by Roger Bourke White Jr. copyright Sep 2013
In the summer of 2013 I took an American History class at SLCC. (Salt Lake Community College) The class was interesting, but I felt the theme the teacher followed was misdirected. The teacher concentrated on culture and the idiosyncrasies of various famous American leaders such as Washington, Lincoln, Jackson and Davis. He also spent a lot of time on what I consider side issues. An example: When discussing the 1830's he spent a whole lot of time on the Indian Removal "Trail of Tears" and zero time on the disruptive technologies of the day such as the spread of both ocean- and river-compatible steamboats and the digging of the Erie Canal. These had a whole lot more impact on the course of American history.
What he was missing is what I call "The Big Picture" -- how emerging technologies and historical accidents mesh to shape what we call history, and the America we live with today. This series of lessons is my attempt to do a better job of telling the story of history.
I followed this class with several others, and I found this teaching irrelevant issues to be common. The result of taking these classes has been surprisingly inspiring: This series of essays on what I call Roger's Big Picture History Lessons.
The people and events such as Lincoln and the Civil War are exciting, but the important part of history, the part that has practical value, is learning the big picture patterns. These patterns repeat. If you train yourself to look for the patterns, then the unfolding of current events that you live with from day to day will be less surprising.
Less surprises in your day-to-day living and better understanding of the current events unfolding around you is the goal of Big Picture history teaching.