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Teaching the civil war in the 21st century

  1. Teaching the Civil War in the 21st Century Paul Stuewe History Teacher Blue Valley West High School
  2. Presentation Outline Essential Questions • What do students need to know to make it intellectually and economically in the 21st century? • In general, how should our high school history courses prepare students for the 21st century? • In teaching the Civil War, what should students know about the causes of that war?
  3. Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills 1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving a. the ability to ask good questions b. our current system is about getting the right answers c. we need to start children as soon as they are capable of abstract thinking
  4. 7 Survival Skills 2. Collaboration Across the Networks and Leading by Influence a. Old world school—students used to having teachers tell them what to do b. New world school—working in teams (often virtual) and making own decisions
  5. 7 Survival Skills 3. Agility and Adaptability a. People’s jobs change rapidly b. What goes on in the classroom today is the same as 50 years ago
  6. 7 Survival Skills 4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism a. World needs proactive people, self- starters b. Workplace needs self-directed, achievement orientated workers
  7. 7 Survival Skills 5. Effective Oral and Written Communications a. 21st century skills like writing memos, letters, complex reports—clearly and effectively b. Employers say the lack of these skills the biggest issue
  8. 7 Survival Skills 6. Accessing and Analyzing Information a. People must handle an astronomical amount of information in their lives and work b. People must conceptualize, analyze, and synthesize a lot of data
  9. 7 Survival Skills 7. Curiosity and Imagination a. Natural for children, often not promoted in the classroom b. Students need both “left-brain” and “right-brain” skills
  10. THE Essential Question • How do we achieve these 21st century survival skills? • My thesis: “If done correctly, the most important subject we teach at the high school level is history because more than any other subject it hits on all the essential survival skills.”
  11. The Seven Survival Skills Review 1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving 2. Collaboration 3. Agility & Adaptability 4. Initiative 5. Effective Oral & Written Communication 6. Accessing & Analyzing Information 7. Curiosity & Imagination
  12. The New 3 R’s • R—Rigor • R—Relevance • R—Relationships
  13. Kansas 21st Century Readiness 1. Critical thinking and problem-solving 2. Collaboration 3. Communication 4. Creativity and innovation
  14. James W. Loewen “What Students Should Be Able to Do” 1. Read effectively 2. Read critically 3. Understand the difference between primary and secondary sources 4. Apply principles of historiography to a source 5. Write a coherent essay 6. Write effectively in other formats, e.g., create a website
  15. Loewen cont’d 7. Speak effectively 8. Read a map 9. Understand, critique, and create tables of data 10.Cause change in society
  16. The Four Historical Thinking Skills for AP History Courses 1. Crafting historical arguments from historical evidence 2. Chronological reasoning 3. Comparison and contextualization 4. Historical interpretation and synthesis
  17. Motivating Today’s Students 21st century realities: • growing up digital—the “Net Generation” • Attention deficient • differently motivated • multi-tasking—”continuous partial attention” • crave constant connection to others • this makes them less patient
  18. Net Gen Students According to Wagner and others: • They want to be part of learning communities • They want learning to be active, not passive • They want to know why they are being asked to do something • They develop a vital proficiency in “information navigation”—the ability to be their own reference librarian
  19. Content vs. Skills Knowledge vs. Critical Thinking • A false dichotomy—theoretically and practically • One side can’t exist without the other • Teachers don’t ask students to memorize facts devoid of context and interpretation • Critical thinking means the use of knowledge (facts, content) through application of skills (research and writing)
  20. Bruce Lesh- “Why Won’t You Just Tells Us the Answer?” • Why take the time and effort to teach history in a different way from the tried and true methods? • “Simply because every major measure of students’ historical understanding since 1917 has demonstrated that students do not retain, understand, or enjoy their school experiences with history.”
  21. Lesh cont’d • “When taught to pose questions about evidence, causality, chronology, change and continuity over time, and other ‘categories of historical inquiry’, students become powerful creators of history rather than consumers of a predetermined historical narrative.” • “The question-driven investigative process requires students to formulate evidence-based historical interpretations.”
  22. Summary of the Challenge • Wide-spread agreement on the need for new methods of teaching history • Students have changed but our methods haven’t • General agreement on what skills are needed in the 21st century • The next part is how do we as history teachers make the necessary changes?
  23. Where Do We Go from Here? • Knowing what the 21st century demands and knowing a little about how students today learn—how do we apply this to teaching about the Civil War? • Due to time constraints we will look at teaching the causes of the Civil War. • We will do this using historical thinking.
  24. The Five C’s of Historical Thinking Flannery Burke/Thomas Andrews • C—Change over time • C---Context • C---Causality • C---Contingency • C--Complexity
  25. Teaching Causation • There is never just “one” cause of an event— there are multiple causes, not all equally important. • Everyone has a point of view and no one is totally objective—but the goal is objectivity. • One must examine both primary and secondary sources.
  26. Historiography • Historiography means “the study of history” but not just “studying history.” • It asks us to scrutinize how a certain piece of history came to be written. • Who wrote it, for what reason, to what audience, for what purpose--what were they trying to prove?
  27. Analyzing Primary Source Documents SOAPSTone S—Speaker O—Occasion A—Audience P—Purpose S—Subject T--Tone
  28. Essential Question-- Why Did the South Secede? • One of the best ways to answer this question is with primary source documents. • The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader: The “Great Truth” about the “Lost Cause” edited by James W. Loewen and Edward H. Sebesta
  29. “Why Did We Have a Civil War?” • Loewen posed this question to many groups who are interested in history—four answers usually emerge: – Slavery – States’ rights – Tariffs and taxes – The election of Lincoln
  30. Causes Continued • In most audiences half to three-quarters believe the most important cause was states’ rights followed by slavery with a quarter or less. • Tariffs and taxes and the election of Lincoln split the remaining 25% about evenly.
  31. Essential Questions • Where would one look for the answers to the question of why the Southern States seceded? • How about the official record of the Secession Conventions held in 1860 and 1861?
  32. Essential Questions Why did Confederates say they seceded for slavery in 1861 but not in 1891? Why did neo-Confederates claim in 1999, but not in 1869, that thousands of African Americans served in the Confederate armed forces? Teachers can use questions like these to do historiography.
  33. South Carolina Secession Convention Charleston, December 1860 • Their document, “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union”. • Lists grievances against the North: – The North was not enforcing the fugitive slave clause and listed the 14 states that they felt were not in compliance. – Abolitionist societies in Northern states were free to assemble and speak against slavery.
  34. South Carolina • In short, South Carolina was against the North having states’ rights to not enforce the Fugitive Slave law. The only states’ rights they wanted was to leave the Union. • Southern planters had been in power during the Buchanan and throughout most of our history. • “The party in power always opposes states’ rights. It’s in their interest to do so.” Loewen • Lincoln was the trigger owing to his opposition to slavery.
  35. Documents • South Carolina and other Deep South states sent ambassadors to convince other states to secede—their words were clear—it was first, last, and foremost about slavery. • No one doubted in the 1860s that secession was for slavery—Lincoln’s Second Inaugural—”All knew that this interest (slavery) was somehow the cause of the war.” • He was not trying to convince his audience but merely state the obvious.
  36. Why Don’t Most Teachers Know This? • Most teachers continue to teach that states’ rights were the cause of the war because according to Loewen: – They don’t know the key documents – They have read the textbooks but not the documents – When textbooks do mention documents they are often wrong
  37. Why Do Textbooks Get Secession Wrong? • First, textbook authors have gotten into the habit of not quoting anything. • Second, publishers don’t want to offend. • Third, authors are too busy to write “their” textbooks—The American Journey lists James McPherson as one of its authors—but he contradicts the textbook in his own Battle Cry of Freedom. • Fourth, downplaying slavery got established in our culture during the nadir of race relations, 1890-1940.
  38. McPherson vs. McPherson The American Journey (textbook) -”…would not protect Southern rights and liberties…” Battle Cry of Freedom (his book) -”The right to own slaves; the liberty to take this property into the territories…”
  39. Loewen Continued • Loewen argues that teaching that Confederate states seceded for states’ rights is not accurate history—it might be termed “white history”. • Taught in this way it alienates people of color which is one reason for the racial achievement gap in history which is larger that in any other subject.
  40. Summary • Teaching history in the 21st century is more important that ever based on the skills necessary to function in today’s and tomorrow’s world. • As teachers we need not only to understand our students but also the discipline and content of history. • As citizens we need to understand that one of the important values of history is developing judgment based on critical thinking and understanding our past.
  41. Summary • Teaching history is teaching a survival skill. • History is best defined as an argument about the past. But this argument must be based on historical thinking. Remember one can have his or her own opinions but not his or her own facts. • As individuals who love history and recognize its importance we must continue to support it in the public schools.