07 September 2007

People's History, My History

Since returning from vacation this summer, I have managed to keep up with my little goal of reading three chapters from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States in between each of my fiction selections. It has been an eye-opening and frustrating undertaking. Zinn convincingly argues that American history has been dominated by economic interests from the beginning. Apparently, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" was the political equivalent of throwing the poor folks a bone. On the other hand, it seems that our current political situation is not such the diversion from American values that some of us (I) might have hoped. Thanks to a friend's desire to not carry too many books on vacation, there is a copy of Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack on the shelf as well. It's about Bush and his plans for invading Iraq. Luckily, there are not so many illusions to be shattered there. Maybe there's some uplifting non-fiction to be read in between these two. Any suggestions?

My first experience with A People's History was in the 11th grade with Mr. Hovey. He was the first history teacher who didn't teach according to the big hard cover, space in the front for writing your name, history books. We also read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in his class. There's a copy of that one around here somewhere, too, waiting to be read. Mr. Hovey's going to get an email from me sometime soon to let him know that all these years later, that lesson stuck. It will be fun to write. How many teachers do we really remember? How many teachers do we have?

If you study through to your MA, you probably sit in class with around 70 different teachers throughout your life. I'm officially one of the 70 these days. This year, for the first time, it doesn't seem like a hide-and-seek game to teach. I'm no longer wondering when the students are going to unmask me and reveal to the world that their so-called teacher is a fraud. But there are also fewer illusions. Teachers don't change the world. According to my very personal math, the best a teacher can hope for is to have a positive, lasting impact on 1% of their students. That's two for me this semester. Maybe one and a half if they don't come to class! I hope Mr. Hovey will enjoy hearing from part of his 1%.

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