|Moderator:||Thomas Whitaker, '53 Ph.D., Frederick W. Hilles Professor of English|
|Panelists:||Peter Wegener, Harold Hodgkinson Professor Emeritus, Engineering and Applied Science|
|Robin Winks, Randolph W. Townsend Jr. Professor of History|
As you're aware, at the point when the Department of Education was phased out, the M.A.T. had come into being during the 1950s, and when the M.A.T. phased out in 1970, the University decided to concentrate its attention formally on undergraduate teacher education, and you've heard about that program. But concern for teacher education on what one may call the post-graduate level with special reference to teachers in public schools did not really lapse. It was picked up in a way that was collaborative, practical, content- oriented. Indeed, as early as 1970, the History Department with Howard Lamar and others began a history education project which assisted a number of Social Studies teachers in New Haven to develop improved curricula in American history, world area studies, urban studies, and the success of that program led to the organization of a more ambitious program that would include other disciplines. In 1978, the Teachers Institute was established as a joint program of Yale and the New Haven Public Schools, that is, the schools within the city of New Haven proper, not the outlying suburbs. By 1980, it was cited by the Rockefeller Commission on Humanities as a model of UniversitySchool collaboration that integrates curriculum development with intellectual renewal for teachers, and I've given you some handouts that indicate further comments by outsiders on up to the present date.
From the very beginning, it's been a collaboration not just between organizationsYale and the school systembut among persons. And from the very beginning, the moving spirit of that collaboration has been James R. Vivian, the Director of the Institute, without whose vision, practicality, persistence, and in my opinion at least, organizational genius, the Institute wouldn't have come into being and wouldn't hardly have survived to this date. Really, I think that he ought to be giving this talk instead of me. But Jim's vision has built into the structure of the Institute and into the process of curriculum development a notion of collaboration among Yale faculty as leaders of seminars and advisors of curriculum units, and New Haven teachers who determine what seminars will be offered and who select their topic of investigation within them. As Jim himself has stated it in his introduction to a little book of essays that emerged from the Institute's work in 1983, "Teaching in America The Common Ground," four principles, in his view, have continued to guide the program. First, belief in the fundamental importance of the classroom teacher, and of teacher-developed materials for effective learning. Second, the insistence that teachers of students at different levels should interact as colleagues, addressing the common problems in teaching their disciplines that means not only middle school and high school teachers and, more recently in the Institute, elementary school teachers, but also Yale facultythe notion of collegiality across the board with regard to [whole?] effort is very important. Third, the conviction that any effort to improve teaching must be teacher centered, and, consequently, dependent, as the Institute understands it, on a group of socalled "coordinators" who are teachers who meet weekly during the year with the director and who constitute an essential part of the program's leadership. And, finally, the Institute has had the certainty that the university can assist in improving the public schools only if it makes a significant and long term commitment to do so.
So, the Institute doesn't involve curriculum experts in the usual sense, it doesn't involve shortterm workshops, nor does it involve regular graduate courses in either methods or content. Trying, I suppose, to make a virtue of necessity, it takes advantage of the lack of an education department here to attack problems of teaching by another, more collaborative route. I've referred to this earlier as postgraduate, and it is that technically, in the sense that all of the teachers have their degrees prior to entering upon teaching. I should make it clear, and perhaps Peter and Robin will speak to this in various ways, that the actual seminars are not like Yale graduate courses, and one of the reasons they are not is that each teacher is working on a curriculum unit for use in avery largelyinnercity school, and many of the teachers do not have significant advanced work in the subjects for which they are now assigned to teach. And you know, as well as I do, the reasons behind that kind of a situation in a city of this sort. So that an actual seminar is likely to be a mixture of some kinds of advanced work, some kinds of fairly introductory work in the content field, a certain amount of adult education, a certain amount of work that might seem to a Yale faculty member more on an undergraduate level, and the challenge is to bring all of this together in a collaborative way.
Each year, there is a process of discussion and application through which teachers describe topics of interest. Yale faculty members then circulate seminar proposals related to those topics; the coordinators, after canvassing other teachers, select which seminars would be offered usually about six seminars a yearfour in the humanities, two in the sciences has been a frequent mix.
The seminars are dual in focus. There is emphasis upon general study, or study in common, common readings for the seminar, and upon individual development of a curriculum unit within or tangential to a seminar topic. So there's a balance between academic preparation and practical classroom application, a balance, I should say, that is understood differently in different seminars and by different writers of curriculum units. In the view of the NEH a number of years ago, it was that balance which made the Institute unique among the projects it has funded.
As I've said, collegiality is important. The New Haven teachers are "Fellows" of the Institute, not "students," they are full members of the Yale community for the full year in which they are registered in the Institutethey're listed in the university directory, they have parking and library privileges, access to computer and other resourcesand they receive, on successful completion of the program, an honorarium which, currently, is at $1,000. The seminars themselves run from March through July; we have a couple of widely spaced preliminary meetings in March and April, organizational, beginning of research on topics, and so forth, and then weekly seminar meetings on the common reading from May through July. I passed out a smaller number of the 1991 brochureswe don't have enough for everyone there and you can see the kind of schedule that is worked out for each yearit's this little thing, about one to a row. If there are others of you who are burning to have one, I have a small number left up here, and you can pick one up after the session is over.
Those seminars have covered a wide array of topics over the years in the humanities and in the sciences. Let me cite not a complete list, but enough of a list to give you the notion of the wide spread of faculty involvement and subject matter opportunity: John Agnew, in American Studies, has taught seminars on twentieth-century American culture and Afro American history; Victor Bers, in Classics, has taught a seminar in Greek civilization; Kent Bloomer, in Architecture, has taught a couple of seminars on elements of architecture; Richard Broadhead, Traugott Lawler, Robert Stepto, Allan Tractenberg, Mary Manly, and I have taught quite a wide variety of courses in English, American literature, American Studies, both working with texts and with the process of writing and with drama; Robert Bertz, in the Law School, has taught a seminar on the courts, the Congress, and the Constitution; Roberto Gonzalez- Echevarria and Nicholas Shumway have taught courses in Latin American literature, Latin American history; Bob Gordon, professor of Geophysics, has taught a seminar on geology and the industrial history of Connecticut; Howard Lamar, in History, a seminar on industrial New Haven and the nation in the Nineteenth Century; Morris Mahoney, professor of Genetics in the Med School, has taught a seminar on human fetal development; Jules Prown, professor of History of Art, has taught a number of seminars on material culture; Margretta Seashore, professor of Genetics and Pediatrics, taught a seminar last year on genetics; Charles Walker, Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering, has taught a number of seminars on engineering and science, coal combustion, nuclear fission, technology; Peter Wegener, on my left, has taught a couple of seminars on aerodynamics; and Bob Wheeler, in Physics, has taught a seminar on electrical technologies; and Werner Wolff, in Engineering, a seminar in science and technology; and Robin Winks, as he will indicate, has taught a range of seminars in the area of British studies, detective novel, writing history, U.S. National Parks, and everything else that Robin is expert in.
Well, the curriculum units that come out of these seminars have been even more diverse because each Fellow adapts a unit applicable to her or his own teaching, but with potential relevance to the teaching of others. These units are written, not as graduate papers; they are written, as it were, as first person accounts of a plan to teach a specified kind of unit in the coming year, and written with the understanding that their primary audience is composed of the colleagues within the New Haven system. The units are written in stages over the course of the seminar, with ample opportunity for feedback, revision, both from the seminar leader and from colleagues in the seminar. And then they are, each year, done up in a series of volumes like this which are kept both at the Institute office and placed in the school libraries within the New Haven system. There are several ways of giving you a sense of the range and variety of these units; Peter and Robin and I will all do that to some degree. I might note that the volume I have in hand which came out of a seminar that I led last summer, is, at least, an example of one kind of development. The seminar was actually in contemporary American drama, script and performance, and it was designed to alert English teachers to the performance dimensions within scripts, and to alert some theater and dance teachers to some of the disciplines involved in actually struggling with a text. And yet, of course, the recent American drama that we were dealing with was essentially drama on an adult level, which we read, did some rehearsing, some presentation for our own amazement, and so forth. But these teachers were, for the most part, middle school and elementary school teachers for whom those particular plays would not be appropriate, so each was developing her or his own direction, incorporating, insofar as appropriate, kinds of things picked up in the seminar. We ended by retitling the book, then, "Learning through Drama," which was a more accurate reflection of the variety of units. It contains such units as "Recipes for Playmaking," "Improvisational Drama," "Preparation of a Play to be Performed for a School Audience," "A Study of the Theme of Family in Plays," "Study of Egyptian Culture through Playwriting and Play Performance," "Study of the Amistad Affair .... " which people in Connecticut, at least, know all about, "...through Theater," "A Study of Certain Aspects of Contemporary Legal Practice" for a ninth grade course in law through mock trial, theatrical performance, and an elementary unit called "Melting Pot Theater Teaching for Cultural Understanding," which was written by someone who is not a single classroom teacher, but visits a number of schools as drama supervisor, and who worked out sort of a master plan for inquiry into three cultures, Russia, Ghana, and Puerto Rico, by elementary school kids each developing aspects of what would come together as a grandiose performance: aliens from other lands visiting these cultures and learning about them. So that you can see that the variety is potentially endless here.
I've recently had the opportunity of reading through the majority, not all, but the majority of the units that have been prepared over the last twelve years, prepared by more than three hundred teachers now, some 40% of them having written two or more such units, so that I have at this moment a pretty live impression of the actual variety. These units are widely used; a survey in the spring of '85 showed that they were taught in more than 1,500 classes, at that point, five years ago, with attendance in those classes of 30,000 students. One third of all of the New Haven secondary school teachers, whether or not Fellows, used Institute-developed units in some way or at some point. Seventy-one percent of those using those units in or by 1985 used two or more of them. At this point, 1990 in fact, 40% of all of the middle and high school teachers of humanities and sciences have completed the Institute successfully, at least once. And, as I've indicated, the last couple of years, the Institute has been incorporating elementary school teachers and finding that they add in very well to the mix, despite the difference in level of grade taught.
My own review of these units and of seminar leaders' recommendations has been part of an ongoing preparation of a volume of units as examples of what the Institute is doing. That's one aspect of the task of disseminating the idea of the Institute, which has always been one of James Vivian's major goals. There are, in fact, other books in preparation, one by a high school English teacher, Jane Marshall, shaped from her own series of units, each of which becomes, after revision, a chapter in this book. Both Robin and I have had something to do with that project. There's another on national parks which comes out of one of Robin's seminars recently; he may be able to say something about both.
In the volume with which I've been concerned, we identified a substantial number of units, a really surprisingly large number, about sixty, that seemed, on the basis of the recommendations of the seminar leaders, potentially publishable beyond the New Haven system (since, in a sense, they are all published within the system) as illustrations of curricular development. We then tried to narrow this down with some kind of field distribution, invited about thirty people; some of those were not interested in the process of updating and revision that we thought would probably be best at this stage of the game. It looks as though we will have about a dozen units for distribution beyond the New Haven system. They will include, for example, the one I just mentioned, elementary school unit, "Melting Pot Theater;" a unit in autobiography which involves journal writing, study of autobiographies, and study of Hispanic autobiographical material; a unit on "Learning Your Way Around Fair Haven," a unit which is really local history, local geography, on the grounds that the best way to understand; a piece by Jane Marshall, whom I have mentioned, "American Detectives: On TV and in Books," a piece by a teacher of Spanish who has within a seminar that Roberto Gonzales Eschevarria led on Latin America developed a way to present Shakespeare's Tempest in classes that are devoted to English as a second language. The main emphasis there, the thematic emphasis, as you can predict, is Caliban. What are the attitudes of people toward someone who does not know the language, what problems emerge both for pupil and for teacher that The Tempest has, in some way, touched upon. Another teacher, history teacher, has a unit on Supreme Court rules on school desegregation from Plessy v. Fergusonto Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas; a math teacher has a unit that is on, that is really a kind of statistical sampler; another math teacher who was working with Peter and teaches at the Sound School where they have an emphasis upon marine activities has developed a unit that incorporates physics and math with a marine emphasis; another teacher, also working with Peter, has a unit that incorporates the historical development of the aircraft industry with mathematical implications spherical geometry, and so forth; and another teacher has a unit on crystals in the world around us; and another daring teacher engaged head on the question, "Creation, Evolution, and the Human Genome." It is a course that he will teachhe is a biology teacher, essentially. He will teach it with a humanities teacher in a team teaching way, and it runs down historically understanding of evolution before Darwin and since, and points up some of the issues in debating the nature of evolution, and then goes on to the biological component in which, whatever one's view on those matters, various evidence with regard to the human genome, and he develops in that way. It's a very tactful approach, I think, to what his seminar understood to be a considerable difficulty these days in teaching.
I think we can expect similar diversity to emerge from the seminars being offered this year. Howard Lamar is leading one in "Multi- Disciplinary Studies in American Regions and Regionalism," Jules Prown is leading one in "The Family in Art and Material Culture," Robert Stepto is leading one in "Afro-American Autobiography," and I'm leading one in "Recent American Poetry: Expanding the Canon."
I might say a sentence or two about that because it's an instance of what I think often, though not always, happens in the Institute. The Yale faculty member may take the seminar topic as an occasion to do some exploring in an area that is not properly part of her or his specialty, and it helps to accentuate the collegiality of the experience, and is, indeed, a lot of fun. I've taught American poetry, but always from a fairlywhat?Anglo-American standard approach, and so what I decided we ought to do is to make a survey of recent American poets from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. This is something that interests the teachers very much because of the ethnic and racial composition of their own classes in New Haven, and we're finding, thus far, lots of interesting things to talk about.
In the sciences this year, Walter Anyan, section chief of Pediatrics at the Medical School, is leading a seminar in "Adolescents and Adolescents' Health," which covers quite a variety of topics including pregnancy, adolescent parenting, sexually transmitted infections, drug abuse, you know, the whole bit. And Karl Turekian, in Geology and Geophysics, and director of the Center for the Study of Global Change, is leading a seminar in "Global Environmental Change," in which he will try to put some current concerns in the news in a geological context and a historical context.
Well, before formally introducing my colleagues at this table and letting them say something about their specific seminars, I do want to add a word about the potential future for the Institute. For many years, it's been the goal of the Director, James Vivian, to put the Institute on an endowment basis to insure its survival beyond the vicissitudes that we all know of temporary foundation grants. That's been a year to year, three year hand to-mouth existence for quite some time. Jim has held to that goal tenaciously, through good times and bad, financially speaking, and it now begins to look quite realizable, despite the fact that, as you know, foundations, in contrast to individuals, are often very leery to contributing to endowment, rather than to specific, local projects. The goal is a five million dollar endowment and cash reserve which would provide income, effectively, and perpetuity for the Institute, and would make it very clearlyit or some substitute for it, if that turned out at some future date now to be the best way to go about these things to continue that in that fashion through endowment. As you've seen through the handouts that you've received, the Institute received a DeWitt Wallace-Readers Digest Fund challenge grant of two million dollars last fall. At the moment, I should say, only $145,000 has been received to match that grant. We've got a long way to go, but there is an application to NEH for a million dollar challenge grant which would help out considerably. That grant, I understand from Jim Vivian, is still in the stage of "being negotiated" with NEH.
As many of you may know, Yale's recent President, the late Bart Giamatti, was a staunch supporter of education throughout the country, and he was, indeed, a staunch supporter of the Institute. That support has been continued by President Benno Schmidt who stated in the application for the NEH grant that the Institute, in his view, "demonstrates Yale's long standing commitment to collaboration between university faculty members and school teachers as a necessary means of strengthening teaching and learning of academic subjects. This type of collaboration is essential to education reform in the United States. We recognize the benefits of the Institute to New Haven teachers and their students, the New Haven community generally, and to the nation, and we are confident of the benefits also to Yale faculty members and to Yale itself as an institution." I haven't said very much about that myself, but probably Peter and Robin can. It is clear from Benno Schmidt's letter that the Institute is now a high priority for Yale. Indeed, this was an application the application that Yale was permitted to make at this point for NEH funding which went to the Institute.
Well, despite the good news, there is also the continuing anxiety. It probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: the Institute would welcome your support, in any fashion, as it searches for this endowment.
Well, let me turn now to my colleagues and say something about their seminars. Peter Wegener, as you know, is Harold Hodgkins Professor Emeritus, has a doctorate from the Institute of Oceanography of Berlin University. He has done research and scholarly activities at Buena Munda, the U.S. Naval Ordinance Laboratory, and the jet propulsion lab of Cal Tech, and, more recently, at Yale. He is an internationally recognized expert on supersonic and hypersonic wind tunnels, gas dynamics, condensation, and chemical kinetics, and he has published very widely in those fields. He's also, of course, been of great service to Yale as Chairman of the Department of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and also as Director of the Division of Physical Science. His seminars have been on aerodynamics at least, that's been their official title. Peter...
I did not know what to expect, because my son went through high school in California and also so long ago that it's not an applicable experience. Therefore, I would like to give you some very pragmatic remarks on what I ran into, which I thought about in order to be here, today, at this panel. And these are pure;y practical things, not very philosophical. The seminar starts after school, 3:15. And the status of some of the teachers at 3:15 is not necessarily perfect. Therefore, I found it that thelistening to an hour and a half of discussions and presentations by the seminar leader was really a very special effort, which I regarded very highly. The second point: I became convincedI had about twelve, in each casethey were uniformly and universally dedicated to teaching, to a degree which I would never have been able to bring off after I heard what is involved in a New Haven High School System. And they had a serious interest to broaden their knowledge in an area which most of them would call enrichment of what they teach anyway. Therefore, the units, to jump up ahead a little bit, could be for two weeks, for a whole term, or whatever. There was a remarkable diversity of topics that were finally chosen for the units. And you heard some examples here, they were extremely broad, also in my case, they ranged from purely historical material to two or three which were indeed sort of approaching the idea of science.
A very remarkable thing that I observed, which I had not anticipated at all, there was a great deal of social interaction among the teachers. Therefore, they began to talk to each other in the seminar which I encouraged, not necessarily at all about the subject of aerodynamics, but about experiences they had. "What do I do if this happens?" "How did you handle this?" And many of them come from different schools. And it turns out, which I found surprising, that during the school day, they cannot talk to each other. There is simply no time, no place to sit down and have a cup of coffee or something, which I had certainly not known. Now, having said all this, I have to turn to the subject matter that these teachers are supposed to get across to their students.
I had thought, innocently, and my talks at schools and to teachers had not changed that at all, prior to may seminar experience, I had thought that a science teacher did take a course at Southern Connecticutthis is where most of them come fromin science of some sortphysics course, chemistry course, before you teach physics or chemistry. It turns out that in nearly all cases this was simply not true. I understand it's a little better in the biological areas which I'm not familiar with. I did find in every case in two seminars, three or four teachers who had, indeed, a background in mathematics, and could, indeed, teach algebra or whatever topic might be involved. And the science end was used, in many cases, to find practical examples in order to make the mathematics a little more palatable. Now, many of the teachers, I found, and some started their units saying, "Two years ago, I was assigned to teaching science." Then you ask, "Now, what did you do before that?" Well, they taught some social thing, or they taught history, or they taught, maybe, English. And it would seem to me that if you talk about the so called "hard sciences," which I'm trying to do, in real contrast to the humanities, which I'm sure can be done with the kind of education, I hope, that they do receive, again, at Southern, which is now called "UniversitySouthern Connecticut University." But, to get across the simplest elementary mechanics, like running a ball down an inclined plane, or what is free fall, or the kind of thing which you must know if you read The New York Times, and if you want to have any understanding of any of this, is in many cases simply not there. Now, therefore, I ended up with aerodynamics, the perfect field for this, to teach mechanics, to teach something about the atmosphere in which we live, or how is it high up, etc., why can't you really breathe on Mount Everest, things of this sort. But for a person who encounters at Yale among our graduate students, seventy-five percent from other countries, and at MIT this number is higher, this is a puzzling and saddening statement.
Totally disconnected, I want to say something about Yale undergraduates in Engineering and Applied Science. In the last two weeks, there was a yearly contest at MIT. A two pronged approach. A student team goes up from many universities and they solve problems design problems, and other problems which are given to them. And then they have to participate in an athletic event. The Yale team, for the first time in years, beat MIT's team in problem solving. They had to do many complicated problems, which they did, and they beat 'em, playing volleyball...[obscured by laughter]. This was unique, this was really unique [?] from this engineering honor society.
At any rate, therefore, the Institute seminars in science cannot possibly remedy what I just said last. On the other hand, of course, you can point to books, open some avenues, maybe, and certainly two of the people who took the seminar, two of the Fellows are now in the list that Tom mentioned. And one is a partially descriptive, but then, leading into spherical geometry case, and the other one from the Sound School talks, quite seriously, about modeling. If you have a little boat, how can you then do experiments on a little boat and turn it over to the Queen Mary. Therefore, I think the overall effect can only be very good from including reasons which are really outside the actual material that is taught in the seminars to keep people more alive and more interested in new subjects. Thank you.
Robin Winks, Ralph W. Thompson Professor of History, has also been central to the Yale enterprise for many years. He is, of course, an authority on commonwealth history throughout the world, post- commonwealth history as well. He served as Master of Berkeley College until very recently; he served the U.S. government in its relations to Britain and in its supervision of the National Parks system. Indeed, Robin's books suggest something of the breadth of his interests. Some of them are: Canada and the U.S.The Civil War Years, The Blacks in Canada, The Cold War: Yalta to Cuba, The Historian as Detective, Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961, and in yet perhaps a more popular vain, Modus Operandi: An Excursion into Detective Fiction, and An American's Guide to Britain. You can see why Robin, I trust, finds himself so very much at home in something like the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. Robin...
I want to touch on a few practical aspects of the seminars that have not been directly touched upon before, but also, as Peter did, tell you some of the problems and tell you my own approach and the satisfactions I gained from teaching such a program. I might start with the last. When I first came to Yale, joining the faculty 1957, there was a program called "Carnegie Studies for Engineers." And I, in effect, did the reverse to what Peter has been doing. That is, I carried the humanities to the unenlightened by making it possible for engineers to understand the flow of historical events, themselves without ever having to memorize a date. I enjoyed this enormously, and was then drawn into the M.A.T. program, as some of you know, because there are some old friends here, and then, in due course, into the Yale-New Haven Institute. Because as a teacher, and equally as much as a researcher and writer, my primary concern is with communication and with narrowing the limits of tunnel vision in a way by which one can break out and speak from discipline to discipline. Therefore, each of the seminars I have created for the Institute have attempted to do the same. They are, in one sense, narrow, and in another sense, their application is intended to be very broad. I've lost track of how many, in fact, I've taught. I counted up seven in my mind, and then decided not to try to go further. And they have been across a fairly wide range of subjects, though the commonality in each of them was this desire both myself to communicate and to learn from the teachers what the realities of the classroom are today, and at the same time, to persuade teachers that they need not limit themselves to their own discipline when teaching.
Two good examples of this would rise from, first, a seminar I taught some years ago on the exercise of American world power, which grew out of my own professional interest and undergraduate teaching at Yale on the history of comparative imperialisms in which two of the Fellows of the seminar taught what I used to call, growing up and going to high school in Colorado, "shop," but which I now understand is called "industrial mechanics," or something else of that sort. These two Fellows, I think it's reasonable to say, did not spend a great seal of their time reading books about the growth of American world power. What they were most interested in doing as a project was to build, completely from scratch, a fullnot a replica, not a miniature replicaa full cannon of the period of the 19th Century European wars, showing their students all of the metallurgy, all of the rifling, all of the science that was involved in doing so, and then take it into the field and fire it. The unit that they produced, I thought, was excellent because it was about one aspect of the exercise of power, which is arms, and, in the process of that, they learned, I think, a great deal about what this artifact they were constructing meant, especially to Third World peoples when it was employed against them in the great imperial wars of the 19th century, and I think they conveyed a good bit of that to their students. I, too, learned a great deal, particularly when I stood a little too close to the cannon when it was tested and fired.
Just last year, because what of my great interests is the U.S. National Parks System, I offered a seminar on national parks. There are, as I'm sure most of you are not aware, 367 national parks in the United States. Most Americans are hard-pressed to name more than ten, and after they have gotten past the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone, they begin to be fairly desperate, focus in upon some local units, and then are done. It's the largest, it's certainly the finest, and it's the most intellectually articulated system of national commemorative reserves of any country in the world. And through a study of it, one can learn a great deal about what the American people take pride in, since, to actually preserve an area, whether it's natural or historical, is a political act. I invited applicants from all of the possible disciplines, and I had a teacher of the Earth Sciences who worked out, I thought, a quite beautiful unit on how to teach geology from Glacier National Park and from the general emphasis upon the preservation of certain geological phenomena within the parks. I had history teachers, for whom the task was relatively easy, and other science teachers, and literature teachers, but the most exciting was a teacher of music. There is no unit of the National Parks System dedicated to the commemoration of American music, though there is intended to be, in due course, and this year being the seventy-fifth anniversary of the National Parks Service, the Service is professionally studying the question of how it could commemorate the issue of a distinctive American sound. And, as you can imagine, there has been emphasis upon American jazz, there has been emphasis upon distinguished composers, there has been emphasis upon Ives and Copland, etc. And this music teacher did a wonderful unit on John Philip Sousa, and how the marching band was the distinctive, universal, American sound. And when I sent this, in fact, to the National Parks Service, they were so pleased with it that it's very likely that one unit to American music will be John Philip Sousa's house on Long Island.
So that my concern throughout was to draw teachers in who did not see the relevance of the subject that I was trying to entice them into. That's to say that, as Peter spelled out what he thought were the disadvantages of the teachers, I felt, I detected, two that were predominant above all others. They did not include serious [under? other? ?] preparation for the subjects being taught, because somehow it is always assumed that anybody could teach history or English, though in fact, of course, as a professional historian, I think it has fully as arcane, occult, and difficult methodology as any other academic discipline. But I remembered in high school, after all, all of my history was taught to me by the track and football coaches. All of my mathematics was taught by a person who spent most of the class attempting to sell through me, to my parents, insurance. To be sure, he used mathematical formulae and actuarial tables to tell me why I needed to carry certain messages back to my parents. And my Spanish was taught by a person [?] whom I later learned it [for?] "New New Spanish." So I had come slowly to a realization of that somewhere midway through the year when I attempted to use pronunciation she had taught me on a short trip to Mexico and found it didn't work.
Teachers are frequently under-prepared, and that includes University teachers. But I felt that the greater problems were that the teachers arrived, not only tired, but dispirited. Things had happened during the day that led them not to take great pride, necessarily, in being a teacher. And every one of my seminars has been aimed at the assumption that it's necessary to broaden the base by which the teacher can come to understand what they are doing is the most important thing in the world. Now, I have to confess, I think I am doing the most important thing in the world. And I believe everybody should believe that they're doing the most important thing in the world, and if they don't believe it, they should get out of it and do something else. Otherwise, there will be dispirited days piled upon dispirited days. So I don't mean that my seminars are meant to be evangelical as such, but they were meant quite consciously to suggest to teachers how important what they were doing was, and how, if they were a little tired of fighting the Civil War in their American History course, for the twenty-second consecutive time, how they might enliven it, but more importantly, enliven themselves, by perhaps adding a different dimension. The dimension of historical fiction that is written about the Civil War, the dimension of comparative civil wars in other societies so that they could see that the American Civil War while, as with all historical events if looked at closely enough, is unique, is, if one draws back from it enough, is comparative to other nations that have faced potential breakdown. How they could mix in, in other words, other materials.
The most successful seminars that I taught, I think both from my own perspective and the teachers' perspectives, have been the three occasions at which I taught seminars on what some would think of as my hobby, though I don't think of it in that way, and that is to say, mystery, detective, and espionage fiction. Since I do believe, very strongly, that the methodology of the historian is to teach people to ask good questions, that that is the primary conveyance to the students, I'm afraid I'm one of those people who thinks that it does not matter in the least whether students, or, indeed, teachers can name every president of the United States in succession, it does not matter in the least whether one can name the central tariffs, though it is wise not to play that you know them if you don't, and there surely is a certain act of memory that does go at a low level with getting the basic facts out in history, that we could use detective fiction to show how the methodology of the historian in posing the questions, looking for anomalies, asking whether the right question has been, in fact, posed, when finding it hasn't, shifting the question, could be very valuable to the student and to the teacher. And those have proved great fun. Great fun for me because I learned a great deal, which brings me back to where I began, why does one teach in these seminars.
Well, in part, because, as I mentioned, I started in Carnegie Studies for Engineers and M.A.T., in part, perhaps, because my father was a high school superintendent and my mother was a junior high school principal, which is to say, I observed teaching and the realities of public education at home, perhaps, in part, because my daughter went to Hamden High School, but I don't think one plays out one's autobiography, finally, in career choices, necessarily. Much more because they're great fun, and because one learns about the realities of the classroom from which over fifty percent of the Yale students one is later going to teach are coming. So that as a teacher one does not improperly lionize, heroize, or place expectations even on the Yale student because one comes to realize that today it's quite easy to get through high school without ever having read a word of Chaucer. Indeed, it's quite easy to get through Yale without ever having read a word of Chaucer. And that it's quite easy to get through high school without ever having taken a course that I would necessarily label "history."
In addition, I find it a very effective way to help the teachers fight against localism. I quite agree with what Tom Whitaker said, that history begins at the schoolroom door; indeed, I think it also begins inside the schoolroom. But it mustn't be limited to presumptions that are purely local. That is to say, I think it unfortunate if either teachers or students come to the assumption that the normative process is that which occurs in their home town because it is never the normative process. When I first came east from Colorado, I went to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and concluded that the upper south was a very peculiar part of the world, indeed. I then came to Yale to teach and concluded that New England was an even more peculiar part of the world. Now, when I return to Colorado, I realize that it has its own distinct peculiarities, and that teachers who teach to the assumption that these are normative environments are doing a disservice to students in so highly a mobile population as our own. So that as a teacher would produce a unit, let us say, that would focus upon a New Haven manifestation, which is understandable, since all the teachers come from New Haven, the New Haven manifestation of a historical issue, I pressed them very hard to say, "How would a teacher in Billings, Montana, use that unit?" The teachers who say, "Oh, I know where Billings is," are the ones I like most. The ones who say, "Where's Montana?" are the ones who worry me. But I do work closely with them, so that I think in the end result, in fact, the units can be used. Which is to say, there needs to be, certainly in the humanities, at leastthis follows automatically in the sciences, because the law of gravity, I believe, is the same in Billings as in New Havenbut in the humanities, it is necessary often to press teacher and student to begin at the schoolroom door, but to move comparatively beyond that into a far wider involvement.
My most recent experience with the program has been, as Tom was pointing out, working with one of the senior teachers, who's in fact, I think, taken seven seminars, and who by that point had fulfilled the needs, as it were, that I think she felt through the seminar process, and was moved on to what might be called a master-teacher relationship to the program and to ourselves to work through the best of her units and produce an actual book which is about British culture, since British history is now very seldom taught, of course, in the New Haven schoolshow to use British novels, including detective fiction, and British films, to convey universals about the issue of fiction, reading, writing, and finally film itself.
I'll close on just one other point. The Fellows truly are equals. This is not a game. I learn as much from the Fellowsnot, perhaps, about the discipline we're engaged in, but sometimes then, toothat fully as much from the Fellows as I give and they learn also from each other. There are, in that learning process, small additional dividends. Tom did not mention the deadlines. There are quite firm deadlines for submission of first draft, submission of prospectus, submission of first draft, submission of second draft, and completion of unit. Each of the teachers is expected to meet with the person running the seminar twice, minimally, to a schedule that is not very flexible. Since I happen to believe very firmly in deadlines, and, indeed, even in publish or perish, I think it's important to get words down on paper because I don't think people know what it is that they think until they have had to find the words by which they convey it to someone other than themselves. And up until that is achieved, the thinking is not clear, however clear the thinker believes it to be. And it must be done to a deadline. And I find that this enforcement of deadlines, insisting on clarity of expression that goes beyond, sometimes, the vocabulary the teacher would normatively use vis a vis their own students is a very important aspect of the interactive process in these seminars. As is, finally, the fact that all those who are teaching seminars in a given year, in a given summer, or starting in March, get together, periodically, for lunch. So that I can hear about Peter's problems in his seminars, and he can hear about my problems in my seminars, though usually, to irritate Peter, I always said, "Well, there are no problems in my seminars at all." Which is to say, there is also a great deal of fun, of course, interchanging with other Yale faculty in an understanding of how their disciplines are conveyed or not conveyed, and are taught in the school systems of New Haven.
The question part is, I'm assuming you have a limited number of openings in the program. How do you select people, or how do they selfselect?
With regard to applications, my understanding is that up until the last year or so, there has never been any need to draw the line. Any application, in order to be accepted, must state in a preliminary way a topic that bears upon the seminar offered, and permission from the teacher's supervisor must be included, so that the teacher can, without question, teach that unit that is to be prepared in the following year. Now, those hurdles somewhat reduce the applications, but it has been possible, I gather, to proceed without limitations other than bureaucratic ones of that sort until the last couple of years, when, indeed, the effort has been made to increase in the area of elementary schools. And last year, my understanding is, that finally the decisions were made more or less by lot. That is, there has been, in the Institute on the level of admissions, as well as on the level of final completion, a steady reluctance to make invidious judgments of quality, to say that this should be an opportunity open to teachers across the board, and that nothing should interfere with the collegiality. I happen to have in my seminar this spring a couple of people who applied for my drama seminar last year and were not admitted simply because the coin flipped the wrong way.
Again, I'm not the person to give you the proper answers to that. The Institute has been concerned, at least since 1985, to work out means of demonstrating its effectiveness. Those means, at least thus far, I think, have not been in terms of the kinds of checklists of skills that one frequently finds in high school, but in terms of testimony from teachers, their experiences, their experiences of using other units, and so forth. Partly, that's a function of the fact that the units are often units of enrichment or interdisciplinary units, not directed as a major effort toward basic skills in this course, although they very often include a basic skills component built in to the unit. There is, if I recall correctly, a certain amount of evidence that a major positive effect has been increasing morale among New Haven teachers, at least on their own account. There are teachers who, in accord with the kind of thing that Robin was saying, have found their work with the Institute one of the things that has helped to keep them plugging at it over the last few years. That is probably an area that ought to be looked at in some way, though, given the diversity of the units, it is, in my view, an extraordinarily difficult question to deal with.
And thirdly, Tom remarked upon how the teachers are selected, but he didn't remark on how faculty come forward and then their seminars are selected, and it's in a process which, when Jim Vivian would circulate faculty, not just those who'd done this before, and say, "Would you be interested in teaching," and you'd have to say, "Well, no, not in the summer of '91, I'm on leave of absence," or what have you, "but I'll be interested in '92," he then asks you to submit three or four seminar ideas. And the teachers themselves meet and declare which of those ideas they would find most useful to them in their own future teaching. You then work up a more detailed syllabus for the seminar. So the seminar is not just imposed on the teacher, where they say, "Well, this is it. If you want national parks, that's what you better take," because they're offered three or four. And in the selections that the teachers themselves make, I think one can, again, get some kind of subjective sense of where they feel the necessary impact in their teaching is going to go, where it might be most effective to them. 'Cause I think they really make the decision on professional grounds, not on what they think would entertain them for the summer. But otherwise, I don't know how one would measure this at all.
So it was, for me, to a large extent though not entirely, a literary rather than a musical concern. But, we made certainly full use of the musical talents of the persons who were there. It's a very interesting question, I think, points to an area that in my view, along with the area of visual arts, has been, in some ways, sadly neglected in our official definitions of the curriculum. I happen to be the kind of person who would like to put the arts right at the very center of the curriculum and say that there is the holistic educational medium. But Jim Vivian should think more about that. Thank you.
And many of us go into the schoolsI think it's probably, in fact, Jim's equivalent of an attempt at a kind of salesmanshipabout this time of year, he often arranges some lectures in the schools in which one goes in and gives a lecture. I will give a lecture on America's rise to world power, or on answering questions through detective fiction. And one suspects that that is in part to sell oneself and make known this seminar will exist, though that is never made explicit. And I get no sense of why a third of the smiling faces that laugh at all the right points apply, and two thirds of the faces that smile equally well and laugh at all the right points don't. I get no sense of it. And I don't know whether there's been a study made. But I quite agree with you. I'd like to see some means provided that's not coercive that would invariably draw in new people rather than repeats.