Re-membering a Lakeside Landscape in Japan

      No Comments on Re-membering a Lakeside Landscape in Japan

PICT7029

Sagami Lake is an artificial lake located about 50 kilometers west of central Tokyo, and is an important part of the Sagami River system.  There are a number of landscapes within this river system that blur the distinctions between the rural and industrial, natural and artificial Japan.  Maybe landscape is not the word because the concrete, steel, and greenery come together in a particular kind of way.

There is nothing sublime about Sagami Lake.  It is too jagged for that.  The area around Sagami Lake, which is both a lake and a town, fits together like a jigsaw, pieced together by the crisscrossing patterns of steel bridges, concrete roads, and seasonal shops. Continue reading

The Politics of Textbooks: How Texas Wants to Educate the Nation

By Mike Green
To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. – Edward R. Murrow
The recent changes to the ‘standards’ for history textbooks in Texas go right to the heart of academics and their legitimacy as historians.  The matter first came to my attention when the New York Times ran a story about the issue in mid-March.
These changes call into question the integrity of historians who write textbooks for publishers.  As the New York Times illustrates, these proposed changes, which will be voted on later this month, are not just about the inclusion of additional historical facts.  If that were the case, there would not be so much outrage on the part of the academic community.
Instead, the conservative majority on the State Board of Education (SBOE) is selectively excluding important bits of historical fact in an attempt to shape history to fit their own ideologies. David Bradley, the chair of the SBOE’s School Finance/Permanent School Fund committee, told the New York Times that he rejects “the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state” and that he would give $1,000 to charity in anyone could find this in the American Constitution.
Apparently Mr. Bradley was absent the day the Bill of Rights was discussed when he was in school.  Both the 6th article and the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution specifically address the role of religion in the operation of government. At least since Gitlow v. New York, the 1st Amendment has been applied to the states through the 14th Amendment.
These components of the Constitution prevent the government from establishing a dominant religion.   In 1962 Engle v. Vitale firmly illustrated that their was a wall of separation between church and state.   Referring to the decision, Justice Black stated, “In 1785-1786, those opposed to the established Church, led by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson…opposed all religious establishments by law on grounds of principle… [and believed that]… all religious groups were placed on an equal footing so far as the State was concerned.”
Don McLeroy, a former chair of the SBOE, took another stance in an interview with PBS.  He told the public broadcaster: “I would like to see the importance of religion to make sure that the role it played in the founding of our country and the acknowledgment of the founders’ dependence upon God that they wrote into the documents to make sure that that’s clearly presented.” In this spirit, the SBOE has sought to eliminate references to Jefferson, the separation of church and state, and the role of Mexican-Americans in the Civil Rights Movement.
The acts by the SBOE call into question the integrity of historians.  If historians in both Canada and the United States do not begin to address this issue we are in danger of losing our legitimacy.
The issue arising out of this revision of the SBOE curriculum is the relationship between school boards and the publishing world.  Since Texas is the second largest textbook buyer in the United States, publishers fall all over themselves to obtain the contract to publish approved textbooks.  Furthermore, because the publisher publishes so many of these books they discount the price for other schools who may be using them unaware of the changes imposed by the SBOE.
The SBOE is on track to accept these new standards by the end of this week.  However, outrage continues to grow in several sectors.  First, the California Senate has introduced a bill that will not allow schools to use textbooks published according to SBOE standards. Second, academics are beginning to prepare for a possible boycott of publishers who agree to publish according to these standards.  The Thomas Jefferson Movement has emerged as a coalition of teachers and academics who are proposing to counter these changes.  I have also proposed boycotting publishers who abide by the “standards” of the SBOE on my own blog.
Texas’s market share means that many other states also use Texas textbooks.  This is the real heart of the problem.  Considering the fact that of the almost 70% of high school graduates who go to college, only 25% will actually finish. This means that for many this will be the only history that they will receive.

By Mike Green

To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. – Edward R. Murrow

The recent changes to the ‘standards’ for history textbooks in Texas go right to the heart of academics and their legitimacy as historians.  The matter first came to my attention when the New York Times ran a story about the issue in mid-March.

These changes call into question the integrity of historians who write textbooks for publishers.  As the New York Times illustrates, these proposed changes, which will be voted on later this month, are not just about the inclusion of additional historical facts.  If that were the case, there would not be so much outrage on the part of the academic community.

Instead, the conservative majority on the State Board of Education (SBOE) is selectively excluding important bits of historical fact in an attempt to shape history to fit their own ideologies. David Bradley, the chair of the SBOE’s School Finance/Permanent School Fund committee, told the New York Times that he rejects “the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state” and that he would give $1,000 to charity in anyone could find this in the American Constitution. Continue reading

“Tell me the story” – Thinking with History, Policy, and the Goldberg Rule

Alix Green

In my role as an adviser on policy for a university Vice-Chancellor, the UK equivalent of President, perhaps my most important job is to ask our leader to ‘tell me the story’ when he’s consulting me on some issue or another.  It seems to me that universities, along with many public sector institutions, are not always able, or inclined, to ‘think with history’ when they’re making the major policy decisions that shape their future.  That’s not to say that universities don’t have a powerful sense of history; they do.  But so often it seems a burden.  History weighs heavy on the shoulders of university leaders, who feel their capacity for action limited by the accumulation of previous decisions that have kept their institutions on a steady course to the present time.  Even at a new university like mine, which gained its status as a result of 1992 Further and Higher Education Act, history can be problematic for leaders.  As a former Polytechnic, my institution had a history to overcome – or at least to integrate into a new future  – as it strived to find its place in an expanded HE sector. Continue reading

Conversation, Contradiction and Conflict in ‘The Historical Present’

A couple of days ago Christopher Moore posted British historian Richard Overy’sThe Historical Present” from The Times Higher Education on his blog.  This short reflection captured my attention because of the dichotomy that Overy makes between academic, policy-oriented and popular histories.   Splitting history up into these categories misrepresents the value and purpose of practicing history and fails to acknowledge many of the contributions that shape the discipline as a whole. Continue reading

Want to Write With Us? We’re Looking for More Bloggers!

First posted on April 16th, 2010.

The ActiveHistory.ca team is looking for more contributors for our collaborative blog on how history and historians actively engage communities and contribute to current debates.  This blog has a growing readership – last month we had over 2,000 distinct visitors – and it provides potential contributors the opportunity to reach a wider audience. If you’re interested in contributing, please read more to find out what we’re looking for! Continue reading

Active History Announcements: May 16-22

      No Comments on Active History Announcements: May 16-22

The following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click on ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1)  Approaching the Past: A series connecting people teaching history – Ruth Sandwell keynote speaker

2) Active History lunch at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association – Montreal, May 30

3) Sean Mills, Karen Dubinsky, and David Austin book launch – Montreal, May 31

4) Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre (CIHC): Afternoon of History and Heritage in Brantford – June 12th

5) Digest of this week’s blog posts

If you have something to announce to the Active History community please contact info (at) activehistory.ca. Continue reading

Bill C-268, Human Trafficking and Slavery in Canada Past and Present

By Karlee Sapoznik

DOJ Human TraffickingAs a former British colony, Canada abolished the slave trade over 200 years ago. However, slavery was certainly not eradicated with the legal abolition of the slave trade. Canadians still buy and sell human beings. In fact, Canada is currently a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. According to the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report on Canada: Continue reading

History Variations

      1 Comment on History Variations

by Lani Russwurm

The internet has the potential to enrich and increase our interactions with the past simply through making historical sources widely available and by making the tools to produce and disseminate history accessible to anyone. This means the historian’s role is becoming less that of a gatekeeper of the past as traditional print-based published histories increasingly co-exist with historical interpretations, narratives, memories, and source material posted by the likes of bloggers and artists.

Screen capture of Roy Arden's blog

Screen capture of Roy Arden's blog

One example is artist Roy Arden’s blog, Under the Sun, a seemingly random collection of images and YouTube videos. I discovered Arden’s blog after he linked images I used in posts on my own history blog about a 1972 riot at a Rolling Stones concert and from the Battle of Ballantyne Pier, a riot during the 1935 waterfront strike in Vancouver. For me, providing context for the images is what drives many of my blog posts, so I was struck by Arden’s use of the same images with a complete absence of context, giving the viewer a relatively unmediated view of the same history. Scrolling through the rest of his blog, I found a lot of provocative historical photographs and ephemera that make it easier to appreciate just how potent such images can be on their own terms. Continue reading

A Class Project for the People

      No Comments on A Class Project for the People

Atlas it's time for your bathAs an undergraduate history student, I wrote a lot of essays and exams meant only for my professor’s eyes. Despite the tremendous effort that went into crafting these works, they now exist only as PDFs on my personal computer where I secretly hope some future historian will find them and be fascinated by my analysis of the Chanak Affair or Red Clydeside. The whole concept of creating something useful was foreign to me.

While working with NiCHE this past year, I was fortunate enough to be involved with a group of students working towards a useful endeavour in the name of history. The group project involved the students of the UWO M.A. Public History program, who created three environmental history lesson plans based on the Ontario curriculum for grades 3, 4 and 6. Unlike my undergraduate essays, these students had to come up with innovative ways to engage elementary school students with history while also making sure the package was attractive for teachers. Continue reading

Walking History: Jane’s Walk in Toronto and Vancouver

68 cities recently took part in Jane’s Walk, an annual weekend of free walking tours honouring the vision of urbanist Jane Jacobs.  Ordinary people, Jacobs argued, can learn about and improve their surroundings by observing their daily environments at street level.  These walks also bring out the histories of place through members of the local community – walk leaders and participants.  Two members of ActiveHistory.ca partook in walks in different Canadian locales and have reflected on their experiences.  Jay Young followed a buried creek in one of Toronto’s vibrant neighbourhoods, while Ian Milligan walked through Vancouver’s Lower East Side.

Continue reading