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Posts from the ‘democracy’ Category

Well . . . look at you, America! 246 and counting!

On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress listened as Richard Henry Lee of Virginia proposed a resolution declaring the United States independent from Great Britain:

“Resolved, that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

It was a bold move. Several states including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and South Carolina were not yet ready to support this potentially fatal step. Failure to approve the resolution could lead to the collapse of the shaky alliance between the 13 colonies. An earlier proposal by John Adams on May 15 declaring that “it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under the said crown should be totally suppressed” barely passed. Four colonies voted against it and the delegation from Maryland stormed out of the room in protest.

Congress agreed to delay the vote on Lee’s Resolution until July 1. During that time, Congress appointed a committee to draft a formal declaration of independence to accompany the resolution. Consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson, the committee selected Jefferson to be the primary author of the document. A rough draft of the document was presented to Congress for review on June 28.

Debate followed. And on July 2, 1776, the Congress voted to approve the resolution that had been proposed a month earlier – declaring the United States independent from Great Britain. After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining their decision. Members debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving a final version of the document on July 4. (There is some debate on when the document was actually signed with the National Archives suggesting an August 2 date.)

We celebrate on the 4th but John Adams understood that it was the fateful vote two days earlier that is what we are really observing. In his famous letter to Abigail:

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Thanks, George Takei, for the reminder. The Bill of Rights is too important not to teach.

A year ago, during final keynote of the 2020 NCSS national conference, author and actor George Takei shared his experience growing up in what he called an American concentration camp. As a five year old, he and his parents were forced into several different camps during World War II simply because of their racial ethnicity.

As he shared his experiences and connected them to contemporary issues, I flashed back to an earlier History Tech post highlighting the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, FDR’s executive order legalizing the internment of thousands of American citizens like five year old George.

Takei’s session was a good reminder about the power of the Bill of Rights and what can happen when we ignore its principles. As you continue to plan your instruction for the rest of the year, don’t shy away from telling the story of America even when it makes you and your students uncomfortable.

One way to do that? Lean into using primary sources that document the topic – such as Takei’s personal story.

Takei shared a bit about his recent graphic memoir titled They Called Us Enemies. It’s a perfect (and powerful) way to begin a conversation around Executive Order 9066. Use the available teaching resources and discussion guides to hook your kids and get them asking the right sorts of questions.

Another way? Use photographs, like these taken by Dorothea Lange.

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Go beyond February. 5 ways for becoming a culturally competent communicator

Carter Woodson grew up in Virginia, moving to West Virginia at the age of 17 to attend high school. He worked as a coal miner while he studied part-time, eventually becoming a full-time student and graduating in 1897. He became a teacher and school administrator, later earning two college degrees from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Harvard.

As a historian, Woodson established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History while advocating for the intentional and accurate teaching of African American and Black history, achievements, and accomplishments. And in 1926, he and other historians pioneered “Negro History Week” to encourage the telling of these stories beyond the lens of a Eurocentric perspective:

“For centuries we have been the victims of propaganda; and as long as the truth is denied a hearing there will always be strife among the members of the human family, and disorder like the present in which the world now finds itself will always be possible.”

This truth, Woodson claimed, was

“overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”

Fifty years later, following the example of Black students at Kent State University, President Ford would establish Black History Month.

The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to learn together the  contributions, challenges, and successes of African Americans; incorporating our present, the past 400 years in North America, and the the thousands of years before that in Africa. But . . . the real hope was that the stories of people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year.

As educator, author, and activist Jose Vilson put it:

“. . . has it ever occurred to you that, as well-intentioned as (Black History Month) might be, we ought to take the next step and celebrate Black history on March 1st as well?”

I’m guessing we’re all in agreement on the going beyond February business. The question now becomes how to do what Woodson dreamed of and Vilson advocates.

Do I have all the answers? Not even close. But there are a lot of very smart people out there who do. What have I learned and continue to learn? Read more

Let’s be honest. None of us are Amanda Gorman. But your students should be.

Let’s be honest.

Very few of us are poets. Very few of us probably even read a lot of poetry.

That might change after this morning’s recitation by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. Her poem titled “The Hill We Climb” resonated with a variety of themes from American history.

And hope. Read more