The Answer Sheet: History

Posted at 08:23 AM ET, 01/24/2011

JFK's Harvard application: 'Lackluster' applicant

John F. Kennedy's 1935 application to Harvard College is now online, and it shows him to be something less than a superlative applicant.

By Valerie Strauss  |  08:23 AM ET, 01/24/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 01/17/2011

A quiz: Martin Luther King’s unusual education

Martin Luther King Jr., had something of an unusual education. Test yourself on how much you know about it, and then read the answers, which include information that may surprise you about him.

By Valerie Strauss  |  05:00 AM ET, 01/17/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:16 PM ET, 01/13/2011

Va. orders history textbook review -- finally

The Virginia Board of Education has finally taken the first step toward removing two elementary school history textbooks that it had earlier approved despite many errors.

By Valerie Strauss  |  03:16 PM ET, 01/13/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 01/10/2011

Latino studies program in Tucson declared illegal

An Arizona official has declared that an ethnic studies program on Latino culture is illegal under a new law that went effect on Jan. 1.

By Valerie Strauss  |  05:00 AM ET, 01/10/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:30 AM ET, 01/08/2011

Why Fairfax's textbook recall is surprising

Now that Fairfax County is recalling a fourth-grade social studies textbook with dozens of errors, the question is why any other system using them hasn't done the same thing.

By Valerie Strauss  |  11:30 AM ET, 01/08/2011 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:30 PM ET, 11/24/2010

The first Thanksgiving proclamation, by George Washington

From a 1789 newpaper, here's President George Washington's proclamation of the first official Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.

By Valerie Strauss  |  03:30 PM ET, 11/24/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:19 PM ET, 11/24/2010

Why we don't eat deer for Thanksgiving (the Pilgrims did)

When did Americans start eating turkey on the national holiday of Thanksgiving? It wasn't when, or for the reason, you probably learned in school.

By Valerie Strauss  |  02:19 PM ET, 11/24/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 10/11/2010

Stuff you should know about Columbus

A lot of what you think you know about Christopher Columbus is probably wrong. Here are some things about the explorer that might surprise you.

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:00 AM ET, 10/11/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 04:32 PM ET, 09/24/2010

Lessons from Virginia's shift on Confederate history

Several months after issuing a proclamation about “Confederate History Month” in Virginia without mentioning slavery’s role in the Civil War, the state’s governor, Robert F. McDonnell, has decided to call it “Civil War in Virginia Month” instead. This underscores how the battle to teach the conflict to new generations of Americans continues 150 years later.

By Valerie Strauss  |  04:32 PM ET, 09/24/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:15 PM ET, 09/24/2010

Texas education board: Textbooks favor Islam over Christianity

The Texas Board of Education adopts a controversial resolution today that accuses textbook publishers of favoring Islam over Christianity and tells them to stop it. Never mind that the books the board cited as examples of bias were phased out of Texas classrooms long ago.

By Valerie Strauss  |  03:15 PM ET, 09/24/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 05:00 AM ET, 09/16/2010

Are Texas's social studies standards really so bad?

Texas has now officially adopted highly controversial new social studies standards. Here's a different view of the standards and the process by which they were approved.

By Valerie Strauss  |  05:00 AM ET, 09/16/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:51 PM ET, 09/15/2010

Texas considers how Islam is portrayed in textbooks

The Texas Board of Education finally adopted its social studies standards a few weeks ago, seeming to put an end to the a huge controversy that erupted when critics accused religious fundamentalists of rewriting American history. Now, apparently, it is taking up a new issue: How students should learn about Islam.

By Valerie Strauss  |  03:51 PM ET, 09/15/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:30 AM ET, 07/23/2010

The history of ice cream (July is National Ice Cream Month)

I love history. I love ice cream (and so did George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and, of course, Dolley Madison). So, to mark National Ice Cream Month, for which we have Ronald Reagan to thank, here is the history of ice cream. It’s more interesting than you might think and even your kids might like it.

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:30 AM ET, 07/23/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 12:06 AM ET, 07/23/2010

From a list of ideas to an 11,200-word essay

In this letter a high school student details how he wrote a scholarly history paper that was published and what he learned from the experience.

By Valerie Strauss  |  12:06 AM ET, 07/23/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 09:56 AM ET, 07/11/2010

The story behind ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

"To Kill a Mockingbird" turns 50 on Sunday. Here's the story of how the author, Harper Lee, came to write it.

By Valerie Strauss  |  09:56 AM ET, 07/11/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 07:12 AM ET, 07/03/2010

Top 5 Independence Day myths

Did you know that American independence wasn't really declared on the Fourth of July? Or that most delegates to the Constitutional Convention didn't sign the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July? Read on.

By Valerie Strauss  |  07:12 AM ET, 07/03/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:13 AM ET, 07/02/2010

Declaration of Independence rough draft shows crossout

Just in time for the Fourth of July, the Library of Congress has this news: Hyperspectral imaging of Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has confirmed that he originally wrote the phrase “our fellow subjects,” but then scrawled over it the word “citizens.”

By Valerie Strauss  |  10:13 AM ET, 07/02/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 02:06 PM ET, 06/23/2010

Law student James Madison rediscovered through lost notes

The discovery that a series of aw notes thought to have been written by Thomas Jefferson were actually penned by James Madison has led to a call for a reassessment of the fourth U.S. president.

By Valerie Strauss  |  02:06 PM ET, 06/23/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:30 AM ET, 05/24/2010

Bad standards: Not just in Texas

Texas isn’t the only place with lousy social studies standards, though you might be forgiven for thinking so considering all the attention that Texas Board of Education has received in recent months as it adopted a new set of standards.

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:30 AM ET, 05/24/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:56 AM ET, 05/22/2010

California bill takes aim at new Texas standards

A bill introduced in California seeks to protect the country’s largest school system from the Texas Board of Education and its new social studies standards.

By Valerie Strauss  |  10:56 AM ET, 05/22/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:30 AM ET, 05/21/2010

The worst Texas social studies standard?

I’ve been reading the social studies standards in Texas as well as the many proposed changes being pushed by religious conservatives on the Board of Education, and playing an entirely subjective game: Which is the most egregious twisting of history?

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:30 AM ET, 05/21/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:23 PM ET, 05/13/2010

Did Texas school board abuse its power?

With the Texas State Board of Education getting ready to adopt controversial new social studies standards, a new report accuses the panel of abusing its power and asks the state Legislature to intervene. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of...

By Valerie Strauss  |  03:23 PM ET, 05/13/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:30 AM ET, 05/04/2010

Arizona strikes again: Now it is ethnic studies

First Arizona passed a law requiring police to question anybody who looks like an illegal immigrant. Then we learn that the state order school districts to get rid of teachers with very heavy accents. Then the legislature approved a bill targeted at a Mexican-American studies program that the state education chief doesn't like. Arizona doesn't know when to quit.

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:30 AM ET, 05/04/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 11:29 AM ET, 04/08/2010

Teaching the Civil War: Debate still alive

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s apology for leaving slavery out of a proclamation declaring April as Confederate History Month cannot gloss over the fact that the issue is still alive. While there is little disagreement among professional historians that slavery was the central reason for the secession of 11 Southern states from the union and the eruption of the war, it is still taught as only one of the issues in many Southern schools.

By Valerie Strauss  |  11:29 AM ET, 04/08/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:04 PM ET, 04/07/2010

McPherson on slavery and Virginia's governor

Civil War expert James McPherson says that Virginia Gov. McDonnell had it wrong when he indicated that slavery was not “most significant” for Virginia as an issue during the Civil War period. Let's hope Virginia's student learn Civil War history the way McPherson teaches it.

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:04 PM ET, 04/07/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:30 AM ET, 04/07/2010

Texas did not really rewrite history--Sewall

The director of the independent American Textbook Council says that the reports that came out of Texas about conservative changes to the social studies curriculum are wrong.

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:30 AM ET, 04/07/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:29 AM ET, 04/02/2010

James McPherson on Texas history curriculum

I asked award-winning historian James McPherson how much we should worry about the changes to social studies curriculum being made by conservatives in Texas. Here's what he said.

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:29 AM ET, 04/02/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 10:20 AM ET, 03/17/2010

Texas and its history mess--deja vu all over again

Texas is under scrutiny for silly and historically inaccurate revisions that its state board of education made to its American history curriculum. But it's not the first time Texas has been in a mess with its history textbooks.

By Valerie Strauss  |  10:20 AM ET, 03/17/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 03:49 PM ET, 01/21/2010

That first big research paper

The following was written by Christiane Henrich, a 17-year-old high school student about how she wrote her first substantial research paper, which was published in the academic journal for high school students, The Concord Review. She begins: "Before crafting my research paper on U.S. Civil War Medicine, I had never composed a piece of non-fiction literature beyond six or seven pages. Twenty pages seemed to be an unconquerable length." I remember the dread that filled me as my AP United States History teacher, Mrs. Melissa Humphrey, handed out the assignment for the twenty-page research paper. She also passed around copies of The Concord Review as examples of research papers done well. For us, the first deadline was only a few weeks away. We had to have a thesis. It was then that I truly realized the depth of this academic adventure. My job was not to simply report on some topic in U.S. history; I had to prove something. I had to create an arguable thesis and defend it. I was overwhelmed.

By Valerie Strauss  |  03:49 PM ET, 01/21/2010 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)

Posted at 06:30 AM ET, 12/14/2009

How should history be taught?

Most historians writing about the historic events of the last year in the United States would likely concentrate on the election of the first black president, Barack Obama, and the conditions that led to his victory. Not Howard Zinn. The longtime historian and social activist said he would instead focus on “people who are still struggling." This approach to history--focusing on how ordinary people help turn people rather than presidents and generals--was seen in "The People Speak," a film documentary that premiered last night on The History Channel. What do you think of Zinn's approach to history?

By Valerie Strauss  |  06:30 AM ET, 12/14/2009 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)