Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TAH--Not Dead Yet!

Contrary to what you might have heard, the Teaching American History program is not yet dead, and with the right amount of support, may survive and even thrive.

This update from the National Coalition for History describes the current state of TAH funding. The short version is that funding was reduced by 2/3rds in the current year to $46 million (it had been at $120 million the last few years) and might be eliminated entirely next year.

Or it might not. Some are already writing the epitaph for TAH, and it is easy to understand their pessimism. House Republicans have voted to eliminate the program. The Obama administration, and in particular Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, does not support the program. So how can it survive?

It can survive because, for the program to go away, the House and Senate will have to agree to eliminate it, and as the NCH observes, "Traditionally, there has been strong bi-partisan support in the Senate for the TAH program." Also, TAH has support from House Democrats, and many thousands of advocates across the country. Our professional historical organizations, which have in the past been largely ineffective or indifferent advocates of TAH, are beginning to wake up. If we can save TAH from being zeroed out in the current budget session, by next year we could be anticipating a new Congress that would be far more sympathetic to TAH. If we can hold the line--any line!--for another year or two, it could well become a permanent program.

The National Council for History Education has been the most useful professional organization for defending TAH, and this Call for Action [PDF] by the NCHE is still a good guide to contacting your congresswomen and men. See also this post.

Don't give up hope, and do contact your senators and representative. We can still win this one.

Monday, June 6, 2011

When Stupid Things Happen to Good Wikipedia Articles

Every teacher who has ever called on a student who had not done the reading will recognize the agonizing pattern here:

Palin is  campaigning on a family vacation along the east coast, visiting historic sites and waving the flag. Asked a direct question and with the cameras rolling, Palin suddenly suddenly realizes she has no idea what Paul Revere actually did to become an American hero. So she tries to fake her way through with the unprepared student's classic recipe of one-half facts that are wrong and one-half trumpeting what the student believes are the key themes of the course (or in this case the campaign). So we get "Revere warned the British . . . he rode a horse, yeah, horse . . . ummmm . . . the Second Amendment Rules!!!!" Up until Palin's gaffe, the classic film representation of the phenomena was from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure:

The clip of Palin stumbling through her answer went viral and has been on every political blog over the weekend. The interesting thing is how Palin supporters have fought back, trying to alter history to fit the statements of their candidate. Slate blogger Dave Weigel has a pretty good summary of the effort so far: Editing Wikipedia to Make Palin Right About Paul Revere. Apparently supporters of Palin have been busily editing the Wikipedia entry on Paul Revere to make it better fit Palin's version of events. You can scrape the article's revision history for examples if you are extremely patient but Weigel gives an example of the general approach of the pro-Palin edits with the following example, in which the (since deleted) pro-Palin changes are are underlined:
Via Boing Boing

Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him ("The British are coming!"), largely because the mission depended on secrecy and the countryside was filled with British army patrols; also, most colonial residents at the time considered themselves British as they were all legally British subjects.

Wikipedia is pretty hardy, and editors have been reverting (deleting) these politically-motivated changes as quickly as they are made. You can follow that process on the discussion page for the Revere article, where one weary editor posted "Sarah Palin's army needs to go away."