Revealing Hidden Figures in Social Studies: Using Trade Books to Teach Women’s Contributions throughout History

Nefertari Yancie and Rebecca Macon Bidwell

University of Alabama at Birmingham fff

As society has changed, women’s roles have also changed. Women and their impact on history have been largely ignored in traditional textbooks (Clabough, Turner, & Carano, 2017). According to the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), including women in the dialogue about history is important for helping students develop their own identities (NCSS, 2010). Set in the segregated South, the movie Hidden Figures (Melfi & Gigliotti, 2016) told the story of four female mathematicians battling both racism and sexism at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the 1960s. Stories such as the one told in Hidden Figures integrate women into the curriculum. Social studies trade books are one teaching tool that can be used to spotlight women’s roles in history.

            This article describes how to use trade books to integrate women into the middle school social studies curriculum. The activities described take students through a series of steps to read and analyze trade books depicting women throughout history. The three women discussed in the activities are Catherine the Great, Hatshepsut, and Joan of Arc. Following a brief literature review about the benefits of using trade books in the middle school social studies classroom, the authors provide three different activities used to integrate women into classroom instruction. The steps and resources to implement the three activities are given.  Additionally, an appendix is provided that contains a list of other trade books about women and their impact on history.

Benefits of Using Trade Books in the Social Studies Classroom

            Teachers should utilize a variety of resources to actively engage students in the middle school classroom (AMLE, 2010). Trade books are one resource social studies teachers can use to examine historical figures and events in more depth (Schell & Fisher, 2006). Most social studies textbooks dedicate only a column or a page to a historical figure. In contrast, the text and illustrations in trade books enable students to explore the values, biases, and idiosyncrasies of people from the past (Edgington, 1998). This makes it easier for students to make an emotional connection with historical figures (McGrain, 2002).

Trade books allow students to examine the content material in meaningful ways. The pictures, text, and other primary sources in a trade book work together to focus on a historical figure, event, or topic (Lynch-Brown, Short, & Tomlinson, 2014). This enables students to infer, problem solve, and make predictions. Biographical trade books present students with situations and/or obstacles that historical figures faced. Students think critically when they can place themselves in the shoes of the person and ask, “How would I have handled this?” This question and similar ones should be answered based on evidence from the text and the pictures, as well as further research on the part of the students. These processes reflect the current emphasis on literacy-based practices and inquiry-based teaching advocated for in the C3 Framework (NCSS, 2013). 

The simpler word and sentence structure in trade books make them useful when teaching social studies content. Struggling readers and ESL students find it easier to read and understand the content (Clabough, Turner, & Wooten, 2015). The easier readability level aids in comprehension, which allows struggling readers to grasp the essential content. The illustrations in trade books also facilitate the students’ ability to generate meaning of the text (Clabough et al., 2015). The different components in trade books allow students at all academic levels to be successful when learning social studies content. In the next sections, three activities are provided that allow students to connect in meaningful ways to female historical figures. The activities highlight the unique challenges women faced as their positions in society changed.

Finding Clues about Catherine the Great

An important benefit of working with trade books is that students are able to see multiple layers of historical figures. Social studies teachers often teach abstract traits such as progressiveness, fairness, and ruthlessness. There are people in history who encompass all of these characteristics, and trade books can help students to examine the social, political, and cultural context under which these people were shaped. As a result, they can also come to understand that all people are riddled with contradictions (Fresch & Harkins, 2009).

A trade book that shows complexity and depth in a historical figure is Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia (Vincent, 2009). Much focus is paid on Catherine’s reign, as she seized power from her husband and ruled Russia as a progressive queen for over 30 years. The following activity provides students with an opportunity to foster their analytical skills by examining the reign of Catherine the Great. The teacher begins the activity by reading the trade book aloud to the class. Students focus on the part of the book where Catherine shows herself to be a strong, arguably ruthless, leader who also embraced reforms, such as creating schools for young girls and encouraging the use of modern sciences and medicines.

After the reading of the text, the students are divided into pairs. Each pair is given two pictures of Catherine the Great and a graphic organizer. There is a prompt on the graphic organizer that reads as follows: “Catherine the Great was a queen who was controversial. What kind of ruler was she? Use clues from the pictures to answer the question.” The graphic organizer consists of two boxes that are side by side. Each box contains a different picture of Catherine the great and space for students to write down at least four “clues” about the pictures. The teacher informs the students that they only use the images for the clues to help them answer the prompt. For each detail, students should also briefly explain their reasoning by using evidence from the trade book to support their claims. A sample graphic organizer is provided in the next section.

Possible Student Example of Graphic Organizer

The teacher brings the class together to discuss the clues they discovered in each picture and what they believe the details say about Catherine the Great as a ruler. This is an opportunity for students to share and learn from each other. They can explain their thinking processes and also defend their ideas with evidence from the paintings and the trade book. After the discussion, the teacher provides students with the instructions for the writing activity. Students write two paragraphs that consist of five to eight sentences each. Using clues from their graphic organizers as supporting details, they compare and contrast Catherine the Great’s two leadership styles. The writing piece also needs to include how students believe Catherine should be remembered as a ruler. The authors have given an example of the writing activity in the next section.

Possible Student Example of Writing Activity

Catherine the Great had two aspects to her style of leadership. She was an avid learner of the Enlightenment philosophers and wanted to learn about their philosophies to make the lives of her subjects better. Political thinkers were invited to Russia, and Catherine would speak with them about their ideas. This resulted in her creating reforms such as opening schools for girls. However, Catherine the Great also had another side to her leadership style.

Catherine could be very controlling. While Catherine did use the military to expand the borders of Russia, she also used the military to take control of Russia from her husband, Peter. The Church’s land and wealth were taken over, which meant the Church had to answer to her. Catherine was progressive-minded, but she did not do much to help the millions of serfs in Russia. However, there are other reasons history should remember her as a good ruler. She was smart enough to take power from her husband because he was not ruling in the best interest of the people. Politicians and other nobles appreciated that she listened to them, and the common people were grateful for the reforms that were established in Russia. Catherine had absolute control over Russia, but so did other rulers of countries during the same time period. During this time, a person had to be strong to rule, and Catherine showed she had the strength to keep power.

This activity is beneficial to students because it utilizes trade books in a manner that usually cannot be done with textbooks. Textbooks usually provide superficial information about a historical figure, barely scraping the surface of how the time period’s culture, traditions, and politics shaped the person’s decisions and actions. Trade books can bring historical figures to life by allowing students to see the contradictions that exist within people. For instance, Catherine the Great fully embraced the Enlightenment philosophies, while at the same time doing very little to ease the oppression of Russian serfs. Activities with trade books allow students to see figures from the past as three dimensional and requires them to think on a higher level (Brooks & Endacott, 2013; Edgington, 1998). The analysis of the seemingly divergent aspects of Catherine’s personalities may lead students to understand that history is not black and white, but many shades of gray.

Dedicating Hieroglyphics to Hatshepsut

Janice Trecker (1973) offered insight into how little women were featured in U. S. History high school textbooks of the 1960s. As a result, when asked to name women from American history, students could name very few. Today’s history textbooks may include more women, but the information remains limited (Allard, Clark, & Mahoney, 2004). Trade books are resources teachers can use to fill the gap often left by textbooks. The rich content and pictures provide students with material that demonstrates how women have not only contributed to history but accomplished great deeds.     

A trade book that illustrates a woman in a leadership role is Hatshepsut: His Majesty, Herself (Andronik, 2001). Hatshepsut’s life is explored, from her childhood to her rise as a successful female pharaoh. The following activity highlights the section of the book where Hatshepsut has her greatest temple built, the “Holy of Holies.” The teacher reads aloud how the carvings on the walls of the temple depicted Hatshepsut’s life, accomplishments, and how the gods chose her to rule. The will of the gods was often interpreted by priests and inscribed on walls of temples, along with great stories about the prowess and great attributes of the pharaoh. This activity has students create their own inscriptions for the wall of Hatshepsut’s temples. They use hieroglyphics to tell about her life and great deeds. The message in the hieroglyphics are supported by evidence in the trade books. It is recommended that the teacher provides students with a copy of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet and symbols that mean entire words, such as “pharaoh.” Examples of Egyptian hieroglyphics can be accessed at https://www.ducksters.com/history/ancient_egypt/hieroglyphics_examples_alphabet.php and http://www.landofpyramids.org/egyptian-hieroglyphics.htm.

Students use the hieroglyphics as a guide. They pretend to be scribes who are instructed to engrave into the walls of the Holy of Holies why Hatshepsut is such a great ruler.  The hieroglyphics are drawn on paper that is provided by the teacher. The drawings must use a combination of the alphabet and symbols to describe Hatshepsut’s accomplishments and her attributes as a leader. The “engravings” must be supported by at least two details from the trade books. See the following as an example.

Possible Examples of a Student Engraving

After completing the hieroglyphics, students write a paragraph that consists of six to ten sentences. The paragraph must explain the meaning of the hieroglyphics, and students must cite at least two details from the text to support their claim. In addition, they are to express whether they believe it was an accomplishment for a woman to attain the position of pharaoh during this time period. Students give at least one reason to support their answer. The authors provide a possible example in the following section.

Possible Example of a Student Paragraph

Hatshepsut was a woman who declared herself pharaoh and reigned over Egypt at a time when women were not supposed to rule by themselves. She even dressed as a man by wearing a short kilt instead of a long dress and tied a gold beard to her chin. The hieroglyphics show this by the man and woman side by side next to the symbol for crown. Many Egyptian pharaohs wanted to be remembered by building great monuments. Hatshepsut built a famous temple that is called the Holy of Holies, which is portrayed by the symbol for a temple. The temple was built under the watchful eye and blessing of the god Horus. The falcon represents him. It was an accomplishment for Hatshepsut to attain the position of pharaoh during this time period. In ancient Egypt, there was not a word in the language for a female ruler so by becoming pharaoh she carved her own place in history by ruling Egypt for 22 years.

Trade books provide an in depth look into the lives of historical figures (Edgington, 1998). Textbooks tend to glance over events that define and shape the lives of a person. This activity allows student to examine such pivotal moments and examine how culture, the time period, and societal norms shape a historical figure’s actions and decisions. It is important for students to be able to view people from the past in historical context (Brooks & Endacott, 2013; Colby, 2010). By knowing the political, social, and cultural customs of the era, students gain insight into why people made certain decisions as well as better understand the ramifications of a woman taking a leadership role of the pharaoh.

Tweeting with Joan of Arc

            Social studies textbooks often give limited versions of stories that deserve to be told in greater detail. Trade books can be used to tell the accounts of people and events in a manner that students find engaging and interesting (McGrain, 2002). This is especially true with biographical trade books about women. The challenges women faced were as unique as the methods chosen to meet them. Students will find themselves invested in the lives of these historical women as they learn about the courage it took to succeed in a male-dominated world.

            Teachers can use the trade book Joan of Arc to help foster students’ empathy as they explore the values, beliefs, and courageous actions of a teenage girl (Demi, 2011). This activity focuses on the section in the trade book when Joan was captured by the Burgundians, put on trial, and executed. The teacher reads aloud to students and shows the illustrations of Joan’s journey from arrest to execution. Then, each student is given a “Tweet” handout. The worksheet resembles a tweet with some of the same features students would find on an actual Twitter account. Students assume the role of a person from Joan of Arc’s time and write a tweet as the historical figure. They should use all of the literary mechanisms employed by Twitter, such as the acronym LOL, which stands for “laugh out loud.”

            The teacher instructs students to send a tweet to the Burgundian or the French people where they are stating their opinion about the fate of Joan of Arc. A prompt should be included on the handout. A possible prompt may include the following. “Dear (insert French or Burgundian people), I feel what happened to Joan of Arc was (insert a descriptor)! Joan of Arc…” Students support their opinion about what happened to Joan at the hands of the Burgundians. They are required to use at least one supporting detail from the book to support their opinion. There is a 50-word count, which does not include the prompt. This word limit challenges students to edit their work so it must include the most relevant information.

The hashtag comment at the end of the tweet should reflect the message and its overall tone. For instance, if a student’s tweet is angry, the hashtag comment should reflect the same emotion. After completing the activity, the teacher brings the class together and allows students to read their tweets aloud. The authors have provided a possible example of a tweet in the next section.

Possible Student Example of a Tweet

Trade books draw students into the lives of biographical figures. In order for students to respond empathically, they need to be able to see another’s perspective (Ashby & Lee, 2001). The ability to see perspectives and express empathy is essential in social studies. If students are going to be engaged in the classroom, they need to connect and care about the historical figures being studied (Brooks, 2008). When students become invested in the lives of people from the past, they want to understand the decisions that were made, and this may lead to a deeper and more meaningful exploration and understanding of the content. Trade books are a resource that bridges the gap left by textbooks while at the same time helping to develop skills, such as empathy, that are necessary in the social studies classroom.

Closing Remarks

            Social studies teachers face the challenge of engaging students in the middle school classroom. It can be difficult to encourage middle school students to find meaning and relevance in people, places, and events that existed hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Too many history textbooks tend to treat important historical figures and events like a 30-second bulletin on a news broadcast. Biographical trade books allow students to experience the lives of historical figures in depth. Through the pictures and text, students are able to make emotional connections with people from the past (Schell & Fisher, 2006). Historical figures are no longer names mentioned briefly on a page but become real people who faced obstacles and triumphs. Students have a better chance of empathizing with historical figures’ situations, challenges, and choices (Ashby & Lee, 2001).

            Trade books also provide social studies teachers the opportunity to highlight the many women that have shaped history. Often, textbooks underrepresent women and their contributions to society (Allard, Clark, & Mahoney, 2004). Activities like those discussed in this article allow students the opportunity to utilize trade books to examine the lives of women in meaningful and interactive ways. This makes the inclusion of people from all backgrounds and cultures essential. An appendix is given that contains additional trade books focusing on women. AMLE’s This We Believe (2010) places an emphasis on diversity in culture, background, and gender. Trade books and associated activities enable students to have a more diverse view of history than may be possible with social studies textbooks.

References

Allard, J., Clark, R., & Mahoney, T. (2004). How much of the sky? Women in American high school history textbooks from the 1960s, 1980s and 1990s. Social Education, 68(1), 57-67.

AMLE. (2010). This we believe: Keys to education young adolescents. Westerville, OH: Author.

Ashby, R. & Lee, P. (2001). Empathy, perspective taking, and rational understanding. In O. L. Davis Jr., E. A. Yeager, & S. J. Foster (Eds.), Historical empathy and perspective taking in the social studies (pp. 1-21). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Brooks, S. (2008). Displaying historical empathy: What impact can a writing assignment have? Social Studies Research and Practice, 3(2), 130-146.

Brooks, S. & Endacott, J. (2013). An updated theoretical and practical model for promoting historical empathy. Social Studies Research and Practice, 8(1), 41-58.

Clabough, J., Turner, T., & Wooten, D. (2015). Up, up, and away: Using heroes of flight with middle graders. Tennessee Reading Teacher, 40(2), 5-14.

Clabough, J., Turner, T., & Carano, K. (2017). When the lion roars everyone listens: Scary good middle school social studies. Westerville, OH: Association for Middle Level Education.

Colby, S. R. (2010). Contextualization and historical empathy. Curriculum & Teaching Dialogue, 12(.5), 69-83.

Edgington, W. D. (1998). The use of children’s literature in middle school social studies: What research does and does not show. Clearing House, 72(2), 121-126.

Fresch, M. J., & Harkins, P. (2009). The power of picture books: Using content area literature in middle school. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Lynch-Brown, C., Short, K., & Tomlinson, C. (2013). Essentials of children’s literature (8th ed.). London, UK: Pearson.

McGrain, M. (2002). A comparison between a trade book and textbook instructional approach in a multiage elementary social studies class. (Master’s thesis). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.brockport.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1268&context=ehd_theses

Melfi, T. & Gigliotti, D. (2016). Hidden Figures [Motion picture]. United States: 20th Century Fox Studios.

NCSS (2010). National curriculum standards for social studies: A framework for teaching, learning, and assessment. Silver Spring, MD: Author.

NCSS. (2013). The college, career, and civic life (C3) framework for social studies state standards: Guidance for enhancing the rigor of K-12 civics, economics, geography, and history. Silver Springs, MD: Author.

Schell, E. & Fisher, D. (2006). Teaching social studies: A literary-based approach. London, UK: Pearson.

Trecker, J. L. (1973). Women in U.S. history high school textbooks. International Review of Education, 19(1), 133-139.

Three Trade Books Referenced in the Article

Andronik, C. M. (2001). Hatshepsut: His majesty, herself. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Demi. (2011). Joan of Arc. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Children.

Vincent, Z. (2009). Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia. London, UK: Franklin Watts Publishing.

Appendix of Additional Trade Books Focusing on Women’s Roles in History

Empress Cixi

Price, S. S. (2009). Cixi: Evil empress of China? London, UK: Franklin Watts Publishing.

Frida

Brown, M. & Parra, J. (Illustrator). (2017). Frida Kahlo and her animalitos. New York: NY: NorthSouth Books.

Jane Addams

Stone, T. L. (2015). The house that Jane built: A story about Jane Addams. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

Mulholland, L., & Janssen, C. (Illustrator). (2016). She stood for freedom, the untold story of a civil rights hero: Joan Trumpauer Mulholland. Salt Lake City, UT: Shadow Mountain.

Josephine Baker

Powell, P. H. & Robinson, C. (Illustrator). (2014). Josephine: the dazzling life of Josephine baker. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books LLC.

Marie Curie

Demi. (2018). Marie Curie. New York: NY: Henry Holt and Co.

Mary Tudor

Buchanan, J. (2008). Mary Tudor: Courageous queen or Bloody Mary? Danbury, CT: Children’s Press.

Michelle Obama

Parker, M. G. & Birge, M. (Illustrator). (2009). I am Michelle Obama: The first lady. Atlanta, GA: Tumaini Publishing LLC.

Queen Victoria of England

Whelan, G. & Carpenter, N. (Illustrator). (2014). Queen Victoria’s bathing machine. New York: NY: Simon & Schuster.

Sara Roberts

Goodman, S.E. & Lewis, E.B. (Illustrator). (2016). The first step: How one girl put segregation on trial. New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

Sacajawea

Willard, J. (1918/2017). Bird Woman (Sacajawea) the guide of Lewis and Clark: Her own story now first given to the world. Los Angeles, CA: Enhanced Media Publishing.

Teaching the Movie “All Quiet on the Western Front”

Karen Snyder

OBJECTIVES: Students will judge if All Quiet on the Western Front accurately portrays the ways young men were influenced to join armies in World War I. They will view a section of the film, All Quiet on the Western Front, and judge whether it accurately portrays the costs of war and the attitude towards war. Students will be able to judge the physical and psychological pressures placed on the soldiers in the trenches. Through a gallery walk, they will be able to determine the effects of World War I and evaluate whether the war was worth the costs.

LESSON 1 AIM: How were young men influenced to join the war effort?

Activity 2: Segment from All
Quiet on the Western Front.
Answer the following questions as you view the video. (Beginning of him to shot of empty classroom –
eight minutes – 0:00 – 9:45)

1. What are some of the phrases
that the professor uses to urge to boys to enlist?

2. What are some of the images that the boys have of soldiers?

3. What are the boy’s feelings as
they throw their books around and march out of the room?

4. What does the empty classroom symbolize?

5. How does the speech by the
Professor reflect German
nationalism?

6. The Professor said, “I believe it will be a quick war, with few
losses.” How does this opinion
reflect the views of most Europeans about World War I?
Professor Kantorek’s speech:
“Now, my beloved class, this is
what we must do. Strike with all
our power. Give every ounce of
strength to win victory before the
end of the year. It is with
reluctance that I bring this subject up again. You are the life of the
fatherland, you boys. You are the
iron men of Germany. You are the gay heroes who will repulse the
enemy when you are called upon
to do so. It is not for me to suggest
that any of you should stand up
and offer to defend his country. But I wonder if such a thing is going
through your heads. I know that in one of the schools the boys have
risen up in the classroom and
enlisted in a mass. But, of course, if such a thing should happen here
you would not blame me for a
feeling of pride. Perhaps some will say that you should not be allowed to go yet that you are too young, –
that you have homes, mothers,
fathers – that you should not be
torn away. Are your fathers so
forgetful of their fatherland that
they would let it perish? Are your mothers so weak that they cannot
send a son to defend the land
which gave them birth? And after
all, is a little experience such a bad thing for a boy?

Is the honor of wearing a uniform something from which we should
run? And if our young ladies glory
in those who wear it is that
anything to be ashamed of? I know you have never desired the
adulation of heroes. That has not
been part of my teaching. We have sought to make ourselves worthy
and let a claim come when it
would. But to be foremost in battle is a virtue not to be despised.
I believe it will be a quick war that there will be few losses. But if
losses there must be then let us
remember the Latin phrase which must have come to the lips of many a Roman when he stood embattled in a foreign land: ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.’ ‘Sweet and
fitting it is to die for the
fatherland.’ Some of you may have ambitions. I know of one young
man who has great promise as a
writer and he has written the first act of a tragedy which would be a
credit to one of the masters. And he is dreaming, I suppose of following in the footsteps of Goethe and
Schiller, and I hope he will. But
now our country calls. The
fatherland needs leaders. Personal ambition must be thrown aside in
the one great sacrifice for our
country. Here is a glorious
beginning to your lives. The field of honor calls you. Why are we here? You, Kropp, what has kept you
back? You, Mueller, you know how much you are needed? Ah, I see
you look at your leader. And I, too,
look to you, Paul Baumer and I
wonder what you are going to
do.”
Activity 3: Joining the Army
Even before the United States
entered World War I, many young people were eager to become part
of the action. One was Alphonzo
Bulz, a teenager in Western Texas who later served in Europe with
the 36th (Texas) National Guard
Division. Here he tells about how
he learned about the war and
decided to join the army.  
Questions:
1. Why did Alphonzo Bulz want to join the war?

2. In what ways did wartime
propaganda influence Bulz’s decision to join the army?

3. How is this propaganda similar
to the arguments used by the
Professor in the film, and in “A Call for Arms”?  
 “We didn’t have the radio and TV the way we do today. Why, we got
our information from what we
used to call the ‘drummers.’ These were the [salesmen] who’d go
through all the towns in places like West Texas selling all the
merchants their merchandise. They would paint such a dark picture
[of] what was going on there that
we all felt the Kaiser was going to
invade America. And all those awful things the Germans were doing to the Belgians. . . Then we’d hear
how they were riling up the
Mexicans so that they’d want to
fight us. I was only seventeen then, but I thought I better go over there and fight so that I wouldn’t be no
slave to any foreign country. Of c
ourse, my family wasn’t about to
let me go, so one day I stopped off
at the baker’s shop on my way to
high school. He was a good buddy
of mine, so I left my books at his
shop and told him to hold them for me because I was going to be gone a couple of days. A couple of days – that was a funny one. I was gone about two years. Now, I didn’t have any money, so I went down to the
railroad yard and hopped a freight train to Waco, then grabbed
another to [Fort] Worth. I told the
recruiting sergeant there that I was twenty-one. I lied you see; I had to get in. I told him I wanted to join
the infantry so I could fight those
Germans, and they said fine. Well, when my daddy found out where I was, he came down to get me to
come back home. ‘Al,’ he pleaded, ‘We need you at home. What do
you want to go over there to France for, get all shot full of holes? We
love you at home, boy.’ ‘No, Dad,’ I answered, ‘I don’t want to go back home. I want to go to war, show the Kaiser that he can’t fool around
with Americans.’ Poor Dad, he tried so hard for about an hour to get me to go home. But finally he gave
up. ‘Well, son, if that’s the way you feel,” he said, “remember one
thing: if you love God and your
country, and you do your duty,
you’ll come back safe.’ And he was right.” Source: Berry, H. (ed.) Make the Kaiser Dance: Living Memories of a Forgotten War: The American Experience in World War I, pp. 291-295

LESSON 2 AIM: How did the attitude of soldiers change after being in battle?

  Activity 1: Students read the
poem “The Soldier” silently
followed by the class reading the
poem aloud.
If I should die, think only this of
me:
That there’s some corner of a
foreign field
That is ever England.
There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust
concealed;
A dust whom England bore,
shaped, made aware,
Gave, once her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing
English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no
less
Gives somewhere back the
thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams
happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness
In hearts at peace, under an
English heaven.

Source: Brooke, Rupert
The Complete Poems of Rupert
Brooke (1933)
Activity 2: Segment from All
Quiet on the Western Front.
Soldier: (shocked) Dead. He’s dead.

Katczinsky: Why did you risk your life bringing him in?

Soldier: But it’s Behm, my friend.

Katczinsky: (admonishing) It’s a
corpse, no matter whose it is.
Questions
1. What are the soldiers doing?
2. Why were the boys surprised at their friend’s death?
3. What does Katczinsky mean?
4. Who is right in the dialogue
when the boys bring back Behm’s
body?
Activity 3:
“Dulce Et Decorum Est.”
  Questions
A. Distribute the poem and have
students read it alone. Answer
any questions about the
vocabulary. When the students are ready, read the poem aloud as a
class.

B. Read the questions first so that
it is clear what they are to look
for.

C. Put students into pairs. Have
each group answer one of the
following questions, quoting the
lines that support their
answers.

Questions
1. Where is the poet going? Where has he come from? (To their
“distant rest.”
They have travelled from the
front line: “Till the haunting flares we turned our backs.”)

2. How did he and the other
soldiers feel? (Very tired – “Drunk with fatigue”)

3. How do the soldiers look?
(Like old beggars; weak and
malnourished; knock-kneed,
covered in blood:
“Blood-shod”, in bare feet and
barely able to walk “Many had lost their boots/ but limped on. . . all
lame”)

4. What do the soldiers try to
do to protect themselves? (put on
their gas masks: “An ecstasy of
fumbling / Fitting the clumsy
helmets just in time”)

5. Does every man mange to fit his helmet in time? (No: “But someone still was yelling out and
stumbling”)

6 What happens to the man? (He
dies in agony: “flound’ring like a
man in fire or lime”)

7 What lasting effect does this
incident have on Owen? (He still
sees the man in his dreams: In all my dreams, before my helpless
sight, / He plunges at me”)

8 What is Owen’s final message? (If you saw such a thing you would
never repeat the slogan, Dulce at
Delcorum Est – there is no glory in war)  
“Dulce Et Decorum Est”
Source: C. Day Lewis, ed., The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen (1963)
Bent double, like old beggars
under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags,
we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we
turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep.

Many had lost their boots But
limped on, blood-shod. All went
lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, out stripped Five-Nines that dropped
behind. Gas! Gas! Quick boys! –An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the
clumsy helmets just in time; But
someone still was yelling out and
stumbling And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. . . Dim, through the misty panes and thick green
light, As under a green sea, I saw
him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He
plunges at me, guttering, choking,
drowning. If in some smothering
dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin; If you could
hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted
lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, — My friend,
you would not tell with such high
zest To children ardent for some
desperate glory, The Old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.* * (“It is fitting and proper to die for one’s country.”

Culminating Activity: Using their notes, the students will write several paragraphs explaining who they think was right.

LESSON 3 AIM: What were some of the emotional costs of the war?

Activity 1: Discuss the
psychological pressures that can
lead to insanity
1. Distribute the handout,
“Psychiatrists Case Study”

2. As students watch the film, they are to fill out the case study. They
are psychiatrists and are to write a clinical description of the conditions the soldiers are exposed to.

3. Show the film from the death of
their friend to the point where the soldiers are about to attack.
(Chapter Seven – 10 minutes – 26:35 – 36:35)

4. Have the students describe the
conditions in the trenches.

5. Start the film again, run it until the fade out. (Chapter Seven – seven minutes – 36:35 – 43:35) What
were the soldiers exposed to? How could this exposure lead to “shell shock?” Discussion.  
“A Psychiatrist’s Case Study” There has been an outbreak of
“shell-shock” in the German army. This is a situation where soldiers go insane. You have been called in to
complete a study of the conditions
that the soldiers face in the
trenches. Describe what you see the soldiers exhibiting as you watch
the film clip.
Physical Conditions:
Chance of injury:
Food:
Weather – it’s effect on the
soldiers:
Sleeping conditions and the effect
of these:
Privacy (or lack of) and its effect: Deaths and their effect:  
Summary: Each student will
pretend that they are a soldier in
World War I fighting in the
trenches, and are trying to describe this warfare to a loved one at
home. They may use any media
they want, e.g. letter, poetry, song, artwork.

LESSON 4 AIM: Was the war worth the costs?

Activity 1: Gallery Walk
1. Organize documents around the classroom: Texts should be displayed “gallery-style” – in a way that allows students to disperse themselves
around the room, with several students clustering around a particular
text. Texts can be hung on walls or placed on tables. The most important factor is that the texts are spread far enough apart to reduce significant crowding. Students should be given a definite time to be spent on each
prompt, e.g. two minutes. A timer can be used.

2. Instruct students on how to walk through the gallery: Students will
take the gallery walk on their own. They should fill out the question sheet as they rotate around the room. One direction that should be emphasized is that students are supposed to disperse themselves around the room. Be ready to break up clumps of students.

3. Assess: As the teacher, it is important to make sure that the students
understand each prompt, thus, it is important that you monitor the
stations while the students participate. Ask some students to explain
what they see. You may need to clarify or provide a hint if students don’t understand or misinterpret what is posted at their station. Read the
students’ writing (Specific problems may be that, in “Parade to War,
Allegory” the soldiers faces resemble skulls or in John Singer Sargent’s
painting some of the soldiers have their hands on other’s shoulders – this is because they have been blinded. They should also be aware of the
figures in the foreground and background of Sargent’s painting).

4. Reflect: Have students break into small groups to discuss what they
have seen. They should discuss how each document reflects an aspect of
the costs of World War I. As a group they should decide which document is the most important, explaining why.

5. Class Reflection: A representative from each group will explain to the
class which document their group decided was the most important. They will give reasons to defend their choice.
Station 1: How was Ypres affected by the war?
Station 2: How were participating countries affected by World War I?  
Station 3: What was the result of “A Call for Arms”?

Station 3: What was the result of “A Call for Arms”? “Untrained though they were (the conscription laws exempted them from service until their studies were complete), they volunteered almost to a complete body to form the new XXII and XXIII corps, which in October 1914, after two months of drill, were thrown into action against the regulars of the British army near Ypres in Belgium. The result was a massacre of the innocents (known in Germany as the kindermord bei Ypern), of which a ghastly memorial can be seen to his day. In the Langemarck cemetery, overlooked by a shrine
decorated by the insignia of Germany’s universities, lie the bodies of 36,000 young men interred in a common grave, all killed in three weeks of fighting; the number almost equals hat of the UnitedStates’ battle casualties in seven years of war in Vietnam. Source: Keegan, J. A History of Warfare, pp. 358-359

Station 4: What was the affect of poison gas?

Station 4: What was the affect of poison gas?
The aftermath of a mustard gas attack in August 1918 witnessed by the artist John Singer Sargent. Poison gas was probably the most feared of all weapons in World War One. Poison gas was indiscriminate and could be used on the trenches even when no attack was going on. “What we saw
was total death,” wrote a young German soldier named Willi Siebert in a
letter to his son. “Nothing was alive. All of the animals had come out of
their holes to die. … You could see where men had clawed at their faces,
and throats, trying to get breath. Some had shot themselves.”
Source: Everts, Sara “When Chemicals Became Weapons of War.”

 Refugees from Belgium flood into Holland.

Station 5: How did the war affect civilians? The magnitude of the wartime refugee crisis is difficult to establish with precision. It was characterized by multiple flows of human beings, and therefore an imaginary census at a given point in time would underestimate the real total of those who were displaced. Nevertheless, data from different countries suggest that at least 10 million people were displaced either internally or as a result of fleeing across an international frontier. Source: Gatrell, Peter Refugees | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1)

Shell Shock

Station 6: How did the losses of World War I affect the soldiers? By 1917 the French army had lost nearly 1,000,000 dead, and after another disastrous offensive in Champagne in April, one half of its fighting divisions refused to obey further orders to attack. The episode, loosely described as mutiny, is better represented as a large-scale military strike against the operation of an unbearable probability; four out of nine Frenchmen enlisted in the fighting-units suffered wounds or death by the war’s close. At the end of that year, the Italian army, which its government had committed to war against Austria in May 1915, went the same way; it collapsed in the face of an Austro-German counteroffensive and was effectively immobilized until the armistice. The Russian army, its casualties, uncounted, had by then begun to ‘vote for peace with its feet,’ in Lenin’s phrase. Lenin’s political victory in the Petrograd Revolution of October 1917 could not have occurred but for the military catastrophes the army had undergone in East Prussia, Poland, and the Ukraine, which dissolved the units on which the constitutional government counted for support. Source: Keegan, J. A History of Warfare, pp. 359-362

References:

All Quiet on the Western Front. Directed by Lewis Milestone.  Universal Studios, 1930.

Berry, H. (1978, ed.).  Make the Kaiser dance: Living memories of a forgotten war—The American experience in World War I.  Doubleday: New York.

Brooke, R (1933). The complete poems of Rupert Brooke. London: Sidwich & Jackson.

Eksteins, M.  (1989). Rites of spring: The great war and the birth of the modern age.  New York. A Peter Davison Book/Houghton Mifflin Company.

Everts, S. (2015). “When chemicals became weapons of war.” Retrieved from www.chemicalweapons.cenmag.org/when-chemicals-became-weapons-of-war 

Gatrell, P. (2017). Refugees. International Encyclopedia of the First World War. Retrieved from https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/refugees

Keegan, J. (1993).  A history of warfare.  New York, Random7). House.

Kostval, K.M.  (2017). Joining the fight: The United States enters World War I. National Geographic History, March/April 2017, 78-87.

Lewis, C.D. (Ed.) (1963).  The collected poems of Wilfred Owen. London: Chatto & Windus. Trueman, C.N. (2015). Poison gas and World War I. retrieved from https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/the-western-front-in-world-war-one/poison-gas-and-world-war-one/

Economic Law or Political Policy?

Alan Singer
Hofstra University

A problem framing the economics curriculum is disagreement about what should be included and even when there is a consensus on topics and themes, how they should be presented. The Business Dictionary, the NCSS C3 Framework, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and the New York State 12th Grade Social Studies Framework even offer very different conceptions of what economics is. In Social Studies for Secondary Schools (Routledge, 2014) I provide teachers with a very simple definition. “Economics examines how societies produce and distribute the goods and services that people, communities, and nations need to survive.” But of course, it is really complex, because how societies “produce and distribute the goods and services” involves individual, business, social, and political decisions, and competition between different interests, as does defining what “people, communities, and nations need to survive.” A good example is the debate over the regulation of industry to protect the environment and human civilization from the negative effects of climate change.

Business Dictionary: “The theories, principles, and models that deal with how the market process works. It attempts to explain how wealth is
created and distributed in communities, how people allocate resources
that are scarce and have many alternative uses, and other such matters
that arise in dealing with human wants and their satisfaction.”
Their focus is on the market process and does not include the role of labor in production or government regulation.  

NCSS C3 Framework: “Effective economic decision making requires that students have a keen understanding of the ways in which individuals,
businesses, governments, and societies make decisions to allocate human capital, physical capital, and natural resources among alternative uses.
This economic reasoning process involves the consideration of costs and benefits with the ultimate goal of making decisions that will enable
individuals and societies to be as well off as possible. The study of
economics provides students with the concepts and tools necessary for an economic way of thinking and helps students understand the interaction of buyers and sellers in markets, workings of the national economy, and interactions within the global marketplace.” Their focus is on economic
decision-making and cost benefits. They recognize the role of multiple
forces in the process, but don’t specifically cite workers or unions, or
discuss how programs that benefit one group can be catastrophic for another.  

Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul
Krugman: “The economy is everything that involves making or using
goods and services . . .Self-interest is still the best motivator we know – or more accurately, the only consistent motivator. So I’m for market
economies. But I’m for market economies with strong safety nets, with
adult supervision in capital markets, with public provision of goods the
private sector does badly. An idealized New Deal is about as far as I go.”
Krugman is a left-Keysnian who supports an active role for the government in regulating markets and meeting human needs, but he still relies on
market solutions.  

NYS 12th Grade Framework: “Economics, the Enterprise System, and
Finance” examines the principles of the United States free market
economy in a global context. Students will examine their individual
responsibility for managing their personal finances. Students will analyze the role of supply and demand in determining the prices individuals and
businesses face in the product and factor markets, and the global nature of these markets. Students will study changes to the workforce in the
United States, and the role of entrepreneurs in our economy, as well as
the effects of globalization. Students will explore the challenges facing
the United States free market economy in a global environment and
various policy-making opportunities available to government to address
these challenges.”

This is the worst of the definitions. First, the United States does not have a
free-market economy and never has. Second, the stress on individual
responsibility ignores the broader forces shaping our lives. Individuals,
especially children, do not choose to be poor, unemployed, or homeless.
Third, nothing is mentioned about competing interests or economic
inequality. Good points are recognition of global forces and a role for
government, but these are secondary in the,curriculum.

The idea of free markets is generally associated with 18th century Scottish Enlightenment thinker Adam Smith and his notion of an “invisible hand” self-regulating markets. Smith actually only mentioned the “invisible hand” once in “The Wealth of Nations,” his signature work. The idea was actually promoted by 20th century economists, including F.A. Hayek who described it as “spontaneous order” and Joseph Schumpeter who called it “creative destruction.” As a result of Smith, Hayek, and Schumpeter, free-market economists often describe the “invisible hand” and the supply/demand curve as “economic law.” According to Smith: “Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can … He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention … By pursuing his own interests, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good” (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/invisiblehand.asp).

Economists from Karl Marx through John Maynard Keynes and contemporary Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman argue that political policies and government decisions actually play a much more important role in shaping modern economies than hypothesized economic laws. Most political economists argue that government intervention in modern economies is a positive benefit to society although they disagree on how active the government’s role should be.

This series of activities are designed to involve economics students in discussion of whether “economic law” or political policy should govern modern economies. The articles are edited down to less than 500 words to meet the standard for fair-use replications. They were also selected as challenging, but within the literacy expectations of students who are ready to do college-level work.

Aim: Does economic law or political policy govern modern economies?

Do Now: Read the definition of the “Invisible Hand,” examine the cartoons, and answer questions 1-4.

Invisible Hand: The term “invisible hand” was introduced by Adam Smith in his book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). It describes unobservable, or invisible, market forces that help the demand and supply of goods in a free market capitalist economy to automatically reach equilibrium (balance) at the most productive or beneficial level. – https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/invisible-hand.  

Questions What is the origin of the term, the “invisible hand”?How is it supposed to operate?How are the depictions of the “invisible hand” in the cartoons similar and different?In your opinion, which cartoonist has a more accurate view of how the “invisible hand” of free market capitalism actually works? Explain.  

Introduction (Modeling — Reading with video): Tax policies are definitely government decisions and affect people and industries differently. Donald Trump argues that cutting taxes on the wealthy and on corporations will unleash productivity and create new jobs. He is generally supported by free-market advocates, primarily members of the Republican Party. This chart is drawn from an article from Time magazine (http://time.com/5030731/the-republican-tax-bills-winners-and-losers/). The page also includes a video presenting multiple views on tax cuts.

The Republican Tax Bill’s Winners and Losers

The ultra-wealthy, especially those with dynastic businesses — like President Donald Trump and his family — do very well under a major Republican tax bill moving in the Senate, as they do under legislation passed this week by the House . . . On the other hand, people living in high-tax states, who deduct their local property, income and sales taxes from what they owe Uncle Sam, could lose out from the complete or partial repeal of the deductions. And an estimated 13 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage over 10 years under the Senate bill.

Winners Losers
* Wealthy individuals and their heirs win big. The hottest class-warfare debate around the tax
overhaul legislation involves the
inheritance tax on multimillion-dollar estates. The House bill initially doubles the limits — to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples — on how much money in the estate can be exempted from
the inheritance tax, then repeals
it entirely after 2023. The Senate
version also doubles the limits but doesn’t repeal the tax. Then there’s the alternative minimum tax, a
levy aimed at ensuring that higher-earning people pay at least some
tax. It disappears in both bills. The House measure cuts tax rates for
many of the millions of “pass-through” businesses big and small —
including partnerships and
specially organized corporations — whose profits are taxed at the
owners’ personal income rate. The Senate bill lets pass-through owners deduct some of the earnings and
then pay at their personal income
rate on the remainder.

* Corporations win all around, with a tax rate slashed from 35 percent
to 20 percent in both bills — though they’d have to wait a year for it
under the Senate measure.

* U.S. oil companies with foreign
operations would pay reduced
taxes under the Senate bill on their income from sales of oil and
natural gas abroad. Beer, wine and liquor producers would reap tax
reductions under the Senate
measure. Companies that provide management services like
maintenance for aircraft get an
updated win. The Senate bill clarifies that under current law, the
management companies would be exempt from paying taxes on payments they receive from owners of
private jets as well as from commercial airlines.
* An estimated 13 million
Americans could lose health
insurance coverage under the
Senate bill, which would repeal the “Obamacare” requirement that
everyone in the U.S. have health
insurance. The projection comes
from the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office.
Eliminating the fines is expected to mean fewer people would obtain
federally subsidized health
policies.
* People living in high-tax states
would be hit by repeal of federal
deductions for state and local taxes under the Senate bill, and partial
repeal under the House measure.
That result of a compromise allows the deduction for up to $10,000 in
property taxes.

* Many families making less than $30,000 a year would face tax
increases starting in 2021 under
the Senate bill, according to
Congress’ nonpartisan Joint
Committee on Taxation.

* By 2027, families earning less
than $75,000 would see their tax
bills rise while those making more would enjoy reductions, the
analysts find. The individual
income-tax reductions in the
Senate bill would end in 2026.  

Questions
1. Based on this report, who
benefits the most from tax reform proposals?

2. Based on this report, who loses
the most from tax reform
proposals?

3. In your opinion, are these proposals fair? Explain.

4. Does government tax policy
support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that
economies are driven by political
decisions? Explain.

Team A: Renewable Energy Is Surging. The G.O.P. Tax Bill Could Curtail That. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/climate/tax-overhaul-energy-wind-solar.html  

Questions
1. Based on this report, who
benefits the most from current
economic policies?

2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?

3. In your opinion, are these
policies fair? Explain.

4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are
driven by political decisions?
Explain.

The Republican tax bills moving through Congress could significantly hobble the United States’ renewable energy industry because of a series of provisions that scale back incentives for wind and solar power while bolstering older energy sources like oil and gas production.

The possibility highlights the degree to which the nation’s recent surge in renewable electricity generation is still sustained by favorable tax treatment, which has lowered the cost of solar and wind production while provoking the ire of fossil-fuel competitors seeking to weaken those tax preferences.

Whether lawmakers choose to protect or jettison various renewable tax breaks in the final bill being negotiated on Capitol Hill could have major ramifications for the United States energy landscape, including the prices consumers pay for electricity.

Wind and solar are two of the fastest-growing sources of power in the country, providing 7 percent of electricity last year. Sharp declines in the cost of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels, coupled with generous tax credits that can offset at least 30 percent of project costs, have made new wind and solar even cheaper than running existing fossil-fuel plants in parts of the country.

In different ways, direct and indirect, the House and Senate bills each imperil elements of that ascension. A Senate bill provision intended to stop multinational companies from shifting profits overseas could unexpectedly cripple a key financing tool used by the renewable energy industry, particularly solar, by eroding the value of tax credits that banks and other financial institutions buy from energy companies.

The House bill’s effects would be more direct, rolling back tax credits for wind farms and electric vehicles, while increasing federal support for two nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia. Fossil fuel producers are under little pressure in either bill and some would stand to benefit: The Senate legislation would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling, while a last-minute amendment added by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, would allow oil and gas companies to receive lower tax rates on their profits.

The tension between new and old energy was on display this week at a White House event to promote the Republican tax legislation, where a coal plant employee from North Dakota thanked President Trump for a provision in the House bill that would drastically reduce the value of the production tax credit for wind.

“The production tax credit has destroyed the energy market, especially in the Midwest,” the employee, Jessica Unruh, who is also a state representative, told the president. “Wind production has really eroded our state tax base and replaced coal production when it comes to electricity production.”

The wind industry has warned that the House language, which would reduce the wind tax credit to 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, from 2.4 cents, and change eligibility rules, could eliminate over half of the new wind farms planned in the United States.

Team B: Inequality Is Not Inevitable by Joseph Stiglitz, NYT, June 28, 2014 SR1 http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/inequality-is-not-inevitable/?ref=opinion

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic
policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

An insidious trend has developed over this past third of a century. A country that experienced shared growth after World War II began to tear apart, so much so that when the Great Recession hit in late 2007, one could no longer ignore the fissures that had come to define the American economic landscape. How did this “shining city on a hill” become the advanced country with the greatest level of inequality?

Our current brand of capitalism is an ersatz capitalism. For proof of this go back to our response to the Great Recession, where we socialized losses, even as we privatized gains. Perfect competition should drive profits to zero, at least theoretically, but we have monopolies and oligopolies making persistently high profits. C.E.O.s enjoy incomes that are on average 295 times that of the typical worker, a much higher ratio than in the past, without any evidence of a proportionate increase in productivity.

If it is not the inexorable laws of economics that have led to America’s great divide, what is it? Part of the answer is that as World War II faded into memory, so too did the solidarity it had engendered. As America triumphed in the Cold War, there didn’t seem to be a viable competitor to our economic model . . . Ideology and interests combined nefariously. Some drew the wrong lesson from the collapse of the Soviet system. The pendulum swung from much too much government there to much too little here. Corporate interests argued for getting rid of regulations, even when those regulations had done so much to protect and improve our environment, our safety, our health and the economy itself. But this ideology was hypocritical. The bankers, among the strongest advocates of laissez-faire economics, were only too willing to accept hundreds of billions of dollars from the government in the bailouts that have been a recurring feature of the global economy since the beginning of the Thatcher-Reagan era of “free” markets and deregulation.

The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality . . . So corporate welfare increases as we curtail welfare for the poor. Congress maintains subsidies for rich farmers as we cut back on nutritional support for the needy. Drug companies have been given hundreds of billions of dollars as we limit Medicaid benefits. The banks that brought on the global financial crisis got billions while a pittance went to the homeowners and victims of the same banks’ predatory lending practices.

The problem of inequality is not so much a matter of technical economics. It’s really a problem of practical politics. Ensuring that those at the top pay their fair share of taxes — ending the special privileges of speculators, corporations and the rich — is both pragmatic and fair . . . Widening and deepening inequality is not driven by immutable economic laws, but by laws we have written ourselves.

Team C: Big Mac Test Shows Job Market Is Not Working to Distribute Wealth by Eduardo Porter, NYT, April 22, 2015, B1, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/22/business/big-mac-test-shows-job-market-is-not-working-to-distribute-wealth.html?ref=business

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

Some 15 years ago, searching for a consistent way to compare wages of equivalent workers across the world, Orley Ashenfelter, an economics professor at Princeton University, came upon McDonald’s. The uniform, highly scripted production methods used throughout the McDonald’s fast-food empire allowed Professor Ashenfelter to compare workers in far-flung countries doing virtually the same thing. The company also offered a natural index to measure the purchasing power of its wages around the world: the price of a Big Mac. Some of his findings are depressing. Real wages — measured in terms of the number of Big Macs they might buy, declined over the first decade of the millennium widely across the industrialized world.

Even before the financial crisis struck, the wages of McDonald’s workers in the United States, many Western European countries, Japan and Canada went nowhere between 2000 and 2007, a period of steady, though unspectacular, economic growth in most of the developed world. In the United States, real wages actually declined . . . Faced with a tightening labor market and besieged by a vocal, combative movement demanding higher wages for America’s worst-paid employees, McDonald’s, Walmart and other large employers of cheap labor have offered modest raises to millions of workers scraping the bottom of the job market.

The battle for public opinion is fought mostly on ethical grounds — pitting the healthy profits of American corporations and the colossal pay of their executives against bottom-end wages that force millions of workers to rely on public assistance to survive. But what is often overlooked in the hypercharged debate about corporate morality is how a similar dynamic is taking hold around the industrialized world.

Lane Kenworthy, a professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego, has disentangled the evolution of household incomes over the last three or four decades. The wages from work, he found, are playing a diminishing role for a growing swath of the labor force . . . A combination of sluggish employment and stagnant wages has forced more families to rely on the public purse in many developed nations. 

In Canada, for example, labor market earnings for the bottom fourth of the income ladder grew by roughly $25 a year between 1979 and 2007. Government transfers increased by $78. For Canadian households one rung higher — between the 25th and the 50th percent of the earnings distribution — there were no increases in labor market compensation. All gains came from the government. In Germany — often portrayed as the gold standard of the postindustrial labor market — the entire bottom half of households experienced shrinking earnings from work. They only got ahead because of rising government benefits.

Perhaps it is simply that the demand for skill in the modern job market has grown faster than its supply. The United States, notably, hasn’t increased educational attainment at the rate the labor market requires. And the economy simply doesn’t need as many less-educated workers as it once did.

Team D: Top 10% Took Home Half Of U.S. Income in 2012 by Annie Lowrey, NYT, September 11, 2013, B4

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting the relevant data a century ago, according to an updated study by the prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans, one of the highest levels on record since 1913, when the government instituted an income tax. The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so.

High stock prices, rising home values and surging corporate profits have buoyed the recovery-era incomes of the most affluent Americans, with the incomes of the rest still weighed down by high unemployment and stagnant wages for many blue- and white-collar workers.

The income share of the top 1 percent of earners in 2012 returned to the same level as before both the Great Recession and the Great Depression: just above 20 percent, jumping to about 22.5 percent in 2012 from 19.7 percent in 2011 . . . [R]icher households have disproportionately benefited from the boom in the stock market during the recovery, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average more than doubling in value since it bottomed out early in 2009. About half of households hold stock, directly or through vehicles like pension accounts. But the richest 10 percent of households own about 90 percent of the stock, expanding both their net worth and their incomes when they cash out or receive dividends.

The economy remains depressed for most wage-earning families. With sustained, relatively high rates of unemployment, businesses are under no pressure to raise their employees’ incomes because both workers and employers know that many people without jobs would be willing to work for less. The share of Americans working or looking for work is at its lowest in 35 years. There is a glimmer of good news for the 99 percent in the report, though. Mr. Piketty and Mr. Saez show that the incomes of that group stagnated between 2009 and 2011. In 2012, they started growing again — if only by about 1 percent. But the total income of the top 1 percent surged nearly 20 percent that year. The incomes of the very richest, the 0.01 percent, shot up more than 32 percent.

Team E: Health Care and Profits, a Poor Mix by Eduardo Porter, NYT, 1/9/13, B1 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/business/health-care-and-pursuit-of-profit-make-a-poor-mix.html

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic
policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is
operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

Thirty years ago, Bonnie Svarstad and Chester Bond of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered an interesting pattern in the use of sedatives at nursing homes in the south of the state. Patients entering church-affiliated nonprofit homes were prescribed drugs roughly as often as those entering profit-making “proprietary” institutions. But patients in proprietary homes received, on average, more than four times the dose of patients at nonprofits. Writing about his colleagues’ research, . . .the economist Burton Weisbrod provided a straightforward explanation: “differences in the pursuit of profit.” Sedatives are cheap, Mr. Weisbrod noted. “Less expensive than, say, giving special attention to more active patients who need to be kept busy.”

This behavior was hardly surprising. Hospitals run for profit are also less likely than nonprofit and government-run institutions to offer services like home health care and psychiatric emergency care, which are not as profitable as open-heart surgery. A shareholder might even applaud the creativity with which profit-seeking institutions go about seeking profit. But the consequences of this pursuit might not be so great for other stakeholders in the system — patients, for instance. One study found that patients’ mortality rates spiked when nonprofit hospitals switched to become profit-making, and their staff levels declined.

These profit-maximizing tactics point to a troubling conflict of interest that goes beyond the private delivery of health care. They raise a broader, more important question: How much should we rely on the private sector to satisfy broad social needs? From health to pensions to education, the United States relies on private enterprise more than pretty much every other advanced, industrial nation to provide essential social services. The government pays Medicare Advantage plans to deliver health care to aging Americans. It provides a tax break to encourage employers to cover workers under 65. Businesses devote almost 6 percent of the nation’s economic output to pay for health insurance for their employees. This amounts to nine times similar private spending on health benefits across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, on average. Private plans cover more than a third of pension benefits. The average for 30 countries in the O.E.C.D. is just over one-fifth.

Our reliance on private enterprise to provide the most essential services stems, in part, from a more narrow understanding of our collective responsibility to provide social goods. Private American health care has stood out for decades among industrial nations, where public universal coverage has long been considered a right of citizenship. But our faith in private solutions also draws on an ingrained belief that big government serves too many disparate objectives and must cater to too many conflicting interests to deliver services fairly and effectively.

Our trust appears undeserved, however. Our track record suggests that handing over responsibility for social goals to private enterprise is providing us with social goods of lower quality, distributed more inequitably and at a higher cost than if government delivered or paid for them directly.

Team F: Skilled Work, Without the Worker by John Markoff, NYT, 8/19 A1 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/business/new-wave-of-adept-robots-is-changing-global-industry.html

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic
policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

At the Philips Electronics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way. At a sister factory here in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human. One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year. All told, the factory here has several dozen workers per shift, about a tenth as many as the plant in the Chinese city of Zhuhai.

This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers.

Many industry executives and technology experts say Philips’s approach is gaining ground on Apple’s. Even as Foxconn, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, continues to build new plants and hire thousands of additional workers to make smartphones, it plans to install more than a million robots within a few years to supplement its work force in China. Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”

Take the cavernous solar-panel factory run by Flextronics in Milpitas, south of San Francisco. A large banner proudly proclaims “Bringing Jobs & Manufacturing Back to California!” Yet in the state-of-the-art plant, where the assembly line runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are robots everywhere and few human workers. All of the heavy lifting and almost all of the precise work is done by robots that string together solar cells and seal them under glass. The human workers do things like trimming excess material, threading wires and screwing a handful of fasteners into a simple frame for each panel.

Such advances in manufacturing are also beginning to transform other sectors that employ millions of workers around the world. One is distribution, where robots that zoom at the speed of the world’s fastest sprinters can store, retrieve and pack goods for shipment far more efficiently than people. Robots could soon replace workers at companies like C & S Wholesale Grocers, the nation’s largest grocery distributor, which has already deployed robot technology.

Team G: What Happened to the American Boomtown?
by Emily Badger, NYT, Dec. 6, 2017, B3 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/upshot/what-happened-to-the-american-boomtown.html

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic
policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

The metro areas that offered the highest pay in 2000 have grown by some of the slowest rates since then, while people have flocked to lower-wage metros like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C. Similarly, the metros with the highest G.D.P. per capita are barely adding workers relative to much less productive areas. Some people aren’t moving into wealthy regions because they’re stuck in struggling ones. They have houses they can’t sell or government benefits they don’t want to lose. But the larger problem is that they’re blocked from moving to prosperous places by the shortage and cost of housing there. And that’s a deliberate decision these wealthy regions have made in opposing more housing construction, a prerequisite to make room for more people.

Compare that with most of American history. The country’s economic growth has long “gone hand in hand with enormous reallocation of population,” write the economists Kyle Herkenhoff, Lee Ohanian and Edward Prescott in a recent studyof what’s hobbling similar population flows now. Workers moved north during the Great Migration and west out of the Dust Bowl. The lure of the Gold Rush made San Francisco a boomtown after the 1850s. The rise of the auto industry helped triple the size of Detroit between 1910 and 1930. Other northern cities like Cleveland similarly swelled as they became manufacturing hubs. Los Angeles grew to a city of more than a million in the 1920s as film sets, oil wells and aircraft manufacturing promised opportunity. Seattle boomed after World War II, as Boeing did. Houston’s population took off as it became the center of the country’s energy economy.

A Passive Generation

Brooke Stock
Rider University

As United States citizens we are given the right to vote. This opportunity allows our country to be a democracy and gives people a voice in the government. As a young adult, one would think that our generation would choose to voice their opinions for the future, since it will affect our lives immensely. Unfortunately, many individuals among my generation do not see this as a priority. Young adults, from the ages eighteen to twenty-four have the lowest voting participation rates out of everyone who is eligible to vote. This is due to the Presidential Election in 2016 between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Young adults share their voice and opinions on politics, but when it comes to the polls, they do not vote. Many young adults also believe that they do not have to go and vote because they believe that their voices will not be heard. In this article, I discuss the reasons behind this lack of commitment to the polls. What is the reason that young adults right out of high school do not vote? Is it the lack of teaching politics in social studies classrooms? Or, is the focus of social studies classrooms too dedicated to teaching the same past events? Furthermore, could this turn out be evidence that social studies needs to be renovated? Maybe there needs to be a class that is dedicated to current events and individual responsibility as a citizen that all students must take. I can recall when I was a student in high school, my teachers never fully expressed the importance of voting because we were not old enough to vote at that point in our lives. The presidential election of 2016 should be a warning for adolescents and young adults that our votes, in fact, do matter. All votes matter, but when it comes to the future of the United States, the younger Americans need to vote so our concerns can be handled properly.

            I remember, too, when I was in high school four years ago and all my social studies teachers never emphasized the importance of voting. Teachers always briefly stated the importance of the rights that we have, one being the right to vote. Before the 2016 election, there was not a recent election where the younger generation believed that they had to vote. Since the outcome of the election, this was a wakeup call to many people. Many people just believed that the person that they wanted to win, would. When the outcome was the presidential candidate that they did not want, they were the first people to complain all over social media. How can someone complain if they did not actively practice their right to vote? From my past experiences in the field at Ewing High School, my cooperating teacher expressed to the students how important it is to vote. We collaborated on a lesson about Andrew Jackson and tracing his presidency from his actions as a common man to his actions as having “king-like qualities”. Our students were curious on our views on the past election and what we believed. Together, we were honest with them. We expressed how significant it is to do your research, hear everyone’s side, and develop your own beliefs. We discussed the voter turnout and why their vote will matter someday. It is important for students to be taught that when they are of age to go out and make their voices heard.

            After researching why, it is that the younger generation does not vote, I found out that the average age that voted in the 2016 election was fifty-seven (Strauss, 2018). These means that all the reforms and laws that the younger generation wants to be passed, will not. All new laws, reforms, acts, will be towards what the older generation needs. Carolyn DeWitt and Maureen Costello state that, “If there is one thing we believe in America, we believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people.” and later explain that American citizens, “…haven’t learned how to register to vote. They haven’t learned the best way to influence their elected representatives. They haven’t learned that they have power.” (Strauss, 2018). How can we be a democracy that countries want to mimic if we cannot get our own to get up and vote? Have Americans stopped caring or are we too lazy to vote?  Joel Stein explains the millennial turnout and states that he, “calls millennials the “narcissistic generation,” and Jean Twenge says they are the “me generation,” stuck to their phones and uninterested in politics.” (Dalton, 2016). I do believe that millennials and people who are younger are addicted to their phones. Social media overtakes people’s lives, day to day. Instead of going out to make sure their vote counts, they will voice their opinions on Twitter or Facebook hoping that by posting their opinion it will help the vote. I agree, it is essential to voice your opinions, but if you are not going to act, then why are you choosing to not vote?

            I always ask my peers why they do not bother to go vote because I understood the importance of this aspect my whole life. The answer I frequently receive is, “Because my vote won’t make a difference”. This answer, I personally feel is a selfish statement. Every vote matters no matter who you are or what you believe. If everyone who did not believe in their vote, voted, then the voter turnout would be completely different. Health care is so prominent because it is what most older people want for themselves. If the younger generation would go out and vote we could help our education systems and our futures. Caroline Beaton expresses that, “In 2016, we view engaging in politics as a personal choice, not a civic obligation.” (Beaton, 2016). This is accurate because many younger people see voting as an option and not an obligation. They believe it is not their civic duty to express what they want. If people were educated more on voting and constantly informed on the importance of it, I believe that they would go out and exercise their right to vote.

            I have hope for my generation in the 2020 election. The past election was, without a doubt, a wakeup call. This article is not intended to bash the younger generation, however, to express my aspiration for them to be more active participants in the future of our country. We are the future and I believe that we will come together as one fighting for what we believe.

References

Beaton, C. (2016) The science behind why millennials don’t vote. Retrieved from  https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinebeaton/2016/11/04/whymillennialsarentvoting/#34fb382e89c2

Dalton R. (2016). Why don’t millennials vote? Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/03/22/why-dont-millennials-vote/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9e68bea2c2ec

Strauss, V. (2018, September 20). Many young people don’t vote because they never learned how. Here’s a free class now in schools trying to change that. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2018/09/20/many-young-people-dont-vote-because-they-never-learned-how-heres-free-class-now-schools-trying-change-that/?utm_term=.b355d8c66fc0

The Other Facets of Sputnik: Not Just a Satellite

Matthew Maul
Rider University

On the night of October 4, 1957, Americans could tune in on their radios to hear a small sphere floating in orbit sounding off beeps as it goes along. Sputnik was the first human-made object to go into an orbit around Earth, and thus start something called the Space Race. For such a breakthrough technological achievement, however, it was somewhat limited in its own performance.  It could orbit and transmit radio signals back to earth, but beyond that, Sputnik was practically useless except for its role in Cold War Symbolism. It is this symbolism that is thought more often than not, then the education reform that comes after it. The launch of Sputnik is much more than the start of the Space Race; it was a catalyst for education reform and by my calculations, it will take another Sputnik to launch another wave of widely accepted reforms instead of the patchwork introduction of fixes like SGOs, Common Core, and PARCC.


            “It is essential to examine the America school system before the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Before 1947 and stemming out of World War Two American schools were still primarily influenced by Progressivist school of ideas and practices from John Dewey. Progressivism emphasized the concept that students could only learn when they had “internalized what they had gained through experience and practiced in their own lives.” (Olson, 2000) In the mid-1940s, a new group called the ‘Life-Adjusters’ began to challenge the progressivist idea and thus began to change them. The main reason being that progressive education failed the majority. This so-called failure along with these new ideas for education and its purpose were based in the 1918 study titled Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education. The goal of this new educational philosophy entitled ‘Life-Adjustment’ was to change the fundamental practices of the school. What fundamental practices did this study mean, it was no other than the core academic classes. By disregarding traditional academics, this meant that history, languages, science, and mathematics were less valued to instead focus on the concept of ‘fundamental processes.’ The fundamental process was the curricula and activities for the general student and would thus be the considerations for vocational education, use of leisure time, and other wholesome topics that would improve the capability of a student to live a good and productive life. What supported this study was a national education conference in 1945. From its findings, the committee has found that no more than 20% of students could be reasonably expected to ever attend college, with another 20% destined for a vocational program.  This means that only 40 percent of students can further their education and contribute to society; the other problem becomes the other 60%. The obvious recommendation was the adoption of the previously mentioned Life Adjustment education model. It, however, was not going to be all in favor of the Life Adjusters, as these beliefs were incorporated with some progressive concepts. The most important being the concept of tracking students by ability level on every topic. This meant that higher achieving college-and vocational school-bound kids could still get the same education while the other students can get a more general track in which they can succeed. In 1951 the Life Adjustment approach was formalized in the Educational Policy Commission’s report, Education for All American Children. (Bybee, 1997) Life-adjustment education was more utilitarian when compared to the previous progressive practices of earlier education models. The reason for this utilitarian nature is that schools were failing in preparing a majority of its student population for its future so this model instead focused on the needs of the general student. Its proposed curriculum was on functional experiences in areas such as arts, family living, and civic participation.  This kind of curriculum was more about preparing an active citizen instead of an educated academic. 

   
Now, when you examine these tracks based on the ability for the student you can draw a comparison to the modern day with Special Education with the process of inclusion and mainstreaming. The method of mainstreaming and inclusion is the result of placing students in the Least Restrictive Environment as a part of the requirements of the IDEA act. (Morin) Mainstreaming is the process of taking your kids with disabilities and putting them in a general classroom, hence the mainstream. This typically comes with some form of help for the student or that the student spends time in special education or resource classes. Without the IDEA act, special education would not have advanced as quickly as it did which thus leads us to why Sputnik was so important.


            The National Defense Education Act was spurred into creation off the impact of the Sputnik launch. The overall goal of this specific legislation was to change the country’s educational system to meet the standards of the national government concerning the nation’s defense. Regarding the national defense that meant the subject thought and focused on would have a direct benefit to those job fields. Thus, by increasing the standards of education, the United States hoped the changes would help them either compete or pass the Soviet Union. The importance of the NDEA, much like IDEA, is in the acceleration for reform it caused. The overall effects of NDEA are grants and federal aid for higher education and also a restructuring of school curriculum around that funding. Because of the scientific nature and international significance of Sputnik, the course requirements for students became aligned toward national security and jobs of that nature. Thus, the standard course load stiffened away from Life-Adjustment and added more Math and Science classes. If The Association of American Universities described the NDEA as “inspiring generations of U.S. students to pursue study in fields vital to national security and aide.” (American Association of Universities, 2006) Then it was effective in changing education as they knew it. And when you examine education curricula today, you see that the impact clear as day as almost every high school student for graduation shall have four years of math and 2-3 years of science by the time they do so.

The apparent result of Sputnik is not just in the historical context of historians of Devine and Dickson who propose a situation of American paranoia in retrospect to their calm leader, but rather the impact on education reform that we can see in the foundation of today’s schools. (Divine, 1993; Dickson, 2001) In an interesting article by a psychologist, he recognizes that there is a problem with modern educational reform. At the national level, the federal government spending on education has skyrocketed, with no comparable improvement in educational outcomes in such programs like Head Start, New Math, Nation at Risk, Goals 2000, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, charter schools, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core? (Klemm). We have had little to show in terms of the results of these programs as we keep trying to create better-standardized tests and are even thinking of replacing the common core in many states even though it only came out in 2009. The problem with modern education reform may not be with the program, but with the implementation. If states are allowed to pick and choose on adopting or adapting these reforms based on the fear of losing government spending, then the speed and acceptance rate would be relatively minor and too late before it impacted most of the nation. Klemm later states in the previous article “I think the real problem is that students generally lack learning competencies. Amazingly, schools tell students more about what to learn than how to learn” (Klemm, 2014). This is something that can have a much more lasting impact because it is on the level of teacher adaptation. If we are teaching these competencies instead of solely content, we can make sure that students can turn into these lifelong learners. It is effortless for a teacher to teach Organization, Understanding, Synthesis, Memory, Application, Creativity because it involves no money, but instead an adaptation of a lesson plan. Organization can be as simple as upgrading our technology to a cohesive system like Google Classroom where students can access all work and assignments and the same can be said for teachers. Creativity can be new ways to teach a lesson or new activities.

It’s important to touch on memory, which is commonly related to tests. Instead of teaching kids to take these tests, let’s make them create better mental connections for better learning. If students can connect historical themes to present day events than they can more easily recall this knowledge for other subjects. The problem with social studies is the idea that we teach to one test, and then the student can forget that knowledge. If we work on creating these connections, they can easily recall this knowledge in other classes or everyday life. Instead of a focus on a national reform movement that is bogged down by politics, let’s do something that only teachers have control over, which is how we teach students.


            If we want to change education before national reform is ever sufficient, we as teachers must be proactive and as Social Studies teacher that may be the essential part of our jobs. If we can get tour students to transfer the Think like a Historian skill to other subjects, we can change their mind on the value of history.  So until we have another Sputnik, we are stuck in the process of revolution. (Kuhn 1962) We had Sputnik in 1957, We had The Nation at Risk in 1983, what is the next event to revolutionize education? The next logical step is the quick improvement in technology, which may drastically change how and where we teach. Whatever the next Sputnik is, to make sure it is a more effective reform like NDEA it takes us as Teachers to be open-minded and accepting to the changes. Because, whatever reform or new ideas are thrown our way, we still need to be ready to change for the sake of our students.

References:

American Association of Universities. (2006). A National Defense Education Act for the 21st century: Renewing our commitment to U.S. students, science, scholarship, and security.

Bybee, R. (1997).  The Sputnik era: Why is this educational reform different from all the others? Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education Symposium “Reflecting on Sputnik: Linking the Past, Present, and Future of Educational Reform.” Washington, DC.

Dickson, P. (2001). Sputnik: Shock of the Century. New York, NY: Walker Publishers.

Divine, R.A. (1993). The Sputnik Challenge. New York: Oxford University Press.

Klemm, W. R. (2014). Educational Reform and Why It Is Not Working. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/memory-medic/201407/educational-reform-and-why-it-is-not-working

Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Morin, A. (2014).  Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): What you need to know. Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/special-education-basics/least-restrictive-environment-lre-what-you-need-to-know

Olson, L. (2000). Tugging at tradition. In V. Edwards (Ed.), Lessons of a Century: A Nation’s Schools Come of Age (94-118). Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education.

Learning Global Citizenship through UN Sustainable Development Goals

Jiwon Kim and Christine Grabowski
Monmouth University

We live in one world. What we do affects others, and what others do affects us, now more than ever. To recognize that we are all members of a world community and that we all have responsibilities to each other is not romantic rhetoric, but modern economic and social reality (McNulty, Davies, and Maddoux, 2010). If our neighborhoods and nations are both affecting and being affected by the world, then our political consciousness must be world-minded (Merryfield and Duty, 2008). A sense of global mindedness or global awareness must also be promoted in elementary school, but many educators still find it challenging. The purpose of this article is to explore how we engage elementary students in learning global issues and to examine how introducing United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to the elementary classroom helps young students develop their interest and understanding of current issues in the world and become active citizens.

Global Citizenship Education and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Scholarship on globalization suggests that new forms of democratic citizenship and politics are emerging (Andreotti, 2011; Davies, 2006; Gaudelli, 2016; Myers, 2006; Oxley & Morris, 2010; Parker, 2011; Schattle, 2008), and this demands critical and active global citizenship education. As Myers (2006) indicates, however, “while a global perspective is often incorporated into the curriculum and courses, the concept of global citizenship, suggesting a commitment and responsibility to the global community based in human rights, is less coherent” (p. 389).  

Citizenship is a verb – learning about our nation and the world, thinking about dilemmas of equality and equity, and acting on issues of collective concern (Boyle-Base and Zevin, 2009). Therefore, Global citizenship relates to important concepts such as awareness, responsibility, participation, cross-cultural empathy, international mobility, and achievement (Schattle, 2008). From this perspective, global education should be global citizenship education. Understanding and concern for such issues should lead to action, and local, state, and global studies should be used as a “springboard for deliberation, problem-solving, and community action” (Boyle-Base, et al. 2011). Boyle-Base and Zevin (2009) propose a three-part framework of citizenship: Young citizens of the world (and their teachers) should be informed, reflective, and active. This model means (1) becoming informed (about ideas, events, and issues); (2) thinking it through (presenting fair and balanced views), and (3) taking action (teaching deliberation, decision-making, and civic action) (Boyle-Base, et al., 2011).

We adopted this model in order to engage elementary students in global issues, by introducing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) to an elementary classroom. The Model United Nations is well known with many students participating in this program, but few realize that the UN SDGs are designed to educate our society and transform the world.  The UN SDGs, officially known as ‘Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ is a set of 17 Global Goals around world issues. On September 2015, countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2016, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, addressing the need to limit the rise of global temperatures. Governments, businesses, and civil society together with the United Nations, are mobilizing efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030. Universal, inclusive and indivisible, the agenda calls for action by all countries to improve the lives of people everywhere. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved. The 17 goals are as follows:

The UN and UNESCO explicitly support these goals and resources that are useful materials for global citizenship education. While global citizenship is geared towards older students, there are many ways that elementary school teachers can apply these goals and resources within their classroom. For example, the World’s Largest Lesson, which is a website created in partnership with UNICEF and UNESCO, introduces the Sustainable Development Goals to children and young people everywhere and unites them in action through various projects. If educators are planning an assembly or a lesson to introduce the Global Goals, there are a lot of resources listed on the website and educators can choose them based on the specific goal (http://worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/). These resources include training courses, activities, books, films, games, lesson plans for each grade level, decorations and posters, as well as support for students’ action and change project. Materials are available in English and nine other languages. Students can share their work online and help create a map of the world, for instance, that reflects why Goal 5, Gender Equality, is so relevant worldwide today.

Context

Mrs. G, an elementary school teacher leads a multi grade third and fourth grade class of sixteen students. This unique style of teaching embodies project-based learning with one to one Chromebooks for the students.  They are not seated at traditional desks; instead students are seated at whiteboard tables with rolling chairs for flexible collaboration and learning. Self-driven students who take initiative in their own learning, had become integral parts of how this exciting project about the UN SDGs had grown and developed. 

The UN SDGs lessons started out as requirement for the preservice teachers of Monmouth University that were presented in the third and fourth grade classroom. As the interest piqued in the classroom, Mrs. G decided to capitalize on students’ enthusiasm and design classroom activities to address the UN SDGs at their developmental level. The goal was for the students to become more globally aware about issues in the world, while honing their reading, writing, research, and presentation skills. This unit project addressed multiple NCSS standards and C3 Framework.

Table 1: Social Studies Standards Addressed in This Unit Project

Social Studies Standards
Addressed in This Unit Project
         NJCSS C3 Framework
1. CULTURE



2. PEOPLE, PLACES, AND
ENVIRONEMNTS




3. INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT
AND IDENTITY



4. INDIVIDUALS, GROUPS, AND
INSTITUTIONS






5. POWER, AUTHORITY, AND
GOVERNANCE





6. PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION,
AND CONSUMPTION




7. GLOBAL CONNECTION





8. CIVIC IDEALS AND PRACTICES  
D1.2.3-5. Identify disciplinary
concepts and ideas associated with a compelling question that are
open to different interpretations.
D2.Civ.2.3-5. Explain how a
democracy relies on people’s
responsible participation, and
draw implications for how
individuals should participate.
D2.Civ.6.3-5. Describe ways in
which people benefit from and are challenged by working together,
including through government,
workplaces, voluntary
organizations, and families.
D2.Civ.7.3-5. Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school
settings.
D2.Civ.10.3-5. Identify the beliefs, experiences, perspectives, and
values that underlie their own and others’ points of view about civic
issues.
D2.Soc.3.9-12. Identify how social context influences individuals.
D2.Soc.6.9-12. Identify the major components of culture.
D2.Soc.7.9-12. Cite examples of how culture influences the individuals
in it.
D2.Soc.13.9-12. Identify
characteristics of groups, as well as the effects groups have on
individuals and society, and the
effects of individuals and societies on groups.
D2.Soc.16.9-12. Interpret the effects of inequality on groups and
individuals.
D2.Soc.18.9-12. Propose and
evaluate alternative responses to
inequality.
D4.3.3-5. Present a summary of
arguments and explanations to
others outside the classroom using print and oral technologies
(e.g., posters, essays, letters,
debates, speeches, and reports) and digital technologies (e.g., Internet, social media, and digital documentary)
D4.6.3-5. Draw on disciplinary
concepts to explain the challenges people have faced and
opportunities they have created, in addressing local, regional, and
global problems at various times
and places.
D4.7.3-5.Explain different strategies and approaches students and others could take in working alone and
together to address local, regional, and global problems, and predict
possible results of their actions.
D4.8.3-5. Use a range of deliberative and democratic procedures to make decisions about and act on civic
problems in their classrooms and
schools.

This was accomplished through a multifaceted project that included learning about the UN Sustainable Development Goals through reading, research, presenting a goal, and sharing. Additionally, there was discussing information through a class blog, and leading and participating in service projects. This project continued in the successive school year due to the success and interest in the project.

Part I: Becoming Informed

Reading and Research

While introducing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, one challenge was to ensure that elementary students could understand these complex concepts. In the beginning, students were introduced to two brief videos that gave an overview of the UN Goals in terminology that was easier for them to understand. Next, each of the sixteen students was assigned one of the goals to research in depth. They were given a rubric with specific items that needed to be included in their presentation. The students were required to include: the name of the goal, the definition of the goal, why the goal is important, and three interesting facts.     

The next step was to research the goals to truly understand the meaning, decide why it would be an important goal for citizens to be aware of and potentially take action. The UN website offers articles, video clips, facts and a plethora of additional information about the goals, but can be difficult for elementary students at various reading levels. The paraprofessional and teacher engaged individual conferences for each student to ensure that there was an understanding of what the student was reading, as well as recommendations of particular parts of the site to focus on for their research. The seventeenth goal, which was not assigned to a student, was completed together as a group. Using the classroom SMART board, Mrs. G led the class in modeling how to find appropriate research, navigate the United Nations website, and make decisions about information that was pertinent to present on the visual document.  

To further develop their reading and research skills, Mrs. G used Newsela, a large database of current events articles that are written at specific Lexile levels. Articles that related to the UN Goals were assigned to the students. They decided which articles to read to assist in gaining more knowledge and understanding of their specific goal. This platform worked well, because it is tailored to the student’s independent reading level, which aids in comprehension of the material. Some students worked with partners to help mitigate difficulties in reading articles and participated in discussions together, in order to better understand the topic of study. Individual conferences with partners and the teacher or paraprofessional were essential in supporting the students in tackling very advanced concepts.  Goal 9- Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure was an especially challenging concept for a young elementary student and required a good deal of discussion with the teacher to ensure understanding of a complicated topic. 

Reading informational text in social studies is the perfect way to enhance learning. However, when the vocabulary and content was above level for many of the students involved in the project, the teacher and paraprofessional met individually to read with students to ensure comprehension of the literature regarding the goals on the UN website. This one on one time was helpful in making sure the elementary school students understood their goal, and were equipped with the knowledge to become experts and explain it to others.                      

Part II: Thinking It Through

Presenting, Sharing and Discussing Information about the Goals

Next the students created a visual product to communicate the required information about their goal using what they have learned through reading and researching their assigned goal. The students created posters in the first year when the project was implemented, and in the next year they used Google Slides to present information about the goal. The expectations on the rubric were the same for both the poster and the digital presentation.

Figure 2: Sample Article from Newsela Website- www.newsela.com 

Table 2: UN SDGs Google Slides Rubric

Please include the following on your slide:

  • Name of goal                                         
  • Definition of goal
  • Why important
  • 3 Interesting facts

UN SDGs Google Slides Rubric

  3 2 1
Name &
Definition
The correct
name and an
accurate
definition is
present
The name or
definition may
be correct
The name and
definition are
not correct
Why Important A clear and
accurate
explanation of why the goal is
important in the world
Attempts to
write an
explanation of why the goal is
important in the word.  May have some ideas that are correct
Does not include why it is
important or it
does not make
sense
3 Interesting
Facts
3 appropriate
facts about the
topic are
present
3 facts that are
not relevant or
just 2 facts are
present
Did not include three facts
Design of Slide The pictures
and design are
related to and
represent the
goal.  Is well
organized
The pictures
make an
attempt to
represent the
goal. Shows
some
organization
The design does not relate to the goal, is
disorganized

The students reflected upon their presentations and completed the rubric self-assessing their work. The expectation was to either draw or find photos that represented the theme of the goal. When making posters, the required information was verbally presented in a recording that eventually was combined with other students using the DoInk app. They used the green screen to record and uploaded the recordings to the app to create a video. The other option was to use a shared Google Slides presentation where each student created one slide to represent their goal and provided the required information. 

Figure 3: Examples of Posters


Figure 4: Examples of Google Slide Presentation

Each student took a turn presenting their visual poster or Google Slide to explain and teach the class about their specific goal. They utilized speaking and listening skills to effectively communicate the information that they researched and engaged in question and answers from their classmates. Mrs. G could also further assess their learning by observing how well they could answer questions about their assigned goal. 


Deliberation through Blog Session 

Next, the students participated in blog sessions to further discuss the goals, their thoughts and opinions.  The blog is an effective tool and another way of assessing the students’ critical thinking skills, knowledge of content, and how they communicate. Google Classroom has a feature to “Create a Question” that allows students to respond to each other. These questions were posed to the sessions:

  • List your goal and write an interesting fact that you learned about your goal.
  • Explain something that surprised you about the goals. Why did it surprise you?
  • What can you do to help achieve the UN goals? 

The explanation of something surprising from the students was enlightening in providing a student perspective at their developmental level. The following is a sample entry with responses:

Student “O”: 

1. My goal is Quality Education. One interesting fact about my goal is more than half of children that have not enrolled in school live in sub Saharan-Africa.

2. Something surprising I learned from this lesson is that, Goal 16 Peace, Justice, and Institutions is that people all over the world do not have the freedom of speech for their rights. I feel that is devastating to live under rules that are hardly even thought about just made a law. They live under circumstances that are very sad, and that is very careless of people.

3. To help these goals we need to supply things that are needed. Americans can provide books all over the world for Quality Education, We can provide vaccines to needed, we can give food and vitamins needed to people in need.

Student “C”:  Also, for every 100 boys enrolled in school in Sub-Saharan Africa, there’s only 74 girls!

Student “A”:  Where is Saharan-Africa? What is it?                       

Student “J”:  Who tells them that they can’t go to school and why don’t they?

Student “O”:  Saharan is basically all the countries of Africa except the three at the top.

Student “O”:  They can’t’ go to school because some people (dictators, presidents, kings or queens) think that school is a waste of time. They rather kids go and work the fields and harvest crops

Student “J”:  Thanks for the answer

Student “S”:  It is very sad that people don’t get to go to school, but at the same time it might be fun to not go to school for a couple of days but never going to school would be hard. But everybody needs education.

Student “C”:  It’s not fun. The reason they avoid school is to make the kids do work. And they have to work on the fields, harvesting, growing, and taking care of crops ALL DAY, until night!

Student “E”: How many school houses are in Africa?

Student “O”:  Would it really be fun not to be able to read, write, and say the right words in a sentence? What would you do if you couldn’t read or anything? Would you ask your mom to teach you? What if you don’t have a mom? Put yourself in other people’s shoes.

Student “C”:  It wouldn’t be fun at all not to be able to read or write. If we couldn’t read or write, we couldn’t blog now!

Reading the responses of the students allowed Mrs. G to capture a conversation that the students might have in a group discussion in the classroom. It was determined that Student “O” understood that students in Africa and other parts of the world do not have the same opportunity for education that children in the United States are afforded.  The student expressed empathy for children who cannot attend school, and Student “C” even responds stating that they would not be able to blog if they did not have an education.  When the students blogged, there was silence in the classroom because they were all actively engaged using the technology in a meaningful manner. Mrs. G expected the students to answer the three questions and then thoughtfully responded to at least five students in the class with comments and insight. She accessed all of this and could comment on Google Classroom to leave feedback for students.  The use of technology like Google Classroom allowed the class activity to become more student-focused. By assigning students different UN goals, the students were able to take ownership of their own topic and became the class expert who is accountable for discussion on the goal. This enabled the teachers to see the student’s ability to comprehend the UN goals as well as to apply that knowledge gained to form a discussion with their fellow peers. This deliberation process helped students think about higher-order thinking questions beyond immediately noticeable facts. Students sometimes left with some simplistic and self-oriented/US-centric views of the world. Therefore, it was important for Mrs. G. to capture a troubled conversation and follow up as a group discussion in the classroom.

Part III: Taking Action

Leading and Participating in Service Project

Each year of implementation of this project has led to the students taking action to address the UN SDGs. In the first year, the class was saddened and upset to see the prevalence of poverty and hunger in the world. Through a class discussion, they decided to take action and have a food drive to support a local food pantry. Mrs. G led a discussion on local organizations that helped the poor, and ultimately the students decided to support St. Vincent de Paul Pantry at a church that some students attend. They gathered information from the church bulletin, organized a collection based on the pantry’s needs, created flyers and made announcements daily to the school promoting the food drive and giving the school community facts about hunger and poverty. The students used Google Sheets to collect data and provided updates to the school community about the number of items collected. The young learners took ownership of the whole project and completed it to its final steps of packing the donations and sending thank you notes to the St. Vincent de Paul members for their service to the poor. The class felt proud of themselves for spearheading this project that would align with the UN SDGs.

In the following school year, the service project that the class decided to organize was related to recycling and saving the environment. The students collected plastic film to be sent to the Trex Company, which uses recycled materials to make composite lumber. Many schools compete against each other to recycle the most plastic film and Mrs. G’s multi grade class took a leadership role with this contest. The students created a Google Slides presentation, developed flyers to be sent home with students in the school, and visited all of the classes in the school to explain what can be recycled, where the collection bins were placed and all of the details about the project. They weighed and packaged the plastic, as well as recording the data for the competition. The students were proud of their contribution to the UN SDGs and helping the environment. 

Service projects such as these were a wonderful way for students to feel empowered as elementary students.  It started with one student stating in class, “People are hungry, we have to do something to help!” Through this experience, they realized that their small contribution to helping the poor and hungry, or recycling to help the environment were ways that they could join people all over the world to obtain the UN SDGs. They were able to recognize their power as citizens of a global community. It was important to reflect and determine if there was a lasting impression made by studying the UN Goals.

Results: Impact of the Project on the Students

Mrs. G polled her students with Google Forms at the end of the school year to assess the impact that this project had on the students. There were seven questions ranging from how important are the goals to written responses about how they can be global citizens. One student wrote, “The food drive helps the people that are starving and have no money so they get food that is donated from other people. Then they can have food to fill their stomachs.”  Another student commented, “Doing Trex made us global citizens because we helped by recycling. So the world won’t be filled with plastic. Also because we can reuse it.”  Some even commented about the Marker Recycling Program that was underway in the school, or about the garden at their school. They were applying the knowledge that they had gained from the project and analyzing how activities conducted by other organizations relate to the UN SDGs. 

By exposing the elementary students to the UN SDGs, they were given an awareness of the world around them, beyond their community, state, and country. While engaged in this project, most of the students were shocked to hear some of the statistics. Student “S” wrote in her blog post that some people in the world live on $1.25 a day and it elicited quite a discussion. One response from Student “G” was that “People in North Korea and most of Africa live a daily life of poverty.” The class discussion was facilitated by the teacher to assist in explaining different cultures, religions, governments and such in terms that were on the developmental level of the children, including censoring material that would not be appropriate for discussion at their age. Students were more interested and empathetic towards the issues that were associated with their age group children, such as not going to school, than other issues, like living with little money and resources. Also, their understanding of those problems and causes were sometimes limited. This confirms that the blog session is a good tool to promote students’ learning, to assess their understanding, and to inform teachers what they need for the next instruction.

These UN SDGs are global objectives that are being addressed by corporations, governments and even students.  By teaching the children as young as elementary school, they are being provided with information, facts and statistics that reach beyond “their world”.  One young lady wrote a very impactful statement, “We can make our world a better place to be by making these small donations and commitments, but in reality, that can make a lifetime difference.” Empowering young children to believe that they can have an impact will cultivate adults and forward thinking global citizens. 

Conclusion                                                       

The project can be easily adaptable for multiple grade levels to provide elementary school students a creative and interesting way to learn about global issues and give them a lens into other countries and ways of life. Any classroom with Internet access and devices to utilize Google Classroom or other online program such as Otus, Kiddom, or Edmoto can apply the principles of this multifaceted project.  

The three-part framework: (1) becoming informed (about ideas, events, issues); (2) thinking it through (presenting fair and balanced views); and (3) taking action (teaching deliberation, decision-making, and civic action) effectively engaged elementary students in learning global issues. The UN SDGs were a good source and tool in carrying out this model.

While there are few studies and practices of teaching the United Nations and global issues in elementary level, this classroom practice provides a good example of how it can be successfully done and build young learners’ global awareness and active citizenship. ELA, science, math, and the arts can be integrated in addition to Social Studies as well as the skills of reading, interpreting, and presenting can be taught in this unit project learning. Because it deals with subject matter that is of immediate interest and bridges school learning with life outside school, it is highly motivating to critically think and take action. It provides elementary school students with information that they have not been exposed to and helps them build a knowledge base for understanding current and future problems.

References 

Andreotti, V. O. (2011). (Towards) decoloniality and diversality in global citizenship education, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 9(3-4), 381-397.

Boyle-Base, M. & Zevin, J. (2009). Young citizens of the world: Teaching elementary social studies through civic engagement. New York, NY: Routledge.

Boyle-Base, M., Bernens-Kinkead, D., Coake, W., Loudermilk, L., Lukasik, D. & Podany, W. (2011). Citizenship as a verb teaching students to become informed, think it through, and take action, Social Studies and The Young Learner, 24(1), 5-9.

Davies, L. (2006). Global citizenship: Abstraction or framework for action?, Educational Review, 58(1), 5-25.

Gaudelli, W. (2016). Global citizenship education: Everyday transcendence, New York, NY: Routledge.

Mcnulty, C. P., Davies, M. & Maddoux, M. (2010). Living in the global village: Strategies for teaching mental flexibility, Social Studies and The Young Learner, 23(2), 21-24.

Merryfield, M. M. & Duty, L. (2008). Globalization. In J. Arthur, I. Davies, & C. Hahn (Eds.), The sage handbook of education for citizenship and democracy (pp. 80-91). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Myers, M. P. (2006). Rethinking the social studies curriculum in the context of globalization: Education for global citizenship in the U.S., Theory & Research in Social Education, 34(3), 370-394.

Oxley, L. & Morris, P. (2013). Global citizenship: A typology for distinguishing its multiple conceptions, British Journal of Educational Studies, 61(3), 301-325.

Parker, W.C. (2011). ‘International education’ in US public schools, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 9(3-4), 487-501.

Schattle, H.  (2008). The practices of global citizenship, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Learning in Three Dimensions: Avatars and Authentic Writing in the Social Studies

Julie A. Taylor, Danielle DeFauw, Glovetta Williams, and Matthew Hundley University of Michigan-Dearborn
Douglass Academy for Young Men, Detroit MI

Three-dimensional technologies are proliferating, yet their use in authentic writing and social studies education has not been explored fully.  The Smithsonian Digitization Office increasingly offers digital assets, including life masks and sculptures, to educators and students as downloads.  Visitors may view objects multi-dimensionally and in high resolution online.  In 2014, Barack Obama became the first United States president to sit for a 3D portrait.  He was scanned by imaging specialists from the Smithsonian and the University of Southern California (Fawcett, 2014).  Inspired by these developments, this action-research study examines the use of technologies to create realistic, 3D student avatars in writing projects.  Avatar is a Sanskrit word that means the physical embodiment of a deity (Ballin, Lawson, Lumkin, & Osborne, 2002; Graber & Graber, 2011).  In its most common usage today, the term refers to virtual representations of users of interfaces (Blais & Ippolito, 2006; Graber & Graber, 2011; Liao, 2008).  The graphical illustrations may be two- or three-dimensional (Berdic, Dragan, Mihic, & Anisic, 2017).

The theoretical framework of this study is rooted in deeper learning, a constructivist approach to teaching and learning in which the cultivation of transferable skills, critical thinking, and creativity are emphasized (Bellanca, 2015; Martinez & McGrath, 2014; Zhao, 2015).  Through deeper learning, students develop academic mindsets as they engage in relevant projects.  In this study, the authors’ research questions were a) would the creation of realistic avatars, based on 3D scans, increase levels of student interest?  If so, why?; b) How does three dimensionality enrich the learning experience?; c) Would students perceive the inclusion of personal avatars with writing assignments as enhancements to communication?  If so, why?; and d) What are students’ views of avatar technologies in the social studies?

 With its emphasis on the expression of students’ views of social and political issues and autobiographical writing, the project supported civics standards in the College, Career, and Civic (C3) Life Framework for Social Studies State Standards, namely on the application of civic virtues and democratic principles when working with others and the evaluation of social and political systems (National Council for the Social Studies, 2013).  Standards in history education were also addressed; students considered scanned, three-dimensional artifacts as historic evidence.  Additionally, the project addressed Common Core State Standards for English language arts (ELA).  Students were afforded opportunities to write, integrate visual literacy components, listen and speak collaboratively, and develop visual literacy skills using different media (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010).  Concerted efforts to connect social studies and ELA support secondary students’ instructional needs (Kern & Bean, 2018).

The School and the Students

            The students, who participated in this action-research project as part of an enrichment program, attended an all-male school in Detroit, Michigan.  With emphases on alternative and special education, the Title I, public school serves middle and high school students.  All 18 high school students, who participated in the IRB-approved study in 2018, were African American.  Each year since 2012, students have studied different social, historical, and cultural topics.  They have also explored emerging technologies. 

The Avatar Project

              Inspired by the creation of a 3D portrait of President Barack Obama by the Smithsonian’s Digitization Office, the authors acquired a 3D printer, and they invited the developer of a scanning app for the iPhone and the chief executive officer of TRNIO, Jan-Michael Tressler, to share his knowledge of 3D technologies at the school.  In preparation for a two-day workshop by Tressler, the students considered current applications of 3D technologies.  They also viewed and discussed the Smithsonian’s video, The President, in 3D, on the creation of Obama’s portrait.  

This project provided students an opportunity to develop digital literacies in an environment that fostered motivation (Kern & Bean, 2018).  Advancing students’ writing skills was a key objective; students created hybrid texts to narrate and inform through writing as well as 3D images (Bintz & Ciecierski, 2017).  Asked to imagine that their avatars would be displayed in a national museum, the students reflected on current social, political, and economic issues, and they considered what they wanted to tell the public.  On Google Slides or Google Sites, each student wrote an autobiographical statement to accompany his avatar in which he responded to the following questions: a) What is your first name?; b) How old are you?; c) In what grade are you?; d) What is your favorite subject in high school?; e) How do you spend your free time?; f) Of what are you the most proud?; g) Who has had the biggest influence on your life?  Why?; h) What current political, social, and/or economic issues concern you the most?  Explain; i) What issues in the local community concern you the most?; j) What does your future hold?; and k) What else would you like to tell people?

            During the workshop, Tressler engaged students in an exploration of 3D technologies in an interactive format.  He showed images of scanned objects and people as well as design features.  Tressler taught the students how to download and use the TRNIO scanning app.  With parental permission, they used iPhones to scan one another in order to generate avatars.  Each young student had the option of adding facial expressions.  To protect the students’ privacy, all files were deleted from the TRNIO server.  No avatars were published on the Internet. 

Tressler engaged in spontaneous discussions with students about the use of avatars in video games and films.  He spoke about developments in avatar technologies that are forthcoming.  In the near future, realistic avatars, generated rapidly with handheld devices, will speak and emote.  Users will choose appropriate environments for their avatars, including historic settings.  Students will engage in virtual travels in time and space.  

Figure 1:  Student (right) explored 3D technologies with Tressler (left).

The authors worked with student volunteers to demonstrate 3D printing by an Ultimaker II.  Because the digitization of the Lincoln Life Mask had inspired the staff at the Smithsonian to approach Obama about a 3D portrait, a STL file of the Lincoln Life Mask was downloaded and printed using PLA filament, which is nontoxic and biodegradable.  At the time of the project, the 3D file of Obama had not been released to the public. 

Research Methods

Action research is a participative, systematic approach to understanding the process of learning (Efron & Ravid, 2013; Mertler, 2014).  Because mixed-methods approaches to research offer insights into multi-faceted questions, they were adopted by the researchers (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009).  Mixed methods strengthen inferences and cull diverse views (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2009).  Jennifer Greene (2007) wrote, “…a mixed methods study seeks broader, deeper, and more comprehensive social understandings by using methods that tap into different facets or dimensions of the same complex phenomenon…results from the different methods serve to elaborate, enhance, deepen, and broaden the overall interpretations and inferences from the study” (p. 101).

            The researchers created an eight-item survey, with an embedded design, for distribution in hard copy upon completion of the project.  The survey included four Likert-scale items.  The students indicated the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with these statements: a) Creating a realistic avatar increased my interest; b) Including an avatar with my statement made the communication more powerful; c) I would like to use realistic avatars in my social studies classes; and d) Avatar technologies should be explored in schools.  After each item, the students were asked to explain their responses. 

The survey had two fixed-choice questions to assess students’ familiarity with video games and avatars: a) Do you play video games? and b) Before this project, had you ever seen avatars in video games or movies?  The students had the option of responding “yes” or “no.”  The final two items on the survey were open ended.  To gain understanding of the participants’ views of 3D-printed portraits and avatars, they were asked to write responses to these questions: What do you think about having 3D printed portraits of yourself and others in museums, homes, and other places? and What additional comments about avatars and/or 3D printing do you have?

Fifteen of the 18 (83.33%) students completed the optional and anonymous surveys.  For the calculation of percentages, the authors manually entered the data into the cloud-based site, Survey Monkey.  They prepared graphs with the graphing tool of the National Center for Education Statistics.  In addition to reading the students’ comments multiple times, the researchers repeatedly reviewed the students’ autobiographical statements. 

On avatar technologies, they conducted a semi-structured interview with Tressler.  This action-research project was noncommercial and autonomous; it was not sponsored by TRNIO. 

Findings

  The students recognized the impact of having strong likenesses with their written communication.  They had the option of adding some facial expressions to their avatars.  Over 86% of the students strongly agreed (60%) or agreed (26.67%) that including avatars with their statements had made the communication more powerful.  Two students (13.33%) disagreed.  The following comments were representative:

With 3D scanning, faithful and compelling portraits can be rendered.  The strongest finding in this study was that all students either strongly agreed (66.67%) or agreed (33.33%) that creating a realistic avatar had increased their interest.  As was the Smithsonian’s 3D Obama portrait, the students’ avatars were based on data.

  • I really think the avatar is cool because it’s a mixture of science and history.
  • Realistic avatars show how people feel.
  • The avatar increased my interest because my creative skills came out.
  • It made it more powerful because it was like I was actually there saying everything.
  •  (The avatar) added a lot of extra information.
  • People will think it’s true.
Figure 2.  Including an avatar with my statement made the communication more powerful.
Figure 3.  Avatar technologies should be explored in schools.

The majority of the students (73.33%) indicated that they would like to use realistic avatars in their social studies classes.  Sixty percent strongly agreed, 13.33% agreed, 20% were neutral, and 6.67% disagreed.  They commented on how avatars draw attention, bring things to life, and serve as strong visuals.  With the statement, “Avatar technologies should be explored in schools,” 93.33% strongly agreed (53.33%) or agreed (40%).  One student (6.67%) was neutral.  Students wrote the following comments:

  • It’s an interesting, fun way to learn.
  • It would make kids more involved and interested.
  • …kids would learn better.

 Media consumption by children and teens in the United States has been steadily increasing due to the ubiquity of mobile devices (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010; Katz, Felix, & Gubernick, 2014).  Over 93% of the students, who participated in this action-research study, indicated that they played video games.  Eighty percent had seen avatars in video games or movies before the project.  Self-reports by adolescents suggest that playing strategic video games may improve problem-solving skills (Adachi & Willoughby, 2013).  Virtual spaces are integral to the lives of teens and young adults today.  In the manifesto, We, the Web Kids, Polish writer, Piotr Czerski (2012), wrote, “The Internet to us is not something external to reality but a part of it: an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment.  We do not use the Internet; we live on the Internet and along it” (para. 1).

The Smithsonian transferred Barack Obama’s portrait to the National Portrait Gallery, where it was placed on display.  On the survey, the students wrote about the prospect of having printed, 3D portraits of themselves and others in museums, homes, and other places.  They expressed an interest in viewing such portraits, and they commented on the value of having a legacy.  When asked to share comments about the avatar project, students used adjectives such as “fun,” “cool,” “great,” “interesting,” “fantastic,” and “rich.”  One young man stated that he would be interested in the development of 3D technologies as a career.  During the project, other students conveyed similar goals verbally to the authors.   

On Google Slides and Google Sites, the students wrote autobiographical statements to accompany avatars.  They communicated concerns about social, economic, and political issues.  Global warming, pollution, and racism were the dominant issues.  “We create factories, cars, and plastics that pollute the earth.  I think that if we keep doing what we’re currently doing, we might make the earth unsafe for future generations,” stated a student.

Writing around the time of President Trump’s summit with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, the students also expressed worry about the potential outbreak of war.  “The current political issue that scares me the most is the issue with us and North Korea,” wrote one student.  Of local community issues, crime and littering were primary.  “The issue in the local community that concerns me the most is the crime rate because it moves people out of the neighborhood, which brings down the population,” wrote one young man.  “I want the crime to go down in my city so that we don’t have to be worried…when we are outside,” stated another.

When asked about the future, the students described aspirations such as attending college, becoming entrepreneurs, entering skilled trades, and starting families.  In response to the prompt, “What else would you like to tell people?”, the majority of students offered forward-looking and encouraging messages.  “I would like to tell people to spread positivity and help us create a better community,” wrote one young man.  “What I want to tell people is that you should take your education seriously because it is the best way to become successful later in your life,” stated another.  “I would like to tell people to keep strong,” wrote a third.

Discussion

In video games and films and as icons on social media sites and blogs, avatars are pervasive.  Because they exist in artificial space, they challenge notions of embodiment (Leaver, 2012).  Self-avatars increase users’ sense of presence in virtual environments (Wolfendale, 2007).  Although they may intentionally alter phenotypic characteristics (Graber & Graber, 2011; Villani, Gatti, Triberti, Confalonieri, & Riva, 2016) when designing avatars, people often integrate aspects of their identities (Carruth & Hill, 2015).  Businesses, libraries, and universities have piloted programs in virtual worlds, such as Second Life, though the platform does not lend itself for use by K-12 students presently (Mon, 2012; Schultz, 2010).  With templates, users of Second Life customize avatars, cultivate social relationships, own land, and engage in business transactions (Schechtman, 2012).  With over 600,000 regular users, Second Life offers avatar-mediated communication (Koda, Ishida, Rehm, & André, 2009).  Often imaginative, avatars in Second Life may be viewed as a form of new media art (Liao, 2008). 

With facial expressions and gestures, empathic avatars, referred to as animated pedagogical agents, have been used in computer-aided learning programs to motivate students to continue working (Chen, Lee, Wang, Chao, Li, & Lee, 2012).  In affective computing or artificial emotional intelligence, computer scientists and cognitive psychologists study the recognition and simulation of emotions by computers and devices.  Interpretations of the facial expressions of avatars vary by culture (Koda, Ishida, Rehm, & André, 2009).  Affective computing has implications for education, neuroscience, medicine, and other fields (Calvo, D’Mello, Gratch, & Kappas, 2015; Powell, Garner, Tonks, & Lee, 2017). 

Three-dimensional models of people and artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, and other institutions advance historical knowledge.  Internationally, 3D imaging is being used to capture threatened objects and sites; the Institute for Digital Archaeology is currently collaborating with UNESCO.  Evaluating sources and using evidence is the critical third dimension of the inquiry arc in the social studies (National Council for the Social Studies, 2013).  Lévesque (2008), wrote, “The intellectual ability to collect, process, analyze, and cross-reference evidence is crucial to an informed citizenry” (p. 115).

Figure 4: A student selected facial expressions for his avatar.

What is unique about the TRNIO app is its nearly instantaneous generation of three-dimensional, realistic likenesses with handheld devices.  In a photogrammetric process, between 10 and 70 pictures of each subject are taken.  The pictures are then digitally meshed together.  Blender and SketchUp Make software can be used to model 3D images; both are user-friendly and free.  It should be noted that the TRNIO app is still under development.  Several scans had to be redone during the project.  In his interview, Tressler stated that TRNIO is currently developing a web-based platform for classroom use.

Because 3D scanning renders images of high fidelity, a 3D video file offers a record of the subject at a particular point in time.  The use of realistic avatars is in alignment with goals for the study of history as students consider people in time and space (Drake & Nelson, 2005).  In creating realistic avatars, the students, who participated in the project, left “traces” of themselves (Seixas & Morton, 2013, pp. 50-51).  When they critiqued real, contemporary issues, they engaged in democratic education (Beyer, 1996).  In their statements, the students took identificatory and analytical stances as they weighed the history of the present (Barton & Levstik, 2004).  As embodiments of people within virtual environments, avatars enhance expression.  Lifelike representations may increase the persuasiveness and effectiveness of communication (Schultz, 2010).  With high degrees of representational fidelity, the avatars afford authenticity, increase ways of knowing, and amplify individuals’ voices.  The majority of the students in the study felt that the inclusion of the avatars had made their statements more powerful.  The likenesses offered vitality, realism, and agency.  They enhanced performative value. 

Projects that respect students’ voices increase their interest in exploring content (Hidi & Renninger, 2006).  Writers use voice to speak to and connect emotionally with audiences (Fletcher, 2006).  Writers are motivated to write to authentic audiences, which may be themselves (Murray, 1982) or authentic or fictionalized readers (Ede & Lunsford, 1984; Ong, 1975; Steinbeck, 1975).  Expanding the audience beyond the classroom increases the authenticity of a task (Duke, Purcell-Gates, Hall, & Tower, 2006) and creates more interest (Hidi & Harackiewicz, 2000).  In the avatar project, students created authentic, hybrid texts as they communicated through writing and three-dimensional representations (Bintz & Ciecierski, 2017).  

Implications

 Inquiry design and technological exploration are pedagogically synergistic (Magana, 2017).  Students are motivated to use technology and to create media (Unrath & Mudd, 2011).  To support learning, openness to new literacies (Kern & Bean, 2018; Kist, 2012), including screen-based texts, is vital.  Reflecting on today’s youth, Unrath and Mudd (2011) stated, “[They] are increasingly multi-modal, alternatively literate and technologically driven.  Their world demands the ability to think critically, create and re-create, and combine and recombine multiple sources to produce something new” (p. 10).

Figure 5: Inspired by the project, a student conducted research on 3D printing.

As 3D technologies develop, avatars and 3D prints will combine representational fidelity with customization.  TRNIO is currently working with artists on garments and hairstyles for avatars.  Other software developers are designing sketch interfaces to enable users to draw personalized garments on avatars (Yu, Qin, Sun, & Wright, 2012).  In the future, students will be able to place their avatars in diverse, including historic, digital settings.  Such visual landscapes will offer “imaginative entry” into the past (Levstik & Barton, 2001, p. 78).  Potentially, avatars could be used to increase students’ telepresence in virtual, educational contexts. 

Conclusion

            The exploration of 3D technologies engages students in deeper learning while advancing educational objectives in the social studies and English language arts.  Three-dimensional images are records of people and objects at specific points in time.  The realism of scanned portraits increases agency and credibility.  Students perceive the inclusion of personal avatars with written statements as enhancements to communication.  Though still in the early stages of development, technologies for the creation of realistic avatars in classroom settings are promising.  This study suggests that 3D technologies have the potential to build upon and generate students’ interests and skills.

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