Teacher Checklist for Current Events

As school boards, districts, and states pile on bans of teaching Critical Race Theory in the classroom without even understanding what they are censoring, others are substituting vague language in weak attempts to disguise these racist laws. I am not a lawyer or a history teacher, but I oppose any efforts to restrain students from learning the truth and exercising their own critical thinking on the lessons that could be learned from that truth. I also think it’s important to keep things relevant in the classroom, and that means that current events should not be ignored. Facing History has a free checklist for educators to use for planning purposes when considering current events. You will need to create a free account on the site in order to download this editable PDF, which also has links to reliable news sources as well as suggested strategies to use during student discussions. Armed with this and a list of the state standards you are addressing, you can be prepared to help students make connections between the past and the present, as well as to their own personal experiences.

I will be adding this post to my Wakelet of Anti-Racism Resources. Click on this link to find more!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
laptop with news on screen on wooden table

Free New York Times Webinar for Discussing Race and Racism in the Classroom

The New York Times is offering an on-demand webinar for teachers to learn about ways to use the NYT resources to discuss race and racism in the classroom. This is a free webinar, but you will need to register in order to access it. You will be able to download a certificate as evidence of professional development hours. In addition, there are comprehensive resources available here. Nationwide attempts to discourage and even outlaw discussions like these make it more important than ever for these conversations to happen. I will be adding this resource to my Anti-Racism Wakelet. You can find more links to free materials to help you actively stand up against racism there.

black pitcher on table
Photo by Viktoria Alipatova on Pexels.com

Juneteenth

I confess that I never heard of Juneteenth until I moved to Texas. Even then, it took years before I realized it was an actual historical event, not just a fun portmanteau. To learn more about Juneteenth, which is now a Federal holiday, you can read this article from Learning for Justice. Another good resource is this article from The Kid Should See This about the Google Doodle for Juneteenth, which includes a video and narration by LeVar Burton. For a teaching resource (if you happen to be in school still, or want to bookmark it for next school year) this page from PBS has good discussion questions and video links while also bringing up the reasons some anti-racists may not be in favor of Juneteenth as a national holiday. For information about the symbolism of the Juneteenth flag, pictured below, see this page.

This resource will be added to my Anti-Racist Wakelet. You can currently find more than 45 other resources at that link.

Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

Thoughts on Critical Race Theory

UPDATE 6/25/2021: For an excellent breakdown of Critical Race Theory, see this document by Sylvia Duckworth.

When news about the teaching of Critical Race Theory becoming a “hot-button” topic started trickling into my social media feeds, I knew I needed to do some research. I had never heard of CRT, and I suspect the issue may even be new to many history teachers. That’s why I thought I would include a few links on the topic in this week’s anti-racist post. I did my best to look for different perspectives on CRT because I think it’s important to understand why people support it as well as why people would like to ban it. The first thing I noticed was, well, there are a lot of words in any article I look for a definition. So, as often happens, I think that people are trying to simplify something that is quite complicated.

The first thing those of us new to the term need to know is that, “CRT is not itself a substantive course or workshop; it is a practice. It is an approach or lens through which an educator can help students examine the role of race and racism in American society,” as Janel George writes in this article for EdWeek. George goes on to explain, “In the K-12 classroom, CRT can be an approach to help students understand how racism has endured past the civil rights era through systems, laws, and policies—and how those same systems, laws, and policies can be transformed.”

What, then, is the threat of Critical Race Theory, according to its opponents? Some people believe that it vilifies White people, and some Black adversaries believe that it actually promotes racism. “I don’t know about you, but telling my child or any child that they are in a permanent oppressed status in America because they are Black is racist – and saying that White people are automatically above me, my children, or any child is racist as well,” stated Keisha King to the Florida Board of Education, according to this article by Sam Dorman of Fox News.

Polarizing attitudes like these generate anger on all sides. I even felt enraged before I knew anything about Critical Race Theory. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for teachers to find themselves in the middle of these battles, and then put into the precarious position of dealing with controversial issues in the classroom. In this NPR interview with Scott Simon, Julian Haynter, a professor at the University of Richmond, advises, “That racial reconciliation is not a zero-sum game, that we can tell a more complete story of American history without making people feel guilty or being made to feel guilty.”

In the Twitter thread below, you can read some other valid points, made by author and historian Justin Hart (@foredoma74):

It seems that many people are forgetting that teachers are practiced in giving information while we remain neutral. I’ve had students discuss and question me about: abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, gun control, and hunting many times over the years, and have never revealed my very strong feelings about any of these issues. We give them the facts and tools to make their own decisions. Though there may be some unprofessional educators out there who “indoctrinate” students, the vast majority of us recognize the value of diverse perspectives and values. More importantly, we want all of our students to feel safe and treasured, so the better educated we are, the better we can help them.

As someone who was never taught about the Tulsa Massacre, Jim Crow laws, or Japanese Internment camps during my K-12 years, I am an advocate for giving our students a complete picture of our past so we can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and do better in the future. Learning for Justice has curriculum materials for “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” here. And Edutopia has a very helpful article by Hedreich Nichols for “Productive Classroom Debates on Sensitive Topics.”

Skipping over the difficult parts of our history, where we were anything but heroic and benevolent, will continue to weaken us as a nation, and contribute to destroying us from within.

This post will be added to my collection of Anti-Racism resources here.

Tower of Reconciliation, Tulsa, Image by redkudu from Pixabay

The Socratic Method from TED Ed

Larry Ferlazzo was the first person to bring my attention to one of the newest TED Ed animations, “Improve Your Critical Thinking,” a video that explains how Socrates chose to use questioning rather than lectures with his students. With this, and my recent posts on the Short and Curly podcast, and Ethics in Bricks, I think it’s about time to share a new Wakelet. This is my Philosophy for Kids Wakelet, and includes the aforementioned posts, Ferlazzo’s “Best Resources on Teaching and Learning Critical Thinking in the Classroom,” and several other gems.

My Heritage

We may fear artificial intelligence with all of its potential harmful uses, but as with all technology it brings benefits as well. One of those is being employed by a website called My Heritage. A site for tracing and keeping records of your ancestry, it has recently added a new tool called, “Deep Nostalgia.” You can apply it to your photographs in order to animate them, and it can be quite enchanting. Of course the intent is to help you to imagine relatives from the past as they might have been when alive. But I played around with it to see how historical figures could be brought to life.

Since it is Women’s History Month, I looked for a website that listed past women who have made an impact on the world. I came across Bessie Coleman, the first Native American (she was part Cherokee) to get a pilot’s license. I was drawn to Bessie’s smiling image because it reminded me of some of the teenagers I taught in the past, and I immediately wanted to know her. I downloaded the following photo from Wikipedia.

I then went to My Heritage, where I had already created a free account, and uploaded the photo to my album. When you open a photo in your collection, you see an option to animate it in the top right corner. It takes a few moments to “apply its magic,” and then your video appears. There are several different ways to animate the image, so you can play around with trying different movements that seem to fit the personality of the portrait. When finished, it is saved to your album, and you can share it multiple ways, including downloading it.

Don’t you wish you could meet this young lady?

Of course, my curiosity is never quenched, so my next attempt was to find an image of someone from history before photography existed. I found a drawing of Boudica, legendary warrior queen, uploaded it to the site, and waited with skepticism. However, this also produced amazing results. I haven’t tried rudimentary drawings, like stick figures, but I have a feeling there are probably limits to this artificial intelligence tool.

My Heritage also has an app, so you can use pretty much any device to animate the images. The videos are short, but just long enough to make you feel like you are glimpsing through a window into the past. If I was a history teacher, I would definitely use My Heritage to help my students connect to people who may seem irrelevant and unreal (if they are even mentioned) in the pages of a textbook.