Tag Archives: American history

BOOK REVIEW: Bomb: The Race to Build-And Steal-The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin


by Andrew Palmer

While I do enjoy reading a great fiction book, I would much rather curl up with non-fiction book and learn something. I realize that not all readers are like that, and young adult readers are often very reluctant to read non-fiction texts. If more writers wrote non-fiction books like this one, more of you would want to join me, and more of our teens would be interested in history.

In the biography in the back of this book, it says that Steve Sheinkin “has dedicated his life to making up for his previous crimes by crafting gripping narratives of American history.” On the surface this is a humorous quip, the reality is this is a sad truth about American history textbooks. Frankly, most of them suck. They do not engage students in any meaningful way, and they never inspire kids to investigate more. Add in an uninspiring history teacher, and it is no wonder you have a society that is apathetic and knows very little about its own history. Sheinkin has another book out that has been fairly popular with some of my students, it is called The Notorious Benedict ArnoldBenedictArnold

In Bomb, Sheinkin takes three different story lines surrounding the development and building of the world’s most dangerous weapon and weaves them together. The first is the Americans trying to build the atomic bomb. The second is the Soviets and their attempts to steal the bomb through spies. I was fascinated with this part of the book. I was excited to see this written into a book for young adults. Sheinkin also includes a little information on the reality of who Stalin was. Young adults need to hear the truth on who the Soviets really were. Finally, the third story line was the Allies attempts to sabotage the German bomb program. This was really interesting, too. The details of these missions are sure to impress any reader.

Bomb is written in narrative non-fiction. For those that don’t know what this is, it is a genre that takes a historical event and tells it like a narrative story. It is such a valuable genre for getting readers to be interested in history. Those of us that are passionate about history know that it is best told in a story format. I wish more authors would write books in this manner for the young adult book market.

Bomb was a 2013 National Book Award Finalist, a Newbery Honor Book for 2013, a winner of the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction Award from YALSA-ALA, and it won the Robert F. Sibert Medal for best informational text. Sheinkin should be applauded for his work in this text.

Consider buying a copy from our online store!



Filed under Young Adult Book Reviews, Young Adult Books

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Setting Objectives

by Annie Palmer of Breaking Education Barriers

One of the challenges with professional development and improved instruction is there is an ever-present environment of new ideas.  While most teaching accept the fact that education is ever-changing, and it should for the most part, it does make it hard to focus in on high-yield instructional strategies when there is always the “latest and greatest” strategy. So, what’s the answer to this challenge; it is simple, work smarter, not harder.

A few years ago I took part in a consortium with Debra Pickering, who is a part of the Marzano Research Laboratory.  As a  part of this consortium, we had to conduct an action research on one of Robert Marzano’s nine high-leverage instructional strategies. I chose the strategy of setting objectives, because this one caused the most doubt in my mind about how much it could really improve student achievement. Prior to this action research, I obviously set objectives for my class—while writing my lesson plans, but I do not think I effectively shared those objectives with the class.  They were shared, just not in a clear and focused manner.  After conducting the action research with a fifth-grade unit on early American settlements, my doubt of the effectiveness of this strategy was diminished.  I was pleasantly surprised about how much more focused the students were.  There are so many tangents one can go off on when teaching American history (especially when you have a passion for it as I do), but setting objectives at the beginning of each lesson and re-visiting them at the end of each lesson not only made learning intentions clear to students, it helped me keep my instruction focused where it needed to be.  There was a clear difference in test scores with my experimental group as compared to my control group.

It is now a few years later and I am reading John Hattie’s Visible Learning.  First of all, I highly recommend this book for any teacher who is wanting to step up their game.  Hattie’s book is a meta-analyses of meta-analyses, which basically means he compared results of thousands of studies.  He expands on the importance of learning intentions (ie setting objectives).  Teacher clarity is tenth on his list of top strategies/approach to education that has the highest affect on student achievement. While reading this book, I realized that I had lost sight of this since doing my action research. So, I have refocused my efforts on making learning intentions clear to my students (and myself!) and, it is no surprise, that our learning is once again more focused and students seem more appreciative that they are not overwhelmed with trying to master every bit of information I throw at them.

The bigger lesson learned for me and the lesson I hope you take away from this: the key to professional development is not always learning more (aka doing more), it is working smarter.  Education is, and should be constantly changing, but there are research-based strategies that have been proven time and again to be effective.  Focus on those strategies as opposed to the newest latest and greatest strategies that promise to transform your teaching.

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It’s history and economics education, stupid!

by Andrew Palmer

For anyone that follows politics they know the famous James Carville quote, “It’s the economy, stupid.” As conservatives absorb and evaluate the reasons for the reelection of the Marxist in Chief Barack Obama, the one topic that I don’t think you will see discussed will be history and economics education.

People like to scream about our education system in America, but I think they always get it all wrong. It’s history and economics education, stupid!

For decades conservatives have been belly-aching over the state of our public education system. They are always besides themselves about how our kids can’t read, they can’t write, they suck at math, or how some stupid second world country is beating us on the PISA assessment. My response to these cries has always been to roll my eyes. It is not where the problem is!

The reason that 60 million Americans were willing to elect Barack Obama is because they know little to nothing about our country, it’s history, or the principles that created our constitutional republic. Is it any wonder that this has happened? Really since Reagan the focus on the right for education reform has constantly been on science, math, and English.

Well, guess what, science, math, and English are incomplete without the fourth core of history education. I have always viewed history education as the glue that binds all of the contents. It is the “why” of us. Without the why, the other three cores are meaningless.

If one is a truth seeking person they will discover through the study of our past that America is a great nation. They will see that America made some mistakes along the way, but the truth of the matter is that we have been responsible for more good than any other nation in the history of the world. I challenge you to find one better, it doesn’t exist.

The reason the average American, the 60 million dupes that voted for Obama, never respond to the accusation of him being a socialist or a Marxist is because they don’t know what these terms mean. I have heard many people respond to the question of “What is socialism?” with a response of something to do with talking to other people. In other words, socializing. An honest pursuit of the history of governance should cause one to realize that socialism doesn’t work, and it always ends up in a fiscal cliff. Just look at Europe!

If history education is bad, economics education in this country is utterly disgusting. The average American can’t differentiate between capitalism and socialism. You think they will be able to understand the difference between Keynes and Mises? I could fall out of my seat laughing at that one. Add in a poor understanding of personal economics and you have a real disaster. Is it any wonder that Dave Ramsey makes millions teaching people to not be stupid with their money? It’s no wonder we elect the politicians we do.

I know it’s easy to really get discouraged after last night, but I’m not a sunshine patriot, and I hope you aren’t either. The progressives have been able to brainwash Americans for the last 40 years through terrible history and economics education at the secondary and post-secondary levels. If you think it’s bad now, just wait until the history component of the Common Core State Standards emerges. It is my expectation that these standards will be used to further denigrate and destroy what is left of our constitutional republic.

Many people often confuse what makes this nation great. It is not it’s people. Heck, we proved that last night. There were 60 million people that voted for a guy that has absolutely no character, honor, or integrity. What makes us great is our constitution and its foundational political philosophy. Those ideas still exist. It is up to us, conservative teachers and citizens, to protect and spread those ideas. Remember, ideas are timeless, nations are not.

If conservatives really want to focus on the ills of our education system, history and economics education is the target.

Andrew Palmer is an English Language Arts public school teacher in Missouri. You can follow him on Twitter at @MoConservTchr. He is co-founder and editor of Conservative Teachers of America. 


Filed under Economics, history education, National Standards (Common Core)

High School History Education #Fail

You will find the recurring urge to laugh, but it is overshadowed by the urge to pick your computer monitor up and hurl it across the room. History is the one content that we have paid no attention to, have expected no accountability in, and we will suffer the consequences as a nation.

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Laugh or cry? Americans Demonstrate Their Knowledge of History in Front of White House

Found this on The Blaze, thought it worth sharing.

Laugh or Cry? Video Shows D.C. Tourists Can’t Answer Basic Civics Questions

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Filed under history education, Videos

Tampa 9/12 Group to Hold Summer Camp Focused on Founding Fathers

We came across this a little bit ago, very interesting summer camp being held by a 9/12 Group down in Tampa Bay. Recent results of National Assessment of Education Progress show that American students are clueless about American history and civics. We appreciate the willingness of this citizen group to put on a camp focused on American history.

The following comes from their Eventbrite page for the camp.

Just as we the citizens of the United States of America bear the ultimate responsibility to ensure that liberty persists in our great nation, we also bear the ultimate responsibility to teach the generations that follow us the principles from which liberty flows; and further that they in turn bear that responsibility to teach these principles and responsibilities to their children. Only through diligence can freedom be perpetually maintained over the centuries to come.

Our goal in holding the Tampa Liberty School is to encourage our nation’s citizens to carry out this responsibility. Tampa Liberty School is a 5-day program for 3 hours a day designed to impart the principles of liberty as discovered and implemented by the founders of our country in young Americans ages 8-12 years old. The program is presented by a passionate and motivated group of citizens of the Tampa 912 Project to the children of the community.

We want the children to enjoy thoroughly the time they spend with us at the school. We also want them to have an experience that instills in them understanding, appreciation, excitement, and enthusiasm for the liberty we enjoy in America. We attempt to do this by having the children discover the principles of liberty for themselves by experiencing situations both consistent and contrary to those principles.

Some of the main points of emphasis in the Tampa Liberty School include:

  • With freedom comes responsibility. Blending freedom and responsibility requires virtuous, moral, and educated citizens. This is why we teach the principles of liberty from the perspective of faith, hope and charity.
  • We promote principles rather than specific men or political parties since these can be corrupted and disappoint us, whereas fundamental principles are timeless and incorruptible.
  • Seek the truth by going to original sources. We go to the founders’ own words to understand the intent of their actions and the structure they laid for us. In this spirit, we encourage all involved in Tampa Liberty School to engage in their own quest for the truth and research beyond what is presented here.
  • The founders’ faith in God was fundamental to the founding of our country and the system they provided.
  • The ultimate responsibility for maintaining liberty lies with the people. It may be convenient to point blame at our elected officials for infringements that may creep in upon our liberties, but we must recognize that it is up to us (the citizens) to be the guardians of our liberty and assure that those we elect do not reach beyond the binds that the Constitution places on our government.

Tampa Liberty School borrows from the model of Vacation Bible School (VBS) that is familiar to so many Americans. It is similar to VBS in that it is a 5-day program, put on by parents and volunteers from the community. All activities are designed to teach while having fun. This connection in structure conveniently provides for quick understanding when introducing the concept.

We look forward to seeing you and your children coming out for this inaugural event!

We here at CTA wish this group much success on their endeavor this summer!

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