Friday, March 20, 2015

The Annexation of the Philippines: An Aberration in US History?

Few stories in U.S. history amaze me more than the war in the Philippines.

That a nation whose founding document is the Declaration of Independence could go to war to free Cuba from Spain and end up with...the Philippines?

I sense that if you told this to the average 7th grader--or even high schooler--they'd look at you like you were crazy.

And if we can believe the results of surveys which ask Americans who is the current Vice-President or in which half of the 19th century does the Civil War occur, then I suspect few adult Americans have a clue that once the Philippines was a colony of the United States. Nor do they likely know how the U.S. came to acquire Puerto Rico and Guam. Or what that has to do with the Philippines.

This episode in American history is one that--I have NO research on this, mind you--I suspect gets far less attention than it deserves. It's in the textbooks, of course, but it seems that much more attention is given to World War I. In seven years of observing student teachers, I have seen only one lesson on the topic.

I'll grant you that World War I is a big deal. Okay, a really big deal. But in a way, I think the Philippines is even more important. If only because they'll learn about World War I somehow. But I fear that if I don't teach about the Philippines, they'll never learn about it. Anywhere.

So what to do about it?

First, it is a great opportunity to show idealism and realism (see my last post) at work. As I alluded to in that post, there are "idealistic" reasons for annexing the Philippines that we would understand as profoundly racist and paternalistic today. In fact, the famous Rudyard Kipling poem, "White Man's Burden" that many of us probably associate with the British in India is actually about the United States and the Philippines! The poem was first published with the subtitle, "The United States and The Philippine Islands." (Check it out here.)

I have always assigned students some kind of essay assignment in which they have to build a case for being an anti-imperialist or in support of annexation of the Philippines. This can also be done as an in class debate or discussion, too. The key problem to avoid is presentism: students have to understand the debate in the context of the 1890s. This means that, yes, there will be racism. Of course, there were some opposed to annexation of the Philippines on grounds that sit better with 21st century sensibilities. But it is important for students to understand that at least some folks were opposed to it precisely because they didn't want the possibility of Filipinos becoming Americans.

As always, I like to frame the lesson (usually 2-3 days) around some key questions, such as these:

1. Can a democracy rule another people?
2. Why doesn’t the U.S. Constitution deal with the rights of people in acquired territories?
3. In what ways did the problems in Cuba affect our national self-interest?
4. Which perspectives (realism or idealism) guided U.S. policy towards the war with Spain?
5. How did U.S. involvement in the Philippines compare to U.S. policy regarding Hawaii?

And a tangent….

6. What is the role of the press in a democracy?

This article from the February 1998 issue of Social Education is easily adaptable to middle or high school level students as a background reading for a lesson.

I begin my lesson by going through this handout this handout, which asks students to first consider the irony of a country based on consent of the governed having colonies. Then students consider pros and cons, by using documents. See the documents in some of the links below for that. For a "key" see here


One really interesting way to begin your lesson might be to pose this question:
If the U.S. granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946, why did the Philippines decide later to move their independence day commemoration to June 12?
The answer -- June 12, 1898 -- is when the Philippine leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, declared independence from Spain, prior to becoming a U.S. colony. This seemingly small detail, it seems to me, speaks volumes about the difference in perspectives between the Americans and the Filippinos.

If you are looking for some documents and/or more specific lesson ideas to use with students, check out these:
  • Lesson from the History Project at UC-Davis for HS students
  • full lesson w/documents from History Matters
  • blog about the US and Philippines - couldn't figure out who created this, but it has some good background info and interesting film clips
  • historical background from U.S. Dept. of State
  • full lesson plan from Edsitement - lesson in which students play roles of advisors to the President; includes documents
  • Lessons from SHEG (Stanford History Education Group - I especially like these lessons. There are four lessons total: one on the explosion of the Maine, one on the Spanish-American War, a third on political cartoons from the Philippine-American War and a fourth on some of the atrocities which took place in the Philippines. The collection of political cartoons are fascinating. Check them out at the end of this post.
  • Lesson from Zinn Education Project - I was excited to find this one, because it makes use of a reading from a book I found years ago, History Lessons: How Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History (also check out the chapters on the Cold War and Vietnam!). Unfortunately, once you are registered for the Zinn Education Project and download this lesson, it doesn't provide the resources! But I have found this book at my local public library, so perhaps you can, too. It is definitely worth checking out. Also, the described lesson is really an adaptation of the lesson described in the next site, listed below.
  • Lesson from the American Social History Project - part of this lesson relies on a 30 minute documentary called Savage Acts. You can see a clip of it here. Better for high school. But the lesson also has a nice collection of political cartoons and other primary resources. And the lesson reminded me that American world fairs had exhibits of "exotic peoples," including a Filipino village at the World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904. This will surprise your students.
  • This 5 minute youtube video does a nice job of explaining about the Philippine Village at the St. Louis Fair. (Be forewarned the words, "bare-breasted women" occurs, and there is a brief shot of an image depicting the same. Use your best judgement if showing to students. Even just the first 2 minutes would be good, and then you could avoid the bare-breasted woman that comes in at about the 2 min, 20 sec mark.)
This brief story from NPR discusses the 2004 commemoration of the St. Louis Fair, in which descendents of the Filipinos at the exhibit discuss the experience.
One intriguing way to conclude your lesson: consider the title of this post. Ask your students, should we the annexation of the Philippines an aberration? Or the beginning of U.S. imperialism? Or as a new manifestation of imperialist expansion, begun with the conquest of Native Americans? Is the U.S. still imperialistic?

I will conclude this post with the image on the right that's easily worth a 1000 words: I found this hard-to-believe-it's-not-being-facetious-advertisement while searching for the Kipling poem.

Also, check out the political cartoons below, and my earlier post about putting the Annexation of the Philippines into a larger context.




Sunday, March 15, 2015

Realism & Idealism in U.S. Foreign Policy

In my last post, I discussed how to conceptualize U.S. foreign policy to help students understand U.S. thought on the subject up to about 1890. Beginning around 1890, U.S. foreign policy undergoes a shift that coincides with rapid industrialization and growth, imperialism in Europe, the closing of the frontier, the defeat of the Sioux at Wounded Knee, and a doubling of the population, due partly to an increase in immigration of peoples from non-Protestant, Anglo-Saxon backgrounds.

As Henry Kissinger writes, "once a country has reached the level of power of post-Civil War America, it will not forever resist the temptation of translating it into a position of importance in the international arena."

In 1890, Alfred T. Mahan published the most influential book on naval power, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1600-1783, which argued for an expansion of American trade, backed by protection from American naval bases established in the Atlantic and Pacific. The book struck a chord with many influential politicians, most notably, Theodore Roosevelt who would become the Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897, just before the Spanish American War.

So how to explain all this to students?

At this point in the school year, I like to introduce the concept of REALISM and IDEALISM to students as a way to think about the basis for intervention.

I have only done this with high school students, but my experience last spring teaching 8th grade U.S. history suggests to me that it is absolutely possible to do it with middle school students, too. I tried it out on my own 7th grade daughter and she seemed to get the main idea in the ten minutes she was patient enough to humor me. 

The way I did it with 11th graders was to go through the info on the chart below. (Click here if you'd like a copy you can print for yourself or students.) I would explain each in some detail, providing examples. I think for middle schoolers, I'd just do the first 3 rows. For more background on this concept, check out the websites listed at the end of the post.



Then I would go through some these quotations and ask them to apply what they learned about the two concepts by reading each quotation and deciding if it represented a more "realist" perspective or one of "idealism."

The quotations can be really HARD for some students. I like to go back and forth between idealist ones and realist ones and let students figure out for themselves which quotes are which. I remember many of my 11th graders struggling with them. I tried them on my 7th grader with some success, but I think for middle schoolers my new approach would be to use actual scenarios. This would probably make more sense than the quotations for high schoolers, too. Check them out here. And maybe you could use just a few of the quotes.

But the key thing that makes the quotations useful is to demonstrate some of the subtlety about the ideas. I think our more "idealistic" students are likely to jump to the conclusion that realism is "bad," and "idealism" is good. And the John F. Kennedy quotation--if you use it-- will confirm that for them. But then when they see the last two quotations representing idealism, you have the opportunity to explain that--at least in the past, but quite possibly very much in the present--there can be a racist, ethnocentric tinge to idealism. Assuming that America is the best--that the U.S. is always in the right, that all nations should have democracy-- these have beliefs have had a fundamental impact on our involvement in the Cold War and in non-Western countries. And they contribute to the concept of American exceptionalism. (For a very charged, but fascinating take on this, read this critique on U.S. foreign policy by William Blum. Or a less charged one, this article from The Atlantic.)

While I do think this is a challenge for middle schoolers, I think it is ESSENTIAL that they understand it. But I suspect they will understand it better by example. Case in point: when my daughter saw the second two idealist quotes, she said, "I don't like these. You shouldn't use those with students." So I think instead, I would wait and use those in the context in which they were delivered: in the late nineteenth century, just before and just after the Spanish American War and the Annexation of the Philippines. Waiting to allow students to understand it in the context of the times, will, I think, make better sense to them. And probably high schoolers, too.

Once students have a grasp of these competing viewpoints, you can now get them to consider the shift in foreign policy that begins around 1890.

One way to do that is by posing an overall question (compelling question, big question, essential question, inquiry--whatever you'd like to call it) about the factors I mentioned at the very beginning of this post. Here's one shot at it:

What factors led to an increased interest among Americans, and American policy makers in particular, to acquire colonies and spread American power overseas?

I am a big fan of getting information off of 81/2 by 11 sheets of paper--and also a break from computers--and putting information onto index-sized cards. You could, of course, do the same activity with online documents or on regular paper, but I have noticed that something about being able to manipulate cards makes the activity seem more "hands-on" to students. It's not that I think I'm fooling them. But it does seem to shake things up a bit. I have no idea why. The same thing can be said of using "stations." Putting different information at different tables forces students to get up out of their seats and move. It may be more time-saving to keep the student in their seats and move the paper instead of the kids, but this viral post from Grant Wiggins (co-author of Understanding by Design) has reminded me that kids need to move more often.

So you could take some of the factors mentioned above--the closing of the frontier, increased immigration, facts about industrial growth from last post's PowerPoint, etc.--and write a little blurb about them.  Put them either on a set of cards for each group of 3-4 students, or put one sheet at a "station" and create some supporting questions that will help students make connections. (E.g. "how might this lead Americans to become more interested in foreign involvement?") And wrap it up with a brief discussion that will lead you to the The Maine and the outbreak of the Spanish American War the next day.

I'd especially love to hear from middle school teachers-- give the idealism/realism dichotomy a try and let me know how it goes!


For background information for teachers about the concept of idealism vs. realism, check out these websites:

Additionally, check out chapter 2, "The Hinge: Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson," in Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy, which I mentioned in the last blog post. The second half of this chapter describes Roosevelt's realism against Woodrow Wilson's idealism.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The U.S. Enters the World Stage: Shift in U.S. Foreign Policy, 1890-1920

In an earlier post, about how to start off second semester, I mentioned that there is a "story line" to looking at U.S. policy in the 20th century. Today I want to make good on that, starting with a look back at the nineteenth century.

If mentioning the phrase, "foreign policy in the nineteenth century" leaves you with a feeling of "huh?" you are not alone. I am NOT talking about the Barbary wars, or the War of 1812 or the South's efforts to court Britain and France during the Civil War. I am not even talking about the Spanish American War. Not yet.

But I am talking about Mexico. And I'm talking about American Expansionism.

And I think we need to review this with students as a way to set up the dramatic change that occurs in the late 19th century when the U.S. goes to war with Spain and ends up as a colonial power with control over the Philippines.

So I am including this link to a Google Presentation you can modify to use with your own students. I used it--unapologetically-- as a major lecture. I have only used this with high school students. But I have created an adaptation for use with middle school students. It is shorter, and the language is a little easier. I think a brief lecture is a useful way to introduce the major problems/questions surrounding foreign policy to this age group. Remember, I am using this to set up--not just a unit on the late 19th century/World War I, but also to set up our upcoming units on foreign policy:


  • World War II
  • The Cold War
  • Vietnam
  • The Middle East, September 11 and Current Problems in Foreign Policy


Most of the content for the lecture/presentation I linked to above is based on a chapter from Henry Kissinger's 1995 book, Diplomacy. It is a 900 plus page book that you will likely be able to find it on the shelf of your local public library. (No, I haven't read the whole book.) The chapter I used is chapter 2--"The Hinge: Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson," and it is only 28 pages and will give you a solid background. The chapter goes back to back to the early days of the United States, through Jefferson, Madison and the expansion in the 1840s. Before he goes on to discuss the contrasting policies of Roosevelt and Wilson, Kissinger makes this astute observation:

America's desire for expansion and its belief that it was a more pure and principled country than any in Europe never clashed. Since it did not regard its expansion as foreign policy, the United States could use its power to prevail--over the Indians, over Mexico, in Teas--and to do so in good conscience. In a nutshell, the foreign policy of the United States was not to have a foreign policy.

You will see the points described above in the Google presentation. Then Kissinger goes on to describe the tremendous growth of the U.S. after the Civil War and how that growth led to an interest in overseas markets. You will learn some interesting points about that which I have put in the Google presentation, too. (e.g. U.S. coal production went up 800%! Even as we still had a dinky army that comes in below Bulgaria's!)

So then comes the 1890s and the Spanish American War. But I don't go into the Spanish American War here. Here is where I just set up the rest of the semester with this Essential Question:

 On what basis, or for what reasons, does the a nation intervene in the affairs of others?

Or its variation,

When does a country look to isolationism, and when towards intervention?

These questions will come up every time a question about a foreign "event" comes up: the explosion of The Maine, the assassination of the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand which will lead Europe into World War I, the Russian Revolution, World War II, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Syria, we could go on and on.... And don't forget Mexico, about which Porfirio Diaz may or may not have said, "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States."

So it is worthwhile to examine the question with students before delving in.

One thing you can do to help students visualize is to draw something like the following on the board (an old-fashioned black or white board) after you have gone through the lecture:

The curves above the line represent time periods that are marked by an increase in intervention in world affairs and the curves below are those in which isolationism prevails. Note, however, that the first period of isolationism is really only in regards to Europe; the U.S. was quite busy during this time involving itself in Mexico and Nicaragua.

I like to go through this by adding the boxes and explaining BRIEFLY as we go. And then I conclude by explaining that ever since World War II, the U.S. has been a major world power and, therefore, has been rather involved in foreign affairs.

There is one last part of this lesson you can use either as the introduction or as the conclusion. Or depending on your time, you can use at the start of your next day's lesson when you get into the Spanish American War. And that is a discussion about what are the criteria for when a nation intervenes or not. This can be a short or longer discussion, depending on what interventionist crises the U.S. is engaged in at the moment and the extent to which you want to tie in present-day problems. But no matter how little historic or current affairs background they have, most students will be able to at least dream up answers like the following:


And then you can build on those...e.g. Oil, good. What other important resources might lead a country into an interventionist policy? What about Russia throughout its history? (i.e. warm water port). Or does anyone remember what was so significant about the Battle of Vicksburg? (i.e. access to the Mississippi River). What about World War II--even though we haven't studied it yet, most of you probably know that we fought against Nazi Germany even though Germany wasn't the nation that first attacked the United States (Japan was). Why might we have fought against Germany, too? Here's where a student might say something about the Holocaust, which you would correct them on, as that was not the primary motivation. But then you can bring up totalitarian and fascism. Or just make it simpler and talk about Hitler and his dictatorship as a threat to democracy. The point you are trying to get to is that part of what we fought for was AN IDEA.

And now you get to the crux of realism vs. idealism--two competing, and sometimes complementary ways of reflecting on foreign policy that we see over and over again throughout America's past. 

But because it is already March and this post is already long, I'm going to develop that more in the next post. . . .

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The C3 Framework: the National Council for the Social Studies' answer to the Common Core

Thanks to everyone who attended my presentation on the C3 Framework at Northern Illinois University's New Ideas in Social Studies and History Conference yesterday. All the materials for that presentation have now been posted on this blog. You can find them on the tab at the top marked, "Teacher Presentations."

For those of you who just read this blog and have no idea what I'm talking about, my presentation was about the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) C3 Framework. The 3 Cs in the C3 Framework stand for College, Career and Civic LifeThe C3 Framework is, at its heart, a response to the Common Core Standards which had the unfortunate (and unintended, I think) effect of marginalizing the social studies. I don't know a whole lot yet about the new PARCC tests (but a quick glance at the news tells me things are not going too well!), but I suspect that the emphasis on ELA is likely having a negative effect on the attention that should be given to history.

My position is that the C3 is a thoughtful analysis of what good social studies teaching should look like. The downside is that it takes a very complicated 108 page document to explain all that. In these 108 pages you will find 3 pages about how to read the document, a glossary, brief biographical sketches of the 16 authors, a description of the 4 dimensions, 4 disciplines, an inquiry arc, 30 tables (not including the ones in the 5--yes, five!--appendices), something called a "Framework Disciplinary Inquiry Matrix" on page 66, and--just in case you were wondering--2 pages about what is not included in the C3.

If you want to figure out what the C3 is, but cannot or don't want to read all 108 pages of the thing, you can get the gist of it in the chart I put together below:



Note that the table and page numbers referred to in the chart can be found in the PDF of the framework. You can get that here. Those tables have more extensive information on each of the four disciplines: civics, econ, geography and history. (And if you were wondering why I haven't posted in over 3 weeks, trying to get that 108 page document squeezed into one chart is part of the reason!)

If you are interested to see how the C3 Framework explicitly connects to the Common Core (or need to explain it to your administration or department chair), see the following pages in the C3:

  • pages 20-21 for the overall connections between the C3 and the Common Core.
  • pages 26-27 for the connections between Dimension 1 of the C3 and Common Core.
  • pages 50-51 for the connections between Dimension 2 of the C3 and Common Core.
  • pages 56-57 for the connections between Dimension 3 of the C3 and Common Core.
  • pages 63-64 for the connections between Dimension 4 of the C3 and Common Core.

And if you want to learn more about the C3, here are two good places to start:

  • The obvious: the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). This link will give you the background on the C3 framework. Also on that page, you will find the link to the entire 108 page document.
  • C3Teachers.org - this website includes lesson ideas, some links to blogs, and news and info about the C3
  • for places to find good resources for lesson ideas and materials, read old posts on this blog, check out some of the lessons under the tab at the top under "Teacher Presentations," and check out the tab, "Other Useful Links."