Sunday, June 14, 2015

Good Intentions Don't Un-do Bad Actions

This past week in Honors History 10, we forged ahead with the learning, analyzing, and reflecting process that goes into creating our final exam. The basic routine of this was as follows: watch background videos, analyze primary and secondary sources, create 40 exam questions, discuss and formulate an essential question, and answer it in a blog post. To read about this process in more detail, check out my most recent post.

This week, we came up with the question: During westward expansion, did the impact of federal policy towards buffalo soldiers and native Americans match the intent?

Before this unit, when I heard the words “westward expansion,” the image that would immediately pop into my mind was one derived from the “Little House on the Prairie” series. This image was one of Native Americans solemnly riding on horseback, leaving the land that they had grown up on. Because of this image ingrained in my mind, I pitted the white people who forced them to leave as cruel and heartless. I did not consider that the whites may not have realized how wrong or out of control their actions were.

Native Americans being forced to leave their homes.
Image found at:

After taking a look at the Dawes Act, set into place by MA Senator Henry Dawes in 1887, I realized that the white people in power really didn't have the intention of being so cruel to Native Americans. In an excerpt from this act, it reads that it was, “to extend the protection of the laws of the United States and the Territories over the Indians, and for other purposes.” Although US citizens benefitted from taking the NAs land, this really wasn't the reason that they took it. Instead, white Americans believed that they were doing the NAs a favor by removing them from their land, that by putting them in separate areas they would be able to help reform the NAs and transform them into better people.

Although the intentions of white Americans who pushed for NAs to be removed from their land may not have been bad, the ways in which this removal was carried out certainly were. During the late 1800s, president Andrew Johnson created 6 acts of regiment troops to reinforce military in the Midwest. These troops were comprised of Buffalo Soldiers, black Americans who has recently been members of the union troops and continued on in the US armed forces. These soldiers, who already had to endure terrible conditions, were ordered to destroy anything in sight that was the NAs in an effort to remove them from their lands.

No, the white people in power weren't trying to do any harm by removing NAs from their homes, but in doing so they ended up causing battles, deaths, and hardships for both the NAs and the Buffalo Soldiers.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Power to the ((Super Rich and Successful Only)) People

Here is our weekly plan in full detail.
            With three short units left, the last day of school only four weeks away, and finals fast approaching, we (the students of Honors History 10) put our last few weeks to good use by not only learning and studying for our final exam, but by CREATING it. That’s right, the STUDENTS wrote the final exam. The plan is to give each unit a week. During that week, the entire class takes notes in a shared Google doc as we watched videos and analyzed primary and secondary sources together. At the end of the week, we use everything that we just learned to come up with 40 questions for the final exam. At the end of the three weeks, when classes end and finals start, the product of our efforts will be a 120 question exam, a LOT of notes, and three blog posts answering a student-crafted essential question for each unit.

Check out week 1: Did the captains of industry have a positive or negative impact on the public?

Rockefeller- the powerful, strangling squid.
During the late 1800s, America went through a period of uninterrupted industrial growth. It was during this time that captains of industry, wealthy people who lead certain business fields, emerged as people of power. Although they helped shape America to what it has become today, these “captains” left a negative impact on the public during their time. John Rockefeller, founder of the “Standard Oil Company,” was one of these captains who negatively impacted the public. In a political cartoon appearing in the September 7th, 1904 issue of “Puck,” artist Udo J. Keppler draws Rockefeller as a giant squid, strangling the U.S. capitol and other industries. Just like the malicious squid in Keppler’s drawing, Rockefeller was able to create a monopoly on natural fossil fuels and bribe politicians to get his way. This was bad for the general public because Rockefeller had power over everyone, so even decisions they voted on weren’t necessarily determined fairly.

“Forty-Millionaire Carnegie in his Great Double Role"
Similar to Rockefeller, Carnegie was a great businessman and captain of industry who poorly impacted the people of his time. In the July 9th, 1892 issue of The Saturday Globe, artist David P. Demares depicts Carnegie simultaneously giving away money and taking it away from his workers in his cartoon, “Forty-Millionaire Carnegie in his Great Double Role." Leading such a large business, Carnegie’s frequent wage cuts affected thousands of people.

                Captains of industry like Rockefeller and Carnegie thrived during the late 1800s, and used their excessive wealth and power to manipulate the government and take money away from innocent employees. But if it weren’t for them, American wouldn’t be what it’s like today. The excessive wealth that captains of industry held in their industries carries over to help our industries thrive today. As a country, wealth is still distributed very unevenly, but we are able to see that letting bribery influence political decisions can be disastrous.