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One Book High Schoolers Must Read

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righttosecede posted on Sat, May 14 2011 5:33 PM


I teach HS US History at a private school in Tampa, FL. I do not use a textbook, rather, I pull from primary sources and secondary sources. Question: if there was only one or two books you would have HS students read what would they be? Thank you for any posts!



US History

Carrollwood Day School

Tampa, FL

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I guess this depends on how permissive your supervizers are.

I'm actually not too sure how great of an idea it is to go without a standard textbook. After all, since the world surrounding them is full of fallacies, they will have to know the standard version to combat it.

Hence, I recommend using a normal history textbook (The American Pageant is pretty good, AP level) and then on the side forcing them to think critically and examine all the material presented by themselves. For example, teach them about the Gilded Age and the standard interpretation of it being laissez-faire, and then challenge them to find out whether it was actually laissez-faire. Make them have to find alternative sources for Standard Oil, meatpacking, the railroads, etc.

Have them walk through the scenarios and analyze them logically, as if they were a person living in the era. Have them ask how Standard Oil was able to gain a monopoly if it was so evil and to retain it. Guide them so that they see that the standard historical explanation makes no sense - the public had essentially no memory if it repeatedly fell for monopoly prices. Then show them this:

Walk them through the meatpacking scenario - why would large businesses consistently sell bad meat? Wouldn't they lose customers? If this was a large problem, wouldn't new companies which sold good meat replace the old ones? Then, have them read this:

Do the same about the railroads, and then go on to show them how almost all railroads were government subsidized and regulated.

Teach them about the bootleggers and the baptists, and how big business loves big government:


In general, your task would be difficult if you chose this teaching style. Yet it might be the most productive.

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Hazlitt's Economics In One Lesson. Short. Easy to understand. To the point. And it will enable them to nail politicians/media on so many falsehoods.

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