Our Workshops

Weeklong Workshops

This workshop is closed. Thinking Historically Through Writing

July 7 – July 12, 2013

“Considering the vast differences between those who attended high school in 1917 and the near-universal enrollments of today, the stability of students’ ignorance is amazing. The whole world has turned on its head, but one thing has stayed the same: Kids don’t know history,” Sam Wineburg writes in Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. But what does “know history” mean? In the classroom, history teachers work with a mix of methods and techniques for giving students basic historical information—the sequence of historical periods, dates of important events, key figures in social, political, and cultural movements. It is often more difficult, however, to impart an understanding of how the past is constructed and how historians work. Just as the excitement of studying science comes from conducting experiments, from learning how scientists make discoveries and verify data, the pleasure of studying history comes from learning how historians think about the past. 

Focus: "Many question whether President Obama's election means the U.S. is now a "post-racial" society. It is rarer to ask, when and why did the U.S. become a racial society?  In other words, what would it mean to study the history of the concept of race itself?

Taking the Constitution's infamous, "and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other persons" clause as a pivot point, participants will use writing to engage this historical question. The workshop will explore historians' divergent answers to the problem of race in U.S. history, centering on the work of Barbara Fields, who argues that "American racial ideology is as original an invention of the founders as is the United States itself." Working with the Institute's writing and thinking strategies, we will pose fruitful questions, upset long established answers, and make visible the challenge to "think historically."

Workshop participants will consider ways to help students move beyond reading primary sources as "information" towards historical interpretation. Sources will range from the Acts of Colonial New Amsterdam and letters from the 1739 Stono Rebellion, through the Federalist Papers and the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision. The workshop will also consider the powerful role fiction played in the Jacksonian Era, linking discourse on the Indian Removal Act with the discourse on slavery.

Workshop fee: $950. The fee includes tuition and a single-occupancy dorm room on the Bard College campus, meals (beginning with Sunday dinner and ending with Saturday breakfast), and materials. The commuter fee is $750.

Graduate Credit: Through Bard's Master of Arts in Teaching Program, workshop participants may earn two graduate credits for each weeklong workshop; participants must, in addition to completing the workshop, write and submit a detailed report and a lesson plan on using writing in the classroom. Click for more information.

Getting here:
 Click here for detailed information about traveling to Bard via road, rail, or air.

The week's schedule and general information: Participants in the July workshops arrive and pick up keys and workshop materials between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 7. During the July workshops, teachers live in single dormitory rooms (with shared bathroom facilities) on the Bard campus, eat meals together (with vegeterian options), and enjoy the beautiful setting and lively atmosphere of Annandale-on-Hudson in the summer. The first workshop takes place on Sunday evening. On Monday our schedule of four ninety-minute workshop sessions per day begin, the only exception being on Wednesday, when classes end at 1:00 p.m. and participants have an afternoon and evening off to explore. The week’s workshops conclude on Friday, July 12 at 4:00 p.m., but participants are invited to spend Friday night on campus (Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast are included).

The week includes a number of receptions, and one evening of readings by poets and fiction writers from Bard College and the local area. On Thursday evening, current participants enjoy (and take part in) a celebratory reading of works-in-progress from the week's workshops. 

The schedule allows some time to explore the scenic Mid Hudson Valley; participants can visit nearby historic sites such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home and library, Eleanor Roosevelt’s home at Val-Kill, and the painter Frederic Church’s home at Olana; or hike in the nearby Catskills. Bard College athletic facilities, including lovely walking paths, the Stevenson Gymnasium’s swimming pool, tennis and squash courts, and fitness center, are available to workshop participants (schedule here).  

SPECIAL NOTE FOR LAPTOP USERS: Not all dorms on campus have wi-fi, but all have internet connection (bring an ethernet cable, just in case). The Stevenson Library (wi-fi equipped) is available for particpant use during the week, as is the Henderson Computer Center.

Also on campus in July, Bard SummerScape performances at the Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues bring together an extraordinary schedule of performing arts, featuring an international roster of acclaimed artists in a range of performances. Click here for more information.