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Solve for Y. Discovering and Plotting our collective identity. What makes Us U.S.?. Nation: A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language. “ Nations ” run deeper than the boundaries that may encompass it ’ s people. We often misuse the

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solve for y

Solve for Y

Discovering and Plotting

our collective identity.

what makes us u s
What makes Us U.S.?
  • Nation:
    • A people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language.

“Nations” run deeper than the

boundaries that may encompass

it’s people. We often misuse the

term and mistake it for country or


we are unique just like everybody else
We are Unique (just like everybody else ;)
  • We have a cultural narrative in the United States. Because we’ve come from different parts of the world, our expressions, history, and myths define us.
  • And it can be FUN to explore our cultural DNA.
why is cultural dna important
Why is cultural DNA important?
  • It showcases:
    • Our goals and dreams
    • Our faults
    • Our lessons
    • Our humor
    • Our myths
      • And more that I can’t think of.

Tapping into Cultural DNA leads to . . .

we activate and look for 3 things
We activate and look for 3 things:
  • Memory: When we see something new we try to see a connection or corollary to something we’ve seen before.
  • Symbols: Is this a metaphor, an analogy, what does the “thing” over there signify?
  • Patterns: Similarities of events and narratives.
    • All of these things bring richness to our study and are great for infusing other elements into our classroom.
just a quick visual example
Just a quick visual example
  • What does this picture say to you?

Now what about someone from Japan?

are these things always permanent
Are these things always permanent?
  • NO
    • Some are fleeting and fads. Some go away and return later.
    • But ALL add a richness to our classrooms.
those were the days
Those Were the Days
  • ("Those Were the Days" by Charles Stouse and Lee Adams) - All in the Family Lyrics
  • Boy the way Glen Miller played Songs that made the hit parade. Guys like us we had it made, Those were the days. And you knew who you were then, Girls were girls and men were men, Mister we could use a man Like Herbert Hoover again. Didn't need no welfare state, Everybody pulled his weight. Gee our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days

The memories of a better era – the late 1960s early 1970s remember the 20s and 30s fondly!

and a transition between the 70s 80s and referencing the 30s 40s and 50s
And a transition between the 70s / 80s and referencing the 30s, 40s and 50s
  • Kim Carnes and Bette Davis Eyes:
    • Written in 1974 when the eyes were looking back to the 30s and 40s, became popular in 1981 when eyes were shifting to the 50s. Bette Davis and her compatriots are figures that transcend those eras. John Wayne anyone?
recently we ve begun looking back to the 70s
Recently, we’ve begun looking back to the 70s
  • How could LynyrdSkynrd co-opt the Confederate Flag and promote it as a symbol of youthful rebellion?
    • They took the political angle out of the debate even with the political reference casting corruption as a nationwide problem.

Kid Rock has sampled the song and the flag in an “interesting” way – What is he trying to co-opt? The notion of youthful rebellion? Is that why he is popular?

but seriously what can i do with that
But Seriously – what can I DO with that?
  • Linking Music, literature and art with history and politics is what makes your classroom come alive and engage more students!
    • A GREAT starting point – particularly if you are looking for links between music, literature and history!
    • It also has a little section called “Why Should I care?”
i want my mtv
I want my MTV!

Do people know the cultural reference in the MTV logo?

With the advent of the internet, our cultural DNA is a few keystrokes away! Never before has it been SO easy to access our history! (but we need to be responsible)

so how do i do this in my classroom
So HOW do I do this in my classroom?

Y = MX + B

A “simple” formula that guides us through the process. And it’s a formula they learn anyway – slope intercept or something like that.


The formula justifies Why something is a part of our cultural DNA (all of the subsequent parts establish its place in our “canon”)

  • Meaning:
    • What is the original (factual) meaning of the reference?
    • What is the figurative meaning of the reference?
x finding 3 additional examples of it s use
XFinding 3 additional examples of it’s use

Explanation of original use.

(Maybe use ARTIST, SPECS)

Example 1


Example 2


Example 3


i have a dream
I Have a Dream

Explanation of original use.

what types of examples should we find
What types of examples should we find?

Books, Movies, Music, Articles, Pictures, Cartoons.

(look for them to span time)

YES! Sometimes our cultural DNA can be

referenced in something as simple as a picture!

Tapping into this enriches our students and allows them to access a greater understanding of things happening around them (even if it is just a Simpsons episode).

  • Bring it Home
    • Has the meaning remained the same?
      • Examine Midas Touch. hhmmmm
    • Why does this resonate with us and continue to be used?

Plotting it’s proximity to the original meaning and it’s relevance in today’s lexicon.

but what if i hate that silly formula
But what if I hate that silly formula?
  • How about 3 W’s?
    • What does it mean?
    • Where else is it used?
    • Why does it continue to stay with us?
i cannot tell a lie
“I cannot tell a lie”

Without knowing the myth, this is just a toy.

The original myth (story)

benedict arnold finding 3 additional examples of it s use
BENEDICT ARNOLDFinding 3 additional examples of it’s use

In an act that has made his name synonymous with treason in American history,

General Benedict Arnold conspired to turn his command of West Point over to the

British. In return, he was to receive money and become a general in the British army.

His treason was discovered

when Major Andre, his British contact, was captured.

Kerry's 'Benedict Arnold Democrats'

By Roger Bybee

"You can't prosper if you're the Democratic Party with what could be called Goldman-Sachs economics. You've got to have 'average-person economics.'" -- former Republican strategist and author Kevin Phillips.

John Kerry has been loudly denouncing "Benedict Arnold CEOs" for their policy of outsourcing US jobs overseas.

Is John Walker Lindh (American Taliban) a modern day

version of Benedict Arnold? Why or Why not?

let them eat cake finding 3 additional examples of it s use
Let them Eat CakeFinding 3 additional examples of it’s use

The origin of many phrases in English are unknown. Nevertheless, many people would

say that they know the source of this one. It is widely attributed to

Marie-Antoinette (1755-93), the Queen consort of Louis XVI.

She is supposed to have said this when she was told that the

French populace

had no bread to eat.

In today's front-page report on City of Pensacola employee benefits, two things come to mind:

1. The city's motto should be changed from "City of Five Flags" to "Let them eat cake."

2. The City of Pensacola is too expensive for the city of Pensacola.

(March 15,2009)

T-shirt design

Let Them Eat Cake Inc. is an award-winning, 

family-owned and operated “Cake Boutique.”

We have been designing and decorating customized

wedding and all-occasion cakes since 1977.

shakespeare is a great place to look
Shakespeare is a GREAT place to look!
  • Out Damned Spot.
  • To Be or Not To Be . . . That is the question.
  • Double Double Toil and Trouble.
  • Romeo, Romeo where for art thou Romeo.
  • Et tu, Brute?
  • A horse; a horse . . .
  • By the pricking of my thumbs; something wicked this way comes.
music video lyrics and visual representation
Music Video – Lyrics and Visual representation.

If you’re real good you may catch the OTHER literary reference.

greek and roman myths history
Greek and Roman Myths/ History
  • Achilles Heel
  • Trojan Horse
  • Flying too close to the sun
  • Midas Touch!
  • Struck by Cupid’s Arrow
  • The weight of the world on his shoulders
  • Pushing boulders up a hill.
anyone know of a book with
Anyone know of a book with:
  • Garden
  • Serpent
  • Plagues
  • Flood
  • Parting of waters
  • Loaves
  • Fishes
  • Forty days
  • Betrayal
  • Slavery and escape
  • Fatted calves
  • Milk and honey?
the bible
The Bible
  • Forbidden Fruit
  • Judas
  • 30 pieces of silver
  • Golden Calf
  • Turn into a pillar of salt
  • Cross to bear
literature non shakespeare
Literature (non-Shakespeare)
  • White Whale
  • Albatross Around My Neck
  • Chasing windmills
  • White Rabbit
  • Off With her Head
  • Emperor's New Clothes
  • The Sky is Falling
  • Turn into a Pumpkin
  • The shoe that fits
  • Peter Pan syndrome
  • Cheshire cat grin
  • Scarlett Letter
  • breadcrumbs
how about history
How about History.
  • We the People
  • 40 acres and a mule
  • Waterloo
  • Stonewalling
  • Pearl Harbored
  • I Have a Dream
  • Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
  • Napoleon complex
  • We have nothing to fear but fear itself
  • When in the course of human events
  • Hail Mary
  • 7th Inning Stretch
  • We’re in the home stretch.
  • Fast out of the gate, slow to finish
  • Three strikes and you’re out
  • Cinderella is going to the big dance.
movies tv and broadway fun fun
Movies, TV, and Broadway– Fun Fun!
  • I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
  • Camelot
  • Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.
  • Play it again Sam.
  • Like sands through the hourglass . . .
and what was regarded as cutting edge
And what was regarded as cutting edge!

And Then There's Maude by Dave Grusin and Andrew Bergman - Maude Lyrics

Lady Godiva was a freedom rider She didnt' care if the whole world looked. Joan of Arc with the Lord to guide her She was a sister who really cooked. Isadora was the first bra burner And you're glad she showed up. (Oh yeah) And when the country was falling apart Betsy Ross got it all sewed up. And then there's Maude. And then there's Maude. And then there's Maude. And then there's Maude. And then there's Maude. And then there's Maude. And then there's That old compromisin', enterprisin', anything but tranquilizing, Right on Maude.

just some fun extras
Just some fun extras
  • The cat that ate the canary
  • Cutting off you’re nose to spite your face
  • Dropped a dime

Any that we can think of?

Well, now that I’ve led you down a primrose path . . .

remember specs
Remember SPECs?
  • Social
  • Political
  • Economic
  • Cultural
  • Most of these phrases; symbols, books, images all get hooked into this model BEAUTIFULLY.
don t believe me
Don’t believe me?
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein:
    • Victor Frankenstein builds his masterpiece not only from graveyard parts – but also from a historical condition or ENVIRONMENT!
      • The beginning of the Industrial Revolution – where “reckless abandon” threatens everything we knew during the Enlightenment.
      • New Science including anatomical research caused religious and philosophical chaos in English society in the early 1800s.
  • Every time we move into a “Brave New World” some writer, artist or “other” let’s us know that we are about to meet the monster of our advancements. (Frankenstein so to speak)
  • Memory, Symbol, Pattern????
what is the practicality
What is the practicality?
  • Ever have your kids write newspaper articles?
  • What about asking them to draw their own political cartoons?
  • Construct a timeline of its use. (or a virtual timeline)
  • What about a straight up writing assignment:
    • With which phrase does person or event most closely match and why?
everything leads perfectly to essential questions
Everything leads perfectly to ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS
  • Unlike other methods of analysis, Solve for Y forces kids to ask and answer essential question of why these things matter and resonate in our consciousness.
    • Why did the Family Guy use Maude?
      • Why did Maude reference Cleopatra?

Historians do this by virtue of their training – but everyone can, and it doesn’t need to be rocket science!

practically speaking
Practically Speaking
  • Why do I have the students do the Y=MX+B?
    • Without that quick exercise, they may try to use cultural links that aren’t relevant.
  • Then: I have them draw the cartoon or write the newspaper article based on the idioms that they’ve validated.
  • Once they get the point – I drop the formula since they know the expectations of the assignment.
and lastly
And lastly . . .
  • Spiral historical content.
  • Allow them to activate prior knowledge.
    • Link it to other strategies, Notebook/ SPECS, ARTIST/ What’s My Return Address/ On the Money.
  • Unlock subtle meaning.
  • Give them a road map and allow them to be curious and creative.
  • (imagine if some of our English teachers had done this BEFORE we read the book)

Make this as brief or extensive as you’d like

With those signature strategies!

the test
The Test!
  • Your blog post will be a description of a political cartoon based on culturally significant archetypes (or newspaper headlines)