Greetings fellow American Citizen Patriots
Well. Could any of you imagine what it’s like being a US History teacher this fall? LOL. Put bluntly; it’s an unbelievable and an unprecedented time for all of us. The nation is extremely divided. We are all affected by the conditions brought by COVID. National confidence in our systems is fracturing. The national press is misinforming at best and outright lying to the people at worse. Identity politics and political correctness rule the day. “Cancel culture” is here. Ill Informed radical “Antifa” groups that want to destroy the rule of law roam some streets. There is corruption being exposed at the highest levels of our systems. The “dark forces” of the Epstein saga are still unanswered. Corporate lobbying, DC “Think” tanks, and special interest groups drive national policies. Congress has an incumbency rate of 90% and an approval rate of less than 10%. Big tech is censoring voices they disagree with acting as the arbiter of truth in the US. They are also collecting digital data on every citizen 24/7/365 and they have been caught lying about that. There is lawlessness in several major American cities. The middle class is shrinking yet Jeff Bezos can make $13 Billion dollars in a day. There is potential for a foreign conflict with a number of nations. Even our own History is literally under assault.
Into this arena I enter with your sons and daughters. I have three kids in high school as well this year whose experiences are now nothing like what we experienced. They have lost athletic seasons, proms, day to day interaction with teachers and their friends and so on. Believe me I care deeply about helping your students unpack all of this and what it all means. We will explore how we have gotten to this point of crisis in our national character. With your help and support I will try to teach your kids how and why all this is taking place. In order to really grasp the depth of our national crisis requires an open minded and honest discussion of the economic, political, social development, and forces of change in the history of the United States. There are so many layers and so many voices and so many points of view.
They will learn that good and bad decisions do not know a political party or a race or a gender. Democrats and Republicans, Blacks and Whites, Men and Women in this nation have all made choices as leaders and as followers; both good and bad. What I hope to help your children understand is that meaningful dialogue and discussion about our COMMON and our SHARED interests and values will have a long lasting impact. History repeats itself, the old saying goes. I tell your kids directly that that’s because the majority of the people don’t know it well enough and the best students who understand it will likely be able to sometimes accurately predict the future and best position themselves for success! That, to me, potentially makes them powerful.
Part of the problem we have as US History teachers is that most of the characters we learn about in some way shape or form thought and acted OUTSIDE of what was considered “normal” at that time. They were outside the proverbial “box.” They were the weird ones beloved by some and hated by others. Whomever gets to “draw” the lines of the box is an important piece to understand. Who are the power players in our system and why do they make the decisions that they do is an exercise I will engage in with them connecting past to present on a daily basis.
I can sum up my position on this by saying that the lens I look through will always be founded on the best attributes of Western Civilization. In our exploration of US History we will look at the triumphs and shortcomings of our national journey. We will balance the recognition of the need for individuals to be independent minded and self reliant but also compassionate and community oriented; just like the complexity of our founding. After all if we aren’t “good” “trustworthy” people first, we won’t have much of a worthwhile community to preserve anyway. I will teach them that the ideals that our nation was founded on WERE & ARE fundamentally good. That the individual “natural” rights of mankind should be protected in our own pursuit of truth. And, when any other individual, group, or system infringes on those rights guaranteed to all of us by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, & the Bill of Rights there will likely be conflict. The concept of the “rule of law” in our Republic should be the same for everyone.
I will use the language of people like the founding fathers & MLK who eloquently and simplistically stated that the content of your character knows no color, race, religion, or gender. I hope to pass on to your children that they are the drivers of their own destiny, and that if they want to create positive change then they need to arm themselves with knowledge to be able do what the true heroes of our nation have done in the past in order to get to a better place. We will also examine the obstacles and setbacks that have made the implementation of our own ideals challenging at times. The founding fathers were not hiding behind masks, the abolitionists never wavered, Frederick Douglass achieved, women’s rights leaders persevered, Theodore Roosevelt took on corruption with courage, and the modern civil rights leaders like the aforementioned MLK defined equality in the most ideal way.
What I can promise you is I will do my best to help answer their questions to the best of my ability. I will never teach your children WHAT to think. I will teach them HOW to think for themselves. By the end of the 2020-2021 school year, if I do my job right, they will simply realize all they don’t know and end up frustrated that they don’t know more. Then they will become lifelong learners. They will recognize variables they have never considered yet. Imagine if we were back in high school in the 1980’s and 1990’s (most of us anyway) and we knew all this stuff was happening; what would our reactions have been? How cynical would we have been? How powerless would we have felt? I think our youth feels like this a lot today. I see it in my own kids. They want what’s best for everyone but they see challenges that are in the way.
All this being said I still have high hopes for the year. It is a lot to take on. But so it was in 1776, in the 1860’s, at the turn of the century, during WWI & WWII, during the Vietnam era, all the way to the present. If properly prepared to analyze and learn from the past, your kids can and will be more powerful and more influential and henceforth more happy people because they will see their own lives as more purposeful. They will want to, and get to, make an impact.