How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

By Bill Gates (2021)

Reviewed by Hank Bitten, NJCSS Executive Director

The New Jersey Department of Education has taken an important step in avoiding a climate disaster. Beginning in September 2022, every New Jersey student in Grades K-12 will be studying the causes and effects of climate change in their community, state, nation, and world. In Social Studies classes, students will be researching, debating, proposing, and implementing solutions to reduce their carbon foot print, propose strategies for a sustainable environment in their schools and community, propose solutions at the state and national level, and collaborate with students and professionals in other countries about global initiatives. The goal of changing behavior at this critical time is to educate students with an interdisciplinary model and approaches in all disciplines.

Bill Gates focuses on solutions to the impending climate crises regarding the harms of the 51,000,000,000 (billion) tons of greenhouse gases that 7,500,000,000 (billion) people contribute to every year!  Although on the average this is 70 tons a day, the per person contribution is significantly higher in the United States, New Jersey, and some other countries. Europe has a plan to become the first continent to become carbon neutral in 30 years. (What is the EU’s Green Deal? And could Europe become the first climate-neutral continent? | World Economic Forum (weforum.org))

The first application in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is with the metaphors that will help students in the elementary grades to understand the effects of global warming.

For example: Imagine a bathtub of water with the drain closed that is slowly filling up with water. What will eventually happen? What will be the damage to the room or house? Why is it not enough to slow the amount of water filling up the bathtub? 

Imagine sitting in a car with the sun shining on the glass windows.  What happens to the temperature inside the car? Will opening the window half an inch make the car safe for passengers?  Why is the temperature of the earth increasing every year? What will be the result if it continues to increase?

These metaphors will help students understand that small changes in our behaviors are helpful but they are not likely to solve the problem for what is causing the earth’s temperature to continually increase. Teachers will find valuable resources for teaching young children how electricity and cars contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. (Page 55) For example, electricity contributes about 27% of greenhouse gases to our environment. For younger children, teachers need to help their students understand how much electricity (megawatts and kilowatts) one family contributes.  The average home uses 28 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. For example, my electric bill stated that our home consumed 630 kilowatt hours over 28 days or 23 kilowatt hours per day.

Ask your students to identify everything in their apartment of home that uses electricity. Then compare kilowatts to a cup or glass of water that would be emptied into a sink or tub with the drain closed. Have your students explain the effects of increasing and decreasing the amount of electricity consumed.  The more electricity used and the more people using electricity will generate additional greenhouse gases that will harm the environment.

Another important understanding for younger children is to understand that each item they identify as using electricity uses different amounts of energy. For example, a light bulb might use 40 watts but the hair dryer uses 1,500. The critical application for younger students is to understand that by reducing the amount of electricity consumed helps the environment. In this context, teachers should scaffold to a higher conceptual level by understanding the impacts of more people in the home, community, and world. Reducing greenhouse gases is very difficult which is why understanding that everything we do and everything we produce has a harmful effect on our planet.

The second application is the useful information to support middle school student debates on the solutions to reduce greenhouse gases at the local, state, and national levels.

Middle school students should understand how human activity is accelerating climate changes by warmer temperatures. The technology of renewable sources, (i.e., solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal) should also be familiar to most students. However, the cost, amount of space needed to produce energy for a city, and the durability of the equipment are important areas for student research, problem-solving, and debate.

In the United States we have replaced energy several times over the past century.  Many homes have fire places but wood burns quickly and heat is lost through the chimney. Coal and oil were more efficient resources to heat homes.  They were eventually replaced in many homes with natural or propane gas. In the 1950s and 1960s the government supported high-powered transmission lines for electricity and underground pipes for natural gas. In the 1970s we transitioned from leaded gasoline to a more expensive grade of unleaded fuel.  Understanding the processes of continuity and change over time for how people live is critical to understanding the societal costs of inexpensive fossil fuels.

In Zurich, Switzerland there is a DAC (direct air capture) facility operated by Climeworks which can remove (or absorb) carbon from the atmosphere as it is released.  The cost is $100 per ton.  Since the world is currently producing 51 billion tons of harmful carbon emissions EACH year, the cost is $5.1 trillion.  The United States has a per person carbon footprint of 15 tons per person. The cost would be $1,500 per person or $6,000 for a family of four. This would be the cost EACH YEAR and a very expensive solution.

There are interesting hypothetical scenarios in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster regarding a place near Seattle or a large city the size of Tokyo. In these scenarios, students will find enough information for them to ask probing questions or search for more research regarding the average number of days with sunlight or wind speeds, the impact of severe weather, the amount of space on land or in water to build an energy farm, the costs to transmit electricity over long distances, and how to store sufficient power for evenings and when energy supplies are less than what is demanded.

Another interesting topic for middle school students to debate or discuss is the impact of electric vehicles on home energy supplies. Students need to consider the impact of charging multiple vehicles per household and in a city with high-rise apartments.  The book also provides basic information that should motivate students to research the technologies of fusion, batteries, and nuclear power. The ITER project in southern France will likely be operational within this decade. Is fusion the magical answer for our goal of zero carbon emissions?  Teachers will find empirical evidence in this book regarding current technology and experiments which are essential when teaching students how to support their claims and arguments with evidence.

The third application is for high school students to determine proposals for reducing the one-third of greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing plastics, cement, and fertilizers.

The media focuses on emissions from the fossil fuels of vehicles and the generation of electric power. Two areas that may not be familiar to students are that 19 percent of global emissions come from the production and application of fertilizers and 31 percent from industrial production.  The combination of these two areas represents about one-half of the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions currently contributing to the increase in temperature.  When studying continuity and change over time, students visually see how communities and cities change over 100 years, 50 years, or less. For example:

Shanghai, China in 1987 (on the left) and 2013 (on the right) Source

New York City (1876-2013)

When studying the impact of land use on climate, students should explore the environmental costs to society from the use of cement, steel, glass, generation of electricity, loss of forested land, waste, and traffic. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster provides an opportunity for classroom exploration, research, inquiry, collaboration, and solutions.  The contribution of the social sciences to understanding the causes of greenhouse gas emissions, strategies for changing the way we currently are doing things, and analyzing the externality of societal costs is found in what students do best – asking questions, researching, debating private and public solutions, analyzing the costs and long-term benefits, and presenting information clearly and concisely in graphs, tables, maps, and images.

Examples of questions for collaboration, researching, and interviewing by students are:

  • How are we producing automobiles?
  • Is natural gas the most efficient method for cooking food and heating buildings?
  • What are the societal costs for raising animals for food?
  • How should we recycle food waste?
  • How would a Green Premium be calculated in analyzing the costs and benefits over time?
  • How significant are the societal costs of air-conditioning on a global scale?

Standard 6.3 for climate for high school students in New Jersey requires them to collaborate with other students on proposed solutions.

6.3.12.GeoGI.1: Collaborate with students from other countries to develop possible solutions to an issue of environmental justice, including climate change and water scarcity, and present those solutions to relevant national and international governmental and/or nongovernmental organizations.

The competitive advantage of Social Studies in learning about the biggest issue to impact our planet in history is with our ability to engage in problem solving, understanding perspectives from different cultures, historical lessons of strategies to address problems over time, the ability to analyze the economics of the problem and solutions, and to debate the effectiveness of public and private solutions. The Social Studies classroom, especially in grades 6-12, is a laboratory for analyzing the marginal costs and losses of incremental changes, preventative solutions, investments in research and development, and the cost of inaction.

“Climate science tells us why we need to deal with this problem but not how to deal with it.  For that, we’ll need biology, chemistry, physics, political science, economics, and other sciences.” (Page 198)

One of the best chapters in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is the one on government. The perspectives on the electrification or rural America, installing natural gas lines, building the interstate highway system, implementing the Clean Air Act or 1970, the Montreal Protocol of 1987, and the Human Genome Project provide empirical examples of what the government of the United States has accomplished in the 20th century.  The lessons of innovation and the call to debate solutions for reaching the goal of zero carbon emissions are opportunities that should be integrated into the existing curriculum. The Sunshot Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce the costs of solar energy is one example worth studying in Economics or U.S. History. Here are some examples:

  1. Will the steps taken to reduce carbon emissions in your community or average size city in New Jersey work in Tokyo with a population of 38 million, or Mexico City, New York, or Mumbai?
  2. Is the best strategy for reducing carbon emissions one that is implemented at the local or state level of government, through national or global commitments, or by incentives to private firms?
  3. Are there dangers in making immediate but small reductions by 2030 or will it be more effective to wait for new technologies from current research?
  4. If society delays implementing carbon emission reductions now, will the costs be significantly more expensive if implementation is postponed five or ten years?
  5. What are the most effective incentives to lower costs and reduce risks? (tax credits, subsidies, loan guarantees, carbon tax, cap and trade system, etc.)
  6. How important are the actions taken by citizens, consumers, and producers in taking the initiative in reducing carbon emissions?
  7. What lessons have we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic that apply to our response to impending warmer temperatures and rising sea levels from carbon emissions?

As teachers in New Jersey begin to implement the K-12 mandated curriculum standards on climate and environmental sustainability, they should consider an interdisciplinary model that includes learning in every grade focusing on causes, effects, and solutions at the local, state, national, and global levels.  Students who are age five in Kindergarten in 2021 will be 34 in 2050.  Teachers who are age 25 or 30 now will be 55-60 in 2050.  The curriculum that is planned and implemented will have a measurable legacy in the foreseeable future. In 1921, a nuclear bomb, sending a man to the moon, CT images, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were impossible to imagine but by the middle of the 20th century they were in development of considered possible. Social Studies teachers must look beyond what is predictable today and teach students for a world that may be in conflict and crisis or one that can be safer and better.

Keep Sharp by Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Keep Sharp

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Reviewed by Hank Bitten, NJCSS Executive Director

I selected this book with the intention of discovering a resource for Psychology teachers who need relevant information to support their teaching about the brain. As a history educator, I recognize my pedestrian level of understanding how my brain works. As I write this book review, I am using millions of brain cells or neurons but also rewiring my brain to adapt to a new subject area and audience.

The first new thing I learned from reading this book was a respect for my own brain.

My brain “weighs less than most laptop computers, yet it can perform in a way that no computer can or ever will.” (p. 30)  It is the power of my brain that enables me to think in ways beyond my basic survival instincts. My awareness of diet and nutrition is limited to my narrow perspective of fitness and weight control. In Keep Sharp, I became aware of the importance of nutritional foods in controlling the amount of inflammation in my arteries and blood vessels in my brain. The brain also thrives on oxygen and activity. There is a relationship between time spent on individual and team sports with memory and a positive learning impact. (p. 102) I also am more aware of getting outdoors for exercise and fresh air, even during cold and wet weather.

I have become more aware of how my brain regulates every part of my body regarding hormonal secretions, cognitive memory, and a daily cleansing ritual similar to how my anti-virus software deletes hidden files on my computer. The benefits of exercise and movement are critical in reducing the harmful effects of sugar remaining idle in our blood which causes dramatic fluctuations in glucose and insulin impacting brain structure and development.

“Without a healthy brain, you cannot even make healthy decisions. And with a healthy brain comes not only a healthy body, weight, heart, and so on, but also a stronger sense of confidence a more solid financial future thanks to smart decisions, better relationships, more love in life, and heightened overall happiness.” (p. 76)  

The second new thing I found of interest was the statistical or factual information presented in the book

For example, here are five observations:

  1. The brain uses 20 percent of my energy and oxygen intake. Since 75% of our brains are composed of water (similar for the heart) that dehydration affects our cognitive skills and attention immediately. (p.36)
  2. The brain is the last organ in our body to mature, which is why teenagers are vulnerable to risky behaviors and in need of emotional learning and support. For some of us, the brain does not reach maturity until about age 25.  There is also a difference between our chronological age and vascular age, which explains why people in their eighties are able to compete in marathons or swim across the English Channel as Otto Thaning, from South Africa, did in 2014 at age 73!
  3. “In 2018, researchers from Columbia University showed for the first time that healthy older folks can generate as many new brain cells as younger people.” (p. 67)
  4. By the age of eighty-five and older, about a third of the people have dementia. (p.95) “Two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women, and we don’t have an understanding yet why this is the case or what causes women to be at a higher risk.” (p. 82)
  5. “Nearly 35 percent of all U.S. adults have what’s called metabolic syndrome, a combination of health conditions you don’t want to have, such as obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, or a poor lipid profile.  Since 2005, researchers have been finding correlations between diabetes and a risk for Alzheimer’s disease, especially when the diabetes is not controlled and a person suffers from high blood sugar.” (p. 58)

The third insight I enjoyed were the metaphors presented to illustrate in practical ways how the brain functions.

For example, the metaphors of understanding the brain as a town or a puzzle are useful illustrations for students:

“I think the brain is like a town.  The important structures such as the houses and shops are in nearly constant use, and they probably represent 10 to 20 percent of our brains. The rest, however, are the roads than connect all these shops and homes.  Without the roads, information could not get to where it needs to go.  So, while the roads are not in constant use, they are necessary.” (p. 82)

“When you recall a memory, it is like assembling a giant jigsaw puzzle from a few small pieces to get it started.  As the pieces come together, link, and define an image, they begin to tell a story, convey a picture, or share knowledge.” (p. 41)

Perhaps the most significant information I learned in Keep Sharp was in Chapter 6, “The Need for Sleep and Relaxation.” 

Sleep controls our hormonal cycles and our circadian rhythm.

“Sleep is essential for consolidating our memories and filing them away for later recall.  Research is showing that brief bursts of brain activity during deep sleep, called sleep spindles, effectively move recent memories, including what we learned that day, from the short-term space of the hippocampus to the “hard drive” of our neocortex.” (p. 137)

Dr. Sanjay Gupta references numerous research studies throughout the book. The University of Rochester study on the glymphatic system provided me with insight into how my brain functions by decluttering information I process during the day and removing dangerous metabolic chemicals preventing inflammation and reducing feelings of depression.  However, regular sleep is the process for the optimal performance of our brains on start-up upon waking up.

Many psychology teachers emphasize the relationship of nutrition to behavior.  This book provides useful information regarding the evidence of research studies in this area. For example, in 2014, the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability reported that diet and exercise contributed to preserving cognition.  A similar conclusion was reached in the United States by the Alzheimer’s Association on reducing the amount of sugar in the blood. (p. 164). “Increasing fruit intake by just one serving a day has the estimated potential to reduce your risk of dying from a cardiovascular event by 8 percent, the equivalent of 60,000 fewer deaths annually in the United States and 1.6 million deaths globally. (p. 167) This is significant because hypertension and diabetes contribute to inflammation and plaque in the brain.  People with high levels of blood sugar, even if they are not diabetic and of normal weight, releases hormones and cytokines that cause cognitive deterioration.

Other areas in Keep Sharp that are related to the high school Psychology and Sociology curriculums are the role that loneliness from the divorce and the death of a spouse have on human behavior and the human body. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that married people are less likely to experience dementia as they age, and divorcees and those who are widowed or never-married are twice as likely to develop dementia! (p. 190) The demographics of this population is roughly 60 million Americans, or 20% of our population. (p. 192). It is the quality of relationships that appears to have an effect on our brains.

Conclusion

It is important to teach brain functions and brain health in high school because it supports behaviors for a longevity and cognition. According to the FDA, 99.6 percent of over 400 drug trials relating to Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia have resulted in failures.  The cost of care, supplements, and medications for dementia and Alzheimer’s are in the billions of dollars each year. By 2030, the millennials will begin turning 45, the Generation-Xers 45, and the baby boomers 85. This is a scenario for a major health crisis.

A Question of Freedom by William G. Thomas III, Reviewed by Hank Bitten

A Question of Freedom:

The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War

by William G. Thomas III

Reviewed by Hank Bitten, Executive Director NJ Council for the Social Studies

Having taught the colonial unit for decades as part of the U.S. History 1 course, I always dedicated time to Lord Calvert, the persecution of Roman Catholics in Maryland, the Toleration Act of 1649, and life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Although I would document his wealth and plantation, I never made the connection to his slaves or the role of the Roman Catholic Church in operating a tobacco plantation with slaves in Prince George’s County.

The history of slaves in Maryland and the role of the Society of Jesuits in conducting the business of a tobacco corporation in complicated.  As a result of reading A Question of Freedom, I have a new perspective and credible documentation of how slavery became rooted in the laws of our colonies, states, and national government.

The opening chapter is a compelling account of the life of Edward Queen who sued for freedom in 1791 because he was the son of a freewoman, his grandmother. (p. 3) The struggle for freedom by Edward Queen continued for 22 years until the decision in Queen v. Hepburn by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1813. His attorney was Francis Scott Key.

Teachers who are looking for the right questions to engage students in historical inquiry and investigative research will find the questions presented by Professor Thomas (University of Nebraska, Lincoln) a valuable resource. This book is filled with inquiry based questions that encourage exploration and debate. Here are some examples:

  1. Why did the Jesuits and other slaveholders fight so ferociously in court to hold on to the people they enslaved?
  2. What did people like Edward Queen hope to achieve, and what did they think was within their reach?
  3. Why did lawyers, like Francis Scott Key take these cases and how did judges, even those with moderate antislavery convictions, end up advancing legal principles in the trials that would ultimately uphold slavery?
  4. How did Duvall, Key, and Queen families know one another long before the case was argued in the Supreme Court in February 1813?
  5. Did the Queen case leave any lasting impression on the thinking of Francis Scott Key when he wrote the poem that would become “The Star Spangled Banner?’ (p. 5)

Professor Thomas discovered the name of Allen Bowie Duckett, Associate Justice to the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia in his research.  Justice Duckett’s father presided over a case for freedom by the Edward Queen family and ruled in their favor. In fact, this decision resulted in the freedom of twenty members of the Queen family. What Professor Thomas discovered through his research was that his grandmother’s family owned plantations adjacent to the area known as White Marsh on the Chesapeake Bay peninsula. He discovered that Elizabeth M. Duckett claimed slaves at the end of the Civil War. The document reported Henny Queen, age 35, and her five children ages six months to eight years old.

Teachers interested in teaching about Continuity and Change will see insights in Chapter 2 about how the aftermath of the Seven Years War and the American Revolution gave rise to the election of liberal and conservative members in the British House of Commons. In America, laws about slavery were limited to each colony before 1789 but in the case of England, its protection, importation, manumission, and abolition applied to a global colonial empire.

Did British Common Law Apply to its Colonies?

Even though the importation of slaves was legal in the United States until 1808, slaves who were brought to England were not compelled to leave according to a common law decision by Chief Justice Lord Mansfield in the decision of James Somersett.  James Somersett, a slave, was taken to England by his master, Charles Stewart, a customs officer in Boston. He ran away and was eventually tracked down and placed in prison. A writ of habeas corpus was issued for his release by the abolitionist Granville Sharp in connection with a pending case by merchants from the West Indies who wanted assurance by common law that slaves were a safe investment. The case of Somersett v. Stewart, 1772 became a landmark case that inspired hope for slaves held in bondage throughout the British empire.

The language of the Somersett decision indicates the complexities of the status of slaves as persons under natural and moral law or as property protected by laws. England will not abolish slavery for 60 years (1833) but without a specific law in England to sanction slavery, a person with the legal status of a slave in a colony could not be forced to leave England and return to slavery. James Somersett continued with his status as a slave but could not be forced to return to chattel slavery. The language is confusing in stating that slavery was odious but a temporary presence in England did not guarantee manumission, and questions would continue regarding if the common law ruling applied only to the definition of being in England or if being on a ship or at a port in the Tames River applied.

“Mansfield’s decision moved slavery entirely out of the reach of the common law and its moral protection.  Whatever slavery was, it was not sanctioned by English common law. As a result, Somersett v. Stewart wiped out the line of seventeenth century precedents that had once propped up slavery as a lawful form of property.” (p. 34)

Professor Thomas researched the case of Mahoney v. Ashton in Maryland. “In its length and complexity, Mahoney v. Ashton was like almost no other petition for freedom in American history.” (p. 88) Charles Mahoney and 40 of his relatives were owned by Charles Carrollton, Maryland’s leading politician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The basis of the trial dated back to Ann Joice, grandmother of Charles Mahoney.  Ann Joice was a black indentured servant from Barbados who spent time in England before coming to Maryland to work for Lord Baltimore.  As an indentured servant, she should be entitled to her freedom, as should her 1,500 descendants who were slaves in Maryland. People of color born from a free woman were not slaves!  Unfortunately, it was difficult to provide evidence that she was in England. The research provided in this case, with its twists and turns, is worth your reading.  In the trial, the jurors heard testimony from hearsay of Mary Queen, a free black woman who came to Virginia from New Spain instead of the Popo region of West Africa as claimed by Benjamin Duvall, representing the slaveholders.

“The all-white slaveholding jury gave greater weight to the testimony of the Queen witnesses, followed the ruling of the general court in Edward’s case, and rendered a verdict in favor of freedom for Phillis Queen. The decision made sense.  A higher court determined Edward Queen was free, so surely his mother, Phillis should be also.  Since Edward’s grandmother, Mary Queen was “not a slave,” surely her daughter could not be a slave either.” (p. 76) “On May 12, 1799, the jury returned an unambiguous verdict: ‘Charles Mahoney is a free man.’” (p. 99)

As a result of this decision, twenty related lawsuits freed over fifty children and grandchildren. “The trials cost John Ashton and the Jesuits 6,795 pounds of tobacco in damages, court costs, and fees.” (p. 78) The year is 1796 and the cost was even greater since tobacco prices were depressed in the mid-1790s. In this same year, the Maryland legislature allowed manumission by last will and testament for individuals in good health, under the age of forty-five, who could support themselves. Unfortunately, legal precedents can change and Charles Mahoney’s family experienced their loss of freedom.

“On June 25, 1802, the High Court of Appeals reversed the May 1799 judgment freeing Charles Mahoney. The defeat was total.”  Setting a foot in England was no longer a basis for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for Charles, Patrick, and Daniel Mahoney or others. (p. 112)

What a teachable moment!

  1. Is this decision evidence that in the United States, slaves were defined as property because of the color of their skin?
  2. Is this decision a reaction against the popularity of the Jeffersonian Republicans after the Election of 1800?
  3. Did the ill-fated rebellion near Richmond, Virginia by Gabriel Prosser in 1800 and the French and Haitian Revolutions increase fears of mob rule and the loss of property?
  4. Is the decision valid based on the arguments of Robert Goodloe Harper that Somersett v. Stewart only suspended a slaveholder’s right to property?
  5. Is the position of the Democratic Republicans contradictory in its support for slavery on the basis of race while advocating for the freedom of specific individuals, like the Mahoney family?

These questions should motivate deeper questions by your students leading to evidence that legal precedents are being established in states that will support the basis of Roger Taney’s obiter dictum in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. The Question of Freedom provides insights into why laws for voting based on the ownership of property were changed to qualifications based on race and skin color. (p. 115) States began to introduce legislation outlawing manumission and requiring free blacks to carry a certificate of freedom signed by the county court. Judges provided instructions to jurors that the burden of proof fell on the enslaved person to prove their freedom and that the color of their mulatto skin was white. “Judges and juries would observe their color, hair, and physical features.  Testimony about the racial features of their ancestors would give greater weight than what contemporaries said about their status as free persons.” (p. 132)

The Impact of the Domestic Slave Trade

The freedom case of Priscilla and Mina Queen (Queen v. Hepburn) offers unique insights into the slave trade, black market trade of enslaved persons, impact of bankruptcy on slaveowners and enslaved persons, and changing financial markets.  The case began in 1809 and a successful outcome depended on Priscilla and Mina Queen proving their grandmother was Nanny Cooper, the daughter of Mary Queen who was in England, and establishing that she came to Maryland as a free woman before 1715 (100 years ago).

John Hepburn, inherited over one thousand acres in 1775 and over the years overspent his fortune in a lucrative life style. As a result of filing for bankruptcy, his creditors could acquire slaves, sell them, and separate them from their children. Blacks, both free and slave, were in high demand to meet the labor needs for the construction of buildings and roads in the new capital city of Washington D.C. and to pick cotton to meet the international demand for cotton textiles.

The U.S. prohibited the international slave trade of slaves in 1808 but the domestic slave trade became a daily event at auctions.  “Former New York congressman John P. Van Ness advertised in the newspaper a year later that he had ‘A Negro Boy for Sale.’” (p. 166) When Catholic women joined the convent, their parents gave the Roman Catholic Church their dowries, which often included slaves. As a result of the increasing population of people of color in the new capital, strict black codes designed to limit freedom in the evening were enacted. (p. 162)

Chapter 5 presents the facts in a concise manner that offers teachers an opportunity to create a mock trial simulation of Queen v. Hepburn and Queen v. Neale. These cases have twists and turns regarding hearsay evidence, transcription errors in documents, and connections to shipping records and wills. Furthermore, the Queen’s lawyer is Francis Scott Key and one of the associate judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, Gabriel Duvall, had previous ruled in favor of Charles Mahoney.  There is also a map of Washington D.C. (1815) identifying the homes and offices of the major individuals in this story.  The research is splendid and the controversial issues for students to debate provide a powerful understanding of both systemic racism in the United States and the depth of individual freedom.  The arguments for the protection of property are real and the right to individual freedom is powerful. (pp. 169 -179

  1. William Cranch, Federalist and nephew of Abigail Adams is the chief judge of the circuit court in D.C. Although a Federalist, expert in property contracts, his decisions generally benefited slaves in their freedom suits.
  2. Francs Scott Key presented all the depositions from the 21 freedom suits of the Queen family that Gabriel Duvall had taken years before. The evidence that Mary Queen was an indentured servant was carefully explained.
  3. Fredus Ryland was a star witness and had previously given a deposition in 1796 stating that he met Mary Queen and heard her story first hand. His deposition clearly stated that she was ‘born free’ came from Guayaquil (Ecuador or New Spain) and was transported around the world and to England by Captain Woodes Rogers and lived in London for three years!
  4. Everyone who was literate in the United States was familiar with Daniel Defoe’s popular book, Robinson Crusoe, which is based on the account of Captain Rogers and includes a reference to a passenger Maria. Could this be Mary Queen?
  5. Francis Scott Key introduced the will of James Carroll bequeathing a woman named Mary to Anthony Carroll, John Carroll’s seven-year old nephew.
  6. The attorneys for Rev. Francis Neale, objected to the deposition of Fredus Ryland claiming it was based on hearsay.

Read the digital files of the freedom suits at The Georgetown Slavery Archive and University of Nebraska-Lincoln O Say Can You See Project

Students should ask questions about the rules of evidence in trials, especially in the case of slaves who lacked birth records and travel documents. In the 21st century lawyers and judges argue over what evidence is credible and what needs to be excluded.  Many judges were open to hearsay evidence in freedom trials, especially when it was supported by multiple individuals. With the rejection of hearsay evidence, Priscilla Queen and Nina Queen both lost their suit for freedom.  However, Nina Queen appealed her decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in February 1813.

In the context of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, I taught my students about the slave trade in Washington, D.C. and the market value of the price of slaves.  After reading Question of freedom, I realized this needs to be taught much earlier. Professor Thomas provides detailed research of the slave trade and prisons in our nation’s capital dating back to 1800 and the demand for laborers in building the U.S. Capitol, ships for our navy, and house servants for elected members of our government. It is a valuable resource for teachers, as is Solomon Northrup, Twelve Years a Slave, who want to teach about continuity and change and how the questions relating to slavery, property, and individual freedom changed in the first six decades of the 19th century.

“The men, women, and children were ‘bound together in pairs, some with ropes, and some with iron chains.” (Report from Dr. Jesse Torrey, circa 1815, p. 196)

Slave Trades in Washington D.C.

The locations of hidden slave pen on the upper floor of George Miller’s Tavern on F Street (between 13th and 14th), Williams Yellow House, and Robey’s Tavern on Independence Ave. between 7th and 8th Streets.

The story of Ann Williams captures the fear that every black person faced daily as the demand for labor intensified with the construction of roads and buildings and the cotton economy in the South.  Ann Williams and her two young daughters were taken from their home in Bladensburg, Maryland and marched in chains for seven miles to Washington D.C. She pried open a window and jumped three floors breaking her spine. George Miller, the tavern owner, kept her on a wooden pallet providing her with food and water. 

Engage your students in reflective thinking to determine if his motives were for humanitarian reasons or for profit from the children she would likely give birth to after she was healed. This is a powerful story that your students will never forget. Furthermore, the Circuit Court in D.C. issued a writ of habeas corpus to investigate the incident at the Miller Tavern only to have it rescinded on the grounds that Ann Williams was property and therefore a writ of habeas corpus could not apply because it is only for persons detained. Her story is even more important because on July 2, 1832, she received her freedom through a verdict from a jury in the District of Columbia Court – 17 years after she jumped from the top floor of Miller’s Tavern.

The questions presented by Professor Williams are at times clearly stated and they are also hidden in the perspectives. For example, the argument by George Miller that slaves were property and could be denied a writ of habeas corpus are of national importance.  This incident influenced the Missouri Compromise, Tallmadge Amendment, and the African Colonization Society. With every economic crisis in 1817, 1837, with the changing markets for labor, with burgeoning individual debts and personal bankruptcy, enslaved persons were vulnerable.

Henry Clay

Teachers must ask their students how did economics influence the principles of slaveholders such as Francis Scott Key, John Marshall, Roger B. Taney, Henry Clay and other prominent Americans who are also understood as reformers? The evidence illustrates the inequality of the United States of America in a way that the debate over a $15 minimum wage has arguments for maintaining wages below the poverty level and increasing profits for businesses above the expected rate of inflation. History is complicated!

However, the freedom suit filed by Charlotte Dupee in 1829 for her freedom from Henry Clay, Secretary of State, displays these conflicts.  Henry Clay is a founding member of the American Colonization Society (the chairperson), an aspiring candidate for president, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, and a senator from Kentucky.  Henry Clay stated, “free black confronted unconquerable prejudices resulting from their color and they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country.” (pp. 200-201)

Henry Clay purchased Charlotte for $450 (a high price) in 1815. She married Henry Clay’s personal assistant and driver, Aaron Dupee. Charlotte and Aaron married and had two children, Charles and Mary Ann.  They lived with Henry Clay in his home (Decatur House) on Lafayette Square. Charlotte’s parents lived in Maryland as a free family and her family visited with them regularly. Charlotte and Aaron were well known and respected among the Washington political elites and likely very aware of legislation and debates relating to slavery.

Charlotte’s law suit was based on the fact that when she was born her parents were free and not slaves. However, she was born in 1787 and her father received his freedom in 1790 and her mother in 1792. She claimed her sale to Henry Clay was illegal.  After the Electoral College declared Andrew Jackson as president, Henry Clay would return to Kentucky with Charlotte and Aaron and their two children. They could be separated and sold at any time.

The case embarrassed Henry Clay and called into question his political reputation. In another interesting twist of research, Professor Williams observes that Charlotte remained in Washington D.C. because of her pending lawsuit and found new employment with Martin Van Buren, the new vice-president and political enemy of Henry Clay.  The Court decided in May 1830 in favor of Henry Clay with the statement “Charlotte Dupee was born a slave for life.” (p.227). Henry Clay instructed his attorney to inform Charlotte to return to his home in Kentucky at her expense.  Students will find Henry Clay’s letter to his attorney of interest:

“I approve entirely of your order to the Marshall to imprison Lotty (Charlotte).Her husband and children are here. Her refusal therefore to return home, when requested by me to do so through you, was unnatural towards them as it was disobedient to me.  She has been her own mistress, upwards of 18 months, since I left her in Washington, in consequence of the groundless writ which she was prompted to bring against me for her freedom; and as that writ has been decided against her, and as her conduct has created insubordination among her relatives here, I think it is high time to put a stop to it.” (p. 227)

Charlotte Dupee was taken to the D.C. City Jail and sent to Henry Clay’s daughter in New Orleans. Charlotte’s freedom suit was never reported in the newspapers. In 1840, Henry Clay emancipated Charlotte and her daughter Mary Anne. She was 53 years old. However, Henry Clay did not free Mary Anne’s children. Have your students examine slavery in America with snapshots taken in 1790 (ratification of the U.S. Constitution), 1800 (rise of Jeffersonian Republicans), 1810 (end to the importation of slaves), 1820 (Missouri Compromise), 1830 (Charlotte Dupee’s freedom suit), 1831 (Nat Turner’s Rebellion), and now in 1840 (Whig Party).

Fears Every Black American Experienced

There were more urban riots in the summer of 1835 than in any other year. The 1835 riots in Washington D.C. exploded in the Washington Navy Yard following the decision to bring thirteen slaves and three free black men to complete the work on the USS Columbia.   The fear of industrial slave labor might replace skilled white workers. After someone reported the theft of compression pins from the blacksmith shop, the white workers went on strike.

The diary (1813-1865) kept by Michael Shiner, one of the enslaved workers who was a literate carpenter reveals the fears of the black community and a unique perspective of the events in Washington D.C.  Michael Shiner was one year away from his freedom when the riots of 1835 happened.  Another event that shook America was the death of John Marshall on July 6, which was followed by the nomination of Roger B. Taney. The diary of Michael Shiner also recorded the arrest of a young African American, Arthur Bowen for the attempted murder of a notable white woman, which involved the U.S. marines to keep order and prevent the lynching of Arthur Bowen.  The U.S. district attorney was Francis Scott Key, a tough prosecutor and brother-in-law to Chief Justice Taney, who arrested Professor Reuben Crandall, a botany professor at Yale.  There are many factors related to these events in the summer of 1835 for students to analyze and each of them reveals engaging questions about abolition, the influence of the Ebenezer African Methodist Church on Fourth and G Streets, the inequality experienced by residents in the area around the Navy Yard (Northeast), the citywide Memorial Petition calling for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, the slave trading corporation of Isaac Franklin and John Armfield with scheduled transports of slaves to New Orleans, Natchez, and other ports in the South. Some of the questions that intrigued me are:

  1. Is holding abolitionist literature and distributing a pamphlet to another person the same as publishing abolitionist literature?
  2. Francis Scott Key represented slaves in their request for freedom, is a founding member of the American Colonization Society, defended slave holders, owned seven slaves, freed four of his slaves, and facilitated the sale of 272 black men, women, and children for $115,000 to balance the accounts of Georgetown College. How should I teach my students about the life of Francis Scott Key?
  3. Did the rhetoric of the abolitionists, intended to end slavery, encourage slaves to become violent and become counter-productive to the cause of freedom?
  4. Was the decision to expand the U.S. Supreme Court in 1837 from seven to nine justices, motivated to protect the property of slaveholders or by the westward expansion of the United States? (President Jackson appointed seven of the nine justices)

System Racism

The evidence in Chapter 8 regarding the financial implications of how slaves were “assembled, sold, and transported,” the exponential impact of how the sale of a few enslaved persons affected the lives of hundreds, the importance of understanding how the panics or economic recessions of 1837 and 1857 contributed to the sale of enslaved persons and the breaking up of families, and the legal theories that were advanced by slaveholders and abolitionists is powerful and clearly articulated. The claims and arguments in this chapter regarding systemic racism in the United States are convincing.

  1. Enslaved persons were treated in every contract and sale as part of a “lot.” Individuals were clearly property and packaged in a way that mortgages are sold as bonds in today’s market. Individual slaves were sold as priced commodities based on their skin colors, genders, skills, histories, and ages. They were sold to different buyers in a similar way that odd lot purchases of stocks are bought and sold on today’s stock exchanges.  Slaves were chattel and appraised for their value. For example, Ann Bell lived independently in Washington D.C. from approximately 1825 to 1836. Unknown to her, she was privately bequeathed as estate property by Gerald T. Greenfield of Tennessee.

“Thirteen-year old Andrew was valued at $375. Caroline, now nine years old, was priced at $250.  Eleven-year old Mary Ellen and seven-year old George were valued at $200 each.  Five-year old Daniel and his three-year old sister Harriett were priced at $100 each.”  (p. 303)

2. After the expiration of the Charter of the Bank of the United States in 1836, state banks developed “property banking” to provide capital for land speculation in land and slaves. For example, the Union Bank of Louisiana arranged for slaveholders to leverage their land and slaves as collateral for expanding their cotton plantations. This was called “hypothecation.” (p. 281). Unfortunately, when supply was greater than demand, creditors demanded payments on loans in gold or specie, or the price of cotton, sugar, or tobacco declined, slaves were traded and sold. It was heartbreaking for families who were broken up.

3. Slavery was legally defined at the state level. For example, in Louisiana ALL Negroes of black color were “presumed to be slaves.”  Slaves could not be freed through a will because they were required to leave the state.  In Maryland, the General Assembly ratified a constitutional amendment in 1837 stating that “the relation of master and slave, in this State, shall not be abolished unless by unanimous vote of the General Assembly and with full compensation to slaveholders.” (p. 263) The reason for this new law was that fugitives were not being returned to Maryland from free states as required by the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act without a legal definition that slaves were property.

5. During the decade of 1831-1840, more than 285,000 slaves from Maryland and Virginia were sold through interstate trade – about 30,000 a year or about 80 a day. (p. 271)

6. The free black population in Maryland doubled between 1790-1800 from 10,000 to 20,000. Forty years later, the number of free blacks had more than tripled to 62,000, and four in every ten African Americans were free. (p. 316)

Slaves purchased on the market walked (perhaps 400-500 miles) to their new destinations in the Carolinas and Georgia or transported on vessels owned by Isaac Franklin and John Armfield, to New Orleans and Natchez.

“Their vessels, built in Connecticut, had been designed specifically for the slave trade, and their holds were similar to those in the ships that plied the transatlantic slave trade. Each captive had only about 36 cubic feet of space, (6x3x2) sometimes less, when more than 180 people were jammed into the tightly packed holds below decks.  Built for Franklin and Armfield’s in 1833, the Uncas carried thousands to New Orleans in the booming interstate slave trade. Franklin and Armfield typically separated the men and boys from the woman and girls on the voyage and heavily fortified the section of the ship holding the men.  Nothing prevented the captain or the officers from entering the women’s hold and seizing any of them for sex. The Uncas carried approximately 50 people.” (p. 290)

In 1850, the slave trade in the District of Columbia ended with the Compromise of 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act followed the neutral language in the Constitution of “persons held to service or labor” instead of slaves. Although these words could provide evidence that slaves were persons with basic constitutional rights of due process under the Fifth Amendment, they were seized without a warrant. Even Frederick Douglass, a runaway, was at risk of being returned to slavery!

Professor Thomas raises excellent questions for students to answer:

  1. Did enslaved persons have any rights under the Constitution?
  2. Was slavery a local condition without fundamental legitimacy in the law and therefore restricted to certain, specific restraints?
  3. Did enslaved persons lack any rights at all, and was slavery national in scope and legal authority under the Constitution?

The answers to these questions are difficult as reflected in the response of the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.  The Compromise of 1850 made Garrison choose between the U.S. Constitution and the moral evil of slavery.

“Their idealism was such that they would not participate in purchasing the freedom of a single enslaved person who fled bondage.” (p. 318)

One of the Performance Expectations for students in New Jersey public schools is to learn about free black communities:

6.1.12.HistoryUP.2.b: Analyze the impact and contributions of African American leaders and institutions in the development and activities of black communities in the North and South before and after the Civil War

Although Maryland had the third highest population of slaves in the United States with more than a hundred thousand people in bondage, (p.6), it was also the home to more than 8,000 free blacks living in communities, such as Annapolis and Baltimore and organizing institutions. (p. 42).  Forty years later, the number of free blacks was 62,000, and four in every ten African Americans were free. (p. 316) Students need to know this!

Another insight I learned from reading Question of Freedom was the diversity of Maryland regarding plantation slavery in the Chesapeake Bay area and the absence of slavery in Frederick County in northwestern Maryland. (p.91)

The evidence in A Question of Freedom, regarding the presence of systemic racism in the United States is convincing and it is presented over 240 years beginning with Mary Queen

For further inquiry and exploration, research the digital resources on the freedom suits of enslaved persons from Maryland.

The Georgetown Slavery Archive

University of Nebraska-Lincoln O Say Can You See Project

Authentic Assessment in Social Studies: A Guide to Keeping it Real, by David Sherrin

Authentic Assessment in Social Studies: A Guide to Keeping it Real, by David Sherrin

Providing opportunities for authentic assessment is not just about putting on an “innovation” badge; instead, it is a teaching and learning strategy grounded in educational theory and research that will lead to deeper learning and a fairer and more democratic educational system. In fact, traditional assessments are some of the primary causes of academic anxiety for students. Many students find some pleasure in the day-to-day of school, but dread the test-taking experience.

This book is partly a call to social studies educators to allow our next generation of artists, singers, poets, activists, web designers, museum curators, historians, and non-profit leaders to make their arguments in social studies classes using a wide and rich array of mediums: the same mediums through which people actually produce history (and political action) in our world. It is also a guide to how to successfully do so in your classroom. For some of our students, this may take the form of traditional writing, for others it may be painting, and for others it may be dance, video, discussion, podcast, poetry, narrative perspective pieces, or even civic action.

David Sherrin teaches Social Studies at Scarsdale High School in Westchester. He formally taught at Harvest Collegiate in New York City. This book shows teachers how to move beyond tests and essay writing to implement authentic assessments in middle or high school social studies classroom. It explains the value of authentic assessments and offers practical ways to get started and dive deeper in your practice. Real-life stories of classroom successes and failures illustrate points throughout the book. The chapters cover a range of categories, including different types of written, creative, and civic action assessments. The book includes planning charts and rubrics showing how to use, grade, and give feedback on assessments so they truly aid student learning and progress; specific examples, useful tips, and ready-to-go instructions that you can use immediately with your class; and open-ended assessments encourage scaffolding or adaptation for individual or group work to fit your classroom needs.

Whether you are a first-year social studies teacher curious about how to move beyond multiple choice tests to assess learning, or you have long used authentic assessments and are looking to take your practice to the next level, this book has thoughtful insight on steps you can take to deepen and enrich teaching and learning in your classroom by incorporating authentic assessments.” ― Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

“A real page-turner, this engaging book illustrates the wonderfully varied ways students can express themselves in social studies class. David Sherrin presents a wide range of projects to embed in the curriculum, drawing from his own content knowledge of history and other social sciences as well as his deep pedagogical knowledge honed by teaching in a uniquely diverse set of schools. Teachers will find a text that is thought provoking and practical thanks to ample assignment descriptions, rubrics, and discussions of classroom practice.” ― Shira Eve Epstein, Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, The City College of New York (CUNY)

Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys Who Grew Up to Change a Nation, by Anna Mae Duane

Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys Who Grew Up to Change a Nation, by Anna Mae Duane

Anna Mae Duane, the author of Educated for Freedom, is Associate Professor of English and director of the American Studies Program at the University of Connecticut. According to the book blurb, “In the 1820s, few Americans could imagine a viable future for black children. Even abolitionists saw just two options for African American youth: permanent subjection or exile. Educated for Freedom tells the story of James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet, two black children who came of age and into freedom as their country struggled to grow from a slave nation into a free country. Smith and Garnet met as schoolboys at the Mulberry Street New York African Free School, an educational experiment created by founding fathers who believed in freedom’s power to transform the country. Smith and Garnet’s achievements were near-miraculous in a nation that refused to acknowledge black talent or potential. The sons of enslaved mothers, these schoolboy friends would go on to travel the world, meet Revolutionary War heroes, publish in medical journals, address Congress, and speak before cheering crowds of thousands. The lessons they took from their days at the New York African Free School #2 shed light on how antebellum Americans viewed black children as symbols of America’s possible future. The story of their lives, their work, and their friendship testifies to the imagination and activism of the free black community that shaped the national journey toward freedom.”

Duane argues, “The questions that plagued Smith and Garnet remain relevant today. The notion that somehow Black bodies are doomed – stuck on a historical wheel that keeps returning them to the same place – has powerful resonance in the twenty-first century, as the country continues to reenact bitter divisions over the role of race in remembering our history and imagining our future” (10).

According to Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Professor Emerita, New York University, “Duane unravels the story of two boys enrolled in New York’s African Free School” who “as accomplished adults . . . confronted the reality that America offered African Americans.” Derrick Spires believes the book “will become indispensible for those invested in deep and complex understandings of black life and letter in the long nineteenth century.” James Brewer Stewart, founder of Historians Against Slavery, calls the book a “methodological tour de force.”

The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War by Jonathan Daniel Wells

The Kidnapping Club: Wall Street, Slavery, and Resistance on the Eve of the Civil War by Jonathan Daniel Wells

In The Kidnapping Club, Jonathan Daniel Wells, a social, cultural, and intellectual historian and a Professor of History in the Departments of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, tells the story of the powerful network of judges, lawyers, and police officers who circumvented anti-slavery laws by sanctioning the kidnapping of free and fugitive African Americans. Nicknamed “The New York Kidnapping Club,” the group had the tacit support of institutions from Wall Street to Tammany Hall whose wealth depended on the Southern slave and cotton trade. But a small cohort of abolitionists, including Black journalist David Ruggles, organized tirelessly for the rights of Black New Yorkers, often risking their lives in the process. Taking readers into the bustling streets and ports of America’s great Northern metropolis, The Kidnapping Club is a dramatic account of the ties between slavery and capitalism, the deeply corrupt roots of policing, and the strength of Black activism.

“With New York City as its backdrop, The Kidnapping Club offers an important and compelling narrative that explores the long struggle for Black freedom and equality. Jonathan Daniel Wells offers a rich and timely account that uncovers a history of racial violence and terror in nineteenth-century Gotham. To no surprise, law enforcement, politicians, and bankers thwarted Black freedom time and time again. But the power and fortitude of Black New Yorkers pressed white citizens to remember and uphold the ideals of a new nation. The Kidnapping Club is a must read for those who want to understand current debates about the intersection of Black lives and structural oppression.”― Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge

“Jonathan Daniel Wells’ The Kidnapping Club is a necessary story of black agency and resistance. Bringing to life the competing strains of humanism and oppression that echo our present-day struggles, Wells paints a portrait of New York that reveals the best of American principles in the bodies of black resistors while showing us the economic complexity and complicity of America’s greatest city. It is a brilliant history perfectly suited for our times.”― Michael Eric Dyson, author of Tears We Cannot Stop and What Truth Sounds Like

The Kidnapping Club maps and specifies both the top-side financial connections between the capitalists of the North and the slavers of the South and the underbelly of police corruption, violence, and kidnapping that knit together. And it manages to combine acute historical analysis with literary drama and a persistent, gentle humanity. You should read it.”― Walter Johnson, author of The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States

“Nineteenth-century New York City was a battleground for African Americans, who most whites assumed to be undeserving of freedom. Jonathan Wells’ The Kidnapping Club brings to life the struggles in the courts and on the streets between those who sought to send blacks to slavery in the south; those who benefited from southern slavery; and the small group of interracial activists who fought against slavery and would eventually prevail in claiming freedom for all regardless of race. From politicians and jurists to newspaper owners, and from bankers to ministers to common laborers, everyone had a stake in the central question of the moment: the legality and morality of slavery and the status of people of African descent in the nation. Wells’ gripping narrative brings to life the real-life impact of these questions on every New Yorker, and how the struggle over racial equality affected every sector of life in antebellum New York City.” ― Leslie M. Harris, author of In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863.

Where We Started by Arthur Dobrin

Where We Started by Arthur Dobrin

Where We Started is a historical look at the United States from 1740-1864 that brings the past and its inhabitants alive and makes possible a very different understanding of the history of the United States, enslavement, and the struggle for freedom. Arthur Dobrin is an American author, Professor Emeritus of Management, Entrepreneurship, and General Business at Hofstra University and Leader Emeritus of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. Dr. Arthur Dobrin served two years in the Peace Corps with his wife, Lyn, in Kenya. He has maintained his interest in Kenya since, having returned with his family and having led educational safaris to Kenya for Adelphi University School of Social Work.

“In Where we Started, Dobrin creates a world that leaves the reader enough space to make moral judgments themselves, while at the same time showing how perspective changes the weight of all these considerations. The novel reads like parables, strewn together and buoyed by historical context.”  – Christian Hayden, African American activist.

“The novel is a narrative on the development of American society, taking a realistic view of the social interactions between the Old and New World, and between the societal facets that coalesced to produce what we call Americans. This work does not shy away from some very sensitive and difficult narratives, and ones that require discourse today more than ever.” – Clifford J Pereira, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

“I was touched by the individual events and stories. This book is very clearly in line with the telling of racial history in the USA country. No one would read this book and not be more aware of the ways in which it tells the sad story of race in the USA.” – Don Johnson, retired minister.

“Many historical novels are accurate in detail but not in the deeper reality of a period. Dobrin’s great accomplishment is that he places the reader in each period, as the people of the period would likely have experienced it.” – Dr. Michael S. Franch, President of Baltimore City Historical Society.

All Children Are All Our Children, by Doug Selwyn

All Children Are All Our Children by Doug Selwyn

Review by Peter Lang, 2018

What would schools and communities look like if the health and well-being of all our children were our highest priorities? More important than test scores, profits, or real estate values? What actions would we take if we wanted to guarantee that all our children were growing up with what they needed to be healthy, happy, and successful—and not just some of them? The United States was once among the healthiest countries in the world. As of now, it is ranked no better than twenty-ninth. Those who bear the brunt of our worsening health are the poor, people of color, and, most of all, our children. All Children Are All Our Children situates our ongoing health crisis within the larger picture of inequality and the complex interplay of systems in the U.S. based on class, privilege, racism, sexism, and the ongoing tension between the ideals of democracy and the realities of corporate capitalism. Public education is caught in the middle of those tensions. All Children Are All Our Children begins by defining what we mean by health, looking at the many factors that support or undermine it and then identifies steps that can be taken locally in our schools and in our communities that can support the health and well-being of our young people and their families, even as we work towards necessary change at the state and national policy level.

“Accessibly written with sharp-as-nails political analysis, in All Children Are All Our Children, long-time teacher and education activist Doug Selwyn indicts the inhumanity of corporate education reform while righteously arguing that healthy schools start with healthy communities and healthy kids. If you are interested in understanding how to really fix our schools, read this book.” – Wayne Au, Professor, School of Educational Studies, University of Washington Bothell, editor & author at Rethinking Schools

“In All Children are All of Our Children, Doug Selwyn asks us “What would it look like if we decided that the health and well-being of our children was our number one priority?” The answer is our schools and education system, indeed our entire society, would be transformed. In the tradition of John Holt and Herbert Kohl, Selwyn draws on his five decades of teaching experience, conversations with students, parents, health care professionals, social workers, educators and a deep dive into the research literature as he constructs a devastating portrait of the well-being of American children. But this book is not about despair, rather Selwyn fashions hope for children, schools and society with the message that the only education for social change is action to bring about that change and he offers us a multiple pathways to follow as we, step-by-step, transform ourselves and our society into one that makes the health and well-being of all children our first priority.” – E. Wayne Ross, Professor of Education, University of British Columbia

Dr. Selwyn takes a wide-angle view of the US educational system, allowing the reader to see how many variables in our imperfect society impact our students’ education, health, and happiness. He poses the uncomfortable question of whether we truly care for all our children and pushes us to reflect on our own compliance, lack of action, and even ignorance of the big picture. As a former student of Dr. Selwyn and now a classroom teacher, I am familiar with that nudge into the uncomfortable which inevitably pushes me to action.  His conclusion is a hopeful one: if our communities have the power to erode our educational system, those same communities have the assets to work together and begin the difficult and necessary work of change. – Diane Dame, Teacher, Saranac (NY) School District.

Supporting Civics Education With Student Activism by Pablo A. Muriel and Alan J. Singer

Supporting Civics Education with Student Activism: Citizens for a Democratic Society by Pablo A. Muriel and Alan J. Singer

This book empowers teachers to support student activists. The authors examine arguments for promoting student activism, explore state and national curriculum standards, suggest activist projects, and report examples of student individual and group activism. By offering suggestions for engaging students as activists across the K-12 curriculum and by including the stories of student activists who became lifetime activists, the book demonstrates how activism can serve to bolster democracy and be a component of rich, experiential learning. Including interviews with student and teacher activists, this volume highlights issues such as racial and immigrant justice, anti-gun violence, and climate change.

Support Civic Education with Student Activism: Citizens for a Democratic Society is an exemplary contribution to civics by showing how students can take part in democracy with social activism unafraid of expressing views and showing up personally when confronted by political and social issues, a noted contribution for the usually dull and legalistic way social studies and civics are taught. Filled with excellent examples of participatory democracy in action by students and their teachers.” – Jack Zevin, Professor Emeritus, Macaulay Honors College/CUNY, and Co-Director, The Taft Institute for Government

“Every social studies teacher should read this book. It is about how students became involved in their democracy and made critical changes in their communities. Pablo Murial and Alan Singer taught students the tools of activism and leadership. Students believed in social justice; their actions come from the heart.  Get to know the stories of the students and their teachers. This is an extraordinary book.” – Valerie Pang, Professor, School of Teacher Education, San Diego State University

“In today’s challenging times, social studies teachers are more important than ever in developing student civic literacy. A core component of this effort is in promoting student activism, so they can both exercise and benefit from such practices.  Pablo Muriel and Alan Singer, in their book Supporting Civics Education with Student Activism: Citizens for a Democratic Society, provide a template for teachers to help students become the type of citizens we profoundly need today.” – Mark Pearcy, Assistant Professor, Rider University, College of Education and Human Services, Executive Editor, Teaching Social Studies

“This is the book social studies educators K-12 across the nation need today. As an advocate for civic education, I find this book practical, informative, and most importantly, empowering for young people. It takes you on a journey of the authors’ own self-discovery as activists and their experiences as teachers encouraging student voice in and outside the classroom. A true guide for any educator who supports students as change agents.” – April Francis-Taylor, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Eastern Suffolk BOCES and member of the NYSED Civic Readiness Task Force.