We had the privilege of speaking with Warren St. John, author of the 2010 One Maryland One Book selection, Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town, to talk about his Maryland book tour, keeping up with the Fugees, and how communities all over America are changing. (more…)
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“What a great way to learn history” -Audience member from Greenbelt. (more…)
Monday was a big-Big-BIG day at National History Day for students in the Junior Division. Nearly 1300 middle school contestants competed for a slot in the final judging rounds, to be held Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
The morning started early for the Maryland delegation, with Will Bury from Plum Point Middle School in Calvert County, prepped for interviews with Fox DC Television and the Baltimore Sun. Before the interviews, Will had an important decision—what tie to wear. Will’s lucky red tie is adorned with dinosaurs and his exhibit, “Building a Better Chicken,” is about innovations of the Delmarva Chicken industry—you know some people believe chickens evolved from dinosaurs and might the judges see the dinosaur tie as a “costume,” prohibited by the National History Day rules? Will decided to take a risk and wear his lucky tie to the interviews. Lucky indeed, because his interviews went great!
Our Maryland students were terrific—confident about their projects and well-prepared to talk to the judges. A few highlights:
• Natalie Behrends’ performance, “Assembly Line Production in the 1950s,” included a series of quick costume changes (Eastern Middle School, Montgomery County)
• Katherine Snee, explained her group exhibit “Kodak on a Roll” (Piccowaxen Middle School, Charles County)
• Lauren Sheranko and Brenna Will performed of “Tale of a Telegraph,” costumed as a telegraph key and various historical personages, including Samuel Morse. (Southern Middle School, Calvert County)
• Muftiat Ogunsanya’s presented her documentary, “The Impact of X-Rays, CAT Scans and MRIs on Medical Diagnosis,” ( Murray Hill Middle School, Howard County)
As Monday closed, results in performance and documentary categories were posted. While no Maryland students were selected for the final judging round, each student represented Maryland well! It was a very good day!
John D. Willard V
Maryland History Day Outreach Coordinator
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Greetings from this year’s National History Day contest! Maryland’s 55 participants have arrived and begun to register, set up their exhibits, and swap buttons with students from each of the other states. Despite some intense humidity, the students have been bubbling with enthusiasm.
The annual Maryland delegation reception was a success in its new location: the air conditioned Tydings Hall. Almost 100 students, parents, siblings and teachers stopped by to enjoy refreshments, meet other Maryland participants, get some last-minute coaching from Mr. John Willard, and pick up a History Day teddy bear. Among the guests were Mack Godfrey of Columbia Gas of Maryland, who drove from Pittsburgh to judge at the contest for the 16th year, as well as Susan Hottle-Schultz of St. Mary’s School in Annapolis, one of Maryland’s two Behring Teachers of the Year.
A “special guest” was announced at the opening awards ceremony; the guest is actually one of the original copies of the Declaration of Independence on loan from Norman Lear. The document, one of only 25 known to exist, will be displayed Monday through Wednesday.
The national competition officially kicked off with a festive, brief opening ceremony. Jim Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (and a visitor to the MHC offices this spring), spoke about the role of history in contemporary decision-making and the importance of historical studies in these students’ future endeavors.
Peter Berkowitz, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, where he co-chairs the task force on the virtues of a free society, wrote, “Why Liberal Education Matters,” which was published in the Wall Street Journal May 15, 2010.
Berkowitz agues that, while teaching science and math is very important, there is an “urgent need to reform liberal education,” noting, “Liberal education supposes that while individual rights are shared equally by all, the responsible exercise of those rights is an achievement that depends on cultivating the mind.” He takes to task the way in which the humanities are taught in colleges—citing “confused faculty and incoherent university curricula” as the culprits.
Berkowitz poses the question, “How can one think independently about what kind of life to live without acquiring familiarity with the ideas about happiness and misery, exaltation and despair, nobility and baseness that study of literature, philosophy and religion bring to life?” To answer that question, he posits, “For the sake of science and math, for the sake of international competitiveness, and even more for the sake of defending the worth and dignity of the individual, the reinvigoration of the humanities and the restoration of liberal education as education for freedom must become a priority.”
MHC would like to know what you think about the value of a liberal education and whether/how to reinstate humanities as an integral element of a college or university education. Please reply here or on Facebook.
You can access the full article free if you are a Wall Street Journal subscriber at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303695604575182313286840550.html?mod=rss_Today’s_Most_Popular .
Thomas Allen Crain, faculty member at Johns Hopkins University and member of the MHC Board writes about our new program, Practicing Democracy: Seeking Common Ground.
Much has been written recently about the partisan, acrimonious tone of public discourse in this country. Wander the halls of Congress, and you will hear life-time staffers say they have never encountered a more negative tone. It has driven at least one senator to retire. The partisanship and bickering on both sides of the aisle are mirrored in our seeming everyday inability to disagree politely with those who hold views different than our own on issues that matter to us–from gun control to climate change to immigration. Some argue that the way to counter this is to get people together, face to face, to ‘talk out’ their differences–to find common ground–and that this is the legacy of American democracy.
In her book, Hearing the Other Side, Diana Mutz questions whether it is possible to live up to the ideals of deliberative democracy. These ideals, she says, assume a model of political discourse that is open to everyone; that takes the form of carefully reasoned arguments supported by moral principles; and that is delivered in a tone of mutual respect. Her research, however, suggests that people do not willingly seek out those whose views differ from their own. People are most likely to be politically active if they are surrounded by other like-minded people who spur them on to ever more enthusiastic professions of their views.
Listen to Diana Mutz’s interview, posted by the Maryland Humanities Council. What does she have to say about how we move people to “hear the other side”? What are the implications of her research for how we practice democracy in this country? Should we be seeking to create a democracy that is more representative and less participative; that, rather than close-knit communities, seeks to foster looser, more flexible relationships for the sake of tolerance and decency?
To see the Diana Mutz interview on YouTube, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=zz-Ojwioj5M.
Jeffrey Burch from the Open Society Institute-Baltimore was kind enough to share his thoughts on the speaker series, Talking About Race, which was funded by the Maryland Humanities Council.
“Almost a year ago, the Open Society Institute-Baltimore (OSI) kicked off its speaker series, Talking About Race. The series, aimed at creating dialog about how we, in the U.S., talk (or do not talk) about issues surrounding race, was thought to be very timely, especially in light of the historic election that had just occurred.”
“A question on many minds was, “Now that we have elected an African American president, are we post-racial?” That idea, though lofty, certainly deserved reflection and further discussion. While discussions on issues on race had occurred in our city, OSI-Baltimore, a leader and proponent for social equality, decided to produce a full series of speaking events that, while pertinent to our entire nation, would obviously resonate with the citizens of the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area.”
“What was expected to be a year-long series with five to six planned speaker events, became a series with nine events, spawned a radio series on WYPR’s Maryland Morning Program, and inspired this Web site www.storiesaboutrace.org for people to share their stories and experiences. Looking to the future, it is expected that the series will continue at least through 2011.”
“This project’s growth has been exciting to watch; the burgeoning interest from people wanting to be a part of it—presenters and audience members alike—is extremely encouraging. Support from individual donors and other sponsors, including the Maryland Humanities Council, has helped fund costs to bring scholars, advocates, authors, artists and humanitarians to our city to share their ideas on varied topics about race.”
“The impressive list of speakers has included people like Ben Jealous, Executive Director of the NAACP; Gwen Ifill of Washington Week; civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill; Spelman College president Beverly Daniel Tatum; authors Gerald Torres, Rich Benjamin, and Tim Wise; filmmakers Elvis Mitchell, Timothy Greenfield Sanders, and Jennifer Taylor; and a special presentation by the Stoop Storytelling Series. They are but a few of the guests that have simultaneously provided entertainment and thought-provoking commentary for the audience.”
“Just as impressive as the speakers is the audience—a diverse, fascinating blend of concerned and involved citizens from all classes and walks of life. They are civic leaders, activists, policy makers, students, educators, parents and children; members of our community—blue-collar and white-collar—who want to learn more about, and become part of, a better climate for the future of race relations here and throughout our nation. They attend because they do want to talk and share their perspectives; they want to hear what others have to say and to understand what role they can play in carrying the dialog forward.”
“If you haven’t experienced one of these programs, please mark your calendar for Tuesday, April 20, 7 p.m., at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, to hear Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and Renée Hutchins, University of Maryland Law School professor, as they consider, Is Justice Possible in a Race Biased Society? They will discuss how race affects attitudes and outcomes in the U.S. criminal justice system, certainly a topic that has great impact for our city. This event is free and open to the public. Please visit www.osi-baltimore.org for further information.”
We live in a world with many serious challenges that confront our communities and nation – rising unemployment, climate change, congestion, affordable healthcare, and global economic competition and political unrest, just for starters. (more…)
Lauren White, a senior at Huntingtown High School in Calvert County, was kind enough to share with us her essay on why History Day is important to her.
“The American poet, Robert Penn Warren, once wrote, ‘History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves…’ (more…)
With the passing of each season, marked as it is by the interesting programs of the Maryland Humanities Council, I have to reflect on how proud I am to be a volunteer. The MHC is a place where I can use my talents and my passion for literature and learning for the good of the greater community. There are lots of projects to work on with smart, can-do people. The staff is always thankful for even the smallest contribution. Though I am not a native Marylander, I gained an appreciation of the diversity across the state. The rewards of public service are never trivial.
The truth is that I have gotten much more out of working at the MHC than I expected.
Thomas Ventimiglia, MHC Volunteer