I got the chance over the last few days to spend time with tons of social studies gurus and learn tons of new stuff at the National Council for History Education conference in Washington DC. Thanks to Dr. Richard Satchwell and Judy Bee at Illinois State University and all the folks at the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources project for making the trip possible.
Part of our TPS time together was spent with developers of the five Library of Congress interactive civic education apps they’ve created. Very cool stuff that you can find at the LOC. All five are super handy for helping kids make sense of primary sources and for training students to engage as informed citizens. It was great sitting with the developers and learning more about how to use the apps with kids.
But I am just as excited about something , Chief Education Officer at iCivics, threw out at the end of her formal presentation about their DBQuest app:
We’re releasing a new iCivics game tomorrow called Race to Ratify.
She couldn’t really share a ton about it but we got the chance to get a quick taste of the game. And when she said “tomorrow,” she meant last Friday. So it’s been officially out in the wild for a few days. I’ve played with it a bit since then and it’s pretty much like all iCivics content.
Awesome. Read more
Let’s be clear from the get go.
It happened. We have hundreds of thousands, millions, of primary sources. We have photos. Government documents. Train timetables. Movies. We’ve got oral histories. Diaries. Letters. Court transcripts. There are prison confessions. Newspapers. Lists of stolen property. Sacks of hair. Piles of shoes. Boxes of wedding rings. And many of the actual camps, barbed wire, gas chambers, and crematoria still exist.
So let’s be clear.
The Holocaust happened. Over six million European Jews were murdered between 1933 and 1945. More than six million others deemed undesirable were also murdered by the government and party led by Adolf Hitler.
So, please, do not plan an historical thinking activity that asks your kids: Read more
How great is the Smithsonian? Seriously. Take a few minutes to think about all the teaching goodness that they provide. Learning Lab. History Explorer. Lesson plans. Podcasts. Webcasts. It goes on and on.
But there’s always been a bit of old school in me. So I still subscribe to the print version of the Smithsonian magazine. Yes. You can get many of the print articles at the online version but I like turning pages.
The problem, of course, is between online versions of things and print versions of things, I’m always playing catch-up with my reading schedule. The March Smithsonian just now just made it to the top of the pile and I was blown away by an article by Abigail Tucker.
Titled A 21st-Century Reimagining of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, the article focuses on the question: Read more
How often do you get the chance to shake hands with a Supreme Court icon? Someone who has their name on a landmark case that’s in all the textbooks?
That’s right. Not. Very. Often.
But today was the day. Mary Beth Tinker, yes . . . THAT Mary Beth Tinker. The Mary Beth Tinker of the 1969 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District Supreme Court case was in Topeka speaking with teachers and students at the KSDE #KSCivics civic engagement conference.
And along with about 350 others, I got the chance to meet and then listen to Mary Beth share her thoughts on the events of 1965 and connect those events to contemporary issues. So cool!
But I also got the chance Read more
It’s February. Black History Month.
And I gotta be honest. I’m always a bit conflicted about the idea. The concept of a month specifically set aside for the study of Black History started back in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That particular week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
In 1976, the federal government followed the lead of the Black United Students at Kent State and established the entire month of February as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans, and especially teachers and schools, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to remember together the struggles of African Americans to obtain the basic civil rights afforded to others, the challenges African Americans have faced for centuries, and the contributions of African Americans to who we are. But . . . the real hope was that the story of essential people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year.
Recent movies such as Selma and Marshall and books such as Hidden Figures do a great job of creating a sense of a specific time period, of overt racism and violence, the need for supporting the right to vote, the courage of everyday individuals, and of the thought process behind events. The message of Black History Month remains – that the quest for equality and dignity in the United States was difficult and dangerous. And that the extraordinary work of ordinary folks such as John Lewis, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Amelia Boynton Robinson still isn’t finished.
But I’m still a bit conflicted.
Jose Vilson, teacher and activist, Read more