The National Council of the Social Studies (NCSS) suggests that social studies instruction in the elementary classroom should offer opportunities for students to recognize societal problems, investigate those problems through questioning, consider the possible solutions and consequences, and act upon their learning (NCSS, 2017). Nonetheless, Heafner and Fitchett (2012) documented the diminishing role of social studies in the elementary curriculum in a notable meta-analysis. Further analysis of the literature (Hubbard, 2013; Britt & Howe, 2014; Heafner & Fitchett, 2015) indicates that social studies instruction in the elementary grades is marginalized as a direct result of the attention required in high-stakes tested subject area such as English language arts (ELA) and math. Even though tenets of equity are set forth in Common Core State Standards, the emphasis on teaching to standardized test still undermine quality efforts to teach social justice issues in most classrooms (Dover, 2015; Agarwal, 2011; Alsup & Miller, 2014). Although the focus on ELA and math are deemed necessary, so are the skills introduced to elementary students through quality social studies instruction. It is often through this instruction that students learn to investigate structural inequities, analyze multiple perspectives, critically examine history, and envision how they can enact social change in their world (Nieto, 2000; Sleeter, 2015; Picower, 2012)
Rethinking the curriculum could benefit students significantly. Using culturally sustaining trade books to supplement the curriculum benefits students in important ways (Tschida & Buchanan, 2017). Providing opportunities for students to learn historical context of subject matter through inquiry based curricular activities allow students to construct deeper knowledge of subject matter introduced in core reading programs. That deeper knowledge positions students to do history through hands-on activities rather than just receive it through transmission from the teacher (Levstik & Barton, 2015).
In elementary core reading programs, there are often stories that show main characters in leadership positions. Each of these lessons is an opportunity to expound upon the concept with additional material which makes the learning personal while providing historical context. The addition of well-thought out activities supplemented with developmentally-appropriate trade books encourage students to delve deeper into the curriculum. Students need to examine these topics to more fully understand acts of resistance such as organized protest. They benefit by gaining a firmer grasp of the historical context of children advocates so they can better understand how they are capable to effect comparable change (Witherspoon, Clabough & Elliott, 2017). The activities in this article introduce a method of extending a reading lesson on leadership with a trade book, For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story.
The value of trade books
Students must be able to utilize the inquiry process, collect and analyze data, and collaborate with others in decision-making and problem-solving activities as described in the NCSS C3 Framework (NCSS, 2013). To ensure that students develop agency, they must be intentionally introduced to texts which are rich in historical value. Trade books are an excellent means to provide such experiences (Moore, 2018).
Trade books allow students to explore historical events in depth through factual accounts (Clabough, Wooten & Turner, 2014). Trade books are usually levelized (Bickford & Schuette, 2016) so they readily offer themselves to teachers for differentiated lessons (Schwebel, 2011). Paperback versions of trade books are economical and they are often used in elementary classrooms as independent and readaloud options. Such developmentally appropriate opportunities allow students to learn about historical events through the integration of social studies and literacy instruction (Bickford & Schuette, 2016; Agarwal-Rangnath, 2013).
Rather than experiencing leadership through a singular perspective, trade books allow students to connect to literature through multiple perspectives. Trade books also provide students with a springboard from which they can critically evaluate those perspectives as begin to formulate and analyze their own position (Allen, 2018). Trade books tap into the emotional elements of events in ways that textbooks often lack (Krey, 1998). Culturally-sustaining trade books allow students to see themselves and their cultures represented in positive ways which affect their emotions, attitudes and connections to information (McCarty, 2007). Students are drawn to characters and themes which are relatable to them (Bickford, 2018). These relatable experiences allow students to understand the value and importance of their history within the larger history of America. The following activity for working with trade books afford students the ability to develop personal agency.
I begin the lesson by writing the overarching question on chart paper so that it visible for the duration of the lesson. The question is “How can children act as leaders to effect change?” I explain that all of the activities in this lesson are based on this question. Further, I explain that events in the past have allowed young children to act as leaders on behalf of themselves or others. Their actions at specific moments in history had implications for others which are still felt today. Next, we work collaboratively to define leaders, effect, and change. The definitions are added to the chart paper with the inquiry question. We discuss synonyms, and I elicit synonyms for the word leaders so that students understand the meaning of other words they may hear that define leaders (i.e. advocate, agent).
I ask students to describe their education by completing the left portion of a t-chart entitled “My Education.” This activity allows students to thoroughly examine their feelings about the educational process they experience as they formulate their own thoughts and ideas. When students are expected to speak on an issue, they should be able to determine their perspective based on their background, their culture, and the empathy they may either share with others or that will stand in defiance to the voice of others. This is an integral step in students connecting themselves, their emotions, and their attitudes to information they encounter (Ladson-Billings, 1995; 2014). Students will share and explain their responses with the larger group.
Next, I explain to students that they will have the opportunity to research the life of Malala Yousafzai. They are told that they should consider the ways their educational experience parallels or differs during the reading. Students read the book, For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story. For students with reading difficulties, the text can be read aloud by the teacher, pre-recorded and independently accessed by a QR code, or peer-read with a reading buddy. This ensures that each student has the opportunity to read and comprehend the story before extending the learning.
Students work collaboratively with peers to identify the person(s) being discriminated against in the text. The graphic organizer that follows allows students to chart their ideas as they work. Their responses should include text evidence. The text evidence should indicate a quote from the story or a paraphrase of the author’s words along with a page number from which those words were taken. This facilitates students’ ability to cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking so they can support conclusions they have drawn from the text. Students meet together to discuss their findings. The teacher serves to clarify information disclosed using prompts such as “Tell me how you arrived that that conclusion” or “Can you tell us more about your thinking?” This activity is important as students learn how to substantiate their claims with textual information. Having students attend to textual information and applying that information to authentic discussions call for higher order thinking. Higher order thinking skills associated with such text analysis has been related to better comprehension in elementary students Deeney, 2016).
Figure 1: Graphic organizer for text analysis
Next, students summarize the steps taken in the text to address the restrictive policy. This step ensure that students recognize advocacy. Further, it ensures that students are able to distinguish how they can act as agents of change. This benefits students as they further develop comprehension skills through determining central ideas and summarizing key ideas and details from text.
When students complete their graphic organizer, they share and discuss their findings with their group through Socratic activities. These activities encourage students to think critically and ask questions about the text they have read. Further, students engage in questioning their perspectives and the perspectives of those in the larger communities in which they live. This discussion is instrumental in aiding students in participating effectively in conversations with diverse partners as they listen to the ideas of others and express their own ideas persuasively.
An example of a Socratic activity engages students in analysis of the text. As young students may be novice participants in these types of discussions, the teacher leads the whole group discussion by asking questions such as:
1.Analyze how the educational expectations for students in the text differ from those in your community.
2. In what ways are students that you may know prevented from attending school?
3. What are some reasons people may have for keeping children out of school?
The teacher listens to the responses and asks students to clarify necessary information by using prompts such as “Tell me more about that” or “Can you explain what you mean?” The teacher charts the students’ responses and encourages students to evaluate or connect to them. Next, the teacher explains the importance of the Nobel Peace Prize. She acknowledges that in 2014 Malala was the youngest recipient of the award. Students then watch a short clip of the video at accessible at https://youtu.be/MOqIotJrFVM. The teacher explains that characters in books can impart multiple perspectives. She asks students to think about the ways in which Malala’s perspective may differ from the perspective of her father or her mother. Then, students choose one of the following prompts and work in pairs or small groups to discuss and write about their prompt through perspective writing.
1. What does it mean when Malala says “Thank you to my father, for not clipping my wings, and letting me fly?”
2. Malala thanks her mother for inspiring her to always speak the truth. Discuss how someone has inspired you to speak the truth. What was that truth?
3. Malala thanks her teachers for inspiring her to believe in herself and be brave. How have teachers (or others) inspired you to believe in yourself or to be brave?
This activity benefits students as they learn to acknowledge the importance of multiple perspectives. Such diverse perspectives encourage students to acknowledge how values and cultures other than their own are represented and experienced by those around them. Further, students are able to construct knowledge about the world in which they live (Bickford & Rich, 2017). Students are also able to distinguish their own point of view from the author’s.
After working through the activities, students move into a whole group area. Collectively, they summarize prior learning by highlighting their group work. I chart the students’ responses. Then, I ask the group to evaluate if the restrictive policies they have identified are still problematic for individuals or groups today. I chart the responses and facilitate the discussion as necessary. Facilitation of the discussion includes clarifying erroneous presumptions that young students may offer through supplemental discussion or primary source information. For the policies identified by the students, I ask them to evaluate the ways in which they can act to effect change. I facilitate a discussion in which students plan their next steps as agents of change to restrictive policies they have identified.
Finally, students will complete the Tchart they completed at the beginning of the activity. As students have been immersed in the learning, they have encountered multiple perspectives through independent, small group, and whole group efforts. Completion of the graphic organizer allows students to compare and contrast their educational experience with Malala. Most importantly, it allows students an opportunity to recognize and address internal conflicts they may have encountered through this learning. Students will have choice in how they utilize this segment of the activity. They may choose evaluate the comparison privately. Otherwise, they may choose to expound upon their learning by constructing a poem, composing a song, producing a video response or writing a letter to Malala. Options such as these are important to students. Although some students may be emotionally ready to delve into such important works, others may require more time to analyze how their feelings align with those they have encountered.
Students need to understand that children can act as advocates for change. They need to understand that even as young students, they have the ability to address restrictive policies in important ways. Doing history rather than learning facts allows students to delve deeply into historical content as they read expository and narrative text, collaborate with peers, and write about their learning (Levstik & Barton, 2015). Through identification of policies and appropriate actions, students have the ability to create more equitable communities.
Presenting students with opportunities to learn about children in other parts of the world or at other times in history allows them to understand other cultures and multiple perspectives. In doing so, students learn to question the decisions and choices of others as well as their own. Developing the ability to understand issues from multiple perspectives allow students to better understand the complex society in which they live. Through social studies literacy skills, students learn to engage in practices which are transformational.
Students can use social studies literacy skills to challenge and change systems they view as oppressive. Participatory actions such as those discussed in this article encourage students to develop developmentally appropriate responses to these systems which benefit themselves and others. As students become more aware, they are more capable of acting upon socially constructed rules which serve some while marginalizing others.
Agarwal, R. (2011). Negotiating visions of teaching: Teaching social studies for social justice. Social Studies Research and Practice, 6(3), 52–64.
Agarwal-Rangnath, R. (2013). Social studies, literacy, and social justice in the common core classroom: A guide for teachers. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Allen, A. (2018). Teach like Socrates: Encouraging critical thinking in elementary social studies. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 31(1), p. 4-9.
Alsup, J., & Miller, S. (2014). Reclaiming English education: Rooting social justice in dispositions. English Education, 46(3), 195–215.
Bickford, J. (2018). Examining LGBTQ-based literature intended for primary and intermediate elementary students. The Elementary School Journal, 118(3), 409-425.
Bickford, J. & Rich, C. (2017). Using disciplinary literacy to fill the historical gaps in trade books. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 30(2), 811.
Bickford, J. & Schuette, L. (2016). Trade books’ historical representation of the Black Freedom Movement, slavery through civil rights. Journal of Children’s Literature, 42(1), 20-43.
Britt, J. & Howe, M. (2014). Developing a vision for the common core classroom: What does elementary social studies look like? The Social Studies, 105(3), 158-163.
Clabough, J., Wooten, D. & Turner, T. (2014). Digging deeper with biographical trade books. AMLE Magazine, 1(6), 34-37.
Deeney, T.A. (2016). Pre- and in-service teachers reading and discussing informational text: Implications for preparing teachers to meet the common core. Sage Open, 1-15. doi.org/10.1177/2158244016647994
Dover A.G. (2015). Teaching for social justice and the common core: A justice-oriented curriculum for language arts and literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 59(5), 517–527. doi: 10.1002/jaal.488
Heafner, T. & Fitchett, P. (2012). Tipping the scales: National trends of declining social studies instructional time in elementary schools. The Journal of Social Studies Research, 36(2) 190215.
Heafner, T. & Fitchett, P. (2015). Principals’ and teachers’ reports of instructional time allocations in third grade. Journal of International Social Studies, 5(1), 81-100.
Krey, D. (1998). Children’s literature in social studies: Teaching to the standards. NCSS Bulletin 95, Washington D.C.: National Council for the Social Studies.
Levstik, L. S. & Barton, K. C. (2015). Doing history investigating with children in elementary and middle schools (5th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
McCarty, D. (2007). Using multicultural national council for the social studies notable books in the elementary classroom. The Social Studies, 98(2), 49-53.
Moore, M. (2018). Using trade books to identify and change discriminatory practices. The Councilor: A Journal of the Social Studies, 79(2), 1-10.
Neito, S. (2000). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education. New York: NY: Longman.
Picower, B. (2012). Practice what you teach: Social justice education in the classroom and the streets. New York, NY: Routledge.
Schwebel, S. (2011). Child-sized history: Fictions of the past in U.S. classrooms. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
As usual, Mr. Lockwood enters the classroom with a spring in his step and a smile on his face greeting his 7th grade students. He usually makes a figure eight around the classroom saying, “thank you, Julie, for having your AR book out. Thank you, Joe, for having your notebook out and working on the bell ringer,” which gets the students organized for the day and ready for social studies. However, today in class, instruction will look different. For one, all students will participate in one-to-one technology (their school is not one-to-one) and two, students will choose their own adventure (CYOA) for the Ancient Egypt unit. Students are coupled together, each checking out a computer from the cart borrowed from the library in back of the classroom. Mr. Lockwood enthusiastically tells the students they are going on an adventure and to get to the end destination, they must CHOOSE their own way to learn! The students are confused but excited to see how this new unit will play out. Differentiated Instruction Mr. Lockwood is about to engage his students in differentiated instruction through layered curriculum. Differentiated instruction was developed by Carol Ann Tomlinson and can be defined “as an approach to teaching in which teachers proactively modify curricula, teaching methods, resources, learning activities, and student products to address the diverse needs of individual students and small groups of students to maximize the learning opportunity for each student in a classroom” (Tomlinson, et al. 2003). Mr. Lockwood is demonstrating the basic level of differentiation, shaking up the curriculum to fit his students’ needs and moving away from a unitary approach of teaching (Tomlinson, 2017). Described as a Little House on the Prairie one room schoolhouse situation, differentiated instruction uses whole-class, small-group and individual instruction to teach the curriculum. In a 2003 article titled Differentiated Instruction in Response to Student Readiness, Interest, and Learning Profile in Academic Diverse Classrooms: A Literature Review, Tomlinson and colleagues found that teachers do not adjust their instruction to the needs of the students in order to reach a diverse population of learners (p. 131). Instead teachers will switch instructional strategies throughout the lesson but all students will do the same activities no matter their ability. As stressed over and over throughout Tomlinson’s publications, differentiation is not individualized but allows the teacher to use multiple avenues for students to learn, “attending to students as individuals” (Tomlinson, 2017, p. 3). One way Tomlinson suggests that teachers focus on differentiation is through tiered lessons. Through tiered lessons “everybody works with essential knowledge and skills but at different degrees of difficulty or different levels of complexity” (Wu, 2013, pg. 130). Enter Layered Curriculum.
A layered curriculum is differentiated through tiers and “integrates the three keys: choice, accountability and increasingly complex thinking” (Nunley, 2003, pg. 35). This type of differentiation allows the teachers to change delivery of instruction, student product and content throughout an entire unit. Organized into a four-step process, Nunley (1996) discusses it in a publication from the Science Teacher. Her first step is the unit sheet consisting of various assignments with point systems attached to the assignments. Second, she then divides her curriculum into layers C, B and A and uses Bloom’s Taxonomy to create the layers and assignments. The letter represents the letter grade and score range a student could receive on that certain layer. Roughly, C layer represent basic knowledge and comprehension, B layer represents application and A layer is critical thinking. After assignments are completed Nunley explains that she would speak to each student about their assignment giving them an oral evaluation. She does not give them a paper/pencil test at the end of the unit. The last step is the learning stations. These learnings stations consist of audio lectures, physical props, TV shows/documentaries, etc. Throughout the layers, students are given choices and different avenues to learn the content from the curriculum. In the unit, differentiation occurs through process, product and content. Using Nunley’s layered curriculum, three separate empirical studies (Gun, 2013; Kilincaslan & Simek, 2015; and Uzum & Pesen, 2019) showed that when students engaged in layered curriculum their motivation and attendance increased but also academic achievement increased with respect to a controlled group.
21st Century Layered Curriculum
Thinking about the definition of differentiated instruction from Tomlinson and the four-step process of Layered Curriculum from Nunley, how can Mr. Lockwood have the same outcomes as the empirical studies from layered curriculum? Taking inspiration from Nunley (1996) when she stated, in layered curriculum “technology should be used whenever possible” (pg. 55), Mr. Lockwood and Dr. Nance go on their own adventure to create a one-to-one differentiated layered curriculum of Ancient Egypt. They had to manipulate the fourstep process to adjust for 21st century skills, district requirements, data collection, a common curriculum map and common assessments. The result was a one-to-one Google Site that included all the parts discussed by Nunley but placed in different order to adjust to Mr. Lockwood’s building and district requirements. The new four-step framework was implemented in a 7th grade world history class and called Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA). The unit lasted about 6-7 days of a block scheduling AB schedule.
The CYOA format includes a four-step process used for one-to-one layered curriculum differentiated instruction. It includes an introduction, the level tabs, assessment and technology. First, Students are introduced to the unit that is called Choose Your Own Adventure. They login to their Google Classroom to find a web address. All students proceed to the Google Site and stop at the homepage. The homepage gives specific directions to take a diagnostic or pretest on Google Forms. After all these are submitted, the students click on the level C tab. At this time, the teacher explains the concept of CYOA, the classroom expectations during CYOA and how to locate all levels, assignments, assessments on the Google Site. Second, the Google Site consists of a Homepage tab, Level C tab, Level B tab and Level A tab. On the front of each level are directions for that particular level, a Google Slides Screencast Informational Video, a Graphic Organizer, a Formative Assessment and CYOA Assignments. Students have written directions on each level that include points required, tentative due dates and step-by-step directions through each individual level (See Appendix A). For example, directions on each level read, “the graphic organizer, video(s) and formative assessment are required in every level of the CYOA and must be competed first. Remember, you must complete the graphic organizer while watching the video(s) (5 points) and make an 80% (5 points) before you can move forward to the adventure.” The teacher checks each formative assessment. If the student scores an 80%, then they move forward to their adventure. If the student makes below 80%, the teacher re-teaches on the spot. If the teacher is also satisfied with its graphic organizer and oral assessment, the student re-tests. If the teacher is not, the student will listen to the video(s) again and redo the graphic organizer. Then the student will retest to get the appropriate benchmark to move to the adventure. Levels B and A have a skills video with a graphic organizer along with the informational/lecture video and it’s graphic organizer. Two graphic organizers will be required for levels B and A. Each level also includes “How To” videos from Google Classroom, Google Suite and some assignment examples from YouTube. Each assignment is posted separately with total points required, assignment points and directions for the assignments. After students complete levels CA, a summative is given. The teacher facilitates and answers questions during the assignment phase constantly assessing the students. Third, students are assessed for the collection of data specifically for data teams and district requirements. The assessments used are diagnostic/pretest, formative assessments and summative evaluation. The diagnostic assessment is on the first day of CYOA and is taken on Google Forms. The formative assessments are quality questioning from the teacher and multiple-choice questions (objectives/targets) located on Google Forms. The formatives are built into each level and have a required benchmark. This allows the teacher to have one-on-one instruction with each student and use the Google Forms to follow the student’s progress through the unit. Fourth, technology is implemented throughout the CYOA using a Google Site. Using Google Sites is optimal for this type of instruction. All videos from screencasts to YouTube can be uploaded to the site. The students can complete all assignments through Google Suite and turn them into Google Classroom.
After the unit was complete, I sat down with Mr. Lockwood and debriefed. Because this was not an empirical study, the conversation is just two colleagues’ reflections of what transpired in the classroom. First, both of us thought it went well. The flow of the classroom remained the same and the students followed procedures without major incidents. The students’ interaction with each other was excellent. They relied on their partner for clarification questions and used their small group and sometimes an impromptu larger group to discuss the assignments and get help with content. Overall, the students enjoyed the choices they had in the different levels and liked that they could go back to the videos for help if they needed it. They enjoyed the “How To” videos because they could go at their own pace to learn the skill and could rewatch as many times as they needed to get it right. It looked like the students were taking responsibility for their own learning and Mr. Lockwood liked watching his classroom environment change to student-centered. We also agree with the empirical articles that layered curriculum increased motivation and academic achievement. Mr. Lockwood saw significant progress from the diagnostic test to the summative test. The students took a survey about CYOA and they overwhelmingly liked how it was done in the class, and they had freedom to go at their own pace. The problems that occurred were all technological and could be fixed in a matter of minutes. There were not problems with the differentiated instruction layered curriculum philosophy that Mr. Lockwood brought to his classroom. Overall, Mr. Lockwood is happy with CYOA and will be implementing it in more units in his classroom this next school year. I also want to add that Mr. Lockwood and I cannot take credit for the clever title of CYOA. That was borrowed from MrRoughton.com as were many of the assignments the students completed. His website is amazing, and I hope you go visit it when you put your CYOA together.
Differentiation is not individualized lessons for each student but looking at the needs of your students and offering different pathways to learn the objectives/content so each student can achieve success. Layered curriculum is tiered differentiation that can accomplish the goal of giving students different avenues to learn in the classroom. Moving layered curriculum to one-to-one is optimal for students to learn new skills but also to be able to move at their own pace and enjoy a major advantage of individual instruction with the teacher most days of the week.
Gun, E.S. (2013). The reflections of layered curriculum to learning-teaching process in social studies course. International Journal of Instruction, Vol. 6, No. 2, 87-98.
Kilincaslan, H. & Simsek, P.U. (2015). Effects of curriculum layered and creative drama methods on 6th grade “Force and Motion” unit on achievement, attitude and detention. Education and Science, Vol 40, No. 180, 217245.
Nunley, K. (1996). Going for the goal: Multilevel assignments cater to students of differing abilities. The Science Teacher, 63 (6), 52-56.
Nunley, K. (2003). Layered curriculum brings teachers to tiers. The Education Digest, 69 (1), 31-36. Roughton, Kevin (2019). CYOA. Retrieved from http://www.mrroughton.com/home.
Tomlinson, C.A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Tomlinson, C.A., Brighton, C., Hertbert, H. Callahan, C., Moon, K.B., Conover, L. & Reynolds, T. (2003). Differentiating instruction in response to student readiness, interest, and learning profile in academically diverse classrooms: A review of literature. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. Vol. 27, No. 2-3, 119-145.
Tomlinson, C. A. (2017 ). How to differentiate instruction in academically diverse classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Uzum, B. & Pesen, A. (2019). Do the learner centered approaches increase academic performance? Effect of the layered curriculum on students’ academic achievement in English lessons. International Journal of Instruction, 12 (1), 1585-1608.
Wu, E.H. (2013). The path leading to differentiation: An interview with Carol Tomlinson. Journal of Advanced Academics, 24 (2), 125-133.
When Barack Obama began to build his delegate lead over Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Bernie Sanders performed much better than expected, a significant amount of the coverage focused on Obama and Sanders doing much better than Clinton in states that held caucuses and less so in states that held primary elections, and the prevailing wisdom (also known as spin) made by Clinton supporters was that caucuses were inherently less (small-d) democratic than primary elections, because they presented prospective caucusgoers significantly higher barriers to participation than primary elections.
After the contentious and controversial nomination process in 2016 that led to Clinton winning the Democratic presidential nomination amidst recriminations over the Democratic National Committee creating an unfair playing field for the insurgent candidacy of Sanders and her eventual loss in the general election to the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, which some observers attributed to feelings of disillusionment and disenfranchisement by Sanders supporters, even though exit polls showed that Sanders primary election voters voted for Clinton in the 2016 general election at a higher rate than Clinton primary election voters voted in the 2008 general election, representatives from both camps within the Democratic National Committee met to reform the Presidential nomination process for 2020. One of the two of the most potentially impactful reforms that were instituted focused on the role of caucuses versus primary elections. It was agreed that states that historically held caucuses would be encouraged to instead hold primary elections. The other was banning superdelegates from voting on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention (Seitz-Wald, 2019).
Clearly, reducing the role of elected officials and party leaders, who historically have been free to vote for any Presidential candidate of their choosing at the Democratic National Convention, regardless of the outcome of the nominating contest in their state, which effectively nullified many of the contests in many states that Sanders won by significant margins while only marginally winning or in some cases losing the total delegate count from those states, makes the nominating process more democratic, although it remains to be seen if that will be the actual outcome in 2020, as an exceedingly large field of over 20 presidential candidates with a significant number of them possessing the fundraising prowess to remain in the race much longer than candidates have been able to do so in the past raises the question as to whether or not any single candidate can win enough pledged delegates in the caucuses and primary elections to reach the 50% plus one delegate required to win the nomination on the first ballot. If not, all pledged delegates will be unbound and superdelegates will be allowed to vote on the second ballot, rendering the will of the people moot and replacing it with backroom machinations in an effort to cobble together a compromise if not a consensus ticket (Klein, 2019).
It is unclear, though, if caucuses are truly less democratic than primary elections or if they are just differently democratic. One lesson that is taught in nearly every social studies class is the difference between participatory democracy and representative democracy with participatory democracy requiring the active involvement of citizens in government decision-making processes and representative democracy requiring citizens to elect representatives who make all of the decisions.
However, as modern society has become more technologically advanced and lives have become more active and complicated, people have become far less politically engaged the opportunities to participate in how they are governed have become fewer and further over time, leaving most, if not all, of the decisions in the hands of elected representatives, who over time have become more representative of the interests of their donors and pollsters than the needs and will of their constituents.
Even as the internet age has increased the quantity of information dramatically and made that information far more accessible than ever before, the quality of that information has decreased even more dramatically as the credibility and integrity of mainstream information sources like newspapers, radio, and television have become compromised to varying degrees by corporate interests and outside information sources, utilizing questionable and unreliable editorial and reporting methodologies, have proliferated.
Thus, as our governments have become almost exclusively representative in nature, while representing external interests (donors and pollsters) more than internal interests (their constituents), the electorates being represented have become less informed than they ever were in the past. Recognizing these trends, can an argument be made that more rather than less should be demanded from electorates in how they are governed and that participatory democracy should have an increased role in governance?
Some have argued that the 2016 election was already a step in that direction as a populist response to dissatisfaction with both the Democratic and Republican establishments fueled both the Sanders surge and the Trump victory and it was only because the Democratic Party had a President in power at the time and a Democratic National Committee that was loyal to him putting the brakes on the former while the latter had no concentrated institutional opposition that led to their disparate outcomes.
If populism continues to fuel our politics, it would make sense that reintroducing opportunities for participatory democracy would be a better way to manage the conflict between establishment and insurgent elements than simply allowing the conflict to consume them. Nowhere else is this more true than New Jersey where powerful political machines have enabled party establishments to dominate the political landscape for decades and where the lack of competitive primary elections due to the utilization of the ballot to influence the outcome of elections have produced record levels of voter apathy and disengagement (O’Dea, 2019).
This is especially true when it comes to presidential primary elections in New Jersey. With the exception of 2008 when legislation was passed to move the date of the state’s presidential primary election to an earlier date in the calendar with the hope that it would be more relevant to the outcome of the nomination process, it has historically been one of the last to vote and has only been impactful on the outcome of the most closely contested of elections. In the past, it has also usually shared the date on the calendar with California, drawing even more attention away from New Jersey.
The party establishments with their parochial interests at the local, county, and state level fueling its political machines have relished this dynamic, which enables party leaders and their donor base to leverage their influence with presidential campaigns as one of the most significant sources of fundraising without having to spend a significant amount of capital getting the vote out for a presidential primary election whose outcome has already been determined in most cases.
Primary elections in New Jersey are already as undemocratic as any in the country, because of the way that the party establishments use the ballot to influence the outcome of elections. The party line ballot, where all of the candidates from President down to committeeperson (a local party office that is involved to varying degrees in the endorsement of candidates) that are endorsed by county party organizations appear on a single line of candidates and receive a preferential ballot position and any other candidates that are not bracketed together under the same slogan are placed elsewhere on the ballot at the discretion of county clerks, who are more often than not party loyalists, provides these endorsed candidates with a nearly insurmountable advantage over any opposition that they rarely ever have.
This advantage becomes even greater during presidential election cycles, because of the presence of a presidential candidate at the top of the party establishment line, increasing turnout and ensuring that downticket candidates on that line get the lion’s share of those additional voters, particularly since by the time that New Jersey votes, there are almost never any other presidential candidates on the ballot that might anchor an opposition line. 2016 was the first time since 1984 that there was a June presidential primary election in New Jersey and the nomination had not yet been clinched.
An argument could be made to do what was done in 2008 and move the state’s presidential primary election to a stand-alone date earlier in the calendar such as April 28, the same date that other northeastern states like Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island will hold their primary elections. In addition to ensuring the state’s relevance to the nomination process, it would not be impacted by or have an impact on downticket primary elections. However, elections in New Jersey are very expensive, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, which is one of many reasons why, historically, presidential primary elections have been done on the same day as other downticket races. There is also the matter of some New Jersey school districts holding board elections on the third Tuesday of April, although this could be addressed by moving them to the November general election ballot as many school districts have already done or having the school board elections on the same April 28 ballot as the standalone Presidential primary election.
That said, a caucus, similar to what occurs in Iowa and other states like Maine and Nevada, would be significantly cheaper to operate than a stand-alone presidential primary election. Opponents to this idea will inevitably argue that caucuses, which require participants to arrive at a specific time and stay until the end, which could be an hour or two or even three, are less (small-d) democratic than primary elections, which allow a voter to arrive on the day of the election at a time that is convenient for them, cast their vote, and leave. In most parts of New Jersey, it doesn’t take more than five minutes to cast a vote. At worst, it might require a 30-minute wait, but that is rare. While it is fair to argue that it is harder for people who work more than one job or work irregular hours to participate in a caucus than a primary election, it would be possible to do things to mitigate these concerns. A ranked choice voteby-mail ballot could be created to allow someone who cannot be physically present for a caucus to participate virtually with the actions that they might have taken if they were present represented by the ranked choices on their ballot.
Another solution could be to do what a few other states like Texas and Washington do, which is to hold both a caucus and a primary election and allocate some of the state’s pledged delegates based on the outcome of the caucus and the rest based on the outcome of the primary election. It has been argued in the past that spreading out the caucuses and primary elections over several months disenfranchises some states and enfranchises others and that there should be a national primary election on a single day just like there is a national general election on a single day.
Maybe the appropriate compromise would be to hold caucuses in several states every weekend from the beginning of February until the end of April and a national primary election in early June. The outcome of the caucuses could distribute a quarter to a third of the pledged delegates and the outcome of the national primary election could distribute the remaining two-thirds to three-quarters of pledged delegates.
The argument for every state having both caucuses and primary elections is that they measure support for a candidate very differently. Candidates like Obama and Sanders performed as well as they did in caucuses, because they measure the level of passion that a candidate’s supporters have for their chosen candidate, while Clinton performed better in primary elections, because they measure the organizational strength of her candidacy.
In both 2008 and 2016, Clinton tended to perform better in states that had stronger Democratic party organizations (aka blue states), while Obama and Sanders tended to perform better in states that had weaker Democratic party organizations (aka red states). This ability to perform better in caucus states and red states might have been part of what enabled Obama to win his general elections in 2008 and 2012 and what cost Clinton the general election in 2016 (Prokop, 2015). Even though she received more than three million more votes than Trump, she narrowly lost several “purple” states that gave Trump his Electoral College margin of victory. In 2020 and beyond, using both caucuses and primary elections to measure both the breadth and depth of a candidate’s support as well as the passion that their supporters have might possibly be the best way to identify a candidate that will win both the Electoral College and national popular vote.
By providing students (and possibly their parents if done as a community event rather than a school event) with an opportunity to experience something akin to the Iowa caucuses, the following simulation will give them the opportunity to decide for themselves if they are less or more democratic than primary elections as well as whether or not they provide a valuable measure for the purpose of awarding delegates to national party conventions. Most primary election voters (and their children who have joined them in voting booths) in New Jersey may have heard or read about the Iowa caucuses in the news every four years, but very few know how different they are from their familiar experience of walking into a voting booth, pulling a lever, and casting their vote.
Some participants would play the role of candidate advocates, who will each make a brief (35 minutes) speech on behalf of their candidate and also be responsible for herding caucusgoers into their respective camps once the caucusing begins, while the other participants would play the role of caucusgoers, who may or may not already know who they intend to support at the beginning of the caucus. After the speeches have been completed, the caucusgoers will be instructed to go to a designated place where their presence will support their chosen candidate.
Candidate advocates and caucusgoers can engage each other during this process to try and convince one another to support their chosen candidate. If the participants consist of both students and their parents, the parents should be instructed to allow their children to take the lead during this process and only provide guidance that helps them make these decisions on their own, not for them. Once all of the caucusgoers have chosen a candidate, the number of caucusgoers supporting each candidate are counted. In order to be considered viable, a candidate must have the support of at least 15% of the participating caucusgoers.
After viability has been determined, caucusgoers for inviable candidates are free to join with the caucusgoers of viable candidates or unite with the caucusgoers of other inviable candidates to achieve viability for one candidate. Caucusgoers for viable candidates are also free to leave their originally chosen candidate for another candidate to strategically enable another candidate to be viable. Once all of the caucusgoers have chosen a candidate, the number of caucusgoers supporting each candidate are counted again to determine viability. Once a candidate has been determined to be inviable in two consecutive rounds, that candidate is officially eliminated from being able to be considered by caucusgoers. This process is repeated until every caucusgoer is associated with a viable candidate.
If these simulations can take place in enough communities/schools, each community could be approximate an individual precinct. Depending on the number of participating communities/schools and an estimated number of participants at each “precinct”, each “caucus” can be assigned a different number of pledged delegates to be distributed amongst the viable candidates based on their final percentage of caucusgoers, which would be communicated to all of the participating communities/schools.
Klein, P. (2019, August 25). Why a contested Democratic convention is a real possibility in 2020. Washington Examiner. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/why -a-contested-democratic-convention-is-a-realpossibility-in-2020.
Audrey Cohan and Charles F. Howlett, Molloy College
Each day millions of students attend the nation’s public schools. Yet how many teachers and students have asked why we have public schools and what is their essential function? So much attention is devoted to distinct subjects within the classroom that teachers and students rarely look at learning holistically. Most schools are made of brick and motar while classrooms have whiteboards and neatly arranged desks. But what does all this mean in terms of acclimation, socialization, and accommodation? Public schooling is more than brick buildings, whiteboards, and desks within a classroom. In order to appreciate that observation it is important to look at the views of two of the country’s most famous educators: Horace Mann and John Dewey. Both were instrumental in promoting the concept of public schooling as the most valuable mechanism for furthering our democratic way of life. Educators today must reestablish the call for public education on behalf of students, families, and local communities.
From the 19th to mid-20th centuries, Mann’s Common School and Dewey’s Progressive Education considered public schooling as the foundation for access to education for all, which stands in stark contrast to this decade’s erosion of public education with a push for privatization and elite boards with little or no connection to the communities of children, which they serve. Dewey, especially, carried further Mann’s arguments at the turn of the twentieth century when public schools were being established as the “one best system” in America. Dewey’s call for public education is recognition that the early twentieth century marked a key period in the development of his views about education as a progressive movement tied to an individual’s and community’s experiences. Largely, this was in response to the rapid industrialization and urbanization of American society, which witnessed millions of new immigrants coming to the nation’s shores. In fact, when the twentieth century began, a total of 16,920,687 children were attending the nation’s schools; by 1920 the number rose to 23,360,164; by 1930 it was 28,388,346. Thus, Dewey’s support for public education was in direct response to the need for assisting immigrant children and the throngs of new students in our cities adapt to American society and become productive democratic citizens. Public schools were to become the pathway for opportunity. Dewey wrote in 1938, “I take it that the fundamental unity of the newer philosophy is found in the idea that there is an intimate and necessary relation between the processes of actual experience and education” (p.20) in a publication for Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society.
The Common School Movement as the Historical Path for Dewey’s Philosophy
Dewey’s development of his educational philosophy was influenced earlier by Horace Mann. A famous early nineteenth century educational innovator, Mann was also a product of his environmental surroundings. He embodied the reformer’s belief in progress—engendered through education—and believed that education was the basis for active citizenship. Mann postulated that Common Schools practice selfgovernment. He believed that educational reform is a “pressing necessity of democratic government” (Welter, 1965, p. 98). As a pedagogical liberal, Mann was critical of the Prussian educational system, despite its efficiency, for depriving its subjects of an opportunity to exercise democratic freedoms. What inspired Mann’s call for a Common School system in the United States was the fact the European nations ignored the fundamental principle that all citizens have a natural right to education. These concepts were later adopted by Dewey, particularly his own criticisms of German education at the turn of the twentieth century. The German “educational process,” Dewey concluded, “was taken to be one of disciplinary training rather than of personal development” (Dewey, 1915, p. 95).
Mann’s Influence in Promoting the Idea of Public Education
Horace Mann, was dedicated to the belief that public schools were a vehicle for education that would foster social mobility in this country. It was with this objective, that Mann led reform activities in many states appealing to the working class to support the Common School Movement. His ideas were premised on egalitarian principles and Jeffersonian political concepts. What Mann did was transpose Thomas Jefferson’s democratic agrarianism and apply it to the emerging industrial way of life in the northeast and subsequently the emerging middle states.
The development of education in the Northern states has been well documented (Cremin, 1951; Kaestle, 1983; Urban & Wagoner, 2004) and was the home to the Common School Movement. Many people, especially large numbers of wage earners, join the movement for public schools. It is well known that Mann was referred to as the “father of the public school” based on his praise for the common person as well as his efforts to reform education. He became a crusader for the people’s schools and was instrumental in establishing normal schools for teachers in effort to make classroom teaching more effective. Specifically, Mann helped form the Massachusetts State Board of Education and used The Common School Journal to support his message that public elementary schools were the basis of democracy and an educated society. He “decried the rifts between rich and poor” (Sadker & Zittleman, 2009, p. 143) and countered the arguments for having religious practices in the schools. Prior to the American Civil War a system of free, public education was created. Nearly all children, at least in the Northern states, were provided a free elementary education.
The Middle States, and later the Midwest, were more diverse in language, traditions, religion, and cultures than the South. This led to growth of both parochial schools as well as charity schools. The Middle colonies were, therefore, aptly named an “assimilationist common-school system” (Kaestle, 1983, p. 216). Furthermore, the Middle States benefited from industrialization, trade routes, and marketing— along with urbanization—which eventually led to the need for a more educated working class through free public education.
The education available for children in the South relied on tutors or boarding schools and colleges in the Northern states. The development of schools in the South was impacted by large plantations and farms which made it difficult for students to be educated together as in the Northern state models. Additionally, there were anti-Northern sentiments which “reinforced the opposition to Northern-style common school systems” (Kaestle, 1983, p. 213). Historically, the Southern states were mired in discourse about abolition and this hindered integration in public schools. Kaestle (1983) referred to Horace Mann as “a timid integrationist” (p. 215) in his analysis of regional differences in Common School development.
Moreover, those that opposed the Common School Movement of the 1800’s had arguments which reflect today’s attacks on public education. Regardless of where you lived in the nation, the groups that criticized a free education for all were people without children, those with grown children, or those whom send their children to private school, including the very affluent. The momentum of the Common School Movement was generated between 1820 and 1860 and by the end of this period, the notion of public education for “all” was widely accepted in the North, Middle, and Midwest. With the successful growth of the Common School Movement it is easy to forget the political struggles that set the stage for the Progressives and John Dewey to welcome additional reforms.
Focus of the Curriculum: Connections between Mann and Dewey
In his new role as Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education, Mann tried to influence others regarding his political, economic and educational goals. Urban and Wagoner (2004) contend that “he already had well-developed views about the social problems of his day but had only a little knowledge about educational problems and issues” (p. 99). Mann was a fast learner and sought to influence others with his defined moral views and expressed ideas about overcoming economic divisiveness. Horace Mann and other educations reformers of the time, including Henry Barnard, believed that “moral education was at the heart of the curriculum” (Urban & Wagoner, 2004, p. 105). This line of thinking advanced Mann’s ideology that school should be more child-centered than teacher-centered (Urban & Wagoner, 2004) and built a foundation for Dewey’s exposition within his educational philosophy.
Specifically, in terms of curriculum, Mann (1844) was influenced by Heinrich Pestalozzi and embraced his pedagogical leanings in his “Seventh Annual Report” to the Massachusetts Board of Education. Mann encouraged the reformers of the time to incorporate a pedagogy that valued young children and their ideas and interests, rather than focus strictly on memorization and routinization. He stated,
Experience has now proved that it is much easier to furnish profitable and delightful employment for all these powers, than it is to stand over them with a rod and stifle their workings, or to assume a thousand shapes of fear to guard the thousand avenues through which the salient spirits of the young play outward. (pp. 116-117)
Despite Mann’s (1840, 1989) ardent views on how to teach the young child, many educators of the time believed in discipline and conformity as the central focus of a quality education (Association of Masters of the Boston Public Schools, 1844) and further believed that a childcentered focus was a weak and ineffective way to instruct children.
Like Mann, Dewey’s views on curriculum are interwoven in many of his theses. (Boydston, 1969-1991; Dewey, 1897, 1899, 1902, 1938). Dewey often focused on the community and incorporated socialization as part of the school curriculum. In Experience and Education, Dewey (1938) opined,
A genuine community life has its ground in this natural sociability. But community life does not organize itself in an enduring way purely spontaneously. It requires thought and planning ahead. The educator is responsible for a knowledge of individuals and for a knowledge of subject-matter that will enable activities to be selected which lend themselves to social organization….(p. 56)
Similar to Mann’s views, moreover, Dewey’s educational philosophy emphasized the importance of activity, not a fixed system of doctrines. As part of his progressivist outlook, factors such as time, place, and culture were central to a distinctive mode of thinking. Intelligence, nourished by an educational system open to all, would further cultural development and communal participation. A curriculum that represents a continuous reconstruction of experience, one designed not for the preservation of the social order but for its improvement, was just as critical in Mann’s time as it was in Dewey’s—Mann’s working class constituency and Dewey’s immigrant-urban populace. Thus current attempts to establish charter schools, for instance, can only serve to perpetuate the concept of segregated communities while reinforcing the dominant social order.
Furthermore, in terms of curriculum content, Dewey argued for what one might call a democratizing educational process designed to build a global culture that was socially, economically, and culturally-based on the concept of justice and education for all. This was clearly expressed in his magnum opus, Democracy and Education (1916). Theoretically, the central theme contained in Dewey’s educational writings is that the Common School—which we refer to today as the public school—best represents the quest for community in American society. Throughout Dewey’s long and distinguished career, he consistently sought to reconcile the dualism between school and society. In doing so, he also attempted to use public education as the instrument for achieving the necessary balance between the demands of individuality and the demands of community within our democratic framework. How public schools communicate what knowledge we, as Americans, hold in common, along with what values, skills, and dispositions, Dewey argued, represented the kind of society we want our children to live in and educational system required to achieve this desired end.
Dewey’s Ideas Built upon Horace Mann’s Call for Common Schools
The concept of the Great Community (Curti, 1959) as described by John Dewey (1927), is built on the foundation of the Common School Movement. Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy and continued focus on active participation of students, parents, and teachers in the quest for equitable educational opportunities are aligned with Mann’s prescription for early public schools (Cremin, 1957), which were taxsupported and locally controlled. One important historical connection between Mann’s educational efforts (Kaestle, 1983; Reese, 2011) and Dewey’s progressive philosophy was how they addressed the issue of an emerging industrial society and how public schooling could best assist in furthering the democratic way of life.
In the early nineteenth century in New England schools were not entirely free. All parents who could afford to do so paid tuition fees so their children could attend school; the local town itself paid for only the poor, or “charity” students. The situation in the Middle and Southern states was even worse; the only access to public elementary education was provided by church schools. In the South, of course, children of slaves were entirely excluded. Throughout the various states parents had to declare themselves paupers in order to send their children to schools without paying a fee. However, in the 1820s and 1830s, particularly in the North where textile factories were prevalent, the crusade for free, tax-supported public schools was launched. Mann would lead this crusade and by the end of the century Dewey continued this campaign for public schooling as the nation’s life became more influenced by science and industry, and as more people were directly impacted by urban industrialism. Public schools were now an extension of democratic equality.
Furthering the democratic way of life was important to both Mann and Dewey. It was also tied to their belief in the importance of education for social justice. Mann promoted the concept of the Common School as a means for establishing good in society; it was better to serve the community than being fixated on profit and status. His educational philosophy was tied to moral instruction aimed at promoting proper human behavior to counter social indifference to human suffering. His influence on Dewey’s later thinking was profound. According to Curti (1959), “Mann did uphold the ideal that the true interests of the schoolroom were identical with the great interests of society—an ideal which John Dewey was much later to advocate with telling force” (p. 132). As Dewey would later insist at the turn of the new century, Mann argued for an education directed at social purposes and one for a changing world marked by the advent of industrialization. His development of the Common School idea, furthermore, was built upon the concept of political democracy, which would only succeed through a free and universal school system.
Moreover, critical to Dewey’s reconstruction of philosophy was Mann’s argument for the Common School as a social center encouraging moral development for social justice. Dewey was indebted to Mann, according to Curti (1959), because he expanded upon Mann’s initial thoughts and adapted them to his own time and place during the Progressive era:
In its function as a social center the school must…develop morality by interpreting to the individual the intellectual and social meaning of the work in which he is engaged; it must further provide for bringing people and their ideas and beliefs together in such ways as to lessen friction and to introduce deeper sympathy and understanding. (p. 524)
Dewey took Mann’s Common School for social justice one step further and popularized it with his own brand of progressive education. In a very important article “Horace Mann Today” (1936), Dewey noted that “Mann checked his faith in republican institutions by full acknowledgment of the multitude of evils in the conduct of government, the state of the electorate, and the corruption of business, which he saw growing all about him” (Dewey, 1936, p. 41). How Dewey framed his progressive education theories as a means for social justice was rooted in Mann’s own actions. Mann, according to Dewey, did not join “in urging restriction of popular government, [instead] he made the facts the basis of his passionate plea and his aggressive activity in the cause of universal free education. He saw intellectually and he felt emotionally a direct correlation between the…corrupt state of political life and the backward state of political life and the backward state of public education” (p. 41). The problem of defining the meaning of democracy and republican self-government “depended upon institution of a system of free schools” just as it was “in Mann’s time” (p. 42). Maintaining and reinforcing the public school system, Dewey insisted, “concerns every citizen who cares for the establishment of a truly democratic ways of life” and should be taken “as seriously as Mann took it in his day” (p. 42).
Moreover, applying his pragmatism to education, Dewey noted that the mind of the individual pupil was an instrument shaped by the public school. Thinking is an activity, a symbolic activity as well as an embryonic act born out of an idea. What public schooling fosters is a rejection of the notion of elitism—associated with Charter Schools in which pupils begin to view themselves as different or better than those in the public system—while acquainting students with the problems of the day and encouraging the need to interact with ordinary people, the plain people as part of a classless society. This was the American experience he called for and one that, today, is being challenged by the Charter School Movement.
In turn, Dewey ran with Mann’s earlier views that the educational process carried out through public schooling was the greatest force in changing society since its primary goal was to have students continually focus on democratic ends as one community. Public schools, catering to all its pupils, were the best mechanism for allowing each student to realize his/her full potential only by cooperation within the community. Dewey stated (1916), “It is often well in considering educational problems to get a start by temporarily ignoring the school and thinking of other human situations” (p. 52). His belief that democracy extended beyond schools and incorporated an appreciation for all people, regardless of race, culture, gender, socioeconomic status or ethnicity.
Dewey’s Focus on Peace Education and Connection to Mann
One of the clearest examples of the Mann-Dewey education connection, moreover, was their like views on the importance of world peace and criticisms of any efforts to introduce militarism in public schools. Militaristic values are autocratic and while there were private military academies to provide such training public schools act as a safeguard for preserving democratic openness of ideas. Mann insisted that schoolchildren should be taught that war is not necessarily heroic and demanded that school history textbooks devote less of their pages to the heroes of war. “What can save us, and our children after us, from eternal, implacable, universal war,” Mann queried, “but the greatest of all human powers—the power of impartial thought?” (Mann, 1855, p. 53) The issue of war, he strongly believed, “will never be settled, until we have a generation of men who are educated, from childhood, to seek for truth and to revere justice” (p. 53).
In numerous lectures and essays, Mann condemned the art of war and questioned the need for huge military expenditures (Howlett & Harris, 2010). In later years, while serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts, he addressed cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In that speech, he informed his audience that the growth of world trade, advanced technology, and greater human enlightenment portended the demise of modern warfare. In Mann’s estimation, “The object of the common Normal School is to teach teachers how to teach: so the object of the Academy is to teach killers how to kill” (Stomfay-Stitz, 1993, p. 23). Mann’s views were certainly in keeping with Dewey’s own perception on how education should approach matters related to war and peace. That was certainly made clear in one of Dewey’s pre-Columbia University lectures. “Yes it is true,” he told his University of Chicago students, “I think, as Horace Mann said, that one reformer is worth a thousand reformers.” “In other words,” he continued,
…the education that originally forms the mental attitude in a way which is helpful and significant, toward the desirable ends, is a much more economical and efficient way of getting the result than this more tentative and blind education which comes after habits and attitudes have become relatively fixed and set, and where the friction, the disturbance, the violence—emotional if not physical— and the uncertainty, the blundering, is more or less due to the premature fixation of disposition and habit. (p. 129)
The clearest evidence of Dewey’s connection to Mann’s views on peace education was Dewey’s direct participation in the 1920s and 1930s Committee on Militarism in Education. Like, Mann, Dewey opposed the authoritarian practices of military training as well as the emphasis on rigid conformity to drill. He found little educational value with respect to Teaching Social Studies: Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer-Fall 2019 73 enlightened reason. Dewey, in keeping with Mann’s views, considered education as a creative and self-developmental process; any form of strict discipline, which was being introduced in the form of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) on college campuses and the junior ROTC program in high schools, was considered counter-productive to his progressive education theories. It did little to advance Mann’s arguments that education seek truth and revere justice.
So concerned was Dewey about this movement to militarize the tone and temper of the nation’s life that he felt it his duty and obligation to acquaint the American public with the facts at hand. Is the reader aware, he wrote, “that the effort of this vested interest to militarize the country is operating deliberately and knowingly through the medium of our schools and colleges? Is he aware that the vested interest resorts to methods of aspersion and overt attack in order to intimidate those persons and organizations who oppose its efforts to get a strangle hold on our schools and in order to prevent students from being influenced by the facts and arguments these opponents present?” (Dewey, 1927a, p. 3) In his opinion, “Peoples do not become militaristic or imperialistic because they deliberately choose so to do. They become militaristic gradually and unconsciously in response to conditions of which militarism is the final consequence” (p. 4).
“Under the name of discipline and good order,” Dewey (1933/1971) also wrote in How We Think, “school conditions are often made to approximate as nearly as possible to monotony and uniformity. Desks and chairs are set in positions; pupils are regimented with military precision” (p. 53). Promoting militarism is schools posed a serious threat to democracy.” An education with “its passivity of attitude, its mechanical massing of children, its uniformity of curriculum and method” mirrors the type of training required of soldiers but does little to enhance student independence and free will (Dewey, 1899, p. 72).
Mann also complained that the state was willing to pay a militia bounty of $30,000 to soldiers for three or four training sessions, which sum easily could have “sustained the sinking hearts of those females who keep school for a dollar a week or for nine pence a day” (StomfayStitz, 1993, pp. 23-24). Mann strongly believed that future generations should be “educated to that strength of intellect which shall dispel the insane illusions of martial glory” (Stomfay-Stitz, 1993, p. 23). The continuing dilemma facing American society remains how do we as a nation address the role of military expenditures versus human needs?
Dewey raised this very same argument in the 1930s prior to America’s involvement in a second world war. He questioned why 80 percent of the national budget was allocated to paying for past and future wars in light of the War Policies Commission request for the conscription of four million men, with seven million more in reserve. Less than fourteen years after the armistice ending World War I was signed Dewey distressingly observed that “our military, naval and other future war expenditures are several hundred million dollars a year larger than before the ‘War to End War’” (Howlett & Cohan, 2016, p. 175).
Even though Dewey believed that such social institutions as the home, local government, and church, rather than the school, were the basic force in shaping minds, he did not agree with the opinion of more conservative-minded educators that the school must passively accommodate itself to external exigencies, including those promoting military training in the nation’s schools and colleges. He envisioned the school as a basis for energetic change. He argued that the school could indeed become a dynamic rather than a reflexive agency—one that would search out and reinforce concrete patterns to remake society. This reconstructivist view acknowledges that society can transform itself while at the same time enabling students and communities to realize full potentiality in the process of change. According to Dewey, It is not whether the schools shall or shall not influence the course of future social life, but in what direction they shall do so and how. In some fashion or other, the schools will influence social life anyway. But they can exercise such influence in different ways and to different ends, and the important thing is to become conscious of these different ways and ends, so that an intelligent choice may be made….(p. 351) Public schooling will become less public, less democratic, less social and more selective if the martial spirit took hold of the consciousness of impressionable young minds.
Dewey’s Call for Public Education in the Spirit of Mann
Dewey’s (1916) Democracy and Education is perhaps the strongest and most articulate call for public education as the foundation of democracy. Dewey (1916) stated “Since a democratic society repudiates the principle of external authority, it must find a substitute in voluntary disposition and interest; these can only be created by education” (p. 83). Public education, for both Mann and Dewey, was the means for preparing citizens for democracy. They both believed that the engagement of children and parents in the community was the basic lesson for future participation in governance. Examples of this were the citizenship curriculums promoted by both Mann and Dewey in which schools—and their democratic processes—were microcosms of society. Nelson, Palonsky, and McCarthy (2013) noted that, “in recent years, political theorists and education scholars have reiterated the significance of public education to democracy” (p. 100).
The objectives of public education have been undermined by the more recent growth in charter schools and the call for privatization by advocates. Many educators see the demand for charter schools as a deliberate dismantling of public education. The last three Presidents— George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama—supported charter schools as well as our current President, Donald Trump. Nelson et al., (2013) view the growth of private schools as a response to funding issues:
Over time, the idea of a public school system that deserved funding because it prepared citizens has been replaced by the idea that tax dollars should be used to improve the chances of individual children to obtain an education that will make them economically successful. Schooling was no longer seen as a way to achieve the ‘common good.’ Instead, its purpose was the ‘private good’ of individual children. (p. 59)
As the debate between public and private continues, Stitzlein (2017) underscores the responsibility of citizens in “upholding a commitment to schools as a central institution of democracy” and defines this as “democracy in action” (p. 106). She notes that Dewey connects “the means and ends of preserving democracy” (p. 106) as highlighted in Dewey’s (1937) work, “Democracy is Radical.”
Dewey’s commitment to public education for all as an extension of democratic citizenship also drew inspiration from noted social activist and settlement house reformer Jane Addams in the 1890s. Her attempts to reinforce the positive nature of liberal values with respect to adjustment for immigrants and wholesomeness for children become the basis for Dewey’s Laboratory School while teaching at the University of Chicago in the 1890s. “I cannot tell you how much good I got from my stay at Hull House,” he wrote to Addams. “My indebtedness to you for giving me insight into matter there is great….I think I got a pretty good idea of the general spirit and methods. Every day I stayed there only added to my conviction that you had taken the right way” and “I am confident that 25 years from now the forces now turned in upon themselves in various churches and agencies will be finding outlet largely through just such channels you have opened” (Dewey, January 27, 1892). Those channels also applied to how he would formulate his own progressive education theories in the new century.
Using more recent terminology such as community service and socially transformative activity, schools are still able to make a direct connection to Dewey’s call for “reorganizing, reconstructing, transforming” (Dewey, 1916, p. 48). In The School and Society, Dewey (1899) argued that the role of school and education represented the best “means of seeing the progress of the human race” (p. 48). Similarly, in Dewey’s (1916) classic work, Democracy and Education, he postulated that
….it is the business of the school environment to eliminate, so far as possible, the unworthy features of the existing environment from influence upon mental habitudes. It establishes a purified medium of action. Selection aims not only at simplifying but at weeding out what is undesirable. (p. 20)
Certainly, what Mann argued in the early part of the nineteenth century—and Dewey articulated at its conclusion and into the twentieth century— is that the fundamental bedrock for promoting the democratic way of life was through public education. The bond that ties Mann and Dewey was their steadfast faith in the Jeffersonian tradition. Mann saw it through the lens of an agrarian society, which was gradually being transformed into an industrial one; Dewey saw it during its mature industrial phase marked by rapid urbanization. In both cases, they rested their argument on the principle of egalitarianism; that is, the general diffusion of knowledge “should be the paramount concern of a republic society” (Cremin, 1965, p. 41).
Dewey’s Progressive Education Tied to Public Schooling
Dewey developed his view of progressive education following the forty years of the Common School Movement. During the 19th century, and throughout the Common School Movement, arguments about the role of morality were fought with schools as the backdrop. For example, levels of moral education (no longer based solely on religion), as well as a focus on community values, patriotism, and pledges were found in the tax-supported, locally controlled schools developed during the Common School Movement. Stevens, Wood, and Sheehan (2002) noted that “Dewey and his followers tried to leave the religious battles of the nineteenth century behind and engage school morality in the problems of the twentieth-century industrial society” (p. 153). Dewey’s progressivism, as reflected in classrooms, encouraged the students to be the facilitators of their own learning with respect for culture, interests, and preferences. Public schooling was the perfect experimental laboratory to carry out this mission. Much of the criticism launched at Dewey related to his progressive views on schooling were often labeled as overly permissive and too child-centered.
Such criticism, however, was unwarranted, especially with respect to Dewey’s charges against the child-centered wing of the progressive education movement. Throughout his career, Dewey cautioned his fellow educators to be wary of fragmented curriculum. He encouraged progressive educators to establish an intellectual, coherent, and rigorous curriculum tied to life experiences. “The school is the one form of social life,” he wrote to his first wife, Alice Chipman Dewey, which is abstracted and under control—which is directly experimental, and if philosophy is ever to be an experimental science, the construction of a school is its starting point” (Dewey, November 1, 1894). Such construction, nevertheless, required that the curriculum be structured to highlight an associated way of life as part of defining the real meaning of public education.
Furthermore, he laid out his objections to a faulty curriculum in a 1930 article that appeared in The New Republic. Dewey’s (1930) “How Much Freedom in New Schools?” noted sternly that
some of these [progressive] schools indulge pupils in unrestrained freedom of action and speech of manners and lack of manners. Schools farthest to the left (and there are many parents who share this fallacy) carry the thing they call freedom nearly to the point of anarchy. (p. 220)
More disconcerting, he added, is that Ultimately it is the absence of intellectual control through significant subject matter which stimulate the deplorable egotism, cockiness, impertinence and disregard for the rights of others apparently considered by some persons to be the inevitable accompaniment, if not the essence, of freedom. (p. 220)
Educational historian Karier (1986) points out that “Dewey conceived human nature as plastic and learning as a rationally organized experience.” Consequently, he continues, “Neither conception is compatible with the romantic, child-centered educator who generally assumed the child’s nature to be innately good and thought of the learning process as unrestrained, real-life experience” (p. 147). In a very revealing speech to the Japan Education Association Dewey’s second wife, Roberta Lowitz Grant Dewey, wrote: “Now I shall tell you here what has never before been said, John Dewey did not put a label on his ideas of education—he never called it ‘progressive education.’ He told me that he never knew who initialed the phrase ‘progressive education’ because he regarded all education which was education in the real sense of the word, as ‘progressive” (Roberta Dewey, April 7, 1955). In his view “progressive” meant “public.”
How to Define a Democratic Classroom?
Dewey’s (1916) Democracy and Education is the treatise for public education within a democratic society. When reading Dewey’s work, it becomes clear that he has tied together his vision for public education and a democratic way of life; highlighted in “democratic classrooms.” Dewey may have defined democratic classrooms differently than we do today—but how did he envision a democratic classroom? One interpretation is that democratic classrooms are safe classrooms which are free from bullying, teasing, or harassment. Carpenter (2018) argued that “democratic classrooms are safe classrooms in which students are free from intolerance and abuse” (p. 37).
Other aspects to this definition that Dewey proposed remain relevant today. He raised several important questions critical to sustaining a democratic classroom. Dewey’s (1930) writing, “The Duties and Responsibilities of the Teaching Profession” posed the following:
(1) “Should criticism of the existing social order be permitted?” and “Can pupils really be educated to take an effective part in social life if all controverted questions are excluded?” (p. 226);
(2) “Do students go forth from the school without adequate consciousness of the problems and issues they will have to face?” (p. 226);
(3) “Can a vital professional spirit among teachers be developed” unless there is “a greater degree of realization of the responsibility that devolves upon educators for the social knowledge and interest which will enable them to take part in social leadership?” (p. 227);
(4) “Can the power of independent and critical thinking…be attained when the field of thought is restricted by exclusion of whatever related to controverted social questions?” (p. 227);
(5) “How far does this principle imply—that learning goes on most readily…when it grows out of actual experience—that the structure of economic and political activities, which affect out-of-school experience, should receive systematic attention in school” (p. 228)?;
(6) “How far is the working purpose of present school work…compatible with the professed objective of democratic cooperation?” (p. 228);
(7) “How can and should the schools deal with such questions as arise from racial color and class contact and prejudice?” and “What can and should the schools do to promote greater friendliness and mutual understanding among the various groups on our population?” (p. 228); and, lastly,
(8) “Does the teaching of patriotism tend toward antagonism toward other peoples?” and “How far should the teaching of American history be designed to promote ‘Americanism’ at the expense of historical facts?” (p. 228).
Most importantly, Dewey observed, “the isolation of the school from life is the chief cause for both inefficiency and lack of vitality in the work of instruction,” which mitigates an effective and meaningful democratic classroom when tackling “the larger issues and problems of our time” (p. 229).
The Historical Link of Public Education through the Lenses of Mann and Dewey
Mann, committed to the idea of education for all as well as equal educational privileges, laid the groundwork for the progressives. Mann stated, “Society does not exhibit a more instructive or salutary lesson, than those inequalities of actual condition which result from an unequal use of equal opportunities” (as cited in Stevens et al., 2002, p. 29). The concepts of equality and fairness resonated half a century later with the Progressivists led by Dewey. Involvement of the state(s) into the field of education, as well as the development of normal schools, were notable outcomes of the Common School Movement. The trajectory for state controlled educational policies and practices, as well as pre-service and in-service teacher preparation and certification are lasting initiatives of the Common School era and are benchmarks in the quest for public education.
One lesser known initiative by Mann and discussed by Reese (2011) was his preference for standardized testing. “Despite his romantic leanings, Mann anticipated the standardized testing of the future by sponsoring citywide examinations in Boston in 1845 to demonstrate what children had learned at school, knowledge acquired by memorizing facts in textbooks” (p. 86). Years later, Dewey responded to this formalized curriculum by criticizing the memorization of facts from textbooks without critical thinking. However, Reese’s (2011) interpretation of Dewey stated, “Despite what some people believed, Dewey was never a romantic educator” (p. 140). Rather, Dewey’s extensive writing attacks the economic equalities and social injustices of the time. Yet Reese’s interpretation also brings up another important aspect to the historic arc of public education as seen through the lenses of Mann and Dewey.
Critical to any understanding of public education in American history has been its direct connection to a common culture, which, in turn, is tied to Mann’s and Dewey’s understanding of democracy. Both educational theorists recognized the need for social integration: Mann with the emerging working-class families of the textile mills in the northeast and Dewey with the immigrant populations in modern urban America. Both called for Common Schooling— one bringing together pupils from all economic classes, “creeds, and ethnic backgrounds into little ‘embryonic communities’” (Cremin, 1965, p. 61). What Mann introduced, Dewey concluded when he defined democracy as “primarily a mode of associated living” (Cremin, 1965, p. 62).
The noted educational historian Lawrence Cremin in his analysis of Mann and Dewey’s contributions to public schooling, points out that the key arc not to be overlooked is the “integrative power” of public education. What remains crucial today in terms of the new challenges presented by charter schools is that public schools exist for unification, not segregation and not separatism. As Cremin (1965) stated: For one thing, it [common schools] generated the kind of political support for public education that could and did easily cross class line. And for another, it led educators to attempt to make the schools ever more attractive to widely disparate groups. (p. 63) What public schooling accomplished was building those community relationships crucial to the democratic way of life.
Dewey’s twentieth century vision for democratic education was a critical component to his philosophy and educational theories and possibly one reason that over 100 years after his publication of The School and Society (1899), the necessity of public education is still at the center of scholarship. He continued the line of argument first promoted by Mann in order to further the democratic way of life. The legacy of Dewey as an educator, social justice activist, writer, and philosopher (Martin, 2003; Rockefeller, 1991) can be summed up by his quest for democratic public schools and equitable educational opportunities for all. His outstanding contributions to public education can be traced to the foundation for public education for all as championed by Horace Mann. The call for a “gentler philosophy” aligned—and perhaps led—to the core message of Dewey’s early writing. He is perhaps the nation’s greatest spokesperson championing the virtues of public schooling as the foundation for democratic values. What this research reveals is that without strong support for public schooling, the search for equitable access to learning for all will put in jeopardy the democratic way of life both Mann and Dewey envisioned for this “Great Community.”
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Patriotic processes and the learning of patriotism as a concept have long histories in American schools and classrooms (Martin, 2008; Mirga, 1988; Mowry, 1888). Lamenting the state of patriotic education in schools in 1888, Mowry suggested:
It is to be regretted that larger attention has not been given to instilling sentiments of patriotism into the minds of the children in the schools by means of patriotic readers, and selections from the writings of the great men connected with our political history. (p. 197)
Recent, intense public debate regarding the actions of professional athletes during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner and subsequent responses has brought the concept of patriotism to the forefront of public consciousness in a way not seen since the immediate aftermath of events on September 11, 2001. This debate, on whether players should be required to stand or be allowed to kneel in protest of social injustices, is only the most recent chapter in a long history of discussion and debate regarding patriotism in society.
To better understand the complex political, cultural, and value-laden landscapes of patriotism and patriotic display, students need opportunities to analyze their own understandings of patriotism and how different approaches to patriotism might inform societal dialogue. Further, to more deeply and proactively engage in this dialogue, students need opportunities to consider how their approaches to patriotism might be seen from various perspectives. Having experience in various perspectives can increase the contextual flexibility students need to navigate the politically charged waters of various settings while remaining open to new ways of thinking. This work can deepen students’ thoughtful patriotism and bridge diverse cultural views on patriotism (Zong, Garcia, & Wilson, 2002). Given deep experiences in analyzing approaches to patriotism, students will be more informed in their future conceptualizations regarding this enduring debate.
This article discusses questions and roleplaying scenarios that may be used to assist students in grappling with the complex nature of patriotism. It begins by encouraging students to consider how they define patriotism and how their own personal beliefs correspond with their definition. Once a working definition has been established, students are encouraged to view patriotism from multiple, diverse perspectives through role play techniques. Students then consider what role schools, teachers, and they themselves do and should play in relation to patriotism and patriotic exercises.
Working toward an operational definition of patriotism: Defining “love”
To deeply discuss the concept of patriotism, students need understanding in the different ways it is conceptualized. While patriotism is often defined simply as “love of country”, stopping at this definition without further operationalization, explanation, analysis, or critique demonstrates a shallow and blind type of patriotism (Busey & Walker, 2017; Hand & Pearce, 2009; Kodelja, 2011; Martin, 2012; Schatz, Staub, & Lavine, 1999; Westheimer, 2009).
To reflect the multiple, often more nuanced beliefs surrounding patriotism, definition and operationalization of it beyond “love of country” is needed. Indeed, for students to describe the role they believe schools should take in patriotic education, they first need to conceptualize it beyond this tagline. A common discussion point centers around two broad operationalizations of patriotism. The first, described as “authoritarian patriotism”, is patriotism as deep, or even blind, adherence to specific social and governmental structures (Busey & Walker, 2017; Westheimer, 2006, 2009, 2014). This view of patriotism is often conflated with concepts counter to basic democratic processes such as debate, dissent, and protest. Employing this view of patriotism, activities such as flag-waving, pledging allegiance, and “country first” social policies are often seen as examples of shallow and exclusionary activities. Critics of these characterizations argue that in order to maintain sense of community and self, these displays and actions are necessary, if not to be embraced.
The other broad operationalism of patriotism, “democratic patriotism”, is described as a process in which patriotic citizens engage in critique, political action, and social change (Busey & Walker, 2017; Westheimer 2014). Actions associated with this view of patriotism are often characterized as demonstrating disrespect to established authorities, customs, and social norms, minimizing the achievements of a society, and working to disrupt national and individual identities. Kneeling during the StarSpangled Banner, refusing to fight in wars, and deep questioning of civil authorities are often seen as divisive, agitative, and counterproductive economically and legislatively. Critics of these characterizations argue that these actions work to improve society through creative criticism and creative destruction.
Nested within each of these two conceptualizations of patriotism are actions that are seen both as desirable and undesirable. Certainly, individuals who demonstrate their patriotism by waving flags at civic events or standing with hand over heart during the playing of the national anthem would not view these demonstrations as blind adherence to authoritarian structures. Likewise, individuals who believe protest and questioning are patriotic would not necessarily characterize their actions as disrespectful. Though these two broad categories are often used in social discourse, the “America, love it or leave it” and the “protest is patriotic” dichotomy underestimates the complexity and the context-specific nature of how patriotism is manifested. To reflect this complexity and to deepen their understanding of how patriotism is conceptualized, students need experiences that move them beyond these decontextualized mottos.
Assisting students in considering the complexity of patriotism, beyond these two broad categories of “authoritarian patriotism” and “democratic patriotism” can help them better navigate different contexts in which patriotic acts take place. Using these categories as starting points, rather than end points, students can begin to define and operationalize for themselves the concepts of patriotism and “love of country”. While the broad categories of “authoritarian patriotism” and “democratic patriotism” as described here are both limited in philosophy and application, they serve as an introduction to the complexity of patriotism for students who may just be beginning to analyze the nature of patriotism.
Defining and conceptualizing patriotism— beyond the authoritarian/democratic dichotomy
Providing experiences in which students are challenged to consider the complexities and context-specific nature of patriotism can grow their understanding of this concept and encourage them to deeply consider the implications of their beliefs. Starting with the simple discussion question; “What does it mean to be patriotic?” can open the door to the complexity of patriotism for many. This introduction to the discussion of patriotism can quickly lead students to the exploration of different views of patriotism, perhaps even before they are aware of the labels described above. As they flesh out their definitions and corresponding examples of patriotism in action, students may find the dichotomy of authoritarian vs. democratic patriotism to be insufficient in describing the complex nature of the concept. That individual actions fall into one or the other category might be discarded as they create nuance with descriptions of context and situational factors that play a role in how patriotism is manifested. For example, the stating of the Pledge of Allegiance can be viewed as an authoritative practice, but if it is done by an individual who believes in, but does not see realized, the statement “…justice for all”, elements of democratic patriotism are applied to the action.
Asking students to describe examples of the manifestation of patriotism—what it looks like in practice— and then asking them to describe why their responses can be viewed as both patriotic and unpatriotic can work to deepen their understanding of the context specific nature of patriotic display. For example, a student may say that flag waving at a sporting event leans toward authoritarian patriotism because it does not closely link to action beyond the immediate context. A flag waving display during the funeral procession of a fallen solider, on the other hand, can be closely tied to deep action and sacrifice. Similarly, if a student states that protest in front of the US Capitol is patriotic, that individual might say that protest during the funeral of a fallen soldier is unpatriotic and should be discouraged, if not outlawed. Encouraging students to consider and discuss the questions in Table 1 can assist them in refining their definitions of patriotism, articulating how their definitions are manifested, and contextualizing the “patriotic-ness” or “unpatriotic-ness” of those manifestations.
Table 1: Discussion questions—Defining and contextualizing patriotism
How do you define the terms “patriotism” and “patriotic”?
What are ways your definitions of “patriotism” and “patriotic” are demonstrated?
Describe actions that individuals engage in to demonstrate their patriotism.
Under what conditions might the actions you describe be seen as un-patriotic?
Describe whether there are “absolute” demonstrations of patriotism that cannot be viewed as unpatriotic.
Why might people disagree about which actions are patriotic and which actions are unpatriotic?
Describe what factors play a role in determining whether an action is patriotic or not.
A major aim of these questions and subsequent discussions is to disrupt the commonly understood dichotomy of authoritarian or democratic patriotism. As students work to refine and operationalize their definitions of patriotism, recognizing that patriotism is also deeply informed by contextual considerations reflects the complex nature of the concept. Understanding that specific practices can be viewed as both patriotic and unpatriotic, given the context, students can more deeply view patriotism from multiple perspectives, adding to their conceptualization of this complex concept.
Viewing patriotism from multiple perspectives—Adding context to the complex Once students have deeply considered the complexities and various manifestations of patriotism, they can be encouraged to grow in their understanding by working to view it from various perspectives. Working to view patriotism and patriotic display from various perspectives put into practice, and up for further debate, the various definitions and operationalizations of the concepts.
Key to thinking beyond the dichotomy of authoritarian vs. democratic patriotism is experience in context and perspective. Role playing, in which they are given a specific context and action combined with various perspectives, can stretch students’ conceptualization of patriotism beyond this dichotomy. Though role playing does not completely reflect the complex positioning of individuals, it can be an effective step in working to break the false dichotomy of authoritarian patriotism and democratic patriotism and deepening understanding of the nature of patriotism itself.
Layering on top of previous discussions regarding the context-specific nature of patriotic display, students are asked to articulate the perspectives that various community members may have. Shown in Table 2 are role-playing prompts that can be used with students to apply their conceptualizations of patriotism, then put those conceptualizations to practical test.
Table 2: Role play scenarios—Multiple perspectives of patriotic display
A citizens group has requested the local school perform a flag-raising ceremony, national anthem, Pledge of Allegiance, and short speech by the principal on the values of American unity. They request this ceremony to take place on Patriot Day, September 11. This group has made the request at a recent school board meeting. The community is located near a military base and many service members send their children to the school.
You will be assigned one of the following roles: citizen’s group member, school board member, parent of child (active military), parent of child (no direct military connection), school principal, student in support of the ceremony, student against the ceremony. Please respond to the following questions:
Describe, from your assigned perspective, whether or not the requested ceremony is appropriate for the school to conduct.
Describe, from your assigned perspective, the reasoning for your support or critique of the requested ceremony.
Describe, from your assigned perspective, why your critics are incorrect.
Describe, from your assigned perspective, the shortcomings of your perspective.
Now released from your assigned perspective, describe your thoughts on the situation, the various perspectives, and what insights you have gained regarding patriotism.
There is word going through the school that a group of students want to conduct a walk-out protest during the morning recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. When asked, an identified member of this student group states that it is to bring awareness to the lack of justice for minority citizens in the community. Their plan is to leave class, march around the outside of the school building with signs, then return to class within 20 minutes. The community has diverse ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics and, according to recent election data, is well divided between Republican, Democrat, and independent voters.
You will be assigned one of the following roles: student group member, school board member, parent of child (in support of protest), parent of child (in opposition to protest), school principal, teacher in support of protest, teacher in opposition to protest. Please respond to the following questions:
Describe, from your assigned perspective, whether or not protest is patriotic or unpatriotic.
Describe, from your assigned perspective, the reasoning for your support or critique of the protest.
Describe, from your assigned perspective, why your critics are incorrect.
Describe, from your assigned perspective, the shortcomings of your perspective.
Now released from your assigned perspective, describe your thoughts on the situation, the various perspectives, and what insights you have gained regarding patriotism.
Rather than come to definitive conclusion on the particular scenarios, the process of working to better appreciate various perspectives of patriotism applied in different contexts is a major goal of this activity. As students work to view the scenarios from perspectives they may not share, the requirement to articulate both the strengths and weaknesses of the perspectives encourages them to broaden their understanding of the concepts of patriotism and patriotic display. Additionally, the inclusion of brief descriptions of the contexts in which the situations take place encourage students to consider how environmental characteristics may inform the patriotism discussion.
A challenge with the role-play activity lies in the potential stereotyping of perspectives. Spending adequate time with question 5 in Table 1, in which students are encouraged to discuss their thoughts on the various roles, can work to address this concern. Single-dimension perspectives can be discussed in hindsight and grown into more nuanced and complex positions. Discussion of stereotypical views, after the roleplaying questions, can also work to counter the false dichotomy of authoritarian vs. democratic patriotism by deepening understanding of the intricacies of the positions.
Patriotism in schools—Student analysis of their environments
Because many states mandate patriotic education and demonstration in public schools, students are afforded opportunity to put their understandings of patriotism to immediate test through analysis of their own environments. The deeply embedded and often emotional nature of how patriotism is manifested in schools are testaments to the importance of its study by the students who experience them. In analyzing the patriotic displays of their own school settings, students are encouraged to bridge a perceived gap between societal discourse and their day-today educational experiences. Discussion questions in Table 3 focus on students’ own school settings and the patriotic processes therein. [Table 3]
Applying the complex and context specific nature of patriotism and patriotic display through role-play scenarios and discussion questions, students are encouraged to more deeply understand various perspectives through specific examples. Rather than lock students into a single definition and views on how “good” patriotism is shown, deep analysis of the concept and its practices, combined with role playing activities, uncovers the situational nature of what it means to be patriotic. Layering a more sophisticated understanding of patriotism and how it is manifested with experiences in viewing these concepts from various perspectives, students are in better position to engage in societal debate regarding this complex and intimately contextual concept.
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Erica M. Southworth, St. Norbert College; Jenna Kempen, St. Norbert College; Melonie Zielinski, Port Washington High School, Port Washington, WI
At the start of the twenty-first century, Clark, Ayton, Frechette, and Keller (2005) conducted a content analysis study focusing on the visibility of women in social studies textbooks and published their findings in the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) publication Social Education. In their article, “Women of the World, Re-write!,” Clark et al. discussed how their study specifically analyzed popular United States secondary world history textbooks in order to determine whether or not women’s inclusion in the texts had increased or decreased between 1960s, 1980s, and 1990s editions of each textbook. The purpose of conducting their study was to investigate whether or not a previous report by Sadker and Sadker (1994) concerning the invisibility of women in a 1991 world history textbook applied to most 1990s texts and to see if world history textbooks had improved in promoting women’s inclusion (Clark et al., 2005).
As a result, Clark and his colleagues did find evidence that women were severely marginalized in world history texts despite the fact that the percentages of women’s inclusion had increased over the three decades. For example, Clark et al. reported that women’s inclusion increased in five of their six coding indicators: (1) Ratio of Women to Men in Index; (2) Percent of Pages Mentioning Women; (3) Women about Whom a Paragraph is Devoted; (4) Percent of Sentences Mentioning Women and (4) Percent of Pictures with Women. Yet the highest percent Clark et al. found was 37.9% in the Percent of Pictures with Women indicator, demonstrating a woeful imbalance between male and female representation in textbooks throughout the twentieth century. The question now is has female inclusion increased in twenty-first century world history textbooks since the study by Clark et al.?
Our professional positionalities as females in secondary social studies education encouraged us to delve deeper into this question. Erica is a former secondary social studies teacher and currently serves as a pre-service social studies methods assistant professor. She is well aware that the NCSS updated the 1994 National Curriculum Standards and the ten newly revised standards provide educators with a more focused framework for constructing a more holistic social studies curriculum (NCSS, 2010), however, she wondered if textbook publishers had followed that educational trend as well. Jenna is currently a secondary social studies pre-service teacher and Melonie is currently in her second year as a full-service secondary social studies teacher. Both Jenna and Melonie wondered to what extent they, as twenty-first century social studies educators, would need to find additional curriculum and historical documentation of women’s accounts and experiences if textbooks still contained male-biased content.
The following article outlines how we conducted a replication study from a feminist research lens of the content analysis performed by Clark et al. (2005) and analyzed 2000 and 2010 editions of nationally available secondary world history textbooks. Unfortunately, our findings revealed that the call put forth by Clark et al. for women to “rewrite” has been largely ignored as very little to no progress has been made towards the equitable inclusion of women in twenty-first century secondary world history textbooks. We conclude by re-emphasizing the need for social studies educators of all genders to join the movement for women’s inclusion and that all of us, as a collective whole, should strive to achieve this goal by advocating for genderbased reforms in state and national social studies exam content in addition to the on-going call for textbook content revisions.
Review of the literature
Our literature review consisted of a twostep process. First, we reviewed the studies pertaining to women’s visibility noted by Clark et al. (2005) to ground our study. These included the published findings of Commeyras and Alvermann (1996), Sadker and Sadker (1994), Tetreault (1989), and Trecker (1971), all of which indicated a distinct pattern of women’s omission and/or marginalization in textbooks. Another study cited by Clark et al. (2005), however, indicated significant statistical increases in percentage comparisons of women’s visibility in textbooks textual lines discussing women and textbook pages devoted to women in textbooks published in the latter part of the twentieth century (Clark, Allard, & Mahoney, 2004). These findings deviated greatly compared to studies from earlier decades (Arlow & Froschl, 1976; R. Lerner et al., 1991; Trecker, 1971; Weinbaum, 1979). Yet none of the increases found in Clark et al. (2004) brought female visibility to an equitable balance with that of males.
Studies also confirmed textbooks’ use of the contributionist theory (Commeyras & Alvermann, 1996; Sadker & Sadker, 1995). The contributionist theory, commonly referred to as fragmentation or the contributionist method, occurred most frequently as a solution to quell calls from Women’s Movement activists concerning gender-biased textbooks. This method attempts to incorporate women into texts by inserting a picture, a vignette, or a textbox isolating the information and suspending them in a “fragmented” form that is separated from the main body content (Sadker, Sadker, & Long, 1989; Sadker & Zittleman, 2007; Stalker, 1998; Trecker, 1971). The segregated nature of fragmentation reinforces gender stereotypes of women’s minimal influence in history and dismisses any regard for women’s cultural significance as a group (Sadker et al., 1989; Sadker & Zittleman, 2007).
In the second part of our literature review process, we searched for and reviewed additional content analysis studies regarding women’s visibility and/or agency in secondary world history textbooks published between 2005 and 2014 in peer-reviewed journals to see how the topic of women in textbooks had progressed since the study by Clark et al. (2005). We used the term agency because it allowed us to expand our review and because of its use in both anthropology and feminist research. From an anthropological perspective, agency consists of the study of why an individual chose to act in the manner they did, including what cultural influences might have contributed to the act(ions) (Geertz, 1973). And, according to feminist researchers Abu-Lughod (2008) and McNay (2000), the term “agency” further serves as an explanation of how gender identity is formed and potentially malleable in social contexts; all of which directly connect to how textbook content (social artifacts) are interpreted from a gendered perspective.
Searching for additional content analyses that matched the above criteria produced two important outcomes. The most significant outcome was that no content studies emerged from this search, including any study that attempted to replicate and/or build upon the study conclusions found by Clark et al. (2005) regarding women’s inclusion in twenty-first century secondary world history textbooks. In this capacity, our study helps fill this void by providing social studies educators with a continuum of how the newest editions of previously analyzed textbooks have – or have not – addressed the marginalization of women.
The second outcome is that two other peer-reviewed articles regarding women’s visibility in textbook imagery (Woyshner, 2006) and gender bias (Blumberg, 2008) did emerge and spoke to the breadth of omission of women’s historical agency. Woyshner (2006), for example, notes that students may see only one or two pictures of women in textbooks yet they are supposed to cobble together an understanding of women’s overall impacts and contributions in history based on just this meager representation. Blumberg (2008) analyzed textbook and educational testing data from countries and regions all over the world, including the United States, and concludes that Gender Bias in Textbooks (GBIT) is worldwide and can play a role in diminishing girls’ achievements. These post-2005 sources help contextualize the historic and continued struggle of women’s (equitable) inclusion in social studies textbooks by pointing out the ever-prevalent scarcity and marginalization of female agents.
The primary research question for this study builds off of the study performed by Clark et al. (2005) in that we investigated whether or not women’s visibility in world history textbooks had increased in the 2000s and 2010s editions in comparison to the 1960-1990s editions of the same textbooks (as published by Clark et al.). To answer this research question, we deliberately selected four gender indicators used by Clark et al.: (1) Ratio of Women to Men in Index; (2) Percent of Pages Mentioning Women; (3) Ratio of Named Women to Men in Pictures; and (4) Percent of Sentences Mentioning Women.
Although not noted as an indicator, Clark et al. also included findings and discussion on the ratio of female to male textbook authors in their study, tentatively proposing that textbooks with female authors – specifically those with a female lead / primary author – were inclined to have higher ratings of women’s visibility. Our second research question, therefore, asked whether the number of female textbook authors could continue to serve as an indicator of women’s visibility in textbooks.
Feminist theory and research served as the theoretical lens for this study because it focuses on “women’s issues, voices, and lived experiences” (Hesse-Biber, 2014, p. 3). Feminist theory and research also aims to investigate areas of power contention between genders and advocates for social transformations if unequal divisions of power exist (Crotty, 1998; HesseBiber, 2014). Clark et al. (2005) did not directly mention the use of this paradigm as the foundation of their study; however, their research was, indeed, feminist-based. Clark et al. also specifically referenced other content analysis studies that utilized a feminist research lens such as Commeyras and Alvermann (1996) and Trecker (1971). Additionally, Commeyras and Alvermann (1996) used Offen’s (1988) definition of feminism in that feminism serves as a method for analyzing the levels of cultural influence wielded by the sexes to determine where balance should be celebrated and where the presence of female societal subordination, due to male privilege, should be changed. Offen’s definition provides a succinct and relevant description of feminism that Commeyras and Alvermann (1996) used to ground their content analysis. We believed this definition to be highly applicable to our replication study as well and feminist theory served as our theoretical framework. This framework recognizes the female-male (sex) binary concept aligned with the idea of creating equality between the sexes through research and political transformations, a shared goal among second and third wave feminists (Ashcraft, 1998; Evans, 1995; Hesse-Biber, 2014; Hoffman, 2001; Lerner, 1986; Mann & Huffman, 2005).
For their study, Clark et al. (2005) used the lists of recommended textbooks or rankings of nationally adopted textbooks published by the American Textbook Council. Unfortunately, the American Textbook Council no longer houses these lists due to a severely reduced pool of textbook publishers (American Textbook Council, 2018). Currently only three major publishers exist: Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (American Textbook Council, 2018). We therefore could not get the exact twenty-first century editions of all twelve textbooks originally analyzed by Clark et al. because some of the texts no longer exist. Instead we compiled a sample of five 2000 and 2010 editions of secondary world history textbooks previously analyzed by Clark et al. (2005), or the closest version possible, in order to model our content analysis study as closely as possible to that of Clark et al. (Table 1).
Table 1: Textbook sample
Prior to coding the textbooks, we conducted an independent pilot coding test to ensure all of our coding variables were identified appropriately with foundational and concrete coding descriptions using as much insight from Clark et al. (2005) as possible. Jenna and Melonie, our designated textbook coders, then also completed a Cohen’s kappa statistic to ensure an intercoder agreement statistic of 85% or above. These steps followed recommended content analysis study research protocol in regards to strengthening coder training and increasing the reliability of our study (Neuendorf, 2011; 2017). Upon completing these tasks successfully, the designated coders proceeded to code the textbooks on the following predetermined indicators that previously used by Clark et al. (2005): (1) Ratio of Women to Men in Index; (2) Percent of Pages Mentioning Women; (3) Ratio of Named Women to Men in Pictures; and (4) Percent of Sentences Mentioning Women.
As in Clark et al. (2005), we relied on the index of each textbook when coding data for all indicators and, if gender proved ambiguous in a name listed in the index, we referenced the surrounding text and/or supplemental text for pronoun context clues on pages that cited the historical agent in question. If gender still could not be determined after referencing all of the noted textbook pages, we listed the agent as “gender neutral” rather than seeking gender confirmation in other resources (e.g., internet, books). We followed this procedure based on the rational that if a high school student reads the text and had no prior background knowledge of the agent in question, the student would not be able to determine the agent’s gender either. In consideration of indicator four, and deviating from the 1-in-10 systematic sample process used by Clark et al., we counted every line that mentioned women in each textbook using the index as our guide. In each index, for example, we found “Catherine the Great” listed and examined each corresponding textbook page listed after her name for our line (sentence) counts. We counted each line only once, even when an agent and the same page number was listed more than once in the index, to prevent skewed data. We felt this process of sentence data collection was appropriate since we had a much smaller sample to analyze compared to Clark et al. and because this provided the most accuracy in regards to data collection and for analysis purposes. We housed all of our data in Google Spreadsheet grids that we specifically created for this study.
We reviewed the results of our study in a two-tiered process. First, we examined the results generated from each twenty-first century textbook in comparison with the other texts in our sample. Then we compiled the results and compared them by decades with the findings of Clark et al. (2005).
Women’s visibility in 2000 and 2010 world history textbook editions
Our findings, like those of Clark et al, revealed that twenty-first century secondary world history textbooks continue to marginalize female historical agents (Table 2). We found in the Ratio of Women to Men in Index indicator that twelve women were listed for every 100 men listed at best (Ellis & Esler, 2005) and only eight for every 100 at worst (Judge & Langdon, 2012). The Percent of Pages Mentioning Women never rose to even a quarter (25) percent and, at worst, was less than ten percent (Beck, Black, Krieger, Naylor, & Shabaka, 2012). Regarding the Ratio of Names of Women to Men in Pictures, approximately 15 women were mentioned for every 100 men in three of the texts (Farah & Karls, 2001; Beck, et al., 2012; Judge & Langdon, 2012) and in one text 17 women to every 100 men were noted (Ellis & Esler, 2005). Only 11 women per 100 men were found in the last text (Beck et al., 2005). Concerning the Percent of Sentences Mentioning Women indicator, four textbooks attributed approximately one percent of content to sentences about women (Beck et al. 2005; 2012; Ellis & Esler, 2005; Judge & Langdon, 2012) and one textbook attributed two percent (Farah & Karls, 2001).
Table 2: Findings of 2000 and 2010 Editions Secondary World HistoryTextbooks
When we compiled our sample findings into decade statistics (Table 3) we discovered that the Ratio of Women to Men and Pages Mentioning Women indicators in textbooks published in the 2000s increased since the 1990s, continuing a trend from the 1980s to the 1990s as noted by Clark et al. (2005). Unfortunately, these two indicators decreased in textbooks from the 2000s to the 2010s. This decreasing trend also occurred in the Names of Women to Men in Pictures and Sentences Mentioning Women indicators from the 1990s to 2010s.
Table 3: Comparison of Women and Men’s Visibility in Textbooks through the Decades Decade
Additionally, Clark et al. conducted ttests in their 2005 study based on decade (i.e., averaged data from the 1960s, 1980s, and 1990s) and reported that eight out of the twelve tests found statistically significant differences between the decades when comparing the indicators of female visibility in textbooks. Specifically, four t-tests found statistically significant differences between the 1960s and 1980s textbook data and four t-tests found the same results between the 1980s and 1990s textbook data. Although our sample was considerably smaller than that used by Clark et al., we also performed t-tests to determine whether differences between our 2000 and 2010 indicator data was statistically significant. Not surprisingly, the results of our t-test between the 2000 and 2010 textbook editions of Patterns of Interactions and the t-test between the 2000 and 2010 textbook editions of Connections were not significant at the .01 level.
Female Textbook Author(s) as an Indicator of Women’s Visibility in Textbooks
Finally, Clark et al. noted that any increases in female visibility in textbooks across the study’s indicators might be attributed to female authorship of the texts. We also examined the number of female and male authors for each text in our sample to see if any potential similar patterns surfaced. We found that the 2000 textbooks had four female and five male authors, while the 2010 textbooks had two female and five male authors (Table 4). Two of the 2000s textbooks, World History: Connections to Today and World History: The Human Experience, had an equal ratio of female to male authors including the sole lead female author (Ellis & Esler, 2005). These two texts also had the highest percentages in the Women to Men in Index and Named Women to Men indicators; Human Experience also had the highest percent regarding Sentences Mentioning (Table 2).
When comparing women’s inclusion via decade, the 2000s clearly show an increase in women’s visibility in three of the four indicators since the 1990s (Table 3). In this case, both the 1990s sample had four female authors, including one lead author (Clark et al.), and the 2000s sample had four female authors, including one lead author (Table 4). Between the 2000s and 2010s, however, the female to male author ratio dipped to an unequal balance of two females and five males and women’s visibility decreased in three of the four indicators. The sole indicator that increased only did so by 0.2 percent.
Table 4: Comparison of Women and Men Textbook Authors in 2000 and 2010 Textbooks
Based on the findings of our study, it is evident that women’s visibility in world history textbooks has decreased in the 2000s and 2010s editions in comparison to the 1960-1990s editions of the same textbooks (as published by Clark et al.). Individually, 2000 and 2010 editions of secondary world history textbooks continue to grossly marginalize female historical agents as women were represented less than a quarter of the time in each of the four indicators. Drawing once again from Offen’s (1988) definition of feminism, this indicates a distinct level of imbalance between the levels of cultural influence wielded by the sexes due to male privilege exists in secondary world history textbooks and this further legitimizes female societal subordination.
Equally depressing were the compiled decade findings of our study in comparison with the findings of Clark et al. (2005). Clark et al. reported increases in four indicators between the 1960s and 1980s data and increases again in three indicators between the 1980s and 1990s data, although none of the increases resulted in more than a 22% representation of women. Our findings, unfortunately, indicated only increases in two indicators between the 1990s and 2000s data and a 0.2% increase in one indicator between the 2000s and 2010s data. Clearly, the distinct pattern of women’s omission and/or marginalization in textbooks found by Commenyras and Alvermann (1996), Sadker and Sadker (1994), Tetreault (1989), and Trecker (1971) has continued well into the twenty-first century. As Blumberg (2008) states, Gender Bias in Textbooks (GBIT) is worldwide and can play a role in diminishing girls’ achievements and such socio-gender patterns are detrimental to all students’ well-being as well as their understanding of social studies.
Gender of textbook author: A questionable indicator of women’s visibility
In 2005, Clark et al. stated that “Trecker’s (1971) Social Education article or the women’s movement (or both) did, in fact, have an impact on the way world history books have been written. […] We notice, however, that an influx of women authors for the books may have also played a role.” (p.44) We believe that this statement made by Clark et al. continues to be a good discussion point concerning the potential positive correlation between female textbook authors and female visibility in textbook content, especially in studies grounded in feminist theory. Examining the possible power hierarchies between genders and advocating for social transformations if inequitable power divisions exist comprises the focus of feminist research (Crotty, 1998; HesseBiber, 2014). It is important, however, to be extremely mindful of all the data when examining potential gender power hierarchies. In our study, for example, we found that the two textbooks with equitable female to male author ratios (and one with a lead female author) had higher percentages in almost all four indicators of women’s visibility. Yet it is equally important to note that 23.3% was the highest percentage found in all four indicators for these two textbooks, which is despairingly low, and this is more than 10 percent points below 37.9%, the highest indicator percentage reported by Clark et al. (2005).
In addition, both Patterns of Interaction textbooks had the same authors for the 2005 and 2012 editions and, despite having two female authors for each edition, the findings in Table 2 show that women’s visibility only advanced in the Named Women to Men in Pictures indicator; all other 2012 indicators mirrored the same percentages as the 2005 edition. To expound on this comparison, Connections: A World History was the only textbook in our sample with no female authors, yet this textbook had higher percentage findings than both editions of Patterns of Interaction in all indicators except one.
Finally, it is important to note that while textbook publishers typically hire academics and experts as authors, publishers can also perform a considerable amount of editing and content revisions after authors have submitted their respective contributions (Jobrack, 2012; Lowen, 2007). In this regard, the published textbook content may not accurately reflect the original content contributed by the hired authors so author gender data may not be a very accurate measure of gender-balanced content. We believe that our study’s t-test findings supports the idea of textbook publishers’ hesitation to alter text content from edition to edition since no statistically significant progress was made in women’s inclusion in content between the 2000 and 2010 editions of our sample textbooks. At this point, we believe that there needs to be further exploration in this area prior to determining whether a positive correlation exists between female authorship and the amount and degree of female inclusion in textbooks.
Implications for practice
Well over a decade has passed since Clark et al. published their study and our findings indicate that women’s inclusion in textbooks remains pitifully low in twenty-first century secondary world history textbooks. Solutions put forth by other women’s agency advocates, such as asking educators to supplement the textbook with women’s agency resources (Blumberg, 2008; Woyshner, 2006), only place additional curriculum burdens on educators and they do not incite uniform change in textbook content. This raises the question of whether women’s exclusion from secondary history textbooks continues to occur because of gender or because of the traditional emphasis on historically “male” events, such as war, since the reduction of this content would require extensive and expensive revisions by textbook publishers (Jobrack, 2012; Noddings, 1997). To complicate matters further, the selection of world history textbooks has shrunk dramatically to include only the products from three major publishers (American Textbook Council, 2018). This small pool of textbook publishers can negatively affect social studies teachers’ availability to secure the gender-diversified curriculum materials, which could enable teachers to implement a more gender inclusive, and holistic social studies curriculum. This, of course, also affects teachers’ abilities to scaffold learning opportunities for their students so that students can successfully meet the updated NCSS National Curriculum Standards (NCSS, 2010).
To address this dilemma, we believe that there must be a “high stakes” goal to revive and revitalize the agenda of gender equality in textbooks and, more importantly, to succeed indefinitely in providing social studies students with more holistic – and realistic – historic perspectives. In this vein, we propose a push by social studies educators for national and state social studies test revisions, rather than “just” textbook revisions, as the high stakes goal moving forward in the twenty-first century.
National and state social studies tests: A “rigged” system
Companies that produce textbooks are also often involved in the creation and production of national and state test materials. In our state, for example, McGraw-Hill has been a test/assessment design partner with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in Wisconsin since 1975 (Wisconsin Department of Instruction, n.d). As a codesigner, McGraw-Hill representatives helped determine the assessment questions that would evaluate the subject-proficiency of Wisconsin students in grades 4, 8, and 10 in the areas of social studies, reading, science, math, and language arts/writing (Wisconsin Department of Instruction, n.d.). The 2017 Wisconsin Forward Exam Social Studies Grade 10 Item Samplers (2017) offers 17 sample questions and in these 17 questions the term “women” is only mentioned twice: once as an incorrect answer to a question about (male) veterans’ benefits in the 1950s and once in a sample document that students need to read in order to answer two sample questions (“women” were not mentioned in either of the questions’ text or multiple choice answers). No questions specifically noted an individual woman or named a woman. In contrast, six of the questions referenced male dominant groups (e.g., veterans, mid-1800s European Leaders, Congress) and five individual men were referenced by name in four questions (i.e., Henry Ford, Albert Beveridge, Roland Damiani, Muhammad, Jesus) (Wisconsin Department of Instruction, 2017.). This example demonstrates the reinforcement of distorted gender patterns found in textbook content on a deeper and more extensive level with required state exams rather than being confined to “just” the classroom.
Protest against testing materials: Use AP art teachers as a model
It is imperative for us, as an educational community, to consider all the angles, including protesting and/or boycotting state and national testing materials, when advocating for an equitable increase in women’s visibility and agency in world history textbooks. As an example, we could look to implement a movement similar to what artists and art educators did when they protested against the Advanced Placement (AP) College Board’s high school AP Art Exam. In this movement, the artists and art educators banded together and advocated for the inclusion of traditionally marginalized groups of artists in the AP Art History curriculum (Urist, 2016). In response to the social and educational pressure, the AP College Board revised its AP Art History curriculum from a predominantly Eurocentric focus to curriculum of artwork diversified by race and gender. The revised, more holistic curriculum allowed AP art teachers to provide more meaningful discussion opportunities with their students and, by extension, allowed students to make meaningful cultural connections to the art, too (Urist, 2016).
In sum, the results of our study exemplifies how Clark et al.’s (2005) call “Women of the world, re-write!” has not been answered in almost two decades. Instead, women’s visibility in secondary world history textbooks remains discouragingly low in comparison to men’s, despite the presence of female textbook authors, serving only to reaffirm the traditional and marginalized position of women as “observers of history” rather than as equitable contributors of history. The lack of women’s visibility in history within textbooks perpetrates doubt and confusion among students while simultaneously calling into question women’s’ ability to thrive in all cultural components of their society (Sadker & Sadker, 1995). Instead, we as social studies educators need to present a more accurate historical understanding of social studies through multiple perspectives in world history texts, especially gender, to ensure that our students can meet state and national social studies standards. To accomplish this, we need to begin strongly advocating for equal gender representation in national and state social studies tests as an extension of textbook revision. With test revision as our “high stakes” education goal, we might also see goal of second and third wave feminists – to create equality between the sexes via political transformation – finally come to fruition in the twenty-first century (Ashcraft, 1998; Evans, 1995; Hesse-Biber, 2014; Hoffman, 2001; Lerner, 1986; Mann & Huffman, 2005).
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For the past decade or so, as a school administrator and adjunct professor of school law, I have had the opportunity to talk to educators about the particular pitfalls posed by technology and social media use by teaching staff. Unfortunately, I have been witness to far too many neophyte teachers getting into trouble on digital platforms, and I like to view these talks as sort of a preemptive measure. As I often say to young, enthusiastic educators who have grown up as digital natives, paraphrasing an old appliance commercial that none of them have ever heard of; “You can listen to me now, or you could potentially listen to someone else in my position later.”
Now, without question, it is essential that teachers are preparing students to be successful in a global digital world, and there are considerable benefits that come from being a wired professional. By no means do I intend to diminish those important points, but our interconnected world of technology and social media seems to give teachers new and innovative ways to get into trouble each year, so I like to share the following fifteen key points with them:
1. Educators can be active, visible and accessible with their private life on social media but it’s kind of like Chris Rock says; you can also drive a car with your feet, but that doesn’t make it a darn good idea.
2. As soon as an educator assumes their duties, they are public figures, they get paid with tax dollars, and people hand over to them what they care about most in the world-their children. There is an expectation that educators will be role models. Some may think that is unfair, and perhaps do not feel the need to carry themselves like a role model, but it is probably not a good idea to broadcast that to the world on social media.
3. It is very hard work, takes a lot of time, and costs a bunch of money to become a teacher. But the brutal truth is that in this modern digital era, a whole career and the work that went into it can disappear in the blink of an eye.
4. Educators who are active and visible with their private lives on social media are a lot like that NFL player who was fooling around with fireworks. It may be fun, and it may be cool, but it is also pretty dangerous, and can have a disastrous impact on your career.
5. On one occasion, I was dealing with a teacher whose inappropriate Facebook postings got them in a bit of professional hot water. The teacher defiantly stated, “That’s my private life!” The wise superintendent that I worked for responded, “I agree, and I wish it stayed there.”
6. Educators are, of course, citizens in a democratic society, and have the right to have political views and opinions. But if you ever post something that makes a student think that this person does not like me because of how I am, or what I believe, or what I look like, then that impacts your ability to teach that child, and to do your job. That is simply unacceptable.
7. It may not be the best idea to leave a trail of your thoughts, musings, observations, events and festivities on any kind of digital platform. And always keep in mind; a picture is a right-click from being somebody else’s property forever.
8. If an educator is going to be active on social media, they should follow this proverbial smell test before they post: “Yep, my grandmother would be okay with this.” Also, make sure all your privacy settings are appropriate, and remember, nobody has 900 true friends, and some of these so-called social media friends, may not even like you.
9. If you are a teacher of elementary students, the parents will track down and scrutinize your digital footprint, because they want to know all about the person who will be taking care of their babies. By the time kids get to high school and parents just want these darn teenagers out of their house, it is the students who will investigate your internet presence.
10. Remember certain tweets, photos and postings don’t age well. Society changes, values change, attitudes change. To quote the late-20th century philosopher Homer Simpson, “Everything looks bad if you remember it.”
11. Never post anything negative about your students on social media. I once encountered a teacher who shared a student’s writings with mocking commentary on Facebook. It eventually got back to the parents of the child. As you could imagine, the consequences were very bad for that educator. Also, don’t complain about your job as a public servant online. Nobody wants to hear it.
12. Dance like nobody is watching. Email like it one day may be subpoenaed and read in court. Emails live forever on some server somewhere. If global nuclear Armageddon ever occurs, the only things left will be cockroaches and that inappropriate joke you never should have forwarded.
13. Emails are also a treacherous form of communication, As someone who has seen the dreaded misuse of “Reply All,” and witnessed “This mother is as dumb as her kid,” being emailed to said alleged stupid mother, all I can recommend is to look closely before hitting send. It is also very difficult to distinguish tone or sarcasm in an email. Keep things brief, specific and focused on information only.
14. With every student having a camera and recorder in their pocket, it is a dangerous time to be a teacher, and losing your temper or doing something stupid could have disastrous consequences. This “teacherbaiting” ploy, where one student gets the teacher mad while another student records it, is a very real danger. In this day and age, you always have to carry yourself like you are being recorded, because you very well may be.
15. Never hand your personal smart phone, containing pictures and other private information, to a student. I have seen this go remarkably bad.
The current divisive debate over national immigration policy has two sets of confrontational positions. On one side, advocates of immigration favor a liberal policy of admitting sizable numbers of immigrants, no discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, or national origin, and protection of undocumented immigrants. On the other side, President Trump is the leading spokesperson and advocate for building a wall on our southern border with Mexico, banning certain immigrants from entering the country, and deporting those living here illegally, many of whom, he insists, are criminals.
The debate in some ways echoes discussions in the nation a century ago.
In 1921, the vice president published an article entitled “Whose Country Is This?” in the popular magazine Good Housekeeping. “We are confronted by the clamor of multitudes who desire the opportunity offered by American life,” the author noted. But America has no place for “the vicious, the weak of body, the shiftless or the improvident . . . Our country must cease to be regarded as a dumping ground.” People accorded the privilege of immigrating to the U.S. should become productive, patriotic citizens. “It would not be unjust to ask of every alien: What will you contribute to the common good, once your were admitted through the gates of liberty?”
“There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons,” the author continued. “Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides.”
What was needed was “the right kind of immigration.”
That sounds a bit like some government leaders who are demanding immigration restriction today. Actually, it was Calvin Coolidge (R, Vice President, 1921-1923, President 1923-1929).
He became President on August 2, 1923, upon the death of President Warren G. Harding, and was elected in his own right the next year. Coolidge was bland and taciturn. He tried to avoid controversy. But Coolidge had strong views on immigration, some with parallels to today.
In his first address to Congress on December 6, 1923, he struck a theme of limited, selective immigration: “New arrivals should be limited to our capacity to absorb them into the ranks of good citizenship. America must be kept American. For this purpose, it is necessary to continue a policy of restricted immigration.”
In 1924, he signed the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act which severely limited immigration, imposed a quota system based on the 1890 census which in effect favored northern Europeans over others, continued a longstanding ban on Chinese immigration, and imposed a new one on Japanese immigration.
His views on immigration were complicated. Speaking to a delegation of labor leaders on September 1, 1924, he asserted that “Restricted immigration has been adopted by this administration chiefly for the purpose of maintaining American standards. It undoubtedly has a very great economic effect. We want the people who live in America, no matter what their origin, to be able to continue in the enjoyment of their present unprecedented advantages. This opportunity would certainly be destroyed by the tremendous influx of foreign peoples if immigration were not restricted. Unemployment would become a menace, and there would follow an almost certain reduction of wages with all the attendant distress and despair which are now suffered in so many parts of Europe. Our first duty is to our own people.”
The Republican Party platform that Coolidge campaigned on that year put the economic case this way: “The unprecedented living conditions in Europe following the world war created a condition by which we were threatened with mass immigration that would have seriously disturbed our economic life. The law recently enacted [the Johnson-Reed Act] is designed to protect the inhabitants of our country, not only the American citizen, but also the alien already with us who is seeking to secure an economic foothold for himself and family from the competition that would come from unrestricted immigration.” Putting the jobs argument more directly, immigration restriction “saves the American job for the American workman,” as Coolidge said in a speech in December of that year.
On the other hand, he opposed some immigration restrictions and celebrated America as a melting pot. For instance, he lobbied Congress not to include the Japanese provision in the immigration act, and instead to continue a longstanding, informal agreement by which Japan voluntarily limited the number of its citizens emigrating to America. Congress included it anyway. In his formal signing statement on May 26, 1924, an angry Coolidge called the provision “unnecessary and deplorable” and asserted that Americans had a “sentiment of admiration and cordial friendship for the Japanese people” despite the new law.
He told the American Legion convention in 1925 that “Whether one traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years [ago in] the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of today is real and genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat.”
In a 1926 speech, he said “when once our feet have touched this soil, when once we have made this land our home, wherever our place of birth, whatever our race, we are all blended in one common country. All artificial distinctions of lineage and rank are cast aside. We all rejoice in the title of Americans.” In Calvin Coolidge’s public utterances and his actions on immigration, several themes emerge. Some have reverberations for today.
Coolidge emphasized that America has prospered and excelled in the past. Times were good then. But things seem to be slipping. Principles and values seemed in danger and future prospects appeared dimmer. Coolidge thought Americans had to be on guard. That sentiment sounds similar to Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again.”
Coolidge encouraged assimilation. He believed that most past immigrants adopted American values and assimilated with the population already living here. Race, religion, and a consensus about the importance of family, hard work, and patriotism were important parts of that process. But, he went on, people now clamoring for admission were of different races and religions, and were determined to hold onto their own cultures and values. These new immigrants tended to stay together rather than assimilate and blend in and, to Coolidge, that made them a threat to the nation. Coolidge’s views in this area seem similar in some ways to Trump’s and other immigration restrictionists.
Economics was a critical issue in Coolidge’s thinking. The economy was expanding but there were only so many jobs to go around, he implied. Letting in too many immigrants would take jobs from citizens already here. America’s capacity to absorb newcomers was therefore limited. That sounds a lot like immigration restrictionists’ arguments that immigrants (particularly undocumented immigrants) compete with American citizens for jobs, especially low-paying positions.
Coolidge felt that Americans need not be concerned with conditions in other countries or the fate or prospects of people who wanted to come in as immigrants but were not allowed to do so. That was not something for which Americans had responsibility. It was up to those countries, and to the individuals living there, to fend for themselves. That, too, parallels the view expressed by immigration restrictionists today that unemployment, poverty, and violence elsewhere in the world, e.g., Central and South America, do not justify people from those nations seeking sanctuary here in the United States.
We have to keep to “America First!” — a vague and undefined but popular slogan among Coolidge and conservatives in those days and occasionally used by President Trump. It has overtones of American exceptionalism, nationalism, and patriotism but also undertones of nativism and racism.
Whose country is this? It was a central question a century ago, and still is today. President Coolidge and President Trump might have similar answers to the question.
Whose Country is This?
By Calvin Coolidge, Vice-President elect of the United States Good Housekeeping, volume 72 number 2, February 1921, pages 13-14, 109
Men and women, in and of themselves, are desirable. There can’t be too many inhabitants of the right kind, distributed in the right place. Great work there is for each and every one of them to perform. The country needs all the intelligence, and skill, and strength of mind and body it can get, whether we draw such form those within our gates, or from those without, seeking entrance. But since we are confronted by the clamor of multitudes who desire the opportunity offered by American life, we must face the situation unflinchingly, determined to relinquish not one iota of our obligations to others, yet not be so sentimental as to overlook our obligations to ourselves. It is a self-evident truth that in a healthy community there is no place for the vicious, the weak of body, the shiftless, or the improvident. As professor Sumner of Yale, asserts in his book, “The Forgotten Man,” “every part of capital which is wasted on the vicious, the idle, and the shiftless, is so much taken form the capital available to reward the independent and productive laborer.” We are in agreement with him in his conviction that the laborer must be protected “against the burdens of the good-for-nothing.
We want no such additions to our population as those who prey upon our institutions or our property. America has, in popular mind, been an asylum for those who have been driven form their homes in foreign countries because of various forms of political and religious oppression. But America cannot afford to remain an asylum after such people have passed the portals and begun to share the privileges of our institutions.
These institutions have flourished by reason of a common background of experience; they have been perpetuated by a common faith in the righteousness of their purpose; they have been handed down undiminished in effectiveness from our forefathers who conceived their spirit and prepared the foundations. We have put into operation our faith in equal opportunity before the law in exchange for equal obligation of citizens. All native-born Americans, directly or indirectly, have the advantage of our schools, our colleges, and our religious bodies. It is our belief that America could not otherwise exist. Faith in mankind is in no way inconsistent with a requirement for trained citizenship, both for men and women. No civilization can exist without a background-an active community of interest, a common aspiration-spiritual, social, and economic. It is a duty our country owes itself to require of all those aliens who come here that they have a background not inconsistent with American institutions. Such a background might consist either of a racial tradition or a national experience. But in its lowest terms it must be characterized by a capacity for assimilation. While America is built on a broad faith in mankind, it likewise gains its strength by a recognition of a needed training for citizenship. The Pilgrims were not content merely to reach our shores in safety, that they might live according to a sort of daily opportunism. They were building on firmer ground than that. Sixteen years after they landed at Plymouth, they and their associates founded Harvard College. They institutionalized their faith in education. That was their offering for the common good. It would not be unjust to ask of every alien: What will you contribute to the common good, once your were admitted through the gates of liberty? Our history is full of answers of which we might be justly proud. But of late, the answers have not been so readily or so eloquently given. Our country must cease to be regarded as a dumping ground. Which does not mean that it must deny the value of rich accretions drawn from the right kind of immigration.
Any such restriction, except as a necessary and momentary expediency, would assuredly paralyze our national vitality. But measured practically, it would be suicidal for us to let down the bars for the inflowing of cheap manhood, just as, commercially, it would be unsound for this country to allow her markets to be over flooded with cheap goods, the produce of cheap labor. There is no room for either the cheap man or the cheap goods. I do not fear the arrival of as many immigrants a year as shipping conditions or passport requirements can handle, provided they are of good character. But there is no room for the alien who turns toward America with the avowed intention of opposing government, with a set desire to teach destruction of government-which means not only enmity toward organized society, but toward every form of religion and so basic an institution as the home.
If we believe, as we do, in our political theory that the people are the guardians of government, we should not subject our government to the bitterness and hatred of those who have not been born in our tradition and are willing to yield an increase to the strength inherent in our institutions. American liberty is dependent on quality in citizenship. Our obligation is to maintain that citizenship at its best. We must have nothing to do with those who undermine it. The retroactive immigrant is a danger in our midst. His purpose is to tear down. There is no room for him here. He needs to be deported, not as a substitute for, but as a part of his punishment. We might avoid this danger were we insistent that the immigrant, before he leaves foreign soil, is temperamentally keyed for our national background. There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons. Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With our races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides. Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great a necessity to a nation as immigration law.
We must remember that we have not only the present but the future to safeguard; our obligations extend even to generations yet unborn. The unassimilated alien child menaces our children, as the alien industrial worker, who has destruction rather than production in mind, menaces our industry. It is only when the alien adds vigor to our stock that he is wanted. The dead weight of alien accretion stifles national progress. But we have a hope that cannot be crushed; we have a background that we will not allow to be obliterated. The only acceptable immigrant is the one who can justify our faith in man by a constant revelation of the divine purpose of the Creator.
Figure 1: A 1921 political cartoon portrays America’s new immigration quotas, influenced by popular anti-immigrant and nativist sentiment stemming from World War I conflict. Source: Library of Congress
Richmond County during the antebellum period was a microcosm of the United States. The residents of the pro- and antislavery communities found themselves struggling through similar issues of racism and violence that plagued the nation as a whole. Throughout the late antebellum period, the ubiquitous political arguments traversing the island eventually led to an environment replete with fear and resentment. Although the antislavery community was stigmatized by the Northern supporters of slavery, somehow they still managed to create an environment whereby they could become an essential part of the abolition movement, possibly shaping antislavery ideology and politics towards the single goal of abolishing the institution of slavery.
Richmond County, in the early republic, had more than 20 percent of its entire population held in racial bondage, and as such, the county became one of several New York communities with a strong proslavery position. County delegates tactically voted against the first round of gradual abolition measures which resulted in the defeat of the earliest earnest emancipation legislation proposed in New York in 1785. Richmond County slaveholders were repeatedly among those who helped develop strategies and policies that ensured the perpetuation of racialized slavery in the newly chartered state. By the late eighteenth century, the abolition of chattel slavery and what would become known as “the Negro problem” became a significant political and legal concern to New Yorkers
On July 5, 1827 nearly every African American man, woman and child gathered in Richmond County at the Swan Hotel to celebrate the official end of slavery in New York. To commemorate the long anticipated event, “the more prominent colored men” of the island arranged one of the largest emancipation day celebrations in the state. To help celebrate the historic occasion the local African American community was joined by their brethren from Long Island and New Jersey on the banks of the Kill Van Kull in West New Brighton to participate in the celebrations that lasted the “better part of two days.” The jubilant celebrations were made possible with the execution of the New York State gradual emancipation law.
After emancipation, African Americans established two communities in Richmond County: the Sandy Ground settlement and what would later become known as the McKeon Street neighborhood. Although newly freed African Americans returned to the homes of former slaveholders to labor on their previous farms and oyster vessels after the Emancipation Day celebrations, some as freedmen, others to finish their debt of indenture, a small number became heads of households by the 1830 census. Both communities were partially integrated, but the vast majority of Richmond County African Americans called one of these communities home. This is not to say that African Americans did not live in the other towns and villages of Richmond County; but more to the point that during the antebellum period African Americans were most often found in one of these two neighborhoods.
Richmond County African American residents were involved in the burgeoning Underground Railroad of the 1830s through 1840s. Freedomseekers departing the Chesapeake were reported to have found assistance from the African American community when they reached the South Shore of Richmond County. On the North Shore, tails of escape from southern ports through the Quarantine Station were recounted in several slave narratives. African Americans took huge risks to assist selfemancipators under threat of harsh reprisals from an intensely proslavery white population.
The African American Methodist communities participated in annual religious camp meetings and antislavery picnics called “First of August” celebrations which corresponded with the end of slavery in British colonies and invited prominent abolitionists to be the keynote speakers. In 1855, Staten Island hosted one of the largest August First celebrations with more than five thousand, mostly African American celebrants from New York and New Jersey. Alexander Crummell and James McCune Smith, two prominent African American abolitionists, coordinated the event with invited keynote speaker Stephen Myers of Albany, also a prominent abolitionist and Underground Station Master.
Dr. Samuel McKenzie Elliott, a distinguished oculist, was the first of the prominent abolitionists to arrive in Richmond County. Beginning in the 1840s, Dr. Elliott purchased property across the north shore, much of it overlooking the beautiful Kill Van Kull. He later named the area Elliottsville. Over time, several parcels of land were made available to his abolitionist friends and collectively the neighborhood evolved into an enclave of literary Unitarians, Free-soilers and radical abolitionists in what is now called West New Brighton. By the mid-1850s, the principal abolitionists living in Richmond County can be characterized as mainly expatriates from New England including philanthropist Francis George Shaw and family; journalist Sydney Howard Gay and family; George William Curtis; George A. Ward and son George C. Ward; Frederick Law Olmsted; William Emerson, brother of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and for a short period time Henry David Thoreau. Others were important New York names including the DePeyster and Willcox families. Captain Frederic Augustus DePeyster and his daughter Maria; Albert O. Willcox and his three sons Hamilton, Albert Jr. and David; Dr. Samuel McKenzie Elliott, Lewis Brownell, George Bechtel, the Bard, Delafield, and Minturn families were lesser known supporters of the antislavery movement. A good number of these local abolitionists were ardent supporters of the American Anti-Slavery Society and its literary arm, the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Their financial contributions to the organizations were faithful and consistent and were an integral part of keeping the organizations running.
By the 1850s the once reverent believers of Garrison’s antislavery ideology turned their attention to electoral possibilities. The political affiliations began by experimenting with memberships in the Whig, Know Nothing, Liberty and Free Soil parties. For the elections of 1856 the reformers joined forces with the Republican Party and by the 1860 elections the Richmond County antislavery defenders became solid Lincoln Republicans. Moral suasion was combined with political arguments of antislavery theory that continued the demand for unconditional immediate emancipation.
Eventually, Richmond County abolitionists and Republicans set their sights on the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln. Sydney Gay left his position as editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard and took the position of managing editor with the New York Tribune. The Tribune was transformed into a substantial pro-Lincoln voice for the Republican Party, sometimes to the dismay of Horace Greeley, its founder and editor. Shaw, Curtis and Gay had visibly influential roles within the Party. Based on their considerable involvement as political activists and role as Republican “insiders” the trio exerted a good deal of influence within the Party. Gay and his companions settled on the certainty that a win for Lincoln was a win for the abolitionist cause.
Gay, Shaw and Curtis purportedly opened their West New Brighton homes, lives and resources to freedom seekers during the antebellum period as a part of the Underground Railroad, but lacked the commitment to accept the local African American communities into the antislavery fold. For this reason James McCune Smith regularly accused Gay and Garrison of racism. Smith incessantly challenged Garrison’s abolitionist press about disparities in salary, lecture and journalism opportunities between white and black abolitionists, and on more than one occasion he openly accused William Lloyd Garrison, Gay and the National Anti-Slavery Standard of discrimination and favoritism.
During the mid-nineteenth century, Richmond County’s white community regardless of social class or ethnic origin, on countless occasions exhibited a clear racial bias against African American communities. On the North Shore, the Irish immigrant community continuously disparaged the African American community as inferior, in an attempt to escape the anti-Irish torment leveled against them by the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) community of the island. A good number of new Irish residents lived in relatively close proximity to the African American community of McKeon Street and Rocky Hollow. Clashes occurred between African American and Irish residents on a fairly consistent basis up through the end of the Civil War. White Staten Islanders had a penchant for using violence to resolve difficult problems. In 1858, a Staten Island mob of more than one thousand men attacked and burned the Quarantine buildings to the ground. Threats of physical violence abounded on the island and verbal attacks on abolitionists and Republicans became commonplace in the local newspaper. For this reason, both local and national abolitionists acknowledged a need for new strategies if they were going to be successful in the approaching1860 elections.
The 1860 elections in Richmond County hinged on two key issues, the presidential race of Abraham Lincoln and the question of unencumbered suffrage for African Americans. Richmond County residents viewed a Lincoln presidency with vastly different lenses. On one hand, Lincoln represented the long awaited, although symbolic conclusion to slavery the abolitionists had worked tirelessly towards. On the other hand Republican supporters looked to Lincoln to fulfill the Party’s agenda prohibiting the expansion of slavery into the western territories. In the meantime, Richmond County conservatives began organizing in preparation for the pending elections. They readied themselves for what they believed would become a nasty fight during the election period to ensure Lincoln did not get elected.
Also on the ballot in New York was a referendum on “Negro suffrage.” The intent of this measure was to remove the two hundred and fifty dollar freehold qualification for African Americans and centralize the black-white dichotomy of equality and the rights of full citizenship without encumbrances in nineteenth-century New York. The combination of all these issues represented the complexities of putting ideological beliefs into practice and the inability of radical abolitionists and Garrisonian Republicans to follow through on the idealisms of equality at a critical moment in Northern antebellum politics.
Despite the antislavery violence and racial politics exhibited throughout the late 1850s, by 1860 the new Republican leaders of Staten Island still maintained a general belief in equality and offered their support for the referendum on equal suffrage for African Americans. However, not all Republicans agreed with the suffrage measure. A considerable number of Republicans held beliefs in the ideologies of white supremacy and flat out refused to support the suffrage referendum. By 1860, many Staten Islanders still held fast to their deep-seated anti-black feelings, which presented a serious problem for the Republican Party. Racial prejudice and exclusionary practices towards African Americans had the potential to tear the party apart and the possible loss of the presidency. Republican abolitionists had to find a way to create an atmosphere of tolerance between the friends and opponents of African American suffrage, so that the focus could remain on acquiring the votes needed to place Lincoln in office.
Republicans held large rally-styled meetings to ratify the presidential and gubernatorial nominations previously established by party members. The meetings met predominantly on the North Shore in the towns of Castleton, Northfield and Middletown because Republicanism had not extended past these three towns with any substantial significance. One mass meeting convened in the North Shore neighborhood of Clifton scheduled George W. Curtis, Horace Greeley and Gustav Struve as guest speakers. The simple purpose was to address the crowd and fire them up for the upcoming elections. Tremendous fanfare preceded the meeting, with the participants marching to music in the streets amidst great fireworks. The New York Times described the procession as, “headed by bands of music, marched with banners, torches, and amid a display of rockets, to the place of the meeting. A Great degree of enthusiasm was manifested.” Republican Party officials aimed this extraordinary event, filled with pomp and circumstance, primarily towards the working-class members of the Staten Island community. Ideally, such an expressive show of enthusiasm and energy would attract the highly sought after working-class demographic to the party.
The 1860 election returns were truly disappointing for Richmond County Republicans. While Lincoln received nearly 60 percent of the electoral votes and secured the presidency, not one of his Staten Island contemporaries were able to capitalize on the momentum of a Lincoln presidency in Richmond County. The Republicans failed to reach far enough across party lines in the general elections as they had done for Frank Shaw earlier that year in the local elections and consequently failed to get themselves elected to any post in any of the island’s statewide districts. At the same time, opponents of the suffrage proposal managed to have the measure defeated by sizeable margins in all five towns of Richmond County, which makes it unmistakably clear that Richmond County abolitionists and their Republican friends failed to support the suffrage referendum. The referendum returns, especially those in Staten Island, delivered a powerful message to antebellum African Americans: white New Yorkers would not offer their black brethren the opportunity for equality. This was just one more incident that reinforced the growing complaints by African Americans regarding the inability of their Republican supporters to reconcile race and prejudice. Of the total votes cast on Staten Island, less than 5 percent of the voting populace cast a ballot in the affirmative. While the rest of the New York overwhelmingly elected a new Republican president, Staten Islanders were proud to have voted for a straight Democratic ticket and their ability to overwhelmingly reject the referendum on “Negro Suffrage.”
Lincoln’s policies certainly found little favor in Richmond County, where his decision to free southern slaves was met with open resentment by the county’s mostly Irish working-class communities. By 1862, White residents began openly attacking African Americans on the North Shore. White abolitionists and the various African American communities of Richmond County were terrorized for several days during the sweltering July summer of 1863. By July 17, news of the draft riots raging in New York City trickled into Richmond County from various places and filled the county residents with unprecedented anxiety. In the early hours of July 17, rioters spilled out into the streets and lashed out at anyone or anything that got in their way. By many accounts, members of the Irish community roamed the island, laying siege to the homes and businesses of North Shore abolitionists and the African American communities..
When the riots first began, the participants were a disorganized group. Dis-jointed gangs sprang up in several townships across the island with the intention of causing harm to abolitionists, Republicans and the general African American population whom rioters blamed as the sole cause for the war. During that first night of rage, a crowd gathered in Factoryville and began to make its way towards New Brighton creating mayhem as they moved through the streets. In New Brighton the crowd’s intended target was the confectionary business of a man named “Green,” who was an African American businessman from Virginia that lived in the town of Castleton and ran a successful ice cream saloon in New Brighton. As rumors of the crowd’s intent became clear, George Green closed the store, gathered his family and fled for his own safety. Having discovered the store closed and Green gone, the crowd then turned its anger on the neighboring drug store they believed must also have had an African American owner. They attacked the store and went after it proprietor, whom they mistakenly believed was George Green. However, as the mob dragged the druggist named Christie from his hiding place in the cellar, they soon realized he was indeed white and released him without inflicting any further harm.
At the same time, another portion of the mob launched an attack on the home of an African American named David Wormsley, who lived in the McKeon Street neighborhood. The mob targeted Wormsley in part based on rumors that he had been an especially vocal advocate for the government to arm African Americans to enforce the draft.
In the dawning hours of July 18, Staten Island’s draft riots began to wane, and by the day’s end, the violence had completely subsided. The mobs dissipated, the streets cleared and the fires which set structures ablaze were extinguished. Staten Island abolitionists, white and African American alike, were stunned by the previous days of rioting, but began to quietly rebuild their lives. Overall, the island’s white abolitionists fared far better than the African American community and emerged from the riots relatively unscathed. Horace Greeley and Wendell Phillips quietly endured the riots at George W. Curtis’ home on Staten Island; but some, like Elizabeth Gay, lost a piece of themselves during those fearful nights and were forever changed by the event.
In his November 19, 1863, address at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery, Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS, 2013) expands on this notion of democracy as government by the people by specifically endorsing student activism. According to the framework:
“Civics is not limited to the study of politics and society; it also encompasses participation in classrooms and schools, neighborhoods, groups, and organizations . . . In civics, students learn to contribute appropriately to public processes and discussions of real issues. Their contributions to public discussions may take many forms, ranging from personal testimony to abstract arguments. They will also learn civic practices such as voting, volunteering, jury service, and joining with others to improve society. Civics enables students not only to study how others participate, but also to practice participating and taking informed action themselves” (p. 31).
The NCSS C3 framework is also rooted in John Dewey’s progressive educational philosophy that is concerned with the need to educate people for life in a democratic society. Key concepts for Dewey were experience, freedom, community, and “habits of mind.” Dewey believed that there was an “organic connection between education and experience”; that effective teachers are able to connect the subject matter to the existing experience of students and then expand and enrich their lives with new experiences.
According to Dewey, students learn from the full spectrum of their experiences in school, not just the specific thing they are studying in class. They learn from what they are studying, how they are studying, who they are studying with, and how they are treated. In racially segregated or academically tracked classes, students learn that some people are better than others. In teacher-centered classrooms, they learn that some people possess knowledge and others passively receive it. When teachers have total control over classrooms, even when they are benevolent or entertaining, students learn to accept authoritarianism. When schools remain isolated from communities and exist to rank and stratify the student body, students learn to seek individual rewards and ignore the needs of others; values that are the antithesis of democratic citizenship.
During his career, John Dewey continually examined the experiences educators need to create for students so they become active participants in preserving and expanding government of, by, and for the people. For Dewey, the exercise of freedom in democratic societies always involves education. He identifies freedom with “power to frame purposes” or achieve individual and social goals. This kind of freedom requires a probing, critical, disciplined “habit of mind.” It includes intelligence, judgment, and self-control – qualities students never acquire in classrooms where they are subject to external controls and are forced to remain silent. In schools that use a Deweyan approach, students engage in long-term thematic group projects, where they learn to collectively solve problems, and classrooms become democratic communities where “things gain meaning by being used in a shared experience or joint action.” If Dewey is right, students only learn about democracy and the values of citizenship in classrooms where they experience them. They only learn to take responsibility for society, when schools engage them in taking responsibility.
Because of my understanding of Lincoln’s view of democracy and Dewey’s ideas on learning, I am arguing, in a way, against the basic concept of volunteerism, that it be voluntary. I am suggesting that active involvement in community affairs by students must be a basic educational requirement and integrated throughout the social studies curriculum. But I want to take this proposal even one step further.
Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator, was born in Recife in northeastern Brazil where his ideas about education developed in response to military dictatorship, enormous social inequality, and widespread adult illiteracy. As a result, his primary pedagogical goal was to provide the world’s poor and oppressed with educational experiences that make it possible for them to take control over their own lives. Freire shared John Dewey’s desire to stimulate students to become “agents of curiosity” in a “quest for . . . . the ‘why’ of things” and his belief that education provides possibility and hope for the future of society. But he believed that these can only be achieved when students are engaged in explicitly critiquing social injustice and actively organizing to challenge oppression.
For Freire, education is a process of continuous group discussion that enables people to acquire collective knowledge they can use to change society. The role of the teacher includes asking questions that help students identify problems facing their community, working with students to discover ideas that explain their life experiences, and encouraging analysis of prior experiences and of society as the basis for new academic understanding and social action.
This concept of active education as preparation for political activism and active citizenship is not unique to Paulo Freire. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is their natural manure.” Thomas Jefferson believed that freedom and republican government rest on two basic principles: “the diffusion of knowledge among the people” and the idea that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” Jefferson supported the right to rebel because he recognized that the world was constantly changing. The crucial question was not whether it would change, but the direction of change. Education was essential so that ordinary citizens could participate in this process, defending and enhancing their liberties.
In the United States, there has frequently been a close connection between advocacy for mass public education and demands for expanding democracy, social equity, and political reform. For example, in the mid-19th century, Horace Mann championed public education because he believed that the success of the country depended on “intelligence and virtue in the masses of the people.” He argued that, “If we do not prepare children to become good citizens,… then our republic must go down to destruction.”
John Dewey saw himself within this intellectual tradition. He believed that democratic movements for human liberation were necessary to achieve a fair distribution of political power and an “equitable system of human liberties.”
As a high school social studies teacher, I promoted transformative goals through direct student involvement in social action projects as part of New York State’s “Participation in Government” curriculum. In New York City, periodic budget crises, ongoing racial and ethnic tension, and the need for social programs in poor communities provided numerous opportunities to encourage students to become active citizens. Class activities included sponsoring student forums on controversial issues, such as requiring parental consent before a teenager can have an abortion, preparing reports on school finances and presenting them as testimony at public hearings, writing position papers for publication in local newspapers, and organizing student and community support for a school-based public health clinic.
During each activity, social studies goals included making reasoned decisions based on an evaluation of existing evidence, researching issues and presenting information in writing and on graphs, exploring the underlying ideas that shape our points of view, giving leadership by example to other students, and taking collective and individual responsibility for the success of programs. The following are excerpts from a speech presented by a student in my Participation in Government class at a public hearing organized by the New York Pro-Choice Coalition and from an opinion editorial written by students and printed in New York Newsday on January 14, 1990.
In her speech, a student wrote: “I think it is a good idea to talk to your parents about a pregnancy and an abortion. But I also understand that you may not be able to do this. Some teenagers are afraid to tell their parents. Some teenagers have good reasons why they cannot tell them . . . A law cannot take a distant relationship and make it a close one. That’s why there are hot lines to call and all sorts of counselors, so that a pregnant teenager does not end up boxed into a corner unable to get out . . . My mom has said to me, “If you make mistakes in your life, you are the one who has to live with them. But always remember that I am here for you.” I think all teenagers should be able to talk with their parents. I wish all parents were like my mom, but I know that it’s not that way. That’s why I am fighting against parental consent and parental notification laws.”
The op-ed piece, a collective effort, said: “The members of the Forum Club strongly disagree with the behavior of some of the prochoice demonstrators at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. We believe that it was uncalled for and inexcusable to disrupt the mass and interfere with communion. We believe that the demonstrators who entered the church were wrong and hurt the ability of the pro-choice movement to win people over to our ideas on human freedom and the rights of Americans.
However, we also believe that the newspaper coverage of events on that day misrepresented the pro-choice movement. Out of 5,000 people who demonstrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on that day, only 43 were arrested inside the church. Furthermore, only one person disrupted Holy Communion.
Meanwhile, the media buried reports about another demonstration that took place on the same day. In New Jersey, 125 members of Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group, were arrested at a health clinic. They had blocked the entrance to the clinic to prevent women from choosing to have safe and legal abortions. Six of these demonstrators had chained themselves together.
We believe that on this Sunday, both the pro-choice and anti-abortion groups did things that violated the rights of other Americans. What we don’t understand is why the pro-choice group was singled out for the harsher criticism.”
These activities represent a very different concept of volunteerism, a concept with deep roots in educational theory and the United States’ democratic heritage. Implementing this approach is not simple. It means combating resistance from school boards and parents. But if John Dewey and Thomas Jefferson are right, and I think they are, it is the best way to insure the habits of mind that are the goals of volunteerism and essential for the preservation and expansion of a democratic society.
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. NY: Macmillan.
Dewey, J. (1938/1963). Experience and education. NY: Collier/Macmillan.
Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. NY: Seabury.
Freire, P. (1995). Pedagogy of hope. NY: Continuum.
Singer, A. (2014). Social Studies for Secondary Schools (Routledge).