Don’t study war no more

July 20, 2006

Wizbang complains we don’t study wars enough in public schools. That could be correct.

Wizbang links to old posts by education writer Joanne Jacobsen and North Carolina AP history teacher Betsy to support the point. Interesting posts on interesting blogs (this is not an endorsement of the political views, only a judgment that the comments are interesting).

At Betsy’s old post (2004), I put up some comments anyway:

Gravatar The story of Henry Knox carrying the cannons of Fort Ticonderoga overland — 120,000 pounds worth! — in the middle of winter, to give Washington the bluff to win the siege of Boston, is the sort of story that sticks to the intellectual ribs of kids. The story of the “midnight crossing” at Trenton, after Washington got his tail whipped in New York and things looked more dire than they did at Boston, is another turning point battle. The war doesn’t make much sense, otherwise. They can be told in ten minutes, each. If a teacher wants to expand each into an hour-long exercise, with group activities including charts and graphs, it’s difficult — but what is wrong with good old lecture from time to time — especially riveting lecture?

The social effects are parts of longer threads — the continuous and continuing increase in rights, the rise of free and important women, increasing morality, increasing technology, American communities, and the birth and growth of American-style free enterprise.

All of those threads make the whole of history more comprehensible — but they are all interwoven. The Japanese Internments are part of a larger story on xenophobia and immigration, and the growth of civil rights. To treat it as a stand-alone feature of World War II is to slight the Chinese and Irish workers who built the transcontinental railroad, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Amish, the Mormons, all Hispanics and Vietnamese.

The difficulty I find is that the kids don’t come into 11th grade with anything they should have gotten from 8th grade. But I’ve been teaching at the alternative school. Certainly in AP, you can fly, can’t you?

Why not a unit on the top ten major battles in U.S. history? It would take a day. I have a 50-minute PowerPoint on Brown v. Topeka Board of Education that spans civil rights from 1776 to 2007, and links it all.

Quick! Before this history fades away . . .

July 20, 2006

From the Westfield, Massachusetts Republican, we find a story of history teachers getting first-hand history from a World War II veteran. His story is perhaps a bit unusual because he is African American, and he told the story of the irony of defending freedom in Europe, then returning home to have to fight for his own freedom all over again.

These veterans are dying off — this fellow, Raymond Elliott, is 82. Such a presentation to classes brings back to life the events of World War II, and in this case also sets the stage for the civil rights struggles of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (Brown v. Board, Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Little Rock, the rise of Martin Luther King, Jr., Selma, the March on Washington, “I Have a Dream,” the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, etc., etc.).

The full story is below the fold — fair use copy. Do you have such veterans in your town? Do your classes get to meet with them? Are you such a veteran, and do the teachers in your area know you are available? Do you think many of these teachers got his name and address to invite him to their schools?

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