I’ll be honest. I’m having trouble processing the recent hate inspired events in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
But one thing that has become clear to me over the last few years is that the more we talk about racism and discrimination – starting with the fact that they exist – the better chance we have of combating their effects.
To ignore these shootings and the shooting attack on Oslo’s al-Noor Islamic Center four days ago and the June arson fires of three African American churches in Louisiana and the May arson attack on a mosque in New Haven, Connecticut and the March attacks on New Zealand mosques and last year’s attack on a Pittsburg synagogue and the 2017 demonstrations in Charlottesville and the 2015 African American church shooting in Charleston and all of the other too numerous to mention incidents . . . to ignore as teachers this pattern of violence – not to mention what is happening online – seems like educational malpractice.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we shouldn’t teach our kids about what has and is happening in this country and around the world.
But I don’t think I am.
I think we have a responsibility as social studies teachers to give our kids the tools they need to make the world a better place. And part of that skill set has to include conversations about past and present intolerance. Is it easy? No. Can it be done. Yes. (You might try this, or this, maybe this, and I love this.)
Another way to create that skill set is to do a better job of focusing on the human stories of the Holocaust. I know that many of you teach the Holocaust and teach it well. But as you’re planning your nine month scope and sequence to include these sorts of conversations, would you mind if I share a few semi-random thoughts? Read more
Four times a year, I get the chance to be part of the ESSDACK social studies PLC. The PLC is an offshoot of our last Teaching American History grant with the same goal – improve our history / social studies teaching knowledge and skills.
And last Wednesday, we got ton of both from Sheryl of the awesome Echoes and Reflections site. Sheryl’s on a nationwide tour, providing professional learning opportunities across the country, sharing strategies, best practices, and resources for teaching the Jewish Holocaust.
It was a powerful and emotional day, aligning perfectly with our focus this fall on teaching controversial and uncomfortable topics. (You can still access our September Google Doc with teaching resources and ideas.) Sheryl used part of the day to highlight different sections at Echoes and Reflections but much of her focus was on how best to integrate the Holocaust into our instruction.
First things first, the Echoes and Reflections site is a must see. Read more
The Kansas state social studies standards are designed to “prepare students to be informed, thoughtful, engaged citizens as they enrich their communities, state, nation, world, and themselves.” Different benchmarks under each of the standards require that students make connections between the past and contemporary issues.
The recent Kansans Can Vision developed by the Department of Ed is pushing schools throughout the state to focus on authentic civic engagement and integrate it across grades and content areas.
I’m sure that you have similar sorts of standards and expectations where you teach.
It’s pretty simple really. When kids are informed and thoughtful, when they understand the necessity for being civically engaged, and when they actually put into practice the ideas outlined in the founding documents, our communities and our country are a better place.
And now . . . we have the recent events in Charlottesville.
Your task as a social studies teacher has never been easy. Connecting past to present can make it harder. Conversations about race and violence harder still. It can be easy to just wait for things to blow over. But if we truly believe that what we do makes a difference, those conversations need to happen.
What can that sort of conversation look like?
The words of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are a good place to start: Read more
Last night I had the opportunity to listen to John Stokes recount his experience as an early civil rights activist. Long story short?
In 1951, John was a high school senior at Moton High School in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Upset with the unequal educational facilities that existed as part of Jim Crow, he and other students staged a walkout and strike that later became part of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case. His account of that period and the connections Mr. Stokes made to the present was amazing, frightening, engaging, and compelling all at the same time.
And this afternoon, I had the chance to sit together with about 2000 other social studies teachers listening to Georgia Representative John Lewis talk about the events described in his graphic novel March.
So it’s very appropriate after hearing from these two Civil Rights heroes to participate in a conversation about Critical Race Theory and how we can use it to support class discussions of race / racism. Lauren Meyer from Yale is sharing “little nuggets” that teachers can use to integrate the topic as part of their instruction.
What is Critical Race Theory? Read more