I grew up along Salt Creek, a tributary of the Des Plaines River, at what was then the edge of suburban Chicago. The weed-choked stream and the woods on its banks formed a playground for children with imagination. I played sixteen-inch softball on a diamond that neighborhood dads carved out of a ragweed swamp. I swam in Lake Michigan, canoed on the Des Plaines, and camped in Indiana and Michigan. I studied social sciences at the University of Illinois and came home to write for local weekly newspapers, covering the appearance of the La Salle: Expedition II crew in Elgin in January 1977.
I followed my fiancée to Houston in 1980, where I worked for twenty years on the Houston Chronicle copy desk. I also taught full time in area schools, including European and U.S. history at the middle school level and geography and AP world history at the high school level.
As a working historian, I don’t believe what my teachers often told me, that we study history to avoid the mistakes of the past. History is made by human beings who act in human ways, so history keeps repeating itself, the triumphs as well as the tragic errors. History is the mirror in which we see our species most clearly, not to cover up our wrinkles and blemishes but to recognize our true selves clearly and more wisely engage in the context of our own times.
I am a member of the National Council for History Education. I hope my web site provides a forum for ideas in teaching history and other social studies. For me, history education should not be about low-hanging fruit – Washington, Lincoln, and MLK Jr. No one ever got strong by lifting 3-ounce barbells. Students need the challenge that comes from digging deeper to discover the identity and contributions of historical figures they don’t know. And every student should feel empowered as “the world’s greatest historian” to view past, present and future through the prism of his or her own experience.
When not engaged in studying history, I like jogging and gardening, and I am a charter member (1985) of the Houston Chronicle Fantasy (baseball) League – still a National League group despite the Astros’ switch to the AL.