We are setting the scene for Reconstruction by exploring the causes of the Civil War. I assigned pairs of students a single cause that they researched and presented to the class using powerpoint. The students took notes during each presentation closely following the details of each “cause.” We have looked at the seeds of the Civil War and the exacerbated build-up of tensions between the north and south from the Constitution (1787), Eli Whitney’s cotton gin (1793), the Missouri Compromise (1820), the Nullification Crisis (1832-33), Abolitionism, the Compromise of 1850 and its Fugitive Slave Law, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Bleeding Kansas (1854-59), Free Labor Ideology and the Republican Party, the Dred Scott Decision (1857), John Brown and Harper’s Ferry (1859), and the Election of 1860. It has not been easy for the students to stay focused through the material. It’s hard and complex.
During the powerpoints, we have been having some trouble with the dongle that is used to connect my laptop to the overhead projector. It is really fussy. It has to lay across a desk, not hang or the connection simply does not work and this blue screen (pictured above) appears. So in the midst of our powerpoints, for maybe the 10th time, the dongle misfired and the blue screen popped up yet again.
Then the riff began. I’m really not sure who started it.
“And the most important cause of the Civil War, that not many are truly familiar with, but no doubt was solely responsible for how intense the war really became was—-HITACHI.”
“And the reason that it was HITACHI, was that no input was detected.”
“Let’s make sure we spell that correctly, H–I–T–A–C–H–I.”
“Hitachi was first discovered in the cotton fields of the South but no one paid much attention to it at first.”
“It’s that input thing.”
“Yeah, no detection.”
“What year was that? Before or after the Kansas-Nebraska Act?”
“Ms. Y, isn’t it true that HITACHI led to secession?”
“And to the fourteenth Amendment, right?”
“Ah, the North won the war, but the South HITACHIed.”
“HITACHI. I am so putting this down for the test.”
I love my job.