One thing I completely forgot to mention over the past few weeks. my colleague Mark McLay and I have started a podcast. It’s called American History Too! and is aimed at undergraduates and others interested in US and international history.
The name is a play on the American History 2 pre-honours course that we both teach on at the University of Edinburgh. Although, it has to be said, the podcast is in no way associated with the university or the course.
So far, we’ve covered colonial era slavery, the creation and ratification of the Constitution, and President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Next up: the Civil War.
The last few weeks have been somewhat busy: marking, writing a draft chapter of the thesis, presenting said chapter at our American History Workshop here at the university (which was excellent and very useful.) So, I have miserably failed in my aim of making at least one substantive post a week. Oh well. I’m sure my two readers will be most upset.
As I’ve mentioned before when talking about my 20th century syllabus, I currently teach on the highly regarded American History 2 (AH2) course here at the University of Edinburgh.(1) Lecturing is carried out by the senior academic staff, while the majority of tutoring is carried out by postgraduates (here referred to as tutors. The equivalent in the US and other countries would be the teaching assistant.) Although there is a broad structure set out for each semester, tutors are at liberty to modify this as they see fit and according to their own particular expertise.
This can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the freedom to arrange tutorials according to your own preferences and the needs of particular classes is great. On the other hand, it involves additional work when compared to other courses (although, it must be said, this is by no means an onerous workload.)
This week is Innovative Learning Week at the University of Edinburgh. According to the official blurb, ILW will “be used as an opportunity for experimentation and innovation in areas which may normally be constrained by the curriculum.” The American History 2 course team have organised a series of film screenings relating to different periods in American history. We’ll be showing Glory (the Civil War), O Brother Where Art Thou? (the Great Depression), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the early Cold War), and Full Metal Jacket (the Vietnam War.)
My part in all of this is to introduce, screen, and then lead the discussion on Body Snatchers. And here’s what I plan to say! (warning: this is about 900+ words, so the longest post I have yet done on this blog!)
Just the other day, I sent my students (and hello to any of you reading this!) the syllabus for this semester in American History 2 (the second year undergraduate survey course that I’m a teaching assistant/tutor on.) Now that we have covered the broad sweep of American history from the Colonial period to the end of Reconstruction, it’s time to move into the twentieth century.
One thing I am very keen on is giving students the chance to take classes that appeal to them, as long as they fit within the overall course. So at the end of last semester, I offered some choices in what classes to take. Populism was quite roundly rejected in favour of a more detailed study of Progressivism. Which is something of a shame, as I had just managed to pick up a bargain priced second hand copy of The Populist Vision by Charles Postel! Both tutorial groups were almost universal in their desire to have a class each on the early Cold War abroad and the early Cold War at home, as opposed to the somewhat challenging task of rolling the two into one. Classes on Nixon and Reagan were also universally popular.