Unit 20

Study Area

Now that the move to our new school is completed: walls are painted, everything is in its place, math and language lessons are back on a more consistent track, and I’ve expanded the role of my Number One so that she is now in charge of Tuesday morning class meetings where we are working on interpersonal skills, and Thursday afternoons for science lessons and experiments I now have time to do what I love.

I love to research. I read about what my students need: diagnosis, cum file reports, analysis of daily progress to find nuances that need to be addressed, and social issues that occur or are brought up by the students. I also love reading for lesson research so I can teach the students what is important in our unit of study. 

We are in our 20th unit (of our three year, 21 unit cycle) which covers the history 1950-now, economics, insects, and global warming. 

Number One takes care of the science aspect; I had the students watch “An Inconvenient Truth” which led to some great discussions. 

We are playing PayDay for economics as we discuss dead-end jobs (little advancement possibilities), factory jobs, unions, and real careers (advancement possible and education leads to greater opportunities in the field). Some of our students who couldn’t wait to grow up are realizing they still have a lot to learn. 

I am settling down and doing research on the history aspect and that is what I want to talk a little bit about. 

I am a product of public education. My first history course in college shocked me to the core as I learned things that were not even close to what I had learned in school. That started my love of history, because REAL history is so much more intricate and interesting than public school history which, in the United States, is VERY United States-Centric (even A.P. was mostly about dates and not about cause/effect or learning about both sides). 

Here I am. I begin my research by watching Oliver Stone’s “Untold History of the United States” which leaves me reeling with all the new information I am learning. I follow with a quick children’s book or two from the library on each topic. I include historical fiction reads from the junior and teen sections (I should tell you that I use the children’s and teens section of the library because I can get through these books faster, and they give me an overview from which I gain more focused ideas for further research if I desire). Then I crack open a textbook (I collect these from thrift stores and schools). Here is just a tiny bit of what I have learned:

Monday, I basically learned that all I thought I knew about the Cold War was wrong. I had no clue what was going on behind the scenes. The development of the CIA, approved guerrilla tactics on the U.S.S.R. border, and how the Greek civil war influenced military tactics in Vietnam. How fears were manipulated and fueled to escape war crime trials, to bolster political power, and so much more. Then, I learned that the Berlin Wall had not separated East Germany from West Germany as I had been led to believe all my life, but instead surrounded West Berlin (the part of Berlin controlled by France, Britain, and the United States). 

Yesterday, I learned that the initial spread of communism was an agreed upon allotment of land from the Moscow Conference of 1944 where Stalin and Churchill agreed upon what percent of interest each country would take when the war was completed. Churchill later suggested it was a ‘guideline’ while Stalin took it at face value. Poland, Romania, Bulgaria? Stalin had “won” a 75% interest or greater and so moved forward with that interest. Other countries, where Stalin had acquired a 50% or less interest he used behind-the-scenes influence to increase the communist party and “win” the country by vote, then moved in. He wasn’t (at the outset of WW2) trying to “spread” anything, he was only taking what he had been given. This put a whole new spin on the “threat of Communism” that inspired the Cold War.

Today, I read about the Korean War in the textbook and how the United Nations stepped in to help South Korea against the North Koreans “to restore peace.” Really? If the United States supporting democracy had not been in the south, and the U.S.S.R. had not been assisting the development of communism in the north, no one would have cared one bit about a civil war in Korea. However, Truman had pledged to help people all over the world to prevent the spread of communism and when communist North Korea invaded the free south, he had to act to back up his words. If the United Nations was only trying to “restore peace” then when the North Koreans had gone back behind their border the war would have been over. Instead, the United Nations, United States, and South Korea decided to try and unite Korea under democracy and invaded the north--which threatened China’s border and caused them to come in and support North Korea. 

Last week, my mind was blown when I discovered that when icebergs in the north melt that influx of fresh water mixes into the ocean decreasing the salinity. This breaks the cycle of hot water being cooled and sinking deep in the ocean to keep the currents flowing because fresher water floats, when the cool water can’t drop the deeper water warms. The result creates mini-ice ages along the Jet Stream air currents. 8,000 years ago an ice dam melted and released the fresh water lake of North America (the Great Lakes are the remains) and caused a mini-ice age in Europe. Britain’s Little Ice Age in 1939 may have also been caused by melting glaciers--this is why I think that: the Titanic sunk in 1911 after hitting an iceberg SE of New York. That iceberg had to break off of something and was melting while it moved. If the Titanic incident was proof of warming weather/water in the north it isn’t a great leap to think that the Little Ice Age was a result of an interruption of water currents by melting glaciers. 

In the book we are reading in class, “Red Menace” by Lois Ruby, we are taught some of the absurd ways that people were “proven” to be communist, or communist sympathizers. “Have you read a book called Salt of the Earth?” “Have you...attended a Pete Seeger concert? A Paul Robeson concert? A Weavers concert?” “attended meetings of the American League for Peace and Democracy?” (pg. 72). 

Well, I love to learn and share what I learn. This week, I am not just adding to knowledge I already had, but attacking paradigms of belief and thought that were ground into me during public schooling. This is an absolutely amazing and exciting thing for me, but it is also scary, frustrating, and utterly exhausting. 

Thanks for reading.