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Teaching Terrorism


This week’s reading dealt with defining abstract terms that are commonly used but do not have concrete, universal definitions. Different terms can mean different things for different people. Problems arise when attempting to differentiate between acts of violence, hate crimes, etc., and acts that constitute the definition of “terrorism.” The activity discussed in the reading asked students to put aside their own preconceived notions and reach a consensus within their groups about what is terrorism and who are terrorists.

Connections to course readings:

In the modern era, it can be difficult separate the concept of terrorism from Islam. Therefore, when teaching about terrorism, it is important to be mindful of making these distinctions to your students. This connects to the reading by Amanda E. Lewis because she emphasizes a focus on not only multiculturalism but also anti-racist education. Teachers should focus on revealing where racist attitudes originate and how important it is to not perpetuate this racism. Therefore, when teaching about terrorism, it is important to make sure students separate the terrorists from the Islamic religion.

Highlights from group discussion:

We thought this topic was particularly relevant because of the recent attacks in Paris. Many governors have announced that they will be refusing to admit Syrian refugees in the wake of the attack. If we were teaching this lesson, we would use this as a real life connection for our students.

Question for practicing teachers:

How would you respond to a student who uses racially charged dialogue in the classroom?


School Desegregation

Summary: The assigned activity described in this chapter revolves around watching a PBS video. Discussion questions structure the conversation about the video afterwards. Students are asked to write a first-person narrative from the perspective of one of the students depicted in the video. They are granted a great deal of choice when selecting the format of their narrative (inner monologue, diary entry, poem, story, letter, etc). Finally, these pieces are shared by students in a read-aloud, while being asked to identify

Connections to readings: The reading that came immediately to mind was the Ladson-Billings article titled “Landing on the Wrong Note: The Price We Paid for Brown.” That article demonstrated some of the downsides of the Brown v. Board decision and outlined the lasting impact of school desegregation on inequality today. Ladson-Billings’ points are a good companion piece to the video because many of the students shown express the emotional and psychological pain they experienced during school desegregation, which is often glossed over in accounts of this episode in history.

Highlights:  From an instructional standpoint, we liked the reading’s insight into how to incorporate an educational video into a class. Pointing out things to look for, pausing the video at strategic points, and simply watching it with the rest of the students are all useful tips for keeping everyone engaged on the screen. One of our favorite parts of the activity itself was the amount of choice it provides students in terms of the writing piece they are expected to produce. We were also affected by reading Elizabeth Ann Eckford’s account of her personal experience, and thought it would be very accessible and relevant to students in our classes.

Question: What are your thoughts on using videos in class?

Summary: This week’s reading talked about what is wrong with the typical teaching of the Vietnam War. The teaching tends to be shallow and is not contextualized. The history of the event is not fully covered. “Things Erupted” is not explaining how a war began but instead you should be specific. There needs to be a large focus on cause and effect rather than framing large ideas around emotions or vague concepts that don’t properly explain or teach what actually occurred and why these choices lead to the Vietnam War. There was an activity that allowed role playing among students. It plays out a government meeting with President Truman where groups of students represent different interests related to Vietnam. they try to persuade Truman (the teacher) to agree with them. Truman facilitates the debates and creates interaction among different groups.

Social Justice Aspect: US chose to back larger white power instead of supporting independence of the people.

Connections to Class Readings: Bell and Griffith discuss how history being taught from the white American perspective covers all aspects of the lesson but by using the role playing exercise, the kids are introduced to different perspectives preventing the destructive type of bias discussed by Bell and Griffith.

Highlights of our discussion: We believe that activities that force kids to role play forces them to see and evaluate situations from perspectives they hadn’t previously considered. In the activity, it was also beneficial that the meeting that we simulate in the activity never took place and we can use this as a jumping off point for discussion as to why it didn’t and why it should have occurred and if it had, what affect would it have had on history. Its important for the kids to remember that history is not a pre-written, inevitable narrative but instead it is an accumulation of choices and individual decisions. Identifying the root causes of injustice and war are the key to ending these injustices and conflicts.

Question to practicing educator: When you as a teacher use role playing activities in your classroom, do they usually play out as you intended? How do you access their understanding and performance?

Lawrence, Labor Unions, and Social Class

Note-taker: Sam Atwood

Facilitator: Kat Davis


Our reading for the week described a group activity in which students roleplay the organization of unions and the beginning of a strike. This activity embodies several of Howard Zinn’s principles, including the absence of inevitability in history, the crucial influence exerted by ordinary working class people on the American narrative, and the recognition of key differences between interests that are often conflated together (in this case, labor unions).


A few weeks ago, our readings from Hochschild, Barry, and Lareau all discussed how students from lower-class backgrounds are inherently disadvantaged in schools. We felt like an activity in this vein would help turn the tide in a small way. Many social studies courses can marginalize and devalue students from working-class families by teaching history as a narrative dominated by a hyper-elite, rich, and powerful few at the top of society. Having students take on the perspectives of working-class people validates those values and encourages appreciation of their influence on American history. Some students may also benefit by examining an issue from a perspective they had never before considered.


Another element of this lesson that we liked was its encouragement of constructive social interaction between (likely) students from different cultures and backgrounds in an academic context. Plus, the interpersonal skills required for success here are practical and offer real-world value. And finally, we thought the discussion about unions and labor rights has increased relevance today because of society’s trend towards collectivism as well as the enduring place for unions within the national discourse. We would use a video or news story like the one below as a basic introduction to ground the lesson in a modern context accessible to students.


We were wondering how a teacher would assess student performance in a group activity like this one — how to know whether or not students “got the point,” and how to assign grades or otherwise incentivize performance.

Unsung Heroes 10/12

Summary: The reading talked about us holding up the founding fathers as national heroes, despite the fact that they were creating the US government to help their interests, as well as our holding up of people that while had an impact, was not showing the entire story of each moment. Zinn talked about using other side of the story, showing the entirety of the story and giving us others to look up to who may not of done horrible things to the people around them while doing their great deeds. Example of Columbus who killed thousands while conquering the New World.

Connections: Hinchey and Banks both discuss this in their articles we have read by them, talking about the White domination of Western history and showing the other side. Bettez’s Pedagogy of discomfort also talks to this as the reading talks about breaking down what could be the heroes of your students but also introducing them to new ones, causing some discomfort.

Highlights: Cities across the US are beginning to show what this article are talking about by highlighting the histories of all of our nation’s peoples, not just the history of a majority.

Questions: Would you do this activity in your class? How should we teach about our country’s founders and other major figures in our history while showing both sides of the story?

Next Week’s Assignment: “The Singing Strike” and the handouts realted to it dealing with the Industrial Workers of the World just so we can continue our way through the book.

Multiple Sides to the War with Mexico

Facilitator: Sam Atwood

Note taker: Kelly Williamson

Group members: Kat Davis, David Warren

Summary of assigned reading:

This week’s reading, entitled “We Take Nothing By Conquest, Thank God,” provides an alternative viewpoint to the Mexican-American War. It would act as a followup to the activity that we discussed last week by giving more information about the War with Mexico without the biases that usually define it. Zinn included viewpoints from multiple sides, which we believe makes history more accessible to students because it moves away from listing facts and figures and instead humanizes the events. The points of view range from the president and senators, all the way down to the men who were actually fighting.

Connections to course materials:

Today in class, we watched a Ted Talk about the importance of not making the mistake of telling a “single story” of a group of people, a place or an event. Without attempting to provide multiple viewpoints, we as educators run the risk of telling a single story of history. Zinn is helping us avoid this.

This reading also connects to the Hochschild reading from this week because it tells history from the viewpoints of multiple people from multiple classes. Often when history is taught, it is told from the view of the highest social class; however, Zinn’s article tells the story from many different social classes, showing that all classes played a part in history.

Highlights of group discussion:

Throughout the book, Zinn has referred to what is commonly called the “Mexican-American War” as “The War with Mexico.” We wondered why this was the case, and believe it refers to the fact that it was not a war where both countries were on even footing. Zinn does not want to imply that the fighting was equal on both sides. We compared this to how the American Civil War is often referred to by different names, depending on where you are or who you are speaking to.

Questions to pose to practicing teachers:

What resources could you consult to find primary sources or other documents to use when teaching other events?

Reading for next week:

Next week, we will read the chapter titled “Unsung Heroes,” continuing our chronological movement through the book.

Texas Textbook Controversy

In this controversy, Hispanic members of the school board feel that Hispanic culture and history are being marginalized, including the Texas Rangers hunting and killing Mexican-Americans.

These textbooks are the direct opposite of our book, as our book is trying to de-whitewash history while these textbooks are trying to whitewash their history.

Textbook companies may begin to use this textbook as the standard for the rest of the country, as it was a popular book and would allow the company to sell more copies of their books.

Downplays the Hispanic influence on American and Texan history. Another example: Soto Mayor is not mentioned in the textbook at all.

Our book places importance on looking at multiple viewpoints on everything. This book only offers a narrower view on the history of the state.

Want to insert Country-Western music into the curriculum, but keep out music like Hip Hop due to its vulgarity.

How would a person educated in social justice theory approach the curriculum and the pedagogy if they were designated this textbook or a similar one to use in your classroom? What conflicts could arise in your class?