Leafing through Time
         historical ponderings of a part-time historian/full-time teacher

"There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same."
Ralph Waldo Emerson from "History" (1841)


Scott Plencner's Part-Time , but serious, career in History
smplencn@neiu.edu



Teaching History

2003-2006   Northside Prep H.S., Chicago 
2006-           Taft H.S., Chicago

Background
BA  History/Secondary Ed   NEIU- 2003
MA History (in progress)     NEIU 

Honors
James Madison Memorial Fellow, 2013

Seminars
Washington Center's Pursuit of the Presidency, 2000-01; Gilder-Lehrman Dec. of Ind. Institute at U. of VA, 2008; James Madison Fellowship Summer Institute at Georgetown U., 2015

Historical Interests
American politics, identity politics, suburbs studies, tourism history, Chicago, 1970s-1990s, Gilded Age, Early American Era, Quebecois explorations

My teachers
NEIU: Steven Riess (American Sports), Joshua Salzmann & June Sochen (American), Patrick Miller (African-American), James Morton (American politics), Ignacio Mendez & Richard Grossman (Latin America), David Leaman (World Politics), Andrew  Eisenberg (Asia), Michael Tuck (Africa & Slavery), Susan Rosa (Ancient), Charles Stienwedel (Russia); JMMF: Jeffry Morrison (Regent), Daniel Dreisbach (American), Kevin Hardwick (Madison), Teri Halperin (Richmond); GLS: David Armitage (Harvard); NDHS: James Boylan, William DeBaets, Christopher Kuhn

On one of my many travels (see here), I once met a one-armed man on a beach in South Carolina who got to talking to me about the complexities of life and what it means to be a human. Sensing we shared common interests, he asked me what I did for a living. I told him my vocation, "I am a history teacher," to which he immediately replied, "No, you ain't!" .... I had only minutes before met this man and he seemed to know better than myself who I was. I got a bit angry, but before I could challenge him, he finished, "You ain't a history teacher. You's a YANKEE history teacher." Yes! This was a man who truly understands the living nature of history.

"You ain't a history teacher. You a YANKEE history teacher."

There is this idea that history is the study of the past, but really it is the study of the past so we can make sense of the present and be guided for the future. It can be a weapon or it can be a source of inspiration. It is a flexible, movable thing, ever-changing and ever-useful. It is negotiated. So for me, yes, history was Yankee history. History comes from within and always carries its author around with it.


History began for me while poking through the photo albums of my elderly Aunt Fritz who told me stories as I asked. Instead of the photos showing random faces, the people in them became my great-grandparents and I was them. (The historian should strive to be compassionate.) The past, however foggy my view was, came alive when Is aw it through their eyes. I am almost addicted to that haunting view into the past and search far and wide for the ghosts that make us who we are.
 
 
Current Studies
I am almost always interested in a wide variety of subjects from genealogy to tourism history to race relations to American politics, past and present. I dwell often on the history of places I love like Northern Wisconsin and the Miss-Lou region. I am always lookking for untold stories or stories that need to be retold. This is why I have been delving lately into the history of the 1980s and 1990s, which has only recently emerged from the flexible recent history and is making its way into another less flexible plane of historical existence. Since I am in a Masters' Program right now, my current studies are usually partially prescribed by my professors.

As of March, 2016, I am personally researching inter-group conflict in northern Wisconsin in the post-Walleye War era. I am assisting students who are doing IB extended essay studies on the Crusades of the 15th Century and TV's role in forming/reflecting the culture of the 1960s and 70s. Projects on the backburner include a study of youth involvment in counter-civil rights protests on the Northwest Side of Chicago and the editing and revising of my unpolished and unfinished research into Natchez historical memory.

I am teaching AP/Honors US History and Chicago History at Taft High School in Chicago for a living. See my classpages here.

 
Past Studies
These are a selection of past papers reflecting some research previously considered. Please contact me if you have any questions.  If you cite them, please note these are unpublished, barely edited, and certainly not peer reviewed and that I retain all rights (and responsibilities) to the ideas presented.
Major Studies 
The Cabin Re-Interprets the Big House (2016) 1.2MB
A study of African American challenges of racism in the Natchez Pilgrimage, a living history tourist attraction that is a cornerstone of the local Natchez economy. Includes a study of grassroots Black self-empowerment during the civil rights movement and the white backlash. Topics: Civil rights, tourism, Jim Crow, slavery, historical interpretation.
War in Vacationland (2014) 1.6MB
An in depth study of grassroots backlash politiccs in the rural context of Northwenmost Wisconsin's Walleye Wars. In the 1980s, as the Ojibwe tribe fought for its treaty rights to spearfish in local lakes, whites reacted bitterly to what they saw as a threat to the livlihoods in the tourism business. Topics: Tourism, treaty rights, Native Americans, Wisconsin, fishing, Silent Majority, 1980's.
Short Studies 
The Right Stuff (2001)
An exploration of pop culture from the American Victorian Era as it approaches sport and physical fitness. This is done through the eyes and writings of America's biggest sports fan of the era: President Theodore Roosevelt. Topics: Theodore Roosevelt, physical fitness, sports, boxing, hunting.
  The One Drop Myth (2015)
An overview of leading scholarship and debates in the historical field on the identity of the Black Creoles of Louisiana and Mississippi, a people who straddle the line between white and black in a torn America. Topics: Racism, Jim Crow, slavery, racial identity, binary, Civil Rights, Creoles, Louisiana.
  A Matter of Common Sense (2015)
A short argument for the James Madison Fellowship Summer Institute about the idea that the American Revolution was not a liberal event, but rather a conservative one, meant to defend the status quo in America. Topics: American Revolution, colonialism, Declaration of Independence, Founding Fathers.
  Rethinking the Suburbs (2014)
Critics argue that the suburbs are not worth studying and a wasteland of culture devoid of history. I counter that idea with this overview of leading scholarship and highlight new arguments being made about the suburbs in American history. Topics: Suburbs, racial identity, identity politics, Civil Rights, 1950s and 60s, American politics.
Kicking the Constitutional Can (2015)
This paper examines the wheeling and dealing and ups and downs of the politics behind the ratification of thee Constitution in the 1780s. Federalists and Anti-federalists battled it out and eventually compromised, leaving many unanswered questions that lead to Civil War. Topics: Constitution, politics, states' rights, Founding Fathers.
  The Not-so-Revolutionary Revolution (2001)
An earlier version of the "Common Sense" paper above. In this version is presented the Beard argument that the Founding Fathers acted to protect their economic interests.. Topics: American Revolution, politics, colonialism, Founding Fathers.
The Failure of China's First Modernization (2014)
This paper approaches attempts made by rebel Christian Chinese leaders to develop a modern constitution during one of the deadliest wars in world history, the Taiping Rebellion, in the mid-1800s. Topics: China, politics, modernization, Christianity, statecraft, charismatic leadership 
  Jesus versus the Meiji State (2016)
An examination into the evolution of Christianity in the Meiji Era, an era marked by Japanese state-building and religious persecution, as seen through the lens of the patriotic Christian leader Uchimura Kanzo. Topics: Japan, politics, modernization, Christianity, patriotism, church and state