Are You Owned By Madison 5th Avenue?


New York has traditionally been the hub of all things advertising, although this has changed somewhat with the advent of more mobile technology. Throughout history, advertising has been a lucrative business as the American economy transitioned to consumerism, especially after World War II.

In Mona Lisa Smile, we see how this affected a generation of women–modernizing meant labor-saving devices to take care of the family so that they could “get the dinner on the table by 5:00.” We saw this in advertising slicks, character archetypes. This film shows the social history of the post-war era very well.

The 1950’s were about the rise of the suburb and the American middle class.

Critical Questions and challenge: 

1. How does advertising and media portray certain groups of people at certain times in history?

2. Are these images accurate?

3. Why do the advertisers and media want to portray group in these way?

4. How has the image of this group, as portrayed in advertising and media, changed throughout history?


Pick a certain demographic or group, then pick a decade from US history.  Research advertisements that show your group in that decade. Then, analyze the information you find, and either write a blog post linking to the material and addressing the critical questions, or present your findings to the class in a 3-5 minute presentation, including visuals.

Option two: You may choose to examine a certain product throughout the ages–for example cars, or Coca-Cola. Look at how the campaigns change, and explain how pop culture drives this.

Please add any interesting vintage advertisements you find to this Learnist board, “Vintage Advertisements,”  so we can have a collection of our thoughts, showing how each group was portrayed.


Groups that met the challenge: 

This challenge turned out wonderfully. I’m going to post a few of the most successful presentations here.

Offensive Advertisements:  Alyson and Shyla researched material that is from the mainstream American advertising culture and assembled it into the theme “offensive advertisments.” The shocking nature of some of these “you’ve seen these on TV at 4PM” ads really hit home. What was more, was the reaction of the audience, by gender, to this presentation, shows me that we have a very long way to go. We will spend more time discussing that reaction next time we meet.

Leiah’s findings were similar, but of a different shocking nature–ads from the 50’s showed the image of women in relationships. Her question was “Why can men have several relationships and be portrayed as cool, but women are called names and looked down upon?”

The men–Domenick, Dylan, Edward, and Dayvon–traced the history of one of the iconic brands from American History–showing how the campaign for Coca-Cola transformed from the use of women to portray the home and family to one that quickly evolved to pin-up girls.

Dot and Mileena had some technical difficulties, but dug up an impressive archive with a theme that mirrored Alyson and Shyla. They have agreed to put it together for use here. Showing women in the kitchen, dominated by men, and portrayed negatively even in modern ads, they showed us the need to work on this image.

Zach and Britney took an entirely political approach, tracing the history of wartime propaganda ads and their effects on the American public.

We have more to go, and I would love to see you share these with me via Google doc for posting here. This assignment, and the after-convo, inspired me to do the work myself–I made this–Dove Beauty Campaign’s response to the fact that only 4% of women feel they are beautiful. Please add to this Learnist board. It’s an important topic.







In Honor of Baseball Season

Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 6.09.23 PMBaseball is part of the fabric of American life. It’s our national pasttime. It’s the sport of champions.  We have integrated baseball into every corner of pop culture. Baseball in New England and the Northeast carries special weight. Factories and mills scouted people, not for their industrial prowess, but for their ability to add to the mill baseball team. The Blackstone Valley League was a traveling team of mill players that added a bright spot to the dismal lives of the workers–baseball games began to represent community as people rallied around their team, especially in Connecticut and Rhode Island, where mills tended to be small one-stage factories employing entire families. Families worked in the mill, lived in factory housing, went to mill-built churches and schools, and spent their paycheck in factory stories. This form of paternalism (acting as the parent) was the hallmark of the Industrial period.

The history of baseball integration includes many groups, including African-Americans, Cubans, and even women. Everyone knows the story of Jackie Robinson, but not as many are familiar with the women who played on the All-Girls Baseball League which filled in the vacancy left by the men during World War II.

Here in Rhode Island, we hold proud to another piece of baseball history–the longest game ever. Taking place over three days, with the first two being played April 18-19, 1981, and the deciding inning taking place on June 23, 1981. The thirty-three inning game took over eight hours of playing time and left the AAA Pawtucket Redsox victorious over the Rochester Redwings.

Important baseball history themes include: 

1. The humble origins of baseball.

2. The role of baseball in industrialism and factory life

3. Baseball’s regional history in the New England mill villages

4. The first traveling teams

5. Segregation and reintegration of baseball

6. “For the love of the game”–How media has changed baseball

7. The economics of MLB today

Study baseball, play baseball, write about baseball–historians do, not only “for the love of the game,” but because it’s real history.

Writings of Gandhi

The following selections are letters written by Gandhi.  Please read the following and analyze the critical questions.

Gandhi’s letter to Hitler, July 23, 1939

Gandi’s letter to Hitler, December 24, 1940

Critical questions: 

1. What is the objective of each letter?

2. What’s going on in the War at the point Gandhi sends each letter?

3. Research: Did Gandhi receive a response?  If not, what would you predict the response would have been? Write an annotated (short) response as if you were Hitler.

4. What does he mean by his “dumb cry” for peace?

5. How does Gandhi compare the British to the Nazis? What are the key differences?

6. How is Gandhi’s appeal to Hitler different than to the Britons? Why so?

Gandhi Questions and Resources for Indian History

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 3.54.33 PMIn our examination of Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, we’ll look at several themes: 

1. Accuracy of the film.

2. Sir Ben Kingsley’s portrayal of Mohandas K. Gandhi

3. How Gandhi developed his thoughts on satyagraha (non-violent resistance).

4. How Gandhi fits into the freedom movements we have already examined.

5. The role of one person in making a significant impact. What tactics could be used for other situations?

We will also discuss and examine the following critical issues in the region today: 

Gandhi is a starting point for discussing Indian history, religion, society, and politics. He is one of the great people in all of world history. Please start with some of these resources, and be prepared to dig in and add your own in the comments.

Your mission:

Choose and research one critical area of Indian history, including–but not limited to–Gandhi’s effect on any area of the world, US-Indian relations, relations between India and Pakistan, religion, outsourcing, culture, population, caste/human rights, ecology…  You are responsible for constructing a presentation that will inform us in detail about your narrow area of research.


  • At least three sources
  • A thesis statement.
  • A conclusion that ties together your sources
  • Some type of visual
  • A well-rehearsed presentation of a minimum of 2-3 minutes. You can have more time if you’d like.

Suggestions for supporting materials: 

  • Infographics
  • Learnist board
  • Handouts
  • Prezi
  • Video or voiceover

Thoughts on the Second Amendment

We have examined the Second Amendment, debating and discussing the roots and the consequences of violence in society. Morgan Spurlock’s 30 Days showed both sides of the debate.

This Learnist board on the Second Amendment gives the perspective of several experts on policy, politics, news, and society.  Please use this as we move further into our discussion entitled

“All we are saying…is give peace a chance.”

Does “peace” need to have restrictions on personal liberties? Can we increase our level of connectedness and involvement in the community? Is all hope lost?

Our topics will include: 

1. Continued discussion of the Second Amendment

2. Gandhi and satyagraha

3. The role of the media in perpetuating violent images

4. Personal responsibility

5. The criminal justice system in America

6. Restorative Justice: Does it work?

Survey Time

This year, we have endeavored to change around the classroom a little bit.  I have added some technology and systems including the Learnist boards and this blog. Please take some time to fill out this survey by midterms.  It would be helpful if you did this ahead of time–feel free to come in the morning during advisory, or pop on a computer at the end of class.   I’ve left space for additional feedback on the survey, but if you would like to take some time to discuss the technology survey with me personally, I would welcome any feedback you provide.

Thank you!

Don’t Hate History–Just Find the Type You Like

There are so many areas to study in history that it’s nearly impossible to truly “hate” studying history. For most haters of history, I discuss whether the book was boring, or whether you’re just studying an area of history that’s interesting to someone else.  Often times schools look at themes in history that talk only about Western civilization-Greeks, Romans, Europe, and America.  More and more often, we’re seeing world history expand into other areas–Eastern civilization (China, Japan, Southeast Asia, India), and topical areas in history. Here is a quick snapshot of some of the types of history we study in schools:

1. Military history: This is about all the great battles, their causes and effects on society.  Done well, this provides a snapshot into conflict, conflict resolution, and key turning points in history. Done poorly, it is a column in a book that saves you from having to count sheep before you go to bed.  This type of history is often the “traditional” study of history as we set up the little toy soldiers, reenact battles, and discuss weaponry.

2. Comparative history: This type of historical study allows you to compare two types or periods of history–it allows you to examine evidence and draw parallels between two areas, time periods, people, or regions.  This is often an interesting way of connecting things that you might not otherwise connect. This type of study is used at some of the world’s most prestigious universities, like Oxford, to make large and small connections between things that otherwise might have been missed.

3. Political history: This tells about politics and relations in an area.  It’s often helpful in discovering the root cause of conflict and alliance in the world today. Many political historians study these regional conflicts–like the conflict in the Middle East, and attempt to provide solutions.

4. Religious history: This is a fascinating area of history, and can often overlap into other areas, like political or military, depending on what you are studying.  Studying the Crusades, for example, forces you to discuss moments in history where conflict meets social injustice, but at the same time, where world travel causes events in history which rippled out through the globe. Many people often feel that they must be religious to study this area of history–not true.  Although some of the best studies in this area have been monks and priests, like the Jesuit order, Some of the best scholars in this area are secular or even nonbelievers.

5. Social history: This is the history of the story of the people. How did people live and work? What advances in history affected the people directly? What is the history of social class and social interaction? Social history is coming much more into the limelight in modern studies of history.  Studying the story of people is fascinating and should never be overlooked as one of the most important branches in history. Please take some time to look at this Learnist board on oral history, an aspect of social history, assembled by our own Kevin Cordeiro and journalist Maggie Messitt.

6. Historiography:  Ever wonder why old textbooks talk about the “dead white guys?”  History accounts have generally been written by people in power, people who had leisure time to write about such things, or by the winning side in any conflict or war. Ever wonder what the British would have written about the American Revolution? Have you studied that? Have you ever wondered why there are so few historical accounts by Africans under Colonial Rule? Have you thought deeply about the difficulty finding primary source accounts from Native Americans during the period of Westward Expansion? Then historiography is for you.  This is the study of the study of history  rather than history itself.  Take a moment to examine this Learnist board about historiography and consider this alternate view of Lincoln, which stands in contrast to the Lincoln in most history books. Consider, judge, and evaluate! You get to decide.

It’s refreshing that history is now being considered from so many more directions and angles.  Historians are considering all of these things and including them into excellent accounts.  Still, it’s important to remember that ultimately, history is something YOU determine in your mind. After reading the primary and secondary sources, you become the authority and you use that material to render your own verdict.  This is the critical point.  Using the evidence, you get to decide–there is more than one right answer.  You have the power to determine what that right answer is!

Do you still hate history?  Yes, you in the front row–I’m talking to you:)

Local History: New York

I like to make my customers happy. In keeping with this we shall take a left turn from Gettysburg into New York.  Incidentally, several Union troops who were on their way to fight at Gettysburg took a detour into New York City to put down the draft riots that occurred in New York that July.

Start out by reviewing this Prezi by Mr. Cordeiro.

There are several things to consider during our snapshots of New York at this time in history:

  • Nativism.  Early generations of Irish immigrants came early in the history of the nation. These tended to be Protestants, or Scotch-Irish. The English Civil War caused a lot of upheval in Britain, and part of the controversy surrounded the issue of religion. As Protestant sects split from the Roman Catholic Church, religion became a political issue rather than a spiritual one. For hundreds of years, the Catholic church represented empires and kings in Europe.  The “Divine Right of Kings, ” was part of this philosphy.  You might dare to rebel against a person, but if GOD HIMSELF made him king, you won’t mess with that.  What? You say… How do we KNOW God made you king? Well, because I’m king–if he made YOU king, YOU’d be king. Seems like flawed logic today, but in those days… well, enough said.   If the king switched religions, everyone did. This was at the heart of the English Civil War, where Catholics were stripped of their land and in some cases sent to colonies.  They were not allowed education, and were relegated to the bottom social classes.
  • Irish history:  Because of the Protestant Reformation, the divide in Europe between Catholics and Protestants became catastrophic.  It, in some neighborhoods, has lasted to this day.  Irish Protestants had land rights and priviledges. Catholics did not.  However, when the Great Famine in 1947–48 starved most of Catholic Ireland, many of the Irish Catholics emigrated to the United States.  This put two social classes of Irish in the United States.
  • Civil war looming in the background: One of the issues that the Constitutional Convention never addressed was the issue of slavery.  This film takes place against the backdrop of the Civil War.
  • Poverty: You’ll notice the clear separation between the haves and the have-nots in this film. Look for the living situations, the close-quarters, the way the fire brigades operated, and the activities of the poor.  Note that many of the poor became well-to-do by buying into the political machine.
  • Tammany Hall: This was the political machine in New York City.  Influential people like Boss Tweed organized the vote, recruiting voters and loyalists to support candidates that under the influence of Tammany Hall. Graft and corruption were the norm. In many cases, Tammany Hall took care of its own in return for patronage (loyalty, voting for the right candidate).

Critical questions:   

1. How have neighborhood, ethnic and religious divisions and rivalries continued locally and throughout the world until today? Examine gang violence, religious strife, or neighborhood divisions.

2. Has our political system improved in terms of graft and corruption? Examine this past election and/or the local headlines.

3. How has the infrastructure of major metropolitan areas changed? You can use a city like New York and examine the building of subways, zoning, commercial areas, sanitation systems, and other things that made the city modern, or you can consider the building and decline of your local mill villages, built to support the industrial machine in the region.  Look for hints:  factory houses near the river, larger houses up the hill, and the Victorian mansions located up the hill far from the factories. What does all this mean?

Epidemics in World History

In both Science Fiction and Reel to Real, we have been discussing several issues related to health, public policy, and the role of government in national emergencies and disasters.

Our most recent journey has been in the pandemic department–only fitting as we attempt to outlive the Mayan calendar and continue our species into the future.  Research and discuss the following:

  1. Origin of a major pandemic in history.
  2. How human interaction spread that pandemic
  3. The consequences of that pandemic (remember–consequences are not all bad–some are positive.  What effects can a sudden elimination of overpopulation bring for the next generations?)
  4. The resources necessary to prepare for and stop the spread of disease today.



Epidemics and Diseases 


The Civil War

The Civil war was the bloodiest war in American history.  We will be investigating some of the key themes in the war, in honor of the release of Steven Spielberg’s new film, “Lincoln.”

Lincoln was a controversial president–the historiography on Lincoln is all over the map, ranging from historians sympathetic to Lincoln and place him in the “best president ever” camp due to his skills as a negotiator and ability to preserve the Union to historians who feel that Lincoln himself had little concern for the issues of race and slavery as long as the Union was preserved and the United States was free to expand westward and industrialize.

Please read this board on Learnist about Lincoln:

Critical questions:

1. Was Lincoln a super-star President who held the Union together?

2. Does Lincoln deserve a spot in the “Presidential Hall of Fame?”

3. According to your research on Lincoln, who was “the real Lincoln?