An essay on teaching History in our times, germinating handwritten in the pages of a Moleskine journal

Early in May we flew to Oklahoma via DFW for the wedding of Grandson No. 1, and I occupied myself on the flight down pencil-scribbling some ideas I had been carrying around for a while. Awakening early the next morning in Purcell, Oklahoma, I poured come coffee and picked up where I had left off, until I had filled eight pages. Then we were off to be occupied with family events.

I realized before quitting, though, that an essay was germinating in my old-man hand on paper, which I gave a title, “Teaching for America in the Twenty-First Century.” At age 72 I am in the middle of a rehab of my teaching program aimed at staying current and, more important, responding to changing times and changing students. This is because, well, things are changing, and I plan to be around for quite some time.

What I have written so far is a lament, possibly even a jeremiad, about how we got into the cultural, political, and intellectual mess we are in. So it’s all gloom and doom so far, but it will not be so as I pick up the thread and carry it on this summer. I will get around to what I’m going to do, I think, which others may wish to emulate, or not. I do hope others may be moved to think, as I have been.

I post here those eight handwritten pages, direct from my journal.

Thomas D. Isern

Professor of History & University Distinguished Professor, North Dakota State University

One thought on “TFA

  • May 14, 2024 at 10:32 am

    Discerning analysis of where American education is today and many of the reasons thereof. I applaud you for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts derived from many years of teaching history to college students.

    The fact people like you are standing up and facing this deeply rooted problem is for me strong encouragement for hopeful answers toward a better future!


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