Monday, July 7, 2014

Social Constructs and Point of View Analysis, Part II

Yesterday, I started to discuss how applying the idea of social constructs can help to make source work more meaningful. Before attempting an example, I want to share an excerpt from a reading that I discovered yesterday.


The text I linked to is long, and I have decided to read short sections each day rather than all at once. This section stands out because it links a number of concepts that I have been thinking about, as I explore the nature of perception, especially as it shapes sources and how historians derive meaning from sources. These concepts include: perception (social construction of reality), contexts, meaning, stories, frames and filters, interpretation.

Now, let’s turn our attention back to this source excerpt, which I found in a released AP Euro DBQ.

We want students to dig deeper, as opposed to simply reporting or restating the information contained in this source. How can we get them to do that? My thought is that if we have taught them about social construction theory, or at least some of its basic elements, they will have the tools to unlock the deeper meanings embedded in this source.

Where to begin?
They must begin by looking at the author and using the information provided to consider how that may shape the message contained in the source. Christop Scheurl, they are told, was a jurist and diplomat who lived in Nuremberg in 1538. What constructs can they apply to their point of view analysis?

Gender and social class are the two that seem obvious to me.

For what it’s worth, I found a resource  (.doc file) yesterday where a teacher uses the following mnemonics (one basic, the other more detailed) to help students think about point of view (POV) analysis:

MAGS: Medium, Audience, Gender, Social Class
ACORNPEG: Audience, Class, Occupation, Religion, Nationality, Political Affiliation, Education, Gender

If we use social class to think about this source, what might that look like? The key question to ask, I think, is as follows: How might social class have influenced or shaped the information Scheurl reveals in his diary entry?

Stepping back for a moment, it is important for us to consider the prompt that this source is tied to.


Scheurl, a jurist and diplomat, was a privileged member of society. This opened doors for his children, providing them with comforts and opportunities that other children would not have automatically received. Scheurl’s diary reveals that his son was receiving a quality education. One that included instruction in Latin. The diary also provides evidence of how this family’s wealth impacted their diet when Scheurl discusses his son’s knowledge of “where everything he puts between his teeth comes from”, including berries, calf brains, crabs, and wine.  Parents’ assumptions about their children were influenced by social class. In privileged families, access to education and food combined with parents’ lofty goals for their children to create a comfortable, nurturing environment. This diary entry provides us with a glimpse at how privilege tends to perpetuate privilege. This is revealed both materially and intellectually.         


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