AHA Member Spotlight: Craig Perrier

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.       

Craig Perrier is a high school social studies and history Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools as well as an adjunct history professor for Northeastern University, SNHU, Ashford University, and Northern Virginia Community College. He lives in Arlington, Virginia and has been a member of the AHA since 2011.

Alma mater/s: George Mason University, PhD  program in teacher education/secondary history education; Northeastern University, MA—Global History (focus on globalizing US History); Framingham State University, M.Ed – Secondary Education; Clark University,  BA History.Member-Spotlight_Perrier

Fields of interests: The core of my interest focuses on the questions “Why should students learn about the past?” and “How can we best teach history?”  Everything else flows from there.  Specifically, and most recently, my reading and activity has been on global education, teacher professional development, historical thinking skills, instructional design, and the use of technology in history education.  This has led to a variety of projects, detailed below, and sparked a deep interest in the AHA’s Tuning Project.

When did you first develop an interest in history?

As a child, I played board games like Stratego and Axis and Allies that certainly helped to capture my attention and curiosity about the past. Video games contributed too. Our family had the Intellivision system and later the Apple IIGS.  Wow, remember those?!  There were some great simulations set in the past like Pirates!, Revolution ’76, Balance of Power, and Utopia. In addition, history classes seemed to come easy because I saw them as relevant and meaningful. I had some great teachers in high school who were interesting, supported my love of history, and had high expectations.

What projects are you working on currently?

I have a few things going on right now.  I started a blog, The Global, History Educator, three years ago.  It is a great outlet for my thoughts and creates a record of ideas to share.  It is also linked to the History News Network blog roll.

Last year I received a grant from the Longview Foundation to provide five free, self-paced, professional development modules for secondary educators to globalize the US History Survey.   It is in the final stages now and I hope it will be launched in early 2014.

I have done some recent curriculum writing for the State Department on Latin America, a World History project on Mediterranean History, and for the Global Campaign for Education.  I also authored three entries for Encyclopedia of American Imperialism and Expansionism due out in 2014.

I am always interested about topics related to global education and have been involved with IREX’s Teachers for Global Classrooms as a course designer and facilitator for three years.  You should really check it out!

Have your interests changed since graduate school? If so, how? 

Well, my MA in History was complete in 2011 and I am currently in a PhD program in education.  I consider these experiences to be synthesizing.  Overall, I have embraced the idea that studying history is an existential activity impacting our identities and world view. This is a powerful realization to convey to students. This approach reminds me that humans give meaning to events, idea, people, groups, systems, and things in the past and in the present. Studying history informs that process and empowers us to realize we can act and have agency instead of only being acted upon.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members?

I do indeed.  For books,  How Learning Works: 7 Research Based Principles for Smart Teaching, Andre Bacevich’s Washington Rules, and The Challenge of Rethinking History Education: On Practices, Theories, and Policy  by Bruce Van Sledright have been recent stand outs. I think Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis illustrates the concept of conformity in a wonderful way and Albert Camus’ The Fall is his best work in my opinion. John Willinsky’s Learning To Divide The World: Education at Empire’s End , Jean-Francois Bayart’s The Illusion of Cultural Identity and Troiullot’s Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World have all left their mark on my thinking.

For movies, the film Baraka was introduced to me by a friend and former colleague. The themes in it can be across disciplines. A beautiful synthesis of global images and sounds (no text or dialogue)that stimulates thought and invite conversations among students.  Children of Men, Apocalypse Now, Jaws, Stripes, and The Royal Tennenbaums are all high on my desert island film list.

I don’t read a specific blog on a regular basis. However, I do typically mine Edweek’s and ASCD’s blogs as well as the one’s listed in Teach100. I use the Zite App on my phone as an aggregator. It is fantastic.

What do you value most about the history profession?

Knowledge is social. Historians contribute knowledge and ask questions in the public sphere which other professions don’t focus on or the general public don’t have time to ask or the ability to research.  Transferring that to history education, historians teach a set of skills and habits of mind which are valuable outside of the profession. Today, these are often called “critical thinking skills” or part of a 21st century skill set. Regardless of the label, it is important for teachers of history to present it to students, and the public as a constructivist process not an exercise in memorization.

Why did you join the AHA?

I joined the AHA to be informed about the Tuning Project. I know the focus on the initiative has been on higher education, but there are many takeaways relevant to the secondary level. I am curious about how I can bridge those two worlds. My TAH experiences in Massachusetts were an effective model.  But those days are, sadly, done.

Also, the people I have encountered at the AHA have all been great; especially Julia Brookins, Dana Schaeffer, and Allen Mikaelian.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?

I have only been to one conference; San Diego 2010. It helped guide my thoughts about global perspectives and the national narrative. I remember being happy there and thought the energy was great. I hope to be at the D.C. one coming up in January. The theme “Disagreement, Debate, Discussion” suggests strong connections to my interest in historical narrative construction.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?

Life! I enjoy experiencing the “new” and have come to seek out the possibilities of what I call “unexpected encounters” both in and out of work. I still play baseball and being fit is an important part of my life.  The day feels better when it starts with an early morning workout.  So, I am also attentive to cooking and what I eat. Travel is fun and I try to go overseas each year. Going to see live music and Shakespeare are also fun times.  I love the 9:30 Club and the Folger Theater in D.C. I like playing chess too.  Spending time with family is important. I love when they come to visit from New England. I am tight with my brother and sister and their families.

Any final thoughts?

I urge history teachers in high school to seek out opportunities and develop connections with higher education organization, professors, and resources. Doing so creates possibilities for students and teachers. The same effort should be made by higher education to work with and tap into the K-12 community. This is a bridge I hope that can be successfully built using the Tuning Project as an architecture to do so.

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