8 Questions With the Religious Freedom Center

This weekend I re-watched President Obama’s eulogy  for South Carolina state Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine victims in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. If you haven’t watched, it I have included the complete eulogy below. Amazing Grace indeed.

 

Empathy, knowledge,  goodness toward the “other”, open minds and hearts…  all of these are traits and behaviors  to seek and internalize – especially for our students.  To help with this, I recently had the pleasure of asking Benjamin Marcus, Religious Literacy Specialist with the Religious Freedom Center of the Freedom Forum Institute to share his work and offers ideas about how educators can connect with the center.

Ben has authored articles for EdWeek which provide a concise summary of how we approach religious literacy work in teachers’ lessons as well as six guidelines for teaching about religion.

Our exchange is below.  Be sure to share this post with your network and reach out to Ben to see how teachers and students in any class can be better prepared in a diverse, interconnected globalized world. Enjoy!

 

1) Can you provide an overview of how the Religious Freedom Center came to be?

We owe our existence to Dr. Charles Haynes. We are indebted to his decades of experience gathering religious, civic, and educational organizations—from across the political, ideological, and religious spectrum—to write consensus statements and guidelines about religious freedom and the study of religion in public schools. Dr. Haynes and his Benjamin P.colleagues recognized the need to provide clarity about religion in public schools amidst the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s, which followed a number of U.S. Supreme Court decisions about religion and education in the 1960s. Our Center inherited and builds on the legacy of the consensus documents compiled by Haynes.

Reorganized in 2010 to expand on religious liberty initiatives begun by Dr. Haynes at the First Amendment Center in 1994, the Religious Freedom Center is a nonpartisan national initiative focused on educating the public about the religious liberty principles of the First Amendment.

We are pleased to be part of the Freedom Forum Institute family, which is the educational and outreach partner of the Freedom Forum. The Freedom Forum—dedicated to free press, free speech, and free spirit—is a nonpartisan foundation that champions the five freedoms of the First Amendment.

 

 

2) What are some of the connections among the USA’s founding, religion, and public education?

It is impossible to tell an accurate history of public education in the United States without talking about religion. For a compelling, clear history of the relationship between religion and public education, I refer people to Between Church and State: Religion & Public Education in a Multicultural America by James W. Fraser. In the book, Fraser Related imagedescribes how public education pioneer Horace Mann designed common schools—early versions of today’s public schools—as a site of a “tolerant” form of “religious education” that would be appropriate in a multi-religious nation. Since Mann’s work in the 19th century, Americans have sought to create public schools that are more and more inclusive of students of all religions and none. We have seen schools transition from curricula that favor Protestants of various denominations in the 19th century; to schools that assume a student population of Protestants and Catholics (and sometimes Jews) in the early- to mid- 20th century; to schools from the 1960’s to today that wrestle with what it means to neither favor nor disfavor religion, including any particular religion, or non-religion.

 

 

3) How do you reply to claims that religion should not be part of public education?

We differentiate between teaching religion  confessionally to make students more or less religious, and teaching about religion academically so that students understand how religion operates in private and public life. Teaching religion is unconstitutional, whereas the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed the legitimacy of teaching about religion. In the landmark decision Abington v. Schempp (1963), Justice Tom Clark wrote:

It might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.

At the Religious Freedom Center, we are convinced that education about religion is not only constitutional; education about religion is necessary for understanding the world around us, whether or not we are religious ourselves.

 

4)  Yes, the distinction between teaching religion as dogma and as an academic pursuit.  In turn, how does the study of religion support efforts by schools to implement global citizenship and cultural competency programs?

According to the American Academy of Religion’s 2010 guidelines for teaching about religion, religious literacy is defined as “the ability to discern and analyze the intersection of religion with social, political, and cultural life.” This definition inextricably links the study of religion with the study of culture. If our students are to understand history or contemporary politics and culture, they must understand religion and the relationship between religious communities. If students are to live productive, respectful lives in a religiously diverse democracy and an increasingly interconnected world, they need to know about how religion motivates and sustains people in a fractured era. Students—who may be religious or atheists, who may live in deeply religious communities or pervasively secular cities—also need to recognize that not everyone belongs to a religious community.

The academic study of religion will enrich schools’ efforts to cultivate students’ global competency and cultural literacy. We do not expect schools to create standalone religion courses. Instead, we hope that schools will think about how to integrate the study of religion in existing curricula. For example, think about how much richer a lesson about the American Civil Rights Movement or the partition of India would be if students consider the religious forces at work.

 

5) Please share some successes you and the Religious Freedom Center have had in the K-12 education world.

We are delighted that the National Council for the Social Studies approved the Religious Studies Companion Document as an official part of the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards in June 2017. This document is the first of its kind adopted by a major national education organization. Teachers and administrators can refer to the guidelines to learn about the disciplinary concepts and skills related to the academic study of religion that students should master by the time they graduate high school.

This was a collaborative effort of an eight-person writing team, a thirty-person advisory committee, and our partners at the American Academy of Religion. I was proud to chair the writing committee of that document in my capacity at the Religious Freedom Center, and I am thrilled to see that some districts around the country have already begun to align their curricula with the guidelines.

6) The Pew Center’s 2014 study on religious affiliation in the USA is pasted above. If a teacher,department, or school wants to get involved with you, what are the opportunities to do so?

We provide a number of training opportunities and curricular resources for K-12 educators. Educators might enroll in a graduate-level, semester-long class with the Religious Freedom Center designed to train teachers to teach about religion. If they do not have time for a semester-long class, they might choose to logon to our professional development website, Constitution2Classroom.org. There they can enroll in our free, on-demand, self-paced professional development modules, each of which take roughly one hour to complete and include videos, readings, interactive games, and reflection questions. Our online modules cover topics related to religious freedom concerns in schools, religious literacy, and civil dialogue.

Teachers might also choose to arrange a consultation between the Center and their department, district or school. We often organize live professional development workshops—at your school, in the Newseum, or via Zoom.

If educators are interested in working with us in a way not listed here, we encourage them to reach out to us so that we can discuss their request in greater detail.

Last but not least, we encourage educators to visit our website, ReligiousFreedomCenter.org, to access free guidelines, consensus statements, and classroom resources about religion and public education.

 

7) What’s on the horizon for the Religious Freedom Center in the immediate future and beyond?

This summer the Religious Freedom Center has partnered with the National Council for the Social Studies to offer a Religious Studies Summer Institute from July 10-12 in Washington, DC. Participants will broaden their professional competence with the disciplinary concepts and tools of religious studies, and they will increase their confidence in teaching about religion in constitutionally appropriate ways. Educators can register online.

We are also pleased to work with the Society of Biblical Literature to create academically rigorous and constitutionally appropriate lesson plans about the Bible and related topics for U.S. history and world history Image result for freedom center dcclassrooms. SBL is the world’s largest association of scholars who study the Bible from an academic perspective. Teachers should contact us for a copy of those lesson plans, which should be available mid-summer.

Beyond this summer, we plan to deepen and broaden our relationship with schools and districts interested in teaching about religion. We are incredibly lucky to have a variety of training opportunities and resources available for educators. Our goal now is to spread the word as far and wide as possible.

 

8) Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

The Religious Freedom Center is here to support you! Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or requests. We would love to work with you. In an increasingly polarized age, students need the knowledge and skills to navigate difficult questions related to religion and public life. Our future as a productive, rights-based, religiously diverse country depends on it.

 

Thank you Ben.  I look forward to our continued work together.  Each opportunity has benefited our teachers, students, and my work in social studies education. I encourage readers to reach out to Ben and the Religious Freedom Center.  Their support will help prepare students to be successful in the future. 

12 Digital History Projects That Will Make You Say WOW!

… And by “WOW!” I mean: Wow, I need to use these with my students.  OR …Wow, I need to share these with my colleagues.  OR Wow, I  am inspired to develop my own digital history project.  Of course a synthesis of all 3 is the sweet spot. That was the course of action leading to the development of my US History in a Global Context project. 

What is digital history? Indeed, defining your terms is usually a great place to start.  I have found these explanations to be useful and bring moments of clarity which ultimately furthers the conversation and utility of these types of projects.

  1. The American Historical Association: “Digital history might be understood broadly as an approach to examining and representing the past that works with the new communication technologies of the computer, the internet network, and software systems.”
  2.  Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University  “Digital history is an approach to examining and representing the past that takes advantage of new communication technologies such as computers and the Web. It draws on essential features of the digital realm, such as databases, hypertextualization, and networks, to create and share historical knowledge.”

I have had the pleasure of working on multiple digital history projects.   So, let’s  look a bit further and see what formats digital history projects can take.  In short, when we discuss digital history, we can be referencing a number of types and purposes.  The common aspects being that they are accessible to the public and organized around a theme(s). This list comes (in part) from the Organization of American Historians.

  • Archive: a site that provides a body of primary sources. Could also include collections of documents or databases of materials.
  • Essay, Exhibit, Digital Narrative: something created or written specifically for the Web or with digital methods, that serves as a secondary source for interpreting the past by offering a historical narrative or argument. This category can also include maps, network visualizations, or other ways of representing historical data.
  • Teaching Resource: a site that provides online assignments, syllabi, other resources specifically geared toward using the Web, or digital apps for teaching, including educational history content for children or adults, pedagogical training tools, and outreach to the education community.
  • Gateway/Clearinghouse: a site that provides access to other websites or Internet-based resources.
  • Podcasts: video and audio podcasts that engage audiences on historical topics and themes.
  • Games: challenging interactive activities that educate through competition or role playing, finding evidence defined by rules and linked to a specific outcome. Games can be online, peer-to- peer, or mobile.

 

Wonderful!    With classrooms having access to computers and moving to 1:1 formats, quality digital resources is in demand. The good news is that they are out there.  But these are only good if they get used.  To that end, I have curated a collection of digital history projects that are designed for high school and higher education history and social studies classes.  These selections offer a variety of implementation pathways allowing immediate use with students (either in full or in part).  Additionally, these would be relevant for history/social science methods classes.

Here is one more general resource, a short video, to help frame and advance your understanding before you dive into the digital history resources.


What project did I miss?  What do you think of these?  Let me know and contact the project designers so they know who is using the resource they created.  Enjoy!

1. The 68.77.89 Project: Arts, Culture, and Social Change: Created by The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, this resource was just launched in early 2018! Students will be challenged to apply the lessons from the experiences of Czechs and Slovaks to better understand issues of democracy today and their responsibility for preserving democracy for the future. 68.77.89 is designed for students in grades 9-12. It provides a set of 12 learning activities in 4 modules that meet Common Core, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate standards. The activities can be used as a set designed to be used together, or in single modules as free-standing lessons. Images of the 4 modules is below.

 

2. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database:  This is a remarkable tool which synthesizes data with visualization formats very effectively.   The database “has information on almost 36,000 slaving voyages that forcibly embarked over 10 million Africans for transport to the Americas between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. In order to present the trans-Atlantic slave trade database to a broader audience, particularly a grade 6-12 audience, a dedicated team of teachers and curriculum developers from around the United States developed lesson plans that explore the database. Utilizing the various resources of the website, these lessons plans allow students to engage the history and legacy of the Atlantic slave trade in diverse and meaningful ways.  Here is one example of a search I did.

3. Slavery Images:  Don’t let the simple look of this collection dissuade you. It is a remarkable resource! “The 1,280 images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public.”  The search feature is easy and inviting.  This photo is from their collection. Powerful indeed. Interior courtyard, where captive Africans were assembled, and “Gate of No Return,” the passageway through which they were led to the beach and from there to slaving vessels waiting offshore. (Photographed by Michael Tuite in Ghana; Aug. 1999)

 

 

4. Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean: This is an intriguing world history curriculum.  Given the unique geography of the transitions currently underway in the Middle East (several geographically contiguous North African states) and the likelihood that interactions between Europe, northern Africa, Turkey, and the Arab world will constitute a vitally important sub-region of globalization going forward, new cross-Mediterranean tendrils of economic and civil society connectivity will be necessary to help anchor these transitions.  An outline of the modules can be viewed here.

5. Rethinking the Region: North Africa and the Middle East:   Another contribution to the field of world history, this project “analyzed the common categories used to describe and teach the Modern Middle East and North Africa in existing  World History textbooks. Based on this research, we offer robust alternatives for Grade 9-12 social studies teachers and multicultural educators that integrate new scholarship and curricula on the region. To this end, we examined the ways in which the region is framed and described historically, and  analyzed categories like the ‘rise and spread of Islam,’ the Crusades, and the Ottoman Empire. Narratives surrounding these events and regions tend to depict discrete and isolated civilizations at odds with one another. To remedy this oversimplification, our work illuminates the manners in which peoples and societies interacted with each other in collaborative and fluid ways at different political and historical junctures.

6. Histography“Histography” is interactive timeline that spans across 14 billion years of history, from the Big Bang to 2015. The site draws historical events from Wikipedia and self-updates daily with new recorded events. The interface allows for users to view between decades to millions of years. The viewer can choose to watch a variety of events which have happened in a particular period or to target a specific event in time. For example you can look at the past century within the categories of war and inventions. Histography was created as a final project in Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Guided by Ronel Mor.  Below is a screenschot of the platform.

Histography

 

7. American Yawp: “In an increasingly digital world in which pedagogical trends are de-emphasizing rote learning and professors are increasingly turning toward active-learning exercises, scholars are fleeing traditional textbooks… The American Yawp offers a free and online, collaboratively built, open American history textbook designed for college-level history courses. Unchecked by profit motives or business models, and free from for-profit educational organizations, The American Yawp is by scholars, for scholars. All contributors—experienced college-level instructors—volunteer their expertise to help democratize the American past for twenty-first century classrooms.”  This is being used in high schools as well. Also, you can offer insights and edits for the editors to consider.

8. Mapping American Social Movements in the 20th Century: “This project produces and displays free interactive maps showing the historical geography of dozens of social movements that have influenced American life and politics since the start of the 20th century, including radical movements, civil rights movements, labor movements, women’s movements, and more. Until now historians and social scientists have mostly studied social movements in isolation and often with little attention to geography. This project allows us to see where social movements were active and where not, helping us better understand patterns of influence and endurance. It exposes new dimensions of American political geography, showing how locales that in one era fostered certain kinds of social movements often changed political colors over time.”  The screenshot below shows a sample of an interactive map.  Fantastic!

9. Eagle Eye Citizen:  Made by the invaluable team at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, Eagle Eye engages middle and high school students in solving and creating interactive challenges about Congress, American history, civics, and government with Library of Congress primary sources. This helps develop students’ civic understanding and historical thinking skills.  It is highly interactive and invites students and teachers to use existing challenges and develop their own.

10.  Mapping the 4th of JulyMapping the Fourth of July is a crowdsourced digital archive of primary sources that reveal how Americans celebrated July 4 during the Civil War era.  These sources reveal how a wide range of Americans — northern and southern, white and black, male and female, Democrat and Republican, immigrant and native born — all used the Fourth to articulate their deepest beliefs about American identity during the great crisis of the Civil War… Whether you teach at the college or high school level, your students will jump at the chance to learn about how a previous generation of Americans celebrated the Fourth. (Yes, there were fireworks!) These are engaging documents that open up big themes: North-South differences; the causes and consequences of the Civil War; African American experiences of emancipation. On our website you’ll find standards-based assignment guidelines that make it easy to integrate it into your courses.

 

11. Back Story:  Incredible podcast focusing on American history topics in a range of contexts. The hosts are fun, informed, and engaging.   BackStory is a weekly podcast that uses current events in America to take a deep dive into our past. Hosted by noted U.S. historians, each episode provides listeners with different perspectives on a particular theme or subject – giving you all sides to the story and then some. Also,  a resources icon indicates that the episode has educator resources available. Use BackStory in your classroom! Just go to the episode archives and filter by episodes with resources.

 

12. Woodrow Wilson Center – Cold War International History Project:

This resource feels like the “godfather” of digital history projects. “Since its establishment in August 1991, the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) has amassed a tremendous collection of archival documents on the Cold War era from the once secret archives of former communist countries. CWIHP has become internationally recognized as the world’s preeminent resource on the Cold War.” The help organize and search the trove of documents, you search using a map, timeline (going back to 1866… great extended context) and contains over 30 featured collections (sample below).

How Do You Teach About Race?

“The perversity of racism is not inherent in the nature of human beings. We are not racist; we become racist just as we may stop being that way.”     – Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Heart, 1997

This past year I found myself thinking differently about my identity.  The change would occur whenever I was completing the “race” category/prompt you find on official forms.  You know what I am referring to (check out the image to the right). Additionally, my school system began to provide cultural competence training that framed diversity largely in racial terms but without addressing what race is. This seemed to be a significant disconnect.  How can you talk about something without defining or explaining it?

Combined, these two factors started a distinct change in my behavior from what had been the norm for over 3 decades.  Instead of checking “White” on these forms,  I began selecting “I do not wish to provide this information” or an option with similar wording.  I must admit, however, that this action is contingent on an important variable –  whether or not the document had defined their categories of race (see below). Defining terms/concepts is indeed an important if we want to engage with them effectively and with depth.  In this case it is especially significant as race is a “hot button” topic and not an objective category across this planet.

Rather, how we conceive of race is informed in part by history, societal factors,  and context. For example, look at samples from these early 21st century census surveys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is going on in each of these and why can’t they all have the same items?

Also, our own understanding about race is informed by our personal learning network and how race is taught in schools.  To explore the topic of teaching about race I propose this key question, “Is there  genetic/biological evidence for the argument that there are multiple races of humans?” With that let’s take a look at some ideas, resources, and suggested follow up questions you can use with your community.

 

Race is not a Myth

People who claim that race is a myth must explain themselves a bit further.  Social constructs are real in that they impact people’s actions and beliefs as well as government’s policies and practices.  For example, the fluidity of race as a construct  and political/economic/social category has existed in the US since the late 18th century.  “Every U.S. census since the first one in 1790 has included questions about racial identity, reflecting the central role of race in American history from the era of slavery to current headlines about racial profiling and inequality. But the ways in which race is asked about and classified have changed from census to census, as the politics and science of race have fluctuated. And efforts to measure the multiracial population are still evolving.”  Indeed, the 2020 census may offer “more examples of the origins that fall under each racial/ethnic category… That census will also drop the word “Negro” from what had been the “Black, African American, or Negro” response option.”

Like culture, and gender, and ethnicity, how we conceive of race can yield an all too real set of pre-conceived notions and beliefs that are seen as “natural” or scientific.  These packaged sets of qualities become static, essentialized, and expected traits about a group.  This process of “othering” reduces a group’s range of variety to an oversimplified point on a spectrum.  Checkout how the recent film Get Out conveyed this psycho-anthropological phenomenon.

 

John Willinsky’s fantastic work Learning to Divide the World: Education at Empire’s End narrates the impact empires had on the racial social constructs that persist. The imperial experiments produced a classification designed to order humans in a hierarchy of development.  The European Enlightenment’s drive to categorize the world manifested a science of race that “offered the most monstrous of imperialism’s lessons… the scientific constitution of races in the West brought greater force and significance of difference to the naming of the other. It further ordered European interests in dividing the world to its advantage.”

Human zoos brought this continuum to life in the 19th, and 20th centuries at the Worlds Fair and similar regional exhibitions in London, Paris, Milan, and New York and beyond. In their most “instructive” role, human zoos would present various groups on a trajectory ranging from primitive/savage to advanced/civilized.

Dissenting voices about the taxonomy of race were rare.  However, in 1791 Johann Gottfeid von Herder  wrote “There are neither four or five races. All mankind are only one.” (emphasis is Herder’s).  Over 150 years later after the killing of World War II, UNESCO’s 1951  statement on race is explicit: “Scientists have reached the general agreement in recognizing that mankind is one: that all men belong to the same species, Homo Sapiens.”  

But I wonder how many people would currently agree with or know about this statement?  What is informing their concept of race?  Shouldn’t race be taught using the consensus of contemporary scientific communities?

The opportunity to inform and provide people with a useful base and conceptual framework is a necessary and powerful tool.   As Freire notes (in the opening quote) humans can change. Education can facilitate that change.

 

Where to Find Answers

This is an important section of this blog post. These past few weeks my colleague and I explored the VA curriculum frameworks in science and social studies looking for explanations about how to teach about race.  Neither of us found any explicit direction in our content field on what students should learn about or how to engage with “race.”    Instead, the world history curriculum related it to slavery (race being a factor or not) and the U.S. history course implied its use in Standard 8 of the 2015 revisions.

The student will apply social science skills to understand how the nation grew and changed from the end of Reconstruction through the early twentieth century by d) analyzing the impact of prejudice and discrimination, including “Jim Crow” laws, the responses of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois, and the practice of eugenics in Virginia

(We believe similar gaps of intentional usage for race exist in IB and AP equivalent classes.  But a more exhaustive effort will be needed to confirm this lack of intentionality).

So, where is one to find tools, information, and resources that can be used with students and colleagues to teach about race?  As a start, I have included some influential documentaries and journal articles below.  I do hope these items spark further inquiry and inspiration. Please, keep me posted of what you find.

 

Journals/Articles

 

Documentaries

  • 13th – Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans. (2016).

 

  • The Chinese Exclusion Act – A new film by Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu and scheduled to appear on PBS American Experience in 2017.

 

 

  •  LA 92  – A look at the events that led up to the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles following the Rodney King beating by the police. (2017)

 

  • Shoah Claude Lanzmann’s epic documentary recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with witnesses – perpetrators as well as survivors. (1985)

 

 

The UN SDGs 

The UN goals provide so much educational value.  They are, in essence,  a 21st century curriculum.  Unbridled by disciplines, the UN SDGs are accessible by all fields of study and celebrates relevance where some educators, parents, and students offer limited expressions for the “Why?” of education.

Over  century ago in 1900 in London at the Pan-African Convention, W.E.B. Du Bois  gave a closing statement titled “To the Nations of the World” .  Du Bois states that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color Image result for du boisline, the question of how far differences of race-which show themselves chiefly in the color of skin and the texture of the hair-will hereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization.”  The problem clearly continues in the 21st century in varying forms – structures of power, ignorance, hate, identity politics etc.   Thankfully race has not gone unnoticed on the global stage.

Goal 10 of the UN SDGs addresses race as  a list of categories that as Du Bois noted, deny “the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization.” Taken on its own, or in conjunction with other SDG, Goal 10 demands that race be part of the learning experiences we provide for students and part of the discussions we have in order to take action.

Goal 10 calls for reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status within a country. The Goal also addresses inequalities among countries, including those related to representation, migration and development assistance.

 

For the UN SDG to be a relevant part of students’ learning, connections to the topic must be explicit and intentional.  Moreover, the UN SDGs  lend themselves to grade level through the project based learning, inquiry, blended learning, and problem based learning models.  Checkout the video below for a summary of goal 10.

 

Your Action Items – Ask these Questions

I feel that this blog post is, sadly, timely.  These past few days I came across two stories that involved racially motivated attacks and killings.  Maybe a better way to put it is that the assaults were motivated by ignorance.  One significant aspect of each story is how “race” is framed.

Please know that I am not stating that education is the solution to all problems. But, I do believe that how we teach something is significant.  Currently, we seem to discredit race as concept necessary for students to understand both scientifically and socially.

By not explicitly teaching about race as a flawed and limited social construct that has no scientific backing, then we are not even trying to address the limited understanding and world views that exist.  This can, at worst, lead to violent behavior and dismiss the topic to another generation to content with – see Du Bois above.

To close, I offer these questions for you to consider  as a way to start talking and teaching  about race in the 21st century in your community.  Doing so may lead to some of the most significant conclusions and “a-ha” moments your students  and colleagues will have  both now and in the future.

  1. To what extent and in what ways do your local, state, or programmatic curriculum/standards address race?
  2. If your school provides professional learning on inter-cultural competency or diversity training, how do they present race?
  3. How does your community (students, colleagues, parents, administration, school board) think and act regarding topics related to race?
  4. When and how do students have the opportunity to learn about and engage with race?
  5. What perspectives and resources inform you and your community about race?
  6. To what extent is race a taboo topic in your school?
  7. In interviews, can the people you hire explain their understanding of concepts like  – gender, ethnicity, class, and race?

 

 

 

Narrative, Graphic Novels, and Globalization: An Interview with Dr. Trevor Getz

History is the construction of our understanding of the past.  Taking part in that process  is an existential exercise which, in turn, influences our contemporary world view. These three quotes remind me about the importance and power of narrative creation and its subsequent relationship to collective and individual identity.

  • “It seems evident, then, that skill in narrative construction and narrative understanding is crucial to constructing our lives and a “place” for ourselves in the possible world we will encounter.” Jerome Bruner
  • ”Over time and cultures, the most robust and most effective form of communication is the creation of a powerful narrative.” Howard Gardner

Moreover, the recognition, creation, and analysis of historical narratives  are essential activities for students in history classes in high school and higher education.  What resources teachers use with students, as well as the explicit connection to broad concepts and contemporary realities all make for relevant and valuable teaching and learning. I had the pleasure of meeting professor Trevor Getz at a recent AHA planning meeting for the 2018 Conference being held in Washington D.C.  Our interview highlights his work with students and the use of graphic novels to develop their historical thinking. Trevor can be reached at either tgetz@sfsu.edu or tgetz@ebuukuu.com

Enjoy!

 

1- Tell us about your journey to becoming a historian and your interest in studying Africa I learned to love history sitting on my grandpa’s knee while he told stories of “the war.”  I was the only grand kid who

Professor of History Trevor Getz, poses in front of scenes from his scholarly graphic novel “Abina and the Important Men.” Getz recently created a company called Ebuukuu.com to apply this graphic model to other areas of study. Photo by Tony Santos / Xpress

wanted to listen.  I loved touching his medals, and watching as he drew pictures of fortifications, and looking through his black-and-white photo albums. I thought I wanted to be a military historian, but then as an undergraduate at Berkeley I learned to love political history, and doing my MA in Cape Town came to appreciate social history, and finally began my transition to cultural history during my PhD research at the School of Oriental and African Studies. In the process, I became immersed in the history of Africa.  My first real mentor was Chris Saunders, at the University of Cape Town, who tamed my rambunctious American-ness with his precise and calm Anglo ways.  Then with the larger-than-life and wonderfully inspiring professor, Richard Rathbone – truly a spectacular mentor and a fixture in the study of Ghana’s past.

2- When did graphic novels come into the mix and how have they impacted your teaching?    

My dissertation (and subsequent first book) was very much a social history – putting together many different sources in an attempt to converge them on an explanation for social change in the wake of the criminalization of slavery in nineteenth century Ghana and Senegal.   But in the years that followed, I learned to dig deep into single sources, figuring out how to pull apart one document or picture or diary account and explain what it meant.  Most of the sources I was working with, it turned out, featured young people – enslaved or otherwise suffering, but frequently strong and inspiring nevertheless.  I wanted to bring their stories, their accounts, and their worldviews to the public. I was searching, for much of the 2000s, for a medium that would allow me to do that.  I had to dig back into my own past to find one.  Of course, not everyone could have a Grampa like mine to inspire them to study the past, and these stories in any case didn’t lend themselves to grandparently memory.  But the other “history” inspiration of my youth was the comic book – including Franco-Belgian works like Tintin but also Art Spiegelman’s incredible Maus.  So, I thought I’d experiment with comics (or the “graphic novel”) as a medium for telling the story of a young, enslaved woman who forced the government of a Crown Colony to listen to her.  Thanks in part to an incredible editor (Charles Cavaliere at Oxford UP) and wonderful artist-collaborator (Liz Clarke in South Africa) it somehow worked out, and Abina and the Important Men came into being.  Now we’ve developed a multi-platform app as well, for the high school classroom.  Any teacher interested in trying out the app should email me.

 

3- What do you want readers to know about your award winning graphic novel, Abina and the Important Men? 

This is a book about NOW, because it’s a book about power.  It’s about the power that important men use to subjugate others, like Abina Mansah, who was twice enslaved and then censored and silenced.  It’s about the power that even seemingly defenseless people have to make their voice heard, as Abina did in that colonial courtroom. It’s about the power that historians have (and sometimes abuse) to tell people’s stories in a way that appeals to them, and the power that we all have to challenge and correct historians’ interpretations.  Power is part of any society, but we don’t have to accept the way it operates, just as Abina refused to accept attempts to silence her.

 

4- I argue that one of the best skills people develop from studying history is that they learn how to analyze and evaluate narratives. What do you think are some practical skills students develop by studying the past?

Historians, I firmly believe, are interpreters.  The past is a foreign country, and we try to help people in the present to understand what is said and done there, and what it means.  Learning to analyze and evaluate not only primary sources but also the work of scholars is a key step in developing a critical mind and media literacy.  I talk about this quite a bit in a brief video put together at SF State. I love working with teachers who develop critical tools for this kind of work as well.  I especially appreciate the  incredible mock trial and role playing exercises that David Sherrin from Harvest Collegiate put together to help students analyze and interpret Abina’s testimony.  

 

5- Great. And what about the relating the study of the past to understand globalization? Any major connections?

Everything is global, right?  Just like everything is local.  We are much richer today for understanding the ways in which even the deep past was shaped by interaction between people, products, species, and ideas moving between societies often separated by vast distances.  What we’ve learned is that in analyzing any situation in the present, we have to develop a scope that includes factors both near and far as well as from the recent and distant past. But how can we move from knowing that this need exists to actually effectively conducting analysis of global as well as local factors?  That’s a difficult question, and one on which many historians are working. Obviously, we can’t answer it here.  But I do have one thought that has become clear to me over the past several years:  there’s no point in teaching content without teaching the underlying skills to work with and interpret it.  Telling students that the global past matters doesn’t do anything unless they know how to read or view sources and pull from them the evidence of global interaction.

 

6- What’s on the horizon for you and any final comments? 

I’m working on so many projects!  I have a book on teaching African history about to come out with Duke University Press, a volume I’m co-editing with Rebecca Shumway on slavery and its legacy in Ghana and the Diaspora, and a pet long-term project using comics, other forms of art, oral tradition, and pop-up museums to understand how Ghanaians study their own past.  But I’m also teaching, and being an administrator.  Most of all, though, I continue to try to think of interesting strategies to engage students with the past in ways that help them to build critical and creative skills they will need for their lives moving forward.

Thank you Trevor.  I look forward to future scholarship and collaboration,  and wish you a great 2017!

Are You Teaching for Tomorrow? Making the Turn to Global Education

Across the United States the new school year has commenced. 48950618.cached  To kick off SY 16-17 I want to share some thoughts & resources that impacted, or reinforced, my views on education this summer. Specifically, this post emphasizes the need for building student understanding of and ability to succeed in a globalized world. How teachers design learning experiences for students (the combination of resources, instruction, assessment, and student outcomes) is indicative of a teacher’s vision and understanding of the purpose of education.

As you explore the post and resources below, keep in mind 3 common aspects of the type of education I am highlighting:

  1. Content/Course work is always framed or connected to contemporary issues or present circumstances.
  2. The teacher is a facilitator of learning and supports student inquiry and development of skills and
    content.
  3. Students are expected to take action or produce information for public interaction and/or for the development of their own world view.  In short, assessments go beyond just the teacher’s eyes.

Ok, my point of entry for this topic is a very simple yet powerful reflective prompt.  In the last few months, this Image result for globe with question mark
question has repeatedly popped up in various media and manifested in conversations I had  with people from a range of professional backgrounds. Drum roll…

That question is: Are you teaching for tomorrow?

Despite being simple, this question generates complex and stimulating responses. Moreover, it can very well be the cornerstone of your personal educational philosophy, a guiding principle for a team/department, or, starting point to develop an instructional/assessment model. In other words, if an adult walked into a classroom, would they feel like they time traveled to their high school Image result for 1980s classroom overheadexperience of 1970s, 1980s, 1990s etc?  This would imply t hat students are being taught for 20th century goals with 20th century methods and beliefs. If so,  that  is an an eyebrow raiser indeed.

The most compelling way to teach for tomorrow  is to utilize practices that address global citizenship – a combination of knowledge, skills, and dispositions whose goal focuses on students’ futures – not to replicate the educational experiences their teacher had.   (On a side note it is imperative to prepare teachers to be globally competent in pre-service programs and to continue that training with continuing development opportunities. However,  this is for a future post but a teaser is provided below with the collaborative tool, Padlet).

Ok,  watch this inspiring Ted Talk about Global Citizenship/Education which includes the practice being done in urban centers and with elementary students.

 

What a great video… multiple main themes are expressed with applications.  Moreover, the sentiment about teaching for tomorrow is framed in practical contexts. Mary Hayden puts it this way:  

Even for those school-age students today who will never in adulthood leave their native shores, the future is certain to be so heavily influenced by international developments and their lives within national boundaries so affected by factors emanating from outside those boundaries that they will be hugely disadvantaged by an education that has not raised their awareness of, sensitivity to and facility with issues arising from beyond a national “home” context. 

By the way, if this statement doesn’t impact, reinforce, change, or inspire the way you teach or develop your own practice please let me know. We need to talk.

So, What Can Teaching For the Future Look Like?

I mentioned above 4 inroads for teachers to make a global turn for teaching and learning- resources, instruction, assessment, and student outcomes.  The suggestions below address each of these inroads (they are not Image result for world with light bulbmutually exclusive).  Utilizing any of them with your classes  explicitly and intentionally  teaches for tomorrow. Content knowledge, skills, and students’ world views are developed from a stance that is forward looking and applicable beyond classroom walls. Additionally, globalization (and all its systems, issues, possibilities etc.) – not nationalism, not a test, not industrialization -moves to the center of your students’ classroom experiences.

Here are some tools and suggestions to consider and follow up on. The bold orange headings are the topics/practices that embraces global education and citizenship.  Below them are links to online tools and resources related to the headings in orange. These are only a start…

 

 

 

 

So, to finish this post, but not this topic, I want share one more video that addresses the importance of global citizenship and effectively discredits the claim that global citizenship is impossible because of its reliance on nationhood.  To those individuals I refer them to the realities of stateless refugees and to the team of refugees who competed in the Rio Olympics.

Enjoy exploring the suggested readings and the Padlet comments below.  Lastly, Teach for Tomorrow! Your students and the world will be grateful.

 

Suggested Reading:

 

Padlet Used for Feedback on Global Education from a  Teacher Workshop:

U.S. History in a Global Context: A Free Resource for Educators

Globalization has changed the purpose of education. In response to the demands of an increasingly complex, nuanced, and connected world, schools in the United States offer a variety of global experiences for students.  These approaches seek to develop students’ global competencies. One way these competencies can be met is to globalize the teaching and learning of U.S. History.

Currently, the AP, IB,  the Common Core State Standards, the C3 Framework, and NCSS themes all share this call to infuse global perspectives into contemporary education.   Moreover, groups like the Asia Society, VIF, and World Savvy have identified frameworks and credentials addressing global competency for students and teachers. However, there is a need for resources, instructional approaches, and assessment types dedicated to placing U.S. History in a
Global Context instead of teaching it in isolation.
connectThe great news is that resource is now available!

The U.S. History in a Global Context project is a dynamic resource that supports teachers’ move toward this broader contextualization. The resources we have assembled are designed to inspire teacher creativity, develop lessons, modify instruction, and bolster understanding of the “How” and “Why” of globalizing U.S. History .

Additionally, we hope that the project develops your advocacy for this approach to teaching U.S. History. Ultimately, by using this “global turn” you will better prepare your students to succeed in the future.

  •  For an overview of the resource, watch this screencast:

http://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cDeVfZ16OF

  •  Resource Website is here:

http://globalushistory.edublogs.org/

To finish, I want to reference the prolific historian, Dr. Peter Stearns. He notes,

“A more global framework creates new perspectives, and some fresh challenges, making American history a livelier experience and, of course, linking it to other history courses in a less fragmented way. Ultimately, I would suggest, a global approach to American history lets us deal with three key, and difficult, questions – important ones, but tough ones as well.”

I hope you enjoy and utilize this resource.  It will go through monthly updates throughout 2016.  If you would like to contribute to the resource, please reach out through the U.S, in Global Context feedback area.

Globalizing US History: How To Do It!

This past summer the first annual Untold History Institute was held in New York City. The event was attended by mostly secondary educators from multiple states.  I had the honor of leading a workshop that weekend on Globalizing US History.   The institute coincided with Untold History’s release in Brazil this July.  Having lived there for 6 years, I  can easily imagine what book stores in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro would be featuring the text.  But I digress…  In addition to the workshops, Oliver Stone attended a viewing of an episode of the multi-volume documentary. Following the airing, Mr. Stone along with Dr. Peter Kuznick  and myself took part in a panel discussion and Q and A session with the audience moderated by former NCSS President and current state Social Studies Consultant for Connecticut Stephen Armstrong.

Untold New

(L – R) Armstrong, Perrier, Kuznick, and Stone

Incidentally, the documentary series is excellent.  I especially enjoy the later episodes that focus on the Clinton – Obama administrations.

So, how does this all get us back to the purpose of this post?  As an educator I believe it is important to start with and be able to answer the “Why?” of teaching and learning. Simply put, I should be able to provide valid rationales (both mine and others, for example the La Pietra Report) for instructional, assessment, content, and student outcome decisions.   But at the Untold History Institute, participants came to the event with the “Why?” already answered.

This freed up time to address the “How?” of globalizing US History.  This is an equally important question that moves theory into practice.  I must note, the general feeling among teachers was to start small and build from there. Moreover, because time is precious, finding and sharing of resources that can be used to globalize US History is a practice we encourage.

Regardless of the approach(es) you use, teachers must decide how they will frame the nation as a tool for historical investigation with their students. Each of the approaches recognizes the nation-state as a way to explore the past, but assert that using the nation as a lens to the past is not the only way or the best way for students to conceptualize history.

Below, I have provided an overview of the 4 approaches I used in the workshop. Please note, it is better not to view these as mutually exclusive. Rather these 4 approaches have nuances that distinguish them from each other but still overlap or are used in tandem.

 1) Comparative Approach:  Framing US events, people, ideas etc. in relation to a non-US equivalent.  By doing this, students are provided a context and relational view.

-Example:   Everything is relative, but conclusions can be made/argued in context.  Comparison informs our claims about “how revolutionary the American Revolution was” or “how powerful is the US economy.”

-Sample Resource:

  • World War 2 Casualties:  An animated data-driven documentary about war and peace, The Fallen of World War II looks at the human cost of the second World War and sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including trends in recent conflicts..

2) Transnational Approach:The nation is not the focus of historical engagement.  Rather ideas, groups, events  etc are recognized as phenomenon that cross borders. In addition, historical actors in this approach are not the common textbook actors.  In turn, terms like hybridity, interaction, fusion, synthesis etc are used in opposition to claims of self-contained, static, packaged national/cultural units.

-Example: This was the approach the summer workshop teachers used (they blew me away).  Their topic was looking at emancipation from a transnational perspective. This recognizes that ideas travel and are guided by people and groups and not necessarily by nations or governments.

-Sample Resources

3) Non-US Perspective about “US” Events:  At the heart of this approach is the question, “Can we learn about ourselves from the way others see us?” Teachers use non-US perspectives to question national claims, beliefs, and preconceived notions  about US history.Poster - Shameful Brand of American "Democracy"

  -Example:  The sky is the limit.  The book History Lessons (below)  is an interesting start by looking at how textbooks around the world introduce US history.  In my experience, the Civil War and Civil Rights era are commonly explored from a non-US perspective.

-Sample Resource:  Soviet Propaganda Poster (1963)  The caption reads “Shameful Brand of American “Democracy” under a lynching scene. 

 

 

4)Thematic Approach: US events are situated as an example of larger themes in world history.  It is important to note that global events retain local/national variations and are not seen as simply repeated events.  In this approach US is part of world history, not an exceptional other. 

-Example: The American Civil War had a global impact.  Framing the war as part of a trend in world history that centralized political power and secured national boundaries places our historical view at 80,000 feet.

-Sample Resource:  I created this ThingLink tool to visualize the claim above.

 

In Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 the exchange between a young US soldier and older Italian is one of my favorites.  What do you make of it?   Does it relate to any contemporary events? What about the impact of nuclear weapons on global politics and power?  Is morality a national or human universal?

Anyway, I am going to finish with this short list of resources.  They have all influenced my thinking, teaching, and world view.  Lastly, on Wednesday, November 18th at 6:00 PM EST I will be leading a session on this topic during the 2015 Global Education Conference.  Stop in if you can (it’s online) or watch the recording. More to come…

Enjoy!

 

Suggested Books thatHelp You Globalize US History

  1. History Lessons (2004) – Dana Lindaman and Kyle Ward: The widely contrasting approaches to U.S. history that can be found in the textbooks of other nations.
  2. Transnational Nation (2007) Ian Tyrrell: The development of nationalism, movement of peoples, imperialism, industrialization, environmental change and the struggle for equality are all key themes in the study of both US history and world history. 
  3. America in the World (2007) – Carl Guarneri: This text examines how larger global processes have had a role in each stage of American development, how this country’s experiences were shared by people elsewhere, and how America’s growing influence ultimately changed the world.
  4. American Compared Vol 1 and 2 (2006) Carl Guarneri: Ideal for instructors seeking to present U.S. history in a global context, this innovative reader pairs comparative readings on key issues such as slavery, immigration, imperialism, civil rights, and western expansion.
  5. The Twentieth Century World and Beyond (2011) – William Keylor: The book’s unique analytical framework–which focuses on the relationships between and among countries rather than on individual histories–helps students easily examine how the nations of the world have interacted since the beginning of the last century.
  6. Among Empires (2007) – Charles Maier: The book’s unique analytical framework–which focuses on the relationships between and among countries rather than on individual histories–helps students easily examine how the nations of the world have interacted since the beginning of the last century.
  7. A Nation Among Nations (2006) – Thomas Bender: Thomas Bender recasts the developments central to American history by setting them in a global context, and showing both the importance and ordinariness of America’s international entanglements over five centuries.
  8. America on the World Stage (2008) – Gary Reichard and Ted Dickson: Each xhapter covers a specific chronological period and approaches fundamental topics and events in United States history from an international perspective, emphasizing how the development of the United States has always depended on its transactions with other nations for commodities, cultural values, and populations.
  9. The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (2007) – Dave Armitage: In a stunningly original look at the American Declaration of Independence, David Armitage reveals the document in a new light: through the eyes of the rest of the world. Not only did the Declaration announce the entry of the United States onto the world stage, it became the model for other countries to follow.
  10. The Global Cold War (2007) – Odd Westad: This volume shows how the globalization of the Cold War during the 20th century created the foundations for most of today’s key international conflicts, including the “war on terror.”
  11. The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order (2010) – David Ekbladh: The text traces how America’s global modernization efforts during the twentieth century were a means to remake the world in its own image. For proponents, it became a valuable weapon to check the influence of menacing ideologies such as Fascism and Communism.
  12. The Wilsonian Moment (2009) – Erez Manela: This book is the first to place the 1919 Revolution in Egypt, the Rowlatt Satyagraha in India, the May Fourth movement in China, and the March First uprising in Korea in the context of a broader “Wilsonian moment” that challenged the existing international order.
  13. Teaching Global History (2011) – Alan Singer: The text challenges prospective and beginning social studies teachers to formulate their own views about what is important to know in global history and why. It explains how to organize the curriculum around broad social studies concepts and themes and student questions about humanity, history, and the contemporary world.
  14. Teaching Recent Global History (2014) – Diana Turk et al.: The authors’ unique approach unites historians, social studies teachers, and educational curriculum specialists to offer historically rich, pedagogically innovative, and academically rigorous lessons that help students connect with and deeply understand key events and trends in recent global history.
  15. Rethinking American History in the Global Age (2002) – Thomas Bender: In rethinking and reframing the American national narrative in a wider context, the contributors to this volume ask questions about both nationalism and the discipline of history itself. The essays offer fresh ways of thinking about the traditional themes and periods of American history.
  16. The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War (2015) – Don Doyle: A bold account of the international dimensions of America’s defining conflict, The Cause of All Nations frames the Civil War as a pivotal moment in a global struggle that would decide the survival of democracy.
  17. The Savage Wars of Peace (2002, 2014) – Max Boot: America’s smaller actions—such as the recent conflicts in Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Kosovo, and Afghanistan—have made up the vast majority of our military engagements, and yet our armed forces do little to prepare for these “low intensity conflicts.”A compellingly readable history of the forgotten wars that helped promote America’s rise in the last two centuries.

Summering with Shulman: What did you add to your (T)PCK Repertoire?

When I am asked by people for advice or have the ears of social studies educators I work with (rookie or veteran) I like to share this bit of advice–  “Each year, be sure to add at least one new aspect of teaching to your repertoire.”  I have come to consider this sentiment to be a core belief, maybe wisdom at this point, of my professional philosophy and personal world view.

This synthesis of professional and personal convictions reminds me of scholar Lee Shulman’s concept of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Shulman stressed the interplay of two domains often considered to be exclusive aspects of K-16 teaching: subject matter expertise and instruction. He reminds us,

“If teachers are to be successful they would have to confront both issues (of content and pedagogy) simultaneously, by embodying the aspects of content most germane to its teachability… It represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction.” (Shulman, 1986, p. 8-9)

Here is Shulman in 2011 reflecting on teaching and education.  The 55 minutes are well worth it. So get a coffee and some ice cream, and enjoy!

 

Welcome back. In 1987 Shulman co-authored an article I consider part of the pedagogical canon, “150 different ways of knowing: Representations of knowledge in teaching.”  In essence,  a synthesis of understanding by the teacher is part of each class and, in turn, the educator’s professional expertise. For example, using a high school English class reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin as an example, pedagogical uses of literature and the role of discussion  as an instructional strategy in uncovering meanings in the work, combined with subject matter knowledge of the history of slavery and abolition can be represented using a simple Venn diagram labeled with Shulman’s theory.

So, from Shulman, I return to my very simple recommendation: expand your instructional repertoire every year by trying something new that can help students engage with your content.  This summer my goal was…well still is… to improve my expertise with a range of educational technology tools  so that I can use them with my students and promote them among my colleagues. Each of them can be used with online, traditional and blended approaches to teaching and learning.  Moreover, the 6 tools below are applicable to a range of content areas. Mastering them and then using them with intent in your classes will place you in that sweet spot of Shulman’s Venn diagram.

 

1) Thinglink (Interactive Images)

This tool “develops interactive images that help students develop 21st-century skills and enrich their enthusiasm for learning… It’s an engaging, all-inclusive tool for students to demonstrate their learning, though its full potential depends on how teachers use it.”

I am super excited about this one.  You, and your students, can take any image (including maps, political cartoons, data charts, etc.) and add information to it – explanatory notes, prompts and questions, video, additional information, links, etc.  I created this one below to collect the Atlantic World via music. In the end, with ThingLink, your creativity, content knowledge. and instructional vision is the limit.

9 Songs About Society from the Atlantic World, 1957-1988

   

 

 

2) Google Cultural Institute: Historic Moments (Online Exhibits/Content) From the f0lks at Google, the Historic Moment portal to their umbrella website “Cultural Institute” provides “online exhibitions detailing the stories behind significant moments in human history. Each exhibition tells a story using documents, photos, videos and in some cases personal accounts of events.” Wow! Be sure to explore tutorials on the site or a growing repository by people online. The content is growing  and is useful for online, face to face, ad blended approaches to teaching about the past.  So far, my two favorites are “The Second World War in 100 Objects” and “Nelson Mandela: One Man’s Memory.”  Bookmark this one and share it far and wide.   

 

3) Joomla! (Content Management Platform)  “A content management platform is software that keeps track of every piece of content on your Web site, much like your local public library keeps track of books and stores them. Content can be simple text, photos, music, video, documents, or just about anything you can think of. A major advantage of using a CMS is that it requires almost no technical skill or knowledge to manage. A mobile-ready and user-friendly way to build your website. Choose from thousands of features and designs. Joomla! is free and open source.”  How do you organize and present you resources to students? Where can students interact with the assignments, resources, and assessments you create and use?  Joomla is ideal for creating your own electronic portfolio as well and getting your research out in the public sphere.    

 

4) Social Explorer (Visualizing Data): This tool was introduced to me by my colleague, Patti Winch. See, sharing does work! “Social Explorer provides quick and easy access to current and historical census data and demographic information. The easy-to-use web interface lets users create maps and reports to illustrate, analyze, and understand demography and social change.”  Amazingly, it contains data from each census back to 1790!  I am excited to tap into this tool with gusto.  Take a look at what can be done.  

 

    5) Screencast-o-matic  (Presentations) –Screencast-o-matic is video and audio screen capture software. In the classroom, Screencast-o-matic is useful for recording audio commentary on student writing, recording a mini-lecture, narrating a presentation, or any other function you can think of! Ok, so this isn’t a new one for me, but they have recently expanded by adding a bunch of new features.  So, I need to catch up.  I have students create their own explaining their final paper topic Here is a short example of a screencast I made and use in class.

 

      6) Ted Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing: (Online Lessons) “TED-Ed’s commitment to creating lessons worth sharing is an extension of TED’s mission of spreading great ideas. Within TED-Ed’s growing library of lessons, you will find carefully curated educational videos, many of which represent collaborations between talented educators and animators nominated through the TED-Ed platform.”

My goal is to submit a lesson that will be accepted and then made into a Ted Ed lesson.  Review your resources, and your colleagues (because you can nominate teachers too) for outstanding lessons.  We all have gems that should be shared with as many educators and students.

Now, if these tools have not captured your interest, check out these two lists for more options.

 

So, where can this bring us. Back to Shulman of course, and then beyond.  By recognizing educational technology as a domain of knowledge for educators’ to master, we transfer PCK to TPCK.  “Technological pedagogical content knowledge refers to the knowledge and understanding of the interplay between CK, PK and TK when using technology for teaching and learning (Schmidt, Thompson, Koehler, Shin, & Mishra, 2009). It includes an understanding of the complexity of relationships between students, teachers, content, practices and technologies (Archambault & Crippen, 2009).”  

Whatever tools you add to your repertoire, I say congratulations! You have modeled life-long learning and are an inspiration to your students and colleagues.  Let me know what works for you, suggest additional tools, and stay in touch via twitter:  @CraigPerrier 

Enjoy the rest of your summer!   

Oliver Stone’s Untold History Project: Developing Historical Thinking and Argumentation in Students

Greetings from San Diego!  I recently had the pleasure of co-teaching an AP US History class on 20th Century US Foreign Policy.  The teacher, Mr. John Struck – 2014 Winner of the Gilder-Lehrman VA teacher of the year, and I created an “Opposing Viewpoints” lesson around the claim of “US Interwar Isolationism.”  The lesson targeted the course’s newly established  Historical Thinking Skills .  Specifically, we focused on these two: Historical argumentation and Appropriate use of relevant historical evidence and challenged students to formulate a short essay response based on the following sources:

    1. Our two 15 min presentations
    2. Prior knowledge (class textbook etc.)
    3. A general Q and A session where students could ask the presenters to clarify, elaborate etc.
    4. Structured small group discussions among students on how they would form their reply

Historical Thinking Skills – Historical Argumentation from The Gilder Lehrman Institute on Vimeo.

This approach to teaching and learning about the past, that is presenting students with a provocative question followed my multiple, opposing historical narratives (or constructed claims about the past) is an effective approach grounded in constuctivist theory. In this class the guiding question was “To what extent can US interwar foreign policy be considered isolationist?” In addition, students were exposed to content relevant concepts including “Soft Power”, “Hard Power”, “Agency”, and “Multi-lateral.”

In the 1987 Metahistory, historian Hayden White sketches this pluralistic standpoint as such: “we are free to conceive ‘history’ as we please, just as we are free to make of it what we will” (p. 433). In such a climate, the plurality of narratives, readings, and interests foregrounds polyphony, or in Ihab Hassan’s term “multivocation,” a postmodern feature that maintains that there exist multiple versions of reality or truths as read, seen, and interpreted from different perspectives.

Or, as French Philosopher Paul Ricoeur encapsulated and reminded us: “If it is true that there is always more than one way of construing a text, it is not true that all interpretations are equal.”

Simply beautiful!

 

Fast forward  to a 2015 article by Stephane Levesque, Probing the Historical Consciousness of Canadians and you can see this congealing of history education, narrative, and identity.  Levesque, professor of education at the University of Ottawa asks important and complex questions related to these themes:

  1. Is identity a key factor to relating to history?
  2. What historical sources do people consider trustworthy?
  3. How do they construct a sense of the collective past?
  4. How should classroom teachers engage students…in learning national history?
  5. What role should this kind of survey play in evaluating students’ prior historical knowledge and thinking?

Ultimately, Levesque notes the disconnect between High School History teachers and historical research and the subsequent difficulty to enact change at the secondary level. “Scholarly knowledge by itself is not enough to change practice. Simply telling teachers… about new evidence and urging them to change their practice is rather ineffective.”

teaching history logoI disagree with Levesque’s point somewhat. I have had multiple opportunities to work with scholars that brought about an expansion of my knowledge base and powerful reflection about my practice. I urge high school teachers to seek out these opportunities and in fact attempt to create such connections in m y current position.

Enter Dr. Eric Singer and Oliver Stone’s Untold History project.   I had a chance to talk with Singer, Historian, Principal Researcher and Educational Outreach Coordinator for Untold History of the United States.  The discussion  added to the topics mentioned above and highlighted what the project offers teachers, including free resources and a summer institute.  

Hi Eric. Thank you for taking some time to discuss history education. Who is involved in the Untold History of the United States project and what has been   your outreach to educators?

Involvement expands by the day.  Since late 2012, we have brought together a veritable army of people who crave an singeralternative to traditional historical narratives that have persisted for way too long.  Teachers, administrators, curriculum writers, activists, public intellectuals, journalists and academics have helped us organize screenings, develop curriculum, establish a vibrant website, organize speaking engagements and facilitate cross-disciplinary communication.

In 2012 I took on the role of Educational Outreach Coordinator for a new Untold History Education Project.  Since then, we have keynoted several social studies and education conferences including NCSS 2013 and ALA 2013.  We have also anchored scores of other events including a discussion with students at Stuyvesant High School in New York, the commemoration of the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, AR and the keynote of the 2015 Northern Nevada Council of Social Studies conference.  Along the way, we established an advisory group for the project that includes award-winning master teachers, curriculum specialists, leaders in the social studies field, academics and activists.

  Describe your resources and opportunities for educators and students.

We developed a curriculum guide to go along with the Untold History documentary and books.  The guide, which is aligned to the California State Social Studies Standards, is designed with Common Core in mind.  It is available for untold historyfree on our website.  The lesson plans contained within are all primary source-based, inductive and mindful of multiple teaching and learning styles.  They provide suggestions for teachers, but are flexibly crafted so that teachers can exercise their own creativity and employ their own expertise.

In December, we released Volume 1 of the Untold History Young Readers’ Edition, which boils down the content of the series and original adult book for middle and early high school students.  Volume 1 covers Reconstruction, war profiteering during World War I, the causes of the Great Depression, World War II and the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The original Untold History book is currently being used in AP and other upper-level high school classrooms across the country and around the world.  Volumes 2, 3 and 4 are now in production and will be released in 2016 and 2017.

Any new plans or events coming up in the future?

In July, we will host the first annual Untold History summer teaching institute, Teaching “Untold” History.  The institute, which will run from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 is open to all middle and high school teachers.

 

Topics of concentration will include “Moving Beyond the Textbook,” “Globalizing US History” and “Deconstructing Engrained Narratives.”  This experience will be valuable to teachers of AP and IB instructional programs, as well as teachers of non-affiliated curriculum.  The ultimate goal is to establish methods that empower students to think critically about history and the world around them, so that they may become better informed participants in the democratic process.

 

The institute will also attempt to critique historiographical approaches to instruction.  Ultimately, we will publish our curricular products on the Untold History website, making them available to teachers across the country and around the world.  We will also seek out other potential venues for publication and outreach.

 

Thank you Eric.  I am looking forward to the July Conference! 

Information on the Conference is Provided Below. Hope to see you there.

Teaching “Untold” History Summer Institute July 10-12, 2015

East Side Middle School 331 E. 91st St.

New York, NY

Please join us for an exciting and invigorating weekend as we explore ways to engage multiple historical perspectives in the classroom. Historians, master teachers and curriculum specialists will lead intimate, interactive weekend-long workshops⎯out of which will come tangible curriculum designed for teaching some of the most controversial topics in recent history.

Director Oliver Stone and Historian Peter Kuznick, co-writers of the Showtime documentary series Untold History of the United States and companion book, are scheduled to participate.

This experience will be valuable for

  • Middle and High School US History Teachers working with Common Core requirements
  • Middle and High School US History Teachers working in non-Common Core environments
  • AP teachers
  • IB teachers
  • Any teacher interested in developing ways to teach multiple perspectives to diverse groups of students.

There is a $200 fee to attend, which covers the cost of speakers and 2 meals/day. Attendees will also receive:

  • Continuing education certificates
  • Copies of Untold History DVD, book and Young Readers’ Edition
  • Resources produced from the workshop
  • Networking opportunities with public historians, academics and curriculum specialists
  • Copies of the Untold History of the United States curriculum guide, designed to accompany each episode of the documentary series.

We have reserved a block of rooms at the Courtyard New York Marriott Upper East Side. Rooms with 1 king bed are $195/nt, 2 queen beds $215/nt.

It will be possible to share rooms in order to minimize costs.

For more information on institute content, lodging options or to register, please contact:

  • Eric Singer, MEd, PhD Principal Researcher and Educational Outreach Coordinator Untold History Education Project
  • (410) 830-9789
  • es1355a@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiat Lux! The European Enlightenment in 2015 – Teaching Beyond the Anglo-French Narrative

Happy 2015!

The European Enlightenment is a fun topic to teach.  Teachers that tap into their creative energies design classes that have students  wrestle with big ideas,  nurture their curiosity through inquiry, and evaluate how concepts from the past manifest and impact them  today.  The cast of Enlightenment characters invites the opportunity for students to engage in a “talking heads” activity, Socratic seminar, or simulate a French salon (indeed a great idea and one that could be conducted repeatedly throughout eras and with different settings).

Check out this example:

 

Another interesting aspect of the European Enlightenment is the connection to US History Survey classes. The flow of socio-political ideas was not restricted to the continent. Moreover, the Enlightenment is a great way to introduce the concept of transnational approaches to history which emphasizes the import of flow and hybridity of ideas across national borders and, in this case, across the Atlantic.

But all too often, the European Enlightenment cast of historical characters, like those in other types of historical narratives, has become static.  This is limitation is, whether  in a World or US history class, unfortunate. You can probably identify the usual suspects. As you watch the trailer below, give it a shot:

So, who did you come up with – Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire?  By this role call, the European Enlightenment, revolves on a Anglo-Franco axis. This review from NYS regents exam (below) reinforces that standard narrative as does U.S. History.org   and Hippocampus.

 

Regents

Certainly, the European Enlightenment has more influential thinkers and from other parts of the continent. Who gets left out, and marginalized is just as important as who gets emphasized in history.  Teachers should expand the number and geographic range of thinkers. This empowers students’ through a broader content knowledge base and skillset development including application, conceptual thinking, and global awareness.

Here are my suggestions for 5 additions to the standard European Enlightenment. None are from the UK! Take a look and let me know what you think and who should be included!

1)      Emer de Vattel, 1714 -1767 (Swiss)-  When Vattel’s  Law of Nations(1758)  was translated to English in 1760, it provided a foundation for national government and identity.  Ben Franklin shared copies of the text with other revolutionary brothers in the Continental Congress. Vattel’s words “A nation is…a society of men untied together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by their combined strength” manifest in the US Constitution a generation later. Historian David Armitage notes that Vattell’s writing argued that nations have a right to existence, independence, and equality.  Undoubtedly, this geo-political world view shaped American Independence.

Big Ideas: International Law, Republicanism, Recognizing New Nations

Did you know? George Washington borrowed The Law of Nations  on 5 October 1789 from the New York Society Library.Washington had never returned the book . The former president’s overdue fines, it has been calculated, would theoretically amount to $300,000. After learning of the situation, staff at Washington’s home in  Mount Vernon, offered to replace Vattel’s “Law of Nations” with another copy of the same edition.

 

2)      Hugo Grotius, 1583 -1648 (Dutch) – Does the concept “natural rights” sound familiar?  If not, here it is referenced in the Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Indeed, Grotius is the giant that Jefferson, Adams, and their contemporaries stood on to see further and establish the Empire of Liberty. If you really want to challenge one of the sacred ideas of the American identity, put forth the idea that the founding father of America wasn’t American.  Check this  article out.

Big Ideas: Natural Law, Just War Theory.

More Information: Thomas Jefferson’s library included Grotius 1694 The Truth of the Christian Religion. Jefferson made numerous marginal comments. Also, John Adams reference Grotius frequently in his early (pre-1776) opposition writings targeting English law noting that “sovereignty resided in the hands of the people.”

 

3)      Cesare Beccaria, 1738 -1794 (Italian) – Of my four suggestions, Beccaria has the most potential to be someone already taught or referenced by teachers.  Still, he is not solidified as a Enlightenment elite – but deserves to be. His  On Crimes and Punishment  (1764) tackles topics like torture and capital punishment.  Hmmm, sound familiar as  contemporary topics? He was also a prominent contributor to the Enlightenment journal called Il Caffe (The Coffeehouse) .

Big Ideas: Jurisprudence, Constitutional Law

Historical Scholarship: In Faces of Revolution, Historian Bernard Bailyn claims “In every colony and in every legislature there were some people who new Locke and Beccaria, Montesquieu and Voltaire.” In addition, Gordon Wood, in The Empire of Libertyrecognizes Beccaria’s influence stating that  “many of the state constitutions of 1776 evoked…Beccaria and promised to end punishments that were ‘cruel and unusual’ and to make them ‘lass sanguinary, and in general more proportionate to the crimes.”

4)      Olympe de Gouges 1748 – 1793 (French) – Yes, this selection supports the unsatisfying Anglo-French referenced above. However, she expands female representation in the European Enlightenment usually reserved for Mary Wollenscroft.   De Gouges violated boundaries that most of the revolutionary leaders wanted to preserve and was  guillotined in Paris on the 3rd November 1793.

Big Ideas: Feminism, Humanism, anti-Slavery

Legacy: Her The Declaration of the Rights of Woman (September 1791) tackles social, political, economic, and political issues around gender inequality. Her connection to the Seneca Falls Convention “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” in 1848 and then to Eleanor Roosevelt and her work with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights provide a fantastic 18th-20th century lineage on the archaeology of women’s rights vis a vis the European Enlightenment.

 

5)       Baron Samuel von Pufendorf, 1632 – 1694 (German) – In our globalized world, von Pufendorf’s sentiment about the import of being globally aware, or having a cosmopolitan ethic, is highly relevant today: “those who have the Supream Administration of Affairs, are oftentimes not sufficiently instructed concerning the Interest both of their own State, as                        also that of their Neighbours.” Pufendorf, influenced by Grotius,  asserted that international law extends to all nations, emphasizing that all nations are part of humanity.

Big Ideas: Natural Law, History, International Relations

 Top Ten!: Pufendorf is ranked as the 10th most cited thinker by the US “Founding Fathers” (Beccaria is 7th).  Among his text referenced by John Adams include,  The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature  and Of the Nature and Qualification of Religion, in Reference to Civil Society.

So it is fair to say that the social, cultural,  and political legacy of the European Enlightenment is much more expansive than the Anglo-French narrative espoused in current high school textbooks, curricula narratives and standards.   Expanding, problematizing, and offering alternative narratives is an enriching part of historical study. Providing alternatives, possibilities, and being explicit about the concept of narratives is an Enlightening exercise for your students to engage with is valuable regardless of whether yours students have an end of year exam or not.