latest Wikileak releases.

This week, students in 9th grade are learning about the Spanish American War, when the Americans moved into Cuba and the Philippines.

One of the factors in the Spanish American war was a telegram from the Spanish Ambassador who said that the President of the United States, McKinley, was weak. This was seen as a personal insult. The telegram said : "...McKinley is weak and catering to the rabble and, besides, a low politician who desires to leave a door open to himself and to stand well with the jingos of his party."

The "leaking" of the De Lome letter was one of the factors that led to the Spanish American War.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In 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 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.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Week--All classes

Parent Teacher Interviews are from 12 to 8 pm. today. However, parents can contact me any time via e-mail. Also, all parents should, by now, have the intouch pass number to keep on top of student's grades in all classes.

There is homework over the Thanksgiving break:

9th graders--your creative writing assignment number 2 is due next week.
11th graders--your creative writing assignment is due next week
AP Euro history: You must do the Enlightenment readings and chart on back. This is due when we get back.

Thanks, everyone, for being a super group of students during this fall semester. Have a good Thanksgiving and be prepared to work hard during December.

Mrs. Olsen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week of November 15th-19th

Florence Kelley (1859-1932) was one of the great woman reformers of the Progressive Era. She campaigned tirelessly for labor rights, including limits on child labor and women's working hours.

Even though she was born into a wealthy family, she learned from example. Her own father removed himself from his business so that he could become an abolitionist preacher.

Florence also had four other sisters--but none of her sisters survived childhood. She grew up the only surviving daughter and only had a distant memory of her small sisters who died young. Really, however, we should all claim "sisterhood" with Florence Kelley. Her whole life was devoted to helping others. She was a socialist who even corresponded with Engels. At this time, however, socialism did not have the negative conotations that it has today. Socialists were responsible for supporting political and judicial reforms that we would take for granted today. One of the cases she supported was Muller vs. Oregon. When Mr. Muller overworked his female employee, the State of Oregon fined him $10.00. He took his appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, where Justice Brandeis prepapared a long brief, based on studies that showed the harmful effects of long working hours on the female body. Mr. Muller lost....and soon other laws would support greater protections for women.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Veteran's Day--Remembrance Day

After teaching in Canada for 20 years, I came back and experienced my first American Veteran's day. Though I was born in Salem and attended Sprague, when I lived in Canada this was a day that was honored with respect and reverence.

For example, in almost every school there was an assembly about war and peace.

Almost everyone wore a fabric poppy to honor the soldiers who fell in the war. The Flanders poppies grew prolifically over the graves in the years just after the war. Of course, another Canadian also wrote the poem "In Flander's Fields."

The Canadians were also very proud of their victory along the Arras line in 1917 April 9th. This was the Battle of Vimy Ridge. I have been to the battlefield twice, and it is preserved as a park because the land was given to Canada for a memorial by France to honor the men who died there. Driving in the area of the Western Front is a bit sad, for just as there are fields of grain, there are also fields of graves. The Canadian graves have maple leafs on them. The memorial to the fallen soldiers is considered one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful of all the foreign monuments along the Western Front. The park still has the trenches and shell holes that are now covered in grass. A small flock of sheep is used to trim the grass as the undulations make it difficult for a traditional lawn mower.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Levellers, Diggers and Ranters....

England faced a civil war between the years 1642 and 1646. It was a war over three main issues, the power of Parliament vs. the King, and the friction between the Puritans and the Anglicans and Catholics, and the inequalities among the various social classes. The King of England, Charles I, was even executed in 1649.

All sorts of "groups" came out of the woodwork to exert their beliefs. If the world was turned upside down with the civil war, and the execution of the King, now was a chance for them to have their say.

There were the Levellers, whose ideas included the levelling of social differences....
and what about the Ranters and Seekers, who questioned everything in society.

The Quakers were another group that emerged during this time.

But my favorite group were the Diggers, who insisted on no private ownership of land. They were fed up with the large noble estates and wanted a more equitable land distribution.

Many of these groups had ideas that are termed "Christian Communism."

All these groups were a headache for Cromwell and he became the "tyrant" to control the government. He became the very thing he detested.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Polio epidemic of the 1950's

In the 1950's--but even in the years before, Polio, a disease that paralyzed the nervous system, was a terrible fear for parents of young children.

My second grade teacher was a victim of polio and so were some of my other teachers in junior high and college. I even had a distant cousin who was chosen as the March of Dimes poster girl one year in Utah. During the 1950's it was a race for scientists to find a vaccination. In this case it was Dr. Jonas Salk, and later Dr. Sabin whose efforts helped eliminate polio in American. When children are very young, they are given the polio vaccination, and boosters in the years to follow.

Some people were very unfortunate. For them, iron lungs were developed which would help them to breathe until they recovered and could breathe on their own. However, others remained in iron lungs the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

In European History, students are learning about the religious wars. Perhaps the most famous incident of the wars involved the religious wars in France. Henri of Navarre was in Paris to marry the beautiful French princess, Marguerite, or Margot. As a Protestant, Henri brought with him thousands of followers. The leader of the Huguenot nobles was Gaspard de Coligny. He was assassinated during the wedding week.

In order to "cover up" the assassination, Catherine de Medici ordered the murder of other leading Huguenots. They were in town...and this was an opportunity. Wholesale slaugher broke out, and in the next few days and weeks, thousands were killed.

In Paris, the bodies of ten thousand Huguenots lay stripped and murdered in the streets. This included men, women and children.

The film, Queen Margot, was made in the 1990's about this event. As you can imagine, it received an R rating. Yes, history is often R rated or even X rated.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Grandpa was a communist...

This week, students in 11th grade history learned about the McCarthy hearings and the Communist 'Witch hunts' of the early 1950's.

Many people had joined the communist party during the 1930's, including my own grandfather. There were Americans who felt let down by failure of the capitalist system which created the Great Depression.

For those in Hollywood who flirted with Communism, or went to "communist" meetings, their actions came back to haunt them. Hollywood was targeted as a hotbed of communist ideology.

Dalton Trumbo was one of the writers who was targeted. He was blacklisted, and would not receive credit for many of the screenplays he wrote. After 1989, when Communism fell, it was revealed that spying by Russian moles was more widespread than previously thought. Maybe McCarthy was right...but he was clearly wrong the way he went about fighting the perceived communist threats.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lewis Hine was one of the great photographers of the Progressive Era, when cities and communities tried to ameliorate the difficult working conditions facing working class Americans. He had a special interest in child labor, and his pictures are now considered "iconic," along with those of the WPA photographers. This doesn't mean that they are any less sad...for some children it meant a lost childhood.

The last years of his life were filled with professional struggles due to loss of government and corporate patronage. Nobody was interested in his work, past or present, and Lewis Hine was consigned to the same level of poverty as he had earlier recorded in his pictures. He died at age 66 on November 3, 1940 in New York.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One of my favorite true accounts from history is that of Dr. Semmelweis. My grandfather's first wife died after giving birth to my uncle Harold. She died of "childbirth" fever, a common cause of death in new mothers because of an infection that entered through the birth canal when the doctor, or midwife lacked proper sanitation.

There are famous cases of puerperal fever--Jane Seymour, Henry VIII's wife died shortly after giving birth to the future Edward VI.

Semmelweis discovered his germ theory in Vienna clinics for poor women--where he noticed the higher death rate for mothers who were attended by medical students who had just finished performing autopsies. They were accidentally passing germs from the cadavers to the new mothers! Those mothers who were helped by medical students who just had lectures had a much lower death rate. The students were told to wash their hands in a solution of carbolic acid and water, and the death rate dropped dramatically. This was further proof of "germs" that existed on hands. Semmelweiss went insane partly due to stress when few believe his ideas. HE died in 1847--but he is now referred to as the "Savior of Mothers."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Welcome Back....

The School year has begun and we are off to another great year in history...
Mrs. Olsen finally got the password back for the blog so I hope to have it updated each week.

For European History, students will be learning about the mysterious BOG people whose remains were discovered in the peat bogs of Northern Europe. Were they thrown in as punishment--or some sacrificial ritual--who knows, but the chemicals in the peat preserved the bodies so we can see astonishing details.

Beowulf and all the Northern legends reflected the geography of Europe, the dark, cold, wet forests. Even The Lord of the Rings was inspired by the ancient druidic ruins found in the British Isles and Normandy.