Assignment #1 (75 points): Teaching History in a "Divided America."

In the first two decades of the 21st Century, we have seen much, and arguably more, political division among citizens of the United States since the years leading up to and those immediately following the end of the Civil War. This fact makes the task of teaching history in classrooms across the nation more difficult than at any other time in American history. As we will learn throughout this course, history is controversial. And teaching history is even more controverial. So, it is absolutely essential that we understand how and why our nation has become so divided - especially since the presidential elections of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

This assignment is designed to help you begin to understand how these political divisions arose and how they have changed the nature of politics and political discourse. In so doing, it will prepare you for our discussion on the first day of class - how do we teach history in a "divided America." Your frame of reference for this assignment is the PBS Frontline two-part video The Divided States of America which you can either watch online or listen to online or on your phone.

How to Create an Annotated Historical Chronology for this assignment: You will watch or listen to both parts of Frontline'sThe Divided States ofAmerica and then create an annotated chronology that explains the events that began to occur prior to the 2008 presidential election that have politically divided our nation over the past 10 years. In other words, it should begin in 2007 and finish in January 2017. Instructions are as follows:

  1. Before watching or listening to The Divided States of America, you will need to understand how to create a chronology or timeline. Please refer to my website at This website explains what an annotated historical chronology is, describes how and why they are important to help you create a story that can inform your understanding of a topic and how you can translate that story to your students, and provides examples of annotated chronologies.
  2. Watch or listen to Part I of The Divided States of America online at (1 hour, 58 minutes). Or, you may listen to it via the Frontline Podcast that you can download onto your computer or phone.
  3. As you watch/listen, write down dates and brief annotated descriptions of what you believe are the most important historical events that were discussed in the video/podcast.
  4. Watch or listen to Part II of The Divided States of America online at (1 hour, 55 minutes) and then repeat #2 above. When you are finished, you will have your first draft of your chronology for both videos/podcasts.
  5. Read through your chronology - you will have a long list of events - and then create your second draft of your chronology. This will require you to edit your chronology - delete those items you no longer think are important to the story of how we came to be so politically divided in 2017, and/or add more information to certain events that need further descriiptions.
  6. Carefully examine your chronology to find the story that emerged.  In other words, identify the major themes and issues that you learned from your chronology about how and why we are currently so politically divisive.

What you must turn in on the first day of class:

  1. Your chronology (50 points). Because this is your first chronology, please submit it in simple typewritten format - dates and annotations for each event. You can get more creative when you have your own classroom. Please note that since you will have edited your chronology, it should not be too long - no more than 2 single spaced typewritten pages or four double spaced.
  2. A 2-3 paragraph typewritten explanation of the story that emerged through your chronology (15 points). What did you learn about how and why America has become so politically divisive?
  3. A 2-3 paragraph typewritten explanation of how and why these two videos/podcasts and the chronology assignment helped you better understand the political world in which we will teach and how and why teaching history is so controversial (10 points).

When you come to class on the first day, please be prepared to share your chronology with a small group of your classmates, to discuss your story, and explain what you learned about divided America and how it might inform how we teach history in the 21st Century.