Opinion: I Knew Shays’ Rebellion. You’re No Shays’ Rebellion.

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Once upon a time, a militia saved our young nation from domestic insurrection, ages before the “Y’All Queda” interest groups cast themselves in false-flags: Saviors of the Constitution. Now: If you’ve been following the episode in Oregon, you know that the Hammonds were sent to jail by a federal order for setting brush fires on land they were leasing from the American people.  Willingly, the Hammonds reported for jail time; yet, in a bizarre twist of events, a group, riding on the coattails of “federal intrigue,” chose the moment to occupy a National Wildlife Refuge in the area. Again, the…

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This Is a Good Sign of the Times

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All movements are a sign of the times, but this movement takes signs more literally than you might expect. Kevin Alan Lamb and founder Eric Dennis, as well as dozens of close team members, show up to events across Detroit brandishing yellow diamonds, large and small, that read: THIS IS A GOOD SIGN. And what started as a desire to strengthen communities has morphed into a worldwide, viral wave of positivity. Inspiration… Can an organization exist solely for its purpose? Yes. They aren’t religious, unless your religion is goodness. And there’s absolutely no hidden agenda. In today’s world of irony…

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Places to Go: Dr. Seuss and the Politicolors

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Like any great model, the strength of the politicolors pairs their simplicity with their potential for greater interpretation.  The collective works of Theodore Geisel aka Dr. Seuss are just the same.  In my second year of utilizing Professor Harris’s model, I coupled Seuss stories with each of the boxes. I teach upper elementary students, but believe that great children’s literature contains the same room for re-discovery as any adult “classic.”  What follows is a summary of some Seuss, supplemented with a flurry of outside resources which might add greatly to the discourse, no matter what age your group. [Note: I…

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The Wave, Human Nature, and Our Radical Evolution

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Published in 2005, Joel Garreau’s Radical Evolution offers multiple perspectives on the future of human kind.  Interviewing world-class thinkers, engineers, and philosophers, the author examines not only our decisions, but our decision making process—for the heart of Garreau’s thesis maintains that human nature changes. We’ve all wondered whether we’re still part of that process.  Over the years, our species has gradually removed ourselves from the brutality of natural selection.  Americans, especially, have enjoyed long periods without significant culling; so do we yet evolve?  Garreau thinks so.  Physically, we create medicine that can alter our appearances and heal our wounds, while…

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Project Citizen

Project Citizen

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Having been briefly introduced to Project Citizen at the National Academy, I decided to try it out this year.  It’s an ideal, outcome-based activity as much about the journey as the finish.  And the great thing about the finish is that it’s really just the beginning, for students receive the tools to research and formulate public policy.  In the end, it is incredibly empowering for the kids to discover the pathways through which they can enact change. A few words from my fourth-graders (non-speakers) when asked today by the panel what they had learned from the experience: “I learned what…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 3 of 3)

My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 3 of 3)

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In the previous installment, I overcame my apprehension at introducing the politicolors, and began to share student responses to political theory.  At one time, I had been worried about the abstract nature of such an approach, yet here they were truly excited to use colored pencils in their notes and making connections of which I couldn’t have dreamed. I usually turn up the heat on critical thinking skills once students hit sixth grade, but here the fourth and fifth were sweeping off my socks.  I also found that they were a bit more realist than I had been at that…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 2 of 3)

My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 2 of 3)

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When last we met, I was explaining my dread, as I contemplated using Will’s boxes with my 4th-6th classroom.  Here was this rich, layered theory, which I still hadn’t mastered; yet, the politicolors had given dimension to the founding, I’d never before imagined.  Could I bring them to life? It was understood that I had a looooong way to even near Will’s grasp.  After all, I’d still look back at photos of the concept maps and ponder the meanings of words written in the corners of the boxes or lines that could sometimes be dotted, and I’d wish for a…

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My Serial of Boxes (Pt. 1 of 3)

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After a year to digest Will’s colors and boxes, I felt ready to use them with my class. It wasn’t without apprehension.  Although I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and re-envisioning the National Academy (primarily through writing and this site), I want to approach mastery before revealing ideas.  I think that’s only natural with one’s classroom.  All good teachers admit their limitations, yet we don’t like to be wrong a whole lot, and that’s when working with facts.  Here I was, deciding to dive into theory.  And it looked like a glass of water down on the sidewalk from…

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How the Hobbes Stole Christmas

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Looking for a way to make Thomas Hobbes more to your students than life as “nasty, brutish, and short”?  Today, I shared with my 4th-6th graders Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You’ve no doubt seen the Chuck Jones animated version, but I’m going to visit the original text.  As the story goes, the Grinch grinds out both his years and teeth, high up in a mountain cave.  He hates Christmas, for “No one knows quite the reason,” but most likely it is because “his heart was two sizes too small.” The people down below are the Whos, and…

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The Ballad of Detroit

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In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jerod Diamond makes an interesting observation about peninsulas: the landform, much like an island, isolates a people. Peninsulas act as a force multiplier, granting a space easier defense, so that a polity might survive invasion by a much more powerful culture.  (Think: Hot Gates and Isthmus of Corinth.)  Conversely, a spit can bring the closed-culture of the Spartans.  (“Mommy..?  What is art?”  *SMACK!*  “Get back to your jumping-jacks!”)  It’s no coincidence that Europe retains hundreds of cultures as well as claim to the most devastating wars in history; the continent’s chock-full of peninsulas. I live on one.  In fact, Michigan…

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