Each year at the Brookwood School in Manchester, a small coastal town in Massachusetts, we bring our seventh graders to a summer camp in Maine to kick off the school year. It’s a unique opportunity to build our class community and center ourselves for the challenges ahead. Our theme for the year is “responsibility,” one that is incredibly timely during this year’s heated presidential election. As we teachers encourage students to take responsibility for themselves and to care for others, it’s worth taking stock of our professional responsibilities during this electoral season. What is our role?
One hundred and fifty years ago, two massacres in 1866 – one in Memphis and one in New Orleans – galvanized national opposition to the Reconstruction policies that President Andrew Johnson enacted. These policies offered almost no protection to newly freed slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War.
How can confronting challenging historical moments like these become a step toward truth and reconciliation around issues of race that we face today? First, we need to understand the history behind them.
George Washington would have been 284 years old today. Facing History’s recent book, Washington’s Rebuke to Bigotry, on his 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, looks at the United States’ first president’s views on religious freedom, and is a powerful resource for exploring these essential civic lessons within U.S. history.
About two years ago, when I began reading draft chapters of Facing History’s new publication on the Reconstruction era in American history, I got to thinking back to how I learned about this period in high school in 1959 and in college, and also how I taught it to my students while teaching high school several years later in 1965.
In both my high school class as student, and later my high school classes as a teacher, I used the same textbook, David Saville Muzzey’s 1937 A History of Our Country, which for decades was the most widely used high school text on American history. Curious about what I learned and how I taught it, I dug out my well-worn copy and looked at how Muzzey wrote about Reconstruction.
In the United States, Presidents’ Day is celebrated Monday. The national holiday offers an opportunity for valuable discussion in the classroom about the importance—and the fragility—of democracy now and throughout history. Here are four Facing History and Ourselves resources that can help you plan an exciting lesson.
It can be so very difficult to discuss race with our children.
The conversation is particularly complex when it's about some of our nation's not-so-proud moments.Rather than face such moments head-on, sometimes we instead seek to protect our children (and even ourselves) from the pain and shame of the past, and so we often gloss over physical, emotional, and psychological suffering in history to get to a more palatable, less troubling version of those events. Moments like 1965 in Selma, Alabama, too quickly become "the victory of voting rights" rather than the painful history of a tired, yet determined, African American community that stood toe-to-toe against those who used terror, intimidation, and unjust laws to deny them opportunity to freely exercise the right to vote.
There are so many moments throughout history whose untold and overlooked stories make them much more fascinating than the versions that are typically taught or talked about in the classroom. The 1965 civil rights march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery is one of those stories.
The news around the world has been grim recently. During times of conflict and difficulty, we look to history and remember the inspirational words from upstanders of the past—those who shared our goal of creating a better, more informed, and more thoughtful society.
As I prepared to write this post, I had to confront the most difficult, yet most important, person that I would be in conversation with: myself.