Urban Noise Pollution

By linking the noise model to national U.S. population data, we made some interesting discoveries. First, in both rural and urban areas, affluent communities were quieter. Neighborhoods with median annual incomes below US$25,000 were nearly 2 decibels louder than neighborhoods with incomes above $100,000 per year. And nationwide, communities with 75 percent black residents had median nighttime noise levels of 46.3 decibels – 4 decibels louder than communities with no black residents. A 10-decibel increase represents a doubling in loudness of a sound, so these are big differences.

— Source: Urban noise pollution is worst in poor and minority neighborhoods and segregated cities

[Very interesting post on human geography of noise pollution and hypothesizing about its causes from Discard Studies.  For more information about human geography as a concept, check out the “Human Geography” chapters of WorldView Software’s World Geography.]

Resource Highlight: The CORE Project e-textbook

The CORE Project e-textbook is an online textbook in Economics for college students created by economists from all over the world.  It’s a bit advanced to use as the sole text for high school students, but teachers should be able to use this resource in many different ways.

John Cassidy in The New Yorker writes:
The project is a collaborative effort that emerged after the world financial crisis of 2008–9, and the ensuing Great Recession, when many students (and teachers) complained that existing textbooks didn’t do a good job of explaining what was happening. In many countries, groups of students demanded an overhaul in how economics was taught, with less emphasis on free-market doctrines and more emphasis on real-world problems.

Of course, that criticism doesn’t apply to WorldView Software’s Economics — we’ve had the comprehensive Tutorial: Global Financial Crisis for years!

page explains CMOs, includes graphic
A page from the WorldView Software “Economics” Tutorial: Global Financial Crisis

At the Intersection of Physical and Human Geography

Climate change requires us to think in new ways about how physical and human geographies intersect: how does the one impact the other?  How do human artifacts built for one set of circumstances react to the change in conditions?

Simon Dixon notes on Geography Directions:

We are undeniably living in the age of humankind, the “Anthropocene”, but we are still coming to terms with what this means for the planet and for ourselves. Researchers and policy makers have begun to consider the social and environmental impacts of our increased urbanisation. There are also efforts to understand the impact human activity is having on the surface of the earth more broadly – for example, through the creation of anthropogenic landforms like open-cast mines, and by changing erosion processes in rivers through human activity. However, so far there has been little attention paid to the way earth surface processes are slowly altering and morphing the fabric of our cities to create new, startling and potentially dangerous features.

As his blog post illustrates, using the subject of urban sinkholes, climate change is also a fruitful area of research for geographers and social scientists, because these processes are also happening at/impacting human artifacts and structures.  Remember the giant sinkhole in Japan late last year?

Hakataekimae Avenue near Hakata Station caved in on November 8, 2016, Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka, Japan. The sinkhole is filled with water. Wikimedia Commons user: Muyo took this photo at the rooftop of Hakata Station JR Hakata City. CCA-SA 4.0

As this post was being written, the nightmare of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey began to unfold, as did the unusually intense monsoon rains in South Asia.  As it affects literally millions of people simultaneously, these events are an even more powerful reminder that physical and human geography intersect in ways that are increasingly unfamiliar.

Houston is a very flat city, as is explained in WorldView Software’s World Geography Case Study: Human Migration: Texas.  Its prosperity has come from the way humans have modified this surface, with railroads, ship channels, and pavement.  However, this makes it prone to flooding when its bayous cannot empty into the Gulf of Mexico.  In a prophetic 2016 series, Pro Publica and the Texas Tribune teamed up to explain why Houston was going to be in dire straits sooner rather than later:

As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of floodwater during storms that chokes the city’s vast bayou network, drainage systems and two huge federally owned reservoirs, endangering many nearby homes…

This lack of zoning regulations is one of the factors that made Houston America’s fourth-largest city, attracting builders to the area.  But zoning and environmental planning can be useful in a disaster: see WorldView Software’s Civics and U.S. Government Project: Environmental Impact Statements.  As Ian Bogost writes in The Atlantic,

The natural system is very good at accepting rainfall. But when water hits pavement, it creates runoff immediately. That water has to go somewhere. So it flows wherever the grade takes it. To account for that runoff, people engineer systems to move the water away from where it is originally deposited, or to house it in situ, or even to reuse it. This process—the policy, planning, engineering, implementation, and maintenance of urban water systems—is called stormwater management.

On top of that, climate change enters into the picture when it raises the water temperature of the Gulf: higher temperatures make it easier for the air to contain more moisture and for storms to generate more power.  For example, precipitation totals have demonstrably risen the past several decades in the North Atlantic.

The intersection of geographies raises many questions that your students will have to answer in their lifetimes.  How would you deal with a disaster? Check out World Geography‘s Internet Project: The Devastation of Katrina for starting points on imagining yourself in a crisis.  Because the sooner we start imagining the unimaginable, the safer we can make our future.

[See this list compiled by The New York Times for reputable organizations if you want to help the Harvey victims.]


BulbgraphOnOffHelp ELL students acquire vocabulary by using the glossary’s audio files. Definitions + pronunciation = oral and textual word recognition.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

Educators and Art Museums: Doing Social Studies Together

Participants noted that the museum’s collection of 18th-century American portraits could give students vivid visual reference points and a broader contextual understanding of Colonial America. They realized that the process of analyzing a Depression-era photograph as both a work of art and a primary source could help students practice critical and historical thinking skills. They got excited about works of socially conscious contemporary art, envisioning ways they could spark classroom conversations about global events and civic values.

Source: Educators and Art Museums: Doing Social Studies Together

[Post from Doing Social Studies on a partnership project dedicated to exploring how art museums can support humanities education in public schools.  The featured image is Cloud Box, 1966, Peter Alexander. Cast polyester resin. 9 5/8 x 9 5/8 x 9 5/8 in. Collection of Janis Horn and Leonard Feldman, Los Angeles. © Peter Alexander. Photo: Brian Forrest, from the online exhibition at the Getty Center: Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970

All WorldView Software titles have Art Gallery images with introductions and short-answer questions for investigating the connections between their subjects and the visual arts, in addition to projects where students make their own.]

How Should World War I Be Taught?

On August 5th, 1917 The New York Times published a rotogravure pictorial spread for their Sunday supplement, leading with General Pershing inspecting a shell factory in France (the top image).

The most alarming picture in the entire 7-page spread is the one in the lower left-hand corner (closeup below) showing French soldiers wearing gas hoods operating a truck-mounted gun (right under a picture of Gen. Pershing getting a rose from a Parisian munitions worker):See the whole thing at the Library of Congress.  And don’t miss reading the ads at the back — items such as “Armi-Khaki” brand trousers and skirts were for sale for the discerning yet patriotic young woman.  And check out the other newspapers in this collection: the New York Tribune had far more accurate pictures of life in wartime.

Compare that sanitized version to the present.  The lede on this Associated Press article about the centenary of the third Battle of Ypres (which occurred about a week before the Times thing was published) shows how reporting has changed:

Dismembered soldiers sucked into cesspools of mud. Shattered tree trunks and the waft of poison gas hovering over the wounded who were awaiting their fates on the scarred soil of Flanders Fields.

The featured image for this post shows a nightmare scene from Ypres that never made it into a contemporary newspaper, but that could definitely be used for that AP article.  It shows soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade on a duckboard track passing through Chateau Wood, near Hooge in the Ypres salient, 29 October 1917. The leading soldier is Gunner James Fulton and the second soldier is Lieutenant Anthony Devine. The men belong to a battery of the 10th Field Artillery Brigade. (Photo by Frank Hurley, available from the Collection Database of the Australian War Memorial under the ID Number: E01220.)

The recent centenary of the U.S. entry into World War I on April 6th has prompted a similar bit of soul searching about how that war is represented in our classrooms — and in our textbooks.  The state standards for U.S. history courses vary widely, but most emphasize teaching WWI as part of the narrative of rising U.S. power and its global projection, while the standards for world history courses emphasize impersonal forces such as nationalism, militarism, and imperialism.  (I say most, even though the author only surveyed three large states, as I’ve done or supervised correlations for dozens of sets of state standards over the years.)  Author Kyle Greenwalt thinks this is due to the differing aims of the courses (creating citizens vs. navigating global connections), but that they can be reconciled:

In my own view, it seems incomplete to teach just one of these conflicting views of World War I. Instead, I would recommend to history teachers that they explore competing perspectives of the past with their students.

What do you think?   If you compare WorldView Software’s American History II, Chapter 8: America Becomes Involved in World War I with our World History B, Chapter 8: Causes, Course and Conclusion of World War I, you should see elements from both the narratives represented.  For example, in World History B, you’ll find Wilson’s Fourteen Points presented from the American point of view, as well as a map detailing the extent of imperialism in 1915.

And it matters today because we see the same urges to isolationism and internationalism: The recent Bastille Day celebrations in France included the French president hosting the American one:

But Mr. Macron is hoping that his invitation will mark a turnaround: that Trump’s positions on trade, borders, security – and key from the French president’s vantage, the Paris climate accord, from which the US pulled out – could get a rethink after his state visit. After all, if President Wilson won the 1916 American election on an isolationist pledge, he entered “The Great War” just weeks after his inauguration, a key to the Allied victory a year and a half later.

It’s too early to tell whether this tack will work, but it shows that at least Macron is determined not to let history repeat.


BulbgraphOnOffWrite unguided essay outlines together in class, using the guided essay model. Have class discuss and select main and supporting ideas.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/

The Mayans Wrote Books, Too

The manuscript itself is a map of linguistic evolution. Four different languages are represented. It would be only natural to find Latin and Spanish. But two native tongues of the Mayan Empire, K’iche’ and Kaqchikel, are also part of this written record…The existence of this language into the modern age is a testament to a people who vehemently resisted the Catholic Church’s attempts to convert them and the efforts of Europeans to assimilate them.

Source: The Mayans Wrote Books, Too

Great post about the political meaning of the Libro de Sermones Varios en Lengua Quiche (1690).  It’s the oldest manuscript in the collection of the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives, and has been recently digitized (for more on the book, see the links in the post).  For more information on Mayan culture in general, see WorldView Software’s World History A, Chapter 12 Pre-Columbian Latin America.

Next Generation Civics Education

As Americans gear up to celebrate the 4th of July, we face some unsettling questions about the state of our polity.  One of the most interesting is: What should the next generation of civics education look like?   A recent essay series at The Atlantic offers some ideas about how we can prepare future generations for public participation in a democracy, in particular a democracy that exists in an era of rapid technological change.  This post discusses some of their ideas, and how they can be implemented in the classroom using WorldView Software’s Civics program.In the introduction to the series, Adrienne LaFrance, Irina Raicu, and Eric Goldman write:

Everyone who participated in this series believes there is hope yet—for democracy, and for the institutions that support it. They also believe that technology can help, though it will take time and money to make it so. Democracy can still thrive in this uncertain age, they argue, but not without deliberate and immediate action from the people who believe it is worth protecting.

Debbie Chachra, a professor at Olin College of Engineering, writes in Gratitude for Invisible Systems about the complexity of the systems that undergird modern life, and the need for raising awareness of how systems both physical and regulatory work to fulfill the bottom layers of the pyramid of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; to keep us safe, fed, and housed as well as informed and connected:

When we think about caring for our neighbors, we think about local churches, and charities—systems embedded in our communities. But I see these technological systems [infrastructure] as one of the main ways that we take care of each other at scale…If I were to make a suggestion for how technology could be used to improve our democracy, I would want to make these systems more visible, understandable, and valued by the general public.

Any course of study in civics has to study how national institutions such as the constellation of bureaucracies work, but also how non-government linking institutions such as the media and political parties work.  All of these institutions are complex creatures, worthy of lifetimes devoted to their study.  But a good outline, such as in WorldView Software’s Civics program — with chapters on each national institution — is a good place to start.

Alexander B. Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, makes the point in Protecting the Public Commons that civics education is inherently about active participation:

Every member of civil society and institution has a role in informing communities about how government works. A core component of a high school education should include teaching people how to judge risk, statistical literacy, and how to exercise our rights to access public information.

WorldView’s Civics starts students on the right path with projects requiring students to track down public data, and case studies demonstrating the kind of risks that are easiest to personalize, such as insurance, fraud, and consumer rights.screen capture of civics title page

Finally, in the essay Lessons From Isaac Asimov’s Multivac, Shannon Vallor, a professor of philosophy at Santa Clara University writes that

Technology’s threat to democracy is not, at its root, that of poorly designed systems (though certainly design improvements can be made). The real threat is when technical progress is relied upon as a substitute for moral progress in cultivating the civic virtues, norms, and values that sustain functional democracies.

A related point is made over at The Scholarly Kitchen, where blogger Kent Anderson draws our attention to the algorithms that impact both what information is aggregated and what information we receive.  Filter bubbles are just part of that picture, possibly even worse is the way algorithms act and interact:

…we have helped to create an information space that is controlled in ways we can only guess at. Algorithms that even their creators don’t fully understand are increasingly exerting control over what we know and believe to be true.

Vallor recommends that platforms such as social media stop assuming users possess civic virtues such as “integrity, courage, empathy, perspective, benevolence, and respect for truth” and start trying to cultivate them. Anderson warns us to be careful there as well: reasserting a human moral compass may require some version of Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” updated for algorithms.

Educators can encourage the growth of these traits as well: WorldView’s Civics program has a theme called “Participating in Public Life” which gathers together materials (overview sections, art images, projects, etc.) that illustrate and/or require students to demonstrate civic virtues through active participation in politics and government, whether local or national, virtual or in-real-life.


BulbgraphOnOffUse the outline page in guided essays to spark in-class discussion on using supporting evidence. Click on “Hint” for ideas.


Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at company logohttp://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/