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There are no dorms at the community college where I teach, which means students are intensely focused right now on the painfully high price of a gallon of gasoline. AAA puts today’s average in my state at $4.224/gallon, which is just below the reported national average of $4.237.
Yesterday we looked at photographs of “Hoovervilles” in United States History II, shanty towns erected by the poor and homeless in the earliest years of the Great Depression. Our discussion was a weave of current events and history as students pointed out that the blame on President Hoover for the 1930s’ economic crisis was not unlike the sentiment of memes, gifs, and social media posts that place responsibility for today’s high gas prices on President Biden. As we reviewed some of the central causes of the Great Depression – over-lending, under consumption, bank failures, etc – it was as if tiny light bulbs were sparking over the heads of my students. Blaming Hoover for all of the economic turmoil that enveloped his administration was too simplistic. We had to look at the big picture.
The big picture right now is a complicated mix of domestic and international crises, which include a pandemic that has killed more than six million people worldwide, a war with major international repercussions, and a mounting refugee crisis in Eastern Europe. Trying to help students understand all of these issues is overwhelming, especially given that many spend little to no time outside of school exploring about current events. Sharing links regularly with our students is one easy way to guide them towards credible sources and encourage them to think about world events.
Here are two links I’m sharing this week:
Lesson of the Day: 'The Invasion of Ukraine: How Russia Attacked and What Happens Next' (New York Times, updated 22 March 2022) provides a list of key questions for students to consider as they seek a greater understanding of the war, including material that exposes students to Ukrainian history and links to other Times articles and editorials. I particularly like the way the site encourages students to share their views of the conflict and to read ideas expressed by other young people.
People’s and Government’s Choices to Help Refugees compiled by Facing History & Ourselves offers students examples of ways in which European countries have responded to the needs of Ukrainian refugees and suggests ways that students might reflect on the growing crisis. US history classes might use these examples in conjunction with a discussion of how the nation responded to the challenges faced by refugees during World War II.
Finally, this week I’m encouraging all of my students to read or watch news broadcasts about the Senate hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Live Streaming of the proceedings provides an opportunity for students to evaluate how our elected officials conduct themselves in public hearings. Asking students to reflect on the kinds of questions posed to the nominee can be an interesting lens into their observations of race and gender dynamics at this critical moment in our national history. While most online news sources offer basic background on the nominee, the Alliance for Justice published a more comprehensive history of Judge Jackson’s work as a lawyer and judge on their website earlier this month.
While at times it may feel as if there is simply too much happening in the world for us to introduce more content to our already over-stuffed curriculum, it is essential that we help students to view the context of today's events through the lens of history.
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