Over the last week, I have been revising my materials for the two courses I will be teaching this spring. One of them -- Fashion and Consumer Culture -- has required only the usual tinkering. Change the dates on the syllabus, shift and update a few readings, make minor updates on the website, and it's good to go. The other course has turned out to be a challenging mess, and one I thought at least some of my readers would enjoy hearing and thinking about.
Myth and Memory is what I like to describe as a stealth methods course. The title implies that the content is learning about something, but it's really about how to DO something. Each version of the course has focused on a different year (1975, 1985, and now 2007) and begun with readings about that year or its context within a decade or period. This part of the course only takes a couple of weeks, and then we get down to the real business of using archival sources and oral history to research and then produce our own small stories (online exhibits or short videos) about that year. Students often begin thinking that I chose the year because it was significant in some way, but it's simpler than that. It was 40 years ago, 30 years ago, ten years ago. The exercise can be repeated with any year; they are all equally significant, for my purpose, which is to teach students how to tell stories with primary sources.
For the first two iterations, it was easy to find books and artlcles about the target period. For the seventies, I could pick and choose among dozens of analyses of that time period. Finding similar readings about the 1980s was a little harder; most were focused just on the Reagan presidency, and I wanted cultural and social histories as well. This was not surprising; as a historian who began her career studying the years leading up to World War I, I am well aware that perspective is needed to write history. To truly assess the impact of any event or regime requires a long view-- decades, not months or years.
Compiling the intial sources for 2007 was beyond challenging. It was frustrating and disturbing; it revealed some of the difficulties my students will face as they start their own research, and that I will need to anticipate.
I will post the online sources I will probably use below, because as a body they will help my students get a sense of the world ten years ago, when they were in middle school. They also serve as an introduction the challenges they will face doing primary research at that particular moment in the history of digital news media.
2007 Year in Review (NBC News)
Top 10 News Stories (Time)
Google Zeitgeist 2007
A few predictions, which are more revealing in some ways than the reviews:
2008 Election Prediction: McCain vs. Obama (Outside the Beltway)
7 economic warning signs for 2008 (Market Watch)
And my personal favorite prediction:
Why the Apple phone will fail, and fail badly (The Register, UK)
And I plan to feature this "2007 Year In Review" from JibJab.com on the first day of class: