This show explores how we can prepare the next generation for informed civic engagement, environmental stewardship, and the development of a more just and peaceful world. Host Brett Levy is a researcher of civic and environmental education and an associate professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Episodes feature interviews with leaders, innovators, and scholars in civic and environmental education. You’ll hear about new classroom-based and online practices that generate students’ involvement in public issues, youth-adult partnerships that improve communities, what research tells us about how to broaden young people’s engagement in environmental issues, and more. Please subscribe and tell a friend about the show. For information about upcoming episodes, guests, and more, please visit www.esdpodcast.org.
Helping Youth Become Critical News Consumers, with John Silva and Miriam Romais (News Literacy Project)
Contained Risk-Taking in Context: Tradeoffs, Constraints, & Opportunities, with Judy Pace (University of San Francisco)
Dean Bacigalupo, Dennis, Belen-Morales, Tara Burk, Alexa Corben, Alexis Farina, David Morris, Madison Hamada, and Elizabeth Tyree
All school districts in New York State were required to develop a “Continuity of Learning” plan that could be used beyond the COVID-19 pandemic if a district is not able to have full “in person” instruction.
Dean Bacigalupo: Teaching 7th graders in this new Blended/Hybrid model, I fully understand the many difficulties student teachers are experiencing. I believe there are 3 immediate challenges that both they and their cooperating teachers have.
The first is becoming fluent in technology. Districts first had to adapt a learning management system. For my district and many throughout Nassau/Suffolk the LMS is Google Classroom. Most teachers and student teachers are not proficient in using this LMS. Within Google Classroom there is a “Suite” of applications/extensions that are helpful for online learning. Some, like Docs, Slides, and Sheets, most student teachers are proficient in. Others, like Forms, Meets, Polling, Jamboard they are not. I set up my class with student teachers through Google Classroom so they could experience a “student view” and become more fluent with this LMS. These are free to create, but there are additional extensions that can be purchased. There are a number of extensions that are also free that are linked to Google Classroom, and because of this have become popular among schools. These include Edpuzzle, Screencastify, Flipgrid, Jamboard, and Nearpod. Teachers are also creating a Bitmoji and Bitmoji Classroom. Like any technology today, they are relatively easy to learn/navigate, but users need time to become proficient.
At this point, I am learning student engagement increases when:
The second is understanding how to move from a “technology rich classroom” to building a blended/hybrid learning classroom community. Because of the “virtual” shift in the flow of information, students need to take a more active role in their education, and therefore as a teacher, I am learning that I must foster a classroom that is characterized by increased online engagement, student responsibility, respectful communication, and effective online collaboration as discussion becomes even more important when students are working remotely as students who complete work at home via computer can become isolated
Lessons are designed for students to play a more active role in their learning. If not, students at home begin to view their computer screen like a television, and become very passive throughout a lesson/unit.
Students need to be proficient in any program used. I assumed they knew more than me, but in reality there is much that students needed to learn, and teachers need to be prepared to teach the technology as well as the content of their lesson.
Classroom rules/procedures must have increased accountability/responsibility for students in the learning process. To help students with this transition, I include celebrations at the end of each unit of study and regular (at least once in every 2 week cycle) conversations with parent/guardian to recognize the efforts of the student, or provide guidance if a student is falling behind.
Teachers need to foster and develop an increased sense of autonomy and independence among their students. I have found giving students a choice in project based assessment helps to build this.
Teachers and students are a team and must rely on each other, and their classroom built on mutual respect. They develop a learning community that works together to discover and build upon knowledge.
Students need to know a teacher cares when they are not there. If a student is not in class, I will have a classmate text them that I know are friends or I will call them at the beginning of class. I also include a weekly message in our Classroom Stream to the entire class to remind them of the great things we are accomplishing as a group.
The “in person” and “virtual” classes need to become one classroom. This is helped when student teams are designed to connect “virtual” and “in person” students. This also allows the teacher to connect with “virtual” students through the “in person” students in the classroom as opposed to joining a virtual breakout group.
The third challenge is really more administrative. Schools and school policies were not designed for this type of teaching, and not all students are prepared for this type of learning. Initially, there needs to be ongoing staff training on rules/routines for students to help them to succeed in a virtual setting. Additionally, there needs to be support classes for students that are having difficulty with this shift in learning. For example, if a student is not proficient in Math, they are assigned an additional A.I.S. class to help. In many cases, I am finding students that are proficient in learning “in person” are failing in a virtual setting, but there are no supports available like A.I.S. to help them to develop the skills needed. Lastly, teachers need time. Districts scheduled classes as they always had, and did not recognize that this new Blended/hybrid model required increased parent/student contact, lesson planning, grading, learning the technologies, and increased collaboration among teachers. Administrators believe they are helping by emailing links and materials to support teachers, but many are not viewing these because they are struggling to keep up with their daily lessons and grading.
David Morris: No matter how well they use tech tools, many student teachers and teachers are frequently not quite there when it comes to classroom technology. I have students in an introductory teacher education methods class do research and present about online tools. For every session students have to think of how they would teach the lesson using an LMS. Unfortunately, it is not as effective as it needs to be unless students are working at a school and have access to school accounts. I don’t focus on Zoom because I find that students already know how to use that tool. Almost every student in my class this semester in student teaching is using Google Classroom or Schoology. Some schools only have breakout rooms with this tool because it costs the district extra money to add other applications. All the Schoology programs are quite user friendly, but you can’t use them without an account.
The problem that many student teachers (and teachers all over the country) are having is that their students are not doing the work. Even in the most middle-class school districts, many students are just not signing on or if they do, they won’t turn on their video because districts do not require it. Several of my student teachers teach to black screens everyday and have never seen the students. One reported when she dismissed the class no one was there so no one left the Zoom room. She had been talking to herself for several minutes. Schools should require videos on if a student wants to be marked as present.
Madison Hamada: When people heard I was student teaching in a hybrid setting that has become the norm due to COVID-19, the look on their faces said they were happy not to be in my shoes. However, at least from a technological perspective, I learned a lot. I lost track of how many times I was told “new young teachers” would find the new technologies easy to use. While we may be more fluent in technology than older teachers, there is a major difference between technology and educational technology; “new young teachers” are right there with the veteran teachers in learning how to use it. I may be a pro on Instagram, but I had no idea what Edpuzzle and Kami were or how to use Google Meets Breakout Rooms until I started student teaching.
Though difficult and time-consuming to learn these technologies, teachers have a powerful tool at our fingertips and should utilize it. This unique school year provided that opportunity, particularly when interacting with remote students – not knowing if they were even ‘there’ since their cameras were off. I found that the more I infused my lessons with technology, the better my chances were that my students were ‘glued to their screens’ for reasons other than Tiktok and Netflix.
I modified activities that I would typically prepare for in-person learning and was able to engage students in this setting, but not without trial and error. I created virtual gallery walks, virtual museum tours, and utilized virtual reality and breakout rooms at every opportunity. I relied on platforms such as Nearpod, TedED, and Kahoot and created review games like Jeopardy to involve my students in the lesson daily.
My goal for student teaching was to foster a classroom atmosphere that was both intellectually stimulating and enjoyable. At the end of my placement, I asked my students to fill out a teacher review as a means of self-evaluation, to help me become a better educator. One of the most frequent comments was the gratitude for lessons that enabled them to actively participate in their education and to simultaneously communicate with their friends, which made learning more fun. The students appreciated my effort to create normalcy in a year where little exists. Although it took significantly more time to plan and create lessons, it was worth it to hear my students – whether in-person or remote – partake in lively discussion about class material “together.”
Elizabeth Tyree: I’m no longer just an educator, I am now an IT personnel as well. During the pandemic, I worked at a summer camp that was converted into an educational pod where students could come and participate in online learning while parents received childcare so they can continue to work. We had about 50 students throughout the week in grades K-8 from 4 or 5 different school districts. Each district had a unique schedule and different methods of educating during the pandemic. Some adopted a hybrid schedule, some remain fully online, some were stuck somewhere in between or switched between the two. Some schools even offered a fully asynchronous option before the school year began for parents who did not want to deal with the revolving door of school changes.
Most if not all schools use Google Classroom as their online home base. However, some teachers use Google Meet while others use Zoom for video calls. Regardless of the learning platform that the teachers use, the students are still struggling with the technology. With programs like Kami that can edit PDFs the students have generally learned how to use it, however, they constantly find issues with the program and often turn in work that is too sloppy to read. Many teachers, after months, were still learning how to use these online platforms, especially those who rely heavily on Google Classroom, which has more limitations than programs like Zoom. When simply looking at the technology there are many troubles that can arise. With every student online at some point during the week it can lead to system crashes, hackers, WIFI related issues, camera and microphone problems, and other unexpected issues. Most students do not have the developed typing skills to effectively communicate through chats when microphones are malfunctioning, and they cannot easily reach out to teachers so instead they sit back unsure what to do. Even as an adult, I cannot always figure out what the issue is and students miss out on valuable instruction. Students who are using Chromebooks, which are relatively inexpensive computers, find they have many limitations and/or technical failings. Something that I have noticed from the students’ side of the screens is that very few teachers branch out in class to differentiate instruction. When on a video call, teachers may pull up a worksheet or PowerPoint, but generally stay in a lecture-based lesson style. Students sitting behind a screen for an hour or more are zoning out as there is nothing attention grabbing in their lessons. The online learning is leading to simplified instruction that is not even using the technology to its full potential.
Technology can be very useful, but not when students spend their whole day in front of a screen. They are becoming more and more passive in their learning and missing critical learning skills. Many students struggle to read for long periods of time when the reading is on a screen, and annotating that reading is even more difficult. Teachers who rely heavily on reading during the pandemic have many students who underperform on assessments. It is not that the students are incapable of understanding the concepts, but rather that they struggle with synthesizing responses when their only sources of information are online readings. Teachers are making a strong effort in such a trying time. It is not easy to teach while relying on so much technology, so teachers should be commended for any and all good they are able to do.
Alexa Corben: Student teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic was certainly challenging, however, I had the opportunity to experience many different technological platforms to use in the classroom, especially in a hybrid setting. Along with learning about new technology, the pandemic also challenged me to design creative lessons. One thing that all the teachers kept telling me was, “we are all practically first year teachers.” By this they meant they were also learning about new technology and they had to change or redo lessons they had previously taught in order to be able to teach in a hybrid setting. The school where I student-taught used Google Classroom. I am familiar with some of Google’s “Suite” programs, such as Google Docs and Google Slides, however there are other programs, like Google Forms, Jamboard, Nearpod, and Google breakout rooms that I have never used before. Although I was not familiar with certain applications, I was fortunate that my cooperating teachers informed me on how to use them. Since the school was hybrid, I had to teach students that were in my classroom and students who were learning remotely at the same time. I felt that teaching the students who were remote was the hardest part because there were many distractions around them, and they were not required to have their cameras on. This meant my lessons had to be engaging in order to keep students focused and attentive. One program that I felt was extremely useful was Nearpod. One of the benefits of Nearpod was that I was able to play videos and insert questions while we watched the video as a class. In addition to this, I was able to see which students were answering the questions and which students were not. Students were also able to take notes while I was presenting the material which was saved to their Google Drive, so they could then go back to review their notes. Another program that was extremely beneficial was Google breakout rooms. It was important that students worked together, but because of COVID[HB1] , students were not able to work together in person. The breakout rooms not only allowed students to work together, but it also allowed students to work with others who may not be in the classroom that same day.
Dennis Belen-Morales: Teaching in this new era has been quite challenging. My students in the South Bronx and I have faced many barriers including access, transitioning, and administrative adjustments. As a first-year teacher who became a student teacher at the beginning of the pandemic I understand the struggle that students have trying to adapt to online instruction. COVID-19 turned our world upside down with many professionals working longer and more exhausting hours, including myself. As a first-year teacher my main priority has been to provide my students with conditions in which they can learn.
I teach in the poorest congressional district in the country and the financial situation of many of my students meant they lacked access to technology and the Internet. Even when they had computers, they were often outdated. To bridge the digital divide, I worked with a colleague, Pablo Muriel, to develop a website that allows students to do homework using a mobile device.
A big problem in New York City has been constantly shifting modes of instruction during the pandemic. At the start of the school year we used a hybrid model with some students online and others in the classroom. Then we shifted to all remote and by April 2021 the city planned to shift back to hybrid. This inconsistency has been tough on many of my students because as teenagers in working-class families they are often older siblings charged with making sure their younger siblings attend class either in-person or online while their parents are not home.
COVID-19 also complicated administrative planning. School coordinators and counselors struggle to design schedules that balance the needs of students with class-size restrictions and teacher schedules. Repeated changes undermine student-teacher relationships vital for educational success. The pandemic drastically changed the lives of millions around the world, including our students. The post-pandemic society and classroom will have to address the problems of interrupted, social inequities, and the availability of educational resources.
Tara Burk: I student taught at a specialized public high school in Brooklyn. In the 9th and 12th grade classes there was nearly full attendance each day, however 99% of students keep their cameras off for the entire class period. Based on my experience, in addition to making sure any technology utilized in the online classroom is accessible to all students, teachers should be flexible and adapt to the particular ways in which students are engaging with technology. Just because we cannot “see” students on camera does not mean students are not showing up to class, participating, and learning. For some students, they do not have the Internet bandwidth to turn on their camera or they are unable to because they are working or looking after siblings or have no privacy. For others, refusing to turn on their cameras may be one of the only things they can control and especially if most of their peers have cameras off it makes sense they would, too. We had students engage with the class by communicating in the chat, working on Google docs together during group work, and sharing responses in full class discussions when they can be on microphone. No matter what kind of technology a teacher uses, from Zoom to Padlet to Google Classroom, I think it is important to “humanize” the tech element by taking advantage of opportunities to connect with each student individually. If a student asks a question in the chat or on Padlet a teacher can be sure to answer it, either in the chat or during the lesson. If a student completes a homework assignment on Google Classroom, getting feedback from their teacher matters because it shows their teacher is engaged with their work and invested in their success. Since there are less moments for informal feedback, such as nonverbal communication, than there might be in a traditional classroom these kinds of connections matter more during online instruction. Finally, a teacher can use technology to check in with students at the beginning of the class and assess how students are feeling (asking students to use the “thumbs up,” “thumbs down” options on Zoom) or they can use this option for formative assessment during the lesson. Based on my experiences and observations, these suggestions are effective in building classroom community.
Alexis Farina: Who would have thought that a child’s education would be dependent on a stable WiFi connection? The Covid-19 pandemic has completely transformed teaching and learning as we know it, especially during the peak of the virus when it forced many schools to offer instruction either hybrid or remote. As a teacher in early elementary education, I wonder how much the new technology will continue to shape education? Video conferences have replaced the traditional classroom setting, online assignments have taken away from paper and pencil, teachers are teaching children they have never even met in person, students are listening to stories being told on YouTube instead of gathering on a rug. A good portion of the school day was already dedicated to using iPads or laptops. I fear technology has started to take away the authenticity of school as education has become heavily reliant on it. One of the most difficult technological situations I face is teaching a class in person while solving tech issues for students that stream in for remote learning. It requires you to split yourself in half. Tending to the students in person and online simultaneously is almost impossible, especially in the lower elementary grades. These children are not yet completely independent, and most are still learning how to read so they need an adult to guide them. When technology works, it’s great, and when it doesn’t, it’s detrimental.
Preserving our Democracy: The Now Inescapable Mandate for Teaching Media Literacy in Elementary Social Studies Education
Kevin Sheehan, Emily Festa, Emily Sloan, KellyAnn Turton
Sam Wineberg’s latest treatise on the need for historical literacy, Why Learn History When It’s Already on Your Phone, could not have come at a more critical time in our history. The inescapable truth is that the world is now sophisticated and instantaneous in providing information and insights on cell phones with a speed that truly boggles the mind. Although information is now instant, what cannot be overlooked is that our current digitally wired citizens lack the ability to accurately evaluate the reliability and credibility of this instantaneous information.
HBO’s frightening documentary, “The Social Dilemma,” points out the dangers for society in being fed our political information from social media sources. In an effort to gain our attention, social media is now able to digest our preferences and sensationalize our media feeds so that we only hear sources that support our previously demonstrated preferences. The reason behind the severity of this article’s title, Preserving our Democracy, is that the skills of media literacy are now, not only integral strategies in how we teach history, but are critical to our democracy’s survival.
The recent insurrection at our nation’s Capital and failure of much of the nation to accept our presidential election results should leave all of us with one underlying and unmistakable lesson. The ability to evaluate the validity of the information that we receive on our media platforms is now our most pressing mandate in social studies. On an almost daily basis, we suffer through the drama of surrounding claims and counterclaims on media sources of all types.
What should be painfully obvious to all of us in social studies education is an inescapable fact that currently seems invisible to the general public in the frenzy and passion of current political accusations on both sides. Regardless of which side was most harmed by the outside social media influences in our last election, more than at any time in our history, our electorate is dangerously vulnerable to cyber misinformation. This article attempts to provide a solution to how we as social studies educators might address this crisis.
Now that this Pandora’s Box of our inability to separate fact from fiction has been opened for the world to see, sanctions and even armed attack against aggressors will not be able to eliminate outside threats from using the invisible power of the Internet to influence our elections. The fact is that our recent elections have revealed that the American democratic process can now be manipulated with a laptop from anywhere in the world. The growing awareness that our electoral process is vulnerable to foreign and internal interference puts our very democracy in peril.
Although the current state of our national politics seeks to find the culprits and punish those responsible, what is being missed in this drama that has both political sides attacking each other is who the real enemy is. In the words of the noted philosopher and long-ago comic strip superstar, Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” The truth is that no matter who interferes and who is to blame, the real question is why are we so vulnerable to obvious, and often ridiculous misinformation?
The fact is that the most preposterous claims can affect and determine the outcome of an election is clear proof that our electorate lacks the critical skill of determining what information is credible and that which is not. We have become so addicted to our social media that we unquestionably accept the credibility of information the minute it is provided. Not only is this damaging in political arenas, but this misinformation can spread to every arena of our lives. The good news is that we have the power to do something about this if we are willing to rethink the way we deliver social studies education and the end goal of that instruction.
Moving beyond Jeopardy to the new basics of social studies, media literacy
My sad confession, after decades as social studies instructor and a New York State Regents test designer, is that too much of my professional involvement focused on preparing students to recall and employ the vital information that was considered essential to understanding our nation’s past and present. Said in a less flattering way, a good deal of my life’s work in this subject involved preparing students to meet demands, not unlike that of a high stakes and challenging Jeopardy game. Although state and advanced placement assessment has never been confused with the fun and excitement of a Jeopardy game, the same basic skill of recall drove both.
Now that Google has made that skill of recall less relevant in the lives of the digital natives that we teach, we must face the fact that the new skill most needed is evaluating the continuing barrage of information that invades our lives on our electronic devices on a minute-by-minute basis. According to a new study by Roger Bon at the University of California-San Diego, we are bombarded daily by an equivalent of 34 Gb (gigabytes) of information every day. This is enough to cripple our laptops. Imagine what this overload is doing to our brains.
Inspired by a presentation by social studies supervisor, Lorraine Lupinskie of the Half Hollows Central School District, at, the Long Island Council for Social Studies, my graduate and undergraduate students created online K-5 Inquiry Design Model units with the new basics of arming our students with the tools needed to deal with this information overload. Media Literacy is a skill that is too critical to hold off until middle or high school social studies courses. These skills need to be cultivated in the earliest grades as our students inhabit the digital world from birth.
These units, harnessing the magic of the storybooks, begin in grade one and run through grade five, can be accessed on this Molloy College website link (shorturl.at/estAM). These units, created by my Molloy College students and driven by compelling questions, deal with the key media literacy skills of sourcing, corroboration, purpose and point of view, differentiating fact from opinion, credibility and reliability, applying these constructs to their assigned curriculum. Each unit is based on the Inquiry Design Unit Model and driven by an appropriate grade level children’s literature selection that breaks down the complicated skills of media literacy through story. After the students absorb the media literacy skills, they are required to evaluate the credibility of the information that they receive, even from their own textbooks as well on the Internet.
Please feel free to borrow the units created by Molloy preservice students shared on our website,www.behindthecurtainsofhistory.weebly.com (K-5 Media Literacy Units—Beginning with Storybooks). The nature of this publication does not allow us to share in depth multiple examples of each unit, but in this the year of a truly controversial national political election, we share a snapshot of two of the units from the creators and implementers of those units as they impart the skills of sourcing, corroboration, purpose and point of view, differentiating fact from opinion, credibility and reliability, applying these constructs to their students.
Lessons from the Field: A Snapshot of our Second Grade Inquiry Design Model Unit: How Can We Elect a Good President?
Emily Festa and Kellyann Turton
Living in an era, where the concept of fake news and the misinterpretation of facts and ideas are prevalent, it is evident that we need to teach students the skills and techniques needed to be informed citizens, who will one day be called to effectively exercise their right to vote. Our second-grade unit, How Can We Elect a Good President, is made up of lessons that teach our youngest scholars how to identify credible sources and to corroborate those sources so that we can make effective decisions.
Our unit’s foundation begins with this question to engage students, “Have you ever heard a rumor about someone that wasn’t true?” To teach the concept of the credibility of rumors through story, we chose the marvelous book Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna. This book ignites a discussion and activity to identify the need for credible sources in the face of rumor. Through discovering how a person’s reputation can be ruined by an unsubstantiated and false rumor, spread by misinformed members of a community, students will be able to sort through and determine what are credible sources in follow up activities that links to their everyday lives.
After learning what makes sources credible, scholars will use their newly found knowledge to learn to corroborate facts that they hear. To teach corroboration, we chose to incorporate the book, I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff, in conjunction with a YouTube video, Six Insane Iguana Facts. Scholars will practice corroborating sources to see if the events covered in the story have sound corroborating evidence from the video. These skills will be then be harnessed to help our youngest citizens become informed citizens by participating in an election to determine a class ice cream election. This unit was made with the full intent to give our future voters the tools they will one day need to vote in actual elections by using literacy sources that teach underlying skills.
Lessons from the Field: A Snapshot of our Fourth Grade Inquiry Design Model Unit: How Do We Know What We Learned about the Inventors during Industrial Revolution is True?
Emily R. Sledge
In our digital age, the introduction of media literacy in elementary education is no longer an add on but should be a necessity. How Do We Know What We Learned About the Inventors During the Industrial Revolution Is True? is a fourth-grade Inquiry Design Model (IDM) unit that consists of integrated media literacy based E.L.A. lessons and social studies lessons that address the importance of the media literacy through the skills of sourcing and corroboration. By utilizing these newly developed skills, students will be able to conclude whether or not the information from their textbook on inventors of the Industrial Revolution is credible.
To teach sourcing, we incorporated the book Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna as our introductory, media literacy based E.L.A. lesson. Although this book may have been used in previous grade levels, it was our belief that the same book could viewed through different lens at a different age. This lesson laid the groundwork for students to learn to examine and scrutinize information from various sources. In contrast to the use of the book presented on the second-grade level, the book now established a mandate to evaluate a source on all information, even textbooks.
The book led to a discussion about the danger of spreading misinformation and the need to evaluate the sources of any and all information. It was our goal in this lesson for students to walk away with the understanding that informed citizens use sound evidence and facts to draw conclusions about the accuracy and credibility of a source. After the story, opened the unit with two key questions, “What is sourcing? and Why is it so important to check the sources of the information we hear?” The goal was to get students think about the need to investigate the author of a source and the motive for author in writing the source. Students completed an activity in which they practiced sourcing, using evidence and facts to determine whether information might credible, based on the sources.
The goal of the final lessons of the unit was for students to utilize the skills of sourcing and corroboration to answer our essential question, “How Do We Know What We Learned About the Inventors During the Industrial Revolution Is True?” To evaluate the sources that had driven our unit, we created a tool for students to put each source under the microscope. This tool we created was named, USER, (Understand, Source, Elaborate, Reliable). On a large oak tag sheet with a different source in the middle of the poster, each group of four students was required to move around the source in the center to determine the credibility of the source by providing answers called for under each letter.
Students first collaborated under a large U, and on the bottom of the poster, wrote down what their understanding of the information that the source conveyed. Moving the next side of the poster, they then filled in everything that they could learn about the source and the author of the source under the large S. The next letter, E, elaborate, asked students to elaborate on what they thought about the credibility of the information based on what was said (The U) and the source’s author (The S). The final letter, R, asked student if the information seemed reliable, did what they learned based on what they had learned in analyzing the source support what was in their textbook.
Groups of four evaluated different primary sources in collaborative units and shared their information with the whole class as experts on their document. After hearing all of the documents, our youngest student citizens were now armed with primary source evidence to answer the question of whether what their textbook taught about the inventors of the Industrial Revolution was true, based on this in-depth class corroboration exercise.
It is our hope that lessons focusing on media literacy will establish positive and integral habits that our students can take into the future. Media literacy is an essential skill that we must all be equipped with going forward if our democracy is to survive and thrive. In a technological age, when information is a click away, teaching primary and intermediate grade students the importance of evaluating the credibility of sources will ensure that our students are responsible, literate individuals who will not accept what is delivered to them on social media at face value.
Coombe, D., J., Orlowski, & Curtis, V. (Writers), & Orlowski, J. (Director). (2020, September 9). The Social Dilemma [Television series episode]. In The Social Dilemma. HBO.
Festa, E., Radburn, L., Spaulding, M., Turton, K. (Writers). (2019) Behind the curtains of history: FINDING STUDENT voice in HISTORY NCSS: Inquiry Design Unit plans. Retrieved February, 2021, fromhttp://www.behindthecurtainsofhistory.weebly.com/
Kelly, W. (1971). Pogo [Cartoon].
Madonna; Long, L. (2003). Mr Peabody’s Apples, London: Puffin Books.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History Kenneth E.Behring Center. Engaging Students with Primary Sources. (n.d.).
Wineburg, S. S. (2018). Why learn history (when it’s already on your phone). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Modern Monetary Theory for Social Studies Educators: A New Perspective on an Old System
Erin C. Adams
Economics is a discourse built on figurative language, metaphors and folksy sayings (McCloskey, 1983). Former U.S. Representative Jack Kingston (Republican, GA) repeated one of the field’s best known sayings when he suggested that K-12 students should “pay a dime, pay a nickel” or better yet “sweep the floor of the cafeteria” in order to learn “there is in fact no such thing as a free lunch” (Kim, 2013). Although many economists, economics teachers and politicians are apt to repeat this popular metaphor, Modern Monetary Theorists would claim that such a sentiment is simply untrue. According to them, current federal programs like the National School Lunch Program, Social Security, Medicare, and the Postal Service can actually be fully funded in ways that have little to nothing to do with tax revenues. Economist Stephanie Kelton (2020) argues that these funding issues are more political than they are financial or economic and derive from a mixture of ignorance about how money actually works and voter pressure.
Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) “has achieved something quite rare for heterodox economics: it was in the headlines all over the world and in quick succession first denounced by all respectable policymakers, politicians and economists and then suddenly embraced as the necessary response to a global pandemic” (Wray, 2020, p. 3). The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted discussions about issues that concern MMT; deficit spending, job guarantees, the availability of currency and the government’s role in aiding the public. These ideas “may be the economy’s only hope to get through the pandemic… a final test of MMT will come when the current pandemic ends, and the U.S. economy begins returning to normal” (Pressman, 2020, n.p.). Thus, it may be too late for the federal government to pursue any other course of action other than the deficit spending and other policies that MMT economists promote.
It has been said of Modern Monetary Theory that “once you get it you never see things quite the same way again (Kelton, 2020, p. 31). This is because MMT upends everything we think we know about how the economy works. In this article, I consider the contributions Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) can make to the fostering of the informed citizenry promoted by social studies education. MMT offers a new lens through which social studies educators and their students can view economics, politics and current events (Author, 2020). The goal of this article is not to convert or proselytize or to create MMT acolytes MMT, but to consider how MMT can prompt new and different ways to think about the economy. I highlight the way MMT can illuminate a current issue, the payroll tax deferral and the future of social security and other federally funded institutions.
Modern Monetary Theory: A Short Introduction
Modern Monetary Theory, a “once fringe idea” has suddenly “vaulted into the national conversation” (Bryan, 2019, n.p.). Although developed in the mid-1990s, Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT, gained a following when U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed it as a financial solution for the Green New Deal (Horsley, 2019 see also Seitz and Krutka, 2020). In fact, although it is called a “theory” MMT “isn’t ‘theory’ at all” but “an accurate description of the monetary system that has already been operating in the United States and other sovereign nations with sovereign fiat currencies for decades” (Svetlik, 2019).In other words, MMT describes the system already in place and seeks to debunk myths about how money actually works. Thus, economists who promote MMT say that it is not an effort to change the financial system but to provide the public a more accurate picture of how it works.
Modern Monetary Theory was developed by University of Missouri-Kansas City economist Warren Mosler in the 1970s with the publication of the essay “Soft Currency Economics.” Bill Mitchell, who runs the Center of Full Employment and Equity at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia is credited with the term “Modern Monetary Theory.” Mosler and Mitchell’s ideas are drawn from the chartalism movement which originated in Germany in 1905. Chartalism means “ticket or token” “items that may be accepted as payment, but which do not have intrinsic value” (Hayes, 2021). This is an accurate description for modern United States currency. Since the United States went off of the gold standard in 1971, money is not backed by anything tangible and only functions because it is an agreed-upon currency backed by the sovereignty of the state.
Think like a currency issuer
You and I are currency-users. For that reason, we think like currency users. We have to access the national currency because we cannot print our own money. Unlike currency-issuers, we have to find ways to obtain the currency we need to buy the things we need and want and, most importantly, to pay taxes. Usually, this means we work to obtain the currency we need to participate in the economy. We also have to balance our budgets. This also means when we do not have enough money to pay for something we need or want, we must take out a loan and we must save money for things we want and need in the future. Budgeting, saving, borrowing and working in order to spend are very familiar concepts in K-12 economics education and comprise the crux of financial literacy. From a very early age, children are taught to make personal budgets, to make choices because they cannot have everything they want and to spend and save. The following quiz tests readers’ knowledge of everyday monetary “truths.”
Table 1. Monetary Policy Quiz
The purpose of taxes is to pay for government expenditures
Social security, the United States Postal System and other federal programs can run out of money
Governments introduce(d) currency as a way to make trade easier [than barter]
Households, states and the Federal government must maintain balanced budgets
Taxes must precede government spending (i.e. governments must collect money before they can spend it).
That dollar in your pocket is yours
The Federal government should reduce spending during recessions
Most people would answer true for most, if not all, of the questions. MMT, however, offers a different point of view, that of the currency-issuer. Thinking like a currency-issuer means flipping everything we think we know about how the monetary system works, making all of the quiz answers false.
The issues with this curriculum have been noted (e.g. Sonu & Marri, 2018). However, some knowledge of how a person or household can manage their money may service currency-users fairly well, but it does little to help students develop into informed citizens who understand how their government makes decisions. Kelton (2020) argues that this singular currency-user perspective is the key to Americans’ misinformation and to a continued state of needless austerity. One of these pervasive misunderstandings, and a “fundamental rule” taught to children, is that “money doesn’t grow on trees.” Thinking as a currency issuer is key to understanding both Modern Monetary Theory and U.S. monetary policy. This is because currency-issuers, play by entirely different rules than the currency-user rules taught in financial education. For example, using a currency-issuer’s point of view, MMT argues that the federal government can never actually run out of money despite “going broke” narratives thrown around by politicians. It cannot go bankrupt because “that would mean it ran out of dollars to pay creditors; but it can’t run out of dollars, because it is the only agency allowed to create dollars. It would be like a bowling alley running out of points to give players” (Matthews, 2019). This is a fact corroborated by Alan Greenspan in 2005 testimony before Congress regarding social security “there’s nothing to prevent the federal government from creating as much money as it wants and paying it to somebody” (Kelton, 2020, p. 256).
In the United States, any talk of taxes is going to spark heated debate and strong feelings. Tax policies are at the center of any politician’s platform and the “taxpayer…is at the center of the monetary universe because of the belief that the government has no money of its own” and therefore needs ours (Kelton, 2020, p. 2). Taxes and taxpayers are indeed at the center of the monetary universe, but not for the reasons we may think.
The federal government doesn’t actually need to take our money from us, physically. Warren Mosler (2010) put it this way:
What happens if you were to go to your local IRS office to pay your taxes with actual cash? First, you would hand over your pile of currency to the person on duty as payment. Next, he’d count it, give you a receipt and, hopefully, a thank you for helping to pay for social security, interest on the national debt, and the Iraq war. Then, after you, the tax payer, left the room, he’d take that hard-earned cash you just forked over and throw it in a shredder. Yes, it gets thrown it away. Destroyed! Why? There’s no further use for it. Just like a ticket to the Super Bowl. After you enter the stadium and hand the attendant a ticket that was worth maybe $1000, he tears it up and discards it.
The story above demonstrates how the federal government doesn’t actually take in “our” tax money because we pay our taxes in the dollars that it prints. It is simply a matter of pluses and minuses on a spreadsheet. MMT stresses that the government doesn’t need our money, we need its money.
However, this does not mean that taxes do not matter. In MMT, taxes play more of a social, rather than revenue-raising role. Ideally, taxation should serve not necessarily as a redistribution of wealth but as a tempering mechanism that curbs outsized wealth accumulation. Thought about this way, tax paying is more of a civic duty for the health of the economy rather than as something to avoid or that is “taken.” Taxes, then, are part of a socio-economic contract that has to do with, among other things, creating feelings of entitlement-creating a demand for government and gov’t spending as well as tending to the health of the economy by curbing inflation and, ideally, rebalancing distribution of wealth and income (Kelton, 2020, p. 71).
The main thing, though, is that taxes create a demand for currency. This notion is based on money usage in ancient Egypt and Greece. These origins are evidence that taxation and social relations, not a replacement for barter, was the real origin of money. In Egypt, the deben (value of goods and labor services) was paid as a tax to fund the public and public works. Bookkeeping was developed as a way to keep track of these debts and obligations (Semenova & Wray, 2015). Basically, the theory is that people must find a way to earn currency in order to pay their taxes. The government, in turn, gets a population that is employed and engaged in public works but that is also reliant upon the government for currency. This is just like a token economy in classrooms. A teacher introduces a currency, offers tangibles to create demand and outlines a way to obtain it. The teacher does this not because she needs pieces of paper to return to her (they are worthless) but because she needs their compliance and their work.
Creating a supply and demand for currency is a classic colonizing tactic; “currency-issuing colonial governments did not need tax payments for revenue but imposed them to force Natives into the wage relation; tax-driven money was a colonial governance mechanism that enabled the mobilization [of currency]” (Feinig, 2020, p. 2). Although the Tea and Stamp Acts are well-known in American history, the Currency Act of 1764 is not. The Currency Act is essential to understanding the more famous tax acts. A colonizing strategy is for the colonizing nation to impose taxes for the same reason all governments impose taxes-to create a demand for currency. The Currency Act banned the colonies’ practice of printing their own paper money. The tax not only helped Britain locate offenders, but forced Americans to pay their debts to British merchants and to the Crown in pound sterling (see Murphy, 2017 and Office of the Historian, n.d.). Thus, the issue was perhaps not so much the taxes as the currency with which those taxes were to be paid.
Teachers can lead students in a reconsideration of the role of currency in the colonies and investigate current-day iterations. For example, students can investigate the current anti-CFA movement (see Konkobo, 2017). The CFA Franc, established by France for its colonies and now tied to the Euro, is used by fourteen African nations. Proponents say it stabilizes the nations’ currencies. Opponents say it robs these nations of say over monetary decisions and funnels more money to Europe than received in aid.
Payroll Taxes and Social Security
On August 8, President Trump signed an Executive Order, Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations in Light of the Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster, which deferred the employee portion of Social Security payroll taxes for certain individual. To many Americans, this measure seemed strange and unnecessary. For one, it only deferred, not forgave, payroll taxes. Second, it only “helped” those who pay payroll taxes. Third, the amount of money seemed insignificant, especially when Americans were expecting relief checks, not tax breaks.
With this measure, though, President Trump introduced a tactic to defund social security. However, without knowing the history of social security, this agenda would not be obvious. No President, especially one up for re-election and courting the elderly vote, would threaten social security outright. After all, the program was designed to be defund-proof, as Franklin Roosevelt famously stated, “no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.” This is because FDR designed a funding scheme built upon a little psychological trick that played on the public’s currency-issuer mindset.
Seeing is believing [that you earned it]
In response to the payroll tax deferral, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson acknowledged this defunding scheme in his “Save our Social Security Now” hearing on September 24, 2020, stating “and so, when some on the other side of the aisle talk about ‘terminating’ Social Security’s payroll contributions, they are threatening the very existence of this bedrock program.” What does a payroll tax deferral have to do with dismantling social security? The answer has to do with the power of perception.
Today, 59 million Americans receive retirement, disability and/or survivors’ benefits. Social Security was signed into being by Franklin Roosevelt in 1935 as a measure to alleviate poverty. The history of social security and the debates surrounding it are demonstrated in this EconEdLink lesson, which can be a useful supplement to this inquiry.
FDR knew that the federal government could fund social security. This has since been corroborated by Alan Greenspan (see Norman, 2016). Instead, he needed to ensure the public demanded this funding (supply and demand). FDR knew the power of perception. Even though the federal government could fund social security without personal contributions, a payroll tax ensures workers see their contributions to social security leave their checks each pay period; “We put those payroll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program.” Basically, FDR wanted to foster a sense of entitlement among workers who paid into the system in order to destroy what he saw as a “relief attitude” or the working person’s resistance to accepting charity. Those who felt they earned their social security payments would not only demand those payments but would hold politicians to ensuring their continuation.
Politics all the way through
“Entitlement” has undergone a transformation in connotation since the Reagan administration. In FDR’s time, the term was “earned entitlement.” “Earned” was then dropped, and, with it, the reminder that social security is something owed to people because they meet the qualifications for receiving it, to be able to live a dignified life in old age and because it is owed to them for not only what they paid in but also for working.
FDR’s “trick” is expressed in a 1941 memorandum from Luther Gulick. In the memo, Gulick proposes the institution of a sales tax as opposed to the payroll tax. In the memo’s last paragraph, Gulick stated “I raised the question of the ultimate abandonment [of] the pay roll taxes in connections with old age security and unemployment relief in the event of another period of depression.” This is a notable parallel to the economic situation in 2020. To this proposal, FDR is reported to have responded that the economics “are politics all the way through.”
To begin the lesson, teachers can have students examine a paycheck stub, asking them to notice the various taxes paid by the worker. Today, with the popularity of direct deposit options, workers may pay less attention to these numbers than in the past. Teachers and students should discuss the psychological effect of these taxes. Likely strong feelings will be elicited. Teachers can use this emotion as an example of “earned entitlement.” Although “entitlement” is often used pejoratively today, it was originally meant to signify someone’s right to collect on what has been promised, or owed, to them. Then, teachers can introduce Social Security, guiding students through the final paragraph of the Gulick letter. Students can consider whether or not FDR’s decision to “fund” social security through payroll tax made the program successful. Finally, discuss the September 2020 CARES Act, specifically the intricacies of the payroll tax deferral. Students can compare the stated aims of this measure, which in reality would make little substantial difference to the average worker to its longer-term effects. Students can analyze H.R. 8171, the “Save our Social Security Now” Act. The document outlines 17 “findings” related to the efficacy and purpose of social security. The final three, numbers 15-17, specifically cite the deferment of payroll taxes as “the first step in his announced plan to entirely defund Social Security by eliminating payroll contributions altogether beginning in 2021.” Primary sources related to Social Security can be found at http://www.sa.gov/history. Students can conclude the lesson by considering whether or not FDR’s “funding” scheme was a mistake, in that “entitlements have fared especially badly…partly because of early decisions that were intended to protect them” (Kelton, 2002, p. 158).
Conclusion: What to do in times of economic downturn?
Once we realize that the federal government’s role is to provide currency not-collect to it, our whole perspective changes. For example, it reminds us that federal institutions like the U.S. Postal Service and Social Security aren’t intended to be profit-generating, but to serve the public. MMT, and the currency-issuer’s perspective help us consider the Federal government’s responsibility to its people, especially in times of economic downturn. Proponents of MMT suggest that “since the government imposes the tax that causes people to look for wages to earn currency, the government should make sure there is always a way to earn currency” (Kelton, p. 65). Currency comes from the Federal government, therefore it is the Federal government’s job to ensure people have a way to obtain it. As Kelton further argues, without a jobs guarantee, minimum wage is not actually $7.25/hour but $0.
The ability to see through these initiatives and to critically read economic policy is a crucial component of economic literacy (Author, 2021). MMT, and the perspectives it fosters, help develop citizens’ ability to understand the political agendas being enacted through economic and monetary policies by taking a currency-issuer’s perspective. The United States doesn’t need our money, we need its. We, in turn, provision the government through circulating currency and engaging in public works. MMT reminds us that we are entitled, and that entitled is not a bad word.
Sonu, D. & Marri, A. (2018). The hidden curriculum in financial literacy: Economics, standards and the teaching of young children. In T.A. Lucey and K.S. Cooter (Eds.) Financial literacy for children and youth. Peter Lang. 2nd ed.
Global Citizenship Education and Liberal Democracy
Evan Saperstein and Daniel Saperstein
In recent decades, a growing number of organizations, scholars, educators, and practitioners have advanced the idea of “global citizenship” (Carter, 2001; Diaz et al., 1999; Noddings, 2005; Oxfam, 2015; Reysen & Katzarska-Miller, 2013; UNICEF, 2013; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2015). The premise behind this concept is simple—there are, or at least should be, a set of universally recognized values and priorities that bind peoples and nations in common cause (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2015). It is through such unity of purpose that countries (and their citizens) can come together to solve problems which transcend the nation-state and require a sustained, international response (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2014). This includes addressing poverty, education, climate change, equality, peace, and several other pressing prerogatives recently articulated by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (2015) in its 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The UN, and a number of other governmental and nongovernmental institutions, have taken steps to address these SDGs and promote the goals of global-minded citizens (detailed further below). As the notion of global citizenship has gained interest and acceptance in institutional and scholarly circles alike, it has spurred a nascent discipline aptly known as global citizenship education (Brigham, 2011; Fernekes, 2016). Through this emergent area of study, a small, but growing, number of countries have sought to develop and incorporate global citizenship education into school curricula (Bickmore, 2014; Brown et al., 2009; Chong, 2015; Davies et al., 2005; Evans et al., 2009; Motani, 2007; Myers, 2020).
How the term global citizenship is defined will affect how global citizenship-related course content develops. Several leading organizations (including UNESCO, UNICEF, and Oxfam), as well as a number of scholars, have defined and (through such definitions) helped to set the priorities of global citizenship (Carter, 2001; Diaz et al., 1999; Noddings, 2005; Oxfam, 2015; Reysen & Katzarska-Miller, 2013; UNICEF, 2013; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2015). While these definitions have varied, they generally highlight commitment to diversity, the environment, conflict resolution, social justice, and the responsibility to act. These are indeed critical global issues that require ongoing focus and action. At the same time, there is a notable omission from too many definitions of global citizenship—the commitment to liberal democratic values. Indeed, too often, there has been too little focus on key freedoms and rights that undergird liberal democratic society—from due process, to equality, to the freedom of speech, religion, and the press.
This is at a time when democracy is under acute strain around the world (Repucci & Slipowitz, 2021). Earlier this year, the world saw the shocking revolt against the citadel of American democracy, the U.S. Capitol, by thousands of insurrectionists seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election (Mascaro et al., 2021). Additionally, there have been several challenges to democracies across Asia (e.g., Hong Kong, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand) this past year, resulting in a wave of pro-democracy protests and the formation of an online solidarity movement (Milk Tea Alliance) (Frayer & Suliman, 2021). Over the last few years, the world also has witnessed democracy in retreat in growing parts of Europe, ranging from Austria to Hungary to Poland (Repucci, 2020). At the same time, authoritarian states have actively sought to undermine democracy around the world by intervening in elections and spreading disinformation (Repucci, 2020).
Recent studies and surveys are further evidence of these troubling anti-democratic trends. In the most recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (2021) Democracy Index, only 23 of 167 countries were deemed “full democracies.” In fact, a Freedom House report issued this year indicated that political rights and civil liberties have been on the decline for the past decade and a half (Repucci & Slipowitz, 2021). Other studies have shown democracy losing favor with popular opinion. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Democracy found that the next generation of leaders (millennials) have less faith in democracy and are more open to non-democratic ideas (Foa & Mounk, 2016). In a 2019 Pew Research Center survey of 27 countries, a majority of the individuals surveyed were dissatisfied with the workings of their democracy (Wike et al., 2019). And, in a Democracy Perception Index (DPI) study conducted by the Alliance of Democracies (2021) and Latana, thousands of survey respondents across 53 nations considered economic inequality and Big Tech companies (e.g., Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft) as grave threats to democracy.
These trends have not been lost on leading international figures. In former U.S. President Barack Obama’s (2016) final address to the UN General Assembly, he urged the need for democratic leaders to “make the case for democracy.” In 2018, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres (2018) cautioned that “[d]emocratic principles are under siege, and the rule of law is being undermined.” That year, French President Emmanuel Macron (2018) also bemoaned the “attacks on democracies through the rise of illiberalism.” Earlier this year, President Joe Biden (2021a) forewarned that “your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy.” And during his address to a joint session of Congress, Biden (2021b) elaborated: “We have to prove democracy still works — that our government still works and we can deliver for our people. . . . If we do that, we will meet the center challenge of the age by proving that democracy is durable.”
Yet, the purpose of global citizenship is to forge common bonds and identities (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2014; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2015). Given that most countries are not liberal democracies, the exclusion of non- or anti-democratic countries could (or would) serve to divide the global community and impede work on important issues such as climate change and trade. It is indeed true that, since the turn of the 21st century, democratic and undemocratic countries alike have worked together to achieve notable global agreements and breakthroughs. For example, in 2001, many members of the international community signed the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Halewood, 2013). Additionally, in 2015, nearly two hundred nations representing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change entered into the Paris Agreement (Streck et al., 2016).
It is also true that liberal democratic governance has its flaws, and can and should be subject to criticism. Too often such societies fail to live up to their promise, and too often minorities do not enjoy the same privileges as the majority. From socio-economic disadvantage to discrimination, there is much to be done to right the wrongs that still exist in liberal democratic countries. But this is a debate that democracy allows. There is only so much that can be improved or achieved under autocratic governments which, by their very nature, stifle dissent and deny basic rights and freedoms.
Those who define the agenda of global citizenship should examine, if not recognize, the importance of liberal democratic governance and principles to achieve the goals of global citizenship. According to a 2018 report from The Economist, the growing tide of semi- or anti-democratic governments has led to: “declining popular participation in elections and politics”; “weaknesses in the functioning of government”; “declining trust in institutions”; “dwindling appeal of mainstream representative parties”; “growing influence of unelected, unaccountable institutions and expert bodies”; “widening gap between political elites and electorates”; “decline in media freedoms”; and “erosion of civil liberties, including curbs on free speech” (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2018, p. 3). Whatever one’s views on liberal democracy, such governance does more than any other form of government to advance the agenda of human and civil rights (Strege, 1994).
When global citizenship is taught in the classroom and elsewhere, such instruction should explore the role of liberal democracy in promoting global citizenship. We cannot lose sight of the effects of systemic, cross-national deprivation of human and civil rights. It is hard to see how we can achieve all of the aspirations of global citizenship—including diversity, non-discrimination, and social justice (to name a few)—without the success and acceptance of core liberal democratic values for generations to come.
Brigham, M. (2011). Creating a global citizen and assessing outcomes. Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, 1(1), 15-43.
Brown, E. J., Morgan, W. J., & McGrath, S. (2009). Education, citizenship and new public diplomacy in the UK: What is their relationship? Citizenship, Social and Economics Education, 8(2), 73-83.
Carter, A. (2001). The political theory of global citizenship. Routledge.
Chong, E. K. M. (2015). Global citizenship education and Hong Kong’s secondary school curriculum guidelines. Asian Education and Development Studies, 4(2), 221-247.
Davies, I., Evans, M., & Reid, A. (2005). Globalising citizenship education? A critique of ‘global education’ and ‘citizenship education’. British Journal of Educational Studies, 53(1), 66-89.
Diaz, C., Massialas, B., & Xanthopoulos, J. (1999). Global perspectives for educators. Allyn & Bacon.
Evans, M., Ingram, L., MacDonald, A., & Weber, N. (2009). Mapping the ‘global dimension’ of citizenship education in Canada: The complex interplay between theory, practice and context. Citizenship Teaching and Learning, 5(2), 16-34.
Fernekes, W. R. (2016). Global citizenship education and human rights education: Are they compatible with U.S. civic education? Journal of International Social Studies, 6(2), 34-57.
Foa, R. S., & Mounk, Y. (2016). The danger of deconsolidation: The democratic disconnect. Journal of Democracy, 27(3), 5-17.
Frayer, J. M., & Suliman, A. (2021, April 7). ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ brews democracy online among young activists across Asia. Retrieved from
Halewood, M. (2013). What kind of goods are plant genetic resources for food and agriculture? Towards the identification and development of a new global commons. International Journal of the Commons, 7(2), 278-312.
Motani, Y. (2007). The emergence of global citizenship education in Japan. In E. D. Stevick & B. Levinson (Eds.), Reimagining civic education: How diverse societies form democratic citizens (pp. 271-291). Rowman & Littlefield.
Myers, J. P. (Ed.). (2020). Research on teaching global issues: Pedagogy for global citizenship education. Information Age Publishing.
Noddings, N. (2005). Educating citizens for global awareness. Teachers College Press.
Teaching the Creativity & Purpose Behind George Washington’s Giant Watch Chain
by Robert Skead, Author
There are so many amazing and creative aspects of the American Revolution that I never learned in school—and I was in sixth grade in 1976 during America’s Bicentennial. Things like the Culper Spy Ring, the use of invisible ink and secret codes, the American Turtle submarine 9yes there was a submarine that worked during the American Revolution), top-secret gunpowder factories (gun powder was such a precious commodity the patriots had to have secret factories) and every-day patriots who went on covert missions to help the cause of liberty.
I never discovered these truths until my own research into this time period as an adult. Add the creation of the Great Chain at West Point to all these creative devices that helped American patriots win the war and you have a hook that will engage any individual’s imagination to want to learn more.
The Great Chain at West Point had an important mission. General Washington needed to prevent the British from taking control of the Hudson River and splitting the American colonies. If the British controlled the river, they’d have the ability to launch a major invasion from Canada and cut New England off from the middle and southern colonies—allowing them to win the war. Washington and the Continental Congress were not going to let that happen! They needed to keep the British fleet in New York, so they financed a giant chain to be forged and installed across the Hudson River at West Point—and it worked!
The chain was installed on April 30, 1778. It took 40 men four days to install it. The chain was supported by a bridge of waterproofed logs, like connected rafts that stretched across the river. There was a clever system of pulleys, rollers, and ropes, and midstream, there were anchors to adjust the tension to overcome currents and tides. Creative, right?
Consider these facts:
The chain consisted of 1,200 large links;
Each iron link was 2 feet long; and
Each link weighed 100 to 180 pounds.
As the British fleet approached the Great Chain at West Point, they were intimidated and retreated. Had they done so, the chain would have ripped a ship’s hull apart.
General Washington kept the chain a secret in all of his correspondence in the fall of 1778, referring to it as one of “several works for the defense of the river.” A tory spy did, however, report news of the chain to the British in New York City. Later, the Great Chain was dubbed “Washington’s giant watch chain” by newspapers in New York. It was certainly a special project of his – so much so that when they decided to take it down, Washington had to be on hand to oversee the operation himself. On the day after the Continental Army took it down, November 29, 1779, Lieutenant Reynolds, Aide to Colonel Timothy Pickering, The Adjutant General, U.S. Army, West Point, wrote the following to his wife about General Washington:
“The day started with breakfast of dried beef and talk of the upcoming battles and the need to keep the British Forces split between New York and Canada. As assistant to Colonel Pickering, I got to sit in on all meetings and see the leaders at work. Colonel Pickering is so very calm, which I believe he has learned from General Washington. … The chain came out of the river yesterday and it was quite an operation to behold. General Washington took his entire staff down to River Bank to the chain emplacement and oversaw the removal of the chain personally.
“It was quite a spectacle to see as the entire staff, General Washington on his great horse, Nelson, overseeing all the Soldiers and officers conducting the boat operation to retrieve the chain before the river would freeze over. … Boats were used to maneuver the barges and raffs toward shore where the oxen could pull the great chain up on the bank of the river. It took the entire afternoon and evening by torchlight to get the chain onto the shore and it was none too soon as the river had ice floating in it as we finished up last night.
“I will never forget seeing General Washington riding back and forth on that great horse talking to every Soldier, talking with the head of his honor guard and with his guests. General Washington is always at his best when riding. He becomes more animated and actually talks to almost everyone. … General Von Steuben and The Marquis de Lafayette both commented to Colonel Pickering that General Washington is the right man at the right time for the American Army, as he is as noble as any aristocrat on horseback yet is truly an American Patriot in demeanor and leadership.”
Robert Skead is the author of Links to Liberty, the third book in the American Revolutionary War Adventure series, from Knox Press. Patriots, Redcoats and Spies, the first book in the series, features an adventure around an urgent spy letter from the Culper spy ring that needs to be delivered to General Washington. The second book in the series, Submarines, Secrets and a Daring Rescue, teaches about the American Turtle submarine. The stories were created by Robert and his father, Robert A. Skead (now 95-years-old) to inspire readers to do great things and celebrate the creativity of colonial patriots. The Skeads are members of the Sons of the American Revolution. Their ancestor, Lamberton Clark, one of the main characters in the stories, served in the Revolutionary War as a member of the Connecticut Militia and the Continental Army. Discover more at www.robertskead.com.
Does China Make the World Flat? Using Compelling Questions and Creating C3 Inquiries for the Social Studies Classroom
Tension engulfs the room and faces begin to crinkle into frowns as a collective look of confusion crosses thirty seventh grader’s faces as they read the slide “Does China make the world flat?” Students look at each other and then back at the slide. Several verbal exclamations of “what?’ and “the world is round!” bellows across the room. Smiling sweetly, the teacher only states, “write it in your journal” before the bell rings and the bewildered seventh graders are dismissed from world history class. This exchange is the end of dimension one from the C3 unit titled Ancient China.
National Council for the Social Studies: C3 Inquiry Framework
In How We Think (1910), Dewey discusses how important inquiry is to children. He stressed that children need to learn by doing and trying different things not just memorizing and repeating the information to the teacher.
Inquiry is simply, investigating. In social studies, teachers should set up lessons of inquiry to include diverse historical content and let students ask questions, then investigate to find the answers. Once a student has a firm foundation of the content, they can then begin to start connecting the past to the present. They may start to ask questions about their own community after learning about civil rights concerning injustice, voting rights in the community, or lack of representation on city council. Once that connection is made, students need guidance to develop skills to research, answer questions, and learn how, for example, to start a grassroots campaign for change.
An inquiry framework to teach these skill sets is called the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) from the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). The framework (2017) uses concepts, facts, tools, disciplinary and content literacies to successfully complete an inquiry in a social studies classroom (p. 17). It consists of four dimensions that build an inquiry arc and move the students through questioning, content, evaluation of sources, and eventual action to make change. Studying social studies, especially the four content areas highlighted in dimension two (history, civics, economics, geography), show students that the precepts of democracy have not applied to all people in their history book. This connection is key to inquiry. For students to learn to speak out against bullying, discrimination, systemic racism and other abuses against themselves or democracy, teachers need to use inquiry so students can learn skills to “take action”.
That’s All Well and Good, But HOW Do I Create One?
This article will feature a thorough explanation of creating C3’s in the social studies classroom. Most teachers fit the C3 around a premade unit, such as the Ancient China unit in the introduction or create a C3 that is a stand-alone multiple day lesson plan like “Why Vote?” (This C3 can be found in Teaching the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework: Exploring Inquiry-based Instruction in Social Studies published by NCSS.) The “Why Vote” C3 has been taught in a social studies methods course, tenth grade civics, ninth and tenth grade government, eighth grade United States history and other courses by teachers in the past several years in a midwestern state following their graduation from the social studies program.
The C3 contains an inquiry arc and consists of four dimensions and subsections of those dimensions. The first dimension develops two types of questions, compelling and supporting. Questioning is a main component of inquiry and allows students to develop both styles of questions to increase critical thinking and knowledge of content. Dimension two is the mainstay of the framework and encourages multidisciplinary (history, civics, geography, and economics) content literacy to emerge. Students use relevant sources, in dimension three, to develop claims and counterclaims while dimension four supports inquiry and disciplinary literacy by retrieving and analyzing data, answering student developed questions, communicating conclusions, and taking informed action. Moving the students through these four dimensions can teach democratic skills and hopefully develop a more skilled, active, and responsible citizen.
This dimension is instructing students to answer and develop questions that are compelling and supporting. A compelling question consists of a long-lasting issue, such as war, civil rights, or privacy while supporting questions include extracting answers from a source, finding definitions, or establishing a series of steps. An example of a compelling question would be “is the Revolutionary War really revolutionary?” Supporting questions deal with the content directly and help students analyze documents or any other sources. Supporting questions could be “is there bias in the document?”, “who wrote the document?”, or “how long did it take the Native Americans to move from X to Y in the removal process?” Supporting questions from all documents or sources help answer the compelling question by extracting evidence from all sources retrieved.
Step 1: Selection of content. As the title suggests, content is the first step to beginning dimension one. Gather the curriculum map, state standards, objectives, and premade unit or specific stand-alone topic to begin the C3 and develop dimension one. Using the objectives, begin to create a compelling question and supporting questions for the unit. Both are used throughout the C3 to develop students thinking and give substance to the essay written after dimension four.
Step 2:The compelling question and supporting questions. From experience, creating a compelling question that has an element of good confusion gets the students to think. As suggested by the C3 text, “is the Revolutionary War really revolutionary?” is a question that needs research to answer. Just from presenting the compelling question, supporting questions begin to emerge from the students, like, “what is a revolution?” “have there been any other revolutions in history?” “when was the revolution?”, etc. Students will use their textbooks, appropriate internet sources, etc. to find the answers to their questions. The teachers will facilitate this activity and fill in gaps of content when necessary.
Concerning compelling questions, the goal is not to have a textbook cookie cutter answer that all the students cut and paste from their notes or from an internet section of content. The goal is for students to be able to answer yes or no and then develop their argument using sources that are given or gathered throughout the C3. There is no correct answer, only evidenced based answers. Compelling questions are asked after every dimension as a formative assessment to gather information about the students learning of the content and sources. At the end of dimension four, the compelling question essay is the summative or the authentic assessment.
Step 3: The hook. After the compelling question is designed, the teacher needs a hook to get the students interested in the unit topic. Hooks can look different depending on the topic or content objectives pulled from the curriculum map. Hooks can be a song, a poem, a picture, a painting, an excerpt of a primary source, a game, a simulation, or part of a movie/documentary. Usually, the hook relates to the compelling question in some aspect. The goal is to spark interest in a topic and connect it to the compelling question. For example, to start a Cold War C3, one teacher used gamification to begin the unit where students became CIA agents trying to catch a Soviet sleeper agent in the United States. The goal was to get the students to feel stress and tension while going through the gamification CIA missions. The teacher asked the students about their feelings and one student exclaimed, “I was stressed!” This led to a whole class grand discussion about tension between the two nations and eventually at the end of the class, the teacher displayed the compelling question, “How hot was the Cold War?”
Dimension Two is applying disciplinary concepts and tools using the four disciplines of history, geography, civics, and economics. In the framework (2017), teachers work with conceptual concepts, such as “explain the powers and limits of the three branches of government, public officials and bureaucracies at different levels in the US and other countries” rather than curricular content that would state, “identify every form of government” (p. 29). The curricular content will be found in the state standards and/or local curriculum maps.
Step 1: Gather curricular and conceptual content. Since each state and district is different, gather what you need for your unit. This could include, pre-made units, state standards, district curriculum maps, lesson objectives and/or unit goals. If you need to take the state standards and develop goals, objectives, etc. please do that during this step.
Step 2: Disciplines. Once you have what you need, make sure that the unit covers the four main disciplines of history, geography, civics, and economics inside the unit. The C3 text has standards to help focus your unit and is found at https://www.socialstudies.org/standards/c3.
Step 3: Create dimension two unit and lessons. Dimension Two is designed for the teacher to use content literacy to teach the facts, generalizations, concepts, etc. of the content required by the district and/or the state. Teachers can use pre-made units containing different instructional strategies and activities for students to accomplish the objectives. Display the compelling question before starting dimension two, so the students have a lens to “look” through as they learn about content and accomplish the objectives. Remember to include all disciplines in the content.
Step 4 Assessment. At this time in the C3, give the students a content assessment. This could be your own test from the pre-made unit or the common assessment used by your data team.
This dimension is skill based by evaluating sources and using evidence. Students use the questions from dimension one to gather and evaluate sources that help answer those questions. After this is complete, students will develop claims (arguments) and counterclaims (arguments) using the evidence to support those claims. Students develop their own supporting questions and begin to gather evidence asking those questions along the way. This allows them to progress through the inquiry and begin to develop solutions to a problem they see in the community. Dimension three and four are student centered where the teacher becomes a facilitator.
Step 2: Evidence. After students have mastered the historical thinking skills, the teacher will transition to dimension three by gathering resources for a balanced set of evidence or have a list of appropriate texts and websites for research. This dimension is for students to take control over their learning to develop claims/arguments for compelling questions students create in addition to the compelling question from the beginning of the unit. Focusing on the content from dimension two and the new sources presented or collected, the teacher will take a facilitator role asking students questions when students get in a bind, rather than giving any answers.
Step 3: Writing an essay or other type of authentic assessment. After completion of dimensions one through three, students are ready to write an essay (authentic assessment) about what their claim is to the compelling question and use evidence found and connect content from dimension two. Many different methods can be found to help the students complete the essay but one, has been efficient in working with the C3 framework and is called the P.E.E.L. One example from online can be found at, https://www.virtuallibrary.info/peel-paragraph-writing.html.
Civic engagement is a very important part for students to encounter as a developing citizen. Dimension four is the authentic assessment for students to communicate conclusions and take informed action. In dimension four, the students usually show the connections from dimension two, curricular and conceptual concepts, to today and their own lives. Then they develop a plan and act on that plan to solve a problem they found with the school or local community. The teacher continues to facilitate during this dimension as the students gain agency and sophistication to solve problems in a democracy.
Step 1: The essay and then the issue. Using the essay as a jumping off point, ask the students to connect claims made in the essay to today’s current events. Have the students discuss this in small groups, like Think, Pair, Share, four-to-five-member small groups, or as a whole class discussion. The teacher, only a facilitator, lists the issues on the board, and all are considered equal. Students discuss and narrow down the list of issues to one that works within school policy, time frames, COVID-policies, etc. The students narrow the issue and then create a plan to implement to solve the issue/problem that has arisen from understanding the content in dimensions two and three. For example, the seventh-grade class studying Ancient China decided that the world was flat because of globalization and trade as far back as the Silk Roads. Students began to learn about economics and sweat shops in China. After doing research, they wanted to bring the issues of unfair wages, bad working conditions, and child labor of sweatshops in China to their community.
Step 2 Research, creating a plan, communicating conclusions, and implementing action. After the students have decided on an issue, they need to research the issue. Using dimensions two and three as a format, the students need to create a compelling and supporting questions concerning their issue. Student research, answering their questions, and then create a plan to combat the problem/issue they chose. This needs to be written in another P.E.E.L because it will be shared to groups or individuals that are stakeholders. Then the students need to implement the action.
For example, the seventh graders found what fair trade meant, how to find fair trade businesses and then began to list clothing they wore, stores they shopped at, and business in the town. They then researched to see if these were fair trade or not. After finding the answers, the class wrote a P.E.E.L and presented it to the teacher and principal. The P.E.E.L described their compelling question and gave evidence of why they needed to create a public service announcement (PSA) for the community concerning fair trade. Due to restrictions, the students decided to communicate through social media and tagged all the fair-trade companies for consumers to consider.
Why Vote?: A C3 Example Lesson Plan for Teachers
NCSS has published two bulletins titled Teaching: The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework: Exploring Inquiry-Based Instruction in Social Studies I and II. In the first bulletin, number 114, it states, “teachers will need to be intentional about making space in the curriculum, selecting sources, building in scaffolding, and incorporating related assessments in order to support students in this process…teachers will need to provide experiences that allow students to practice gathering information from sources and making claims supported with evidence” (p. 5). This bulletin is the perfect guide to assist teachers in making the space to practice inquiry and for students to develop an action plan and follow through to make change. These C3 topics can be implemented in pre-made units or as stand-alone C3s to enhance a topic taught in the social studies classroom.
A course taught at a midwestern university incorporates a chapter from this text to teach future social studies teachers how to implement the C3 Framework into units and practice the inquiry during a mid-level teaching observation and student teaching requirement. Student and first year teachers (from the program) have adapted this framework and taught it from middle school through high school. The chapter is titled Why Vote? Understanding Elections, The Candidates, and Why Any of This Matters and was created by the Mikva Challenge. The chapter moves the students through the four dimensions of the C3 Framework to answer the compelling question: Why Vote? The next few paragraphs will take the reader through the C3 as it was taught in the methods course and then in seventh through twelfth grade classrooms by graduates of the program.
Dimension One begins with a bell ringer on the first day of the unit titled Civil Rights. On the screen, a picture of two young men is shown to the students. The picture is black and white and shows one with his face painted white with VOTE on his forehead with the other standing behind him, holding an American flag. The students are asked to fill in a graphic organizer about the photograph. Then the students are asked to source the photograph. After finding the answer using a search engine, a grand conversation begins to discuss key questions about the photograph and the compelling question is displayed at the end of the class. The teacher facilitates another grand conversation, instructing the students to develop another graphic organizer to help map out the compelling question: Why Vote?
Dimension Two consists of learning stations and curricular content. Teachers teach the local and state standards regarding the Civil Rights unit. This content is connected to examples from today about civil rights and voting through learning stations. The teacher uses primary sources to connect the past to the present. Different categories, such as, “I vote…because I care about issues,” are introduced in the stations. Students work in groups using the sources connecting the curricular content to the contextual content from both state/local and national standards.
Dimension Three is more student centered. Students begin to ask other questions in addition to Why Vote? One of the most popular questions is: why do people not vote? This requires students to search for the answer to this question using data from different governmental sources. Then to check this data, the students create their own data set from the community they live in. From the data set, other supporting and compelling questions arise, and the students begin to find problems about voting in their community. The students write an essay answering the compelling question.
Students develop an action plan and carry it out after completing dimension four communicating the conclusions found through their inquiry. The students then carry out their plan that answered the question: Why Vote?
Although the paragraphs seem to make the inquiry simple and quick, it is not. Inquiry is messy and sometimes very frustrating. Some questions that arise are hard to answer or cannot be answered. Students must have the space and time to follow the inquiry to the end. This does take many days but with the right amount of planning it will fit with pre-made units already in the curriculum.
As a side note, from the many classrooms I have observed, including my own, when this framework is presented, the middle or high school students love it. They get very excited to see their plan take root and feel pride in their accomplishments as developing citizens. They also learn to compromise and evaluate their own thinking and work with others. It is a truly a collaborative process. A hard process, a learning process, but a very rewarding process.
C3 is an inquiry framework from NCSS that takes the students through a hook of interest to implementation of action in four dimensions. Through the process, students learn a variety of historical thinking skills, collaboration, resilience, evaluation, writing, and how to develop questions and research answers. Having the students move through this process is what Dewey may have envisioned in How We Think. Getting the students attention, teaching content, facilitating student learning, and watching students complete a plan of action to implement it can be the spark students need to develop as a citizen and start to make change in home town communities.
Dewey, J.(1910). How We Think. Boston: D.C. Heath & Co.
Herczog, M. (2013) Social Studies for the Next Generation: Purposes, Practices, and Implications of the College, Career, and Civic Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards. Bulletin 113, National Council for the Social Studies, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from https://www.socialstudies.org/standards/c3
New Jersey’s Path to a Required Course in Civics for Students
Arlene Gardner, New Jersey Center for Civic Education
“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.“ “…if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is…to inform their discretion by education” – Thomas Jefferson, 1820
Background: Short History of Civic Education
Public schools were established with the goal of creating informed citizens. Civic literacy was seen as essential to maintaining a representative democracy and the schools were viewed as the place for young people to learn about their government. In a multiethnic, multi-religious country based on the shared secular ideas of liberty and justice rather than the “blood and soil” nationalism of European countries, a common understanding and appreciation of these fundamental American values was seen as critical.
Until the 1960s, it was common for schools to have civics courses in upper elementary and middle school classes, as well as a separate, required course in civics and government in high school. This pattern broke down in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when social unrest over civil rights, the war in Vietnam and other issues weakened the agreement about core values and put democratic institutions on the defensive, leading to multicultural and other approaches to teaching history and the elimination of civics course in many states, including New Jersey.
By the 1980s, the civic mission of schools was basically abandoned in favor of preparing a new generation of skilled workers. The focus was shifted towards “core” testable subjects like math and reading. The No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 accelerated this push with the hope that test scores in reading and math would predict and improve college and workplace performance. Time spent on social studies was reduced in many schools. In 2011, all federal funding for civics and social studies was eliminated.
Meanwhile, national assessments have shown how little our young people know about government or the role of a citizen in a democracy. While math and reading skills have improved since 1998, less than a quarter of students demonstrated proficiency on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in Civics in 1998, 2006, 2010, 2014 or 2018. The questions are basic and include multiple choice responses. Yet, for example, in 2018, only 50 percent of eighth grade students understood that the U.S. Congress has the primary legislative power to pass bills. African American and Hispanic students were twice as likely as white students to score below proficient on national assessments. The level of proficiency is related to the amount of instructional time allocated to civics. While only 24% of eighth grade students demonstrated proficiency in civics on the most recent assessment in 2018, eighth graders whose social studies teachers spent at least three hours per week on the subject significantly outperformed their peers who had less instructional time in civics.
With funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a nationwide coalition to study and reinvigorate the civic mission of schools was formed in 2003. The Carnegie Corporation follow-up study in 2010 conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the National Conference on Citizenship, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, and the American Bar Association Division for Public Education, found that students who receive effective education in social studies are more likely to vote, four times more likely to volunteer and work on community issues, and are generally more confident in their ability to communicate ideas with their elected representatives. “Effective education” included explicit instruction regarding government, law and democracy; discussions of current events and controversial issues; participation in simulated democratic processes and service learning. 
The NJ Coalition to Support the Civic Mission of Schools
By 2004, thirty states had a required civics course. But, there was no requirement for civics at any grade level in New Jersey. It was left to local discretion. With funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Fund for New Jersey, a New Jersey Coalition to Support the Civic Mission of Schools (the Coalition)–a statewide partnership of educators, parents, school administrators, business leaders, legislators and others interested in the future of our civic education and our democracy–was created. Several statewide conferences were held resulting in the recommendation that all New Jersey public school districts be required to have a course of study in civics.
An Inventory of Civic Education in New Jersey conducted in the fall of 2004 disclosed that only 39% of New Jersey school districts required all of their students to take a civics course in any grade.While those students taking an American government elective (10 to 20% of the student body of any given high school) might have the opportunity to participate in a class that requires an understanding of American constitutional democracy and the responsibilities and role of the citizen, students in most New Jersey school districts were exposed to one week to one month of civic content knowledge as part of U.S. history, with little emphasis on the importance of citizen action. The inventory also revealed that less than 35% of school districts had offered a professional development program in civics or government over the prior five years, and the vast majority of school districts indicated that up-to-date, inexpensive classroom materials and professional development would be an effective way to improve civic education.
Following the financial crisis and recession in 2008, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine sought to have financial literacy taught in New Jersey’s schools. Only three states (Utah, Missouri and Tennessee) required a semester of financial literacy at the time, while 18 other states required that personal finance be incorporated into other subjects. While the issue was being discussed by the New Jersey State Board of Education, the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers University (the Center) testified on behalf of the Coalition that a semester of financial literacy should be accompanied by a required semester of civics. The New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, and others protested that there were already too many high school requirements. The State Board of Education added a semester of financial literacy to the high school requirements but did not include a semester of civics.
The Quest for a Civics Requirement in Middle School
After further discussion, the Coalition concluded that perhaps the better place for a required civics course was in middle school. Current New Jersey law required a course in New Jersey history, geography and community civics in an upper elementary grade (NJSA 18A:35-3) and two years of United States history in high school (NJSA 18A:35-1) but nothing was required in middle school. By age 11 or 12 (sixth or seventh grade), students have the ability to do the higher order thinking necessary for a rigorous, relevant, reflective course in civics, and students at this age are more open to attitudinal changes than at older ages. A required civics course in middle school would help to ensure that all New Jersey students (even those who may drop out of school at age 16) have the opportunity to gain the knowledge and skills for informed, active citizenship.
By 2012, forty other states had a required course in civics. The Center drafted a bill requiring civics in middle school, which was introduced in the New Jersey Legislature with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, Governor Chris Christie, following the advice of his Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, believed that the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Social Studies were sufficient and a civics requirement was not necessary. The Center argued that the social studies standards were written within a chronology, and that many basic civic concepts (such as the purpose of government, the basis of authority and its abuse, privacy, judicial review, the common good, and enlightened self-interest) were not included within the historical framework of standard 6.1 and were not being taught. Although standard 6.3 outlined specific activities that students should take at various grade levels, it failed to offer a broad understanding of how our constitutional democracy functions and the role of the citizen. The Center, with support from the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, stressed that only a fully articulated civics course, along with professional development and resources for teachers, could ensure that every New Jersey student would participate in an engaging, critical thinking and content-rich course of study in civics. However, once it was clear that Governor Christie did not support the idea, the bill was no longer pursued by its legislative sponsors.
Meanwhile, as the center in American politics seemed to split into two warring factions and faith in government plummeted, the momentum to promote and reinvigorate the civic mission of schools as a response was building both nationally and in New Jersey, with numerous articles in newspapers and law and policy reviews. For a better understanding of what a robust civic education can do, in 2019 the Center invited several legislators, as well as Governor Phil Murphy’s Attorney General, Gurbir Singh Grewal, and Secretary of State, Tahesha Way, to the statewide simulated legislative hearings for We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution so thatthey could see first-hand how well-informed, quick thinking and articulate students can be when they participate in an engaging civic education program.
In 2019, Senator Shirley Turner introduced a bill to require a course of study in civics in middle schools. Other legislators were concerned that civic education should not end in middle school. Senator Troy Singleton had introduced a bill to require that civics be taught in high school. The Center noted that N.J.S.A. 18A:35-2 already mandated that civics, economics and New Jersey history and government be taught as part of the required two years of U.S. history in high school, although many social studies supervisors and teachers indicated that this was not happening. To address both the middle and high school concerns, the two bills were merged into a substitute bill, S-854, sponsored by Senators Turner, Singleton and numerous other cosponsors, to require a course in civics in middle school beginning with the 2022 school year and directing the Center to provide professional development and resources for middle AND high school teachers. Titled “Laura Wooten’s Law” after a Mercer County African American woman who served as a poll worker for 79 years, S-854 was unanimously passed by the New Jersey Senate on January 28, 2021, and an identical bill, A-3394 was unanimously passed by the New Jersey Assembly on May 20, 2021.
By directing the New Jersey Center for Civic Education at Rutgers, The State University, to provide the necessary professional development and resources, the legislation recognized that the Center works with national civic organizations as well as the New Jersey Social Studies Supervisors Association and the New Jersey Council for the Social Studies; has been providing professional development and resources for New Jersey’s teachers for 30 years; and has the expertise and experience to offer professional development to teachers from all over the state efficiently and effectively.
Civics must be more than how government functions
Civic education is seen by Americans of all political stripes as the most positive and impactful lever to strengthen national identity. High quality, school-based civics for all learners is foundational to our shared civic strength. However, while 42 states (New Jersey will make it 43) require at least one civics course, few incorporate proven pedagogical principles like classroom-based deliberation and decision-making, critical discussion of current events, simulations of democratic processes, guided debates and deliberations, project-based learning, service learning or media literacy.
S-854 requires the middle school civics course to broadly include “the principles and ideals underlying the American system of constitutional democracy, the function and limitations of government, and the role of a citizen in a democratic society”. Following the legislation, the course should provide explicit and coherent knowledge about how the American system of constitutional democracy functions. The goal, however, is not simply content knowledge about how government works, but also an understanding of the values and ideals that underlie our system of government, and, probably most importantly, the role of the citizen in a democratic society. The focus is on developing critical thinking skills and civic dispositions in addition to civic knowledge, consistent with many of the student performance expectations in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards, which are also to go into effect starting in September 2022.
One of the primary reasons our nation’s founders envisioned a substantial system of public education system was to prepare youth to be active participants in our system of self-government. The responsibilities of each citizen were assumed to go far beyond casting a vote: protecting the common good would require developing students’ critical thinking and communication skills, along with civic virtues. If the goal is for our young people to become informed, active citizens, they need instruction about how government functions and about the role of the citizen, political participation and deliberation, democratic principles, and civic mindedness. Our young people need to develop critical thinking skills so that they know how to examine and evaluate evidence to determine what supports fact-based truth. They need to develop communication skills so that they are able to civilly discuss controversial issues and to influence public policy. Our future citizens need to develop civic dispositions so that they appreciate WHY they should be involved in influencing public policy for the common good.
To achieve this goal, the Center has prepared an Inquiry Framework of questions to guide the development of a middle school civics curriculum. Links to suggested lessons, classrooms activities and resources are being added over the summer, with professional development to begin in August 2021 and continue through 2022 and into the future. Developing a suggested curriculum guide integrating civics, economics, and New Jersey history and government into the required U.S. History course in high school will begin in the fall of 2021. A robust civics education program that provides the skills for every student to be able to negotiate life, work and government offers the best promise for equality and justice for all. New Jersey can be at the forefront of reimagining civic learning for the 21st century. Join us in this endeavor!
The New Jersey Department of Education has taken an important step in avoiding a climate disaster. Beginning in September 2022, every New Jersey student in Grades K-12 will be studying the causes and effects of climate change in their community, state, nation, and world. In Social Studies classes, students will be researching, debating, proposing, and implementing solutions to reduce their carbon foot print, propose strategies for a sustainable environment in their schools and community, propose solutions at the state and national level, and collaborate with students and professionals in other countries about global initiatives. The goal of changing behavior at this critical time is to educate students with an interdisciplinary model and approaches in all disciplines.
The first application in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is with the metaphors that will help students in the elementary grades to understand the effects of global warming.
For example: Imagine a bathtub of water with the drain closed that is slowly filling up with water. What will eventually happen? What will be the damage to the room or house? Why is it not enough to slow the amount of water filling up the bathtub?
Imagine sitting in a car with the sun shining on the glass windows. What happens to the temperature inside the car? Will opening the window half an inch make the car safe for passengers? Why is the temperature of the earth increasing every year? What will be the result if it continues to increase?
These metaphors will help students understand that small changes in our behaviors are helpful but they are not likely to solve the problem for what is causing the earth’s temperature to continually increase. Teachers will find valuable resources for teaching young children how electricity and cars contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. (Page 55) For example, electricity contributes about 27% of greenhouse gases to our environment. For younger children, teachers need to help their students understand how much electricity (megawatts and kilowatts) one family contributes. The average home uses 28 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. For example, my electric bill stated that our home consumed 630 kilowatt hours over 28 days or 23 kilowatt hours per day.
Ask your students to identify everything in their apartment of home that uses electricity. Then compare kilowatts to a cup or glass of water that would be emptied into a sink or tub with the drain closed. Have your students explain the effects of increasing and decreasing the amount of electricity consumed. The more electricity used and the more people using electricity will generate additional greenhouse gases that will harm the environment.
Another important understanding for younger children is to understand that each item they identify as using electricity uses different amounts of energy. For example, a light bulb might use 40 watts but the hair dryer uses 1,500. The critical application for younger students is to understand that by reducing the amount of electricity consumed helps the environment. In this context, teachers should scaffold to a higher conceptual level by understanding the impacts of more people in the home, community, and world. Reducing greenhouse gases is very difficult which is why understanding that everything we do and everything we produce has a harmful effect on our planet.
The second application is the useful information to support middle school student debates on the solutions to reduce greenhouse gases at the local, state, and national levels.
Middle school students should understand how human activity is accelerating climate changes by warmer temperatures. The technology of renewable sources, (i.e., solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal) should also be familiar to most students. However, the cost, amount of space needed to produce energy for a city, and the durability of the equipment are important areas for student research, problem-solving, and debate.
In the United States we have replaced energy several times over the past century. Many homes have fire places but wood burns quickly and heat is lost through the chimney. Coal and oil were more efficient resources to heat homes. They were eventually replaced in many homes with natural or propane gas. In the 1950s and 1960s the government supported high-powered transmission lines for electricity and underground pipes for natural gas. In the 1970s we transitioned from leaded gasoline to a more expensive grade of unleaded fuel. Understanding the processes of continuity and change over time for how people live is critical to understanding the societal costs of inexpensive fossil fuels.
In Zurich, Switzerland there is a DAC (direct air capture) facility operated by Climeworks which can remove (or absorb) carbon from the atmosphere as it is released. The cost is $100 per ton. Since the world is currently producing 51 billion tons of harmful carbon emissions EACH year, the cost is $5.1 trillion. The United States has a per person carbon footprint of 15 tons per person. The cost would be $1,500 per person or $6,000 for a family of four. This would be the cost EACH YEAR and a very expensive solution.
There are interesting hypothetical scenarios in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster regarding a place near Seattle or a large city the size of Tokyo. In these scenarios, students will find enough information for them to ask probing questions or search for more research regarding the average number of days with sunlight or wind speeds, the impact of severe weather, the amount of space on land or in water to build an energy farm, the costs to transmit electricity over long distances, and how to store sufficient power for evenings and when energy supplies are less than what is demanded.
Another interesting topic for middle school students to debate or discuss is the impact of electric vehicles on home energy supplies. Students need to consider the impact of charging multiple vehicles per household and in a city with high-rise apartments. The book also provides basic information that should motivate students to research the technologies of fusion, batteries, and nuclear power. The ITER project in southern France will likely be operational within this decade. Is fusion the magical answer for our goal of zero carbon emissions? Teachers will find empirical evidence in this book regarding current technology and experiments which are essential when teaching students how to support their claims and arguments with evidence.
The third application is for high school students to determine proposals for reducing the one-third of greenhouse gas emissions that come from producing plastics, cement, and fertilizers.
The media focuses on emissions from the fossil fuels of vehicles and the generation of electric power. Two areas that may not be familiar to students are that 19 percent of global emissions come from the production and application of fertilizers and 31 percent from industrial production. The combination of these two areas represents about one-half of the 51 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions currently contributing to the increase in temperature. When studying continuity and change over time, students visually see how communities and cities change over 100 years, 50 years, or less. For example:
When studying the impact of land use on climate, students should explore the environmental costs to society from the use of cement, steel, glass, generation of electricity, loss of forested land, waste, and traffic. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster provides an opportunity for classroom exploration, research, inquiry, collaboration, and solutions. The contribution of the social sciences to understanding the causes of greenhouse gas emissions, strategies for changing the way we currently are doing things, and analyzing the externality of societal costs is found in what students do best – asking questions, researching, debating private and public solutions, analyzing the costs and long-term benefits, and presenting information clearly and concisely in graphs, tables, maps, and images.
Examples of questions for collaboration, researching, and interviewing by students are:
How are we producing automobiles?
Is natural gas the most efficient method for cooking food and heating buildings?
What are the societal costs for raising animals for food?
How should we recycle food waste?
How would a Green Premium be calculated in analyzing the costs and benefits over time?
How significant are the societal costs of air-conditioning on a global scale?
Standard 6.3 for climate for high school students in New Jersey requires them to collaborate with other students on proposed solutions.
6.3.12.GeoGI.1: Collaborate with students from other countries to develop possible solutions to an issue of environmental justice, including climate change and water scarcity, and present those solutions to relevant national and international governmental and/or nongovernmental organizations.
The competitive advantage of Social Studies in learning about the biggest issue to impact our planet in history is with our ability to engage in problem solving, understanding perspectives from different cultures, historical lessons of strategies to address problems over time, the ability to analyze the economics of the problem and solutions, and to debate the effectiveness of public and private solutions. The Social Studies classroom, especially in grades 6-12, is a laboratory for analyzing the marginal costs and losses of incremental changes, preventative solutions, investments in research and development, and the cost of inaction.
“Climate science tells us why we need to deal with this problem but not how to deal with it. For that, we’ll need biology, chemistry, physics, political science, economics, and other sciences.” (Page 198)
One of the best chapters in How to Avoid a Climate Disaster is the one on government. The perspectives on the electrification or rural America, installing natural gas lines, building the interstate highway system, implementing the Clean Air Act or 1970, the Montreal Protocol of 1987, and the Human Genome Project provide empirical examples of what the government of the United States has accomplished in the 20th century. The lessons of innovation and the call to debate solutions for reaching the goal of zero carbon emissions are opportunities that should be integrated into the existing curriculum. The Sunshot Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to reduce the costs of solar energy is one example worth studying in Economics or U.S. History. Here are some examples:
Will the steps taken to reduce carbon emissions in your community or average size city in New Jersey work in Tokyo with a population of 38 million, or Mexico City, New York, or Mumbai?
Is the best strategy for reducing carbon emissions one that is implemented at the local or state level of government, through national or global commitments, or by incentives to private firms?
Are there dangers in making immediate but small reductions by 2030 or will it be more effective to wait for new technologies from current research?
If society delays implementing carbon emission reductions now, will the costs be significantly more expensive if implementation is postponed five or ten years?
What are the most effective incentives to lower costs and reduce risks? (tax credits, subsidies, loan guarantees, carbon tax, cap and trade system, etc.)
How important are the actions taken by citizens, consumers, and producers in taking the initiative in reducing carbon emissions?
What lessons have we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic that apply to our response to impending warmer temperatures and rising sea levels from carbon emissions?
As teachers in New Jersey begin to implement the K-12 mandated curriculum standards on climate and environmental sustainability, they should consider an interdisciplinary model that includes learning in every grade focusing on causes, effects, and solutions at the local, state, national, and global levels. Students who are age five in Kindergarten in 2021 will be 34 in 2050. Teachers who are age 25 or 30 now will be 55-60 in 2050. The curriculum that is planned and implemented will have a measurable legacy in the foreseeable future. In 1921, a nuclear bomb, sending a man to the moon, CT images, Global Positioning Systems (GPS) were impossible to imagine but by the middle of the 20th century they were in development of considered possible. Social Studies teachers must look beyond what is predictable today and teach students for a world that may be in conflict and crisis or one that can be safer and better.
The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War
by William G. Thomas III
Reviewed by Hank Bitten, Executive Director NJ Council for the Social Studies
Having taught the colonial unit for decades as part of the U.S. History 1 course, I always dedicated time to Lord Calvert, the persecution of Roman Catholics in Maryland, the Toleration Act of 1649, and life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Although I would document his wealth and plantation, I never made the connection to his slaves or the role of the Roman Catholic Church in operating a tobacco plantation with slaves in Prince George’s County.
The history of slaves in Maryland and the role of the Society of Jesuits in conducting the business of a tobacco corporation in complicated. As a result of reading A Question of Freedom, I have a new perspective and credible documentation of how slavery became rooted in the laws of our colonies, states, and national government.
The opening chapter is a compelling account of the life of Edward Queen who sued for freedom in 1791 because he was the son of a freewoman, his grandmother. (p. 3) The struggle for freedom by Edward Queen continued for 22 years until the decision in Queen v. Hepburn by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1813. His attorney was Francis Scott Key.
Teachers who are looking for the right questions to engage students in historical inquiry and investigative research will find the questions presented by Professor Thomas (University of Nebraska, Lincoln) a valuable resource. This book is filled with inquiry based questions that encourage exploration and debate. Here are some examples:
Why did the Jesuits and other slaveholders fight so ferociously in court to hold on to the people they enslaved?
What did people like Edward Queen hope to achieve, and what did they think was within their reach?
Why did lawyers, like Francis Scott Key take these cases and how did judges, even those with moderate antislavery convictions, end up advancing legal principles in the trials that would ultimately uphold slavery?
How did Duvall, Key, and Queen families know one another long before the case was argued in the Supreme Court in February 1813?
Did the Queen case leave any lasting impression on the thinking of Francis Scott Key when he wrote the poem that would become “The Star Spangled Banner?’ (p. 5)
Professor Thomas discovered the name of Allen Bowie Duckett, Associate Justice to the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia in his research. Justice Duckett’s father presided over a case for freedom by the Edward Queen family and ruled in their favor. In fact, this decision resulted in the freedom of twenty members of the Queen family. What Professor Thomas discovered through his research was that his grandmother’s family owned plantations adjacent to the area known as White Marsh on the Chesapeake Bay peninsula. He discovered that Elizabeth M. Duckett claimed slaves at the end of the Civil War. The document reported Henny Queen, age 35, and her five children ages six months to eight years old.
Teachers interested in teaching about Continuity and Change will see insights in Chapter 2 about how the aftermath of the Seven Years War and the American Revolution gave rise to the election of liberal and conservative members in the British House of Commons. In America, laws about slavery were limited to each colony before 1789 but in the case of England, its protection, importation, manumission, and abolition applied to a global colonial empire.
Did British Common Law Apply to its Colonies?
Even though the importation of slaves was legal in the United States until 1808, slaves who were brought to England were not compelled to leave according to a common law decision by Chief Justice Lord Mansfield in the decision of James Somersett. James Somersett, a slave, was taken to England by his master, Charles Stewart, a customs officer in Boston. He ran away and was eventually tracked down and placed in prison. A writ of habeas corpus was issued for his release by the abolitionist Granville Sharp in connection with a pending case by merchants from the West Indies who wanted assurance by common law that slaves were a safe investment. The case of Somersett v. Stewart, 1772 became a landmark case that inspired hope for slaves held in bondage throughout the British empire.
The language of the Somersett decision indicates the complexities of the status of slaves as persons under natural and moral law or as property protected by laws. England will not abolish slavery for 60 years (1833) but without a specific law in England to sanction slavery, a person with the legal status of a slave in a colony could not be forced to leave England and return to slavery. James Somersett continued with his status as a slave but could not be forced to return to chattel slavery. The language is confusing in stating that slavery was odious but a temporary presence in England did not guarantee manumission, and questions would continue regarding if the common law ruling applied only to the definition of being in England or if being on a ship or at a port in the Tames River applied.
“Mansfield’s decision moved slavery entirely out of the reach of the common law and its moral protection. Whatever slavery was, it was not sanctioned by English common law. As a result, Somersett v. Stewart wiped out the line of seventeenth century precedents that had once propped up slavery as a lawful form of property.” (p. 34)
Professor Thomas researched the case of Mahoney v. Ashton in Maryland. “In its length and complexity, Mahoney v. Ashton was like almost no other petition for freedom in American history.” (p. 88) Charles Mahoney and 40 of his relatives were owned by Charles Carrollton, Maryland’s leading politician and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
The basis of the trial dated back to Ann Joice, grandmother of Charles Mahoney. Ann Joice was a black indentured servant from Barbados who spent time in England before coming to Maryland to work for Lord Baltimore. As an indentured servant, she should be entitled to her freedom, as should her 1,500 descendants who were slaves in Maryland. People of color born from a free woman were not slaves! Unfortunately, it was difficult to provide evidence that she was in England. The research provided in this case, with its twists and turns, is worth your reading. In the trial, the jurors heard testimony from hearsay of Mary Queen, a free black woman who came to Virginia from New Spain instead of the Popo region of West Africa as claimed by Benjamin Duvall, representing the slaveholders.
“The all-white slaveholding jury gave greater weight to the testimony of the Queen witnesses, followed the ruling of the general court in Edward’s case, and rendered a verdict in favor of freedom for Phillis Queen. The decision made sense. A higher court determined Edward Queen was free, so surely his mother, Phillis should be also. Since Edward’s grandmother, Mary Queen was “not a slave,” surely her daughter could not be a slave either.” (p. 76) “On May 12, 1799, the jury returned an unambiguous verdict: ‘Charles Mahoney is a free man.’” (p. 99)
As a result of this decision, twenty related lawsuits freed over fifty children and grandchildren. “The trials cost John Ashton and the Jesuits 6,795 pounds of tobacco in damages, court costs, and fees.” (p. 78) The year is 1796 and the cost was even greater since tobacco prices were depressed in the mid-1790s. In this same year, the Maryland legislature allowed manumission by last will and testament for individuals in good health, under the age of forty-five, who could support themselves. Unfortunately, legal precedents can change and Charles Mahoney’s family experienced their loss of freedom.
“On June 25, 1802, the High Court of Appeals reversed the May 1799 judgment freeing Charles Mahoney. The defeat was total.” Setting a foot in England was no longer a basis for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for Charles, Patrick, and Daniel Mahoney or others. (p. 112)
What a teachable moment!
Is this decision evidence that in the United States, slaves were defined as property because of the color of their skin?
Is this decision a reaction against the popularity of the Jeffersonian Republicans after the Election of 1800?
Did the ill-fated rebellion near Richmond, Virginia by Gabriel Prosser in 1800 and the French and Haitian Revolutions increase fears of mob rule and the loss of property?
Is the decision valid based on the arguments of Robert Goodloe Harper that Somersett v. Stewart only suspended a slaveholder’s right to property?
Is the position of the Democratic Republicans contradictory in its support for slavery on the basis of race while advocating for the freedom of specific individuals, like the Mahoney family?
These questions should motivate deeper questions by your students leading to evidence that legal precedents are being established in states that will support the basis of Roger Taney’s obiter dictum in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. The Question of Freedom provides insights into why laws for voting based on the ownership of property were changed to qualifications based on race and skin color. (p. 115) States began to introduce legislation outlawing manumission and requiring free blacks to carry a certificate of freedom signed by the county court. Judges provided instructions to jurors that the burden of proof fell on the enslaved person to prove their freedom and that the color of their mulatto skin was white. “Judges and juries would observe their color, hair, and physical features. Testimony about the racial features of their ancestors would give greater weight than what contemporaries said about their status as free persons.” (p. 132)
The Impact of the Domestic Slave Trade
The freedom case of Priscilla and Mina Queen (Queen v. Hepburn) offers unique insights into the slave trade, black market trade of enslaved persons, impact of bankruptcy on slaveowners and enslaved persons, and changing financial markets. The case began in 1809 and a successful outcome depended on Priscilla and Mina Queen proving their grandmother was Nanny Cooper, the daughter of Mary Queen who was in England, and establishing that she came to Maryland as a free woman before 1715 (100 years ago).
John Hepburn, inherited over one thousand acres in 1775 and over the years overspent his fortune in a lucrative life style. As a result of filing for bankruptcy, his creditors could acquire slaves, sell them, and separate them from their children. Blacks, both free and slave, were in high demand to meet the labor needs for the construction of buildings and roads in the new capital city of Washington D.C. and to pick cotton to meet the international demand for cotton textiles.
The U.S. prohibited the international slave trade of slaves in 1808 but the domestic slave trade became a daily event at auctions. “Former New York congressman John P. Van Ness advertised in the newspaper a year later that he had ‘A Negro Boy for Sale.’” (p. 166) When Catholic women joined the convent, their parents gave the Roman Catholic Church their dowries, which often included slaves. As a result of the increasing population of people of color in the new capital, strict black codes designed to limit freedom in the evening were enacted. (p. 162)
Chapter 5 presents the facts in a concise manner that offers teachers an opportunity to create a mock trial simulation of Queen v. Hepburn and Queen v. Neale. These cases have twists and turns regarding hearsay evidence, transcription errors in documents, and connections to shipping records and wills. Furthermore, the Queen’s lawyer is Francis Scott Key and one of the associate judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, Gabriel Duvall, had previous ruled in favor of Charles Mahoney. There is also a map of Washington D.C. (1815) identifying the homes and offices of the major individuals in this story. The research is splendid and the controversial issues for students to debate provide a powerful understanding of both systemic racism in the United States and the depth of individual freedom. The arguments for the protection of property are real and the right to individual freedom is powerful. (pp. 169 -179
William Cranch, Federalist and nephew of Abigail Adams is the chief judge of the circuit court in D.C. Although a Federalist, expert in property contracts, his decisions generally benefited slaves in their freedom suits.
Francs Scott Key presented all the depositions from the 21 freedom suits of the Queen family that Gabriel Duvall had taken years before. The evidence that Mary Queen was an indentured servant was carefully explained.
Fredus Ryland was a star witness and had previously given a deposition in 1796 stating that he met Mary Queen and heard her story first hand. His deposition clearly stated that she was ‘born free’ came from Guayaquil (Ecuador or New Spain) and was transported around the world and to England by Captain Woodes Rogers and lived in London for three years!
Everyone who was literate in the United States was familiar with Daniel Defoe’s popular book, Robinson Crusoe, which is based on the account of Captain Rogers and includes a reference to a passenger Maria. Could this be Mary Queen?
Francis Scott Key introduced the will of James Carroll bequeathing a woman named Mary to Anthony Carroll, John Carroll’s seven-year old nephew.
The attorneys for Rev. Francis Neale, objected to the deposition of Fredus Ryland claiming it was based on hearsay.
Students should ask questions about the rules of evidence in trials, especially in the case of slaves who lacked birth records and travel documents. In the 21st century lawyers and judges argue over what evidence is credible and what needs to be excluded. Many judges were open to hearsay evidence in freedom trials, especially when it was supported by multiple individuals. With the rejection of hearsay evidence, Priscilla Queen and Nina Queen both lost their suit for freedom. However, Nina Queen appealed her decision to the U.S. Supreme Court in February 1813.
In the context of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, I taught my students about the slave trade in Washington, D.C. and the market value of the price of slaves. After reading Question of freedom, I realized this needs to be taught much earlier. Professor Thomas provides detailed research of the slave trade and prisons in our nation’s capital dating back to 1800 and the demand for laborers in building the U.S. Capitol, ships for our navy, and house servants for elected members of our government. It is a valuable resource for teachers, as is Solomon Northrup, Twelve Years a Slave, who want to teach about continuity and change and how the questions relating to slavery, property, and individual freedom changed in the first six decades of the 19th century.
“The men, women, and children were ‘bound together in pairs, some with ropes, and some with iron chains.” (Report from Dr. Jesse Torrey, circa 1815, p. 196)
Slave Trades in Washington D.C.
The locations of hidden slave pen on the upper floor of George Miller’s Tavern on F Street (between 13th and 14th), Williams Yellow House, and Robey’s Tavern on Independence Ave. between 7th and 8th Streets.
The story of Ann Williams captures the fear that every black person faced daily as the demand for labor intensified with the construction of roads and buildings and the cotton economy in the South. Ann Williams and her two young daughters were taken from their home in Bladensburg, Maryland and marched in chains for seven miles to Washington D.C. She pried open a window and jumped three floors breaking her spine. George Miller, the tavern owner, kept her on a wooden pallet providing her with food and water.
Engage your students in reflective thinking to determine if his motives were for humanitarian reasons or for profit from the children she would likely give birth to after she was healed. This is a powerful story that your students will never forget. Furthermore, the Circuit Court in D.C. issued a writ of habeas corpus to investigate the incident at the Miller Tavern only to have it rescinded on the grounds that Ann Williams was property and therefore a writ of habeas corpus could not apply because it is only for persons detained. Her story is even more important because on July 2, 1832, she received her freedom through a verdict from a jury in the District of Columbia Court – 17 years after she jumped from the top floor of Miller’s Tavern.
The questions presented by Professor Williams are at times clearly stated and they are also hidden in the perspectives. For example, the argument by George Miller that slaves were property and could be denied a writ of habeas corpus are of national importance. This incident influenced the Missouri Compromise, Tallmadge Amendment, and the African Colonization Society. With every economic crisis in 1817, 1837, with the changing markets for labor, with burgeoning individual debts and personal bankruptcy, enslaved persons were vulnerable.
Teachers must ask their students how did economics influence the principles of slaveholders such as Francis Scott Key, John Marshall, Roger B. Taney, Henry Clay and other prominent Americans who are also understood as reformers? The evidence illustrates the inequality of the United States of America in a way that the debate over a $15 minimum wage has arguments for maintaining wages below the poverty level and increasing profits for businesses above the expected rate of inflation. History is complicated!
However, the freedom suit filed by Charlotte Dupee in 1829 for her freedom from Henry Clay, Secretary of State, displays these conflicts. Henry Clay is a founding member of the American Colonization Society (the chairperson), an aspiring candidate for president, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, and a senator from Kentucky. Henry Clay stated, “free black confronted unconquerable prejudices resulting from their color and they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country.” (pp. 200-201)
Henry Clay purchased Charlotte for $450 (a high price) in 1815. She married Henry Clay’s personal assistant and driver, Aaron Dupee. Charlotte and Aaron married and had two children, Charles and Mary Ann. They lived with Henry Clay in his home (Decatur House) on Lafayette Square. Charlotte’s parents lived in Maryland as a free family and her family visited with them regularly. Charlotte and Aaron were well known and respected among the Washington political elites and likely very aware of legislation and debates relating to slavery.
Charlotte’s law suit was based on the fact that when she was born her parents were free and not slaves. However, she was born in 1787 and her father received his freedom in 1790 and her mother in 1792. She claimed her sale to Henry Clay was illegal. After the Electoral College declared Andrew Jackson as president, Henry Clay would return to Kentucky with Charlotte and Aaron and their two children. They could be separated and sold at any time.
The case embarrassed Henry Clay and called into question his political reputation. In another interesting twist of research, Professor Williams observes that Charlotte remained in Washington D.C. because of her pending lawsuit and found new employment with Martin Van Buren, the new vice-president and political enemy of Henry Clay. The Court decided in May 1830 in favor of Henry Clay with the statement “Charlotte Dupee was born a slave for life.” (p.227). Henry Clay instructed his attorney to inform Charlotte to return to his home in Kentucky at her expense. Students will find Henry Clay’s letter to his attorney of interest:
“I approve entirely of your order to the Marshall to imprison Lotty (Charlotte).Her husband and children are here. Her refusal therefore to return home, when requested by me to do so through you, was unnatural towards them as it was disobedient to me. She has been her own mistress, upwards of 18 months, since I left her in Washington, in consequence of the groundless writ which she was prompted to bring against me for her freedom; and as that writ has been decided against her, and as her conduct has created insubordination among her relatives here, I think it is high time to put a stop to it.” (p. 227)
Charlotte Dupee was taken to the D.C. City Jail and sent to Henry Clay’s daughter in New Orleans. Charlotte’s freedom suit was never reported in the newspapers. In 1840, Henry Clay emancipated Charlotte and her daughter Mary Anne. She was 53 years old. However, Henry Clay did not free Mary Anne’s children. Have your students examine slavery in America with snapshots taken in 1790 (ratification of the U.S. Constitution), 1800 (rise of Jeffersonian Republicans), 1810 (end to the importation of slaves), 1820 (Missouri Compromise), 1830 (Charlotte Dupee’s freedom suit), 1831 (Nat Turner’s Rebellion), and now in 1840 (Whig Party).
Fears Every Black American Experienced
There were more urban riots in the summer of 1835 than in any other year. The 1835 riots in Washington D.C. exploded in the Washington Navy Yard following the decision to bring thirteen slaves and three free black men to complete the work on the USS Columbia. The fear of industrial slave labor might replace skilled white workers. After someone reported the theft of compression pins from the blacksmith shop, the white workers went on strike.
The diary (1813-1865) kept by Michael Shiner, one of the enslaved workers who was a literate carpenter reveals the fears of the black community and a unique perspective of the events in Washington D.C. Michael Shiner was one year away from his freedom when the riots of 1835 happened. Another event that shook America was the death of John Marshall on July 6, which was followed by the nomination of Roger B. Taney. The diary of Michael Shiner also recorded the arrest of a young African American, Arthur Bowen for the attempted murder of a notable white woman, which involved the U.S. marines to keep order and prevent the lynching of Arthur Bowen. The U.S. district attorney was Francis Scott Key, a tough prosecutor and brother-in-law to Chief Justice Taney, who arrested Professor Reuben Crandall, a botany professor at Yale. There are many factors related to these events in the summer of 1835 for students to analyze and each of them reveals engaging questions about abolition, the influence of the Ebenezer African Methodist Church on Fourth and G Streets, the inequality experienced by residents in the area around the Navy Yard (Northeast), the citywide Memorial Petition calling for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, the slave trading corporation of Isaac Franklin and John Armfield with scheduled transports of slaves to New Orleans, Natchez, and other ports in the South. Some of the questions that intrigued me are:
Is holding abolitionist literature and distributing a pamphlet to another person the same as publishing abolitionist literature?
Francis Scott Key represented slaves in their request for freedom, is a founding member of the American Colonization Society, defended slave holders, owned seven slaves, freed four of his slaves, and facilitated the sale of 272 black men, women, and children for $115,000 to balance the accounts of Georgetown College. How should I teach my students about the life of Francis Scott Key?
Did the rhetoric of the abolitionists, intended to end slavery, encourage slaves to become violent and become counter-productive to the cause of freedom?
Was the decision to expand the U.S. Supreme Court in 1837 from seven to nine justices, motivated to protect the property of slaveholders or by the westward expansion of the United States? (President Jackson appointed seven of the nine justices)
The evidence in Chapter 8 regarding the financial implications of how slaves were “assembled, sold, and transported,” the exponential impact of how the sale of a few enslaved persons affected the lives of hundreds, the importance of understanding how the panics or economic recessions of 1837 and 1857 contributed to the sale of enslaved persons and the breaking up of families, and the legal theories that were advanced by slaveholders and abolitionists is powerful and clearly articulated. The claims and arguments in this chapter regarding systemic racism in the United States are convincing.
Enslaved persons were treated in every contract and sale as part of a “lot.” Individuals were clearly property and packaged in a way that mortgages are sold as bonds in today’s market. Individual slaves were sold as priced commodities based on their skin colors, genders, skills, histories, and ages. They were sold to different buyers in a similar way that odd lot purchases of stocks are bought and sold on today’s stock exchanges. Slaves were chattel and appraised for their value. For example, Ann Bell lived independently in Washington D.C. from approximately 1825 to 1836. Unknown to her, she was privately bequeathed as estate property by Gerald T. Greenfield of Tennessee.
“Thirteen-year old Andrew was valued at $375. Caroline, now nine years old, was priced at $250. Eleven-year old Mary Ellen and seven-year old George were valued at $200 each. Five-year old Daniel and his three-year old sister Harriett were priced at $100 each.” (p. 303)
2. After the expiration of the Charter of the Bank of the United States in 1836, state banks developed “property banking” to provide capital for land speculation in land and slaves. For example, the Union Bank of Louisiana arranged for slaveholders to leverage their land and slaves as collateral for expanding their cotton plantations. This was called “hypothecation.” (p. 281). Unfortunately, when supply was greater than demand, creditors demanded payments on loans in gold or specie, or the price of cotton, sugar, or tobacco declined, slaves were traded and sold. It was heartbreaking for families who were broken up.
3. Slavery was legally defined at the state level. For example, in Louisiana ALL Negroes of black color were “presumed to be slaves.” Slaves could not be freed through a will because they were required to leave the state. In Maryland, the General Assembly ratified a constitutional amendment in 1837 stating that “the relation of master and slave, in this State, shall not be abolished unless by unanimous vote of the General Assembly and with full compensation to slaveholders.” (p. 263) The reason for this new law was that fugitives were not being returned to Maryland from free states as required by the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act without a legal definition that slaves were property.
5. During the decade of 1831-1840, more than 285,000 slaves from Maryland and Virginia were sold through interstate trade – about 30,000 a year or about 80 a day. (p. 271)
6. The free black population in Maryland doubled between 1790-1800 from 10,000 to 20,000. Forty years later, the number of free blacks had more than tripled to 62,000, and four in every ten African Americans were free. (p. 316)
Slaves purchased on the market walked (perhaps 400-500 miles) to their new destinations in the Carolinas and Georgia or transported on vessels owned by Isaac Franklin and John Armfield, to New Orleans and Natchez.
“Their vessels, built in Connecticut, had been designed specifically for the slave trade, and their holds were similar to those in the ships that plied the transatlantic slave trade. Each captive had only about 36 cubic feet of space, (6x3x2) sometimes less, when more than 180 people were jammed into the tightly packed holds below decks. Built for Franklin and Armfield’s in 1833, the Uncas carried thousands to New Orleans in the booming interstate slave trade. Franklin and Armfield typically separated the men and boys from the woman and girls on the voyage and heavily fortified the section of the ship holding the men. Nothing prevented the captain or the officers from entering the women’s hold and seizing any of them for sex. The Uncas carried approximately 50 people.” (p. 290)
In 1850, the slave trade in the District of Columbia ended with the Compromise of 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act followed the neutral language in the Constitution of “persons held to service or labor” instead of slaves. Although these words could provide evidence that slaves were persons with basic constitutional rights of due process under the Fifth Amendment, they were seized without a warrant. Even Frederick Douglass, a runaway, was at risk of being returned to slavery!
Professor Thomas raises excellent questions for students to answer:
Did enslaved persons have any rights under the Constitution?
Was slavery a local condition without fundamental legitimacy in the law and therefore restricted to certain, specific restraints?
Did enslaved persons lack any rights at all, and was slavery national in scope and legal authority under the Constitution?
The answers to these questions are difficult as reflected in the response of the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. The Compromise of 1850 made Garrison choose between the U.S. Constitution and the moral evil of slavery.
“Their idealism was such that they would not participate in purchasing the freedom of a single enslaved person who fled bondage.” (p. 318)
One of the Performance Expectations for students in New Jersey public schools is to learn about free black communities:
6.1.12.HistoryUP.2.b: Analyze the impact and contributions of African American leaders and institutions in the development and activities of black communities in the North and South before and after the Civil War
Although Maryland had the third highest population of slaves in the United States with more than a hundred thousand people in bondage, (p.6), it was also the home to more than 8,000 free blacks living in communities, such as Annapolis and Baltimore and organizing institutions. (p. 42). Forty years later, the number of free blacks was 62,000, and four in every ten African Americans were free. (p. 316) Students need to know this!
Another insight I learned from reading Question of Freedom was the diversity of Maryland regarding plantation slavery in the Chesapeake Bay area and the absence of slavery in Frederick County in northwestern Maryland. (p.91)
The evidence in A Question of Freedom, regarding the presence of systemic racism in the United States is convincing and it is presented over 240 years beginning with Mary Queen
For further inquiry and exploration, research the digital resources on the freedom suits of enslaved persons from Maryland.