1. Red, White, and Green?: American Environmentalism
With the rise of climate change, we might take environmentalism for granted. Yet, until the Industrial Revolution revealed humans’ power to destroy “nature” in the 1800s, few people were thinking about “the environment” as something to protect. Today, the United States has a rich and complex tradition of environmentalism (perhaps because of its tradition of environmental degradation!), ranging from radical protests to policies like wilderness preservation to “green” technology. This workshop offers a critical history of American environmentalism, which students will engage in the context of contemporary global issues and their own experience.
2. Beyond “Cowboys and Indians”: The Complex American West
One of the most recognized phases of American history is the “Wild West”—a lawless and dangerous era. When Thomas Jefferson bought the “Louisiana Purchase” from Napoleon in 1803 and sent Lewis and Clark into this vast new territory, the United States entered its “westward expansion” phase, giving rise to numerous powerful images—and troubling questions—of American identity, possibility, and responsibility. In this workshop, students will learn about the complexities of the American West and how images, stereotypes, and problems of that time—notably Americans’ encounter with indigenous peoples—endure today in film, TV, literature, arts, and politics.
3. Myths and Multitudes: The Many States of America
It’s easy to forget how vast the United States is. Stretching over 4800 km from coast to coast (plus Alaska!), there’s a whole lot of land to think about! With all that land comes a host of diverse environments, people, and cultures. This workshop will examine stereotypes of the “everyday American” and help students see beyond the images propagated by global media. We will use my home, Seattle, as a case study, exploring its history (it’s named for an American Indian chief), industry (think Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks), culture (think “grunge” music and coffee), and demographics (Scandinavians, Asians, and African-Americans).
4. Backbone of the World: Indigenous America
The United States is often called “a nation of immigrants.” But this nickname overlooks a fundamental dimension of America: the history, legacy, and continuing presence of millions of indigenous peoples who’ve inhabited the continent for over 10,000 years. Today, the Federal Government recognizes 566 unique tribes—a vital part of the nation—despite the tendency of many non-Indians to speak of them in the “past tense,” and in damaging stereotypes. This workshop will explore the rights, representations, and realities of being indigenous. Students will also compare the history of American indigenous peoples to that of the Sami people in Norway.
5. An Imperfect Union: The US Constitution
At 226 years old, the United States Constitution is the oldest in the world. It remains the blueprint for the majority of democratic constitutions worldwide. How has it endured so long? This workshop will offer a critical look into how (and why) the Constitution was developed, and how it functions today. Students will learn what kind of government it created (hint: not a democracy!) and try to figure out how it can possibly govern over 320,000,000 people! Students will see how its very language creates possibilities, and how its political ideas are translated into the realities of American life.
6. #BlackLivesMatter: Civil Rights in America
Despite the 2008 election of the first African-American president in US history, the American news during the past two years has been dominated by stories from across the country about unarmed African-American men unjustly killed by (often) white police officers. In response, the US has seen a resurgence of the ongoing Civil Rights movement. Indeed, the question of civil rights in America is as old as the nation itself, with its history of imperialism and the legacies of American slavery. This workshop will help students explore the complicated history of race-relations in the US and the possibilities of social justice.
7. “The Pure Products of America”: American Language and Literature
American writers have always searched for an “American” style that differs from its European roots. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1837 that Americans should “enjoy an original relation to the universe,” not one based on European traditions. When Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass in 1855, Emerson saw the American style he’d imagined. This workshop offers background and practice analyzing uniquely “American” language and poetry, using poems by Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and a few contemporary poets. Students will learn about American style, usage, and language history and practice analyzing some poems, and should see some surprising things! This is a workshop geared especially geared toward VG3 literature students, but can be adapted to any level.
1. Creating Inclusive Classroom Spaces
As western culture becomes increasingly aware of the different kinds of diversity among humans, from race and ethnicity to gender and sexuality, educators of young people in the twenty-first century face new challenges. How can we, as teachers, shape a classroom environment in which all students feel acknowledged, supported, and valued? This workshop will offer a chance to discuss ways to create inclusive and safe (even “brave”) spaces in the classroom for students who identify with marginalized categories of race, gender, and/or sexuality.
2. Public and Private Schools in America
Unlike Norway, the US has two kinds of schools: public schools (where the vast majority of American students are educated) and private—or “independent”—schools. The former are managed at the state level, with some oversight from the Federal Government, while the latter are managed at the local level, with very little government influence. In most indepenent schools, the curriculum is developed “in-house.” This workshop will give Norwegian teachers a glimpse into the possibilities, limitations, and challenges of either model, and provide for a discussion and exchange of practices and curricula in American and Norwegian educational structures.
3. The “Extended” Classroom: Possibilities and Limitations of Online Education
The continuous development of classroom technologies provides possibilities that teachers in previous eras couldn’t have imagined. With the proliferation of online “spaces” alongside the physical classroom, as well as increased access to digital technologies like ebooks, digital archives, sound, image, and video recording technologies, teachers face questions of how best to employ classroom technologies in a thoughtful and balanced way. This workshop will explore some of the possibilities and limitations of various technologies, with tutorials and success/failure stories about technologies I and others have found particularly useful in teaching.
4. “Student-centered” Learning and the Seminar Discussion Format (for upper-level courses)
As a teacher of literature to advanced upper-level students, I find the “seminar discussion” format the most rewarding for upper-level students. This workshop will provide a forum to discuss techniques and practices, structures, assignments, and values of a “student-centered” learning environment like a seminar course. We will confront questions about class size, student accountability, writing, grading, and feedback. Ultimately, the workshop will explore ways to transform students into discussion leaders.