Several notions about learning inform the organization of this site. They are simply stated:
I have sought to develop these ideas in several articles and so will not repeat myself here. Instead I will draw several practical implications which guided the design of this site:
Since this last point will strike many as heterodox and may strike some as counterintuitive, I should add a brief explanation. The goal is not to get students to amass vast quantities of information. It is to get them imaginatively engaged with the issues our units and assignments raise. We cannot do this by simplifying. The imagination feeds on detail. The more, and more diverse, materials we have to work with, the richer our mental images. Students do not panic in the presence of such riches so long as they understand that their task is to make sense of some, not all, of what they encounter, that they have some say in what materials they will work with, and that they can draw upon the work of their colleagues. Sound idyllic? Utopian? Not at all, unless you consider the current actual state of historical scholarship perfect. I have just described how actual practitioners go about their tasks. This is the practical meaning of authenic learning.
All of the materials on this site deal with ways in which Americans in the middle of the nineteenth century tried to make sense of gender, what they called sex. The question arose most directly in the new woman's rights movement and the responses it evoked. But it influenced, shaded, helped shape the entire culture. It is in the jokes, the songs, the primers used by small children learning to read, the sermons, the political harangues, the fiction, and the poetry. So we have cast our net very widely.
We have pulled some materials together in curricular units with suggestions for the classroom teacher. Some of these can be done in a single class. Others are appropriate for term projects. Some can be used in the middle grades. Others will challenge Advanced Placement students. All are document-based.
We have collected much more, out of which the instructor may pick and choose. You can custom design your own lessons and assignments. When you do, or when you use one we have put together, we would very much appreciate hearing of your experiences. Please contact: John McClymer, Professor of History, Assumption College, Worcester, MA 01609.