Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Dr. David Farber, Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor of Modern U.S. History at the University of Kansas. He is the editor of the recently published, War on Drugs: A History (NYU Press, 2021).
Over the last 36-and-a-half years I have done what research-oriented history professors of my generation were supposed to do: I wrote books and published articles. What I did not do—until now—was produce a website. Defying the ageist canard about old dogs and new tricks—albeit admittedly in collaboration with my much younger colleagues Clark Terrill and Marjorie Galelli—I’m happy to report that the War on Drugs Project website is now live.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY.
When I went to college (the first time), I left my home in Central New York to attend a Franciscan College near Albany, the state capital. With a scholarship in hand—and a career in the medical field on my horizon—I was confident in my ability to succeed in the classroom. Being away from home for the first time, however, forced me to confront a much bigger fear: negotiating a safe, healthy, and productive college social life. My biggest worries were alcohol and drugs.
Fearful of parental reprisals, school sanctions, and, of course, a life of crime and addiction—all lessons that had been reiterated ad nauseum during the “Just Say No!” era, I had sworn off all substances during high school. But, facing college and the culture of college drinking made me rethink that approach. I decided that I was going to have to try alcohol at some point, and I didn’t want it to be my first week on campus. So, a week before my arrival, I had my first alcohol experience with a friend at a different college.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY. The Teaching Points series investigates the role of alcohol, drug, and pharmaceutical history in the classroom.
When I first started teaching in 2009, I assigned my class a research project. With absolutely no classroom experience beyond my own, I naively assumed that students just kind of knew how to do research, and I quickly grew frustrated with the poor results. From that point on, I decided to forego “independent” research entirely in my classes and instead to focus on providing a “guided tour” of the material, providing students with textbooks, articles, and/or primary sources and requiring a mix (over the years) of exams, quizzes, analytical essays, and/or source analyses. Unable to spend sufficient class time explaining the research process or troubleshooting issues, I reasoned that the efficacy of a research project in a survey course would always be undermined by my students’ limited exposure to proper research methods.
In subsequent years, I continued teaching under this assumption. But, coinciding with my transition to a PhD program at Albany and my TA responsibilities, I also increased my efforts to explore how others instructors taught their survey courses, and I continued to make adjustments to my own teaching based on knowledge gained at conferences and in professional journals, newsletters, and magazines. I encountered two appealing strategies. The first is the idea of the flipped classroom, where the activities that typically take place in a classroom and those activities usually occurring outside the classroom are flipped. The second are strategies that stress digital literacy (a topic covered recently on Points by Stephen Siff) to help future citizens confront the information dump that they see every day online.
Combining these two strategies, I thought, would provide the ideal model for teaching real-world “research skills” during class time. On this forum (so long ago) I dreamed of one day flipping my classroom, but I lamented the prep-time required—particularly for a doctoral student and later an adjunct. I could, and did, adjust for prioritizing digital literacy, but the flipped classroom remained just that, a dream.
I teach media literacy in introductory journalism and mass communication classes at Miami University of Ohio. My recent research explores the history of US anti-drug propaganda campaigns. I was happy when these interests collided over the summer in conjunction with the publication of my article, “‘Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?’: Richard Nixon’s National Mass Media Campaign Against Drug Abuse” in Journalism and Communication Monographs. As supplementary material for my article, I have also provided readers access to a digital lecture about 1970s anti-drug ads, a lesson plan, and two primary source/discussion exercises.
Tune in this Friday, January 8, 2021, at 1:00 PM EST (12:00 Noon CST / 10:00 AM PST) for a Teaching Roundtable, “The State of Drug and Alcohol History Pedagogy: Teaching Challenges and Innovations,” sponsored by the American Historical Association and the Alcohol and Drugs History Society. The free streaming online webinar will bring together teaching faculty to discuss the challenges (and rewards) of drug and alcohol history pedagogy and the unique approaches, methods, and tools they employ for responding to these challenges.
Chair: Robert Stephens, Associate Professor of History, Virginia Tech
Presenter: Aileen Teague, Assistant Professor of International Affairs, Texas A&M: “Using Experiential Learning to Understand the Opioid Crisis“
Presenter: Lucas Richert, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy: “Pharmacy Education & Psychoactive Substances in History”
Presenter: Kenneth Faunce, Associate Professor of History, Washington State University: “Using the History of Drugs to Examine the Processes of Globalization and Imperialism“
Presenter: James Bradford, Assistant Professor, Berklee College of Music and Adjunct Lecturer, Babson College: “Professor, Therapist, or Clinician?: Teaching the History of Drugs to “Users” Amidst an Evolving Legal and Social Environment”
Over the past decade, cutting edge scholarship has opened new frontiers in the study of drugs and alcohol. At the same time, popular interest in these topics continues to motivate undergraduates to enroll in courses that help them better understand the history of psychoactive substance use and addiction and how it has shaped the current landscape of drug and alcohol issues in our society. But also, such popular interest in these topics is itself a tool for helping faculty engage students in broader subject matter in our society, culture, and politics.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY. He contributes to our Teaching Points series, which investigates the role of alcohol and drug history in the classroom.
The history department at Utica College, acutely aware of falling enrollments in history courses throughout the US, has decided to re-cast the 100-level “survey courses” in more thematic terms that we thought might appeal more to student interests, and possibly add some new majors in the process. I teach American history at Utica, and debuted my HIS 128: Drugs in American History this term.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and the Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canandian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School. He adds to our Teaching Points series, on bringing drug history into the classroom.
In an effort to bring to the classroom the debates over global intoxicants, I was given the opportunity to teach an Honors College tutorial at the University of Maine titled “Narcotics in the Construction of Western Civilization.” My objective was to deconstruct stereotypes and build awareness about the long history and culture of drugs in the West, juxtaposing it to the experiences of other cultures that also built intimate relationships with intoxicants of all kinds. The course became a way to connect my past with the present.
I grew up in Colombia during the 1970s and 1980s, experiencing the escalation of the American-led War on Drugs. I had been searched at airports continuously as a child when visiting my family in Texas, and later disenfranchised by the narco-centered stereotypes during my college years in New England. My first exposure to marijuana had taken place in Brownsville, Texas, not so distant from the story told by Domingo Martinez in The Boy Kings of Texas. Since then I always asked myself, why was I exposed to narcotics in the U.S. and not in Colombia, where everybody said drugs were the common denominator? Growing up I was always curious about the nature of the construction of Colombia’s narco-stereotype, knowing first-hand that the cultural desire for all kinds of intoxicants was in the U.S., and the West for that matter, and not in Colombia. As a preceptor in the Honors College, I wanted students to have the unique opportunity to ask similar questions and reflect on their own experiences growing up in the largest global market for intoxicants, where the cultural taboo and the demand-side of intoxicants slept side by side in the same bed.
Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Adam Rathge, director of enrollment strategies and part-time history professor at the University of Dayton. Rathge is also a drug scholar and a longtime friend of Points. He continues our Teaching Points series here, explaining how drug and alcohol history can be brought into the classroom and can be a vehicle for understanding historical methods. Enjoy!
During the coming Spring semester at the University of Dayton, I’ll be teaching HST 299 – Historical Background to Contemporary Issues. This will be my second time teaching the course. It is offered once a year by the History Department and open to students of all majors, with rotating topics driven primarily by faculty expertise and current “headline news” issues. In my case, this means teaching about drugs by focusing on current trends in marijuana legalization and the opioid crisis. From the department’s perspective, the topics are somewhat secondary to the true purpose of the course, which is designed to “focus on the methodology of history as a discipline and on the utility of historical analysis for understanding contemporary political, social and economic issues.” As such, in my version of the course, drugs become the gateway to teaching historical methods.
Over the fifteen-week semester, I divide the course into three, roughly five-week blocks. The first block covers recent developments with marijuana legalization. The second block explores the ongoing opioid crisis. The third and final block provides time for scaffolding the research process on a headline news topic of each student’s choosing. In essence, the first two blocks are designated topics on contemporary issues that allow the class to work through a guided model of historical methodology together, while the third allows them to put those skills into practice for themselves on a topic of interest. Each five-week block, therefore, introduces not only the topic at hand but also skills relevant to reading, writing, and thinking like a historian.