The 3Cs: Two case studies

In a prior post I gave a brief summary of the one of the biggest ideas that I learned in college: that everything is contextual, contingent, and contested. (You might even throw in the term “constructed,” though I think that tends to raise a few eyebrows.) Here are two case studies—one polemical, the other simply delightful—of how this handy tool brings to light some thought-provoking historical lessons. Continue reading


Big ideas I learned in college

Before I finally declared a major in Latin American studies I remember considering both English and history and thinking to myself that I surely wouldn’t do well enough as a history student because I was so bad at remembering dates. I was reminded of the folly of my reasoning by Michael Winerip’s statement of the most valuable lesson he’s learned from his AP American history teacher:

I have long ago forgotten the content of those lessons, but Mr. Noyes instilled in us something far more important: the understanding that history does not come from one book. While that idea has served me for a lifetime, I do not believe it is quantifiable.

Perhaps it isn’t quantifiable in the sense that it isn’t the sort of outcome that can be gauged in a multiple choice exam, but Donna Heiland gives me hope that we might be able to capture evidence of this insight by sharpening our assessment techniques.

At any rate, I am motivated to begin a list of some of the big ideas I gleaned from my college experience: Continue reading