In a fast-moving information landscape that is being transformed by image manipulation tools and deep fakes, the work of helping students cultivate media literacy is an increasingly complex task. U.S. Media Literacy Week during the last week of October is a time dedicated to underscoring the idea that media literacy must be a central aim of education and urging teachers to implement relevant lesson plans that help students learn how to sift fact from fiction. Conceptualizing media literacy as exclusively focused on the facts appears to be giving way to a broader definition, however, as the debate over the nature and impact of social media platforms such as Facebook intensifies. Beyond the important question of how students discern whether the information they access is factual, a host of other concerning questions are emerging about how the very tools we use to access information may be unraveling our ability to know, think, and simply relate to others in the world—particularly for adolescents. As lawmakers attempt to hold tech leaders accountable through an ongoing series of congressional hearings, a network of former tech leaders has come together to help all of us—and particularly our young people—forge more healthy relationships with these platforms through behavior change.
Have you ever wondered how history itself is made? Though we often talk about individuals and groups “making history” by making certain types of contributions to society, less frequently do we talk about the complex process through which historians construct their accounts of the past. During American Archives Month this October, we have a chance to explore the central role of archives in shaping our perceptions of the past, the various forces that determine the materials and voices included in a given archive, and how this insight can enrich the way we think about historical materials and even produce our own.
How do we help students make sense of the past? During American Archives Month this October and every month, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration suggests that archival materials—also known as primary sources—ought to be an important part of this equation. At Facing History, we agree; primary sources materials are a key component of our pedagogical approach and our classroom resources. In historical study, the term “primary sources” refers to historical evidence produced contemporaneous to the time captured or described in the source. These sources may take the form of images, letters, diaries, speeches, audio recordings, video recordings, and more. Selecting primary sources and making them accessible to students can be challenging, but there are numerous benefits to teaching with them.
In addition to exposing students to secondary sources that offer their own analyses of these historical objects—sources like textbooks, for example—inviting students into the world of the historical subject through primary sources is an excellent way to build their capacities for critical thinking, expand their understanding of a given historical moment, and humanize the historical actors in question. This is not only important for promoting academic understanding of a historical time period but it also has the potential to help the student understand their own small actions as those that have the potential to play a role in history as it is narrated in the future.
We invite educators to check out these 5 time-tested teaching strategies designed to incorporate analysis of primary sources into educator lesson plans:
“This is what our teachers must understand: that language is never neutral.
That no matter how skilled we can become in understanding the complexities of language,
we cannot forsake the liberating or oppressive power of language.”
— Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970)
Topics: Latinx History
Each October, LGBTQ History Month offers an important opportunity for educators to ensure that LGBTQIA+ histories are getting their due in the classroom all year long. But before any educator can meaningfully embark upon that task, they must commit to their own ongoing learning about LGBTQIA+ histories. History as we understand it is in a constant state of expansion and retelling and, as a result, all history teachers gain from maintaining the mindset of the student even as they teach.
As a result of the vision and tireless mobilization of a large network of Indigenous activists across the United States, many communities now celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead of or alongside Columbus Day on the second Monday of October each year. In addition to being an occasion that invites a deeper reckoning with the violence at the heart of the nation’s founding, Indigenous Peoples’ Day is also a time to witness and engage with the resilience, insights, vision, and ongoing struggles of Indigenous peoples in contemporary America. Alongside the array of local and regional gatherings that may be taking place near you, there are many rich virtual opportunities for learning, unlearning, and celebration on and around Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
Consider the following 5 free virtual events—film screenings, panel discussions, and educational presentations—designed to engage participants in the work of bringing Indigenous experiences and truths from margin to center.
LGBTQ History Month each October offers an important opportunity to expand our knowledge of LGBTQIA+ histories and ensure that they are being addressed in the classroom. One great way to tackle the task of expanding our own knowledge as educators is to turn to the medium of film. Below is a list of 10 documentary films and television series that we are diving into here at Facing History and that we invite you to explore alongside us.
I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Greg Baldwin and Meredith Gavrin, the husband-wife team who co-founded the Connecticut school New Haven Academy in 2003.
Recently profiled in The Wall Street Journal as an excellent example of purpose-driven schools, New Haven Academy is a highly innovative public high school that serves a diverse student population in a state where disrupting school segregation has remained a challenge into the 21st century.
In this interview, Baldwin and Gavrin discuss their path to founding the school, the challenges they faced, and the vital role that Facing History’s targeted support, professional development, and classroom resources have played in shaping their distinctive school culture, curriculum, and pedagogy since their inception.
In addition to the growing pool of curricular resources that we offer at Facing History for teaching about Latinx history and contemporary life, there is a wide array of cultural institutions offering meaningful learning opportunities for both teachers and students. As we wait for the construction and opening of the forthcoming National Museum of the American Latino on the National Mall, there is a rich array of resources that can aid teacher and student learning about Latinx histories and contemporary life.
Topics: Latinx History
The desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas exactly sixty-four years ago this weekend remains a flashpoint in American history, the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and the history of education in the United States. Following the Brown v. Board decision of 1954 which rendered racial segregation of schools unconstitutional, the NAACP devised a plan to desegregate Central High School as a test case within the new legal environment created by the Brown decision. A group of nine Black students were selected to integrate the school and, upon their arrival, faced immense violent opposition from white mobs and armed forces deployed by Arkansas’ governor. Historian Taylor Branch described the event as “the most severe test of the Constitution since the Civil War” and the level of conflict it engendered seems to lend further credence to this comparison.