History According to Hutton


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The 1980 Election and the Rise of the Right

C28219-11, President Reagan at Rancho Cel Cielo. 4/8/85 .

In his book, Reagan’s Victory: The Presidential Election of 1980 and the Rise of the Right, Andrew Busch details the specifics of the players in the historic contest. In stark contrast to the soft spoken Carter, Ronald Reagan offered a plan for economic growth, military strength, and change from the past. When President Carter declared that America was facing a “crisis of confidence” he did not understand how right he was. However, it was not a problem within society itself but in the ability of government to protect them. At the end of a decade full of political scandal, war, and historic stagflation, Americans were pessimistic towards their government. Much like an approaching New Year brings people hopefulness, so the dawning of the new decade—the 1980s—brought about a fresh optimism. Reagan’s conservative message stood out in contrast to the selfish 1960s, which many blamed for the problems of the 1970s. Conservatism had been a quiet movement growing undetected for a generation, but now it found a confident voice in Ronald Reagan.

Reagan ran on a platform of change, self-reliance, and strengthening America against any potential aggression from our most feared enemy, the Soviets. A skilled campaigner, he was able to project a vision of a free, prosperous, and stronger United States. Reagan’s message appealed to blue-collar workers, evangelicals, Catholics, and southerners. The American people listened and were ready to embrace the hope Reagan offered. Despite polling projections, Reagan was elected in a surprising electoral landslide although critics said that Regan’s victory was merely a rejection of Carter and the consequences of a third party candidate in the race. The political shift did not just occur at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, however. On this November 4th, Republicans gained forty-five seats, nearly taking total control of Congress. According to Busch, “Reagan had the longest coattails of any presidential winner during the final third of the twentieth century”. Reagan did not wait to take advantage of this legislative strength. He quickly went to work.

The historical landslide electoral victory of Reagan ushered in an era of conservatism and a return to smaller government, family values, and strong national defense. Reagan stopped the growth of government in nearly every area except defense. He pushed for, but did not always achieve success in social reforms such as school prayer and restrictions on abortion. He was able to lower taxes and get inflation under control through monetary policy and free trade. According to Busch, “Reagan had inherited a disaster and left a revival.”

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Watergate and Herblock

Herbert Block was a powerful political cartoonist for the Washington Post from 1946 until 2001. Herblock, Block’s pen name, covered many political issues during his tenure but none more notorious than his coverage of the Watergate affair. With full discretion to criticize at any length, Herblock’s take on the Washington scandal and cover up held nothing back.
When examining the Herblock cartoons, there is no lack of symbolism. Each item in the drawing is carefully placed with purpose and meaning. The Watergate cartoons depict a greedy and angry President Nixon with strong facial features and a protruding nose. This serves to not only enhance a physical feature but to, no doubt, also symbolize the Pinocchio effect of Nixon’s lies and cover-up. Some may say Block occasionally went too far with his obvious dislike of Nixon. However, Block refused to back down not resting until the scandal eventually ruined the President.
Herblock cartoons can be a valuable resource for teachers to use when covering the scandal with students. First, cartoons can be engaging and visual for some students. Second, symbolism is a difficult concept for many students. By using political cartoons, history teachers can help students practice the skill.
The following activity analyzes a Herblock cartoon and gives students the opportunity to relate the Watergate scandal to America today.

Student Activity

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Oral History: 1968

The oral histories contained in the site, The Whole Word was Watching: An Oral History of 1968, are an amazing glimpse into the 1960s. As a child born in the mid 1970s, the decade before me seems an anomaly. I really cannot connect with many of the ‘mysterious’ ways of that generation. My own mother, who graduated from high school in 1968, was sheltered from much of the chaos by her parents. She went off to college but quickly married and began having children. She never really experienced the 60’s lifestyle. I suppose that is why I do not understand much of the thinking behind the actions. While reading ‘Making a Revolution’ by an anonymous female interviewee, I really began to understand why many 60s young adults think they way they do. The big news stories of my life (attempted assassination of Reagan, end of Cold War, Challenger Disaster, 911) have impacted me and the way I think. It is hard to imagine having so many major political figures assassinated in such a small amount of time. I am beginning to see the 60s as a crossroads. In a way, it is Americas’ teenage years when she is trying to figure things out, find her identity.
This is an analogy teenage students today could understand. Perhaps teachers could use stories like this to get kids to really understand this era. I imagine an assignment where students connect what is happening in their own lives to the events of the 1960s in America or perhaps using the oral histories to write and perform hisotrical monologues. Regardless, this site is an example for oral history sites that can be constructed through a partnership between a high school and its community. Perhaps putting this together was the ultimate learning experience for those kids.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie Official Site

The Project eHIKES trip to the Little House Site was fun and interesting. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid. I think the most important realization I had at the site was the fact that the Ingalls moved around so much. I knew the books were written from different places, but it really makes me think. Why did the family move so much? Was this common for farmers at that time? Where can I go to find out?

I think I could build a lesson plan out of this. My students, whom most have read the books, could attempt to answer these questions as an individual or group research project. Because the topic would interest them, they might really get into it.

I would like to have my students propose a historical site of their own. They could research the topic, prepare a scale model, and write a proposal to a local planning board. Who knows what might happen—one of their ideas might actually turn into reality. How awesome that would be!

I thought that crucial to the success of the Little House site was the fact that it was run by the family who owned the land. They have a direct connection to the success of it. You can really tell that they work hard and put a lot of hours into it. However, I would like to see more signs up linking the site to the history of the time and of the area. I think this would be more beneficial to school groups and others visiting the site.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Creating the timeline of my life was tough because it was hard to remember what happened in specific years. As I went along, I started to remember more and had to go back. This exercise taught me about how history is often recorded and the potential for mistakes and misinterpretations. I also left out some of the details that I didn't want to remember and that can show how so much history is lost or changed. I might use this exercise with my students to demonstrate some of the same concepts.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Agriculture Today

I heard someone say the other day, “I don’t know if Lansing High School is a small, big-school or a big small-school. This reflects the metamorphosis the community of Lansing is undergoing currently.

In fewer than twenty years, the town of Lansing, Kansas has evolved from a very rural, agriculturally-based small town into an upscale suburban bedroom community. There are now more Lansing residents that are from elsewhere than those who call her their “home town”. This change in social dynamics is a reflection of the decline of the family farm, the desire for higher-level military families to live off-post, and the increasing value of land around the Kansas City area.

As Kansas City began to spread, the movement was concentrated to the south. As southern Johnson County has witnessed explosive growth, those looking for a similar lifestyle without the traffic have begun to look another direction. This, compounded with the incredible development of the Village West area, has caused many to look to the K-7 corridor as an alternative.

There are a few farm kids around that are proud to be called that, but that number is dwindling. Most kids in the school today live in subdivisions. Those whose parents have built houses outside of town may have a horse or a garden, but it is far from the family farm of a few years ago. Farmers have realized that more money can be made in other occupations. Many high paying jobs are within driving distance of their rural homes and the land they are sitting on will only increase in value. Others, have chosen to sell off their acreage, making millions if in the right spot. People can simply make more money doing other things.

Finally, the desire for high-quality schools brings many to the Lansing district. Mid and high-level military officers either attending the CGSC or as teachers at Fort Leavenworth, choose Lansing as the place to send their children. These kids bring with them great discipline, high expectations, and a sense of the world outside of Lansing, Kansas. It is no wonder that Lansing schools out-perform many neighboring school districts. As that continues, more and more parents want their kids a part of that.

This metamorphosis has caused a lot of uneasiness in the hearts of those I refer to as “old Lansing”. They remember the days when Lansing was heavily agricultural and less suburban. Occasionally, policies get written based on the old way and Lansing has yet to realize its true identity.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bakke Case

Affirmative Action is a controversial and heated topic for all races still today. It is difficult for me to be neutral on the topic as I have strong feelings about it as well. A teacher has to be very careful these days when discussing racial prejudice. It seems that if you say anything that is perceived to be negative about another race (or allow it to be said) you are automatically labeled a “racist”. As a teacher, I struggle with this because I believe that the less we talk about these issues, the more divided we become. How can a classroom have a real discussion about issues if one side is attacked for having opinions that the other side does not agree with and therefore labels the opinion as racist? I have witnessed this personally, and I continue to struggle with it.

With that said, I believe it is necessary to talk about Affirmative Action. I usually address the issue during a unit covering the Civil Rights Movement. I believe that students should really weigh the pros and cons of the issue. It is also a good exercise to have students of differing opinions trade sides and argue the other’s side for a time. Students should look at why Affirmative Action was started and understand that there was a need for a level playing field. The class should also weigh the consequences of it. Is it hypocritical to say that race should not be a factor in profiling of an accused suspect (i.e. witnesses say they saw a Hispanic man running from the scene yet Police may not look for a man that looks Hispanic???) yet say that race should be a factor in determining college acceptance? What does it mean to be truly ‘color-blind’? What did Martin Luther King Jr. really mean when he said in his “I Have a Dream” speech that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”?
All of these things should be discussed (with the reservations mentioned previously). Students should also look at why the Supreme Court was so slow to make a decision. In one case, they chose not to rule because the plaintiff was about to graduate and they felt that a decision in the case would be moot. Does it show the same reluctance to decide something which might be called “racist”?

The Bakke case left Affirmative Action still in limbo. With a confusing decision, the issue was still not resolved. The issue of Affirmative Action cooled off for quite some time but in a recent Affirmative Action case, the Supreme Court that race can be used in some university admission decisions but tried to put some limits on it. Currently, it seems to be upheld for graduate students entering law school but struck down for undergraduate admissions.

Finally, I would have students look at what Affirmative Action really is. Discuss the issue of granting minorities 20 points to their admissions score just by being a minority. Examine why Affirmative Action is still viewed as necessary and whether the university is allowed to discriminate because it values diversity in its student body, or whether discrimination is only justified to reverse past racial injustice. Can past racial injustice ever be made up? If Affirmative Action is intended to do that, where does that leave recent immigrants who are of an established minority race?