Letters: Teaching Modern History, Mindfulness

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NPR's Tom Gjelten reads from listener comments on several past programs, including teaching modern history, the role of violence in popular culture and how to use mindfulness to re-frame stressful situation.


It's Tuesday. Time to read from your comments. We asked history teachers in our audience to tell us how they make room in their teaching for new people and events - the now, recent past.

From Gene Larson(ph) in Rockford, Illinois, we received this email: I teach an eighth-grade history class focusing on the 20th and 21st century. At the beginning of the year, students create an annotated pictorial timeline of their life events proximately 13 years and events in U.S. history. This makes students engage in choices that are relevant to them while still having a common core. We recall as a group issues as they happened in the news that are connected with what we studied on our timelines.

And Tom Flagel(ph), an assistant professor of history at Columbia College in Franklin, Tennessee, had this comment: In teaching U.S. history, I have excluded more and more federal politics in favor of consumerism, gender history and technology. The latter three topics are major factors in daily life and in patterns of change. In contrast, presidential elections occur only once every four years and rarely initiate major change. Unless my students are in the Armed Forces, their presidents infrequently impact their lives directly.

Our conversation about the role of violence in popular culture following the Aurora shootings brought this comment from John Wymar(ph): Violence in books, movies and video games serves as a constructive cathartic outlet for our darker selves. It's a safety valve for our so-called normal people. Mass killings, as happened in Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, are aberrations. Blaming entertainment is like blaming guns. The problem is with people ignoring warning signs and doing nothing to intervene.

Finally, a correction. We said last week that former vice presidential candidate James Stockdale is the only American admiral awarded the Medal or Honor for actions taken as a admiral. A listener reminded us that Rear Admiral Norman Scott was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism and conspicuous intrepidity. He was killed in action in 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal. We apologize for that error.

If you have a correction, comments or questions for us, the best way to reach us is by email. Our address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name. And if you're on Twitter, you can follow us there @totn.

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