Teaching History In Proper Perspective

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” (George Orwell)

 

Ms. Gloria, as a recently hired teacher at Lovelawn High School savored her first opportunity to make American History truthful and relevant to the struggling lives of her South Side Chicago students. So when she got the message at the beginning of the school year from the school principal that she needed to introduce a new Social Studies teaching curriculum for her 11th grade classes, understandably she became quite concerned. For this idealistic instructor would now be required to follow an executive order from the President of the United States that strict adherence to his “Make America Great Again” message should now be the primary emphasis of teaching pedagogy for all s social studies teachers in U.S. primary and secondary schools As a result, she would be advised to modify her yearly curriculum to “spin” more positive views of past American conflicts of race, ethnicity, gender, and religion.

So Ms. Gloria wondered at first about how to modify her lesson plans accordingly. But how could she teach her upcoming Civil War unit without including the damaging effects of the southern slave culture in 1861-1865? Or when it became time to present American involvement in other controversial events of interest, what sense would it have made to downplay the human tragedies experienced at the Cherokee Trail of Tears, Hiroshima nuclear bomb blast or the Vietnam Mai Lai massacre?

In addition, Ms. Gloria fearfully pondered the prospect that such radical alterations to her history curriculum would most likely lead to classroom management chaos in the classroom. What could she do to pacify those students who wanted her to present relevant material about African slavery as a result of the “Black Lives Matter” protests in their neighborhoods? How might they react when their music videos and social media postings could now be censored in the classroom? To what extent as well could she ignore teaching alleged white racist incidents of the past when the President’s angry personality escalated such interpersonal tensions daily? How physically and emotionally capable would she be to stop multiracial melees inside her classroom when she sold out her curriculum” to the “white establishment” world?

So as the year progressed, Ms. Gloria would find great difficulty in compromising her teaching methods for the sake of this false masquerade of Presidential propaganda. It would therefore be no surprise that she would begin receiving daily reminders on the intercom from her principal to shape up and teach American History more as ordered in the “Great America” way. So as her self-respect as a teacher thus gradually began to wane, she would begin thinking of resignation in order to find a more positive line of work.

One spring day as afternoon classes ended, a shooting took place on school grounds. Ms. Gloria soon heard that one of her best students, Ramon, had been been seriously injured by a stray bullet after mistakingly walking into the crossfire of a white vs. black gang fight. As her anger about this racially fueled incident grew, while Ramon was fighting for his life in a local hospital, Ms. Gloria would now make a logical decision to move forward in pursuing a career change in the immediate future. For she would realize the futility of continuing to teach in an educational system that “sugarcoated” past events in history to falsely depict life as easier than it really was.

Ms. Gloria’s resignation from teaching at the end of the school year consequently could only be expected. Her passion for providing relevant and truthful solutions to her students lives as a history teacher would now benefit her greatly as she worked “double time” on her own to develop a popular podcast titled “Gloria’s Good Old Glory”. As the marketing appeal of her podcast audience exploded within a year, she would follow this accomplishment with a successful, “grass roots” run for State Representative in the U.S. Congress. Living her life now without past regret, Gloria’s luck had finally improved in her own way.

Human Rights In Fabric

”The museum believes today’s quilters create extraordinary artwork that is a unique and wonderful sensory experience for everyone.” (The National Quilt Museum – Mission Statement)

I’ve always loved the cozy feel of a thickly built quilt. After all, snuggling under a quilt helped me to face those frigid Northeastern Ohio winters in my childhood. I also fondly recall how my late Aunt Lil would donate her colorfully made, homemade quilts to friends/family during holiday times. I would never have expected, however, that a deeper motive behind my aunt’s generosity would be more than providing warmth in winter. For I realize now that her quilting hobby seemed to spread a positive message for human acceptance, decency and kindness.

So with visions of Aunt Lil’s  quilting spirit in mind, I recognized a similar plea for human rights concerns during our road trip visit on June 8 to the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, a small river town on the Ohio River. In the photographs that follow, you will thus view a timely collection of quilts representing (1) victims whose human rights have been denied in our country, (2) famed heroes who fought for them, and (3) those human qualities needed for positive social changes in our country now.

Ruby Bridge, a brave little girl, willingly crossed the lines of segregation in New Orleans to go to school.

Harriet Tubman helped runaway Southern slaves escape to freedom during the Civil War era.

During the Nazi Holocaust of World War II, Arthur Schindler and other heroic individuals overcame the evils of Anti- Semitism by serving as rescuers of Jewish people at the time.

As baby boomers become “seniors” today, they remain talented, wise, and relevant in today’s world. Will today’s political leaders continue to recognize them fairly?

Nelson Mandela crusaded as a human rights hero to overcome racial apartheid in South Africa.

A heavy personal burden rests on those individuals who have been displaced from their homelands for religious/political persecution.

Children are colorblind. Such innocence inspires us to unite against racial injustice and hatred in the world today.

Rosa Park and Dr. Martin Luther King led the crusade for non-violent, civil disobedience to spark interest in passing new Civil Rights laws in America.

Physically challenged individuals advocate human rights under the law to adapt to medical, legal, and public access concerns.

Finding unity in diversity resonates in today’s protest demonstrations of “Black Lives Matter” to counteract the historic evils of racial prejudice in America.

John L. Lewis organized a freedom march of African Americans from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act Of 1965.

The United Nations recognizes clean water and adequate sanitation are to be considered as basic human right for all peoples of the world.

Our free union of states forms a fundamental concept in the concept of America. Does the political will of our country sustain the continuance of that concept?

 

Living History: A Path Forward

“That’s the thing about time travel. You’re always moving forward, even when you go back.” (James A. Owen)

I’ve always embraced a lifelong passion to read about history which has often revealed to me a meaningful cause/effect connection between the past and the present. So as I closely examine my book cabinets at home today, the historical impact of three writers I have extensively read in my life immediately come to mind. I should first single out James Michener for his informal story telling abilities infused with unique, local settings which inspired my lifelong interest in studying community relics/cultural behaviors. I will also grant special praise to Doris Kearns Goodwin, whose intimate portrayals of the public/private lives of U.S. Presidents have provided me with so many sound ideas for fulfilling my role obligations as a U.S. voter and informed American citizen. A final “shout out” must be given as well to a lesser known writer of historic fiction: Harry Turtledove. For his alternative plot versions of famous events in U.S./ World History stimulated me to think more open-mindedly about controversially politicized issues in contemporary times.

Along with such “bookworm” passions for biography and other past event based readings, I have often traveled with a historic mindset to help me deal with life’s current moment to moment challenges. You might further have noticed that my travel blogs often flashback in time to find relevant human insights from unexpected historic places encountered at unexpected times. You might say then that my writing style sometimes seems reminiscent of “time travel” in the movie “Back To The Future” as if I were Marty McFly imagining myself adapting to what it would really be like if I lived in randomly chosen years before. So step inside my time machine and travel back into the past as I present ten “then vs. now” examples evidenced in the following historic photographs from our world travels.

Walking along the main road of the ancient ruins of Ostia along the coast of Italy west of Rome, I positioned myself behind this casually posing, masculine sculpture. Placing my head on his body facing the vast expanse of marble baths, enormous temples, and multistory apartment remnants, I felt an odd sensation of wealthiness and power amidst this important center of trade in the Roman Empire.

Soccer unquestionably reigns throughout the United Kingdom as a popular favorite in the athletic realm. At the History Museum in Southampton, England, I proudly took my place posing with this trophy replica and absorbed the winning spirit among the giants of soccer stardom.

The opportunity to hold an authentic Revolutionary War musket at the Powder Magazine in Charleston , South Carolina, I obsessed on the the stressful act of colonial times weaponry as demonstrated by the slow loading and firing of this ponderously heavy weapon used then in the heat of battle.

The lighthearted presence of Charlie Chaplin along the lakeshore in Montreux Switzerland invited me to join in with his comical antics to politely tip my hat and dance merrily as he often did during his silent movie career.

I shared matching Hawaiian shirts and the mellow spectator vibe pervading the stands during an Oakland A’s baseball game in posing with this fun loving mascot sculpture during a visit to Jack London Square In Oakland, California.

Before boarding a mid 19th century passenger car to experience a scenic ride on the “Heber Creeper”, a steam driven railway In Heber City Utah, we ducked behind these costumed figure mannequins at the depot to recreate the elegant formality feel of an affluent family traveling 1st class during these Victorian times. Along this slow train ride through the spectacular Wabash mountains, we also sang along merrily with authentically dressed volunteers to favorite tunes of the Old West.

My bumpy journey steeply uphill on the back of a sad looking elephant along the walls of the Amber Fort in Jaipur, India alerted my senses that I would have been physically unsuited for this slow and ponderously dangerous ride during this fort’s “heyday times. Moving forward to the complex’s present, I also felt distinct distaste for such physical abuse of these giant mammals for the sake of capitalistic tourist profit.

The Royal Guard ceremonially protects the queen and her family entourage at Buckingham Palace in London all year around. In posing stoically behind this Guard replica, I realized that I had joined into the patriotic public spirit that the “Changing of the Guard” ritual meant for the continuance of the British imperial crown.

Cellphones seemed no match for a traditional British phone booth for calling home during a Canadian cruise visit to Market Square in Saint John, New Brunswick. For who wants to talk on the cellphone in public view when you can enjoy the traditional British custom of embracing privacy by isolating yourself inside this time tested red box?

As a serious trombone player in the past, I felt a strong urge to join into a cool jazz session in Bourbon Street style as I posed with my wife amidst three music greats performing together in this statue in downtown New Orleans.

Note: In the current era of social distancing demands, I discovered that many of these sites described above are closed or severely restricted in attendance. How then can history help us to adapt to these current touristic challenges in the future?

 

 

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