Archives For Social Studies

“We are not used to live with such bewildering uncertainty,” wrote Jessica Stern in a New York Times editorial How Terror Hardens Us on Sunday (12/6/15) after the San Bernardino, California, shootings.

Stern, an adult, was writing about adults collectively when she used the pronoun”we.”

That same bewildering uncertainty also confronts our children, our students in schools. That bewildering uncertainty is happening at a vulnerable time, just when they are just learning to be citizens in our democracy. That same state of terror, a state of intense fear, has an impact on their state of mind as each terrorist attack, Stern notes, “evokes a powerful sense of dread.”

 Stern, a professor at Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies, co-authored ISIS: The State of Terror. She noted in her editorial:

“It [terrorism] is exactly that kind of psychological warfare that It is a form of psychological warfare whose goal is to bolster the morale of its supporters and demoralize and frighten its target audience — the victims and their communities. Terrorists aim to make us feel afraid, and to overreact in fear.”

Students in our classrooms today attend schools where terrorism or home-grown violence is a possibility; the term “lockdown” is part of their vocabulary. At every grade level, they have every reason to believe that they could be a target audience. while motives for violence have differed, many students are aware that high-profile incidents have happened in schools: Columbine (1999) and Sandy Hook (2012).

As educators in all disciplines at every grade level struggle to help students deal with recent events that are identified as terrorism, perhaps the discipline of social studies is the subject where educators can best counter a terrorist’s goal to have our students “afraid and overreact in fear.”

That academic responsibility to help students cope was claimed 14 years ago by the president of the National Council of Social Studies (NCSS) in 2001, months after the attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center.

Most frequent words in the speech given by Aiden Davis in 2011 to the National Council of Social Studies after 9/11 (

The most frequent words enlarged from the speech given by Aiden Davis, President of National Council of Social Studies after 9/11/2001 (



When Adrian Davis delivered his 2001 NCSS Presidential Address to the nation’s social studies teachers, he explained their role as educators included efforts to “to work to reconstruct schools to become laboratories for democratic life” by saying:

“Schools do not exist in a vacuum. They are not isolated from their neighborhoods and communities. Schools and teaching reflect society, and they participate in constructing the future society.”

When Davis gave this address, he was making the case that terrorism had made the discipline of social studies more relevant to future societies than ever before. He anticipated that there would be people who could “overreact in fear”; his address hoped to point out that students would need guidance so that democracy would survive the bewildering uncertainty after 9/11:

 As social studies educators, we need to reinforce the ideals of equality, equity, freedom, and justice against a backlash of antidemocratic sentiments and hostile divisions. As social studies educators, we need to teach our students not only how to understand and tolerate but also how to respect others who are different, how to cooperate with one another, and to work together for the common good.

Davis’s concerns about teaching respect and how to cooperate are even more important today when there is heated rhetoric conflating terrorism with religion. His reason to encourage social studies teachers to reinforce the ideals of equality, equity, freedom, and justice provides a solution to the concerns in Stern raised in her How Terror Hardens Us.

Stern’s editorial concludes, “If we are to prevail in the war on terrorism, we need to remember that the freedoms we aspire to come with great responsibilities.”

On behalf of all social studies educators, Davis accepted those responsibilities. As he concluded, he made clear the commitment he was making for teachers, “We have an opportunity to teach the coming generations to preserve and extend the United States as an experiment in building a democratic community….teaching is where we touch the future.”

The future is always uncertain, but educators, especially social studies educators, can provide students the skills of citizenship to deal with uncertainty so that they will not overreact in fear.

This post completes a trilogy of reflections on the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) which will be terminated once the new Smarter Balance Assessments tied to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are implemented. There will be at least one more year of the same CAPT assessments, specifically the Interdisciplinary Writing Prompt (IW) where 10th grade students write a persusive essay in response to news articles. While the horribly misnamed Response to Literature (RTL) prompt confuses students as to how to truthfully evaluate an story and drives students into “making stories up” in order to respond to a question, the IW shallowly addresses persuasive writing with prompts that have little academic value.

According to the CAPT Handbook (3rd Generation) on the CT State Department of Eduction’s website, the IW uses authentic nonfiction texts that have been:

“… published and are informational and persuasive, 700-1,000 words each in length, and at a 10th-grade reading level.  The texts represent varied content areas (e.g., newspaper, magazine, and online articles, journals, speeches, reports, summaries, interviews, memos, letters, reviews, government documents, workplace and consumer materials, and editorials).  The texts support both the pro and con side of the introduced issue.  Every effort is made to ensure the nonfiction texts are contemporary, multicultural, engaging, appropriate for statewide implementation, and void of any stereotyping or bias.  Each text may include corresponding maps, charts, graphs, and tables.”

Rather than teach this assessment in English, interdisciplinary writing is taught in social studies because the subject of social studies is already interdisciplinary. The big tent of social studies includes elements of economics, biography, law, statistics, theology, philosophy, geography, sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science and, of course, history. Generally, 9th and 10 grade students study the Ancient World through Modern European World (through WWII) in social studies. Some schools may offer civics in grade 10.

Social studies teachers always struggle to capture the breadth of history, usually Western Civilization, in two years. However, for 15 months before the CAPT, social studies teachers must also prepare students to write for the IW test. But does the IW reflect any of the content rich material in social studies class? No, the IW does not. Instead the IW prompt is developed on some “student centered” contemporary issue. For example, past prompts have included:

  • Should students be able to purchase chocolate milk in school?
  • Should utility companies construct wind farms in locations where windmills may impact scenery or wildlife?
  • Should ATVs be allowed in Yellowstone Park?
  • Should the school day start later?
  • Should an athlete who commits a crime be allowed to participate on a sports team?
  • Should there be random drug testing of high school students?

On the English section of the test, there are responses dealing with theme, character and plot. On the science section, the life, physical and earth sciences are woven together in a scientific inquiry. On the math section, numeracy is tested in problem-solving. In contrast to these disciplines, the social studies section, the IW, has little or nothing to do with the subject content. Students only need to write persuasively on ANY topic:

For each test, a student must respond to one task, composed of a contemporary issue with two sources representing pro/con perspectives on the issue.  The task requires a student to take a position on the issue, either pro or con.  A student must support his or her position with information from both sources.  A student, for example, may be asked to draft a letter to his or her congressperson, prepare an editorial for a newspaper, or attempt to persuade a particular audience to adopt a particular position.  The task assesses a student’s ability to respond to five assessed dimensions in relationship to the nonfiction text: (1) take a clear position on the issue, (2) support the position with accurate and relevant information from the source materials, (3) use information from all of the source materials, (4) organize ideas logically and effectively, and (5) express ideas in one’s own words with clarity and fluency.

The “authentic” portions of this test are the news articles, but the released materials illustrate that these news articles are never completely one-sided; if they are written well, they already include a counter-position.  Therefore, students are regurgitating already highly filtered arguments. Secondly, the student responses never find their way into the hands of the legislators or newspaper editors, so the responses are not authentic in their delivery. Finally, because these prompts have little to do with social studies, valuable time that could be used to improve student content knowledge of history is being lost.  Some teachers use historical content to practice writing skills, but there is always instructional time used to practice with released exam materials.

Why are students asked to argue about the length of a school day when, if presented with enough information, they could argue a position that reflects what they are learning in social studies? If they are provided the same kinds of newspaper, magazine, and online articles, journals, speeches, reports, summaries, interviews, memos, letters, reviews, government documents, workplace and consumer materials, and editorials, could students write persuasive essays with social studies content that is measurable? Most certainly. Students could argue whether they would support a government like Athens or a government like Sparta. Students could be provided brief biographies and statements of belief for different philosophers to argue who they would prefer as a teacher, DesCartes or Hegel. Students could write persuasively about which amendment of the United States Constitution they believe needs to be revisited, Amendment 10 (State’s Rights) or Amendment 27 (Limiting Changes to Congressional Pay).

How unfortunate that such forgettable issues as chocolate milk or ATVs are considered worthy of determining a student’s ability to write persuasively. How inauthentic to encourage students to write to a legislator or editor and then do nothing with the students’ opinions. How depressing to know that the time and opportunity to teach and to measure a student’s understanding of the rich content of social studies is lost every year with IW test preparation.

coffeetalkMaybe the writers of the CAPT IW prompt should have taken a lesson from the writers of Saturday Night Live with the Coffee Talk with Michael Myers. In these sketches, Myers played Linda Richmond, host of the call-in talk show “Coffee Talk”. When s(he) would become too emotional (or feclempt or pheklempt ) to talk, s(he) would “give a topic” to talk “amoungst yourselves”.  Holding back tears, waving red nails in front of his face furiously, Myers would gasp out one of the following:

“The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire….Discuss…”

“Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal was neither new nor a deal…. Discuss…”

“The radical reconstruction of the South was neither radical nor a reconstruction…. Discuss…”

“The internal combustion engine was neither internal nor a combustion engine…. Discuss…”

If a comedy show can come up with these academic topics for laughs, why can’t students answer them for real? At least they would understand what made the sketches funny, and that understanding would be authentic.

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Wikipedia photo -Elie Wiesel

By my calculations, at the mid-point of the school year, many World History classes are studying World War II. Should these classes want to increase their use of an informational text in English or Social Studies curriculum, I suggest Elie Wiesel’s noteworthy speech The Perils of Indifference.

Wiesel delivered this speech to Congress on April 12, 1999. The speech is 1818 words long and connects Wiesel’s experience at the concentration camp at Aushwitcz with the genocides of the late 20th Century using a single powerful word: indifference.

In his speech, Weisel states clearly:

Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment. And this is one of the most important lessons of this outgoing century’s wide-ranging experiments in good and evil.

Our English Department has used this speech in the past as a complement to Wiesel’s memoir Night which has been a used as a whole class read.  This year, we are giving Night to the Social Studies classes. They will adopt this memoir in order to increase the assigned informational text reading in their discipline mandated by the Literacy Common Core State Standards in History and Social Studies (CCSS). The English Department will still offer supplemental texts  that students can choose to read independently.

When he gave this speech, Wiesel had come before the US Congress to thank the American soldiers and the American people for liberating the camps at the end of World War II. Wiesel had spent nine months in the Buchewald/Aushwitcz complex. His mother and sisters had been separated from him when they first arrived: “Eight short, simple words… Men to the left, women to the right”; these family members were killed in the ovens. He and his father survived starvation, disease, and the deprivation of spirit. His father eventually succumbed, and Wiesel guiltily admits at the end of the memoir that at his father’s death he felt relieved.

Eventually, Wiesel felt compelled to testify against the Nazi regime, and he wrote the memoir Night to bear witness against the genocide which killed his family and six million Jews. His speech was delivered 54 years after he was liberated by American forces.

His gratitude to these American forces is what opens the speech, but after the opening paragraph, Wiesel seriously admonishes America to do more to halt genocides all over the world. By not intervening on behalf of those victims of genocide, he states clearly, we are indifferent to their suffering:

Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred. Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony, one does something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never creative.

My students have always been struck by Wiesel’s juxtaposition of anger and creativity. More than one has agreed pointing to making a “good” creation: an amazing song about an ex-boyfriend or a painting slapped together with passion. They also do not want to be treated indifferently. Yet, Wiesel makes them think beyond themselves:

Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.

I remember several years ago, one student in my English 10 class, Rick, was particularly bright, fun, and full of daring. He also had an exceptional understanding of math and statistics. That January, I introduced the memoir Night as I had in previous years by providing a little background information.

“Six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust,” I recited off from my list of facts.

“What?” a startled Rick looked up. “Six million?” He was aghast. “That can’t be right.” He looked around at his classmates. “Six million?” They looked at him blankly. “Come on,” he was looking for some support, “That can’t be right.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Do you know how many six million things are?” He was indignant.

“Six million people,” I responded.

“People, yes. People, six million is a lot of people….” Rick was clearly operating with a different level of understanding from his more placid classmates. He understood six million as quantity; he did understand what six million things would look like if stacked up. Other students stirred in their seats.  “No way….six million,” he repeated growing more agitated. “How? How did anyone let this happen?” he asked; he was half-rising out of his seat. “Did we know?”

“Yes,” I remember saying. I do remember explaining that, yes, America did know that Hitler had concentration camps, and that more documentation collected after the war indicated that many of our military and political leaders knew about these camps. That is one of the points from Wiesel’s speech.

I pointed out to the class that the Holocaust was only one example of genocide; that there were others. In fact, that there was recently a genocide in Darfur. Rick sat down; he was overwhelmed. He was capable of understanding numerically the devastation of the Holocaust, and he was clearly upset. “Why do we let this happen?” he asked. I remember his voice was so sad, so full of disbelief.

In The Perils of Indifference, Wiesel asks

Does it mean that we have learned from the past? Does it mean that society has changed? Has the human being become less indifferent and more human? Have we really learned from our experiences? Are we less insensitive to the plight of victims of ethnic cleansing and other forms of injustices in places near and far?

Wiesel’s rhetorical questions echo Rick’s “Did we know?” In trying to respond, Wiesel makes the reader uncomfortable the way Rick was uncomfortable. Creating this kind of emotional impact on a reader is the reason Wiesel’s speech should be taught.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) demand that students read informational texts but does not require specific texts. Wiesel’s The Perils of Indifference contains the information and rhetorical devices that meet the text complexity criteria of the CCSS. More specifically, Wiesel’s message is necessary if we want our students to confront the conflicts in this new 21st Century. Our students must be prepared to question why “deportation, the terrorization of children and their parents be allowed anywhere in the world?“

Our humanity should demand nothing less.

A question was posed on the Education Week column run by Larry Ferrlazzo. On this particular posting, he asked the question, “How Can We Teach Social Studies More Effectively?”

This year, I am the interim Social Studies Department Chair in addition to my role as English Department Chair.  As an academic interloper, I have had the opportunity to study how the scope and sequence of our middle/high school social studies program (7-12)  is delivered. I humbly offered  the following suggestions to Ferrlazzo’s question:

To be an effective Social Studies teacher, a teacher must be inter-disciplined.  The definition of social studies adopted by the National Council of Social Studies (NCSS)  in 1992 addresses the broad reach of the subject:

“Social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and natural sciences.”

In other words, social studies is the most interdisciplinary subject in our curriculum, therefore:

1. Collaborate:

Although English is  natural fit, social studies teachers should not stop there, but look to collaborate with all disciplines. Some subjects pair well (Renaissance=science+art), but do not discount the math necessary for economics and statistics needed to understand any period of history.Social studies teachers have the opportunity to collaborate with other departments in delivering curriculum using either the familiar chronological approach or by using a thematic approach (“Revolutions”). These teachers can help students make the connections between subject areas rather than see each information limited to four classroom walls.  For example, students in grade 10 were reading All Quiet on the Western Front in English at the same time when WWI was being studied in Modern World History. I was trying to make a point about how the narrator was confronting the shift from the man to man combat to the  battlefield which featured increasing mechanized warfare when a student interrupted me, “Mrs. P says that WWI showed that the increasing the technology and machines in war gets you get farther and farther from your enemy.” There was a pause, and then another student chimed in ,“And now we use drones in Afghanistan and we are farther from the enemy than ever before.”  I didn’t have to make my point at all. Mrs. P, 10th grade social studies teacher, had already covered weapons introduced in WWI and  was making connections from WWI to the war in Afghanistan. She was providing the setting while I was introducing the emotional impact on people/characters, and our collaboration made for greater student understanding.

2. Ditch the Textbook and Increase Non-Fiction Reading:

I have come to view the social studies textbooks as heavy…too heavy and too costly. I suggest social studies teachers use these in a classroom as a resource for note-taking only. These textbooks are ideal for teaching students about sub-headings, how to read charts and maps, and information sidebars in class, but there are other resources for delivering content. Use to create online textbooks for reading home, perhaps in a flipped model, with a variety of reading materials-newspaper articles, magazine links, and websites. Use wikis to post links, upload materials, and receive comments from students. Check out the amazing amount of materials on Larry Ferrlazzo’s blog and Richard Byrne’s blog (updated almost hourly!) or Greg Kulowiec’s blog to see what software can be used for research or content delivery.  Place materials in Google Docs for student access and collaboration. After looking at all the new software available today, I am fully in favoring of ditching the textbook!

Of course, losing the textbook means a teachers can also assign more authentic reading. The Common Core State Standards require 70% informational texts for students by grade 12. The anchor standards and high school standards for reading and writing in social studies (history) in literacy work in tandem to define college and career readiness expectations. Increasing student access to reading materials is key to meeting increased requirements in reading of informational texts. I would suggest organizing classroom libraries with non-fiction materials and providing time in class to read these materials. Coordinate with the school librarian to pull books that deal with a topic currently studied and suggest students  choose a book off the cart. For example, we have added numerous popular trade non-fiction titles in the English classroom libraries that could be easily used in a social studies classroom such as:

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel
Patriots by Joseph J. Ellis
Hiroshima by John Hershey
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky
Kaffir Boy: The Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathebane
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsson
Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl

3. Increase the Project Based Learning:

There’s a lot to be said for the diorama. Every student has made at least one, and despite the loss of precious classroom real estate to 30 shoebox recreations of a medieval castle, these projects are incredibly powerful learning experiences because they are “hands-on”.  Debate, trials, and simulations are also all ways that project based learning can be used. Our 8th grade recreated the Ellis Island experience in the gym and hallways last month.  Teachers were “medical inspectors” and  Ellis Island staff asking questions about employment possibilities and each immigrant’s finances.  Each 8th grade student had prepared an immigration profile based on research on the Ellis Island website and was “processed” individually or in family “groups.” This experience was only one of several simulations our teachers have used to immerse students in a historical context.

Project based learning can be delivered as games, in role-playing, or in developing living museums. Students need to BE the people of history to better understand how people and events from the past effect and connect to their present circumstances in their “study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence.” (NCSS, 1992)

I have enjoyed this year of working with my social studies colleagues. They are responsible for many of the skills that are necessary for literacy, specifically writing and note-taking. They are critical to successfully implementing the newly adopted Common Core State Standards at every grade level. What joins our disciplines in English and social studies are the fundamental elements of story; while English teachers are centered on the individual character and “his-story”, the social studies teachers are responsible for what happens to the individual in “history”. Ours can be the continuing of a “beautiful friendship” in education.

Next week, English II students will begin reading All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque in tandem with the World War I unit on taught in social studies classes. This collaboration is a great opportunity to have the context of a WWI novel explained from another point of view. The social studies classes cover the causes of WWI, many of the battles, and the results of WWI on Europe and American foreign policy while the English classes follow the lives of a few soldiers engaged in the conflict. Social studies can cover the macrocosm setting, the geography of WWI, while we can cover the microcosms of the novel-the intimate settings   of Paul and Kat feasting on a goose they caught or Paul visiting the bedside of Franz Kemmerich, his mortally wounded companion.

The older edition cover; copies are always found in the YA section of a book sale

Our copies of the book are fairly old, so I am always looking for additional books to replace those who have become too worn for use in class. The e-book (through Questia) is only available as a free trial. There are always copies of the novel in used book sales including the more recent edition, and the book is almost always located in the young adult section rather than on a table or section dedicated to military history or adult fiction. This placement could be attributed  to the popularity of this novel in curriculum around the country; obviously, the person placing the book on the YA table read the book in high school.  The popularity of the book in schools defies many conventions. First, the novel is a translation from German, which distinguishes it from the multitude of British and American titles that crowd middle school and high school reading lists. Second, the point of view is from an enemy combatant; the French, English and American troops are the enemy. Including this novel acknowledges Remarque’s universal message that the consequence of war is devastation, a message that may be even more important for a nation that has been at war for over 10 years.

The new edition cover

Many technological advances made WWI a brutal war: aerial combat, machine guns, mustard gas. Last year, we were reading one of the passages that described a mustard gas attack,  looking for language that described how lethal this weapon was for the foot soldiers.  Suddenly a startled look came across the face of a  student. His hand shot up as he blurted,  “Ms. P told us that the more technology that’s used in war, the further a soldier gets away from the enemy in combat.”  There was a pause-other students had heard the same in class, and the consequence of increasingly sophisticated weaponry used against Paul and his companions was suddenly very real. His point hung there until another student chimed in, “And now we use drones.”  Suddenly, the WWI novel was not dated. The students understood that military drones currently used in combat would certainly have targeted Paul and his companions if they had been available to Allied forces in 1917.

There are several activities that we pair with reading the text, but the most powerful for students is the NY Times Magazine photo essay (Ashley Gilbertson)  of soldier’s bedrooms titled “The Shrine Down the Hall” (there is a video clip as well) In the novel, Paul returns for a visit home. Instead of being a sanctuary, however, the bedroom is a painful reminder of the innocence he has lost after months of combat of the Western Front. Our assignment is to compare the elements of Paul’s bedroom (items, his feelings, his memories) to the elements in the photos of the bedrooms of American soldiers who had been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. This photo essay brings the impact of war’s devastation to an intense personal level. Many of the students have bedrooms with the same posters, layouts, or furniture, and they note these similarities in their responses.

A photo from Ashley Gilbertson's "The Shrine Down the Hall" photo essay in the NY Times Magazine section

Students are instructed to choose one of the soldier’s bedrooms from the photo essay, and make a connection with text from Chapter 7 (Paul’s visit home) by answering the following questions:

  • How are the text of the novel and the photo alike?
  • How do the text and the photo differ?
  • What is the photographer’s message? What is Remarque’s message? How are they the same? How do they differ?

The students’ responses included:

I chose picture 15, of Matthew J. Emerson’s bedroom. His room is just waiting for him to come home but it never happens. The room also has pictures cut out on the wall, from what appears high school sports, as well as trophies on the shelf. Paul gets to return home one last time, unlike the soldier who was killed in Iraq who returned in a casket with an American Flag on it. Paul feels like a stranger in his own room. War changes people; you can’t go blasting heads off for 2 years and come home and live the normal everyday life again.They come home, changed, forever.

I choose photo 17. The man who died was Sergeant Gilbert who was killed in 2006.  The photographers message is saying that an ordinary young person, even a teenager, can go to war and be killed. The photographer expresses the loneliness, silence, and emptiness that the room has. Remarque’s message is saying that the average soldier has a very hard time coming back because he or she has to make decisions that don’t involve killing, that don’t involve defusing a bomb. These two messages are the same because they both describe the difficulty of coming back home, but they are different because these two messages are set in different times with different technology of warfare.

When I see picture #3 I think of Paul the most. Here are a bunch of pictures everywhere on the walls of all different kinds of things, like “Then below are periodicals, papers, and letters all jammed together with drawings and rough sketches.” When I read this it makes me think of a cluster of a bunch of different things, also when I look at room #3 I see a cutter of a bunch of posters, hats, books, and many other things. I think the picture and Remarque’s  are both saying that life is not the same when you get home and many of the soldiers cannot come home and have everything be the same as when they left.

I chose photo 14 because it is surprisingly similar to the book. The text talks about Paul’s book shelf and his school books all thumbed through. the room has a book shelf and other references to school. What looks like a degree is hanging on his desk. This room however has a poster of the marines in the background which shows that this boy was obviously thinking of joining the military before hand. Paul has no mention to wanting to join the army before Kantorek takes them down to the recruiting office. I think the photographer’s message is to show how innocent the soldier was before.

He was on a sports team and appeared to be quite good, he won a trophy. Remarque’s message is very similar. The soldier is changed after war, he cannot go home and just drink some beers and pretend everything is all right. It’s not.

I chose picture 14. This room was occupied by Nathanial D. Windsor who died on March 11, 2007. He was only 20 years old (about the same age as Paul). T. The photographer said was trying to portray a lonely room that is not occupied anymore. Remarque’s trying to portray that Paul’s room is lonely too. They are both alike because they are lonely.

Christopher Scherer’s room reminded me of when Paul went home. Paul had a nice life before the war he felt at home, when he returned from the war he felt like he was looking through a veil. He tried on his clothes, his civilian clothes, that made him feel like he had nothing. After the two years of war he cannot have that connection to his home, he relates everything back to the war. The war has given him the thought of death and destruction, Paul is no longer himself, he cannot connect to his home, where he is supposed to be.

In the picture a bookshelf was not full which could mean that the soldier was as Paul was did, collecting them gradually.  The solider also has a clear view of the outside that he can sit and watch, just as Paul has in the story. Remarque and the photographer have different views. Remarque tries to display that after the soldiers return home they are never the same people and their rooms do not represent them. While the photographer’s message is that all the pieces of  soldiers’ lives are preserved in their rooms and are now gone forever because they have died.

Remarque’s novel transcends time perhaps because of the intensity the reader feels for one soldier caught up in a conflict beyond his control.  While the social studies classes are required to cover the history of World War I, the English classes are free to cover Paul and “his”-story.