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If one studies history long enough, eventually there will come an understanding that regardless of era, the same few things have happened over and over throughout history. In fact, one of my all-time favorite quotes is this one from Georg Hegel, "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history." For the longest time, however, I felt like I was doing a sub-par job in helping my students to identify that, more quickly. They would eventually get it once I laid it out for them, but I really wanted them to come to their own conclusions.


So, a few Summers ago, I ideated five, interrelated, major themes, in which all major topics of history can fit, and which now is a staple in all my courses:

  1. Examining how Disagreement leads to conflict

  2. Exploring how people’s Identity affects the decisions people make

  3. Evaluating the influence on decisions from the desire to keep or increase Power

  4. Investigating change resulting from Progress

  5. Analyzing how differences in belief systems or norms in Society affect relationship


We refer to this as DIPPS, in our classroom.


The model below (fig. 2) shows how each of these themes has connective tissue to the others. Of course, historical thinking skills is in the center to illustrate how students must always be mindful of these when exploring these themes.

Fig, 2

To illustrate how students might rudimentarily apply these five themes, here is an example of how Ohio’s American History Content Statement #28 would fit into this model:

SOC.9-12.AH.ST.28 Following WWII, the United States experienced a struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil rights:

  1. Disagreement - There was a constant underlying tension, particularly in the South, as discriminated people began to assert their rights. Those in the historical position of privilege disagreed with the need for change (largely because of institutional prejudice), which led to great tension between social, ethnic, and racial groups.

  2. Identity - Due to the passage of Jim Crow Laws in the South, which were upheld by the day’s Supreme Court as being constitutional, there was an explicit disparity between the facilities used by whites and those used by African-Americans. This led to a situation where both white and black communities, because of de facto governmental policies, started to believe that African-Americans were inferior.

  3. Power - Largely, Jim Crow was an attempt by white America to retain the status it had in society over African-Americans and other minorities. Many saw the status as zero-sum, meaning others couldn’t achieve status or rights without whites losing an equal amount.

  4. Progress - Due in large part to the assertion of equality by minority groups, gains were made by many in the area of civil rights, particularly due to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968.

  5. Society - Media coverage of civil rights demonstrations in the South and the resulting governmental violence stemming from them, shed a light on the problem of discrimination, of which many Americans were not intimately aware. This helped galvanize support behind civil rights legislation as society became sympathetic to the movement.


As these examples show, specific content topics from the state standards can reflect these major themes. The goal of my courses is to allow students the opportunity to show their interpretation and more comprehensive understanding of these connections, and do so in a way of their choosing, that best meets their talents.

Example of a DIPPSheet
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