National Council for the Social Studies Response to the Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse

National Council for the Social Studies Response to the Acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse

This statement was issued by the National Council for the Social Studies in November during its national convention. The New Jersey and New York social studies councils are part of NCSS.

“This week as the National Council for the Social Studies comes together to proclaim solidarity as social studies professionals, Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old who in a series of encounters with protesters calling for justice in the police shooting of Jacob Blake, shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, Anthony Huber, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz, was acquitted by a jury in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This acquittal is a dangerous harbinger for civic life, giving license to vigilantism.”

“The Pledge of Allegiance concludes with the words “and justice for all.” There are many who believe that justice for all was not done in this case. Others believe that we need to be trusting of the system – even when we are faced with a decision with which we may wholeheartedly disagree. Regardless of what you believe, as social studies professionals, we understand the gravity of this acquittal because we know the wicked history of vigilantism as a tool to maintain white privilege in the United States.”

“Martin Luther King, Jr., said: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.’”

“We call for social studies teachers to stand in solidarity with the families of those victimized by Kyle Rittenhouse. We call for social studies teachers to stand in solidarity with the right to proclaim Black Lives Matter without fearing white vigilantism. We call for social studies teachers to stand in solidarity with citizens who continue to stand for justice, even when the systems of justice are found wanting.”

Same Bigotry, Different Name: Race Suicide, the Birth Dearth, and Women’s Rights

Same Bigotry, Different Name: Race Suicide, the Birth Dearth, and Women’s Rights

Megan McGlynn

Despite the fact that roughly half of the world’s population is born female, women’s roles in history are consistently regulated to side characters and often left out of core history classes. In those same classes there is a lack of discussion of the ways that women have been affected by the issues of the time in often dramatically different ways from men, but from each other as well. We have a tendency to treat the experiences of all women as one universal experience in education which could not be far from the truth. Even the optional women’s history courses taught at some high schools have unregulated curriculums created by teachers that want more for their students but may unintentionally let their own ideas of whose story matters steer the course away from the point. Intersectionality is the crux of progress, understanding that no one is ever just one thing. Gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, and a whole host of other aspects of a person are independent of each other and differ widely, allowing for humanity to benefit from the wonder of a complete variety of distinct perspectives and unique people. Limiting women’s history to an optional course with no clear path hurts the learning of all students and sets the standard that women are a separate branch of human history, that their stories and lives have had no bearing on the course of events.

As teachers, it is our responsibility to determine where and how we can incorporate supplemental material into our core curriculum in order to provide additional insight and get to more topics than we might be able to delve fully into. One such topic of importance that gets zero attention in U.S. history is women’s movements. Sure we talk about the 19th amendment; but only long enough to ensure students that it fixed everything overnight, missing the whole sections on the rights of women of color and the other ways women were still restricted. The current struggle federally over the rights women have to their own reproductive choices is an issue I guarantee that your students have questions about. They know little about Roe v. Wade, or the numerous attempts to overthrow it. What they do know is that this coming year may change the landscape of the nation and that is terrifying. One of the most overused cliches in the English language is ‘knowledge is power’, and it could not fit better here. Arming students with an understanding of the origins of these battles gives them context, motivation, and a place to start. And what better way to do so than to connect the present legislative concerns with where U.S. history classes love to focus; U.S. presidents. Shortly, the opinions of two presidents from opposite ends of the 20th century will become clear; Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. In order to take them in fully however, we first must form a distinct picture of the issues facing the nation today.

In December of 1971 a pregnant woman, named Jane Roe in court documents for privacy, sued her county district attorney Henry Wade alleging that the Texas abortion law violated her constitutional rights. Two years later on January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 majority in Roe’s favor, declaring safe access to abortion a constitutional right.[1] The ruling ensured legal protection for those seeking the essential medical procedure despite the countless protests and legislative attempts at blocking access throughout the years, and restricting eligibility for the procedure based on the length of pregnancy. Forty-eight years later, the state of Texas has passed the most restrictive abortion legislation to date.[2] The bill, SB 8, bans all abortions except those fitting into slim medical necessity criteria after ultrasound scans first pick up evidence of cardiac activity typically around six weeks’ gestation. The term “heartbeat bill” has caused strife as it inaccurately labels electrical pulses as a heartbeat, attaching emotional images of infancy to a cluster of cells the size of a grain of rice.[3] Not only is the nickname misleading, but six weeks is only two weeks after a missed period and is the earliest possible time a pregnancy test can give a positive result. Therefore an abortion is nearly impossible for any Texas woman to receive by the time they discover they are pregnant.

This is by far not the first time Texas legislation has made national headlines for its restrictive nature or controversial stance, but now there is an insurmountable fear of how influential this bill may be. Texas is not the first state to pass a “heartbeat bill” but all others have been struck down as unconstitutional. This law has skirted the limitations of previous legislation by putting the onus of prosecution on civilians instead of the government. Per Roe v. Wade, government officials cannot prosecute an individual for seeking an abortion but according to the Texas Tribune the new legislation has remedied that stating, “While abortion patients themselves can’t be sued under the new law, anyone who performs or aids with the abortion can be sued”.[4] By creating a civil avenue for abortion persecution Texas lawmakers have stepped into uncharted waters where it is unclear if attempts to throw the bill out will succeed. A successful bill of this kind will produce similar bills across the country until women’s reproductive healthcare is completely unrecognizable in a post Roe v. Wade world.

Unfortunately though perhaps unsurprisingly, attacks such as this on the rights and liberties of women are persistent throughout American history. The above instance is a prime example of these attacks which increase in number and intensity during periods of increased women’s rights activism, but are ultimately always present. The right to vote was the first cause that women congregated in support of solely for themselves in the United States. Women sought the influence of voting privilege and equal treatment under the law; if men and women are all citizens why should they not have the same liberties? For some this made perfect sense and women came together locally and eventually nationally to advocate for women’s suffrage.

In 1890 the two national suffrage organizations, the American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman Suffrage Association, separated for twenty years due to conflicting support for the 15th amendment and Black men, finally came together again with the help of suffragist Alice Stone Blackwell.[5] Under the name of the National American Woman Suffrage Association the group led women’s suffrage efforts ultimately culminating in the ratification of the 19th amendment giving White women the right to vote. This success was certainly to the chagrin of the opposition; which was a surprising combination of men and women who felt that White women did not need to vote as they spent most of their time in the home caring for children. Coupled with this group’s perceived lack of political knowledge, they believed that giving White women the ability to vote would only raise taxes and not change much else. Anti-suffragists believed that most White women did not want the vote and made their voices heard through protests, political cartoons, scathing articles, and speeches.[6] But even the formation of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage by Josephine Dodge in 1911 to coordinate and amplify anti-suffrage opinions did tip the scales and the 19th amendment passed.[7] When women activists would once again bring calls for equal treatment to the national stage, similar opposition surfaced.

Though it was first drafted fifty years earlier, in 1972 the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was passed by both houses of Congress and ratification of the potential 27th amendment seemed all but certain. The amendment’s sudden and long overdue position as a topic of national conversation was the credit of a new age of women’s activism; women’s liberation. Often shortened to women’s lib in discussion, the movement aimed to free women of the unequal barriers present in professional spaces. These barriers kept them from the opportunities afforded to men in the same spaces, as if these working women were not privy to a secret password. The ERA was the universal translator, a legal declaration that adequate pay, promotions, and authority were not to be hidden above a glass ceiling away from women who were held back from reaching them.

So in 1972, support was high from the women’s liberation movement and a true success for women’s rights felt close enough to taste.[8] Women were tired of the inconsistencies and being told that the vote was enough to fix hundreds of years of inequality. But the deadline for ratification came and went without a ratified ERA, leaving the nation wondering how. In the ten year time limit thirty-five out of the thirty-eight required states ratified the amendment.[9] But this was not enough. As shocking as it may seem, this is attributed to the work of one woman, Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly was an author, activist, and lawyer who formed the Stop ERA movement on her own. She believed that equality was not truly in the interests of men or women and would ultimately lead to a detrimental moral shirt in American society.[10] Her emphatic public expression of this opinion frightened the public and had the intended effect on politicians. It was this extremist comparative approach that was responsible for the failure of the ERA and is yet another example of the oppositional forces that spark up against fights for women’s rights.

Though separated by decades, these two 20th century movements, suffrage and women’s liberation both tackled the mistreatment of women in the United States, pulling the discrepancies to the forefront of national discussion. What is most shocking is that 50 years separate these two movements but they frankly could have taken place at the same time. Nothing changed from the ERA’s conception while White women were gaining the right to vote in 1920 and its failed ratification in the last decades of the century. This is even more apparent when you consider the inherent issues of race in women’s movements. The suffrage movement was populated by abolitionists who fought for the 13th amendment decades prior securing Black men their constitutional right to vote. Yet the same White women who had shown up in support then refused to acknowledge that suffrage should come for all women at once. They selfishly secured their own rights ahead of all other women and proved that their earlier activism for Black men was only in the interest of paving their own way. This racial divide in women’s movements is demonstrative of the larger social perception of race, the lines of demarcation that defined acceptance and persecution so clearly outlined by skin color.

The intersection between the treatment of women and racially motivated fears in the United States is considerably large. Women are, by virtue of reproductive anatomy, the individuals who give birth to the next generation. Those who wish to control the future makeup of the population therefore have always had a vested interest in the ways women choose to procreate or not, and with whom they do so. Sociologist Edward A. Ross established the term ‘race suicide’ at the beginning of the 20th century to refer to situations ‘when the birth rate within a so-called race dropped below the death rate’ and expected the end result of this to be ‘that the “race” would die out’.[11] This definition with its use of the word suicide heavily implies that the focus of the blame falls within the race in question and is not due to outside forces impacting the race.[12] Later on we will see evidence of President Theodore Roosevelt taking Ross’s idea and running with it, popularizing a national idea that race suicide was killing the United States and that the only remedy was a strictly traditional large family. Prominent political and academic thinkers of the era seeing as women produce children, also blamed them for White race suicide in America as the term gained popularity.

Just as Edward Ross coined the term race suicide in the early 1900s, Benjamin Wattenberg coined the term ‘birth dearth’ in 1987 in his book titled The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don’t Have Enough Babies?. Birth dearth is close in meaning to race suicide. Quite simply it refers to a lack of births contributing to a lower population and in the next generation a lack of adults to replenish those retiring out of the labor force or passing away.[13] Again, as with Roosevelt, Wattenberg lists many reasons that caused this horrific decline. Of those causes, most directly implicate women. Of the subheadings in chapter 10 titled Causes, two-thirds (12 of 18) specifically target women. They include education (for women), working women, abortion, contraception, divorce, and decreased fecundity all of which except the last attacked personal decisions women made in their lives. These decisions were perceived by Wattenberg to have caused a majority of the birth dearth decline, leaving the country open to being outmatched in advancement and population by other Eastern countries.[14] Instead of focusing on the family as Roosevelt did, Wattenberg chose to turn his attention to the outside influences of immigration and fears of the advancement of other countries.

            Based on the history and current events described previously, it is clear that women’s personal decisions have been the concern of the public and the government for well over a century, and far beyond the time frame examined. Whether or not the individual choices of a group as large as women should be controlled or inspected so closely is not up for debate, but the reason for that examination certainly is. The picture that Ross and Wattenberg painted of a future United States devoid of children centers women’s contributions in a specifically narrow light. The research conducted in this paper aims to answer the question raised by the opinions of figures like Ross and Wattenberg. That is, what are women’s roles in nationalism as mothers and how are expectations for women shaped by government officials and national culture? With that question at the focus a secondary question forms that will also be answered in the following pages; why and how has progress in women’s rights led to backlash and a privileging of unequal gender and racial hierarchy? Holding tightly to those two questions it is important to examine the body of work conducted in this vein looking at both the suffrage and women’s liberation movements and their backlash.

                        At every turn, women’s rights activists struggled in a greater culture that benefits from the reduction of women’s capabilities and denial of the positive effects that liberation and equality provide. There is a consistent bubbling undercurrent of discontent in American society that continues to exist in the pervasive nature of disease, perpetually infecting the nation with discontent whispers of feminist pursuits as the biggest possible detriment to national prosperity in existence. These whispers push and claim that elimination of and movement beyond feminism into postfeminism is the only cure, women must forget the call for equality because they already can have it all. This is certainly not the case and frankly is a desperate albeit successful attempt to bring women’s issues full circle, to replace the barriers that are already broken one by one.

            The use of the word backlash above is deliberate. Backlash is a term that originated with Susan Faludi who examines the distinct spikes in discontent that push into aggressive, propagandist backlash in her book of the same name, aptly subtitled The Undeclared War Against American Women. She describes the intense media and governmental assault on women’s liberation that occurred in the 80’s, at the height of the movement managing to sow indecisive and malcontented seeds of self-doubt into the minds of women across the nation. This gave the backlash places to hide in the minds of its victims and a convenient space for denial in the spotlight.[15] But the backlash of the 80’s is not the only one we have experienced as a country, far from it in fact.

            But the 80’s were not the first decade to experience backlash, it historically comes as a direct “reaction to women’s ‘progress’” as Faludi dives into further.[16] That being said, Faludi is not the only historian to connect the seemingly cyclical attacks to women’s progress historically. In Building a Better Race : Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics From the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom, Wendy Kline contends that the history of eugenics in America has been passive and pretends that eugenic efforts have ceased which she demonstrates is far from the truth.[17] Kline asserts that eugenics is responsible for the notion of race suicide in the beginning of the 19th century and the concept of the birth dearth in the 80’s.[18]

Notably Kline is not the only historian to share this opinion. In her essay “Reproduction: The Politics of Choice” taken from an anthology of her works titled No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women Estelle B. Freedman reiterates the importance of eugenics on reproductive decisions in the United States. According to Freedman, when fears of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant women committing race suicide bubbled to the surface of American life, eugenics was already heavily rooted in the United States as well as other predominantly White European nations across the ocean.[19] It was not long until eugenics ideologies gripped the medical practice of these countries allowing doctors, White men, to decide which women were fit for reproduction. She discusses laws implemented in the United States to institute compulsory sterilization by stating, “The laws applied to men or women of any background, but they disproportionately affected immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, the poor, and disabled women. Twice as many American women as men underwent compulsory sterilization”.[20] Freedman’s analysis of the perilous situation eugenic efforts placed people of color, women, and those who were disabled in demonstrates how the fear of race suicide was not just a lack of White babies, but an increase in non-White babies.

The way President Roosevelt viewed women and their role in society is discussed in Leroy Dorsey’s article “Managing Women’s Equality: Theodore Roosevelt, the Frontier Myth, and the Modern Woman” where he articulates a nuanced view of the man and his perspective. Dorsey asserts that Roosevelt built his idea of womanhood around the idea of the frontier woman, creating a niche way to build support for women’s equality while still claiming that motherhood was of the utmost importance to the equal frontier woman.[21] He managed to find a balance where he could support a progressive approach to women’s equality while still championing a traditional view of marriage and family aligned with its emphasis on national welfare. This midrange stance did leave Roosevelt in contention with women’s rights activists who felt he could push harder in support of the movement, but Dorsey argues that Roosevelt’s careful balance was wholly intentional and actually was necessary in order to “consider the application of Victorian principles in a modern age”.[22] Though Dorsey does make a solid argument, he neglects a large portion of Roosevelt’s beliefs, mainly regarding racial purity and race suicide. These beliefs are ever present in his presidency and opinions, to leave them out of the analysis creates an inaccurate depiction of Roosevelt and his impact.

            Though her work does not contend with the implications of race suicide or eugenics, Elaine Tyler May does investigate the legislation surrounding women’s bodies and choices. Her book, America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation lays bare the history of the contraceptive pill and how inaccurate the assumptions of its grandiose accomplishments for women were. The pill was FDA approved in 1960 and was viewed publicly as an incredible advancement in birth control technology.[23]  Prior to the pill, the Comstock Law made it illegal to send information about contraceptives or any contraceptive devices through the mail.[24] The Comstock Law was in effect from 1873 to 1936. From its introduction to the birth control scene, the pill was represented in mountains of legislation and informal governmental rulings limiting it as well as other forms of contraception. Presidential gag rules were also cyclically introduced would ban U.S. aid for health organizations working in other countries that provided abortion, even if that was a small percentage of the services provided.[25] Though the gag rules were a part of foreign policy, they are incredibly telling in regards to American positions on contraception and abortion, both of which heavily impacted women’s lives.

            While May heavily addresses the legislative efforts to control women’s reproductive rights, the work of Grant and Mislán focuses on the media that influenced the spread of race suicide ideology in the first place. Through close examination of articles published in two newspapers, the Columbia Missourian and the Columbian Tribune, in Columbia, Missouri, Grant and Mislán demonstrate how objectivity as a tenet of journalism ethics contributed to the rise in eugenics scientific legitimacy.[26] The trust that local communities placed in their newspapers to provide ethical, honest, evidence-based claims lent itself to being taken advantage of by journalists with clear biases. Coupled with the lack of other news outlets to compare information with and the insulated nature of small communities, race suicide ideology implanted and festered without much resistance. Through examination of these works, a picture develops of a society where women’s civic impact is emphasized by their willingness and ability to produce children to combat the racial suicide of the American race.

The research conducted in this paper on the recurring antifeminist backlash and emphasis on women as wombs for national protection against a non-White population increase fits in nicely with of Susan Faludi, building upon her research into backlash against women’s liberation. To do so it will highlight a specific focus of the opposition on women’s reproductive capabilities as their primary quality over all others, taking required emphasis away from other qualities and damaging women in the long run. From there the bridge between this discussion of backlash and the eugenics arguments of the 20th century is easy to cross as historiography has evolved to understand how eugenics was responsible for the restrictions placed upon women and continues to be. In this way the intention is to complement and build upon these works to foster a stronger understanding of the reproductive harm caused by fearful efforts to mitigate supposed racial tensions.

Further, it is clear that an examination of presidential opinions and decisions will demonstrate the clear and intentional steps taken to protect a white supremacist nationalist view that has carried on throughout the decades undetected by giving the same rhetoric a facelift and vocabulary change while maintaining the oppressive structure and values. Eras with strong women’s rights movements challenge this placement of women in society and as a result see a huge backlash from those aiming to protect this view in the highest realm of politics. This will be evident in the analysis of the sources from the periods of women’s suffrage and women’s liberation that establish the rhetoric of each. Presidential speeches and opinions illustrate how women’s role in the family was essential to the continuation of American excellence.  Ultimately, this will culminate in an argument that is difficult to dispute, that women’s role in American nationalism as breeders has been planned by men in power for the better part of a century to use them as pawns in a one sided race war.

            Though Edward Ross coined the term race suicide, credit for its proliferation into 1900s American vernacular and everyday life goes to then president, Theodore Roosevelt. He was inaugurated for his second term as President of the United States on March 4, 1905 in Washington, D.C. Nine days later he appeared in front of the National Congress of Mothers to address his concerns over the grave dangers that plagued the nation. Roosevelt was uniquely positioned as the first president to have been reelected following a term ascended to from the vice president position. In this position he felt justified by his victory to press further onwards with his beliefs on maintaining the pride and prowess of the nation via a close adherence to traditionally apt goals of marriage and family. Through an emphasis on the strict traditional representations of men and women’s roles, Roosevelt aimed to mitigate the plight of ‘race suicide’ in the United States; in doing so he alienated and invalidated the women fighting for women’s suffrage by asserting that a woman’s civic duty began and ended with their children.

            Roosevelt brought race suicide to national attention through his public speeches and written work over the course of his presidencies, heightening national fear and promoting the idea of procreation as function of national security.  In this speech he claims, in reference to his own example of what would happen if all American families only had two children, that “a race that practiced race suicide would thereby conclusively show that it was unfit to exist, and that it had better give place to people who had not forgotten the primary laws of their being”.[27] Here he demonstrates the racial imperative he believed Americans held to have a large family, anything less was not enough. Roosevelt doubly emphasized this notion for women in this speech, highlighting the importance of choosing motherhood over personal ambitions. He believed, as many soon would, that the American population was in a serious decline that would diminish America’s prestige around the world and lead to a change in the demographic makeup of the country. This would reduce the White population’s majority in the country as well, as he claimed “But the nation is in a bad way if there is no real home, if the family is not of the right kind.”[28]  In this speech Roosevelt further emphasized the “primary duties” of men and women; for men to tend to the financial needs of their families and for women to tend to the physical, emotional, moral needs of their children.[29] These two roles are treated the same in that they are essential and play the largest part in protecting the white race but are different in that women who choose not to have children are demonized. And, this distinction comes at the same time that American women are struggling for the right to vote.

Despite condemning both men and women who shirked their duty to procreate and raise children with strong American ideals, Roosevelt targets women more vehemently than men.  He asserts that the nation suffers if the home is in bad shape providing several examples, most of which are specifically towards women. Roosevelt calls these examples a woman losing her “sense of duty”, sinking into ‘vapid self-indulgence’, and “let[ting] her nature be twisted so that she prefers a sterile pseudo-intellectuality”.[30] In this way he connected the future population numbers to women’s personal decisions. From there it was not difficult to make the jump to controlling women’s decisions about their bodies in the interest of the nation. In doing this, he places a woman’s civic duty in direct connection to her decision to procreate and removes the ability to be a proud citizen without having done so. His audience, being mothers who took part in the National Congress of Mothers, received this message well, embraced it as they were validated by the prestige his beliefs awarded their position. In proliferating this message to an audience of mothers, Roosevelt played into pre-existing divisions amongst women regarding suffrage efforts and further increased the divide by providing means for a motherly superiority complex in the form of nationalist praise.

This public speech was not Roosevelt’s first time deliberating on the topic of race suicide. It happened to be a subject of correspondence between him and his associates. He also made it clear in his writing that his particular stance was racially motivated. In a personal letter to politician and friend Albion W. Tourgée, sent in November of 1901, this latter racial matter is made clear as Roosevelt begins the letter by saying, “I too have been at my wits’ end in dealing with the black man”, elucidating further in his next paragraph by writing, “I have not been able to think out any solution of the terrible problem offered by the presence of the negro on this continent”.[31] Further in this sentence he explains that he is resigned to the fact that it would be impossible to expel Black men from America either by death or emigration, so “the honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each black man and each White man strictly on his merits as a man”.[32] From these quoted passages, Roosevelt’s opinion is clear; he does not want Black men in America and they would be banished as soon as possible if only that was feasible. The fact that this letter predates his speech to the National Congress of Mothers by four years emphatically stresses that Roosevelt’s belief in the severity of race suicide was motivated by an increasing non-White population in the United States.

Further delving into the former president’s personal correspondence shows much of his public sentiments as president were very much rooted in personal truths. One year following the letter described above to Albion W. Tourgée, in October of 1902 Roosevelt wrote to Bessie Van Vorst the notable author of the magazine series and book titled The Woman Who Toils: Being the Experiences of Two Gentlewomen as Factory Girls. This book focused on the lives of factory working girls. Roosevelt begins by complementing Vorst’s magazine series before condemning another article by a different author published in the same magazine on the unemployed rich population. In comparing the women at the focus of the two articles Roosevelt finds similarity stating that he sees, “An easy, good-natured kindliness, and a desire to be independent” claiming that these qualities “are no substitute for the fundamental virtues, for the practice of the strong racial qualities without which there can be no strong races”.[33] Here he defines independence as a quality that is incompatible with American womanhood, and a lack of independence as better for the White race.

A final letter written by Roosevelt in April of 1907 demonstrates that his view if race suicide did not waver and ultimately grew stronger following the 1905 speech. This letter was written to the editor, Dr. Albert Shaw, of The American Monthly Review of Reviews regarding issues Roosevelt had with an article published in the journal titled “The Doctor in the Public School” written by Dr. Cronin. In the article Dr. Cronin says with a level of professional certainty that American families do not need to have more children than are depicted by the national birth rate of the time.[34] But Roosevelt contests this calling the idea erroneous and claiming that the doctor is not fit to write definitively on the subject because he is not as well read as the president is on the subject.

Roosevelt calls attention to what he sees as the biggest issue of this misinformation, which he says is a “tendency to the elimination instead of the survival of the fittest; and the moral attitude which helps on this tendency is of course strengthened when it is apologized for and praised in a magazine like yours.”[35] Cronin’s article asserts in a journal read by the well-off of American society an argument that goes directly against Roosevelt’s own and removes the imperative placed on the elite to reproduce profusely. This is a direct threat to White American nationalist efforts like Roosevelt’s to increase White birth rates. Further evidence that Roosevelt is incensed by the article because of this perceived threat is seen when he states, “These teachings give moral justification to every woman who practices abortion; they furnish excuses for every unnatural prevention of child-bearing, for every form of gross and shallow selfishness of the kind that is the deepest reflection on, the deepest discredit to, American social life.”[36] By writing in this passionate way, Roosevelt betrays his true feelings of reproductive control and the women who assert that right. These private, personal decisions of American women are a direct reflection on the entire nation and as such are terrible choices that should be shamed unlike how Dr. Cronin bears their justification. Time and time again through his public speeches and private letters, former President Theodore Roosevelt demonstrates his belief that women who chose not to have children were criminals at the center of a racial betrayal. By his description, women’s continued birthing and raising of new White children was all that protected the country from the loss of a truly American society.

It is important to note that President Roosevelt’s fears of racial imbalance in the United States were not sparked by Black men though they were the target of most of his vitriolic rhetoric. In reality the fear of Jewish and Irish Catholic immigration was the true catalyst for his sentiments, Black men simply garnered the heavy burden of his prejudices because they were the visibly identifiable group amongst the three. In reality, Black men have been present in the country since 1619 when the first African slaves arrived while Jewish and Irish Catholic immigration grew considerably in the early 1900s, making them the “real” outsiders. Though today Jewish, Irish Catholic, and Protestant White people are all considered a part of the same White population in the United States, this was not the case at the beginning of the 20th century. Protestants were the White race and were clearly different from the former groups in society. Though his ideology clearly developed a focus on Black men and their potential corruption of White birth rates, it bloomed from fear of increased immigrations effects of the birth rate because White did not mean what it means today.

Former President Roosevelt was perhaps fortunate that he could be so outspoken about the views he held regarding race suicide and women’s reproductive decisions in both his private communication and public speeches as president, as his views were common amongst those he spoke to. The presidents of the country during the women’s liberation movement did not have that same so-called luxury and had to combat the new fear of being taken out of context in conversation and being recorded. One of the biggest lessons learned by President Nixon was the importance of hiding your personal opinions from the public. This is evidenced by his commissioning of the infamous ‘Nixon tapes’, recordings of his meetings and phone calls in the Oval office and his private study which have been released in recent decades as part of public record. His recorded conversations contrasted with public communication and decisions show his opinion of mothers but also his impact on their lives and how these things were steeped in his own racism.

Richard Nixon’s paranoia about a leak in the White House and his need to always be covered in case of miscommunication not only led to his impeachment but also provided the public with copious records of his personal communication and a glimpse into the man behind the president. One thing that Nixon clearly knew to keep private was his racist ideology, though he had no problem discussing it on his private telephone line. On October 7, 1971 Nixon called sociologist Daniel Moynihan to discuss an article titled “I.Q.” written by psychologist Richard Herrnstein and its impacts on education, welfare, and government intervention. During this conversation they begin discussing Nixon’s Family Assistance Plan. At this point Nixon says, “everybody says, ‘Well, God, you can’t—the work requirement is only for the purpose of making these poor colored women, you know, who can’t work and with little babies coming every month—or it’s every nine months, I believe. Anyway, whatever the case is, you can’t make them work’”, assuming that only women of color need to use welfare programs and that they simply cannot stop having children.[37] Later on in the same conversation he says that it is the responsibility of a nation’s leader to know the hard truths that drive decision making but never say them outloud. Nixon says, “My theory is that the responsibility of a president, in my present position, first, is to know these things. … But also my theory is that I must do everything that I possibly can to deny them.”.[38] The things in question being that Black people and Jewish people would damage the performance of a voting ticket and that women do not belong on the Supreme Court. Here the overlap between his racist views and misogyny is tentatively expressed, but that is developed further in a future tape.

            Roe v. Wade occurred in 1973 while Nixon was still president. He never publicly commented on the ruling however so his opinion was not known until the January and February 1973 tapes from the Oval office were released in 2009. On January 23rd, the day after the decision, Nixon and his special counsel Chuck Colson were discussing the decision and Nixon said, “I know, I know. I admit, I mean there are times when abortions are necessary. I know that. You know [when] you have a black and a white.” And then following a prompt by Colson adding “Or rape.” as an afterthought.[39] This shows with clarity how his racist views overlapped his views on women. It was not acceptable for women to have mixed race children and the thought of allowing women to make that decision after a traumatic event like rape was not nearly as important to him as keeping the races separated.

            Though never explicitly stated publicly, these views were present in his decisions. The most notable one being his veto of the Comprehensive Child Development Act in 1971, a bill that would have extended the programs available from the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) establishing national public daycare facilities among other provisions.[40] A main reasoning of Nixon’s veto was keeping focus on the family. His veto reads “good public policy requires that we enhance rather than diminish both parental authority and parental involvement with children.”[41] In speaking to his Secretary of the Treasury John B. Connally on the phone Nixon confirmed that his stance was not only concerned with family stability but also with keeping stay at home mothers in childcare saying, “I mean, I think if you ever start down this—the road of having the state raise the kids and giving mother, whether they work or not, the option of that, it’s bad, you see?”[42] His motives in vetoing the child care bill were to strengthen the American family by continuing to force American women to stay home with their children and reducing the number of Americans on welfare programs. This was in spite of their personal wishes regarding going to work if they were not able to afford private child care. This coupled with the way he spoke about women of color on welfare on the tape with Moynihan in 1971, referenced above, demonstrates that he believed women must earn the right to need government assistance for their families and that supporting families was not as important as protecting his ideal of the American family.[43] The fact that this was the president’s opinion of American family life during the women’s liberation movement’s fight for equality of opportunity is baffling and explains how he managed to produce the exact opposite of his intended result.

            Contrary to Nixon’s intention of building up the American family by vetoing the OEO bill, his action directly contributed to the degradation of the American family and subsequent birth dearth that Ben Wattenberg would write his titular book about. As we have discussed earlier on, Ben Wattenberg was an economist who analyzed decreasing birth rates in the United States, finding that White births suffered a considerably higher decline, and claimed that the nation’s authority as a world power would undeniably suffer as a result.[44] His fears of the United States being overtaken by Eastern socialist countries heavily influenced his results. These findings were published in The Birth Dearth where he contended that this was because of a variety of social and legal successes of women’s movements and contributed his own solutions for a White birth increase. The highlights if these contributing issues included increased higher education and job opportunities for women, accessibility of contraception and abortion, and divorce, while his most notable solution was banning abortion because a majority of abortions were done on wealthy White women, a ban would naturally increase the White population.[45] At the time of the book’s publication, Wattenberg was a notable public figure following his time as an advisor to President Lyndon B. Johnson and condensed versions of the book’s argument were  published in prominent newspapers including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times which also published scathing reviews of the book.[46] That is to say that his view on the topic was projected to the national stage much in the same way as Roosevelt and Nixon’s were by nature of their position.

A scathing indictment of Nixon’s decision to veto was published in the New York Times the day following the decision, quoting Nixon as saying, “our response to this challenge must be a measured, evolutionary, painstakingly considered one, consciously designed to cement the family in its rightful position as the keystone of our civilization.”.[47] Yet, the birth dearth is cited as beginning in 1971, continuing until the present day, so that conscious decision did not play out as planned.[48] Worse, Nixon’s veto is still contributing to the unequal distribution of wealth and participation in the labor force that still plagues women in America despite the efforts of the women’s liberation movement. According to Lisa Rabasca Roepe, author of the Business Insider article “Richard Nixon Sabotaged a Generation of Women, but Now Congress Has Another Chance – If It Can Pass Biden’s $3.5 Trillion Spending Plan”, the birth dearth is evidence “that Nixon’s veto weakened the family structure in exactly the way he was trying to prevent”.[49] By forcing childcare to remain a private industry, many families could not and still cannot justify having both parents in the workforce when the salary of one parent would be used in almost its entirety to pay for childcare that can be done at home instead.

In effect, growing costs of living and a lack of childcare options forced many women to choose between having a family and a career. This sentiment was echoed throughout the ranks of the women’s liberation movement, as women cried out for support that President Nixon refused them. Combined with the widespread use of the birth control pill, Nixon’s veto contributed to the birth dearth by making the choice easy; to have a career women had fewer children. The nation was not prepared to make the necessary efforts to ensure that families were supported in ways that mattered so that was the only way. If only Nixon had taken the time to consider women as individuals separate from their relationship status or obligation as mothers the American family could have prospered the way he intended.

It may not seem so, but the relationship between Roosevelt’s views on race suicide and Nixon’s impact on the birth dearth is quite close. Nixon was born in 1913 while race suicide rhetoric, strengthened and popularized by President Roosevelt’s speeches years prior was still wildly prominent in American culture. He grew up breathing in and internalizing these messages that the White race was dying and that minority groups were overtaking “true Americans”. In truth the birth dearth was inspired by the rhetoric of the early 1900s, a continuation of the same mantra with a fancy new name and subtler approach. This is a fantastic place to build connections as a teacher, to demonstrate the importance of chronology when understanding history. Nixon was a young child at the height of race suicide ideology so it is no wonder that his own beliefs so similarly mirror this notion minus the name. Our societal beliefs form slowly and change even slower, fifty years is not so long in the grand scheme of time.

The 1973 case of Roe v. Wade was the first national government ruling that gave women the right to make decisions about their bodies that they had been making without government approval for centuries, but some in the government finally recognized the need for women to be in charge of those health decisions. The current backlash and attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade are reflective of the attitudes of older decades. Fears of race suicide and separation of the family unit pushed presidents and therefore the public to the extreme of the traditional family unit barring women from gaining strides in reproductive rights in the same way that they did with the vote and workplace equality. The views and actions of Presidents Roosevelt and Nixon were crucial to the pressure on American citizens to participate in the good American family ideal in order to preserve the nation from potential racial disparities and consequently White women had to be controlled. Their bodies housed all potential for another generation of Americans and they had to be made to do what was ‘right’. With all the evidence laid out it can be clearly seen that this was an intentional decision by the men in power to use White women as pawns in this war of perception by making their bodily decisions for them.

Using the primary sources depicted in this article and the historiography provided, the means to develop a short but effective interjection to a U.S. history classroom are clearly available. The situation of Roe v. Wade’s standing as a Supreme Court ruling is the most recent legislative example in a long storied history of the American government and our presidents attempting to assign limitations to women. Our students were not alive for even the most recent prior examples of these attempts but that does not mean they cannot learn. Incorporating new primary source material from notable and already frequently discussed U.S. presidents provides further detail to an undiscussed issue and will also teach your students more about developing full opinions of historical figures as flawed human beings.

References

Primary Sources

Address by President Roosevelt before the National Congress of Mothers. Theodore Roosevelt Collection. MS Am 1541 (315). Harvard College Library.

“Child Development Legislation Dies in House.” In CQ Almanac 1972, 28th ed., 03-914-03-918. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1973. http://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/cqal72-1249564.

Colson, Chuck and Richard Nixon. “President Nixon and Chuck Colson Discuss the Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade.” Edited by Luke A. Nichter. Nixon tapes and transcripts. Accessed October 23, 2021. http://www.nixontapes.org/chron53.html.

Douglas, Erin and Carla Astudillo. “We Annotated Texas’ near-Total Abortion Ban. Here’s What the Law Says about Enforcement.” The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune, September 10, 2021. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/10/texas-abortion-law-ban-enforcement/.

Irvine, Bethany. “Why ‘Heartbeat Bill’ Is a Misleading Name for Texas’ near-Total Abortion Ban.” The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune, September 2, 2021. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/02/texas-abortion-heartbeat-bill/.

Jane Roe, et al., Appellants, v. Henry Wade, Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute (United States Supreme Court 1973).

“Richard Nixon and Daniel P. Moynihan on 7 October 1971,” Conversation 010-116, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Nixon Telephone Tapes 1971, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4002184

“Richard Nixon and John B. Connally on 8 December 1971,” Conversation 016-044, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Nixon Telephone Tapes 1971, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006696

Roosevelt, Theodore. “The American Birth Rate”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 520.

Roosevelt, Theodore. “The Danger of ‘Race Suicide’”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 259.

Roosevelt, Theodore . “Dealing with the Black Man”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 244.

Rosenthal, Jack. “President Vetoes Child Care Plan as Irresponsible.” The New York Times. The New York Times, December 10, 1971. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/12/10/archives/president-vetoes-child-care-plan-as-irresponsible-he-terms-bill.html.

Wattenberg, Ben J. The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don’t Have Enough Babies? New York, NY: Pharos Books, 1987.

Secondary Sources

Dorsey, Leroy G. 2013. “Managing Women’s Equality: Theodore Roosevelt, the Frontier Myth, and the Modern Woman.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 16 (3): 423–56. doi:10.14321/rhetpublaffa.16.3.0423.

Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women. New York: Crown, 1991.

Freedman, Estelle B. “Reproduction: The Politics of Choice.” in No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, 229-252. New York:Ballantine Books, 2002.

Grant, Rachel and Cristina Mislán (2020) “Improving the Race”: The Discourse of Science and Eugenics in Local News Coverage, 1905–1922, American Journalism, 37:4, 476-499, DOI: 10.1080/08821127.2020.1830627

Hochman, A. (2014, April 29). Race suicide. Eugenics Archive Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from https://eugenicsarchive.ca/discover/connections/535eedb87095aa0000000250

Kennedy, Lesley. “How Phyllis Schlafly Derailed the Equal Rights Amendment.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, March 19, 2020. https://www.history.com/news/equal-rights-amendment-failure-phyllis-schlafly.

Kline, Wendy. 2001. Building a Better Race : Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics From the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://search-ebscohost-com.rider.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=112975&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Lange, Allison. “National American Woman Suffrage Association.” History of U.S. Woman’s Suffrage, Fall 2015. http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/nawsa-united.

Lange, Allison. “National Woman Suffrage Association.” History of U.S. Woman’s Suffrage, Fall 2015. http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/nwsa-organize.

Lange, Allison. “Opposition to Suffrage.” History of U.S. Woman’s Suffrage. National Women’s History Museum, Fall 2015. http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/naows-opposition.

May, Elaine Tyler. America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation. New York: Basic Books, 2011.

Roepe, Lisa Rabasca. “Richard Nixon Sabotaged a Generation of Women, but Now Congress Has Another Chance – If It Can Pass Biden’s $3.5 Trillion Spending Plan.” Business Insider. Business Insider, August 15, 2021. https://www.businessinsider.com/care-economy-biden-nixon-veto-50-years-infrastructure-american-families-2021-8.


[1] Jane Roe, et al., Appellants, v. Henry Wade, Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute (United States Supreme Court 1973).

[2] Bethany Irvine, “Why ‘Heartbeat Bill’ Is a Misleading Name for Texas’ near-Total Abortion Ban.” The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune, September 2, 2021. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/02/texas-abortion-heartbeat-bill/.

[3] Bethany Irvine, Heartbeat Bill. 2021.

[4] Roe, Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute; Erin Douglas and Carla Astudillo, “We Annotated Texas’ near-Total Abortion Ban. Here’s What the Law Says about Enforcement.” The Texas Tribune. The Texas Tribune, September 10, 2021. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/10/texas-abortion-law-ban-enforcement/.

[5] Allison Lange, “National Woman Suffrage Association.” History of U.S. Woman’s Suffrage, Fall 2015. http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/nwsa-organize.; Allison Lange, “National American Woman Suffrage Association.” History of U.S. Woman’s Suffrage, Fall 2015. http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/nawsa-united.

[6]  Allison Lange, “Opposition to Suffrage.” History of U.S. Woman’s Suffrage. National Women’s History Museum, Fall 2015. http://www.crusadeforthevote.org/naows-opposition.

[7] Allison Lange, “Opposition to Suffrage.”

[8] Lesley Kennedy, “How Phyllis Schlafly Derailed the Equal Rights Amendment.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, March 19, 2020 https://www.history.com/news/equal-rights-amendment-failure-phyllis-schlafly.

[9] Lesley Kennedy.

[10]  Lesley Kennedy.

[11] Adam Hochman, (2014, April 29). Race suicide. Retrieved October 5, 2021, from https://eugenicsarchive.ca/discover/connections/535eedb87095aa0000000250

[12] Adam Hochman, Race Suicide.

[13] Ben J. Wattenberg, The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don’t Have Enough Babies? New York, NY: Pharos Books, 1987.

[14] Ben J. Wattenberg, The Birth Dearth.

[15] Susan Faludi, introduction to Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women. (New York: Crown, 1991), xxii.

[16] Susan Faludi,  xix.

[17] Wendy Kline, 2001. Building a Better Race : Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics From the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom. Berkeley: University of California Press, 6.

[18] Wendy Kline, Building a Better Race, 159, 164.

[19] Estelle B. Freedman, “Reproduction: The Politics of Choice.” in No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, (New York:Ballantine Books, 2002), 233..

[20] Freedman, 234.

[21] Leroy G. Dorsey. 2013. “Managing Women’s Equality: Theodore Roosevelt, the Frontier Myth, and the Modern Woman.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 16 (3): 423–56. doi:10.14321/rhetpublaffa.16.3.0423. 446,447.

[22] Lroy G. Dorsey. 2013. “Managing Women’s Equality”, 448.

[23] Elaine Tyler May, America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation. New York: Basic Books, 2011, 1.

[24] Elaine Tyler May, America and the Pill, 1.

[25] Elaine Tyler May, America and the Pill, 53-55.

[26] Rachel Grant and Cristina Mislán (2020) “Improving the Race”: The Discourse of Science and Eugenics in Local News Coverage, 1905–1922, American Journalism, 37:4, 476-499, DOI: 10.1080/08821127.2020.1830627, 476.

[27] Address by President Roosevelt before the National Congress of Mothers. Theodore Roosevelt Collection. MS Am 1541 (315). Harvard College Library.

[28] Address by President Roosevelt before the National Congress of Mothers. Theodore Roosevelt Collection. MS Am 1541 (315). Harvard College Library.

[29] Address by President Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt Collection.

[30] Address by President Roosevelt before the National Congress of Mothers.

[31] Theodore Roosevelt. “Dealing with the Black Man”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 244.

[32] Theodore Roosevelt. “Dealing with the Black Man”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches, 245.

[33] Theodore Roosevelt. “The Danger of ‘Race Suicide’”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 259.

[34] Theodore Roosevelt. “The American Birth Rate”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches. Edited by Louis Auchincloss. New York, N.Y.: Literary Classics of the United States, 2004, 520.

[35] Theodore Roosevelt. “The American Birth Rate”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches, 521.

[36] Theodore Roosevelt. “The American Birth Rate”, Theodore Roosevelt Letters and Speeches, 522.

[37] “Richard Nixon and Daniel P. Moynihan on 7 October 1971,” Conversation 010-116, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Nixon Telephone Tapes 1971, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4002184

[38]  “Richard Nixon and Daniel P. Moynihan on 7 October 1971,” Conversation 010-116.

[39] Chuck Colson and Richard Nixon. “President Nixon and Chuck Colson Discuss the Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade.” Edited by Luke A. Nichter. Nixon tapes and transcripts. Accessed October 23, 2021. http://www.nixontapes.org/chron53.html.

[40] “Child Development Legislation Dies in House.” In CQ Almanac 1972, 28th ed., 03-914-03-918. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1973. http://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/cqal72-1249564.

[41] “Child Development Legislation Dies in House.”, 1973.

[42] “Richard Nixon and John B. Connally on 8 December 1971,” Conversation 016-044, Presidential Recordings Digital Edition [Nixon Telephone Tapes 1971, ed. Ken Hughes] (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014–). URL: http://prde.upress.virginia.edu/conversations/4006696

[43] “Richard Nixon and Daniel P. Moynihan on 7 October 1971,” Conversation 010-116.

[44] Ben J. Wattenberg, The Birth Dearth

[45] Ben J. Wattenberg, The Birth Dearth

[46] Morris, Richard. “The Birth Dearth: What Happens When People in Free Countries Don’t Have Enough Babies? by Ben J. Wattenberg (Pharos: $16.95; 182 Pp.).” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, August 2, 1987.; Shabecoff, Philip. “Warning on Births Provokes Dissent.” The New York Times. The New York Times, August 23, 1987. https://www.nytimes.com/1987/08/23/us/warning-on-births-provokes-dissent.html.

[47] Jack Rosenthal. “President Vetoes Child Care Plan as Irresponsible.” The New York Times. The New York Times, December 10, 1971. https://www.nytimes.com/1971/12/10/archives/president-vetoes-child-care-plan-as-irresponsible-he-terms-bill.html.

[48] Lisa Rabasca Roepe. “Richard Nixon Sabotaged a Generation of Women, but Now Congress Has Another Chance – If It Can Pass Biden’s $3.5 Trillion Spending Plan.” Business Insider. Business Insider, August 15, 2021. https://www.businessinsider.com/care-economy-biden-nixon-veto-50-years-infrastructure-american-families-2021-8.

[49] Lisa Rabasca Roepe. “Richard Nixon Sabotaged a Generation of Women”

Midwifery and Abortion in the Modern Curriculum

Midwifery and Abortion in the Modern Curriculum

Nora Sayed

Teaching sensitive topics in the classroom is difficult no matter the subject material. Especially when incorporating political ideologies and scientific disagreements. The science of childbirth has been a tumultuous one. The impact of women in the field of childbirth, and medicine in general, has often been overlooked due to the mostly male presence in the medical narrative. When doctors began to control the practice of childbirth and hospital births became more common, the history of midwifery took a downward turn. However, midwifery has been the central practice for childbirth for thousands of years. The definition of a midwife is a person (typically) a woman who is trained to assist in childbirth and has been a central figure in history in every culture globally. Midwifery is centrally important because it was the original practice of childbirth and pioneered the obstetric field. Not only did midwifery pioneer the obstetric field, but the ideology of a woman’s right to her own body. Midwives were often seen assisting, in some capacity, with women seeking abortions. When combining secondary education and specifically sensitive topics such as childbirth, and more specifically midwifery, the teacher should present the information, facts, history, and current events to the student and then guide them in making their decision. Due to the recent political activity regarding the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, allowing students to understand more about the medical history regarding midwifery as well as abortion could assist in them making a well-informed opinion.

Research regarding early modern midwifery states that despite it being the most common practice with regards to childbirth in human history, it only became a licensed medical profession in the 16th century. Comparatively to today’s standards, midwives played the role of multiple healthcare professionals and even social workers. The role of the midwife was to assist the new mother in any   way possible. Meaning she would visit the mother during pregnancy, assist with the labor and delivery process, and then return post-labor to teach the mother about her newborn and best care practices. Not only did midwives do all of these things, but they would also check on mothers to see if they were fit to care for their newborn child. Samuel Thomas has a Ph.D. in history with a focus on Early Modern England and taught history at the college level for ten years. He currently teaches at a high school in Cleveland Ohio and is an author of a series about Midwives in 17th century London. Thomas wrote an essay about the social importance of midwives in society as well as the lack of historical credit given to them.[1] This historical lack of credit accounts for the later shift in care in the obstetric field during the 17th century when childbirth became hospitalized. Along with this shift towards childbirth and obstetric care in general taking place in a hospital, the entire fundamental practice changed from constant care with the expecting mother to check ups and generalized advice. “Trained midwives delivered superb medical care and gave birthing women personal attention that physicians were too rushed to provide. It is suggested that the elimination of midwifery in the United States slowed the decline in infant and maternal mortality.”[2] Not only did this shift impact childbirth, it also stimulated the drastic change in the perception of abortion.

 In the 17th century abortion was seen as a mother’s choice with drugs being sold in drug stores that would induce miscarriage. After childbirth, and consequently OB/GYN care, was taken over my male practitioners in hospitals this viewpoint drastically changed. Which eventually led us to the modern debate over abortion in the United States. According to historian Leslie Regan, “At conception and the earliest stage of pregnancy, before quickening, no one believed that a human life existed; not even the Catholic Church took this view. Rather, the popular ethic regarding abortion and common law were grounded in the female experience of their own bodies.”[3] Contrary to popular belief, abortion was not banned by the Catholic Church canonically until 1869[4]. Midwives would often help women gain access to an abortion and would allow them the choice to do so. However, at the turn of the Progressive Era this practice became ‘taboo’ and was restricted; “The combined campaign to control abortion and midwifery took the form of a classic Progressive Era reform movement”[5].  This campaign to control abortion continues today with peaks and troughs such as the recent ban on legal abortion in Texas as of 2021.

When considering how these topics should be brought into the classroom it is important to consider the parameters of the subject. For instance during my field experience at Ewing High School in New Jersey this past fall I was able to observe a women’s studies class. This experience was very eye opening as it allowed me to see how different, less common topics, were tackled in the classroom. The teacher had Pro-Choice posters in her class, along with abortion on her curriculum as a discussion topic not be overlooked. Ground rules I have observed both in and out of the classroom when bringing up sensitive topics include: placing parameters and clear goals for the discussion topic; giving the students objective background information to prepare them; going through the topic with respect for opposing viewpoints or possible emotions; as well as allowing them time to summarize, reflect and ask questions. This basic framework works with any sensitive topic or current events issue. According to the National Education Association’s article on teaching sensitive topics in history, “One of the greatest challenges facing teachers right now is teaching our students to engage with hard histories in this specific historical moment,” says Rich, a director of research at the university’s Rowan Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. “Currently, everything feels particularly fraught, and we are unsure of where students and families fall across the highly polarized political spectrum.”[6] Despite the complicated political climate and sensitivity of the topics, these histories should not be left out of the classroom. Allowing students to analyze and learn about uncomfortable historical topics allows for more informed decision making in their future.

Although abortion and childbirth are somewhat obscure topics when it comes to the traditional curricula of the public school system there are ways to integrate them into the classroom. For World History classes, when discussing the Medieval Period and the Black Plague it is important to also touch on the overall medical sphere of the time period, and midwives were a huge character of that. Not only did midwives deliver babies and care for mothers, they continued to care for the delivered baby well into childhood acting almost as a family practitioner. The importance of midwifery can continue into US History 1 and 2 by integrating nurse-midwifery that gained its roots in the Civil War with the rising popularity of nursing, and later officially began in 1925.[7] These are some more abstract and creative ideas regarding midwifery in the classroom, whereas the famous 1973 Roe v Wade case can be touched on in both Civics and American History curriculums for its monumental impact on both second wave feminism and medical history.

The importance of history cannot be overlooked when the topic becomes unsavory. Despite abortion and midwifery being more high-level or sensitive issues to be debating in the classroom, there are tools and ways to allow for their discussion with students. Without teaching students about more thought-provoking topics they will never have the opportunity to make informed decisions thus creating uninformed citizens who will continue to misinterpret history. A teacher’s place is not one to force opinions or political standings on their students but to open their minds to new things that they might not have previously understood or heard of. The debate over legal abortion access will continue, and by informing our students of the history regarding it we will be able to have pride in their future decisions.

References:

Devitt N. The statistical case for elimination of the midwife: fact versus prejudice, 1890-1935 (Part I). Women Health. 1979 Spring;4(1):81-96. PMID: 10297450.

Dawley K. Origins of nurse-midwifery in the United States and its expansion in the 1940s. J Midwifery Women’s Health. 2003 Mar-Apr;48(2):86-95. doi: 10.1016/s1526-9523(03)00002-3. PMID: 12686940.

Hovey G. Abortion: a history. Plan Parent Rev. 1985 Summer; 5(2):18-21. PMID: 12340403.

Reagan, Leslie J. When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973. University of California Press, 1998.

Reagan LJ. Linking midwives and abortion in the Progressive Era. Bull Hist Med. 1995 Winter;69(4):569-98. PMID: 8563453.

Rosales, John. “Teaching the ‘Hard History’ behind Today’s News.” NEA. NEA Today, August 29, 2018. https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/teaching-hard-history-behind-todays-news

Thomas, Samuel S. “EARLY MODERN MIDWIFERY: SPLITTING THE PROFESSION, CONNECTING THE HISTORY.” Journal of Social History 43, no. 1 (2009): 115–38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20685350.


[1] Thomas, Samuel S. “EARLY MODERN MIDWIFERY: SPLITTING THE PROFESSION, CONNECTING THE HISTORY.” Journal of Social History 43, no. 1 (2009): 115–38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20685350.

[2] Devitt N. The statistical case for elimination of the midwife: fact versus prejudice, 1890-1935 (Part I). Women Health. 1979 Spring;4(1):81-96. PMID: 10297450.

[3] Reagan, Leslie J. When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973. University of California Press, 1998.

[4] Hovey G. Abortion: a history. Plan Parent Rev. 1985 Summer;5(2):18-21. PMID: 12340403.

[5] Reagan LJ. Linking midwives and abortion in the Progressive Era. Bull Hist Med. 1995 Winter;69(4):569-98. PMID: 8563453.

[6] Rosales, John. “Teaching the ‘Hard History’ behind Today’s News.” NEA. NEA Today , August 29, 2018. https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/teaching-hard-history-behind-todays-news.

[7] Dawley K. Origins of nurse-midwifery in the United States and its expansion in the 1940s. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2003 Mar-Apr;48(2):86-95. doi: 10.1016/s1526-9523(03)00002-3. PMID: 12686940.

Surviving the Right-Wing Assault on Education

Surviving the Right-Wing Assault on Education

Leah Rosenzweig

A recent article by the editors of Rethinking Schools recalled an 1867 Harper’s Weekly editorial invoked the phrase: “The alphabet is abolitionist.” It meant that with the denial of literacy under the “slavocracy,” merely learning or teaching others to read and write was in itself an abolitionist act.

Educators have always been vulnerable to the threat of white nationalism, with their main duty being the enhancement and diffusion of knowledge, a great, if not the greatest, weapon of all. Just look at how fearful the idea of teaching formerly enslaved people to read made white supremacists during Reconstruction.

Now, 150 years later, white supremacism has evolved, not only as an intrusion to the way teachers relay facts or clarify concepts or ideas, but as a threat to the very stasis of the classroom, as kids are becoming influenced by back-alley online movements that promote nationalism, anti-Semitism, and misogyny. And so, while teachers don’t and shouldn’t create incognito accounts on 4chan, they should try to stay current with right-wing Internet trends, so that they’re able to catch things like hand symbols and disconcerting research paper citations.

One Chicago teacher created a toolkit for confronting white nationalism in the classroom, which offers various entry points for addressing whether or not and how a student may have become radicalized. In general, white nationalism has managed to creep its way back into the classroom in more ways than one can seemingly count. As a National Education Association article from earlier this year recalls, an Illinois high school teacher found himself, for the first time in his 32-year career, standing in front of his social studies class in 2017, reminding students that Nazis are not good people.

While this was a direct response on the part of the teacher to Donald Trump’s comments about the Charlottesville Nazis being “very fine people,” it was also a pretty abrupt shift for the teacher when it came to how he expressed his opinions of politicians’ statements in the classroom. The last six years have completely shattered the delicate walls that separate politics and everything else. For teachers, addressing the current state of politics is not a matter of grandstanding—it’s become a matter of human decency, of living up to their positions as presumptive role models and advocating for their students.

Laws around banning critical race theory — or worse, the bill introduced in Missouri which bans teaching that “identifies people or groups of people, entities, or institutions in the United States as inherently, immutably, or systemically sexist, racist, anti-LGBT, bigoted, biased, privileged, or oppressed” only serve to confuse young people. By banning educators from teaching about these systemic realities, and further, prohibiting them from even acknowledging that many systems are built upon “isms” and “antis,” politicians and their supporters deny young people the right to understand the very world they’ve inherited.

Denying this type of learning, and the civil discussion that accompanies it, is in itself a type of suppression. By prohibiting students the ability to learn the truth of their country’s history, lawmakers and the right-wing nationalists who today have emerged as a truly influential voting contingent in this country are disenfranchising young people. Despite this massive threat, teachers across the country are already fighting back, with many arguing that there is simply no way to stay neutral when not only our democracy but our ability to teach the truth is at risk.

If anything, schools should step up when it comes to bringing politics into the classroom—help teachers develop tactics and show support when necessary. As places that bring so many types of young people with so many different perspectives together, schools have a better opportunity than most institutions to help teachers develop a more human approach to viewing the world. Students, therefore, will be less susceptible to being radicalized by right wing forces online and will maybe even use their newfound knowledge to educate their parents and communities.

As educators, we must remember that staying neutral is perhaps more dangerous than any right-wing threat. Ignoring the recent explosion of right-wing nationalism and Nazi sentiments is not a way of staying out of politics, but a way of proliferating harmful politics. We cannot, in good conscience, become Adolf Eichmanns in the classroom. We must instead fight for what is just and for what betters our students and the world.

The Rethinking Schools article ended with a quote from Angela Davis. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

References

Owen, T. (2019). How teachers are fighting the white nationalists brainwashing their students,” Retrieved from  https://www.vice.com/en/article/j5yg54/how-teachers-are-fighting-the-white-nationalists-brainwashing-their-students

Rethinking Schools. (2021). Right-wing legislators are trying to stop us from teaching for racial justice. We refuse. Retrieved from https://rethinkingschools.org/articles/right-wing-legislators-are-trying-to-stop-us-from-teaching-for-racial-justice-we-refuse/

Saul, S. (2021, November 14). How a school district got caught in Virginia’s political maelstrom,” New York Times. Retrieved from

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/14/us/loudoun-county-school-board-va.html Walker, T. (2021). Teaching in an era of polarization. NEA Today. Retrieved from https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/teaching-era-polarization

Students Taking Action Together: Strategies that Blend SEL with Civil Discourse for Democratic Change to Meet the NJSLS Social Studies Practices

Students Taking Action Together: Strategies that Blend SEL with Civil Discourse for Democratic Change to Meet the NJSLS Social Studies Practices

Laura Bond and Lauren Fullmer

The racial reckoning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, renewed focus on climate change and the Capitol insurrection have collectively revealed to youth that systematic change is needed to reduce structural inequities (Fullmer & Bond, 2021). With students back to in-person schooling, the eagerness for expression, social connection, and understanding how constructive social change is possible has never been greater than during the 2021-2022 school year.

Social Studies teachers stand in this rich moment in time, to teach civil discourse and citizenship in alignment with the new 2020 NJSLS Social Studies Standards. Students Taking Action Together (STAT), a project from Rutgers University’s Social-Emotional Character Development Lab, has developed five research-based strategies to equip teachers in grades five through twelve with the tools to integrate social-emotional competencies and academic standards with active practices to be explicitly taught and practiced in the classroom to foster citizenship skills.  In this article, we illustrate how the five strategies embed SEL competencies required to meet the challenges of civic engagement and democratic change and then examine how each strategy delivers upon the NJSLS Social Studies practices so students are equipped to lead change in their schools and communities.

The Five STAT Strategies

STAT is a set of five SEL research-based strategies –  Norms, Yes-No-Maybe, Respectful Debate, Audience Focused Communication (AFC), and PLAN, a social problem-solving framework – that scaffold the integration of active civics-based social studies practices for grades five through twelve using existing curricular content.  The strategies explicitly promote social-emotional competencies, academic skills, dispositions, and actions required for an informed and engaged citizenry (Fullmer et al., 2022).  In ready-made lesson plans, organized around the themes of race, class, and gender, students explore constructs of power, oppression, human rights, injustice, and inequality. The lessons showcase the use of a STAT strategy related to a historic event and/or relevant civic issues being addressed in national and local debates. 

Each strategy builds upon the foundational SEL skills developed by the previous strategy and therefore, the strategies are meant to be taught in the sequence in which they are presented.  By doing so, students have ample opportunity to practice explicit SEL competency skills and the academic standards to engage in civic dialogue and debate for democratic action.

Figure 1: The Five STAT Strategies

NormsEngages students in developing ethical standards that lay the groundwork for a relationship-centered classroom community.
  Yes-No-MaybeOffers students opportunities for peer opinion sharing, in which they reflect on their views on an  issue to take a stand and actively listen to the diverse perspectives of their classmates.
  Respectful DebateEncourages students to practice the skill of perspective taking by analyzing all sides of an issue, in order to gain an appreciation for diverse viewpoints and a level of comfort in modifying their original thinking.
    Audience-Focused Communication (AFC)Allows students opportunities to tailor their language and style of presentation to a specific audience with the goal of understanding the perspective and context of their audience and communication, toward optimally conveying their good ideas about changing a policy or practice for the greater good of their classroom, school, and society.
               P.L.A.N.Involves students in collaborative problem solving with action planning to make a change in policies and practices that maintain privilege and power and limit whose voices have input in key decisions.


The Norms Strategy

To engage the civil discourse skills of peer opinion sharing, perspective taking, social problem solving, norms nurture a safe, relationship-centered and open learning environment (Elias & Nayman, 2019). Unlike classroom rules, which are generally teacher constructed to establish an efficient and open environment, norms are co-created by students and the teacher.  Through a discussion facilitated by the teacher, students decide upon desirable and undesirable classroom learning commitments and behaviors. Ultimately, students develop a list of affirmatively stated norms and discuss the rationale behind each norm and its impact on their well-being. Students also collectively determine ways to handle “norm-breaking” as a shared commitment to collective responsibility.

Engaging in the Norms strategy allows students to practice the SEL skills of self-awareness, self-management, relationship-building, and social awareness to form a safe and interdependent learning environment.  Students practice how to recognize their feelings about working together within the classroom community, how to keep their impulsive behaviors in check, develop knowledge of the sensitivities and needs of their peers, and to communicate in a positive and constructive way with classmates and adults. Acting as a living class constitution, norms allow for students to rehearse the civic skills of respectful listening, peer opinion sharing, empathic debate, information gathering to shape arguments, and collaborative problem-solving required in the next four strategies. In this fashion, students build the competencies, both social-emotional and academic, to take informed action. 

The Yes-No-Maybe Strategy

The Yes-No-Maybe strategy facilitates peer opinion sharing, which is the basis for genuine civic dialogue.  This simple entry-level strategy allows students to express and share their opinions on historic or current issues, given their initial impressions and then after reading a source on the issue. This strategy supports students’ social-emotional skills of self-management, in which students have to withhold judgment, refrain from reacting, and the social awareness skills through perspective-taking and respectful listening.

Students reflect on several neutral statements related to a historic or current event inspired by a teacher-selected source. They take a stance on each statement by moving to a space in the classroom marked “yes”, “no” or “maybe” that reflects their opinion. They practice respectful listening by discussing their opinions in those small informal gatherings within those spaces, and sharing them out with the full group. Next, students read a background source directly related to the issue to inform their thinking.  They are then given a second opportunity to change and/or share their opinions by moving to the appropriate location in the room on the same neutral statements provided the additional information from the source or from listening to their peers. Students reflect on if their opinions changed in the second round and if so, what inspired the shift in their opinion. The instructor facilitates these conversations, but does not seek to arrive at a consensus or other conclusion.

The Respectful Debate Strategy

Engaging in civic debate for understanding, rather than debate to win, is embodied in Respectful Debate (Civility and Society – A SmartBrief, 2019).  With the skills of perspective-taking and respectful listening in place, this strategy introduces students to the more complex skill of establishing and defending an informed position on a topic while empathically listening to opposing views. Respectful Debates provide rich opportunities for students to practice their self-awareness and emotional regulation skills (Elias & Schwab, 2006). Students engage their social awareness by realizing the impact of their emotions on themselves and others, build confidence as they recognize their limitations and potential as they speak, and collaborate in teams. They self-regulate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors as they dialogue with peers in preparation, present their argument and summarize the opposing side’s argument.

Students can be provided with or gather evidence for their assigned position on the debate statement or question. Students are assigned the stance of “pro” or “con” and work in small groups. Unlike traditional classroom debates, students are charged with arguing on both sides of the issue and intentionally reflecting on and accurately understanding the position of their opposition, allowing them to more objectively analyze the issue and broaden their perspectives. This poses a challenge when students strongly disagree with one side of the issue and find themselves dealing with strong emotions that they must regulate. This challenge presents opportunities for teachers to teach emotional regulation techniques, such as deep breathing, positive self-talk, and waiting before speaking.

Audience-Focused Communication (AFC)

Civic discourse is realized with Audience-Focused Communication (AFC), which is a stand-alone strategy to be implemented without the need to be taught in the sequenced order of the previous three strategies.  It’s a deliberate and strategic focus on speaking and related skills that can be harnessed to present on academic topics, such as pivotal decisions or historic debates, as well as school-based issues, such as the inclusiveness of student government, bullying, and freedom of expression.  With AFC, students are given a rich opportunity to find their stance and voice and to use media effectively in order to impact an audience to mobilize consensus-making or to excite change. AFC can also be used as a natural extension of PLAN (what we refer to as PLAN Integrative), in that it provides students with detailed guidance with regard to how to best present the solutions and action plans that they developed.  Fundamental to AFC is asking students to put themselves in the shoes of the listener/receiver, and not assume that they always are speaking to people just like themselves.  This is true for sharing work in a class, making an announcement over the loudspeaker, preparing a presentation for an assembly, or developing and delivering a petition to the Student Council.

The essence of AFC is that students exercise their social awareness and relationship skills working collaboratively to identify their audience, determine the format of their presentation, and take into consideration their audience’s background and prior knowledge to effectively craft their message and communicate it to influence the audience. Self-awareness and self-regulation skills are key to this strategy, which demands students self-assess and continually evaluate how to best present the information and craft their argument to have the maximum impact on the audience.

PLAN: A Problem-Solving Framework

The fifth and final strategy, PLAN, builds on the skills students practice in the preceding strategies and shifts the focus to social problem solving and action planning to prepare students to take civic action. PLAN stands for Problem definition, Listing options, Action plan, and Notice success and lessons learned for next time. With PLAN, students work in small groups to collaboratively examine and evaluate a historic or a current problem that has no obvious solution or perhaps revisit a past situation to better understand how different analyses or decisions might have led to different actions and outcomes.  

Then, they consider the options to address the problem and weigh the pros and cons of each. Students work together to develop a SMART goal and related action plan to solve the problem. They also engage in perspective-taking to consider the impact of their action plan on the various stakeholders involved and look to implement when feasible (hence, the title, Students Taking Action Together). The process culminates with a reflection, in which students notice successes with their plan and possible revisions to their thinking to be more successful the next time around.   In the spirit of John Dewey, as students apply PLAN to classroom and school-related problems, it will accelerate their ability to apply their skills to historic and civic issues.

How the STAT Strategies Align to the NJSLS Practices

The new Social Studies practices engender opportunities for students to practice civic discourse, dialogue, debate and action in the classroom.  The STAT strategies guide Social Studies teachers to strike a balance between content acquisition and active practices that maximizes students’ ability to rehearse and transfer the skills they learn (Fullmer et al., 2022).  STAT strategies are designed to accompany and supplement lesson content.  They provide guidance on how teachers can integrate the active practices for civil discourse and action into existing curricula.  In the crosswalk figure below, we’ll show how STAT coaches teachers to achieve this integration in meaningful and effective ways.

Figure 2: A Crosswalk of STAT’s Integration of the NJSLS Social Studies Practices

 Y-N-MRDAFCPLAN
Developing Questions & Planning Inquiry

   
Each lesson features an organizing question to foster thinking & support planning.  Students are given a debate question and assigned an initial side (they will ultimately take both sides) for which they must plan an approach to gather information and present it.Students formulate inquiries to understand the context within which they will be presenting.The first step in the PLAN process involved identifying the problem/ questions that will be the focus of inquiry.
Gathering & Evaluating Sources    Students read a central article/source and share their opinions before and after reading the article.Students must review sources to prepare their positions for the debate.Students must gather information from relevant and appropriate sources to determine presentation context and constraints.PLAN works from the existing curriculum or school situations/contexts, so students must gather this information at the outset and value the information in proportion to the reliability of its sources.
Seeking Diverse PerspectivesStudents express their opinions. Articles/sources offer multiple views on the issues.Students must examine both points of view and argue both sides of the debate.Students are encouraged to consider a range of presentation modalities and to gather perspectives from individuals with experience at presenting to the intended audience(s).The second part of the PLAN process involves brainstorming a wide range of possible solutions to the problem.  Prior to that, the problem is defined from the perspective of each of the groups involved.
Developing Claims and Using Evidence  Students respond to claims before and after reading the article/sources.To be successful, students must bring forward credible sources of evidence to support their positions.Students working in groups to finalize their presentation context and message must put forward their approaches using credible evidence.Students will be expected to justify their claims based on evidence in textual and other sources.
Presenting Arguments and ExplanationsStudents read & draw on the source’s key arguments, supporting evidence to inform and express their opinions. Students must refine, present, and defend their arguments within the constraints of the debate.Students must justify their particular positions regarding how the presentation should be made to be appropriate to the audience and context.The third step in the PLAN process involves presenting solutions and detailed plans, including anticipation of obstacles.  
Engaging in Civil Discourse and Critiquing ConclusionsStudents exhibit curious compassion towards those with divergent views and seek to understand them through inquiry, rather than judge them.Students learn emotional regulation techniques to remain calm when involved in controversial discussions with their peers.When students work collaboratively to plan a presentation, the process of civil discourse – when deciding upon the content that will be presented and the method of delivery – is more important than the product (i.e. choosing the “right” content or format).The fourth step of PLAN involves critiquing the conclusions reached by those who dealt with the issue in history and the conclusions the students reached when implementing their action plan.
Taking Informed Action Students gain the confidence and competence of developing informed opinions and expressing their opinions in social settings required to take. Students consider the views of all relevant stakeholders by engaging in perspective-taking to ensure that their plan of action is inclusive.Students will take action based on their plans and will gather feedback/debrief to inform their future action in similar situations.The final step in PLAN involves reflecting on actions taken and identifying how things would be done differently in future situations; when applied to history, this includes projecting different outcomes if past decisions were different, including implications for the present and future.

Developing Questions & Planning Inquiry

Civic discourse often starts with asking questions of leaders and elected officials.  The first Social Studies practice of Developing Questions & Planning Inquiry is explicitly integrated into STAT lessons.  Each lesson features a core question to assist the teacher in organizing the lesson content and student thinking.  Relevant issues are integrated into the lesson anchor question to promote student engagement.  Students then use the question to dig deeper into exploring the issue. 

For example, in a Yes-No-Maybe lesson, the statement, “The coronavirus has not fueled anti-Asian racism?” is presented to students to frame the development of neutral statements, shaping students’ thinking and questioning as they engage in dialogue with their peers.  At the end of the lesson, students revisit the question and respond to the essential question.  In this vein, students learn how the power of relevant questions can drive collective discussion and learning around the issue.  The Yes-No-Maybe strategy demonstrates to students that civic discourse starts with asking questions.  The table below indicates exactly how students engage the skill of planning for inquiry and developing questions across the STAT strategies, once Norms have been established.  The practice necessary to spark civic discourse is scaffolded and spirals up through the strategies to PLAN.

Gathering & Evaluating Sources

The second practice, Gathering & Evaluating Sources, facilitates students’ inquiry by having them gather credible sources, given the framing statement or essential question to enhance their background knowledge and to consider all perspectives on the issue.  With the STAT lessons, students are exposed to a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including podcasts, political cartoons, and newspaper articles and are equipped with the critical literacy skills needed for civic life, as well as to promote informed citizenship.  Through repeated practice, students learn that words are a form of power and that no source is entirely neutral in nature. 

In the Respectful Debate strategy, after the students are presented with a controversial statement that frames the debate, they are tasked with critically evaluating background sources on the topic to identify evidence in support of their position.  For example, in a Respectful Debate lesson on racial equality, framed around the statement “In order to achieve racial equality, Blacks should separate from Whites”, students are provided with a blog post from the New York City Urban Debate League and an audio recording of the 1961 debate between Malcolm X and James Baldwin.  Through the processes of deliberation, peer discussion, and reflection, students analyze the information from all angles and form new understandings by synthesizing it with their prior knowledge.

Seeking Diverse Perspectives

When building the muscle of evaluating background sources, students develop an understanding of their perspective on an issue, as well as an appreciation for the perspectives of others.  Seeking Diverse Perspectives is a practice that allows students to see and connect with the authentic and genuine emotional reactions and thoughts of their peers.  This allows them to develop empathy for individuals and groups of people of different backgrounds and experiences.  The Yes-No-Maybe strategy teaches students to exercise compassionate curiosity over biased assumptions to better understand the other’s perspectives.  Through respectful and empathic listening and peer opinion sharing, students become more open-minded and accepting of the notion that beliefs and opinions can change over time.

During a Yes-No-Maybe lesson on foot binding in China, students are invited to reflect on their views related to the statements: “Women, not men, perpetuate a society’s concept of what is beautiful” and “Expressions of beauty are typically crafted by the elite”.  Students then engage in peer opinion sharing and a review of background sources to consider how what people think is beautiful has changed over the years and differs around the world.  Through these experiences, students widen their perspectives and reevaluate their views about the meaning of beauty.

Developing Claims and Using Evidence

The fourth practice, Developing Claims and Using Evidence, equips students with the skills to engage in constructive and meaningful dialogue about important issues.  Students consider an issue from all perspectives and take account of any biases they may have to formulate their own viewpoint on the issue and develop a logical argument supported with the best possible evidence.  While all of the STAT strategies task students with exercising the skill of eliciting evidence from their analysis of background sources and engaging dialogue with peers (Fullmer et al., 2022), Respectful Debate really hones in on this practice.  Provided with background sources on a controversial issue, students not only identify the most compelling evidence to support their “pro” or “con” argument, but also, reflect on any gaps in the reasoning and evidence presented by their opponent.

For example, in a Respectful Debate lesson, students must identify evidence and construct arguments to support the “pro” and “con” sides of “Is it possible for sports to be inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community?”.  Provided with a video, timeline, and two articles, students identify the authors’ respective claims and compare it to their own and pull out the best pieces of evidence to not only support their claim, but to challenge that of their opponents.  By actively listening to both sides of the argument, students develop a collective understanding, as well as historical empathy for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Presenting Arguments and Explanations

While students are frequently asked to Present Arguments and Explanations in front of an audience, whether sharing the results of a science lab, describing why an invented algorithm works in math, or justifying the theme of a novel, they are rarely provided with the skills to do so with competence and confidence.  Yet, being able to tailor their presentations to a specific audience and regulate their tone of voice, eye contact, and nonverbal communication accordingly are essential elements of the fifth practice.  The Audience-Focused Communication (AFC) strategy equips students with the presentation literacy skills necessary to determine the appropriate format of a presentation (e.g., slideshow, song, video, speech) and the prior knowledge and views of their audience to most effectively present their argument in a way that makes sense and resonates with their audience.

Consider an AFC lesson at the end of a content-based unit, in which students are tasked with presenting on a topic or book that they recently learned about.  Students learn how to focus their message, given a specific audience, and consider how it will be received through perspective-taking.  Through deliberate planning and practice, students develop a step-by-step run-down of the flow of the presentation and rehearse SEL skills such as positive self-talk and deep breathing to be prepared to regulate their emotions.  With AFC, students are furnished with the presentation literacy skills to be active members in a participatory democracy.

Engaging in Civil Discourse and Critiquing Conclusions

Building off the previous two practices, the skill of Engaging in Civil Discourse and Critiquing Conclusions excites opportunities for collective listening and assessing the reasoning which is central to sensemaking. In a Yes-No-Maybe lesson students present their opinions and listen to their peers express their opinion on statements related to a topic, prior to reading a source.  After reading the source students move to a location in the room that reflects their opinion, even if it changed and discuss in small groups what argument shaped their opinions.  At the end of the lesson the class reflects on whether their thinking changed or not and discusses what reasons may have caused them to change their original opinion on the topic.  Thus, students learn the value of listening and reading diverse views on the topic and can refine their original thinking on the topic. 

Respectful Debate lessons ask students to summarize the opposing sides argument and question if the summary was accurate.  The process of summarizing the presented argument  provides students real practice for active listening in debate to expand their thinking on the topic. When students switch sides to argue the opposing argument it exposes them to analyze  the reasoning of a point of view they may not agree with. In this process they begin to organically critique the argument(s) by questioning their assumption and preconceptions on the topic.  At the end of the lesson students reflect about whether summarizing what the other side said and/or switching sides changed their opinion, and what about the summary was helpful.  The reflection is a potent opportunity to learn the value of listening to and standing in to argue for a contrary view can refine their own and the group’s concluding thinking as they strive towards collective understanding.

Taking Informed Action

The previous practices lay the groundwork for the final practice of Taking Informed Action, which is the very essence of democracy.  With the PLAN problem-solving framework, students examine a problem of the present or the past and consider the options to solve it by engaging in inquiry and background research.  Next, they consider the views and needs of all relevant stakeholders to develop an action plan.  In the final step, they engage in a collaborative discussion in which they reflect on the successes of their plan and identify areas for growth moving forward.  This encourages students to acknowledge that the problem-solving process is iterative in nature and requires constant revisions to be more inclusive and effective.

A PLAN exemplar lesson on Women’s Rights invites students to analyze how Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the women at the Seneca Falls Convention organized to address the issue of unequal social, civil, and religious rights.  Students then engage in perspective-taking to put themselves in the position of disenfranchised women during the mid-19th century to generate alternative solutions and action plans.  The hope is that students walk away from this lesson with a greater awareness of the social injustices in their communities and the skills to organize to take collective action.

Conclusion

The New Jersey Social Studies Standards are visionary.  They seek to educate students in history and civics and prepare them for active citizenship in a global and interdependent society.   Students Taking Action Together is a set of teaching strategies that are ideally matched to the NJSLS and the guiding practices articulated for attaining them.  These strategies embolden students with the necessary skills that nurtures a sense of hope and optimism that they can lead the change they wish to see in the world. 

References

Civility and Society: How to Boost Civil Discourse in K-12 Classrooms. (2019). Smartbrief.

Elias, M. J., & Nayman, S. (2019, October 28). Students taking action together (STAT). New Jersey Education Association.

Elias, M. J. & Schwab, Y. (2006). From compliance to responsibility: Social and emotional learning and classroom management. In C. M. Evertson & C. S. Weinsten (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management (pp. 94-115). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Fullmer, L. M., Bond, L. F., Molyneaux, C. M., Nayman, S. J., & Elias, M. J. (2022). Students Taking Action Together: 5 teaching techniques to cultivate SEL, civic engagement, and a healthy democracy. ASCD.

Fullmer, L., & Bond, L. (2021, March 29). Three strategies for helping students discuss controversial issues. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_resilience_in_the_face_of_horror

National Council for the Social Studies (n.d). Guide to civil discourse for students. Retrieved from www.socialstudies.org/sites/default/files/guide_to_civil_discourse_student_version.pdf 

National Council for the Social Studies. (n.d.) National curriculum standards for social studies. Retrieved from https://www.socialstudies.org/standards/national-curriculum-standards-social-studies-instruction

State of New Jersey, Department of Education (2020). New Jersey student learning standards – social studies. Retrieved from https://www.state.nj.us/education/cccs/2020/2020%20NJSLS-SS.pdf.

Anti-Evolution: The Conservative War on Education that Failed

This excerpt from a longer article is reposted from History News Network with the author’s permission. The full article was published in the November 23, 2021 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

Anti-Evolution: The Conservative War on Education that Failed

by Adam Laats

In the recent governor’s race in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin scored a huge upset win days after promising to ban critical race theory from Virginia schools. Youngkin is hardly the only Republican calling for school bans. In Texas, Representative Matt Krause sent a letter to school administrators about books in their district. Did they have Ta-Nehisi Coates on their shelves? Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste? How about LGBT Families, by Leanne K. Currie-McGhee? Or any of about 850 other books that might, in Krause’s words, “make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex”?

Beyond Texas, beyond Virginia, the prospect of banning books and ideas from public schools has GOP strategists smelling electoral blood. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowed to turn school bans into a winning issue for Republicans in 2022, sketching a “parental bill of rights” to protect kids from troubling ideas about race and sex.

These efforts have a history. Back in the 1920s, the vague term that galvanized conservative angst was not critical race theory but evolution. Conservative pundits at the time seized on a cartoonish misrepresentation of evolutionary science and warned their fellow Americans that “evolution” was nothing less than a sinister plot to rob white American children of their religion, their morals, and their sense of innate superiority.

But although the school bans might have changed some school curricula in the short term, in the long run, they backfired. Telling parents you don’t want their kids to have the best possible public schools is never good politics. A full century ago, the most effective school-ban campaign in American history set the pattern: noise, fury, rancor, and fear, but not much change in what schools actually teach.

In the 1920s, the idea of evolution wasn’t new. Charles Darwin’s bombshell book about natural selection had been published 60 years earlier. The outlines of Darwin’s theory had become standard fare in school textbooks and curricula, even though the real scientific controversies about the mechanism of natural selection were by no means settled. But the furious campaign to ban evolution had nothing to do with those debates among scientists.

In 1923, T. T. Martin, the “Blue Mountain Evangelist,” preached that “evolution is being drilled into our boys and girls … during the most susceptible, dangerous age of their lives.” Evolution, Martin warned, was not good science but only a plot by “sneering” “high-brows” to inject mandatory atheism into public schools. Martin claimed to have “abundant evidence that the teaching of these text-books is unsettling the faith of thousands of students.”

Hell and the High Schools by T. T. Martin (1922)

“WHAT can be done? Where is our hope? The pussyfooting apologies for the Evolutionists will say “Don’t do anything drastic. Educate the people, and the thing will right itself.” Educate the people? How can we, when Evolutionists have us by the throat? When they have, while we were asleep, captured our tax-supported schools from primary to University, and many of our denominational colleges? “The Philistines be upon thee Samson !” But alas! We have been asleep upon the lap of this Delilah and. have been shorn of our strength-they have captured our schools. But “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, strengthen me only this once, O God.” “And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up.” So could we. “And he bowed himself with all his might.” So can we. And the strength of God who “created man in his own image” will come into us, and we will slay these Philistines, the greatest curse that has come upon man since God created him in His own image. What is a war, what is an epidemic that sweeps people away by the hundred thousand, compared to this scourge that under the guise of “science,” when it is not science, at all, is sweeping our sons and daughters away from God, away from God’s word, taking from them their Redeemer and Saviour, to spend eternity in hell?”

 

New Jersey’s Climate Change Curriculum: An Important First Step for Social Studies Education

New Jersey’s Climate Change Curriculum: An Important First Step for Social Studies Education

by Evan Saperstein and Daniel Saperstein

In a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2021) report, the United Nations (UN) scientific body confirmed what many leading scientists, activists, and public officials have known and warned for years: human activity is responsible for the climate change crisis. The sobering report (drafted by 234 scientists representing 66 nations) is nothing short of a code red, concluding that greenhouse gas (e.g., carbon dioxide, methane) emissions are causing rising temperatures and more frequent heatwaves, as well as worsening floods, droughts, and hurricanes (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2021). To stem the tide requires immediate and sustained action across the globe (e.g., through a net zero emissions coalition) (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2021). The UN General Assembly (2015) at large has recognized this dire imperative for years, and other multinational institutions and organizations (e.g., Climate Action Network) have worked tirelessly to bring attention to this heightening threat.          

With each passing year, however, the stark consequence of failing to take action has become more painfully evident. Indeed, only three weeks after the release of the IPCC report, Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc in the South and then, to the surprise of forecasters, across much of the Northeast, particularly in New Jersey (Porter & Scolforo, 2021). The torrential downpour and instant flash flooding of streets and homes resulted in swift and seismic destruction (Porter & Scolforo, 2021). In response, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued a state of emergency, and promised grants to help rebuild and guard against future devastation (Arco, 2021; Porter & Scolforo, 2021). And, while touring the aftermath, President Joe Biden (2021) cautioned that: “weather would be more extreme and climate change was here, and we’re living through it now. We don’t have any more time.”   

Hurricane Ida is just the latest example of extreme weather events in New Jersey and across the United States (Freedman & Samenow, 2020; Pershing, 2021). Indeed, the United States recently experienced its warmest summer in history (previously set in 1936) (Chow, 2021). In fact, this past decade was the Earth’s warmest to date (and since 2005, there have been the 10 hottest years on record) (Borunda, 2020; Lindsey & Dahlman, 20021; Milman, 2020). In light of these troubling trends, New Jersey has taken steps to address climate change.

For instance, in 2020, Governor Murphy signed the Food Waste Recycling Law to reduce greenhouse gases by requiring large generators of food waste to recycle unused and wasted food (Munoz, 2020). Later that year, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection published the Global Warming Response Act Report, detailing the steps needed to reduce climate pollutant emissions (Barr et al., 2020). This past year, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (2021) also developed its first statewide Climate Change Resilience Strategy. The strategy outlines six overarching priorities: “build resilient and healthy communities,” “strengthen the resilience of New Jersey’s ecosystem,” “promote coordinated governance,” “invest in information and increase public understanding,” “promote climate-informed investments and innovative financing,” and a “coastal resilience plan” (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 2021).                                       

Notably, New Jersey’s climate change initiative and action also has extended to education. Recently, New Jersey became the first U.S. state to add climate change across its K-12 curricular standards (Fallon, 2020; Warren, 2020; Williams, 2020); full implementation will take effect by the following academic year due to delays resulting from the pandemic (New Jersey Department of Education, 2021). Various stakeholders, including K-12 educators and administrators, participated in this historic initiative. New Jersey’s first lady Tammy Murphy helped lead the effort (Warren, 2020), with the goal of providing younger generations “an opportunity to study and understand the climate crisis through a comprehensive, interdisciplinary lens” (Cruise, 2020). The first lady cast the initiative as “much more than an added educational requirement; it is a symbol of a partnership between generations” (Cruise, 2020). Governor Murphy himself acknowledged the significance of the curricular standards “to reestablish New Jersey’s role as a leader in the fight against climate change” (Warren, 2020). Former Vice President and environmental activist Al Gore also praised the state for its commitment to prepare future leaders able to confront climate change and prescribe solutions (Warren, 2020).  

The incorporation of climate change related content into the state’s K-12 curriculum is far-reaching (Fallon, 2020; Warren, 2020; Williams, 2020). The new curriculum will result in material changes to Social Studies, as well as several other content areas of the 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS) ranging from Career Readiness, Life Literacies, and Key Skills to Comprehensive Health and Physical Education; Computer Science and Design Thinking; Science; Visual and Performing Arts; and World Languages.

For Social Studies in particular, climate-related content has been added to U.S. and world history, encompassing economics, geography, civics, government, and human rights (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020e). The social studies standards speak to “leveraging climate change as an area of focus” through “authentic learning experiences” and the “use of disciplinary literacy skills to communicate . . . solutions for change” (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020e, p. 21). This includes “students asking their own questions,” soliciting “diverse points of view,” and “using geospatial technologies to gather data” (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020e, p. 21). 

The social studies standards from the New Jersey Department of Education (2020e) set “performance expectations” specific to climate change, including to “evaluate the impact of individual, business, and government decisions and actions on . . . climate change” (p. 66); “assess the efficacy of government policies and agencies in New Jersey and the United States in addressing these decisions” (p. 66); “investigate . . . climate change, its significance, and share information about how it impacts different regions around the world” (p. 86); “develop an action plan . . . related to climate change and share with school and/or community members” (p. 87); and “plan and participate in an advocacy project . . . about the impact of climate change at the local or state level and propose possible solutions” (p. 87). These curricular changes go well beyond Social Studies, as noted above. For Career Readiness, Life Literacies, and Key Skills, climate-related content cuts across topics in creativity and innovation; critical thinking and problem-solving; digital citizenship; global and cultural awareness; and information and media literacy (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020a). Comprehensive Health and Physical Education ties climate-related content with community health services and support (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020b). Computer Science and Design Thinking fuses climate-related content with data and analysis, as well as the effects of technology on the natural world (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020c). For Science, naturally, climate-related content covers earth and human activity, engineering design, and earth’s systems (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020d). For Visual and Performing Arts, climate-related content is part of dance, media arts, theatre, and visual arts (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020f, p. 4). And, for World Languages, climate-related content runs the gamut of interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational modes of communication (New Jersey Department of Education, 2020g).    

Educating the next generation about the effects of climate change is fundamental to the future of social studies education and across disciplines. During the September 2019 global climate strikes, students around the globe (led by Greta Thunberg) left class and took to the streets to protest politicians’ inaction on climate change (Huish, 2021; Sengupta, 2019). While the pandemic served to stall momentum (Berwyn & Erdenesanaa, 2021), youth activists are once again holding in-person (albeit much smaller) protests as part of Thunberg’s Friday for Future movement (Adam & Noack, 2021). But youth activists can only achieve so much on their own, and climate change education is a necessary predicate to prepare the next generation to address this challenge.

New Jersey’s climate change curriculum is a critical first step, and it should become a blueprint for other states in this country as well as other countries abroad. Climate change education will provide students with a baseline of knowledge to understand and confront the negative impacts of this threat. As the NJSLS show, these are interdisciplinary issues that cut across social studies, as well as the sciences and the arts, to name a few. It is imperative that students with varying backgrounds, educational levels, and areas of interest become well-versed in these issues, and take the lessons learned through further education, into their professions, and as part of their lives as citizens. 

Yet, New Jersey should not stop with climate change education. New Jersey K-12 schools can and should take the lead in teaching about other critical issues—be they about public health, economic inequality, or social justice. The UN has outlined a number of these global challenges that have become better known as the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), of which climate action is but one. Others include: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; life below water; life on land; peace, justice, and strong institutions; and partnerships (United Nations General Assembly, 2015). To groom well-rounded citizens, New Jersey K-12 schools must once again take the reins and incorporate such issues into various content area standards. Students need to learn about the impact of climate change and other global issues to successfully navigate through the many challenges facing today’s world. Given the scope and scale of the risk, the stakes could not be greater.  

References

Adam, K., & Noack, R. (2021, September 24). Young climate activists join Greta Thunberg for first major Fridays for Future strikes of pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/09/24/fridays-future-greta-climate-protests/

Arco, (2021, September 3). N.J. small businesses damaged by Ida can get state grants from $10M pool, Murphy says. Retrieved from https://www.nj.com/weather/2021/09/nj-small-businesses-damaged-by-ida-can-get-state-grants-from-10m-pool-murphy-says.html

Barr, H., Orlando, P., Kettig, R., Barry, R. C., Karmarkar-Deshmukh, R., & Kamel, M. (2020). New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act 80×50 Report. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/docs/nj-gwra-80×50-report-2020.pdf

Berwyn, B., & Erdenesanaa, D. (2021, September 24). A Friday for the future: The global climate strike may help the youth movement rebound from the pandemic.

Retrieved from https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24092021/a-friday-for-the-future-the-global-climate-strike-may-help-the-youth-movement-rebound-from-the-pandemic/

Biden, J. (2021). Remarks by President Biden in briefing on the impact of Hurricane Ida in Hillsborough Township, NJ. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/09/07/remarks-by-president-biden-in-briefing-on-the-impact-of-hurricane-ida-in-hillsborough-township-nj/

Borunda, A. (2020, January 15). Past decade was the hottest on record. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/the-decade-we-finally-woke-up-to-climate-change

Chow, D. (2021, September 9). The U.S. just had its hottest summer on record. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/us-just-hottest-summer-record-rcna1957

Cruise, R. (2020, June 5). New Jersey is first state to have climate change education for K-12. Retrieved from https://www.ibtimes.com/new-jersey-first-state-have-climate-change-education-k-12-2988498

Fallon, S. (2020, June 3). New Jersey becomes first state to incorporate climate change in K-12 curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/environment/2020/06/03/nj-becomes-first-state-require-climate-change-k-12-curriculum/3136671001/

Freedman, A., & Samenow, J. (2020, May 18). The strongest, most dangerous hurricanes are now far more likely because of climate change, study shows. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/05/18/hurricanes-stronger-climate-change/

Huish, R. (2021). Global citizenship amid COVID-19: Why climate change and a pandemic spell the end of international experiential learning. Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 1-18. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2021). AR 6 climate change 2021: The physical Science basis. Retrieved from https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

Lindsey, R., & Dahlman, L. (2021, March 15). Climate change: Global temperature. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-global-temperature

Milman, O. (2020, August 12). Last decade was Earth’s hottest on record as climate crisis accelerates.  Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/aug/12/hottest-decade-climate-crisis-2019

Munoz, D. J. (2020, April 16). Murphy signs bill to boost food waste recycling in New Jersey. Retrieved from https://njbiz.com/murphy-signs-bill-boost-food-waste-recycling-new-jersey/

New Jersey Department of Education. (2020a). 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards – Career Readiness, Life Literacies, and Key Skills. Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/2020/2020%20NJSLS-CLKS.pdf

New Jersey Department of Education. (2020b). 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards – Comprehensive Health and Physical Education. Retrieved fromhttps://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/2020/2020%20NJSLS-CHPE.pdf

New Jersey Department of Education. (2020c). 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards – Computer Science and Design Thinking. Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/2020/2020%20NJSLS-CSDT.pdf

New Jersey Department of Education. (2020d). 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards Science.Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/2020/NJSLS-Science.pdf

New Jersey Department of Education. (2020e). 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards – Social Studies. New Jersey Department of Education. (2020f). 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards – Visual and Performing Arts.Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/2020/2020%20NJSLS-VPA.pdf

New Jersey Department of Education. (2020g). 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards – World Languages. Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/2020/2020%20NJSLS-WL.pdf

New Jersey Department of Education. (2021). 2020 New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS). Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/education/cccs/2020/

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. (2021). Climate Change Resilience Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.nj.gov/dep/climatechange/resilience-strategy.html

Pershing, A. (2021, September 23). In a changing climate, hurricanes like Ida are stretching our imagination. Retrieved from https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/573595-in-a-changing-climate-hurricanes-like-ida-are-stretching-our?rl=1

Porter, D., & Scolforo (2021, September 1). Ida remnants pound Northeast with rain, flooding, tornadoes. Retrieved from https://apnews.com/article/ida-weather-flooding-bce7b313bc390dd8106db3c2787985fb

Sengupta, S. (2019, September 20). Protesting climate change, young people take to streets in a global strike. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/climate/global-climate-strike.html

United Nations General Assembly. (2015). Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Retrieved from https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/21252030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development%20web.pdf

Warren, M. S. (2020, June 3). N.J. schools will teach climate change education with new curriculum. Retrieved from https://www.nj.com/news/2020/06/nj-schools-will-teach-climate-change-education-with-new-curriculum.html

Williams, D. (2020, June 4). New Jersey is the first state to add climate change to its K-12 education standards. Retrieved from

https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/04/us/new-jersey-climate-schools-scn-trnd/index.html

Building Social Solidarity Across National Boundaries

Building Social Solidarity Across National Boundaries

by Lawrence S. Wittner

Reprinted by permission from the History News Network.

Is it possible to build social solidarity beyond the state? It’s easy to conclude that it’s not. In 1915, as national governments produced the shocking carnage of World War I, Ralph Chaplin, an activist in the Industrial Workers of the World, wrote his stirring song, “Solidarity Forever. Taken up by unions around the globe, it proclaimed that there was “no power greater anywhere beneath the sun” than international working class solidarity. But, today, despite Chaplin’s dream of bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old,” the world remains sharply divided by national boundaries—boundaries that are usually quite rigid, policed by armed guards, and ultimately enforced through that traditional national standby, war.

Even so, over the course of modern history, social movements have managed, to a remarkable degree, to form global networks of activists who have transcended nationalism in their ideas and actions. Starting in the late nineteenth century, there was a remarkable efflorescence of these movements: the international aid movement; the labor movement; the socialist movement; the peace movement; and the women’s rights movement, among others. In recent decades, other global movements have emerged, preaching and embodying the same kind of human solidarity—from the environmental movement, to the nuclear disarmament movement, to the campaign against corporate globalization, and to the racial justice movement.

Although divided from one another, at times, by their disparate concerns, these transnational humanitarian movements have nevertheless been profoundly subversive of many established ideas and of the established order—an order that has often been devoted to maintenance of special privilege and preservation of the nation state system. Consequently, these movements have usually found a home on the political Left and have usually triggered a furious backlash on the political Right.

The rise of globally based social movements appears to have developed out of the growing interconnection of nations, economies, and peoples, spawned by increasing world economic, scientific, and technological development, trade, travel, and communications. This interconnection has meant that war, economic collapse, climate disasters, diseases, corporate exploitation, and other problems are no longer local, but global. And the solutions, of course, are also global in nature. Meanwhile, the possibilities for alliances of like-minded people across national boundaries have also grown.

The rise of the worldwide campaign for nuclear disarmament exemplifies these trends. Beginning in 1945, in the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima, its sense of urgency was driven by breakthroughs in science and technology that revolutionized war and, thereby, threatened the world with unprecedented disaster. Furthermore, the movement had little choice but to develop across the confines of national boundaries. After all, nuclear testing, the nuclear arms race, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation represented global problems that could not be tackled on a national basis. Eventually, a true peoples’ alliance emerged, uniting activists in East and West against the catastrophic nuclear war plans of their governments.

Much the same approach is true of other global social movements. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for example, play no favorites among nations when they report on human rights abuses around the world. Individual nations, of course, selectively pick through the findings of these organizations to label their political adversaries (though not their allies) ruthless human rights abusers. But the underlying reality is that participants in these movements have broken free of allegiances to national governments to uphold a single standard and, thereby, act as genuine world citizens. The same can be said of activists in climate organizations like Greenpeace and 350.org, anticorporate campaigns, the women’s rights movement, and most other transnational social movements.

Institutions of global governance also foster human solidarity across national borders. The very existence of such institutions normalizes the idea that people in diverse countries are all part of the human community and, therefore, have a responsibility to one another. Furthermore, UN Secretaries-General have often served as voices of conscience to the world, deploring warfare, economic inequality, runaway climate disaster, and a host of other global ills. Conversely, the ability of global institutions to focus public attention upon such matters has deeply disturbed the political Right, which acts whenever it can to undermine the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Health Organization, and other global institutions.

Social movements and institutions of global governance often have a symbiotic relationship. The United Nations has provided a very useful locus for discussion and action on issues of concern to organizations dealing with women’s rights, environmental protection, human rights, poverty, and other issues, with frequent conferences devoted to these concerns. Frustrated with the failure of the nuclear powers to divest themselves of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament organizations deftly used a series of UN conferences to push through the adoption of the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, much to the horror of nuclear-armed states.

Admittedly, the United Nations is a confederation of nations, where the “great powers” often use their disproportionate influence—for example, in the Security Council—to block the adoption of popular global measures that they consider against their “interests.” But it remains possible to change the rules of the world body, diminishing great power influence and creating a more democratic, effective world federation of nations. Not surprisingly, there are social movements, such as the World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy and Citizens for Global Solutions, working for these reforms.

Although there are no guarantees that social movements and enhanced global governance will transform our divided, problem-ridden world, we shouldn’t ignore these movements and institutions, either. Indeed, they should provide us with at least a measure of hope that, someday, human solidarity will prevail, thereby bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old.”

NJCSS Commences Grant on Living in New Jersey Before & During the American Revolution

NJCSS Commences Grant on Living in New Jersey Before and During the American Revolution

by David DiCostanzo, Vineland High School (NJ)

Several Social Studies teachers from around the state began a research grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission to examine the histories of ordinary people in New Jersey and how the events leading up to and during the Revolutionary War impacted their lives. The grant, “Telling Our Story: Living in New Jersey Before and During the American Revolution”, is an effort by the NJCSS to prepare educators in New Jersey for the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution during the 2025-26 school year. The 250th anniversary celebrations will continue through 2031 and are part of the overall mission of the NJCSS to provide and make available meaningful lessons and activities to students, teachers, and the public. This is important work because it engages students and residents in various counties throughout New Jersey about the birth of representative government in America.

Research Scholars Working at the MCHA Museum on 11/6/2021

The purpose of this grant is for each research scholar to explore primary sources, such as pamphlets and letters, related to events that affected the lives and livelihoods of people during the American Revolution. The results of this research will be communicated to students in Grades 4-12 (and college) through activity-based lessons requiring role playing, simulation and/or debating decisions relating to the personal experiences of people living in New Jersey in the 1770s. Each research scholar is also responsible for submitting an article on their topic for publication, producing a 3-5-minute documentary, and including an annotated bibliography.  The articles will be published on the NJCSS website and the documentaries will be made available via our Vimeo channel. Our team of research scholars include:

Bobby Ciarletta           Ramapo College of New Jersey

Kevin Daly                  Parsippany Troy Hills High School

David DiCostanzo      Vineland High School

Bob Fenster                 Hillsborough High School

Bill Smith                    Shore Regional High School

Karen Smith                Immaculate Conception MS

Susan Soprano            Passaic Middle School

The Dey Mansion in Wayne, New Jersey

Recently, these research scholars in coordination with Dr. Lucia McMahon, Professor and Chair of History at William Paterson University, Dr. Mark Percy, Professor of Social Studies Education at Rider University, and Mr. Hank Bitten, Executive Director of the NJCSS visited two historical sites as a way of beginning their research. On Friday, November 5, 2021, the group worked from the Dey Mansion in Wayne, New Jersey. Dey Mansion was the headquarters of General George Washington and the Continental Army during the fall and summer of 1780. The Dey Mansion promotes the examination of life during the colonial era and the events and people of the American Revolution.  This historical site also offers a wide range of inquiry based educational programs for students in all grade levels.  Under the direction of Dey Mansion Curator and Research Librarian Jessica Bush, the group spent a productive day touring the grounds, learning about the importance or material culture, and conducting independent and group research. Marc Lorenc from the New Jersey Historical Commission welcomed us.

The Monmouth County Historical Association Museum in Freehold, New Jersey

On Saturday November 6, 2021, the grant participants headed south and spent the day at the Monmouth Historical Society Museum in Freehold, New Jersey.  Founded in 1898, the Monmouth County Historical Association manages the museum.  Their mission of the association is to collect, preserve, and interpret its extensive museum, research library, and archival collections that relate to Monmouth County’s history and culture and makes these resources available to the widest possible audience. Under the direction of Research Librarian and Archivist Dana Howell, the group read through and scanned over 200 primary source documents related to dozens of individuals that lived in Monmouth County during the American Revolution. Several of the educators were extremely impressed with the museum which included a recent exhibition honoring hometown musician Bruce Springsteen. The NJCSS would like to thank Jessica Bush and Dana Howell for a wonderful two days!

Going forward, the research scholars will be meeting at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark, New Jersey on December 4, 2021.  In Newark, they will carry on their research which will continue to be guided by Dr. McMahon, Dr. Pearcy, and Mr. Bitten. The research scholars will have two additional opportunities to meet in January to work on their projects.  All of the grant participants will also conduct independent research by visiting 18th century historical sites in their own respective counties and by sharing their findings and presentations with other Social Studies teachers and people in their individual school districts. The finished products are scheduled to be completed in February and March of 2022.

A Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Battle of Brooklyn Sites

A Self-Guided Walking Tour of the Battle of Brooklyn Sites

Marion Palm

Used by permission from the Brooklyn Eagle (Source: http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=27&id=35883)

Two scouts from the leading column of the Royal Marines and Tories and two companies of Long Island Tories were attracted to watermelons growing near the southwest corner of Green-Wood Cemetery. Riflemen fired on the would-be melon poachers.

The Old Stone House now at Fifth Avenue and Third Street in Park Slope, which has an interpretive center, was then named the Vechte Farmhouse, located south of Gowanus Creek. The event involving the retreat of the Americans says that Lord Stirling (he was on our side) gathered 2,000 men. These included troops from Delaware and Pennsylvania, along with an elite regiment from the First Maryland Regiment.

The Old Lyon Inn is now an American Legion Post near the IKEA on the point of Red Hook. The chance meeting at the watermelon patch became a major confrontation that stretched for a quarter of a mile and was responsible for convincing the Americans that the major attack would be on the Gowanus Road. With two sides confronting each other in regular battle formation, this was the first time the Americans, as an independent nation, faced the British in an open field. With no fortifications or stones to hide behind, only hedges and trees to face Grant, the commander of the British (not related to our former president General Grant) took on the fight.

The Brits, however, went east and linked up with the Hessians (paid German mercenaries) to seize high ground in what we now know as Battle-Hill in Green-Wood Cemetery.

The main body of the enemy came down through Flatbush to the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy. (5). The British were very sneaky in this maneuver, as they swung around in a loop behind the Americans and attempted to capture them all. Howe, the British general ordered his men to cut off the American retreat to the Brooklyn forts on Brooklyn Heights. Most of the Americans survived, some were captured by the British, and others were bayoneted as they tried to surrender to the Hessians.

There is a monument to those who died in terrible conditions as prisoners of the British on ships in our harbor. An obelisk stands in Fort Greene Park that is a 150-foot tall Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument and crypt, which honors some 11,500 patriots who died aboard British prison ships during the American Revolution.

Washington’s headquarters, and he had many of them during the war, was at The Four Chimneys in a mansion overlooking the harbor from Brooklyn Heights. A small garden with a flagpole now marks this spot on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. There is also a small plaque with information about the house embedded into the stand that supports the flag. Washington held his war council there on August 29, 1776. The British, despite their clever advances, made a tactical error. They wasted time digging trenches. This decision took away the Brits’ opportunity to win the war in one stroke.

Lord Stirling managed to disengage from Grant and get around Cornwallis’s forces stationed around the Vechte farmhouse, blocking the Post Road, now First Street in Park Slope. Stirling ordered his troops to plunge into the marsh and go across Gowanus Creek on August 27, 1776.

On what can be seen now as a suicide mission, he staged a preemptive strike against Cornwallis in and around the Vechte farmhouse and its orchard. This sacrificial rearguard gave the bulk of the American wing a chance to escape across the marshes along Gowanus Creek.

A very dense fog drifted in and Washington and his men escaped from the Ferry Landing next to what is now the elegant River Cafe. Washington took the whole regiment by ferry to New York. The last man over received permission to go back for his horse and he and the volunteers were fired upon in what he said was a salute from the enemy with musketry that couldn’t reach them as they returned to safety.

General Howe was in Red Hook and his men were spread all the way to Hells Gate to keep the Americans guessing where he would attack, but he never crossed the East River to pursue them. Howe did succeed to take Brooklyn Heights and Governor’s Island, concealing his invasion flotilla in Newton’s Creek, the border between the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens at approximately 32nd Street.

General Howe is said to have dallied too long at the home of Robert Murray on a hot evening of September 15th when Mrs. Murray and her two daughters opened the wine cellar at the mansion and served cakes and Madeira to the British generals and Governor Tyron. Howe’s delay allowed the Americans to slip away again. There is a plaque to mark the mansion on Park Avenue and 37th Street in Manhattan.