curtiss Cline's Blog Response # 4

Title of Post:  Teaching War

URL:   http://www.ahistoryteacher.com/wordpress/?p=198

Teaching War

Published January 9th, 2007 in History and Teaching.

Like many of my 15 year old students, I am fascinated by war, but for entirely different reasons. I am not a military historian. The details of each battle and the weaponry used have never been something with which I've been obsessed. I have always been more interested in two other elements of war, the politics of war and the plight of the individuals who do the fighting. As a result, I find myself looking critically at the reasons wars are fought, the tactics used, and the results. As a history teacher, I have always tried to find an appropriate balance in how I teach units dealing with war. I want students to be able to critically analyze a conflict and make a reasonable assessment. All without trying to sound like a hawk or a dove.

This obviously requires some balance, especially in today's political climate. When I first started teaching World War I in my world history classes eight years ago, the emphasis was centered upon the causes of the war, the impact on the individual soldier, and the results. While it was certainly pro-soldier, the tone of the unit had an anti-war feeling to it. Years ago I even had one student who requested a transfer to another teacher (it was denied) because this approach offended her beliefs. I went on to create an activity that centered around the Just War Theory which uses a number of factors to determine if a war is justified. Early versions of the theory date back to Classical Greece and were later refined during the European Middle Ages to help balance Christianity with the need to fight wars. The items to consider include:

  • Comparative justice: While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to override the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other;
  • Legitimate authority: Only duly constituted public authorities may use deadly force or wage war;
  • Right intention: Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose-correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.
  • Probability of success: Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success;
  • Proportionality: The overall destruction expected from the use of force must be outweighed by the good to be achieved.
  • Last resort: Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted.
    (From Wikipedia, 12/20/06)

World War I fails most of these elements and then when you take into account the devastating effects of the Versailles Treaty it is difficult for any student or historian to argue the merits of the Great War. The Allied efforts in World War II obviously are a different story. During that unit, the tone shifts completely.

One of my major goals is to teach students to critically examine why nations decide to fight a war. The current conflict certainly complicates this approach. Many Americans, including myself, have reservations about the justifications for the war and the manner in which it has been executed. However, in the years since the Iraq War began, I have seen a shift in my students' opinions. Initially in the build up and the first year, perceptions were very positive. I felt that I had to walk a very thin line. While I tried to get them to look at the conflict as a historian might, many only heard the arguments provided by the government. In the last couple years, my students (generally) have been much more critical of the war. It is still very far removed from our immediate lives and only a minority of us actually have a friend or family member serving overseas. Despite this change in opinion, that line still needs to be watched. My role is not to influence their political beliefs, but to create an academic environment in which they can figure it all out.

In many ways our culture glorifies war. I hear my students talking how great the latest war movie was or discuss staying up all night playing first-person shooters (many with a military theme). I once heard a student compare Saving Private Ryan to some video game he was playing. In further conversations with the student, I discovered that he had missed the point of the movie and only thought the special effects were "sick." This over-exposure to the violence of war has created a disconnect between the popular imagery of war and the reality of war.

I don't believe my role as a history teacher, or more generally - just a teacher, is to teach a series of facts. Let's be serious, other than an appearance on a game show, most of the small detailed facts will do little to actually help students later in life - if they even remember them beyond the test. The conceptual and big picture ideas define my class. If a student leaves my class with an understanding of the world, I have done my part on leading them towards becoming a citizen of this great nation. The skills (critical thinking, assessing for bias, information management, etc.) they hopefully develop while learning about history are as important as the actual content.

  1. 7 Jordan Taylor Feb 26th, 2008 at 9:05 pm

I am studying at the moment to become a history teacher and I love war history. Unlike you, I am fascinated with the technological advances and the ingenious of new war tactics. Although our reasons are different in the pursuit of the history of war, we share common opinions and questions on how to teach such a touchy subject. I have come to the conclusion that it is not my role to indoctrinate students on the morality of war. I believe that a teacher of history is one that produces facts, a variety of opinions, and various view points. History is a subject that must be discussed in an open forum and it is my job as a history teacher to create an atmosphere where students feel free to discuss any and all points without being embarrassed for stating their ideas. You stated that you don't believe that it is your role to teach facts as a teacher, but to stimulate thought. From this I would ask you if you feel it is necessary to have the facts when making decisions. This frightens me as an upcoming teacher that one would feel no obligations to teach the facts. Once again, is it not important to have the facts when making decisions? One of the major problems in society today is the idea that the facts do not matter. Students are making more and more decisions on what "feels good" instead of deciding on what the facts tell them. I am not stating that facts equal opinion. There are just some things that are fact regardless of opinion.

  1. Curtiss Cline Mar 26th, 2008 at 7:37 am

I too am studying to be a History teacher, but I have to disagree with portions of Jordan's reply. I don't think that Dan was implying the absence of facts in his post, he actually makes the point of going through the causes of the war, the impact of the individual soldier and the results. Unfortunately, that is all a lot of history courses will go through. I have always been of the opinion, and it is stated by Dan, that if all we were to spew out was a myriad of facts our students would only be qualified to write encyclopedias or be on game shows. We must be able to stimulate critical thinking skills in our students about these issues later in life. In other words, they must learn what facts are facts, because everyone has a bias.
Where I can agree with Jordan is that I do not feel it is my job to educate students on the morality of war. This is a decision that they have to arrive at in their own critical thinking. It is difficult to apply any current theory of morality to what the individuals of the early twentieth century felt were justifiable reasons to go to war. To do so is playing armchair quarterback. It would be more reasonable to openly discuss with students what they feel the reason for the war were, and let them try to reason through their justification, guiding them with the facts. Any other approach invites the suggestion of bias. The United Kingdom has some interesting guidelines to consider on this subject, (http://www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/lib_res_pdf/0118.pdf) such as;

"

  • giving equal importance to conflicting views and opinions;
  • presenting all information and opinion as open to interpretation,

qualification and contradiction;

  • establishing a classroom climate in which all pupils are free to express

sincerely held views without fear.
It also means teachers seeking to avoid unintentional bias by:

  • not presenting opinions as if they are facts;
  • not setting themselves up as the sole authority on a subject;
  • as far as possible, not giving their own accounts of the views of others,

but, rather, letting the actual claims and assertions of protagonists speak
for themselves;

  • not revealing their own preferences in unconscious ways, e.g., facial

expressions, gestures or tone of voice"

 

It seems to me that the trick is, and the point of Dan's post, is not that the teaching of facts is ignored, but how to present the facts so as not to bias the student's thought.

  1. Curtiss Cline Mar 26th, 2008 at 7:37 am

I too am studying to be a History teacher, but I have to disagree with portions of Jordan's reply. I don't think that Dan was implying the absence of facts in his post, he actually makes the point of going through the causes of the war, the impact of the individual soldier and the results. Unfortunately, that is all a lot of history courses will go through. I have always been of the opinion, and it is stated by Dan, that if all we were to spew out was a myriad of facts our students would only be qualified to write encyclopedias or be on game shows. We must be able to stimulate critical thinking skills in our students about these issues later in life. In other words, they must learn what facts are facts, because everyone has a bias.
Where I can agree with Jordan is that I do not feel it is my job to educate students on the morality of war. This is a decision that they have to arrive at in their own critical thinking. It is difficult to apply any current theory of morality to what the individuals of the early twentieth century felt were justifiable reasons to go to war. To do so is playing armchair quarterback. It would be more reasonable to openly discuss with students what they feel the reason for the war were, and let them try to reason through their justification, guiding them with the facts. Any other approach invites the suggestion of bias. The United Kingdom has some interesting guidelines to consider on this subject, (http://www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/lib_res_pdf/0118.pdf) such as;

"

  • giving equal importance to conflicting views and opinions;
  • presenting all information and opinion as open to interpretation,

qualification and contradiction;

  • establishing a classroom climate in which all pupils are free to express

sincerely held views without fear.
It also means teachers seeking to avoid unintentional bias by:

  • not presenting opinions as if they are facts;
  • not setting themselves up as the sole authority on a subject;
  • as far as possible, not giving their own accounts of the views of others,

but, rather, letting the actual claims and assertions of protagonists speak
for themselves;

  • not revealing their own preferences in unconscious ways, e.g., facial

expressions, gestures or tone of voice"

 

It seems to me that the trick is, and the point of Dan's post, is not that the teaching of facts is ignored, but how to present the facts so as not to bias the student's thought.

  1. Curtiss Cline Mar 26th, 2008 at 7:37 am

I too am studying to be a History teacher, but I have to disagree with portions of Jordan's reply. I don't think that Dan was implying the absence of facts in his post, he actually makes the point of going through the causes of the war, the impact of the individual soldier and the results. Unfortunately, that is all a lot of history courses will go through. I have always been of the opinion, and it is stated by Dan, that if all we were to spew out was a myriad of facts our students would only be qualified to write encyclopedias or be on game shows. We must be able to stimulate critical thinking skills in our students about these issues later in life. In other words, they must learn what facts are facts, because everyone has a bias.
Where I can agree with Jordan is that I do not feel it is my job to educate students on the morality of war. This is a decision that they have to arrive at in their own critical thinking. It is difficult to apply any current theory of morality to what the individuals of the early twentieth century felt were justifiable reasons to go to war. To do so is playing armchair quarterback. It would be more reasonable to openly discuss with students what they feel the reason for the war were, and let them try to reason through their justification, guiding them with the facts. Any other approach invites the suggestion of bias. The United Kingdom has some interesting guidelines to consider on this subject, (http://www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/lib_res_pdf/0118.pdf) such as;

"

  • giving equal importance to conflicting views and opinions;
  • presenting all information and opinion as open to interpretation,

qualification and contradiction;

  • establishing a classroom climate in which all pupils are free to express

sincerely held views without fear.
It also means teachers seeking to avoid unintentional bias by:

  • not presenting opinions as if they are facts;
  • not setting themselves up as the sole authority on a subject;
  • as far as possible, not giving their own accounts of the views of others,

but, rather, letting the actual claims and assertions of protagonists speak
for themselves;

  • not revealing their own preferences in unconscious ways, e.g., facial

expressions, gestures or tone of voice"

 

It seems to me that the trick is, and the point of Dan's post, is not that the teaching of facts is ignored, but how to present the facts so as not to bias the student's thought.

  1. Curtiss Cline Mar 26th, 2008 at 7:37 am

I too am studying to be a History teacher, but I have to disagree with portions of Jordan's reply. I don't think that Dan was implying the absence of facts in his post, he actually makes the point of going through the causes of the war, the impact of the individual soldier and the results. Unfortunately, that is all a lot of history courses will go through. I have always been of the opinion, and it is stated by Dan, that if all we were to spew out was a myriad of facts our students would only be qualified to write encyclopedias or be on game shows. We must be able to stimulate critical thinking skills in our students about these issues later in life. In other words, they must learn what facts are facts, because everyone has a bias.
Where I can agree with Jordan is that I do not feel it is my job to educate students on the morality of war. This is a decision that they have to arrive at in their own critical thinking. It is difficult to apply any current theory of morality to what the individuals of the early twentieth century felt were justifiable reasons to go to war. To do so is playing armchair quarterback. It would be more reasonable to openly discuss with students what they feel the reason for the war were, and let them try to reason through their justification, guiding them with the facts. Any other approach invites the suggestion of bias. The United Kingdom has some interesting guidelines to consider on this subject, (http://www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/lib_res_pdf/0118.pdf) such as;

"

  • giving equal importance to conflicting views and opinions;
  • presenting all information and opinion as open to interpretation,

qualification and contradiction;

  • establishing a classroom climate in which all pupils are free to express

sincerely held views without fear.
It also means teachers seeking to avoid unintentional bias by:

  • not presenting opinions as if they are facts;
  • not setting themselves up as the sole authority on a subject;
  • as far as possible, not giving their own accounts of the views of others,

but, rather, letting the actual claims and assertions of protagonists speak
for themselves;

  • not revealing their own preferences in unconscious ways, e.g., facial

expressions, gestures or tone of voice"

 

It seems to me that the trick is, and the point of Dan's post, is not that the teaching of facts is ignored, but how to present the facts so as not to bias the student's thought.

  1. Curtiss Cline Mar 26th, 2008 at 7:37 am

I too am studying to be a History teacher, but I have to disagree with portions of Jordan's reply. I don't think that Dan was implying the absence of facts in his post, he actually makes the point of going through the causes of the war, the impact of the individual soldier and the results. Unfortunately, that is all a lot of history courses will go through. I have always been of the opinion, and it is stated by Dan, that if all we were to spew out was a myriad of facts our students would only be qualified to write encyclopedias or be on game shows. We must be able to stimulate critical thinking skills in our students about these issues later in life. In other words, they must learn what facts are facts, because everyone has a bias.
Where I can agree with Jordan is that I do not feel it is my job to educate students on the morality of war. This is a decision that they have to arrive at in their own critical thinking. It is difficult to apply any current theory of morality to what the individuals of the early twentieth century felt were justifiable reasons to go to war. To do so is playing armchair quarterback. It would be more reasonable to openly discuss with students what they feel the reason for the war were, and let them try to reason through their justification, guiding them with the facts. Any other approach invites the suggestion of bias. The United Kingdom has some interesting guidelines to consider on this subject, (http://www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/lib_res_pdf/0118.pdf) such as;

"

  • giving equal importance to conflicting views and opinions;
  • presenting all information and opinion as open to interpretation,

qualification and contradiction;

  • establishing a classroom climate in which all pupils are free to express

sincerely held views without fear.
It also means teachers seeking to avoid unintentional bias by:

  • not presenting opinions as if they are facts;
  • not setting themselves up as the sole authority on a subject;
  • as far as possible, not giving their own accounts of the views of others,

but, rather, letting the actual claims and assertions of protagonists speak
for themselves;

  • not revealing their own preferences in unconscious ways, e.g., facial

expressions, gestures or tone of voice"

 

It seems to me that the trick is, and the point of Dan's post, is not that the teaching of facts is ignored, but how to present the facts so as not to bias the student's thought.

http://www.ahistoryteacher.com/wordpress/?p=198

 

Curtiss Cline's Blog Response # 3

Curtiss Cline's Blog Response # 3

Curtiss Cline's Blog Response # 1

Title of Post:  Thinking About Patriotism

URL:  http://ascd.typepad.com/blog/2008/02/thinking-about.html?cid=105877770#comment-105877770

Thinking About Patriotism
Joel Westheimer

To prepare students to participate in civic life, we must teach them the skills of analysis and exploration, free political expression, and independent thought.

Nine of 10 Americans agree with the statement "I am very patriotic" (Doherty, 2007). More than seven of 10 U.S. high school seniors report that they would be offended by someone carrying on a conversation while the national anthem was being played (Hamilton College, 2003). Statistics like these suggest that Americans are in harmony about the idea of patriotism.

But patriotism is never simple. Although many people describe themselves as patriotic, the easy consensus disappears when we ask them what the term means. Some believe that patriotism requires near-absolute loyalty to government leaders and policies. Others see patriotism as commitment not to the government, but rather to such democratic ideals as equality, compassion, and justice. Still others advocate a healthy skepticism toward governmental actions in general, but prefer to close the ranks during times of war or national crisis. Indeed, there are as many ways to express our commitment to country as there are ways to show our commitment to loved ones or friends.

Nowhere are the debates around the various visions of patriotism more pointed, more protracted, and more consequential than in our schools. In Madison, Wisconsin, the parent community erupted in fierce debate over a new law requiring schools to post American flags in each classroom and to lead students in either pledging allegiance or listening to the national anthem each day (Ladson-Billings, 2006). In Detroit, Michigan, a student was repeatedly suspended, first for wearing a T-shirt with an upside-down American flag and then for wearing a sweatshirt with an antiwar quotation by Albert Einstein, before the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a civil liberties suit resulting in the student's reinstatement (ACLU, 2004). And in Virginia, House Bill 1912, which would have required schools to notify parents any time a student declined to recite or stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, passed the House of Delegates with a 93-4 vote before being defeated in the State Senate (Virginia Legislative Assembly, 2005).

As these and many other stories make clear, patriotism is highly contested territory, especially when it comes to the daily activities of school-children. Yet public schools in a democratic society have a particular obligation to provide students with opportunities to think deeply about issues of public importance. So it seems fitting to ask, What and how should we teach students about patriotism? How can we best prepare them to participate in the civic life of their community and nation?

Two Kinds of Patriotism

If you stepped into a school at a moment of patriotic expression, how could you tell whether you were in a totalitarian nation or a democratic one? Both the totalitarian nation and the democratic one might have students sing a national anthem. You might hear a hip-hip-hooray kind of cheer for our land emanating from the assembly hall of either school. Flags and symbols of national pride might be front and center in each school. And the students of each school might observe a moment of silence for members of their country's armed forces who had been killed in combat.

But how would the lessons on patriotism in the democratic nation be unique? What should schools in the United States ask students to consider that schools in China, North Korea, or Iran would not?

Social theorists differentiate between authoritarian patriotism and democratic patriotism (Lummis, 1996; Westheimer, 2007). Although either might employ familiar rituals to foster a sense of belonging and attachment, authoritarian patriotism demands unquestioning loyalty to a centralized leader or leading group. We would not be surprised to learn, for example, that North Korean children are taught to abide by an "official history" handed down by President Kim Jong-il and his single-party regime. Political scientist Douglas Lummis (1996) notes that authoritarian patriotism represents "a resigning of one's will, right of choice, and need to understand to the authority; its emotional base is gratitude for having been liberated from the burden of democratic responsibility" (p. 37). A school curriculum that teaches one unified, unquestioned version of "truth" is one of the hallmarks of a totalitarian society.

One would reasonably expect to see a different picture in U.S. schools. Democratic patriotism entails commitment not necessarily to government institutions, but rather to the people, principles, and values that underlie democracy- such as political participation, free speech, civil liberties, and social equality. Schools might develop students' democratic patriotism, at least in part, through lessons in analysis and exploration, free political expression, and independent thought. And U.S. schools often support democratic dispositions in just such ways.

But patriotism in U.S. classrooms does not always conform to democratic goals and ideals. Tensions abound, and in recent years independent thinking has increasingly come under attack. If being a good U.S. citizen requires thinking critically about important social assumptions, then that foundation of citizenship is at odds with recent trends in education policy.

No Child Left Thinking

In the past five years, dozens of school boards, districts, states, and the federal government have enacted policies that seek to restrict critical analysis of historical and contemporary events in the school curriculum. In June 2006, Florida passed a law that included language specifying that "American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable." Other provisions in the bill mandate "flag education, including proper flag display and flag salute" and require educators to stress the importance of free enterprise to the U.S. economy. But I am most concerned that the bill's designers view historical literacy as the teaching of facts. For example, the bill requires that only facts be taught when it comes to discussing the "period of discovery" and the early American colonies. Florida is perhaps the first state to ban historical interpretation in public schools, thereby effectively outlawing critical thinking.

Of course, historians almost universally regard history as exactly a matter of interpretation. Indeed, the competing interpretations are what make history so interesting. Historians and educators alike have widely derided the mandated adherence to an "official story" embodied in the Florida legislation (Craig, 2006; Zimmerman, 2006). But the effect of such mandates should not be underestimated-especially because Florida is not alone.

The drive to engage schools in reinforcing a unilateral understanding of U.S. history and policy-reflecting a "my country right or wrong" stance- shows no sign of abating. For example, Nebraska's state board of education specified that the high school social studies curriculum should include "instruction in ... the benefits and advantages of our government, the dangers of communism and similar ideologies" as well as "exploits and deeds of American heroes, singing patriotic songs, memorizing 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'America,' and reverence for the flag" (Westheimer & Kahne, 2003).

The federal role in discouraging critical analysis of historical events has been significant as well. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new set of history and civic education initiatives that President George W. Bush said was designed to teach our children that "America is a force for good in the world, bringing hope and freedom to other people" (Bush, 2002). Similarly, in 2004, Senator Lamar Alexander (former U.S. secretary of education) warned that students should not be exposed to competing ideologies in historical texts but should be instructed that the United States represents one true ideology. Alexander sponsored his American History and Civics Education Act to put civics back in its "rightful place in our schools, so our children can grow up learning what it means to be an American" (Alexander, 2003).

I focus on history teaching here, but the trend is not limited to social studies. In many states, virtually every subject area is under scrutiny for any deviation from one single narrative based on knowable, testable, and purportedly uncontested facts. An English teacher in a recent study undertaken by my colleagues and myself told us that even novel reading was now prescriptive in her state's rubric with meanings predetermined, vocabulary words pre-selected, and essay topics predigested. A science teacher put it this way: "The only part of the science curriculum now being critically analyzed is evolution."

As many people have observed, the high-stakes testing mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has further pushed to the margins education efforts to challenge students to grapple with tough questions about society and the world. In a recent study by the Center on Education Policy (Rentner et al., 2006), 71 percent of districts reported cutting back time for other subjects-social studies in particular-to make more space for reading and math instruction. Last June, historian David McCullough told a U.S. Senate committee that because of NCLB, "history is being put on the back burner or taken off the stove altogether in many or most schools" (Dillon, 2006). An increasing number of students are getting little to no education about how government works, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the evolution of social movements, and U.S. and world history. As Peter Campbell (2006), Missouri state coordinator for FairTest, noted,

The sociopolitical implications of poor black and Hispanic children not learning about the Civil Rights movement, not learning about women's suffrage, not learning about the U.S. Civil War, and not learning about any historical or contemporary instance of civil disobedience is more than just chilling. It smacks of an Orwellian attempt not merely to rewrite history, but to get rid of it.

The implications Campbell describes are not limited to poor black and Hispanic students. Any student being denied knowledge about historical events and social movements misses out on important opportunities to link his or her patriotic attachments with quintessentially American experiences of struggles for a better society for all.

Let's Talk Facts

The most common criticism of educators who seek to teach students to think and interpret information is that they have no respect for facts, rigor, and standards. Somehow, critics have become convinced that those who say they want students to think for themselves do not care whether students can read, write, or perform addition or subtraction. This is nonsense. But many educators do want students to know more than facts and formulas. They want the knowledge that students acquire to be embedded in the service of something bigger. It is not enough for students to learn how to read; they also need to learn to decide what is worth reading and why. In other words, they need to learn how to think.

Proponents of "factual" history also rapidly lose interest in facts when those facts call into question the "one true story." As an example, we can look at the history of the United States' most revered patriotic symbols and rituals. Although millions of schoolchildren recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day, few know many facts about its author. Francis Bellamy, author of the original 1892 pledge (which did not contain any reference to God), was highly critical of many trends of late 19th-century American life, most notably unrestrained capitalism and growing individualism. He wanted the United States to reflect basic democratic values, such as equality of opportunity, and he worked openly to have his country live up to its democratic ideals.

Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor and poet at Wellesley College, wrote the lyrics to "America the Beautiful," including the words "America! America! God mend thine every flaw!" Bellamy, Bates, and many like-minded reformers throughout U.S. history asserted their patriotism by strongly proclaiming their belief in democratic values, such as free speech, civil liberties, greater participation in politics, and social and economic equality (Dreier & Flacks, 2007).

Yet schools have become increasingly oriented away from the kinds of thinking these historical figures advocated and toward pedagogical models of efficiency that discourage deeper consideration of important ideas. The relentless focus on testing means that time for in-depth critical analysis of ideas is diminished. Social studies scholar Stephen Thornton (2005) notes that by "critical thinking," school officials too often mean that students should passively absorb as "truth" the thinking already completed by someone else. Current school reform policies and classroom practices often reduce teaching and learning to the kind of mindless rule-following that leaves students unable to make principled stands that have long been associated with being American. The hidden curriculum of post-NCLB schooling is how to please authority and pass the tests, not how to develop convictions and stand up for them.

Teaching About Patriotism

There are many varied and powerful ways to teach a democratic form of patriotism aimed at improving people's lives (see "Online Resources for Teaching Democratic Patriotism"). Longtime teacher Brian Schultz's inspiring efforts with his 5th grade class in Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project area included having his students conduct research on improving conditions in their own neighborhood, especially with regard to broken promises to build a new school. His students studied historical approaches to change and, rejecting passivity, demonstrated a deep attachment to their community and neighbors (Schultz, 2007).

Bob Peterson, a one-time Wisconsin Elementary Teacher of the Year, worked with his students at La Escuela Fratney in Madison to examine the full spectrum of ideological positions that emerged following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Instead of avoiding the challenging questions his 5th grade students posed, Peterson encouraged them, placing a notebook prominently at the front of the classroom labeled "Questions That We Have." As the students discussed their questions and the unfolding current events, Peterson repeatedly asked students to consider their responsibilities to one another, to their communities, and to the world. Through poetry (Langston Hughes's "Let America Be America Again"); historical readings (the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the 1918 Sedition Act); and current events (photographs of September 11 memorial gatherings, protests in the United States and abroad, newspaper editorials), Peterson allowed students to explore political events surrounding the September 11 attacks and their effect on American patriotism and democracy (Peterson, 2007; Westheimer, 2007).

El Puente Academy in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, ties the entire school curriculum to students' and teachers' concerns about the community. Named a New York City School of Excellence, El Puente boasts a 90 percent graduation rate in an area where schools usually see only 50 percent of their students graduate in four years. El Puente principal Héctor Calderón attributes the school's success to a curriculum that engages students in efforts to realize American ideals of justice and equality, reverse the cycle of poverty and violence, and work toward change in their own neighborhood. Students study environmental hazards in the area, not only because they care about the health of the natural environment, but also because these hazards directly affect the health of the community to which they are deeply committed.

In one unit, students surveyed the community to chart levels of asthma and identify families affected by the disease. Their report became the first by a community organization to be published in a medical journal. Students and teachers also successfully fought a 55-story incinerator that was proposed for their neighborhood (Gonzales, 1995; North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 2000; Westheimer, 2005).

These approaches to teaching about patriotism share several characteristics. First, teachers encourage students to ask questions rather than absorb pat answers-to think about their attachments and commitments to their local, national, and global communities. Second, teachers provide students with the information (including competing narratives) they need to think about patriotism in substantive ways. Third, they root instruction in local contexts, working within their own specific surroundings and circumstances because we cannot teach democratic patriotism without paying attention to the environment in which we are teaching it. This last point makes standardized testing difficult to reconcile with in-depth thinking about patriotism.

An Invitation to Action

To return to my earlier question, what makes a classroom in the United States or any democratic country different from one in an authoritarian state? For democratic patriotism to properly flourish, educators must convey to students that they have important contributions to make. In a democracy, patriotism is not a spectator sport.

The exit of the Canadian War Museum bears the following inscription:

History is yours to make. It is not owned or written by someone else for you to learn. ... History is not just the story you read. It is the one you write. It is the one you remember or denounce or relate to others. It is not predetermined. Every action, every decision, however small, is relevant to its course. History is filled with horror and replete with hope. You shape the balance.

I suspect many readers could imagine teaching students to think about patriotism by beginning a discussion with just such a quotation.

Online Resources for Teaching Democratic Patriotism

  • The Council for the Social Studies Web site contains an archive of articles and lesson plans to help teachers engage students in the study of such current issues as the war in Iraq and terrorism. (www.socialstudies.org/resources/moments)
  • The Choices for the 21st Century Education Program at Brown University publishes a wide range of curriculum units on historical and current international issues. Sample topics include Indian Independence and the Question of Pakistan; A Forgotten History: The Slave Trade and Slavery in New England; and Confronting Genocide: Never Again? The Web site's Teaching with the News section provides online lessons at no charge on such topics as Violence in Darfur, North Korea and Nuclear Weapons, and U.S. Immigration Policy. (www.choices.edu/resources/index.php)
  • Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility sponsors the Web site http://www.teachablemoment.org/, which "aims to encourage critical thinking on issues of the day and foster a positive classroom environment." The site offers readings, study questions, and links to useful sources that teachers can use to present lessons on many different topics. Examples include The Congressional Earmark; Presidential Power: Executive Privilege; The Death Penalty; and Energy and the Environment: What Can We Do?
  • Facing History and Ourselves engages students of diverse backgrounds in examining racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. The organization's Web site contains many lesson plans and units with such titles as The Armenian Genocide: Examining Historical Evidence; Eyes on the Prize: Tactics of Nonviolence; and Guilt, Responsibility, and the Nuremberg Trial. (http://www.facinghistory.org/)
  • The University of Ottawa's Democratic Dialogue initiative has information about research projects, publications, and events to assist educators in "the pursuit of creative approaches to projects that engage themes of democracy, education, and society." (http://www.democraticdialogue.com/)
  • Tolerance.org, a Web project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, offers subscriptions to Teaching Tolerance magazine and many lesson plans and videos at no charge for K-12 educators. At www.tolerance.org/teach/index.jsp, teachers will find instructional kits on such topics as the U.S. civil rights movement, the Holocaust, and the United States' struggle to ensure liberty and justice for all.

 

Posted by: Curtiss Cline | March 04, 2008 at 04:07 PM

When we look back at the founding of this country, I think one would be hard pressed to disagree with the statement that our founding fathers were the penultimate American patriots. And, what did they stand for, not undying loyalty to a government, but to a certain set of ideals, or as was referred to "constitutional patriotism". Their idea of this nation, as one open to differences in opinion, religion, etc., were written into our constitution. The motto they chose for this nation "E Pluribus Unum" Out of Many, One speaks to this ideal as well. Unlike a totalitarian country, or any country to the left or right of the political spectrum that espouses a single idea, America still respects differences. Therefore, in recognizing and respecting the symbols of this nation, one is not supporting any other idea than "differences are respected."
It is not unpatriotic to argue that a given choice of action by our government is not the correct course, even during times of war. However, it is unpatriotic to display disrespect for the symbols of what the nation stands for. The catch is, if you are patriotic and respect the differences of others, you can label them unpatriotic, but must defend their right to be so in order to respect their differences. The best examples of this are the protestors who decry a soldier's service to his nation (shouting ‘baby killer!'); they are fighting to protect the very actions the protestors are engaged in.
So, how should we teach patriotism when it is open to about anybody's beliefs and actions? The best means by which to do this are to teach critical thinking skills, and civic mindedness. Bill Tammeus of the Kansas City Star wrote a column to this effect in October, 2001. (http://radio.weblogs.com/0122640/2003/05/10.html) Two of his requirements for being considered a patriot match what I have cited for how to teach patriotism;

"One does not get well informed by relying on one source of information. If, for instance, you get your news solely from television, there's no possible way to be well versed. And your sources of information should represent different points of view."
"Patriots vote. It's the very lowest threshold of citizenship. Other patriots died so we all could go to the polls. Each time we skip that civic duty for anything but emergencies, we dishonor their sacrifice. And patriots vote not just in presidential elections but in local and state contests -- including primaries. Patriots also understand the issues and grasp where the candidates stand on them. They follow the debates, are up on the arguments, feel at least reasonably confident expressing an opinion because they have considered it carefully."
I am lucky in that the majority of my profession agrees with me, as can be evidenced in the following statement regarding guidelines on how to teach September 11th, and the Iraq War.

Current Events: Iraq and 9/11
Global educators respond to the possibility of war with Iraq by having students:
1. Learn up to date historical, political, economic, and geographic background of the conflict;
2. Recognize stereotypes and misinformation they may have about Iraqis and other people in the region;
3. Examine issues that led to U.S. policy decisions and research possible outcomes of a war;
4. Understand how accepted knowledge and perspectives of relevant countries (U.S., Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, etc.) is shaped by its history, cultures, politics, and economics;
5. Analyze primary sources from diverse world regions on the issues and events;
6. Interact with people from the region who can share insider information;
7. Synthesize and debate the issues based upon all these learning experiences.
http://www.socialstudies.org/resources/moments/
The worst thing a school can do is to teach an opinion. Students must be able to come to their own reasoned opinions, and be instructed as to how they can act on their opinions!

Posted by: Curtiss Cline | March 04, 2008 at 04:07 PM

  

 

Curtiss Cline's Blog Response # 2

Title of Post:

I-pods and underachievement

URL:  http://publiceducationdefender.blogspot.com/

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I-pods and underachievement

I admit it. There are more and more symptoms that I am becoming a crotchety old man. I try to fight it, but sometimes I just can't help it. One of the things that brings out the crotchety old man in me is seeing kids walking down the halls in our school wearing I-pods.

It seems to me that walking in the hallways is a social situation. People are walking next to you, people are walking toward you, many of whom are friends, and in a small school, nearly all of whom are at least acquaintances. To be walking through all of this with your ears plugged, grooving to your music, trying to be totally in your own world and ignoring everyone seems so unsocial as to be bordering on rudeness.

My own kids bought me an I-pod for Christmas last year, and I do use it once in awhile. But I only use it when I'm by myself. I tried wearing it one day when I walked from my house to school on a Saturday afternoon, and even that felt wrong. Walking to school isn't exactly a social situation, but it's not unusual to come upon someone walking the other way, or to wave at people driving by in their cars, so I just felt like I was missing something. But these kids wear theirs in the middle of a hallway crowded with people they know. It boggles my mind.

This last week, I decided to make a mental note of just who the kids were who actually wore their I-pods while walking through our hallways during school hours. The results of my rather informal survey were incredibly consistent. The first seven kids that I saw with the I-pods were all kids who had failed or were presently failing my American History class. Then I saw some ninth-graders who I didn't know, and I asked teachers standing next to me how they did in class. Everyone of them was an underachiever.

So in our school, at least, there is a very high correlation between wearing I-pods in the hallways and underachievement. The natural assumption to this would be that our underachievers are turned off by school, and the I-pods are simply a symptom of that. But I'm not so sure that that's all it is. The number of underachievers in our school has skyrocketed during the last few years. Is it possible that I-pods and other gadgets like them are not just symptoms? Is it possible that they are contributing to this in some way? I don't know.

posted by Dennis Fermoyle at 5:22 AM | 13 comments links to this post

 

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=27694138&postID=5584718344489733408&page=1&isPopup=true

 

Curtiss Cline said...

Well, here I sit in a computer lab listening to my iPod while I respond to this post. Yes, I am a student, but I am also 37 years old. For me, personally, I listen even in the hallways. If you were to look at my grades though, you would not see the same correlation as you are witnessing with the students in your group. I use my iPod as a way to distract myself and focus on certain thoughts, rather than allowing the sensory information around me to take up my thoughts. This allows me to focus on studying and remembering class items, or focusing on what other tasks I need to do that day. This is especially helpful if I am listening to music I have heard thousands of times, and do not need to focus on the words, or the movements, because I know them by heart. This is my personal reasons, and I cannot focus on the reasons for others, especially those whom you have correlated with sub par academic performance.
To me, however, this speaks to a larger issue. I realize these are just your observations, and not a true scientific study, but I would be interested in seeing what the academic performance of these students would be without iPod use. One unscientific way to do this may be to review their past academic performance and behavior just two to three years ago before the advent of the iPod. I would bet money that they were poor students prior to iPod use, and would continue to be even if iPod use were banned in the hallways of your school. In other words, the iPod use is not the ailment; it is only a symptom of their predilection towards anti social or anti conformist behavior.
One of my favorite bloggers, going only by the name "Q" reflected on the same phenomenon you are addressing here when he wrote in his own blog http://miswritings.blogspot.com/2005/11/technology-social-alienation-nie-redux.html....
"...technology provides us with ways to achieve our own goals, but some of these goals are interpersonal and people have a fascinating history of using technology designed for individual consumption as a vehicle for interpersonal interaction. Reduction in interpersonal opportunities in one public sphere may lead to increases of interpersonal experience in others. We are certainly NOT islands. Most of the negative rhetoric screams bloody murder under an odd assumption that we talk to each other merely because we have to. Give us a reason not to and we will just stop interacting flat out.
And yet... and yet I think there are technologies that change the way we interact, that may lock us into our existing social circles and remove external pressure to meet new people (an uncomfortable process for many)"
In other words, these students you observe may be uncomfortable socializing with their peers in the hallways, or conforming in class, because they do not feel a part of the social setting of the school, and have social connections outside of it.
For better or worse, I do not think it is the use of the iPod that is the cause of avoidance, but the student themselves, that are avoiding social interaction.

2/26/2008 8:47 AM

 

Curtiss Cline's Blog Response # 1

Curtiss Cline's Blog Response # 1

Title of Post:  They Don't Get It, We Can Help

URL:  http://www.ahistoryteacher.com/wordpress/?p=170

  

  

They Don't Get It, We Can Help

Published August 29th, 2006 in Education, Web 2.0, Ed Tech and Teaching.

Each year I spend the first couple weeks of my college prep world history classes looking at why history is important and the process of creating histories. During my Evaluating Evidence lesson I set up a criteria that historians and students need to consider when using a source. I really focused on point of view and bias. Then I started talking about the Internet. Our students now turn to the Internet for information first; few make special trips to the library to find something out. As I started talking about having to be very critical of the sources we find online, I got a lot of blank stares.

I started getting concerned, so I conduct a quick, informal survey (which I would repeat with my two other college prep classes). The results struck a cord. Most claim they don't consider the source. If it shows up in Google, they are good to go. I mentioned the Martin Luther King, Junior page that use to show up in the top ten of Google searches on MLK which was really a skewed attack clandestinely sponsored by a white supremacist group (I believe Alan November used this example for a while). They were a bit shocked.

As this conversation developed in my first class, I decided that I would take them over to Wikipedia. About half of the students had been to Wikipedia, but only a handful actually understood it. Several mentioned that it was a cool place to easily get information. One person across three classes claimed he had contributed. When I clicked on the edit this page tab, I saw mouths drop open.

"You mean anyone can edit it?"
"Can you change it now?"
"Wait, it only changes it on your computer, right?"

The history tab (where you can see the past changes) surprised almost everyone. They have a good concept of creating content on the web (no doubt many of them have a MySpace account), but they were having trouble wrapping their head around the central concept of Wikipedia and wikis in general. When we got back to our discussion on evaluating evidence and examining information for validity, they seemed to get it a little more. We will certainly work on it all year.

It seems like no really owns teaching these skills. Who should do it? English teachers? Social studies? Technology classes? Everyone? I'm sure there are schools and districts that have made the effort and passed the policies to incorporated them, but I am betting a vast majority do not. We already have too much to cover and do. Throw in the issues I discussed in an earlier post and the problem becomes even more complex. It seems like technology is evolving so fast that education simply can't keep up.

Perhaps, like wikis and blogs, it has to be bottom up. Squeeze it in between lessons or build a skill builder into an existing unit. They don't get it. I can help my students. Can you help yours?

  1. 7 Curtiss Cline Feb 19th, 2008 at 9:13 pm

I had a professor in school that referred us to a website that was supposed to be an excellent reference source on the life of Oliver Cromwell. I knew a little about him and the period before researching, so was surprised to hit this page http://www.cromwell-intl.com/oliver/crom-fu.html of information. The teacher had proposed this site as an excellent source of information, so I had to reread the information a couple of times. I finally decided, on my own, that this had to be a joke. I later found out that it was an attempt by the web site author to stop wholesale plagiarism of his work. The site has changed a great deal in the past ten years, and no longer even pretends to be authoritative on the subject of Cromwell. Needless to say, Crom Fu has taken a life of its own within my circle of friends.
My point in bringing this up is that it is not just Wikipedia, but many sources on the web, and for that matter elsewhere, which are biased to a certain viewpoint or out and out posit information that is incorrect for their own purposes (i.e. martinlutherking.org). In my opinion, it is important that we, as teachers, focus on critical thinking skills, and ask students to practice it in class. As Dan has stated elsewhere in his blog, unless they are on a game show, most of the historical facts we are imparting are not going to prove worthwhile in their lives, but the cognitive skills we give them will make a big difference. Learning to judge the validity of sources and take into account their biases is a huge part of that, and is needed regardless of the source. These broad based critical skills should not only be a part of the curriculum, but should be a major underlying foundation of it, because it is needed in whatever career or field students intend to pursue.

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

 

 

 
About me
« June 2017 »
  • Su
  • Mo
  • Tu
  • We
  • Th
  • Fr
  • Sa
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • .
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
  • .

Recent comments
21Publish - Cooperative Publishing