Needless to say, this was an intimidating task. The expectation was that I could hold my own in a virtual presentation with nearly 90 participants from across the United States - a group mostly consisting of middle, junior high, and high school history instructors, with just a few elementary teachers peppered in. While the participants were invited to ask their own questions during the session, only a handful were asked, so in that event, I had prepared some questions to fill the hour:
- Being a historian, a teacher, an author, and a lecturer, how do you strike a balance?
- Most of us can point to a teacher who motivated us or at least intrigued us enough to spark a love for history. Talk to us about the teacher who did that for you. What did that teacher do that was so inspiring?
- I've come to recognize that history is not flat. You mention in the introduction of American Colonies that the history of the colonies used to be easier to write about. The same is obviously true of teaching it. Tell us about how you organize yourself to approach such a broad topic.
- I used the phrase, History is ugly, with my fourth graders and their parents. It's on of the first things I presented to them at Open House and in the first week of school. My students could repeat the phrase with barely a hint from me. In fact, every time we cringed at the actions of the early colonists, explorers, indigenous peoples, or tyrants, we were reminded of the phrase. Speak to the challenge that we have as educators to teach "difficult history".
- Many of us are concerned with expressing our history lessons with respect to current cultural sensitivities. How do you address identifying various racial groups as they appear in the narrative?
- What do we know or what do we think we know about the Anasazi religious beliefs and practices? How has our understanding changed, if at all, in recent years?
- Are there any proven connections/relationships between the Mississippian Mound Builders - such as the Cahokians - and the pyramid builders in Central and South America?
- Is Columbus a complete villain, or is it acceptable to admire certain aspects of his story?
- Are there any explorers or expedition leaders who have nearly spotless dealings with indigenous people?