started new social order
Teachers explore Jamestowns impact
G. Thomas (top center) and Crandall Shifflett (right) raise
some issues of regional history with teachers from around
the country, here to study Jamestown and its impact on American
the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement
in America, history teachers from around the country are participating
in a major reexamination of colonial America that takes a fresh
look at Jamestowns complex meaning for our national heritage.
historians, Native Americans, African-Americans and others are
uncertain about what they are to celebrate in the
anniversary, said Crandall Shifflett, director of graduate studies
in history at Virginia Tech, and William G. Thomas, director of
U.Va.s Center for
Digital History, co-directors of the seminar, Jamestown
and the Formation of An American Culture.
natives of the region, 1607 marked the beginning of the annihilation
of their culture. For Africans it marked the coming of the long
years of slavery. But Jamestown, more so than Puritan New England,
also represented the start of a social order more open than in
Europe, the historians said.
research is showing that the Chesapeake colonies, far from being
chaotic enterprises founded on get-rich-quick schemes, were strongly
based on the colonists desire to form stable families and
harmonious communities guided by religious principles. The
pursuit of happiness, including a drive for economic and
social improvement, was the rule in the cultural formation
of British America and the seeds were sown first at Jamestown,
the close of the 17th century, this Chesapeake model,
which included racial slavery, subjugation of native peoples,
commercialism and market centers, had spread throughout the colonies
outside of New England, he said, and in its broadest dimensions
was much more pervasive than the Puritan ideal of a chosen people.
the support of an $88,000 National Endowment for the Humanities
grant to a joint educational project of the University of Virginia
and Virginia Tech, 15 high school teachers were selected to participate
in a month-long seminar challenging the idea of early New England
as the norm and the South as deviant in the forging
of American culture.
by U.Va.s Center
for the Liberal Arts, the Charlottesville-based program gives
teachers a chance to conduct new research using important databases
of records as well as visit the major archaeological project under
way at Jamestown.
the teachers have access to new and first-hand material on the
settlement, they can also learn from each other.
are a lot of different perspectives here, said Kevin Neal,
a history teacher from Jefferson, Iowa. He said the other teachers
in the seminar came from a variety of disciplines, including art
and English, as well as two teachers from Reservation Schools,
who added dimension to the discussions. Iowas a great
state, but you dont get these perspectives there.
Dudley, who teaches eighth grade American history in Union, Missouri,
said the program was a wonderful opportunity for her.
learned so much in just a few weeks, she said. It
is time well spent.
Dudley, who said she found it very encouraging to be back in adult
learning, said she would bring more primary sources into her teaching.
Both teachers were impressed with the extent of depth and detail
in the materials for the course.
and Neal are using their trips to familiarize themselves with
the geography of Virginia. Neal said it was impressive to be able
to visit Monticello, Poplar Forest, Montpelier and Mount Vernon
in person. He said it was one thing to read about these places
in books, but another to be able to see them first hand, walk
the grounds and get a better appreciation of colonial history.
key part of the seminar and a national discussion about Jamestowns
significance is a Web archive, Virtual Jamestown,
that includes historical documents, databases and other materials
that shed light on the intentions, backgrounds and ideals of the
colonists. Shifflett created the award-winning NEH-supported Web
site, intended both for classroom use and use by anyone, as a
project of U.Va.s Virginia Center for Digital History.
said the summer program will conclude with the teachers
ideas about how to teach about Jamestown in the period leading
up to the 400th anniversary in 2007. Both Thomas and Shifflett
serve on the Virginia state committee responsible for the content
portion of the anniversarys planning.
additional information about the summer seminar, contact the U.Va.
Center for the Liberal
Arts at 982-5205.