Hello there Tumblr! I realize I haven’t been around much lately, and the main reason for that is that I start teaching my first class that will be all my own in less than a month! It’s…frustrating, to say the least, because while it’s my class, and my syllabus, I do have to follow certain program-wide rules. My least favorite of these rules? We’re supposed to teach students how to write essays by only ever assigning them to read essays. (Or standalone book chapters.) These essays should be 20th and 21st-century, preferably American, preferably written by professors or alumni of my university, so that students will feel part of a larger intellectual community or something.
EVERY SINGLE FRESHMAN at this university will take some version or another of this (mostly grad-student taught) writing class, which means the students’ abilities vary quite widely within a single class. There are NO placement tests, no placing out. And no different tracks for different majors — whether you’re studying chemistry or art history, you have to take this class.
The final assignment is a research paper, essentially about whatever the students care about enough to research — but most students, given a topic that open-ended, will just flail and fail. And since student interests are so varied, you can’t just decide to pick a narrow topic — it won’t catch student interest.
I want my students to write a research paper that engages in history, broadly considered (the history of a discourse or discipline, changing views of a present phenomenon based on changing evidence about its history, who writes history and how, how media manipulates historical narratives, etc.). But to do this, I need to give them some background reading on history as a discipline, and the way in which knowing a thing’s history can change the way we view it.
How you can help: What are some good, short readings (less than 20pgs preferably) that describe, explain, question, evaluate, or rewrite the way that history — both what happened in the past, and our dominant narratives about what happened in the past — influences the present? I’d especially love anything that treats history in relation to STEM fields, since that’s an area where I’ve done little to no personal research, but I’ll take anything and everything! Reblogs likewise appreciated.