Caste and the Origins of Our Discontent

Caste and the Origins of Our Discontent

Isabel Wilkerson

Book Review by Hank Bitten, NJCSS Executive Director

I decided to read Caste in my search for new perspectives for information and resources to guide teachers with the teaching of ‘hard history’ about institutional racism in our country. From the events in my lifetime (since the civil rights movement) and more specifically the events of the past few years, I was skeptical of the claim of systemic racism in America. Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste convinced me that the problem is real and needs to be addressed by social studies teachers K-12.

My Personal Perspective

First, allow me to comment on my perspective which is reflected in my experiences as a white citizen and teacher.  My experience in Paterson as a teenager and student at Eastside High School in 1960 reflected fear of the black community which is based on two unprovoked attacks on public transportation and theft of our family’s car. My experience in college was positive and some of my closest friends were black. As a first-year teacher in New York City in 1969, when busing was instituted to integrate schools, my experience was also positive.  I introduced an African American history course and was the advisor to the Harambay or diversity club for students. My black students were very successful even though they were victims of harassment on their route to school on public transportation.  I even rode the B52 bus to school for several weeks during a time of increased racial tension in Queens to offer protection and security to students in our school. Many, perhaps all, of the black high school students I taught over 46 years, were successful in their dreams of attending the colleges of their choice and in their careers.

I recognize that my perspective is influenced by the zip codes of the districts where I taught, the ability level of the students in my classes, and the faculty in the schools and departments in the three districts where I taught. Your experience is likely different than mine and the events of the past four years have motivated me to reflect on what I taught, how I taught, what my students may have remembered, and the importance of teaching about the African American experience with empathy and problem-solving strategies in addition to historical documents and videos. My students learned history in teams and I listened to what they were telling me. I want to think that I contributed to their self-esteem and gave them confidence to make smart decisions in their interactions with people.

My Great Awakening

In my research for this book review, I participated in a Zoom with my New York City students from 45-50 years ago. Both black and white students commented that the racial issues of 2020 were greater than what they experienced in the 1970s. I have very little to offer about this observation except to say that the lessons I taught about Emmett Till, the Starpower simulation game I used to teach about privilege, the movie Roots, and the discussions motivated by current events in those years gave my students an understanding about the power of individuals to abuse, the inequalities of wealth, respecting authority, and the importance of education.

Caste is a valuable resource for teachers and students based on the voices of victims, citizens, leaders, and historical examples.  The information in each chapter is authentic and provided me with new insights into America’s past.  In my reading of Caste, I found myself repeatedly saying “I wish I had known this” or “why didn’t I know this?” The three resources below are reasons to read Caste and supplement the way you are likely teaching United States or World History.

The first resource is the metaphor of an old house.  I have used this metaphor to illustrate the need for reform or renovation in my teaching of the Protestant Reformation and progressive reforms in the 19th and 20th centuries.  I have also used the metaphor of tearing down an old house to teach the concept of revolution.  Isabel Wilkerson’s use of the metaphor reflects on the generations who occupy the house and the need for each occupant to look at what is behind the paint or wallpaper on the walls.

She uses this metaphor to present the idea of the architecture of caste or our place in society. Through this metaphor I have come to understand that the problem is deeper than race and it is the way all of us dehumanize individuals, use stereotypes, and forget that we are all the same. In Caste, we are confronted with the framework of joists, beams, and headers in the way the colonial era used labor, viewed property, and labeled indigenous populations, people from Africa and the Caribbean, and individuals from the Middle East, Far East, and South Asia by the color of their skin.

The new owners of this house in 1776 wanted to end the importation of slaves and offer liberty to those who fought in the American Revolution.  But the framework of caste, race, inequality, and social injustice remained as some of the occupants from the Enlightenment generation owned slaves and supported segregation.

The occupants of the antebellum generation were more radical in their renovations of this house through abolition and voices to end slavery. Unfortunately, others sold slaves breaking up families, captured fugitives, and exploited cheap labor.  After the Civil War, part of the house was replaced with constitutional amendments while the other half of the house added structural supports to the foundation of segregation, racial tension and lynching.

The 20th century generation, including the 30 years I was a teacher and administrator, saw significant renovations to the architecture of ‘this old house’ through the civil rights movement, educational opportunities, and Supreme Court decisions.  Unfortunately, the problems present since 1619 continued as black populations had the highest rates of high school dropouts, incarceration in prisons, divorce, health problems, lower life expectancy, targets of racial profiling, and the list continues.

Even with the appointment of black justices to the Supreme Court, the election of President Barack Obama, and notable leaders of color in every sector of the economy, the problems of race, injustice, violence, fear, and discrimination are continuing and escalating. Isabel Wilkerson explains this as evidence of the caste system in American society.

As a grandparent, I observed the questions our grandchildren asked in their discovery of people of color around the age of three. This is why education in the home and in pre-school is essential.  Parents and educators, siblings and peers, have the ability to rebuild ‘the house’ in this generation. 

My Epiphany Experience

The second resource is how the book presents the claim or argument of caste in America and the evidence used to present this argument. I had the opportunity to listen to Isabel Wilkerson in a presentation about Caste, and was intrigued by her response that she does not present an argument in her book but instead presents a ‘prayer’ for going forward. This is a powerful and inspiring statement!  However, my review found powerful examples documented in history, by historians, and from the news in support of her thesis that systemic racism in inherent in the way we think and behave.

Although there are excellent comparisons to Nazi Germany and India, it is the examples provided in the book that haunted me and convinced me that social injustice exists in schools, neighborhoods, government, business, and within me. Here are just a few examples:

Forest Whitaker, and Academy Award-winning actor walked into a gourmet deli in his Manhattan West Side neighborhood and was frisked in front of other customers.  The incident occurred in 2013. Whitaker said, “It’s a humiliating thing for someone to come and do that. It’s attempted disempowerment.” (p. 107)

“In 2015, the members of a black women’s book club were traveling by train on a wine tour of Napa Valley. When their laughter caused some white passengers to complain, the police were called and the women were told to leave the train.” (p.293 and The Guardian, September 13, 2015)

“In 2018, the owner of a Pennsylvania golf club ordered black women, who were members of the club, to leave because they were not moving along fast enough on the course.” The police were called. (p. 293 and CNN, April 25, 2018)

The unnamed college professor who picked up his mail in his luxury apartment opened one of his letters and was told by the man next to him in the elevator that “You’re supposed to be delivering the mail, not opening it.” (p. 213.)

At Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, a woman called campus police on a female graduate student who had fallen asleep while studying in a common area of her dormitory, Officers demanded her identification even after she unlocked the door to her room. She was told, “You’re in a Yale building and we need to make sure you belong here.” (p. 217)

Sgt. Isaac Woodard, Jr. was riding a Greyhound bus after he was honorably discharged in February 1946. The bus driver called the police at the next stop in Aiken, South Carolina where Sgt. Woodard, still in uniform, was arrested for disorderly conduct.  The police chief beat him with a billy club which left him blind. The NAACP brought this to the attention of President Truman who ordered an investigation.  The local prosecutor did not accept the testimony of Sgt. Whittaker and he was found guilty.  His defense attorney spoke racial epithets to his face. (p. 227-228)

“Offenders in Georgia were eleven times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim was white than if the victim was black.” (p. 241)

The examples of social injustice are carefully documented from multiple states and over three centuries.  It is painful to read these examples even though as a history teacher I am aware of the violence against Americans of color and women.  The evidence is overwhelming when presented in each chapter and on almost every page. Although I did not want to accept the claim that a caste system based on color is in the America where I live and teach, I became convinced and humbled by my guilt and silence that institutional racism is real.

My Call to Do Something

These factual observations opened my eyes to and ‘ugly America’ that I was not addressing with my circle of family and friends. The documented reports in Caste are not only discussion starters for a class in Sociology but a call for action to a five-alarm fire in K-12 social studies classes. As we learned in the 1968 Kerner Commission Report, we are living in two Americas.  Every history and social studies teacher and department needs to address the problem of injustice and unequal treatment in the curriculum. Behaviors are more likely changed by education than by legislation!

Conclusion

The first action I took while I was reading this book was to develop a comprehensive resource for teachers in middle school and high school on African Americans and Latinx Americans. The second step I took was to identify best practice curriculums on African American history. These are posted on the Links page of the NJCSS website, www.njcss.org  The third action I took was to write this book review and publish it. I am aware that I need to do more regarding human rights education, racial and social injustice, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ awareness, and teaching world religions.

In a webinar sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves, Isabel Wilkerson made the statement that she intended her book as a prayer for the future. I did not grasp the meaning of her statement until the Epilogue where she wrote, “Every spiritual tradition says love your neighbor as yourself not tolerate them.” (p. 387).  We must teach students how to live with courage in a dangerous world.

At the end of 2020, 335,000 Americans have died as a result of the Covid-19 virus. The death rate for African Americans is 2.7 times that of white Americans. What is not documented is the number of minorities, with health care insurance, who are not able to have a conversation with their doctor about how to get tested, the care they will be receiving, and the options for medications and treatment available to them.

Caste is written in 31 chapters over approximately 400 pages which allows for a debate in class or a faculty book discussion. This is a book that needs to be discussed and debated. Teachers are the catalyst for curriculum reform in social studies and English Language Arts. A thread is needed to weave the political, social and economic events between 1619 and the present with the horrific accounts of injustice, slavery, discrimination, and abuse.  The positive accounts of contributions to America’s stories of industrialization, democracy, service to country, are critical to ending the legacy of caste in America’s social and cultural history.

Perhaps this is best told through the voices and stories of natives, slaves, abolitionists, sharecroppers, immigrants, voters, athletes, entrepreneurs, and the families of victims. An interesting story that I enjoyed is the one on pp. 379-80. About Elsa and Albert Einstein opening their home to Marian Anderson who was denied a room at the Nassau Inn in Princeton, NJ after singing to an overflow crowd at the McCarter Theatre. For the Einstein’s this was not a one-time act of hospitality but an action of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. This is how educators change the stubborn behaviors of caste and privilege.

Censorship and the First Amendment by Richard F. Flaim

Introduction

Censorship and the First Amendment: Should We Shield Citizens from Unpopular Ideas, or Is ‘Sunshine the Best Disinfectant’?

by Richard F. Flaim

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in its entirety reads as follows:

            Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,

            or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of

            speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

            and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Throughout our history, issues related to freedom of speech, or of the press, have been debated, and both judicial rulings and various laws of Congress have attempted to further refine the manner in which these freedoms can be exercised or restricted.  Generally, the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have interpreted the Constitution in a manner that protects all kinds of speech, including speech that is commonly considered hate speech. 

With the advent of the Internet and tech platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, a virtual explosion of information and opinion-based comments inundate us on a daily basis.  While much of what appears on the Internet is useful, allowing instantaneous access to information on virtually any topic of interest to us, it also is a source for a great deal of unfiltered, false and misleading information as well as downright hateful and potentially dangerous ideas.  Unless citizens consciously apply the skills of critical thinking to what they access, their subsequent beliefs and actions can be guided by such false, misleading or hateful information.  

Recently, the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter were among those who were asked to appear before a committee of Congress to explain and defend their platforms’ policies regarding what is allowed on their sites.  These platforms have recently taken increasingly aggressive steps against posts that present false or misleading claims about the voting process, especially as they relate to voting-by-mail, which became, and continues to be, a politically-charged issue in regard to the 2020 Presidential election.  Warning labels were actually posted by the platforms on some remarks that they considered inflammatory.  On December 9, 2020, YouTube announced it would start removing newly updated material that falsely claims the outcome of the Presidential election was influenced by widespread voter fraud or errors. (Ortutay)

The law that applies to this issue is Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1996, which is currently being attacked by both Republicans and Democrats, but for different reasons.  Republicans claim that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are using the law to stifle the views of conservatives.   Democrats claim the platforms must assume more responsibility for false information, hate speech and other potentially harmful content that appear on their sites.  Both President Trump and President-Elect Biden believe the law should be removed and replaced with updated legislation.  House Democrats have introduced a bill that will hold the platforms liable if they amplify or recommend “harmful radicalizing content that leads to violence.”  In their defense, the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter expressed their support for the current law, and reminded the Congressional Committee that the law provides First Amendment protection of free speech on the Internet. (Bond)  In a small step toward dealing with the concerns, the Judiciary Committee in Congress passed a bill this year to amend Section 230, which would allow federal and state claims against social media platforms that allow content that sexually exploits children.  However, as of this writing, the politicization of the issue has prevented any agreement on more substantial modifications of the law.

In recent years, controversies have occurred over decisions at a relative handful of college campuses to “disinvite,” or prohibit, certain speakers from appearing because of serious disagreement with their ideas, which were deemed offensive or dangerous.  In some cases, such decisions followed demonstrations in support of and/or in opposition to the appearance of certain speakers.  Some have viewed this with deep concern about restricting freedom of expression at our centers of learning that historically have been open to all ideas.   Others fear that some ideas pose a danger to society and should be restricted.  Interestingly, “…according to a Knight Foundation survey, 78 percent of college students reported they favor an open learning environment that includes offensive views….the U.S. adult population as a whole lags well behind, with only 66 percent of adults favoring uninhibited discourse.”  (Bollinger) 

The debate regarding whether further limitations on the guaranteed right of free speech are necessary or wise will likely outlive us all.  Over the years, such debates have involved issues such as flag burning, athletes “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem, and the denial of the Holocaust.  At what point does one’s right of free speech violate the common good?  Who decides what constitutes the common good?  What are the dangers of allowing hate speech or hateful comments on the Internet or on college campuses?  What are the dangers of suppressing such expressions?  What are the limitations of suppressing free speech in a democracy?  The debate is a healthy one for our democracy, as it represents an ongoing process that has enabled our country to continue to refine the meaning of the First Amendment and its importance to all of us. 

These are questions that play out in real life.  One such instance occurred in the Vineland (NJ) Pubic Schools in 1994, while this writer was assistant superintendent of schools.  A community group approached the Vineland Board of Education with a request to rent the auditorium at Vineland High School for the purpose of having a controversial speaker, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, deliver an address to the public.  Muhammad was a provocative Black Nationalist leader who espoused hateful ideas toward Jews and the white establishment, among others.  He was a prominent leader in the Nation of Islam, and later the New Black Panther Party.  In a speech at Kean University in New Jersey in 1993, Muhammad made inflammatory remarks toward Jews, the Pope, and even advocated the murder of South African whites.  This address led to his removal from the Nation of Islam, and a resolution passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress condemning his speech.  Muhammad died of a brain aneurysm in 2001 at age 53.

The issue in the Vineland case was complicated by the fact that the Board President at the time was Harry Furman, the son of Holocaust Survivors, a former history teacher at Vineland High School, and a practicing attorney in the community.  Furman had to make the recommendation to the Board regarding whether to honor the community group’s request.  Furman had to consider a range of issues:  (1) the implications of the First Amendment right to free speech; (2) the existing Board policy that allowed the rental of the VHS auditorium to community groups; (3) the potential negative reaction from those in the community who supported the appearance of Muhammad, and from those who were vehemently opposed to the potentially hate-filled speech to be delivered in our community; and (4) whether the appearance of Muhammad could lead to violent confrontations.  What was the Board President to do?

Years later, Furman and this writer collaborated on the writing of the book The Hitler Legacy: A Dilemma of Hate Speech and Hate Crime in a Post-Holocaust World (N.J. Commission on Holocaust Education, 2008, available free on the Commission’s website. See below for address.)  The book, written for high school students, challenges students to confront the various dilemmas involved in reconciling the Constitutional right of free speech with the potential implications of allowing speech that is hateful and potentially dangerous.  In addition to numerous articles that relate to different aspects of these issues, we wrote a number of “moral dilemma stories” that challenge students to deal with some very difficult issues regarding free speech, issues that pose a conflict of values.  One such moral dilemma story was based upon Furman’s decision as Board President back in 1994.  It is entitled Up Against the First Amendment: The School Board President’s Dilemma (Flaim and Furman).  This dilemma story is presented below.  While the dilemma story is fictionalized, it is loosely based upon the Vineland example.  Thus, the names of individuals and school are not real. 

Up Against the First Amendment: The School Board President’s Dilemma

by Harry Furman and Richard F. Flaim

Harry Sendin is the President of the Seneca School Board of Education.  A former teacher and now an attorney, Sendin is sensitive to the needs of a very diverse school system in which almost one-half of the students are African-American and Latino.  The community is also the home of approximately 200 families of Survivors of the Holocaust.  Indeed, Sendin himself is the son of Holocaust Survivors.   As a practicing lawyer, he is aware of the potential legal implications of Board of Education actions. 

The Board maintains a policy that members of the public may rent a school facility such as an auditorium for the purpose of promoting a public or community interest.  Sendin learns that a local organization has rented the high school auditorium and has invited Khalid Abdul Muhammad to be the featured speaker for an evening event.  A fiery orator, Muhammad is known for his alleged anti-Semitic and anti-white positions as to the state of current American society.

After the invitation becomes public knowledge, some members of the community strongly suggest that what they describe as demagogues like Muhammad have no right to speak in the public schools.  They argue that every legal step should be taken to block Muhammad from appearing at Seneca High School.

The Board’s solicitor advises Sendin that the Board President alone makes the decision as to whether the Board should take any action about Muhammad’s visit.  Sendin knows that regardless of what he decides to do, there will be people who will be critical of his action or inaction.  Sendin speaks with other members of the school board and many other persons in the community, but he realizes that he alone must make this decision.

Questions for Discussion (Revised 12-13-20)

  1. Why is Mr. Sendin’s decision a difficult one?  What values come into conflict for him?  What choices are available to him?  What are the probable consequences of each of these choices?
  2. Should Sendin’s ethnic or religious heritage influence his decision?
  3. Should Sendin make this decision based upon the law, community response, personal interest or any other criteria?
  4. What should be the reaction of Muhammad if he is barred from speaking?  Does Sendin have any sound reason for doing this?  Is there any legal basis upon which Muhammad can be stopped from speaking?
  5. If the speaking engagement is not stopped, should Sendin and members of the school board attend the speech?  Why or why not?
  6. How should the community respond to the presence of such a speaker in their community?  What options are available?
  7. To protect the public peace at such an event, should the community provide additional security?  Who should be responsible for the cost of such security?
  8. Explain whether or not your advice to Sendin would have been different if the intended speaker:
  • was a neo-Nazi leader
  • a national leader of a LGBTQ rights organization?
  • a “right-to-life” speaker?
  • a “pro-choice” advocate?
  • a member of a militia group?
  • a proponent of Black Lives Matter?
  • a sympathizer with the Taliban?
  • an advocate of QAnon?

9. Do you believe there should be restrictions on the expression of potentially dangerous ideas, misinformation, or lies on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Google?  Explain.  If so, who should decide?  Could such restrictions be reconciled with the guarantees of freedom of speech in the First Amendment? 

10. Several countries in Western Europe have passed laws prohibiting the display of the Nazi swastika and prohibiting the expression of ideas that claim the Holocaust did not occur.  How do you view such prohibitions?

11.Would there be any change in your point of view if the issue is free speech involving a teacher in a public school classroom making anti-Jewish or anti-White comments similar to those of Muhammad?  Is there a difference between speech in a classroom and speech in the “public square”? (For a recent federal case, in part about speech in the classroom, see Ali v. Woodbridge Township School District.)

12. To what extent does the desire to constrain speech under certain circumstances intersect with what has recently been labeled as “cancel culture”?  Explore what is meant by this phrase and whether it has implications for the future expression of speech.

13. In 2014, Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State, was invited to be the commencement speaker at Rutgers University.  In the face of student protest, Rice declined the invitation.  Conduct research into the nature of the objections to having Rice serve as commencement speaker and whether there is any merit to such objections.

14. Underlying the willingness to constrain speech in a democratic society, whether on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or in the “public square”, is an assumption that many people are vulnerable to being manipulated by speech, and that such manipulation could have dire consequences.  This is a very different point of view than that expressed by Justice Louis Brandeis when he asserted in 1913 that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.  Discuss.

15. Research:  What restrictions on the freedom of speech have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, or enacted into law?  What rationales underlie such restrictions?  Explore several recent issues related to the guarantee of freedom of speech and discuss how they are being resolved. 

————————————————–

Furman’s Actual Decision, and Concluding Comments

As stated above, this dilemma story is loosely based upon the appearance of Khalid Abdul Muhammad at Vineland (NJ) High School in 1994, and co-author Harry Furman’s own involvement in the dilemma.   Furman’s decision was to allow Muhammad to speak, and he and several other members of the Board of Education attended the event.  While Muhammad’s speech was typical of his hate-filled blasts, there were no incidents before, during or after his appearance.  Furman based his decision on numerous factors:  (1) the Constitutional guarantee of free speech; (2) the Board policy that provided for the rental of school facilities by community groups which, if an exception were made for this particular community group, would have been deemed discriminatory; (3) his personal belief that in a democratic society, even unpopular ideas should be open for discussion.

In discussing issues related to free speech, Furman has often quoted the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis who, in defense of the protection of even hateful speech, proclaimed “…sunshine is the best disinfectant.”  Brandeis believed that if we prohibit the expression of hateful speech, such views would simply go “underground” and fester out of public view, making it more difficult for citizens to become aware of them and work to challenge such views.  The guarantee of free speech, even that which is unpopular or hateful, makes it incumbent upon all citizens to be critical consumers of the explosion of information and misinformation that bombards us daily.  In the months and years ahead, citizens’ application of the skills of critical thinking may very well help determine the degree to which our democracy will either thrive, or decline.

Sources:

Bollinger, Lee C.  “Free Speech on Campus Is Doing Just Fine, Thank You.”  The Atlantic. June 12, 2019.

Bond, Shannon. “Day Before Election, Tech CEOs Defend Themselves from GOP Accusations of Censorship.”  NPR. October 18, 2020. https://www.npr.org/2020/928702931/days-before-the-election-tech-Ceos-defend-themselves-from-accusations-of-censorship  

Flaim, Richard F. and Harry Furman, Co-Eds.  The Hitler Legacy: A Dilemma of Hate Speech and Hate Crime in a Post-Holocaust World.  N.J. Commission on Holocaust Education, Trenton, NJ. 2008.  (Available free viewing: https://www.nj.gov/education/holocaust)

Ortutay, Barbara.  “Weeks after election, YouTube cracks down on misinformation.” Associated Press. December 9, 2020. https://apnews.com/article/youtube-election-misinformation- removal-74ca3738e2774c9a4cf8fbd1e9771of

About the Authors

Richard F. Flaim is a Past-President of NJ Council for the Social Studies; former Executive Director of the N.J. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; and retired teacher of history, Social Studies Supervisor, and  Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in the Vineland (NJ) Public Schools.  He is co-editor of The Hitler Legacy: A Dilemma of Hate Speech and Hate Crime in a Post-Holocaust World; and The Holocaust and Genocide: A Search for Conscience.  He served as Chairman of the Curriculum and Education Committee of the N.J. Commission on Holocaust Education.

Harry Furman is a practicing attorney in Vineland, NJ; former teacher of history in the Vineland Public Schools; Part Time Lecturer (PTL) at Rutgers University; Editor-in-Chief of The Holocaust and Genocide: A Search for Conscience; and co-editor of The Hitler Legacy: A Dilemma of Hate Speech and Hate Crime in a Post-Holocaust World.  He serves as Chairman of the South Jersey Holocaust Coalition, and has spoken on topics related to the Holocaust and genocide and related issues of conscience throughout the United States and in Israel. He is a past member of the N.J. Commission on Holocaust Education.

December 2020

Academic Literacy – The Conclusion

Conclusion

Dr. Harry Stein, Manhattan College

     Academic Literacy is not only an idea it is a series of social studies teaching and learning activities for our classrooms, assignments, and evaluations.  We need to link these activities to four other mandated ideas that affect teachers and students.  These are school district mandated planning procedures, the mandated observation and evaluation of teachers, required teacher professional development, and the general philosophies that guide education in the fifty states and 12,000 public school districts.

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Illustration #1 – Weekly Academic Literacy Chart

     Illustration #1 is a weekly Academic Literacy Planning chart.  It is a supplement to normal district plans that call for the identification of State standards, content teaching/learning objectives, selection of materials, and assessment.

     This planning chart identifies the four major elements in Academic Literacy, gathering and organizing information (I and II) critical thinking (III and IV) memory (V) and Writing (VI).  Using the Activities Handbook teachers can identify which activities they might use as students interact with content materials.

      At the bottom of the chart is a section showing how social studies teachers might coordinate with other faculty members.  Some students also go the remedial reading and writing teachers. NCLB, NO Child Left Behind or Title I) staff.  Some go to ELL staff, English language literacy.  If they know what content is being taught in a social studies class they can find similar content and use it for their skill objectives.  The inclass support teacher is assigned to be with special education students mainstreamed in a social studies class.

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Illustration #2 – Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching Theory

      Illustration #2 shows the commonly used Danielson theory for teacher observation and evaluation.  Academic Literacy activities are part of Domain 3 Instruction.  

      Illustration #3 is a framework for creating a permanent professional learning community in a school or district.

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Illustration #3 – Professional learning Communities in Schools

      Finally, Academic Literacy is always a tool in carrying out an educational belief.  The Aims of Education thinking of Eugene Maleska offers a wide variety of choices.    

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Illustration #3 – Framework for Professional Learning Communities in Schools
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Aims of Education
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How Ike Led by Susan Eisenhower

How Ike Led
The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions

By Susan Eisenhower
Reviewed by Hank Bitten

Having taught 20th century United States’ history for over 30 years, I regret to say that the Eisenhower administration is overshadowed by thematic events relating to the Cold War and civil rights over several decades. In this book published by President Eisenhower’s granddaughter, Susan, who is the daughter of John Eisenhower, there are lessons to be learned and analyzed from the 1950s that are connected to our most recent current events and dialogue.


For example:
Negotiating with a divided Congress
 Appointments that would influence the future direction of the Supreme Court
 Presence of extremist groups
 Racial and social injustices
 Health of the President
 Competitive views over a balanced federal budget v. large deficits
 Fake news or disinformation
 Vice-President who could become president or run in a future election

How Ike Led is a book that should be of interest to high school and college students and every social studies teacher. The book offers fresh perspectives from the memories of Ike’s teenage granddaughter and comprehensive interviews with living members of his administration and historians. I admired President Eisenhower as my ‘first’ president during my elementary school years in part because of his
popularity with my parents, especially my father who served in World War II. I also followed President Eisenhower’s policies closely as we debated and discussed them in the context of President Kennedy’s New Frontier.

As a teacher, I taught my students the significance of Eisenhower’s decisions on the interstate highway system, building natural gas pipelines across America, the St. Lawrence Seaway, admission of Alaska and Hawaii as states, his leadership in the Suez Canal crisis, bringing America into the competitive space race, and the historic ‘kitchen summit meeting’ and visit of Nikita Khrushchev to Eisenhower’s Gettysburg home.

An interesting comparison with President Trump is for students to develop a thesis (or a Claim) regarding how historians have judged the success of presidents who never held an elected office before becoming president. These are General Zachary Taylor, General Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover, General Dwight Eisenhower, and Donald Trump. President Trump is the sole exception in this group with no prior military or appointed government service. Ask your students to test the claim if political experience in an elected office is necessary for presidential leadership?

The book is organized into sixteen chapters with eleven chapters dedicated to analyzing the principles and decisions of President Eisenhower. I encourage you and your students to read the whole book as this review will focus on McCarthy, civil rights, and the space race.

With the election of President Eisenhower, the first Republican elected president since Herbert Hoover 25 years before, the Republicans were concerned about one political party dominating the legislative and executive branches for more than two decades. The unexpected defeat of Governor Thomas Dewey (NY) in 1948 amplified these concerns. The ratification of term limits in the 22nd Amendment was one
attempt to prevent a repeat of the unprecedented four terms of FDR by protecting the legacy of our competitive democracy.

In the first weeks following Eisenhower’s inauguration, Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953 creating uncertainty in the stability of the world’s second nuclear power. In his first year, Eisenhower negotiated a ceasefire with the Communists of North Korea, implemented a system of cost-benefit analysis to control military spending, and advocated for the expansion of social security to ten million new workers
with substantial increases in their benefits. These decisions were criticized by the right wing of the Republican Party who feared Eisenhower’s inexperience as a politician and the consequences of transferring the savings from defense to domestic priorities.

The McCarthy Hearings
The New Republic (10/2/2020)

Teaching the Cold War from 1946-1989 is challenging for teachers because every major event (Eastern Europe, Berlin, Fall of China, Korea, displaced persons, Marshall Plan, missile gap, Cuba, Southeast Asia, Middle East, space race, summit meetings, and Afghanistan) require more than the approximate three weeks or 15
days permitted in a traditional U.S. History course. The insights by Susan Eisenhower provide a perspective for a unit or series of lessons with students determining the effectiveness of President Eisenhower’s decisions regarding the televised McCarthy Hearings of April – June 1954.

For example…

1. How should President Eisenhower respond to Senator McCarthy’s criticism of Charles (Chip) Bohlen as ambassador to the Soviet Union?

2. How should President Eisenhower respond to the undocumented attack of disloyalty against Ralph Bunche, a distinguished African-American diplomat at the United Nations and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950?

3. How can President Eisenhower advance his agenda in a divided Senate with 48 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and 1 Independent? (President Eisenhower needed every Republican vote, including the support of Senator McCarthy but in July 1953, Senators Tobey (NH) and Taft (OH) died. Senator Taft was replaced by a Democrat.)

4. How should President Eisenhower respond to the passage of the Bricker Amendment (Senator Bricker is a Republican from Ohio) regarding the limitations of the president to make agreements with foreign governments?

5. How should President Eisenhower respond to the report that the Soviet Union allocated millions of dollars to the American Communist Party to interfere in our government? (Venona Project)

6. How should President Eisenhower respond to Senator McCarthy’s directive to federal workers to “disregard presidential orders and laws and report directly to him on graft, corruption, Communism and treason?”

In cooperative groups, representing different perspectives (i.e. State Department, National Security Council, Mamie and Eisenhower’s brothers, Think Tank, Members of the House, Members of the Senate, CIA, journalists, etc.) discuss the options below and make recommendations to President Eisenhower on the six questions above.

Options to Consider:

a. Work behind the scenes with moderate members of Congress

b. Make public announcements criticizing Senator McCarthy’s public hearings

c. Be patient and quiet

d. Direct the Attorney General or FBI to investigate Senator McCarthy

e. Support the hearings and investigations to win support of the conservative Republicans

President Eisenhower chose the option to remain patient and quiet. He understood Senator McCarthy as one who desired to be the center of public attention and that in the course of the hearings, he would likely make mistakes. Throughout the book, Susan Eisenhower, an accomplished author, policy strategist, and historian, offers her own interpretations, which students can use as the basis of their “claim” or argument and research evidence to support or reject it. For example, “He had the power over the thing McCarthy had most deeply desired – to engage Eisenhower in this circus, thus legitimatizing his own status as an important leader while raising himself and his shameful shenanigans to the level of a coequal branch of government.” (p. 201) Consider having your students discuss or debate the validity of her “claim.”

Civil Rights

Historians are divided on President Eisenhower’s record on civil rights. Many teachers only focus on school integration with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka KS and Little Rock, AK. President Eisenhower’s record on civil rights provides students with an opportunity for inquiry, research, and evidence based arguments. Consider the important personal information on President Eisenhower’s character and support for African Americans from his youth through his presidency as provided by Susan Eisenhower.

Abilene High School was integrated when Ike attended it (1905-1909). He was the only football player on his team to shake hands with an African American player from an opposing team. As a military leader in World War II, Ike insisted that the blood supply be integrated and when Australia refused to allow the black division Eisenhower deployed after Pearl Harbor, he rescinded the order. He also supported the desegregation of schools in Washington D.C. and appointed E. Frederic Morrow (from Hackensack, NJ and Rutgers Law School) to his personal staff and J. Ernest Wilkins Sr. as Assistant Secretary of Labor.

In considering evidence about President Eisenhower’s record on civil rights, students should research evidence regarding the record of American presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Students might also research the records of Eleanor Roosevelt and both black and white leaders during the civil rights period of 1900-1960. On September 24, 1957, President Eisenhower made one of the most controversial decisions of the 20th
century which could have devastating consequences for him and the United States.

In the context of the questions the United States is facing today about race, equality, policing, criminal justice, education, and opportunity, the leadership role of President Eisenhower is worth analysis by students. On this date, President Eisenhower announced the first imposition of federal troops in the South since Reconstruction (90 years before). He deployed 500 troops from the famed 101st Airborne paratroopers who landed on Normandy in 1944. (p. 244) This was in response to the deployment of the Arkansas National Guard a few days earlier by Gov. Oval Faubus to “preserve peace and good order by preventing the integration of nine African American students into Little Rock High School. (Listen to Eisenhower’s 12 minute Address to the American people and visit the sequence of online documents on this decision at the Eisenhower Library) Senators and governors threatened to cut funds for public schools, Senator Olin Johnston (D-SC) called for a state of insurrection, President Eisenhower was accused of being a military dictator, the Southern Manifesto was signed by 12 senators and 39 congressmen, and violence and lynching of innocent black Americans increased.

The leadership of President Eisenhower was further challenged in the federal courts when the Little Rock Board of Education petitioned the Eastern District Court of Arkansas on February 20, 1958 to “postpone the desegregation efforts because of chaos, bedlam and turmoil in the community.” (p. 260)

The Court agreed to a 21/2 year postponement of preventing black students from attending Little Rock High School. On September 12, 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Cooper v. Aaron in favor of desegregation. The decision was unanimous and personally signed by each of the nine justices! The decision was transformational in the education of students in the United States of America! The Doll Experiment by psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark provides a powerful vision of the effects of racial
discrimination.

Susan Eisenhower also included the letter from the parents of the nine black students who entered Little Rock H.S. in her book. The letter speaks volumes about human and civil rights as does the interview by Oprah Winfrey with the Little Rock Nine in 1996. (September 30, 1957)

We the parents of nine Negro children enrolled at Little Rock Central High School want you to know that your action in safeguarding their rights have strengthened our faith in democracy. Now as never before we have an abiding feeling of belonging and purposefulness. We believe that freedom and equality with which all men are endowed at birth can be maintained only through freedom and equality of opportunity for self-development, growth and purposeful citizenship.

We believe that the degree to which people everywhere realize and accept this concept will determine in a large measure American true growth and true greatness. You have demonstrated admirably to us, the nation and the world how profoundly you believe in this concept. For this we are deeply grateful and respectfully extend to you our heartfelt and lasting thanks. May the Almighty and all wise Father of us all bless guide and keep you always….” (p. 259)

President Eisenhower replied to this letter on October 4. In the context of President Eisenhower’s decisions on civil rights and Little Rock, how will your students
analyze his record? While Eisenhower is pledging his support for the rule of law in the desegregation of schools, why was he reserved in the civil rights and voting rights legislation he proposed in his 1956 State of the Union address? Will your students evaluate President Eisenhower as a proactive leader to end the violence and discrimination against black Americans or will they decide that his reserved approach continued to deny 75% of African American citizens the right to vote?

Space Race

The story of NASA and the transition to the private enterprise of space is slowly evolving into our curriculum as it competes with complex domestic and foreign policy issues in the first two decades of the 21st century. The development of technology, space exploration, military technology, cybersecurity, and the impacts on climate are embedded within the performance expectations of social studies curriculum and the C3 Framework. The United States put its first satellite (Explorer 1) into space on January 31, 1958 and six weeks later on March 17, it launched its first solar powered satellite into orbit.

Explorer 1 (January 31, 1958) NASA
Vanguard, First solar-powered Satellite (March 17, 1958)
Composite illustration assembled from static display of satellite, Earth from orbit and telescope photo of stars. Science Hi Blog

President Eisenhower’s administration laid the foundation for the freedom of space, the peaceful pursuit of scientific research on the continent of Antarctica, the Alliance for Progress, the innovative technology of the U-2 reconnaissance program, Nautilus missiles, and civil defense. These initiatives proved to be game-changers for America’s leadership at a time when balanced budgets were considered essential to the security of the United States.

In the middle of these significant initiatives in a divided Congress, Senator John F. Kennedy made a speech in the U.S. Senate on August 14, 1958 calling attention to the ‘missile gap.’

“In 1958, Sen. John F. Kennedy, without access to classified information, and relying only on public sources, was persuaded by Joe Alsop, a Georgetown neighbor and social friend, to make a speech on the floor of the Senate. It was there that Kennedy used the term “missile gap” for the first time, an expression that was a ringing indictment of Eisenhower’s budget conscious ways, accusing him of failing to provide adequate security for the United States. In his speech Kennedy asserted that the Soviet Union could destroy ’85 percent of our industry, 43 of our 53 largest cities, and most of the Nation’s population.” (p. 287) Kennedy’s Speech on Missile Gap

History would reveal during the Kennedy administration that there was no missile gap. Actually, the United States had 160 operational Atlas ICBMs to six in the Soviet arsenal! (p. 301) The information in this book provides an opportunity for teaching students the skills of searching for credible evidence.

Students need to research maps, photographs and census data in addition to primary and secondary source documents. This takes time, patience, perseverance, and guidance in searching for factual information in multiple locations, organizing information, engaging in rigorous analysis and providing complete documentation.

In conclusion, teachers might ask their students what lessons we can learn from the leadership style of Dwight David Eisenhower during what our textbooks call the decade of the military industrial complex. Susan Eisenhower writes, “The measure of a leader is more than the sum of his or her successful decisions: qualities of character, including empathy and fairness, are also central to any person worthy of that status.” (p. 307)

In answering this question, students might ask if President Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon were leaders of this paradigm, if the presidents in their lifetime meet this standard (Presidents Obama and Trump), and to what extent local leaders in school, government, and business are leaders who meet it.

Academic Literacy – Developing Long-term Memory by Dr. Harry Stein

Memory and Notemaking

Note-making is active writing.  Students are given formats or frames which organize thinking and hence notemaking.

Learning More Quickly and Forgetting More Slowly

Regardless of what social studies course we teach, World History, World Cultures, US History, Geography, or any of the social sciences;

Regardless of what academic level we teach, AP, honors, college prep, basic, special education or bilingual/esl:

Regardless of whether we teach live on line or in-person;

Regardless of how we teach, direct instruction “listen to me and do as I say”, cooperative inquiry groups of independent digital assignments;

All teachers need and want their students to achieve more and forget less. The key to this process is using four academic literacy skills.

A. Gather and organize information from print, visual, and data sources

B. Process this information through thinking and reasoning

C. Store, retain, and rehearse the information through memory

D. Produce thought in writing, speech or through the creative actions of drama, art, music, and movement.

Following are three ideas that will assist students in Memory skills. But before we begin examining these activities let’s consider 3 Nos. There will be NO “taking” notes. We will “make” thoughts or notes. Use NO notebooks. We will give students or show them how to make special notemaking paper. Finally, save money. Buy NO notebooks!

Illustration #1 is used for reading assignments. Create and distribute this illustration to students using standard size paper. If available use different colors for different marking periods. Colors enhance memory. Let’s examine #1. Top Center the Y=yesterday, what did we study yesterday? Note it. The T is for Today. Note today’s topic. Notes are made on the numbered lines. Key vocabulary, people, events, dates, ideas etc. are noted. Critical questions are copied or created.

On the right side are 3-line graphs: the topic, event, cause, effect triangle, the Venn Diagram for comparison/contrast within a given topic and a single chronology date line to capture key dates.

Illustration #1

On the bottom of the notemaking paper is a review section. Note the KEY on the lower left side. What is the key or unlocking ideas of the reading/research assignment? Note them below the KEY. What does the student NEED to know and DO? Write it down! What am I curious about? What is the next assignment?

Towards the bottom of the page are review end of class note boxes. The most important is the MY DAY. In this box note the weather, clothing worn, food eaten, or anything special in the student’s life that day. Personal memory must be linked tri academic study. The other boxes are self-evident. What is my next reading/writing assignment? What must I remember from this class and what Must I do for the class? The open space if for ideas from the teacher or student.

The notemaking page ends with a review section completed at home and turned in to the teacher. These reactions give feedback information to the teacher and can guide future classes.

Finally, look at the upper right of the illustration and find the words Use Colors. Ask students at the start of the year to buy a 4-color pen. Use it in class or for review. Here’s how it works.

Original notes are done in black. Green is used in review. Green=growth. Red is used to locate confusion. Red=danger. Blue is for clarity or I understand. Blue-clear in my mind as in a blue sky. Colors focus study and enhance memory. Use them.

This technique uses eight one-half by fourteen size paper. But it can be done on standard paper. It is used for assigned readings or research. Illustration #1 is used in an active class learning situation. The notemaking paper has a Text Reading Chart with vocabulary extensions to the left. The text reading chart has an area to note page locations. The illustration uses a visual flow chart to organize information and question “stems” to note questions and answers found in the reading.

Illustration #2

On the bottom of the notemaking paper is a review section. Note the KEY on the lower left side. What is the key or unlocking ideas of the reading/research assignment? Note them below the KEY. What does the student NEED to know and DO? Write it down! What am I curious about? What is the next assignment?

As you examine these 2 illustrations ask ourselves these questions. What do our student notebooks now look like? What is their current value? Can we try one of these illustrations in one of our classes and see how they work toward achieving our goal: learning more quickly and forgetting more slowly.

Now, lets’ go to another activity used in reading articles. Not all reading is text or document reading. Reading occurs in different formats. Oh, yes! Those of us who use digital texts and not books are still using texts. The word “text” is from Latin meaning “threads”. When we use digital devices, they are still using text which live as pixels behind the screen.

Illustration #3 is used by students when reading a NEWS ARTICLE or an essay from a periodical. The notemaking elements are self-evident. Remember ask students to use the 4 colors and somewhere on the paper note something about an event in their life, the food they just ate, the clothing they are wearing, or even how they feel. Private memory and academic memory link and help the academic emerge when students take exams, write, or speak.

Illustration #3

     Finally, use the notemaking paper in phased practice reviews after classes and require that they turn in samples of their notemaking paper with exams. Give the finished notes credit. You can even ask them to create their own exams or add to yours using their notes. Reward successful practice as well as content mastery.

Creating Memory Using Visual Palates

Academic Literacy has 4 elements: gathering and organizing information, thinking/reasoning, building useable memory, and producing thought. Visual palates help build visual memory. They create a video tape or CD of a particular content topic.

Illustration #1 – Range of Visual Palates

Illustration #1 describes the range of visual palates and their functions. At the bottom of the page there are 10 types on a spectrum from abstract symbols such as an arrow to realistic photographs. Visuals act a metaphor for both content information and a particular dominant thinking skill used when students encounter the content. Teachers locate and reproduce the visual palate on standard size 8 ½ x 11 paper although they can also be used on larger paper. Each student is given a visual palate. They are used in class, for assignments, or as test items.

American History Thinking Skills – Notemaking and Visuals: Tools for Improved Achievement

Illustration #2 lists the types of thinking skills used in our courses. Several may occur in a single class or assignment but normally one or two will dominate learning.

Illustration #2 – Thinking Skills

Illustration #3 is our first visual palate. It is line drawing of a tree embedded in soil. The major content focus is preprinted on the trunk of the tree. As students listen, read, watch videos they will make notes or begin to PAINT the visual palate. Let’s examine the 7 sections in the visual.

Illustration #3 – Example of a Visual Palate
  1. Upper left corner there are 3 Ts. Students make notes on each. The first is the TOPIC, the facts of who/where/when/what the second is the THEME or thread that runs through the entire learning topic. The third is the THESIS or argument that drives our inquiry. This is the triple T

2. In the upper right are sections that link the visual to text pages and the date when learning first occurred.

3. The trunk depicts the content topic. Below the trunk are the roots or CAUSES of the topic. Extending out from the trunk are branches which become the EFFECTS of the topical events. Students make their notes on the many roots and branches. Some roots and branches are primary and some are secondary or minor.

4. Key vocabulary is isolated to the left of the roots and key questions are noted at (5) to the right of the roots.

5. At the very bottom of the palate is a time or chronology line. Students note critical dates.

6. This visual thinking area might have a Venn Diagram for compare and contrast or a star for an important person.

     In the extreme right corner are 3 memory builders. Colors, use a 4-color pen on a palate. Black is for critical notes, red is for confusing ideas and hence dangerous, green is for notes we make when studying and represents growth, and blue is for ideas we clearly see like a sky blue. We can also attach postal notes or stickums to the paper. They focus the eyes. Finally, we must note something that personally occurred to us on that day. It might be the weather, the food we ate, the clothing we have, the shoes we wear, or how we feel. Connect the personal to the academic learning. The personal will rehearse or ignite the academic when we study or when we want to write or speak.

     All visual palates have the same elements. Illustration #4 shows a clock with attached sticks of dynamite. This visual is used for revolution, American, French, Civil War, Nazi Germany, USSR 1917, Mao’s China, Castro in Cuba etc. As students learn they paint the palate with their 4-color pen. The dynamite=causes. The clock hours=events. 

     So, what to do? If we like the visual palate idea try it with only one class. When? try the last class of the day. Do something different. If it works the day ends well. If it does not get out of school, turn on the radio, and go home. If we use new ideas early in a day and they do not work they often leave an aftertaste in the mind and air since students will tell one another that the teacher is doing something weird today.

Limit creativity to the margins of our daily school life. We are already doing a good job. We are not working from a deficit. Visual palates can be used in any course, with any student type, and within any instructional/learning study. They can be used in class, for assignments, or on tests. We need to show them how to use them, permit them to use them in small groups, and then ask students to practice independently. They have one goal increase faster learning and slow the relentless decay of memory.

When we announce an exam and want students to study their notes what do these notes now look like? If they have created visual palates, they use them. They are videos and aural recordings of their learning.

The Knowledge Map.  (KM)

The KM is a specially designed 8 ½ X 14 paper used when a class has a long unit or chapter that might go for 10 or even 15 classes.  The content might be a long chronology or complex series of events.  KMs may be used in any subject and are especially useful learning and memory tools in AP classes which are both fast-paced and intensive.

     This is how a KM is created.  Get legal-size paper.  Step I-Identify the content topics you want students to investigate.  The topics might be people, events, or ideas.  Our example shows a teacher KM with 20 topics.  Step 2-arrange the topics in a flow chart and number each one.  Step 3-decide a flow chart type.  There are 3.  

        A, The “completed” or fully clothed chart showing names of all topics.

         B.  The “naked” or incomplete flow chart showing empty chart spaces that students will fill in during the unit.

         C.  The “checker board” chart in which random spaces are filled in by the teacher and others are left empty for later student work.

Give the one you choose to students at the start of the unit or chapter.  Tell them they will be used throughout the unit and turned in with all quizzes or exams.  They are given credit for completed KMs.

Illustrations 1-2-3 show the topic list, a naked KM, and a completed KM.

Illustration #1 – Knowledge Map

Illustration #2 – A ‘Naked” Knowledge Map

Illustration #2 – A ‘Naked” Knowledge Map
Illustration #3 – A Completed Knowledge Map

 KMs are used in 3 class learning times, these are at the start of a class to review and preview, during a class as a “time out” or integration moment, or at the end of a class as a “wrap it up” final one or two minutes.   They can also be used for assignment notemaking or test preparation.  They replace notes in a notebook.  They integrate many learning days and different forms of learning.  

Following are 13 tips for using KMs.  Pick a few and try them.

  1.  If you can, create the KM on colored paper.  It is harder to lose.  Make friends with art teachers.  They may have a ream.
  2. Organize the class into teams of 3 or 4.  If a student is absent, they can share work on their phones or in class.  
  3. On each chart area note the date the topic was first studied.  
  4. On each chart box note the page number in the text where this information is located.
  5. To the left of each box note a question (Q) about the topic.  The ? may come from the teacher or is student created.  Interact with the topic!
  6. To the right of the topic note an associated vocabulary word or date (V) Again, interact and extend learning.
  7. Use a 4-colored pen.  Black for original notes.  Green for review or growth notes.  Red for confusion and danger.  Blue for “I understand this.”  Study the red and green.
  1. Create a chronology or time line at the bottom of the KM.
  2. Notes which topics are homework or project assignments and their due dates,
  3. Get some post-it “stickums” of different colors and attach them to different chart topics you want to emphasize.
  4. Sketch visual graphics on the chart such as a STAR for an important person or a VENN diagram for compare/contrast thinking.
  5. Occasionally make notes about your personal life on the chart:  the weather, food you ate, clothing you wear, videos you saw etc.  Merge the personal with the academic.
  6. Anywhere on the chart write old exam questions on the chart.   

      There are five learning principles embedded in KMs

  1.  Spaced time-interval review.
  2.  Self-inquiry
  3.  Short quizzes or tests review and response
  4.  Using colors
  5.  Merging personal memory with academic memory

      Try a KM in one course in one class.  Determine if that class has a greater grasp of complex content when compared to another class.  Consider using the KM the last of the day.  Often student athletes or club members may be absent for special events.  Their team members can keep them up to date until they return to class.

     One teacher uses the KM on a test review day.  The teacher creates a completed KM and then cuts it into many pieces and puts them into an envelope which is given to a team.  The team opens the envelop and has to reconstruct the KM and justify their thinking.  

      Learning more quickly and forgetting more slowly is our goal.  The KM is one tool we can use.  A middle school might use a smaller KM with 10 topics.  A high school class might have 20.  A complex AP unit might have 30.  KMs are used in any teaching or learning style, in a room with desks or tables or lined with individual computers.  The KM integrates content, time, and a variety of teaching materials into a single memory device.  

Academic Literacy: Recognizing Writing by Dr. Harry Stein

Academic Literacy

Dr. Harry Stein, Manhattan College

Academic Writing (AW) has 7 Elements. 

Illustration #1 shows 7 types of writing

They are RW recognizing writing, copying, note-making, RD or redesigned writing, composition, media writing, and website design. 

Illustration #2

Element #5 composition is divided into styles and scales.  Styles refers to narrative, descriptive, expository, and point of view writing.  Scale refers to sentences, paragraphs, MP or multiple paragraphs, E or essays, and RP research papers.  During the course of an academic year students should practice all styles and scales.

The 7 AW writing elements are practiced in three settings:  the classroom, assignments, and on tests. 

Illustration #2 shows the relationship between five literacy skills. 

Writing is the most difficult because it cannot occur without gathering and organizing information, critical thinking, and memory.  Writing is both a product and a process of learning.  It is slowly and consistently developed over an entire year.

Academic Writing Skill #1  Recognizing Writing

Illustration #3A
Illustration 3B


Illustrations #3 ABC shows three examples of this skill.  They are teacher developed and used in CAT, the classroom, assignments, or on tests.

Stop!  Wait!  A teacher will ask how and when do I have the time to create these activities for my classes.  I am busy with 5 sections and 100-125 students.  My commercial supplemental materials do not have these examples.  A problem!  Yes, but solvable. 

Consider the following tactics.
1.  Before February ask your supervisor to budget a summer staff development time for you to to create these lessons.
2.  If you are told there is no money ask the supervisor to eliminate your school duty period in the next year and let you use the period to develop the activities which you will offer to other faculty.  This effort becomes your duty. Do this before a master schedule is created with supervisory assignments.
3.  If you cannot get a duty release ask the supervisor to approach a parent group for an initiative grant for a summer effort.
4.  Most districts require that faculty create an improvement plan for the following year.  Let AW activity development become your plan and during the coming school year occasionally ask your supervisor for released time during a school day to create the activities.  Schools have money for daily subs and period coverage.

Academic Writing Skill #2:  Copying


Copying is notetaking.  Think of copying as Xerox reproduction.  This is a critical skill.  It is unrecognized. Copying occurs in two ways:  we listen and reproduce or we read and reproduce.  At the end of a period take three or four minutes for a copying activity.  Find a critical sentence or two in a reading.  Ask students to get paper/pen ready.

Read aloud.  Stop!  Give them a paper copy of what you said or refer them to a text page.  Did they get it right? You may have an old overhead projector and could show them the passage they just heard.  Discuss the sentence.

Some teachers ask students to read a short passage and copy it.  Sometimes, even though the passage is in front of their eyes they fail to replicate it because copying requires careful attention and precise effort.

Note-making is active writing.  Students are given formats or frames which organize thinking and hence notemaking.

Illustration #6

Illustration #6 is a standard chart used in an International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge course.  As students read or learn in class they fill in the chart.

      Another chart form is called a triple screen.  Students are given an 8 1/2 X 11 paper and told to fold it vertically into 3 columns. The left column is labeled reading notes, the middle column is called class discussion, and the right-side column is called review notes.  A four-color pen is used.  Reading notes are in black.  Class discussion notes are in blue for clear understanding and red for confusing ideas.  Green is used for the final column.  Green shows growth or change incurred during the review.

Illustration #7

      Illustration #7 depicts two techniques used when studying an important person or group.  In this example we used George Washington.  The Inquiry Chart is self-explanatory.  The character analysis chart was originally used in a literature class.  Eliminate the word MARTIN and substitute GEORGE WASHINGTON and we have a Character Analysis Chart.  Both tactics, CAT, are used in the classroom, for assignments, or as a testing challenge.

Illustration #8

     Illustration #8 is called a “story chain.”  This example is from a literature class.  History teachers would create their own story chain word series.  Using the chain students in class or on a reading assignment expand or extend the words in the story chain into a larger narrative or series of events.  See the example of French and Indian War. 

      As we examine these note-making frames or palates they have one trait.  We do not ask or tell students to “take notes.” We provide them with an organizing frame.  They use it as a painting palate brushing in their thoughts.

Illustration #9

     Illustration #9 is a visual icon frame.  There are 11 content thought patterns.  Examine #7 Main Idea/Detail.  Students are given a four circle visual.  The central and smallest circle is main idea.  Students make an arrow into the small circle and print the main idea on arrow.  The other circles are details or outer ideas.  #11 is a football field.  At each end are goal lines.  The names of one or another group are printed on the lines and an arrow is extended from the group toward and across their goal line.  When a student studies the goals of the North or South in the Civil War, they study a football field with notes.  #1 is called a Reverse 7.  On the top at left 7 we see the word Federalist and at the top of the inverted 7 we see the word Antifederalist.  They are facing off looking at one another.  Notes are made below each figure.  The gap between them is a note room for their differences.  Visual icons are powerful ways to organize thinking and their results.

Illustration #10

Illustration #10 is a “time out” device one teacher developed to develop see/search/think/note skills.  Try it even though it may not fit your exact lesson content.  Students may learn a little Chinese!

Academic Writing #5 – Composing

The next type of academic writing is composing.  Composing has two features, styles and scale or quantity of words.  In general, the first composing efforts should be short and simple sentences and paragraphs.  Don’t assign complex essays or research papers early in a term.  English teachers may tell us that students know how to write.  This is not the issue.  They do not have content mastery in our subject.  They may not understand the natural logic or continuity of academic learning.  So, start short and simple gradually moving toward extended multiple paragraph and essay writing in the second or even third marking periods.

Qualify the above statement.  With high achieving AP or IB classes move more quickly.  They need rapid and continual work in short answer essays, open-ended longer essays, the DBQ form essay.  Their examination is in mid-May.  Time is short.  Demands are long.  

Adopt a composing plan for each 9 week marking period.

Follow it ending with research papers.  Research is a year long achievement but gradually escalate the size from a simple paragraph to more extensive works.  

Illustration #15

Illustration #15 shows an example of sentence writing and an outline of different paragraph types.  The sentence example is called “Right-write” to the point.  Have students place their pen on a paper and draw an outline of its shape.  Go to the back of the pen and begin to write a sentence about an assigned topic ending at the point of the pen.  The visual forces students to very carefully limit their thinking to a few precise words in their response.  The sentence can be narrative, descriptive, expository, or point of view. Just write to the point.  Brevity is beauty.

On the left side of the illustration are six organizational patterns.  At the bottom is a writing space.  One metaphor used in many schools is the “hamburger” approach.  The top of the bun is the topic sentence or claim.  In the middle is the evidence with salt, pepper, mustard, or ketchup as details.  The bottom of the bun is the ending. Hamburger writing can be used in the classroom for assignments, or on tests.

Illustration #16

Illustration #16 is a multiple paragraph assignment.  AP exams in world, European, and American history require SAQs or short answer questions.  Within the SAQ format they use an ACE technique.  A=a direct answer to the prompt.  C=how the writer defines and describes their claim in the answer.  E=explain your choice of the claim and logically connect your claim to relevant historical developments.  In short, bring more information to the SAQ.  The multiple paragraph challenge makes a claim, provides evidence, and ends with commentary.  3 examples of SAQs follow.  They were presented at an AP professional development program in Tampa, Florida.

    Before examining them take a look at the essay questions you have assigned.  Now, examine A B C D.

Illustration #17 has 4 essay examples:  A B C D

Illustration #17A
Illustration #17B
Illustration #17C
Illustration #17D

How do they compare or contrast with our work?  Look for clear, precise, linear directions. What does the end product look like?  What is the font size in the directions.

Are due or progress dates clear?  What are expectations for A quality work?  Have you posted examples of A quality work from previous years?  What is the essay worth in computing semester grades? When is the teacher available for individual help?   Set the context.  Ask students to locate the dictionary definition of the French word “essay.”  

     The final type of essay is the DBQ or document-based questions.  See illustration #18. This DBQ has 5 documents.  Creating DBQs is extremely hard and time-consuming.  Teachers get them from AP, IB, State agencies, or commercial sources. Except for AP courses, they should be assigned well into a course.  Responding to a DBQ requires both integrated knowledge from the course and the documents and powerful synthesis writing skills.  An inclass DBQ can be assigned to a cooperating group or an individual.  

Illustration #18

     What does a good DBQ response read like.  Illustration #19 is a reading sheet given to teachers who read AP DBQs.  The notes were made by the author.  This DBQ has 10 documents.  Current DBQs are 6 or 7.

Illustration #19
Document #1 – Homestead Act
Document 2 – Reactions to the Morrill Tariff
Document #3 – Benjamin Singleton and Exodus to Kansas
Document #4 – Migration to Kansas
Document #5 – Exodus to Kansas

This DBQ was graded on a scale of 0-1 to 8-9.  The average DBQ score in this reading from 2007 was slightly over a 3. An 8-9 score occurred in less than 5% of the papers.  Illustration #20 shows a English language State testing rubric.  It is not designed for DBQs but may be useful in grading the DBQ.

2007 DBQ in United States History
2007 DBQ United States History
2007 DBQ United States History
2007 DBQ United States History

2. determine the audience or target for the message,

Illustration #20

      The research paper is the final type of composing.

In a middle or high school the format for these papers normally comes from the English Department.  In a few schools the format may be cooperative merging social studies and even science teachers in a joint effort.

       The research paper involves style conventions such as bibliographies and footnoting.  These are always taught by English faculty.  We need to carefully consult with our colleagues.  We can not assign research papers and assume students know how to follow style conventions.  We have to coordinate the timing of our research papers with their instruction and practice.  This is complicated and one reason why research papers almost always occur toward the end of a course.  

Academic Writing #4 – Media Writing and Website Design

Media writing is the very opposite of linear, left to right composition.  Media writing has 3 planning elements:

1. pick a medium or carrier of a message,

3. decide on the quantity of information in the message.  

Two quick examples:  what word messages about the causes of the American Revolution might be printed on a T shirt or a cup or an advertising billboard.  A tee shirt can not carry an essay.  The message has to be short and direct.

Illustration #21A
Illustration #21B

Illustration #21 shows a chain.  The chain is a set of interlocking parts and is especially suited to showing events, their causes, and effects.  The chain is the medium and notes are appended to each side of the chain.  This example uses a “triple T” organizer in the upper left where the student notes their topic, theme, and thesis claim.  

Beth Isenberg was a 7th grade teacher in the Yonkers Public School system.  She chose the medium of a cup to show FDR’s plan to remake American society during the Depression.  Illustration #22 shows a draft of her media writing. Note the “triple T” in the upper right and a time line at the bottom of the page.  

Illustration #22

Ms. Isenberg used this cup media writing in 3 dimensions, the classroom, the assignment or on a test.  She gave students the cup and they had to put the pieces together.

Ms. Isenberg’s class also used the chain medium.

The final type of writing is website design.  Instead of asking students to compose an essay or research paper on a given topic ask them to create a website.  How?, they will ask.  Go to your IT person in the building or district and discuss your project with her/him.  Invite them into the class after you have had students go to one of their favorite sites and analyse the type of information at the site.  Did the site contain words, how many?  Did the site have data, pictures, or icons.  Did the site carry sound?  What colors or shapes were used?  Were vocabulary featured?  All web sites have design features and before we make one using history content students have to see their design features.

With the help of an IT person and planning the web site assignment over a long period of time we can begin to introduce new writing forms to our students.  All writing is symbol making.  When we underline or circle we are are writing.  When we star a word we are writing.  Writing is more than composing.  Writing occurs when we take our private thoughts and make them public.  Reading is symbol absorption.  Writing is symbol production.  Reading is silent and private.  Writing takes our private thoughts and proclaims them to an audience.  Writing is a risk-taking venture.  We expose ourselves to the critical eye or “I” of another person.  When we ask students to write they need the confidence of their own thoughts.

Finally, Illustration #23 shows a planning chart for academic writing.  It is broken into MP or marking periods, an MY exam (mid-year exam) and a final exam.  The chart enables the teacher to plan and record the types of writing activities for the entire year.  A similar chart can easily be constructed for a 9 week marking period.  The CATs strategy is noted enabling the teacher to place the activity in the C= classroom  A=assignment or T=the test.

Illustration #23

A set of academic writing beliefs concludes the chart.

Conclusion

     Academic Literacy is not only an idea it is a series of social studies teaching and learning activities for our classrooms, assignments, and evaluations.  We need to link these activities to four other mandated ideas that affect teachers and students.  These are school district mandated planning procedures, the mandated observation and evaluation of teachers, required teacher professional development, and the general philosophies that guide education in the fifty states and 12,000 public school districts.

Illustration #1 – Weekly Academic Literacy Chart

     Illustration #1 is a weekly Academic Literacy Planning chart.  It is a supplement to normal district plans that call for the identification of State standards, content teaching/learning objectives, selection of materials, and assessment.

     This planning chart identifies the four major elements in Academic Literacy, gathering and organizing information (I and II) critical thinking (III and IV) memory (V) and Writing (VI).  Using the Activities Handbook teachers can identify which activities they might use as students interact with content materials.

      At the bottom of the chart is a section showing how social studies teachers might coordinate with other faculty members.  Some students also go the remedial reading and writing teachers. NCLB, NO Child Left Behind or Title I) staff.  Some go to ELL staff, English language literacy.  If they know what content is being taught in a social studies class they can find similar content and use it for their skill objectives.  The inclass support teacher is assigned to be with special education students mainstreamed in a social studies class.

Illustration #2 – Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching Theory

      Illustration #2 shows the commonly used Danielson theory for teacher observation and evaluation.  Academic Literacy activities are part of Domain 3 Instruction.  

      Illustration #3 is a framework for creating a permanent professional learning community in a school or district.

Illustration #3 – Professional learning Communities in Schools

      Finally, Academic Literacy is always a tool in carrying out an educational belief.  The Aims of Education thinking of Eugene Maleska offers a wide variety of choices.    

Illustration #3 – Framework for Professional Learning Communities in Schools
Aims of Education



Academic Writing: Media Writing & Website Design by Dr. Harry Stein

Media Writing and Website Design

Dr. Harry Stein, Manhattan College

Media writing is the very opposite of linear, left to right composition.  Media writing has 3 planning elements:

1. pick a medium or carrier of a message,

3. decide on the quantity of information in the message.  

Two quick examples:  what word messages about the causes of the American Revolution might be printed on a T shirt or a cup or an advertising billboard.  A tee shirt can not carry an essay.  The message has to be short and direct.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is aw-21a.jpg
Illustration #21A
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is aw-21b.jpg
Illustration #21B

Illustration #21 shows a chain.  The chain is a set of interlocking parts and is especially suited to showing events, their causes, and effects.  The chain is the medium and notes are appended to each side of the chain.  This example uses a “triple T” organizer in the upper left where the student notes their topic, theme, and thesis claim.  

Beth Isenberg was a 7th grade teacher in the Yonkers Public School system.  She chose the medium of a cup to show FDR’s plan to remake American society during the Depression.  Illustration #22 shows a draft of her media writing. Note the “triple T” in the upper right and a time line at the bottom of the page.  

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is aw-22.jpg
Illustration #22

Ms. Isenberg used this cup media writing in 3 dimensions, the classroom, the assignment or on a test.  She gave students the cup and they had to put the pieces together.

Ms. Isenberg’s class also used the chain medium.

Academic Writing – Website Design

The final type of writing is website design.  Instead of asking students to compose an essay or research paper on a given topic ask them to create a website.  How?, they will ask.  Go to your IT person in the building or district and discuss your project with her/him.  Invite them into the class after you have had students go to one of their favorite sites and analyse the type of information at the site.  Did the site contain words, how many?  Did the site have data, pictures, or icons.  Did the site carry sound?  What colors or shapes were used?  Were vocabulary featured?  All web sites have design features and before we make one using history content students have to see their design features.

With the help of an IT person and planning the web site assignment over a long period of time we can begin to introduce new writing forms to our students.  All writing is symbol making.  When we underline or circle we are are writing.  When we star a word we are writing.  Writing is more than composing.  Writing occurs when we take our private thoughts and make them public.  Reading is symbol absorption.  Writing is symbol production.  Reading is silent and private.  Writing takes our private thoughts and proclaims them to an audience.  Writing is a risk-taking venture.  We expose ourselves to the critical eye or “I” of another person.  When we ask students to write they need the confidence of their own thoughts.

Finally, Illustration #23 shows a planning chart for academic writing.  It is broken into MP or marking periods, an MY exam (mid-year exam) and a final exam.  The chart enables the teacher to plan and record the types of writing activities for the entire year.  A similar chart can easily be constructed for a 9 week marking period.  The CATs strategy is noted enabling the teacher to place the activity in the C= classroom  A=assignment or T=the test.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is aw-23.jpg
Illustration #23

A set of academic writing beliefs concludes the chart.

Academic Literacy: Critical Thinking & Reasoning by Dr. Harry Stein

Academic Literacy: Critical Thinking and Reasoning

Dr. Harry Stein, Manhattan College

Academic Literacy has one goal:  learn more quickly and forget more slowly.  Learning has four elements:  gathering and organizing information, critical thinking (CT) and reasoning, memory/retention, and creating thought through writing, speaking, and creative acts in art, music, dance, and drama.  

    How can we describe and define critical thinking?  There is no single, agreed upon definition.  Critical thinking has different components including recognizing information and assumptions, accurate evaluation of ideas and comprehending how conclusions are reached.   Critical thinking should consistently be practiced in school and used in everyday life.  

    Reasoning is more defined.  If thinking is a mind’s highway then reasoning is the curves. ups and downs, and directions the highway takes.  There are five kinds of reasoning:  inductive, deductive, metaphorical, analogistic, and syllogistic.  The first two are most practiced in academic settings.  For example, if we ask students to discuss the affirmed generalization “Lincoln saved the Union” and then ask students for evidence we are practicing deductive reasoning.  We have a true statement and are now providing the facts and ideas as the foundation for the statement.  In inductive reasoning we would ask students to assemble random facts and ideas and then ask what generalization do they prove.  

    In 2007 the National Institute for Literacy published the guidebook “What Content Area Teachers Should Know About Adolescent Literacy.”  An introduction stated that “adolescents entering the adult world in the 21st. Century will read and write more than at any time in human history.  They will need advanced levels of literacy to perform their jobs, run their households, act as citizens, and conduct their personal lives.”  Academic literacy extends this focus of literacy beyond print to many forms of visual and quantitative learning.  The flood of modern information is not restricted to print.  Images and data are critical.  Writing is critical but for others producing thought in art, music, dance, and dramatic forms is their way of responding to information.

   If we can agree that critical thinking is an important learning achievement mental processing act once we have gathered and organized information.  How do teachers and different students start this critical thinking process?  The critical thinking will be later stored and produced as our writing, speaking, or creative response to information.  

Illustration #1

    Illustration #1 is a visualized chart showing the critical thinking process.  Every student is given a copy.  Large copies are mounted on the classroom walls.  Part of our dilemma in thinking is that it is a silent and hidden process.  If we are asked to read or see we use our eyes.  When we are asked to think we do not have self-directed tools.  How do I think?  The chart makes the idea tangible to the eye.  The letters A B C D show the four types of thinking skills.  The skills are circled.  Questions are the matches that ignite or fire-up the thinking skill target. 

There are four thinking targets: 

  1. recognition and recall of explicit information,
  2. understanding,
  3. creating new ideas
  4. arriving at judgments and opinions.

There are three types of understanding skills: 

  1. interpretation,
  2. application, and
  3. analysis. 

     Illustration #1 can be used by a teacher in planning content knowledge objectives.  It can be used in classroom or assignment questions. If students take State tests, IB exams or AP exams the visual can be used to analyze the types and frequency of questions on these external examinations.   Finally, it can be used when designing a school quiz or test. 

     Often, parents want to discuss a student’s achievement.  If assignments and tests follow the A B C D elements in the visual, student results can be quickly identified by thinking skill.  High achievement students consistently think at the C D level after they have mastered A B levels.  Some students never elevate their thinking beyond factual recognition and recall. Their test results and assignments do not rise to the B C D level.  These levels become achievement goals.  When students can “see” their thinking results and goals, they can consciously reflect on what a C or an A student means, Illustration #2 is a chart that identifies thinking skills and the questions we use to ignite the skill.

Illustration #2

     When students can “see” their thinking results and goals, they can consciously reflect on what being a C or an A student means.  Illustration #2 is a chart that identifies thinking skills and the questions we use to ignite the skill. 

Illustration #3

Illustration #3 is another question taxonomy.  Stress with students the difference between the thinking skill target and the question arrow.  Once they practice with our question they can create their own questions or even an examination using the menu of illustrations 2 and 3. Students learn to think about thinking.         

      We have now defined critical thinking and examined visual examples showing the relationships between Critical thinking and questions.  Critical thinking occurs within a class setting. 

Illustration #4

What are the teaching tactics which will help us reach our Critical thinking strategical goal?  One strategy from Robert Marzano is applied to a single sentence classroom reading.  See Illustration #4. 

Marzano asks the class to respond to the question “Under some circumstances may the end justify the means?”  Students may read or listen to the question.  He then lists 16 possible ways the teacher can activate student thinking by direct questions or asking students to create their own question responses to the statement.  

Illustration #5 (Q/R) Question and Response

       In Illustration #5, Robert Stahl of Arizona State University developed a multistep question approach to questions centering on values and moral education.  When encountering information, print, visual, or quantitative, Stahl took students through four critical thinking actions: 

Knowing,

Thinking,

Valuing,

Feeling. 

For each stage he used certain specific questions.  To know requires explicit evidence yielding precise facts.  He used “I see it there” focus questions.  Then he asked students researching for implicit evidence.        

Stahl used two question tactics.  “Define” and “restate in your own words.”  To focus on values relating to critical thinking, he asked students to compare and contrast and finally he used questions summarizing, concluding, or clarifying that helped students make judgments.

Illustration #6 (Dr. Sylvia Gaylor)

       Dr. Sylvia Gaylor gives us some concluding advice in her article MASTERING THE ART OF QUESTIONING,  Illustration #6

Illustration #7

       Two examples of deductive reasoning follow.  The first called J line or Judgment Thinking is by an American Studies middle school teacher Jay Wordsman (Valley Middle School, Oakland NJ). The activity in Illustration #7 has 4 elements:

        A.  Assign a reading-The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.

        B.  Following the reading students are given a response form called J Line containing six statements.

        C.  Students are asked to read the statement and consider its validity remembering evidence about each statement. Using the Judgment Line they circle one of the responses A B C D E F G writing a few words above the letter noting their evidence.

         D.  Finally, the defend each of their six choices in a sentence.

The final example of deductive reasoning is from the Massachusetts Department of Education, Illustration #8

Illustration #8

It lists four conclusions from a Columbus reading and asks students to evaluate the strength or weakness in the conclusion.

Critical thinking and reasoning are the second element in Academic Literacy.  These skills are used in the classroom, for assignments and in evaluation.  By its very nature thinking is hidden and silent.  We need to visualize it and engage students using the visuals so that private thinking becomes public discussion.

Academic Literacy: Defining The Big Short

ACADEMIC LITERACY: DEFINING THE BIG SHORT

Dr. Harry Stein, Manhattan College

American students are in school for thirteen disconnected years.  In grades K-5 students learn in a reading/language arts/mathematics skill-based school.  Most students have one classroom teacher.  Literacy means reading and language arts, a term that combines writing, speaking, and listening.  Testing assesses reading, language arts skills, and occasionally writing short compositions.

Then a change occurs in grade 6.  Students go to a ‘second” school.  This is a middle or junior high school with departments.  Teacher certifications and expectations change.  Every day students will now see six or seven teachers.  Except for the language arts teacher these teachers do not teach literacy.  They use it as one tool to achieve their academic goals.  These schools, grades 6-12, have redefined literacy.

“Second” schools use four literacy elements:

Information Sources – reading, visual cognition, quantitative analysis and kinesthetic learning skills.

Information Processing – Thinking operations and reasoning odes

Retention – The most critical literacy skill in grades 6-12.

Producing Thought – Responding to objective test items. Writing in 7 forms, speaking, and creating performances in music, theatre, art, and dance.

Knowledge retention is a new and now most critical skill. Without memory students can’t achieve or produce original thought.  These 4 elements are known as Academic and Career Literacy (ACL). Attachments A and B illustrate in mathematics and other departments.

Elementary or skilled-based schools focus on reading and writing composition.  These experiences are important but inadequate for success in knowledge-based “second” schools.  Whether instruction is authoritarian lecture, inquiry project guided, cooperative groups, or individual instruction via technology, these teachers in “second: schools have no exclusive loyalty to academic learning through reading.  They are eclectic in choosing learning materials and teaching tactics.  Their loyalty is to their students and academic subject matter.  This is their identity and mission.  Walk down the hall in a K-5 school and ask a teacher who he or she is.  Their response will be, “I teach 3rd grade.”  They identify by child cohort.  Walk down the hall of a “second” school, middle, junior, or senior high school and ask the same question. “Who are you and what do you do?” The response will be different. The Literacy Big Short emerges from this disconnection between elementary schools and “second” school function and literacy use.  The disconnection is deep, harms students, and is not easily corrected through teacher education reform or new State certification requirements.

ORIGINS OF THE BIG LITERACY SHORT

Educators have been aware of the literacy disconnection and have made efforts to define and connect literacy between elementary and adolescent “second” schools.  A 2006 project funded by the Carnegie Corporation in association with the International Reading Association and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Fifteen key elements were identified within a reading and writing literacy concept.  They are abridged and paraphrased below:

  1. Direct comprehension instruction.
  2. Effective instructional principles embedded within comprehension activities.
  3. Motivation and self-directed learning.
  4. Text-based collaboration.
  5. Strategic tutoring.
  6. Use diverse texts.
  7. Intensive writing.
  8. Use technology.
  9. Ongoing formative assessment.
  10. Extended time for literacy.
  11. Professional Development.
  12. Ongoing summative assessment.
  13. Teacher teams or cross-departmental reading.
  14. Administrative leadership.
  15. Cross grade and departmental coordination.

The elements do not reflect the actual nature of literacy in “second’ schools They were and remain a response to standardized reading and language arts testing mandates found in district tests, state examinations, PSAT, SAT-1 and the ACT.  These mandates are critical and permanent.  Except for the New York State Regents content graduation examinations, high stakes testing in American “second” schools, middle and high schools, assesses reading and mathematics. But, “second” school students learn and graduate by earning credits in departments that use academic and career literacy, not only the reading component.

What is missing?  The following ACL skills are used across all grades and departments in “second” schools and directly linked to college entrance examinations and achievement.

  1. Visual Cognition: Print and Electronic
  2. Thinking and Reasoning: Applied to all information sources
  3. Cognitive Science: Focus on attention, toleration for frustration, impulsive control, goal setting, task completion, and self-generating questions.
  4. Retention: Both short and long-term academic memory
  5. Applied Quantitative Analysis: Statistics and Data interpretation
  6. Writing in 7 forms: recognizing writing, copying, note-making, redesigned writing, composition, media writing, and web site design

The greatest deficiency in a reading centered literacy is the near total absence of instructional emphasis on retention and memory. Reading contests determining who has read the most books in a year are very important. They nurture motivation and develop skills.  But does any student who has read 112 books remember what they read in book #56?  There is no need to remember until they enter “second” schools where reading is transformed into literature study.  Remembering Act 2 Scene 4 in Hamlet is critical to understanding Act 3 Scene 1. The challenge becomes not what we read but how quickly we can learn and how much more slowly can we forget.  Without useable memory, every Monday is Friday and teachers can’t go forward.  Review is necessary.  Memory is constructed at the time of instruction and not only through study which only rehearses embedded memory.

This literacy disconnection will continue. University reading preparation programs train reading experts.  State certification requirements reflect these goals. Some students in “second” schools must have intensive reading remediation.  Many more new English-language learners are also entering these schools. Special education enrollment is rising.  There is a growing need for expert reading diagnostic-based instruction.  Yet when these students enter content classrooms their teachers are not loyal to reading as the primary information instructional system.  Success in isolated clinical settings or small group instruction do achieve reading gains. Schools and districts are judged by these test results.  But, credit-driven content learning requires skills other than reading skills.  Students do not graduate high school because they can read.  They graduate when they meet credit requirements. Some drop out.

CLOSING THE BIG LITERACY SHORT GAP

First, can we accept the reality that literacy in the “second” school is not the literacy in the elementary, skill-based school?  Can we accept the reality that university-based degree literacy programs will not easily change since they must produce reading experts and the reformed programs would have to include members from other university departments such as psychology, communications, English, and perhaps, philosophy? Changing state certification requirements is very difficult, time-consuming, and may require administrative code or statutory change.

Any effort to improve achievement in “second” schools must begin in the district.  The first step is an administrative commitment to a new concept of literacy instructional leadership.  Then, in every “second” school can we identify an educator who will embrace and use the ACL concept and gradually begin serving other faculty?  This person could be a reading specialist or a science teacher.  As this teacher assumed a professional development role, they must retain a full teaching schedule.  Any reduction in teaching periods will increase costs, and possibly divide faculty harming the outreach effort.  Administrators should eliminate all school duties for this person.  Their duty will be to practice literacy in their classroom and communicate to other teachers either in their departments or to all teachers during their duty period.  A stipend, summer work, professional travel and other incentives can be offered.

This academic and career literacy leader and administrators can then form a professional learning community (PLC) within the school.  The PLC would include a mathematics, English, science, history, special education, and English-language learner teachers. The PLC would learn about and use ACL and then turnkey their classroom practices within their own departments. Schools would have a permanent cadre of ACL teachers and eliminate outside consultants.

The ACL/PLC project would then assist faculty in meeting school and district goals.  Services could be offered or mandated to new teachers, untenured teachers, teachers at different grade levels, teachers in different departments, and teachers whose observation/evaluation and personal needs include some form of ACL.

THE BIG LITERACY SHORT: A CODA

All “second” schools are fragmented and consist of teaching tribes with different certifications and indeed even locations within the school.  These schools are centrifugal and fracture a student’s experience in a 6-8 period day.  They lack common academic purpose because every subject has its own claim to virtue.  Academic and career literacy can be binding glue in this planned decentered adolescent education ecology. ACL also gives a common definition to Common Core in “second” schools.  A shared center is created where none existed.

Schools grappling with changing demographic, economic, and social circumstances realize that their future is already rapidly receding behind them.  They are in catchup reaction mode.  Part of the dilemma lies in the recognition that the student achievement goal is restrained by an older concept of literacy which is them again disconnected by the current information communications technology that affects all teaching and learning across the different tribal cells in our “second” schools.

Comments to harry.stein@manhattan.edu

Academic Literacy: Gathering & Organizing Information by Dr. Harry Stein

Gathering & Organizing Information

Dr. Harry Stein, Manhattan College

Reading

Illustration #1 (Gathering & Organizing) shows an Academic Literacy flow chart.

Illustration #1 Academic Literacy Flow Chart

Inputs are depicted in the upper left.  Reading is one means whereby students practice Gathering and Organizing.  It is the first input which leads to processing, storage, and then producing thought.

First, we must describe and define the term “reading.” 

Illustration #2 – Taylor Reading Process Model

Academic Literacy is used in knowledge-based classes with content teachers.  They are never reading teachers and do not teach reading.  They use reading for academic content goals.  Academic literacy begins at #27 on the Taylor model.  If students can not progress through points #1-26 they must receive direct reading instruction from reading teachers.  Their comprehension level must be 4th grade or higher.  Academic literacy gives content teachers the tools to create content learning after students can decode words and minimally comprehend.  Academic literacy is a teaching/learning concept in departmentalized middle and high schools.  It assumes minimal reading skills, #1-26 and proceeds from #27 to #37 on the Taylor model.

      Academic Literacy reading is strategic reading.  Reading is a tool for achieving content learning.  Illustration #3 describes strategic reading in the content areas.  It differentiates between traditional reading activities and strategic reading.  The former assumes students can read, retain, and discuss after an assignment.  The latter is planned and directive.  

Illustration #3 – Strategic Reading in the Content Areas

In Social Studies reading occurs in three settings:  the classroom, the independent assignment, and within tests.

The acronym CAT defines these settings:  class, assignment, and test.

Classroom ReadingThe short passage

     Find a critical, short reading passage.  Refer students to their text or handout.  “Short” means no more than three or four reading minutes.  Attention research indicates that the student focus span rarely exceeds four minutes.  The content must be absolutely critical for meeting our goals.  

Illustration #4 – Eight Steps for Close Reading

      So, how can we start the reading?  Illustration #4 gives us eight ways. Set a purpose for the reading.  Tell students what they will do after the reading.  Then, begin the short “tight” reading.

      Mary Byatt and Laura DiPetro of Washington Township in New Jersey created a tool they call My Close Read Bookmark.  Give one to each student,  Illustration #5. 

Illustration #5 – Close Read Bookmark

Using this tool they make “thinking notes.”  Illustration #6

Illustration #6 – Thinking Notes

      Before class ask students to bring in a 4 color pen. Use black for important notes, red for confusing ideas, blue for clear ideas, and green for post-reading review notes.  Green for growth or change.

      For memory ask students to note the weather that day, the type of clothing they wore, what they ate for breakfast or lunch or any other personal marker of their lives that day.  Personal memory and academic reading memory unite.

Classroom ReadingThe primary source document.  

     Faculty at Knox College in Iowa use Illustration #7 when examining documents. Students make notes on the handout.

Illustration #7 – Reading Primary Source Documents

      At a 2015 U.S. History AP Reading Conference, Christopher Lewis and Jennifer Yoo Brannon, both AP teachers, presented another tool they called the HAPPY Analysis Chart.  Illustration #8.  When reading/discussing the document the chart is a note-making tool.  H-A-PP sections are indicated.  The Y is for “why” is the document significant.

Illustration #8 – H-A-P-P-Y Analysis Chart

Classroom Reading QUESTION/DISCUSSION STRATEGY.  Jane Townsend, University of Florida Illustration #9 gives us general guidelines for in-class readings.  

Illustration #9 – A Strategy for Questions & Discussion

Every classroom reading needs a question strategy the teacher shares with the readers.  Illustration #10 visualizes 4 types of thinking skills and the question triggers for each.

Illustration #10 – Thinking Skills

Illustration#11 shows the QARS strategy. 

Illustration #11 – Q-A-R-S Strategy

Illustration #12 must be carefully read because it gives teachers a question road map whereby students move from depending on the teacher for questions to their being able to create their own questions or statements.  

Illustration #12 – Road Map for Asking Questions

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Reading AssignmentsGuidelines

     Often, we ask students to independently read before the next class.  Then, we expect them to effectively discuss what they have read in class or use the reading to work cooperatively with new materials.  Usually, they have not done the reading or if they have they have not retained any meaning.  Illustration #13 gives teachers a strategy.  Before the assigned reading we must prep students.  As they independently read they need note-making tools to direct their reading and capture their reactions.  Then, when they arrive in class the next day we can proceed.  This is called a BDA strategy.  B=Before, D=During, and A=After the reading.  

Illustration #13 – B-D-A Strategy

Post Assignment Learning StrategiesGuides.

On the previous day we assigned a reading.  Now, in the next class we want to build learning based on their reading.  Guides are a tool.  There are different types. GO#14 illustrates a comprehension levels guide.

Illustration #14 – Guide for Reading Comprehension

GO#14 illustrates a comprehension levels guide.  There are 3 levels:  factual, interpretation, and judgement.

Illustration # 15 – Cause & Effect Patterns

This is a statement not a question guide.  Use statements to trigger thinking.  Statements open the mind.  Questions corner the mind in one direction.  Illustration #15 shows a cause/effect pattern guide and an author’s intention guide. 

Illustration #16 uses lyrics from a ballad At Seventeen and develops a concept guide.

Illustration #16 – Seventeen

Illustration #17 uses a Claim/Point of View Statement Guide  

Illustration #17 – Stating Claim

Illustration #18 concludes our guide samples by showing how our colleagues in science use guides.  This two part guide was developed by Dr. Judith Thelen from Frostburg State, Maryland.

Illustration #18 – Example from Science

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Reading is one tool we use for learning.  We don’t teach it.  We use it for our academic goals.  But, in using it we must not assume students automatically will read and bring critical skills to our classroom.  We have to use our tools in the teaching learning process.

Part 1 – Academic Literacy – Learning with Visuals

“In elementary school all students are taught to read.  Who teaches them to see.  They may be mentally blind.”

     Task #1 is defining the term “visual.”  See illustration Gathering and Organizing #19.  At the bottom is a line graph.  Numbers 1-10 are flat, frozen visuals.  The numbers proceed from #1 abstract symbols such as a plus or minus sign to #10 realistic photographs.  Numbers #11 to #13 are electronic moving visuals.  Our focus is on flat frozen visuals.  

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Illustration #19 – Visual academic Literacy – Flat Frozen Visuals

 “A painting is signed. A photograph is not.  Why?”

     Illustration #20 is a visual interpretation chart.  The chart argues that all visuals have a producer with intent and aim.  The visual can vary.  Finally, there is a receiver or audience which has a memory and reason for seeing the visual.  We can always use this generic chart in our classes.

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Illustration #21 – Visual Interpretation Chart

     The most commonly used visual is the photograph. Read illustration #21 for an orientation to photographs.  Pick one of the Thoughts at the bottom and discuss its meaning with students.

     “Looking is easy.  Seeing is an achievement”

      Following are instructional activities we can use when a photograph or pictorial illustration serves our teaching objectives.  Illustration #21 is called Invading the Picture.  Let’s use it with an illustration of the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan in 1898.  The illustration is extremely dense with information.  We can ask students to tell use what they see or we can deliberately guide them in an inductive teaching manner.  Accessing the illustration has three approaches.  First is the trained eye.  We can sector or divide the scene into observable parts.  The white area seems to divide the two forces.  We can pan the scene from left to right or top to bottom gathering information.  We can zoom shot on one tiny feature and expand the meaning.  For example, using a clock technique go to 11 o’clock in the extreme upper left.  There is a river.  In the river are boats.  Next to the river are masses of assembled troops.

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Illustration #21 – Battle of Omdurmam in the Sudan (1898)

What does this zoom or punctum (point) shot tell us?  Rather than walk across a desert to the battle the British brought their rested troops aboard ships before disembarking them.  They were well fed and had plenty of water so when put into the battle they were fresh.  A final technique is called the “tilt” eye shot in which the viewer is looking down on the scene as if in a drone.  We do not simply look.  We have a guided eye.

     A second approach is called walking through a picture.  A third is called zoning the illustration

     “A photograph or illustration is time’s witness stopping it forever.”

     The 4th and 5th approach to invading a photograph or illustration are the aesthetic and sensory approach.

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Illustration #22 – Analyzing Photographs

      “Does a photograph have meaning or is the meaning brought to the photograph?’

      Illustration #23 is an action photographs that accompanied an article about a football game being played while a school was burning down. 

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Illustration #23 – School on Fire

Illustration #24 can be used with the same photograph.  A four column analysis is used.  People-who are the people we see?  Objects-what things do we see?  Connect them to the people,  Activities-what actions do we see?  Now, add a 4th column IDEAS  what ideas or idea does the photograph convey?   This is a POAI-Chart.

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Illustration #24 – NARA Photographic Analysis Worksheet

      “A photograph both fixes and steals time.”

      Illustration #25 Photograph as a Text shows us how we can tell a Story from a photograph.  Students are given the story chart in the illustration.  A photograph called Paris Bistro is our scene. 

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Paris Bistro

The left side of the chart sets our theme.  What are the intentions of the two people in the picture.  Where in the SHOT is there evidence of the intentions, the argument or thesis claim of the photographer.  What might the plot be?  What is the sequence of events.  What were these two people doing an hour before they met and an hour after.  Do we see any conflicts?

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Illustration #25 -Paris Bistro Analysis Chart

What happened before?  Later?  How might this end.  Is this a father speaking to a daughter?  Is this a husband talking to a wife?  What does the future hold?  This story telling technique could have also been applied to the Omdurman illustration.  

       “A photograph is insight, not sight.”

   Illustration #26 shows another learning strategy. 

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Illustration #26 – Photograph Analysis Worksheet

       Illustration #27 is a very different learning idea.  It is called skin jumping.  Different people bring a different “eye” or “I” to a picture.  Using the Paris Bistro picture how could or would a viewer of a certain race, religion, social class, age, gender, ethnic group, non-disabled, disabled, or from a certain region of a country view the picture.  

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Illustration #27 -Skin Jumping

       “The mind is the real instrument of sight and observation.”

       Photographs and illustrations are two visual types.  Paintings and portraits can also be used in our classes.  Illustration #28 gives us some general ideas about comparing and contrasting these visual forms.  

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Illustration #28 – Comparing & Contrasting Visual Images

       Illustration #29 depicts a young Frederick Douglass.  What do we “see” or “feel” in him? As you learn about Douglass, using his portrait draw a line from his head outward. On the line print the major ideas he is thinking. Next, draw a line outward from his eyes. On the line print what you think his hopes are. Then draw a line from his mouth outward. On the line print what you think he might have said. Next draw a line from his ears outward. On this line write what you think he might have heard. Look at his hands. Draw a line indicating what actions he took. Draw a line from his upper arm. This is his muscle. Write his strengths on this line. Finally, locate his heart and draw a line outward from his heart. On this line write what you think his feelings were. Therefore, when you teach Frederick Douglass, use a visual with your students to help them in organizing their thoughts.

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Illustration #29 – Young Frederick Douglass

       “The painted portrait, a sign of wealth.  The photograph a sign of democracy.”

Illustration #30 is used with artistic images.

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Illustration #31 – S-O-C-C Approach

       Illustration #31 from Catherine Denial of Knox College gives us an SOCC approach:  source, observe, contextualize, and corroborate.  This approach could be used with either Omdurman or the football fire scene.  She uses it with the famous Boston Bloody Massacre scene of 1770.

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Boston Massacre – Illustration #A
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Boston Massacre – Illustration #B
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Illustration #31B – S-O-C-C Answer Sheet

       Our final visual is a graphic illustration #32 used in a history of American addictions.  A POAI approach from Illustration #24 could first be used.  Make notes on the handout illustration.  On the left side is a Q/S column.  Students are asked to write and answer 3 questions or statements they have about the illustration.  At the bottom of the illustration is a paragraph writing technique called T3BCO.  In a paragraph state the T or topic.  Then list the three ‘becauses’ or evidence to support the topic.  C=the conclusion.  

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Illustration #32 – History of American Addictions

       Illustration #33 is a visual teaching planning chart.  Using illustration #19 plan how you can teach with visuals in a 9 week marking period.  

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Illustration #33 – Visual Learning Planning Chart

       Illustration #34 conveys three ideas about visual learning.

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Illustration #34 – Visual Learning

       An article on Visualized Notemaking concludes the gathering and organizing activities and gives students a transition from observing to notemaking, the precondition for building memory leading to writing and speaking.

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Visualized Notemaking – Page 1
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Visualized Notemaking – Page 2
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Visualized Notemaking – Page 3
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Visualized Notemaking – Page 4

Academic Literacy – Graphical Information

One type of graphical aid is the familiar chart form.  Illustration #35 informs us about sexually transmitted infections.  Use 3 steps to analyze any chart.  Turn the heading into a question, “what are the”.  Identify the vertical content, the diseases, and finally identify the horizontal content, the variables of cause, transmission etc.  Then complete the chart.

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Illustration #35 – Sexually Transmitted Diseases

     Illustrations #36 and #37 show 2 different chart forms, the CLUSTER and the WEB.  Students are directed to the central theme and its offshoots. When viewing these charts use a pen to circle the main theme and draw connecting lines with arrows to the parts.  Drawing focuses the eye and mind.   

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Illustration #36 – Cluster Format
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Illustration #37 – Web Format

Additional types of charts are depicted in Illustration #38 ABC.   

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Illustration #38 A – Types of Charts
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Illustration #38B – Research or Information Charts
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Illustration #38C – Research & Information
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Illustration #38D – Comparison Chart

Illustration #39 is an article called the Graphic Information Lesson.  It combines maps, graphs, and charts.  The author skillfully integrates visual types and thinking skills.  

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Illustration #39 – Graphic Information Lesson – Page 1
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Illustration #39 – Graphic Information Lesson – Page 2
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Illustration #39 – Graphic Information lesson – Page 3

     Illustration #40 is an information map that examines the relationships between economic production, the role of government, geography, demography, beliefs, behavior, and economic principles.  The concept of public investment infrastructure is shown with an arrow linking government investment to 7 forms of infrastructure:  T=transportation, E=energy, C=communication, H=health, I=information/education, PH=public health, ands S=security, police, fire, courts, weather prediction, military, and currency management.  Students use the chart for note-making.  Apply this to any country or historical era.

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Illustration #40 – Information Map

     Illustration #41 is the author’s chapter on graphs, supplemented by two additional examples.

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Illustration #41 – Pages 12,13
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41
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Illustration #41

     Illustration #42 is a valuable resource by Edward Tufte, the 20th century’s foremost thinker in information design.  Gathering and Organizing Information has three components:  reading, representational visuals, and graphical aids.  These forms occur in all of our texts and materials.  Learning to use them is critical and produces life-long learning skills transferable to all careers and daily life.  When students can gather and organize information they create a highway for practicing thinking and reasoning.  When thinking and reasoning are organized into retrievable memory they are the building blocks for writing, speaking, and other creative acts.   

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Illustration #42 – Edward Tufte’s Books on Analytical Design