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December 15, 1791--Virginia became the last state needed to ratify the Bill of Rights, giving the bill the necessary 2/3 majority of votes needed to be made into law¹. Since its inception, the Bill of Rights has become the cornerstone of American civil liberties, but the interpretations of these amendments have always been in flux--changing to suit the needs and interpretations of both the legal system and the country's political opinions. For instance, the Bill of Rights included 12 Amendment, two of which were left out, one later then was ratified in 1992 becoming the 27th Amendment¹ .


The Supreme Court continues to have an impact on the Bill of Rights. Here are several landmark cases that have redefined the boundaries of the Bill of Rights:


1.Schenck v. United States (1919)

In a unanimous vote, the Supreme Court had ruled that freedom of speech can be limited during wartime and when it can cause harm.

2. Olmstead v. United States (1927)

The Supreme Court had ruled that the government is allowed to wiretap people without a warrant and that it is admissible in court. It wasn't until 40 years later that this ruling was overturned in Katz v. United States.

3. Furman v. Georgia (1972)

The Supreme Court had decided that the death penalty is a "cruel and unusual" punishment under the 8th Amendment and, therefore, was unconstitutional. Four years later, the Supreme Court reversed that ruling under Gregg v. Georgia.

If you would like to incorporate information on landmark cases in your classroom, feel free to check out:


1. Bill of Rights is finally ratified - HISTORY 

Students are turning in final projects this week for my online courses. With only two weeks until final exams, the end of the semester is bearing down on us all. And though these students have been working with me since the first week of September, many are still struggling with a basic life skill: following directions. They have had several weeks to work independently on their projects and plenty of time to ask questions. Yet, in spite of what I have offered them in instruction and assistance, I am receiving finished work from students who clearly did not read the directions. 


Case in point: sources. Here is the actual text from my instructions (highlighting in original):

Required Sources: Three articles from assigned academic databases (*see below*)

*ACADEMIC DATABASES: Students must use materials from the databases linked through the college library to our course. Link is accessible through our course LaunchPad.

*UNACCEPTABLE SOURCES:  Wikipedia,, OR anything NOT from the assigned academic databases.

To my horror, the first few projects I received from students contain none of the required sources. I am wracking my brain to understand why. Was I mistaken to believe that highlighting what I considered an essential requirement of the assignment would force students to pay attention to it? Is there some new way of drawing students’ attention to key elements of instructions that I have missed? Or, are my online students simply not reading the directions? 

As a strong proponent of online courses I teach half of my course load online. Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what the students might miss by not physically being in a classroom for instruction. I, for example, do not have the opportunity to observe confusion on students’ faces when I give assignments. Instead I have no choice but to rely on students’ willingness to email me with questions. Is there something more I could be doing? Do we, as faculty, have an obligation to ensure that our online students have read and understood the directions? For those who teach online in any discipline, what (if any) steps are you taking to address this challenge? Please share.

Hello everyone!


In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, Macmillan hosted a plethora of events to raise awareness about Native American culture and history. Here are some of the events that we had held.


Earlier this month, we had a screening of Rumble: The Indians Who Have Rocked the World. The documentary focused on the contributions made by Native Americans in music and in modern culture. Interested in incorporating this movie in your class? Feel free to check this out, it’s a great resource with lesson plans and ideas on how to do so.


Last week, we invited Heather Bruegl to speak to us about the important contributions made by Native American women. Heather Bruegl is an educator and an activist and has spoken to numerous organizations on Native American history. Make sure to check out the video below:



Listen to our podcast from the new co-authors of The American PromiseSarah Igo and François Furstenberg. In this episode, Sarah and François address questions from the history teaching community on becoming textbook authors, teaching American history, and the complications of education today. 


To learn more about The American Promise or to request an exam copy, please visit our catalog.


The American Promise 8e Podcast

This past weekend I had the opportunity to look through my high school report cards. It would probably shock my former history teachers that I pursued a career in a subject area where I squeaked out B-minuses semester after semester. As someone who teaches at a community college I find myself fascinated by the trajectory of student academic paths. So often I see students trying to choose a direction at a young age -- selecting a major or area of study as soon as possible so that course selection will be more seamless. Looking back at those high school grades reminds me that had I made a choice at 18 and stuck with it, I never would have ended up in my current career. 


For so many of my current students the cost of a four-year college is daunting. They arrive at community college hoping to get through the first two years of higher education without incurring debt so that they can borrow for years three and four. I imagine for those students the thought of spending thousands of dollars with no guarantee of a high-paying job is beyond frightening. 


My college path could not have been more different from that of my students. Arriving at Wheaton College (MA) as a freshman in the fall of 1990 -- with the financial and emotional support of my amazing parents -- I was certain that I would be an English major (probably because it was the subject I disliked least in high school). Second semester, however, I took a class in Modern US History -- a subject area we had never come close to in secondary-level history classes. My professor, Alexander Bloom, truly captivated me with his teaching style and obvious mastery of the subject matter. He invited students to stop by his office with questions and he showed episodes of the (then recent) documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” outside of class for extra-credit. I was hooked. I can remember searching my notebook for questions to ask just so I could chat with him for a few minutes at office hours.


Professor Bloom is preparing to retire this year. So many former Wheaton students owe a debt of gratitude to Alex for the way in which he encouraged us to love studying history. He was a truly gifted story-teller in the era before PowerPoint presentations and classrooms with digital projection. For students like myself who were searching for an academic interest to which we could connect personally and passionately, his intelligence and quick wit were a true gift in the classroom. No doubt countless students of every academic major took US history classes at Wheaton over the years because they wanted to experience the unique ways Alex connected students to the past.


Perhaps it’s cliche to be “thankful” in the month of November. I feel compelled to use this week’s blog, nonetheless, to acknowledge the teachers over the years who encouraged me. Every once in a while a student will write a note or send an email to me acknowledging some small act that I see as part of my job but that he/she felt particularly inspired by. I remind myself in those moments that I was not always a strong student -- I had many days that I was disinterested or uninspired. I had my share of lousy test grades. What kept me going was the hard work of men and women -- like Alex Bloom and many others-- who were committed to their students’ forward progress and who believed that any student could flourish when she found the right path.  For those, and many, many other lessons, I’m grateful. 

Did you know that November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance?


Transgender Day of Remembrance was first started in November 20th 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender advocate, who had held a vigil for Rita Hessler, a transgender women who was killed in 1998¹. What started off as a small annual event grew into a campaign that is observed every year in remembrance of all transgender people who have lost their lives to anti-transgender violence².


Here are some facts about the issues that affect transgender people in the United States:

  • About 50% of trans teen males, who were assigned female at birth, had attempted suicide at least once¹. About 30% of trans teen females, who were assigned male at birth, at attempted suicide at least³ 
  • 26 states do not have any laws preventing employers from firing someone who is trans
  • At least 22 people who identify as transgender or non-conforming have died this year due to violence ³.


While we as a country have made strides creating a safe environment for LGBTQI+ community, there is still a lot of work needed to ensure that everyone feels comfortable both in their personal and professional life.


Last June, in honor of Pride Month, we invited Jessica Soukup to speak at the office on how to be LGBTQ+ allies and how we all can make a difference.



Want to make an impact in your school or your community? Contact your local LGBTQ+ non-profit and learn how you can make a difference! Here are a few great resources to help you get started:


¹Transgender Day of Remembrance | GLAAD 

²Transgender Day of Remembrance Resource Kit for Journalists | GLAAD 

³Trans teens much more likely to attempt suicide - Reuters 


Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2019 | Human Rights Campaign  

Steven Huang

Origins of Halloween

Posted by Steven Huang Nov 1, 2019

Pumpkins, scary decorations, an overabundance of fun-sized candy in your grocery store--it’s Halloween! It’s the one day all kids look forward to as they knock on doors with their friends and loved ones to collect their candy.


But did you know that origins of Halloween was less festive and fun? 


According to, Halloween (also known as Samhain) was a day for the Irish to ward off evil spirits by lighting a sacred bonfire and wearing costumes. Other practices included:

  • Burning crops and sacrificing animals to Celtic deities 
  • People read fortunes by reading each other’s costumes
  • Once everyone was done, they relit their hearth using the flame from the sacred bonfire to protect them from the upcoming winter


When Christianity found its way into Ireland, the church kept many of their practices while incorporating new ones. By 1000 AD, the church designated November 2 to be All Souls Day--a day where poor people will visit affluent homes for soul cakes in exchange for praying for the souls of their loved ones².


Eventually Halloween found its way to the United States and its own identity was shaped by the customs and traditions early Europeans settlers and Native Americans¹. Ghost stories, parties, and celebrating the harvest all became an integral part of early American Halloween celebrations¹. Interestingly enough, Halloween was celebrated mainly by states like Maryland and southern states¹. Waves of Irish immigrants helped spread the holiday throughout the states and eventually it became mainstream.


But, for a while, celebrating Halloween became difficult. During World War II, sugar rations made it difficult for people to pass out candy and it wasn’t until the baby-boomer generation that Halloween made a comeback².


Today, Halloween is now one of the most popular holidays in the United States that is widely celebrated and has evolved into being one of the most commercial holidays as well. It is expected that this year’s Halloween will generate over 8.8 billion dollars, the bulk of which is comprised of costume and candy sales³.



For more information on the history of Halloween click here:



¹, “Halloween 2019”

², “How Trick-or-Treating Became a Halloween Tradition”

³National Retail Foundation, “Retail Holiday and Seasonal Trends: Halloween”.

Students in my US History I and II classes have recently started a short research project, which means we are spending class time in the library getting everyone acquainted with identifying and citing research materials. As I assist students in locating relevant library-based materials for their projects I am simultaneously conducting web searches to identify new materials not yet available at my college library. While helping a student locate sources on Indian boarding schools this past week I came across an amazing resource that is deserving of some special attention by those of us who teach US history: the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center created and maintained by Dickinson College.


If you are not familiar with the history of Indian boarding schools in the United States a great place to start is the (some-what difficult to locate) documentary film “In the White Man’s Image” (PBS, 1992). There are numerous narrative studies of the schools and biographies of their most famous attendees, including Kill the Indian, Save the Man : the Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools by Ward Churchill (City Lights Publishers 2004). In recent years, writing by students at the schools have been published. See, for example, Recovering Native American writings in the Boarding School Press edited by Jacqueline Emery (University of Nebraska, 2017) and Boarding School Seasons: American Indian families, 1900-1940 by Brenda J. Child (University of Nebraska, 1998).


If, like myself, you only have a short period of time to introduce students to Indian boarding schools, there is no better resource on the web than the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center. In addition to hundreds of searchable images of children and young adults who attended the school, there are Student Records searchable by name, date of entry, and nation or tribe, as well as log books and student registers. Modern day history students are introduced through these digitized records to names (native and Americanized), birth dates, and some family history of the Carlisle students. We are able to get a sense of how long students stayed at the school and the types of pressures that led to their dismissals and/or personal decisions to return home. Finally, a section of the resource devoted to Teaching provides lesson plans for younger students that can easily be enhanced for work with first and second year college students.


Have you stumbled upon any new or new-to-you web-based history resources that you think may benefit your history colleagues? If so, please share in the comments below!

My son, a high school 10th-grader, has been using an iPad in school regularly since 5th grade. He’s grown up in a generation of students for whom digital textbooks and computer-based learning are commonplace. And yet, he’s not sold on the idea. As we sat in a doctor’s office waiting room last week he commented to me that he prefers his teachers to assign readings from a printed text. In his view, the only pitfall of the printed text is the excess weight of his heavy backpack. His digital textbooks, on the other hand, are loaded onto devices that contain many, many distractions (text messages, games, etc).


At the start of each semester I present my students with the option of purchasing a digital or printed textbook. Inevitably before heading to the campus bookstore a student will ask which format is “better.” My typical answer is that textbook format is a personal choice based on a variety of factors. For community college students, cost is always tops the pros and cons list. It is difficult for me to counter the argument that their need to afford textbooks for five classes necessitates choosing the least expensive options. Nonetheless, when I am asked by a student for advice about digital v. print textbooks, here are some of the questions -- in addition to cost -- that I suggest they consider:


  • Do you have regular access to a reliable laptop/computer/tablet and WiFi? If the answer is no, I suggest that they think realistically about when/how they will access an eBook. If the campus library is several bus stops away and only open when they are working their own part-time job, for example, the print text might make more sense.


  • What will you be using the textbook for? In my classes, for example, students are allowed to use the textbook to complete open-book online quizzes and assignments. I suggest that they consider how they will manage such tasks with an eBook. Some students are able to use their own device with a desktop system in the college computing, which works very well. For others, moving back and forth on one device between an eBook and an online assignment can be more difficult depending on their comfort level with the learning management system.


  • Have you talked to other students? Every semester I have students in my classes who willingly provide feedback to their classmates as to any challenges they had with either print or the eBooks in the past. I find that students generally value their classmates’ perspectives. I have even had students planning to use the eBook decide, in addition, to share one purchased copy of the printed text with a classmate.


  • Have you utilized the college library’s resources? I place a copy of each of course textbook on 2-hour reserve in the college library so that it is always accessible. I make sure the students are aware of this option as a safe alternative if they are struggling for any reason with computer access and/or the eBook, have misplaced their print copy, or simply want to try both options before making an economic commitment to one or the other. 


I emphasize to students that textbook purchasing is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Helping our students understand which format will work best with their homework schedules and learning styles in an important component of our teaching. As we prepare this month to order textbooks for the spring semester I’m working with our campus bookstore to make sure students have choices and flexibility in the process.  

Last week’s announcement that there will be an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Trump has created an opportunity to talk with students about the historical precedents of this action. The nearest my courses this semester get chronologically to any discussion of impeachment is the Watergate scandal and that’s only if I get through the civil rights movement at record pace. As a result, I find myself recommending sources for students to consult outside of class.


Here are some (very) general online sources that I have found particularly helpful for first and second year college students. Feel free to share these with your students and add your own suggestions in the comments section below.





For those students who may have already studied the impeachment process in a political science course, I’ve found it meaningful to suggest that they undertake their own study of media biases. Have the students search the web for editorials and political cartoons that argue for/against impeachment. Remind them that today’s current events will be tomorrow’s subjects for history courses. Political cartoons and editorials from today’s papers will be used years from now to discern how Americans were reacting to events in Washington during this impeachment inquiry. 


Finally, suggest that they spend some time listening to the nightly cable news shows or talk radio -- most important here would be to compare what different news outlets are saying about the same topic. Ask them to consider how historians decades from now will view the arguments made in these forums.


The impeachment inquiry will no doubt be a complex period of highly charged debate among politicians in Washington. As a current event in 2019 it offers a valuable opportunity for history students to consider the complexity of the times in which the primary sources we are studying in our textbooks originated. 

When we think about September, we think about fall foliage, apples, and pumpkin spice lattes. But, did you know that September is also the month that contains  the International Day of Peace?


The holiday was first started by the United Nations in 1981. For the past few years, the United Nations had dedicated this day to a peaceful cause in hopes of raising awareness on global issues that continue to affect all of us.


Some of the themes for the past few years include: human rights, education and democracy.


This year's focus is on climate change--urging people to take action on combating climate change and raising awareness on sustainability and green initiatives.


Share what you think is important by using the hashtag #peaceday to spread the word.


To learn more about the event click here:

International Day of Peace 

Suzanne McCormack

Taking Note(s)

Posted by Suzanne McCormack Expert Sep 18, 2019

We just finished the second week of the fall semester and I’m already feeling anxious about the notes my students are not taking during class. 


History classes are notorious for being heavy with note taking. My on-campus classes meet twice a week for 75 minutes each. I plan for students to be taking notes from my lecture for at least some part of each meeting. To guide their note-taking I distribute a handout at the start of each class meeting containing key terms for the lecture and any images that we will be discussing. I intend for the students to use the handout to follow along with lecture and I instruct them to do so during the first week of classes. They know that the handout is theirs to keep and that if they miss a lecture they should get a copy of the handout to begin catching up. 


All that being said … some of my students are not writing down anything I say. Nothing. 


I look around the room a lot as I’m lecturing to gauge whether students are following the lesson. Many are writing in notebooks or on the handout, a couple are typing notes on a laptop or iPad. Others are doing nothing. No moving pencil or pen, no laptop: just a desk empty but for the handout I’ve distributed. It’s these students about which I’m truly worried. I know how much of the exam will come directly from the very lecture I am delivering at that moment and yet I cannot seem to convey to those students the importance of taking notes. 


I recently spoke with a counselor in student support services at my college about this problem. Our school, I learned, now employs “academic coaches” to help students learn to better utilize both classroom and independent study time. I can definitely see the need for such a professional -- not a content specialist but someone who can help students figure out what they need to know and how best to learn it. Academic coaches are available to meet with our students one-on-one or to address them as a class during our meeting time. 


Thinking about the topic for this blog led me to do some research of my own and I found that there is, of course, an abundance of note-taking advice available online for students. Many student support web sites have note-taking tips to share with students. More interesting to me, however, are suggestions to faculty about how to make our lectures more friendly to note-taking. A particularly helpful site is the University of Nebraska’s Teaching Students to Take Better Notes, which is intended as a guide for new-to-teaching graduate students but is a great reminder to any of us who lecture about keeping our thoughts succinct and organized.


I’ve decided to address the issue of note taking at the start of each class this week. My hope is that my reminder about the importance of class notes for exam preparation will have some impact. Are your students taking notes? Is there anything in particular you do to ensure that their note taking is productive? Thoughts welcome.  

In August the New York Times released The 1619 Project, an ambitious publication of the paper’s weekly magazine that seeks to address our nation’s troubled history with slavery at its 400th anniversary. Written and produced by black authors and historians The 1619 Project, according to the Times, “is first and foremost an invitation to reframe how the country discusses the role and history of its black citizens.” (“How the 1619 Project Came Together”) The result is a resource rich with thought-provoking work on nearly every aspect of slavery from capitalism to segregation to myths about black bodies, among many others. 


Everyone who teaches the history of the United States should set aside some time to grapple with the works presented by The 1619 Project. These are twenty-first century- scholars and writers seeking to place the history of slavery at the forefront of our modern-day discussions of race. They recognize that the history of this “peculiar institution” remains inextricably linked to our daily lives 400 years after its origin. College students of all races and political perspectives can benefit from consideration of this critical historical topic in a contemporary setting. As I write this blog I’m working my way through the articles and thinking about how best to add the work to what I already teach about slavery. 


I’m hoping to integrate the project -- as well as published responses to it -- into my Black History course this fall. My plan is to have students read an article of their choice from The 1619 Project and then react to the published criticism in an informal journal entry. A quick Google search provides numerous examples of criticisms of the project by politicians and social commentators who view it is as a form of propaganda, as well as those who have supported the Times’ decision to tackle this important topic. Discussion of The 1619 Project offers an opportunity to broaden the classroom study of slavery while also enabling students to consider how contemporary scholars and politicians continue to respond to our national history. The start of a new school year is the perfect time to help students grapple with these complex issues. Are you using The 1619 Project in your classroom this fall? If so, please share your thoughts and ideas with the Macmillan History Community.


 photo credit: 

The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division


August is for vacations, air conditioned rooms, and sipping cold drinks at the beach, but what some people may not know is that August was a pivotal month for civil rights activists.


On August 28th 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech to thousands of activists in Washington D.C. The simple yet powerful words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech united people from all over the country so that together, we can achieve an idyllic version of the America Dr. Martin King Jr. had envisioned.


Several months after the speech was made, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went on to become one of the youngest people to win the Nobel Peace Prize.


Despite the enormity of the speech and his status as an iconic leader of the Civil Rights Movement, the path to equality was still a hard paved road. In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the Selma to Montgomery March, a 53-mile 3-day walk, to advocate for the rights of African Americans to vote. The protest was a success; as a result of their efforts, President Lyndon B. Johnson called on Congress to pass federal legislation that would protect all African Americans’ right to vote.


So much has changed in the past few decades after the speech was made. Let’s take this moment to remember all that we have accomplished, while continuing to pave a brighter future for all people.




To see a recording of the speech, click here: Martin Luther King - I Have A Dream Speech - August 28, 1963 - YouTube 

On behalf of the Diversity & Inclusion Council at Macmillan Learning, we invite you to celebrate Women’s Equality Day this Monday, August 26th!


After nationwide women’s rights marches in the 1970s, Congress designated August 26th as Women’s Equality Day. The observance of Women’s Equality Day commemorates the certification of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote almost 100 years ago, and calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality.


The Macmillan Learning D&I team has assembled a number of resources for you to explore and learn more about Women’s Equality Day. 


Film Screening!

There are many ways to engage students on Women's Equality Day. One of the things we are doing with Macmillan Learning employees, are screenings of the film “He Named Me Malala” on Monday, August 26th. The documentary tells the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager who was targeted by the Taliban for her advocacy of girls’ education. 


The film is currently streaming on NetflixYou can license the film for $75 for large groups on campus.


The History Behind Women’s Equality Day



Women’s Equality Today





Additional Resources





Tell us in the comments if you are talking about Women's Equality Day with your students! We'd love to hear your ideas to engage students on History!



Nikki Jones and the Macmillan Learning Diversity & Inclusion Council


Nikki is the Senior Director of Marketing Outreach and Diversity Initiatives at Macmillan Learning