Exploration and Conquest Stories of Indigenous Peoples: With Student Study Guide


Featuring:

  1. Vocabulary Development
  2. Reading Comprehension
  3. Written Expression
  4. Core Curriculum Concepts
  5. An Integrated Workbook
  6. Pictures Highlighting Key History Figures And Events

A Book For High School Students: Exploration And Conquest Stories Of Indigenous Peoples

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This book takes the student around the globe and across the centuries with a pictorial odyssey.  Six continents are covered, as are island nations.   Twenty-two anecdotes are labeled “Did You Know?” Each of these has a vivid photo associated and a dramatic story.  For example:  Vietnamese villages are shown kowtowing to French invaders; indigenous Putumayo are shown chained as slave laborers on South American rubber plantations; and junks are shown burning off the coast of Canton during the Opium Wars.

A special feature is the “Useful Terms” section, which offers simple explanations for challenging words that appear in the text.  Also, in the “Student Study Guide” (incorporated into the book), there is an exercise in map reading.  There are, additionally,  vocabulary and reading comprehension questions, as well as a suggested essay in the Guide.

The book is suitable for high school or upper middle school.  Upon completion of the book, students will have learned how Europe’s Age of Exploration affected indigenous peoples around the world.

The photo below illustrates how the images in “Exploration and Conquest” capture dramatic moments in history.  Photos, such as the one featured here, will hold students’ attention and will help them understand critical concepts.

Ethiopian Resistance Fighters
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This photo was taken between 1935 and 1940 by an unknown author.  The men were part of organized resistance to Mussolini as he sought to expand his African colonies.
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Parallel Lives, Two Realities: Rachel Jeantel Speaks

By A. G. Moore

I wrote this blog about two years ago. It addresses the testimony of  Rachel Jeantel, witness at George Zimmerman’s murder trial.

As I listen to the commentary about Rachel Jeantel and her digressions from “standard” English, I wonder about the collective blinders her critics are wearing–and about their determined avoidance of the obvious issue raised by Ms. Jeantel’s usage: parallel cultures exist in the U.S. because of economic, social and racial isolation.

In 1912, George Bernard Shaw wrote a play called Pygmalion, which has enjoyed more recent incarnations as My Fair Lady. Most of us know the story: a young woman is taken from the poor precincts of London and groomed to pass as a member of the British upper class. Foremost in this process is a transformation of the woman’s almost incomprehensible cockney dialect into the more refined vernacular of the British ruling class. In a sense, Shaw wrote the story of Rachel Jeantel’s testimony in a Florida courtroom long before she was born. That’s because the story is as old as social organization itself. People arrange themselves into insiders and outsiders (see my blog on Robert E.Park). Class hierarchies are formed based on conspicuous differences

In 2011, John Logan and Brian Stults, of Brown and Florida State Universities, analyzed the results of the 2010 U. S. census. The researchers came up with interesting results. While a few cities, such as New York and St. Louis, showed a decline in segregation, others showed an increase. Among the more segregated cities was Miami, which, according to the Logan/Stults analysis, became significantly more socially and culturally divided between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

The New York Times published its own analysis of segregation trends in the U. S. and the relationship of these trends to social mobility. The article described how some cities had intrinsic geographic barriers to social mobility and how these barriers impeded the ability of groups to move from one income class to another. The city highlighted in the article was Atlanta, Ga, but Miami was also given a poor social mobility score.

So what does this have to do with language? Well, besides what we all know instinctively as we accept Shaw’s Pygmalion story line, there’s a body of research which describes how dialects evolve within a society. Racially and socially isolated communities develop distinct cultures. Linguists look at the isolation of different groups and their social cohesiveness to assess whether or not the trend in that group would be to adopt standard language forms or to adhere to a non standard dialect. One study, carried out in Reading, England, is enlightening.

There is a phenomenon called “leveling” that has to take place if a dialect is to slowly disappear. Leveling simply means that differences between regional dialects and standard forms of language flattened so that one blends into the other. A couple of factors work against leveling. One of them is lack of social mobility: if groups do not have contact with one another then there is not likely to be the influence on language which would bring about leveling. This conclusion pretty much makes sense to even the non-scientist. However, there is another factor which has an impact on leveling: group cohesion.

The researchers looked at groups from different economic sectors who lived in essentially the same geographic setting (Reading). It turns out that lower income people tender to cling more tenaciously to group identity and part of group identity is language. As the researchers see it, this tendency to remain within a group is related to individual survival. Poorer people feel less secure and  need the support structure of their group. As incomes increase and survival becomes more certain, group support becomes less important and people are inclined to let go of group identifiers, such as language. In times of stress, mutual support of group members becomes essential and this is a kind of glue which reinforces group characteristics.

Now, back to Rachel Jeantel, who has lived in Miami for all of her 19 years. As the data shows, Miami is a city with a low social mobility quotient. Group identity is likely to be strong. Ms. Jeantel delivered her court testimony in mostly non-standard English. She delivered it in the vernacular of her group, of her community. Many who heard her took her lack of standard usage as a sign that she was not intelligent. But besides her usage, nothing about her presentation suggested a lack of cognitive alertness. She held her own against an aggressive and demeaning lawyer, someone skilled at courtroom interrogation. She delivered consistent testimony. Her thought process was not muddled.

While I cannot discuss Ms. Jeantel’s individual life circumstance–for I know very little about it–I can say that the English dialect she used is, like all dialects, a product of long-standing social and economic factors.

John McWhorter, linguistics scholar at Columbia University in New York, says of Ms. Jeantel: “…her English is perfect. It’s just that it’s Black English, which has rules as complex as the mainstream English of William F. Buckley.” Dr. McWhorter then goes on to explain the rules that govern Black English–rules Ms. Jeantel apparently commands very well.

Black English, the variation of standard English used by Rachel Jeantel, is an established dialect. It is as legitimate as other established dialects, such as Cockney (England) or Hiberno-English (Ireland). What many who listened to Ms. Jeantel’s testimony forgot was this: just because someone doesn’t talk like you doesn’t mean they’re not smart like you. And to think otherwise is to show your lack of sophistication, not theirs.

Quality Schools for All

(Adapted from another site; originally published in 2012)

It’s natural to want the best for our children. So, when the New York Times runs articles about school zoning in New York City, I am somewhat sympathetic to parents who insist that their children (and therefore their neighborhoods) be included in the most desirable districts. At the same time, I am aghast at the construct of these arguments. Seemingly absent from the discussion is an awareness that it is intrinsically immoral to splice neighborhoods so that real estate values and social distinctions are reinforced.

An oft-cited rationale for gerrymandered school districts is that the middle class will stay only if its children are allowed to attend “good” public schools. Implicit in this rationale are a number of assumptions: there are not enough good schools in the system to go around; real estate values are directly related to school values; and school zoning gives the middle class some control (through their political agents) over the quality of education available to their children.

I would have little grounds for challenging these arguments if the schools in question were private and the citizens who used the private schools paid taxes into a general fund for public education. But the coveted schools are not private; they are publicly funded. The funds are not derived from neighborhoods; they are derived from city, state and federal governments.

If equity were the principle that governed school attendance, then there would not be a system which locked children into “good” and “bad” districts. Privileged parents would not be able to secure their children quality education by moving into a good district; underprivileged parents would not be forced to send their children into crime-ridden, under-performing schools.

By law, every child is entitled to free public education. The education is free in the sense that no tuition is charged, but it is not truly “free” education. Children are often not free to attend any school, but are strictly confined to a neighborhood school. In a free system, a child would be given school choice (not intended here as a euphemism for charter schools); the free market would prevail. In that case, children would presumably flee from “bad” public schools and swamp “good” public schools.

As it is, passions run high when middle class parents are faced with the prospect of losing a place in a “good” school. What does it say about some schools that parents argue so forcefully to keep their children out? It’s a civic disgrace that such discussions continue, year after year. Generation after generation parents are forced to operate in a system of rationing, with winners and losers.

Why can’t everyone be a winner?

There will always be distinctions of class and money between people. Schools are the one place where society can smooth some of those distinctions, can level the playing field so every child has a chance at a bright future. The current educational system in New York, and many cities, does not advance this goal. As long as the expectations of an elite middle class are subsidized by public funds, social and economic stratification will be reinforced, not mitigated.

The antiquated and iniquitous school districting model should be abolished. Children, and parents, should be allowed to vote with their feet. As cities adjusts to this new dynamic, perhaps the motivation will arise to make all schools “good”, instead of just those few schools that serve the  middle class elite.