American Council of Learned Societies
Occasional Paper No. 29

Poetry In and Out
of the Classroom:

Essays from the ACLS Elementary and
Secondary Schools Teacher Curriculum
Development Project


Female Poets of the First World War:
A Study in Diversity for the Fifth Grade
Social Studies Curriculum

Randy Cummings

Ghosts Among Us/Ancestral Voices:
“What’s Past is Prologue”

Terry Moreland Henderson

Reflections on Lives Past
Fredric Lown

Poetry from the Far Side
Phyllis B. Schwartz

The Overwhelming Question:
Integrating the ACLS Curriculum Project,
“Teaching for Understanding,” and
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prucock”

Joan S. Soble

A Matter of Trust
Richard Young


The schools initiatives of the American Council of Learned Societies are intended to assist teachers in developing the habit of scholarship as the basis for their teaching. The three-year ACLS Elementary and Secondary Schools Teacher Curriculum Development Project has provided fellowships for nearly one hundred teachers with that aim, and has involved perhaps another three or four hundred teachers across North America in school-based teams in work with the teacher fellows. We are very pleased with the result of the project, one manifestation of which is the essays included in this volume.

These essays illustrate the full range of what might be expected from an effort to encourage teachers in elementary schools and secondary schools to approach their work from the point of view of scholarship. Randy Cummings tells us about a little-known body of poetry, that of British women at the time of the First World War, and demonstrates how this work can be used in the Fifth Grade Social Studies Curriculum. Mr Cummings’s scholarship is in the mainstream of current literary history, recovering for us a neglected aspect of our literary heritage. Terry Moreland Henderson brings her own heritage to bear on the development of student interest in their family stories. Working in the oral history tradition of the Foxfire project (itself strongly rooted in her ancestral Appalachia), Ms. Henderson is able to evoke a highly differentiated spectrum of oral histories from the extraordinarily diverse backgrounds of her Los Angeles students. Her concept of “panculturalism” is a provocative counter-weight to the more usual multicultural reference of new curriculum, perhaps a certain reversion to “melting pot” theory in a time when difference is increasingly emphasized over commonality in civil society. Similarly, using a “Far Side” cartoon about adolescence in different species — a parallel to the differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds in many of our schools — Phyllis Schwartz evokes moving and effective poetry from students who had characteristically denied interest in poetry and in sharing highly personal emotions in the classroom setting. Fredric Lown’s contribution to this collection is itself a poem, a memoir of his grandmother, whose life foreshadowed those of many of the students in the Pacific Rim classes of Henderson and Schwartz. Joan Soble gives us a vivid account of how her teaching, and her relationships with colleagues and students, enrich her understanding of one of the chief canonical texts of the traditional curriculum, as she works to prepare it for presentation in the framework of her district’s (and Harvard University’s) “teaching for understanding” pedagogy. Finally, Richard Young gives us an account of his own reactions, as an informed reader, to the presentations of “truth” in the poetry of Robert Lowell and the prose of Alex Haley and Malcolm X. After a year of post-modernist inquiry, Young finds the canons of modernism much less simple, the lessons of literature much more ambiguous.

After three years of work with schools, we can applaud these indications of the use to which their fellowship time has been put by these teachers, and note with them, and their colleagues, how scholarship can be successfully used as a basis for curriculum development in the elementary and secondary classrooms, in British Columbia and Colorado, as much as in Massachusetts and Wisconsin — everywhere, that is, where teachers have the opportunity to study current research in their subject areas and responsibility for creating their curriculum on that foundation.

Michael Holzman
Project Director

[Author affiliations date to 1995, when the title was published in print. --Ed.]

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