The Choices Blog

History and Current Issues for the Classroom

The Umbrella Movement and Trends of Modern Protest

Over the past five years, we have seen a surge of public uprisings around the world. From Tunis, Cairo, and Madrid to Istanbul, Kiev, and Caracas, people have turned to public protest and civil disobedience to express frustration with their countries’ distinct social, economic, and political states.

The Choices Program has just published a new Teaching with the News lesson on the recent prodemocracy protests in Hong Kong. The protests have emerged in response to the Chinese government’s announcement that although it will allow universal suffrage in the 2017 election of Hong Kong’s chief executive, voters will only be able to choose among two or three candidates selected by a nominating committee. Protesters fear that the Chinese government will use this nominating committee to ensure that only pro-Beijing candidates enter the election process.

Protesters gathered in downtown Hong Kong earlier this month. (Pasu Au Yeung, CC BY-SA 2.0.)

In what ways is Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement” similar to and different from other civil disobedience demonstrations that have emerged in recent years? In a video interview for our Scholars Online collection, Brown Professor Melani Cammett discusses some of the broad issues that contributed to the wave of popular uprisings in the Arab world in 2010-2011.

As has been the case with the revolutions in the Arab world, protesters in Hong Kong are demanding more democratic freedoms from their government—specifically, in this case, the right to democratically nominate and elect their government leader. Economic inequality within Hong Kongese society and frustrations among highly educated young people about challenges finding work and housing are also contributing to public discontent. In addition, like in the Arab revolutions, the Hong Kong protests are comprised of large numbers of young people—many of whom are still too young to vote.

But despite these similarities, there are stark differences between the protest movements. Many of the Arab countries that experienced mass revolutions beginning in 2010 and 2011 suffer from widespread poverty and government corruption. In contrast, Hong Kong is China’s economic hub and has become known for its “clean and corruption-free” government. Furthermore, many of the Arab revolutions demanded and ultimately resulted in the overthrow of authoritarian leaders from countries including Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. The Hong Kong protests, on the other hand, are centered primarily around one aspect of election policy in Hong Kong. While protesters have expressed a desire for Hong Kong’s chief executive, CY Leung, to step down, they are not attempting any sort of revolution to change the government structure of China as a whole. In fact, the Hong Kongese prodemocracy group Occupy Central has been vocal about its desire to be called a “movement” as opposed to a “revolution.” They are decidedly nonviolent and the scope of their demands is limited.

Moreover, many of the initially peaceful protests in the Arab world have resulted in tragically violent conflicts and harsh government repression—most strikingly in the case of Syria and its descent into a brutal civil war. While the Chinese government has not expressed any willingness to meet protesters’ demands for open public nomination of Hong Kong’s chief executive, a peaceful dialogue has already begun between government officials and student protest leaders.

Comparing the current protests in Hong Kong with one specific protest movement, like the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Turkey, can also help to illuminate common tools and tactics of modern protests. In another Scholars Online video interview, Barbara Petzen, an education consultant specializing in how to teach about the Middle East, discusses creative ways Turkish protesters responded to media censorship during the Gezi Park protests.

While what triggered the Gezi Park protests and Hong Kong’s protests are different, there are similarities in how the government responded to each as well as in the strategies protesters used to get their messages across. Like in the case of Turkey, the Chinese government has censored many news and media outlets in response to the recent protests. In China, the press has depicted Hong Kong protesters as extremists who threaten the unity of China, and the government has shut down social media sites like Instagram. This government censorship has impacted how mainland Chinese view the protests in Hong Kong. In addition, censoring posts on Weibo (a site similar to Twitter) has affected the ability of protesters to communicate with each other. This has prompted creative solutions—for instance, many protesters in Hong Kong have been using alternative social media apps, like FireChat, that do not rely on the internet.

In addition, both the Gezi Park protesters and Hong Kong’s prodemocracy protesters have used strong symbolism in getting their messages across. Whether a spray-painted penguin with a gas mask in the case of Gezi Park or a trash collection bin emblazoned with the number 689 (the number of votes current Hong Kong chief executive received from China’s electoral committee) in Hong Kong, protesters have demonstrated ingenuity and creativity.

KeithPictures (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Hong Kong protesters have received international attention for regularly cleaning protest sites and setting up recycling centers. Many trash bags and cans have signs attached with messages such as “Throw out your 689 here” and “689! General waste.” (KeithPictures, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

Learning about the Hong Kong democracy protests can help students think about the role of mass public action in politics and grapple with the question of how protests in varied places and times can be both similar and different. How and why do public protests arise? What tactics do protesters use? Are there clear leaders of civil disobedience movements? What relationship do protesters have with government officials and police? What role do technology and social media play—both for the protesters and for the governments they are demonstrating against? What does it mean for a protest to be “successful”?

 

Check out Choices’ new free lesson on the Hong Kong protests, and for more on the history of China’s political development, see the unit China on the World Stage: Weighing the U.S. Response.

 

Some Choices units that deal with the theme of public protest and enfranchisement:

More FREE Teaching with the News lessons on uprisings:

And look out for our new unit on experiencing and responding to climate change, coming soon!

Modifying Choices Materials for all Students

By Richard McNeil, Special Education Teacher, Massapequa High School, NY

Why Choices?

In my eternal search for the perfect combination of informational and awesome, I found the Choices Program: a resource that covers U.S. History, Global History, and current events, utilizing many different perspectives, mediums, and opportunities to help students become active citizens. I could not pass this up. This could easily turn into a blog post about my love of The Choices Program. But I digress. In my special educator mind I realized that I could not hand this material over to my students without some modification. As a special educator it is my job to give students in my classroom the same opportunities as general education students. Through the years they have ranged in age from 12 to 21 years old and have had at least one of the disabilities listed under IDEA; many have had multiple disabilities. By opportunities I mean access to quality, rigorous content that will help to prepare my students for not just college but life as a local, national, and global citizen.

Modifications

How do I modify? The first thing I do is make a template that includes the Choices logo. I try to match the look as best I can. Choices deserve the recognition, and let’s not forget this is copyrighted material. Once my template is complete I begin to add the rich content to a graphic organizer. There are usually three columns: 1st column is the readings, 2nd is definitions, and 3rd are questions.

I try to keep the readings as intact as possible. However, if necessary one can simplify words, paraphrase paragraphs, or simply cherry pick specific sections of the text.

I then bold difficult or more advanced vocabulary. The number of terms I bold depends on the student, grade level, or the population of the class. You may also include the definition or have the students write it.

The Choices questions are placed in the third column. If there are no questions I will create them according to the text. In addition, the students are always assigned the task of creating their own questions.

If you want to expose your students in a special education classroom settings to the Choices materials you must modify. The exact modifications that you can make will change with student population, course type, and of course your own personal teaching style.

Modification Breakdown

  • Create a template.
  • Insert and modify readings.
  • Bold, Underline, Highlight key or difficult terms.
  • List vocabulary with or without definitions.
  • List the Choices/Teacher/Student questions.

See Richards Modification to Iran Through the Looking Glass: History, Reform, and Revolution. Read more about this unit at choices.edu/iran.

 

Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Education and Children’s Rights Activists

On Friday, October 10, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.”

Satyarthi is the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan (English: Save Childhood Movement), an India-based movement that campaigns for the end of human trafficking and the protection of children’s rights. Satyarthi has made the protection of children and the pursuit of their safety and education his life mission, fighting against child labor and campaigning for access to education.

Yousafzai came to global recognition as an activist for women’s access to education. She has worked to spread awareness of the plight of girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, her home, where the Taliban had at times banned girls from attending schools. Yousafzai has shown incredible courage in sharing about her life under Taliban occupation and promoting children’s and women’s rights, even after being shot in 2012. 17-year-old Yousfzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

The 2011 prize was awarded to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni politician Tawakkul Karman for their work on women's rights, Photo: Harry Wad

The 2011 prize was awarded to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni politician Tawakkul Karman for their work on women’s rights, Photo: Harry Wad

We at Choices share the goals of these activists—to foster education, awareness, empowerment, and empathy amongst a new generation. If you are as inspired as we are by the two incredible Nobel laureates, check out our unit on the history of their homelands, Pakistan and India, in Indian Independence and the Question of Partition, or teach your class about the central pillar of their work with Competing Visions of Human Rights: Questions for U.S. Policy. For more on the empowerment of youth to change the world, we have a free lesson on Students in the Civil Rights Movement.

New Tools for the Options Role Play and Deliberative Dialogue

Choices recently reorganized its Teacher Corner web pages.  All of the tools listed below and more can be downloaded from the Teacher Corner and adapted to your classroom.

A big thank you to Choices Teaching Fellows Amy Howland and Deb Springhorn for their Common Core-aligned assessments and other valuable Role Play tools.

TOOLS FOR ROLE PLAY PREPARATION

How can you be sure each Option group is ready to present?  It can be useful to have students complete a check-in or “ticket” as entry into the Role Play.

  • Areas of Concern: This chart is designed as a check-in tool prior to the role play. We have provided a blank template and a completed sample – both based on our unit, China on the World Stage.  For less advanced students, you could provide them with the “description of the issues” and they would complete just the third column, which asks them to identify the priorities of their assigned option on each set of issues.  This could be done in groups or individually. More advanced students could be tasked with completing the entire chart.
  • Options Analysis Chart: In preparation for the role play, students in each option group could complete the section of this graphic organizer that pertains to their assigned option. The rest of this chart is designed for use during the role play.
  • DSC_7382Option Group Preparation Sheet & Undecided Citizens Preparation Sheet: Choices Teaching Fellow Amy Howland, a world history teacher at the Pacific Rim Charter School in Hyde Park, MA,  has created two excellent worksheets to assist each group in its preparation.  At the end of each sheet, she includes the Options Role Play Rubric to give them a clear understanding of what is expected during the role play.

TOOLS FOR THE ROLE PLAY

  • Options Role Play Note-taking Sheet: Students can use this handout, developed by Amy Howland, to record the main idea of each option and the questions they have about each.
  • Options Analysis Chart: This matrix can be adapted to the specific content of the unit.  Students complete the matrix as they listen to the presentations of their peers.  Members of each option group may be asked to complete the section for their own option as part of their preparation.


TOOLS FOR DELIBERATION & PERSONAL OPTION OR OPTION 5

Once all options have been presented and all questions asked, it is time for a deliberative dialogue focused on the issues raised by the Options. Because students may be unclear about what deliberation is, and how it differs from debate, the following tools may be useful.

  • Guidelines for Deliberation: This handout offers a concise explanation.
  • Preparing for Deliberation: This worksheet helps students prepare for the discussion they will have.
  • Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 3.32.40 PMSpeaker Deliberation Cards: These cards can be an excellent guiding tool for students before or during the deliberation to keep them on task or to set goals.  For instance, do you want to encourage a quieter student to speak more?  Hand her the “Speak at least twice” card.
  • Rubric – Option 5 Essay: After students complete the deliberation, they will write their own personal Option, sometimes called Option 5. This rubric, aligned with Common Core Standards, can help them understand the expectations. This rubric was createdby Choices Teaching Fellow Deb Springhorn from Lebanon High School in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

TOOLS FOR ASSESSING THE ROLE PLAY, DELIBERATION, AND YOUR OWN OPTION

  • Assessment Rubrics: The following rubrics, each aligned with specific standards from the Common Core, provide excellent assessment tools for you and your students.
  • Options Role Play Rubric (developed by Amy Howland)
  • Rubric – Option 5 Essay (developed by Deb Springhorn)
  • All other handouts also lend themselves to use for assessment.

Visit our revised Teachers Corner page to download all of our tools, adapt them, and make them work in your unique classroom!

 

Scotland votes on independence

On Thursday, the population of Scotland will be voting in a referendum to decide on whether the nation will secede from the United Kingdom. “Should Scotland be an independent country?” says the ballot paper, and until recently it has seemed that the answer would be an inevitable “no”. However, the pro-independence “Yes” campaign has led an impressive grassroots effort to incite the optimism of the Scottish people, leading to a recent poll placing them ahead of the “No” or “Better Together” campaign.

Campaign posters battle for space in Scotland. Image by The Justified Sinner (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via flickr

Campaign posters battle for space in Scotland. Image by The Justified Sinner (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) via flickr

Indeed Scotland’s is a unique independence movement, relying not on traditional nationalist ideology or the heroism of overcoming an oppressor, but rather claiming that an independent Scottish government can do more for it’s people than the elected Scottish representatives in a British government. The “Yes” campaign is about not having to share oil revenue from the North Sea with the rest of Britain, being able to define policy without the involvement of those south of the Scottish border, and not having to put up with a government that is seen as not representing the interests of the Scottish people (Scotland tends to disproportionately vote for the Labour party, while the more populous England tends to vote in preference of the Conservative government in place in Westminster now).

The “No” campaign, on the other hand, hails pragmatic caution. It points to the problems with currency (while an independent Scotland may keep using the British pound, it seems that they would not have a seat at the table that decides on monetary policy and determines the value of the currency). Furthermore, should Scotland gain independence it would have to re-apply for its membership in the European Union—a membership that is very important for trade and economic development. It is not clear whether Scotland would regain this membership easily, or what agreements it would have to make to achieve this. Even the North Sea oil (what will be the pivot of an independent Scottish economy) has turned out to be less appealing, with technical experts pointing out that reserves are quickly diminishing and that the oil cannot be relied upon to prop up an entire country. With this economic insecurity, banks and businesses have threatened to move south should the referendum end in a “Yes.”

English, Scottish and Irish flags combine to form the Union Jack. Image by guilherme Paula (public domain) via wikimedia

English, Scottish and Irish flags combine to form the Union Jack. Image by Guilherme Paula (public domain) via wikimedia

One of the reasons that the “Yes” campaign and the Scottish National Party (SNP) are such a unique independence movement is because Scotland is not a colony. The Scottish people are not oppressed or overpowered by an imperialist power. They have a democratic stake in the British government, and they are treated as equal citizens. We can contrast this with the colonies in Africa, who were not fighting only for independence and the right to govern themselves but also for the overthrowing of a racialized system that established Africans as lesser beings. In the Choices unit Colonization and Independence in Africa, case studies on colonies and how they gained independence highlight this racism. In one of the primary sources used in the unit, a Ghanaian journalist points out that an aim of British colonial policy was “to suppress the educated African who is too articulate to be convenient to British repression.”

Even the independence movement in the United States, which did not have the same racial elements, compares unsatisfactorily to the Scottish issue. A More Perfect Union: American Independence and the Constitution considers how the American revolution grew out of discontent over the influence of the British Parliament in the colonies. As they became increasingly frustrated by the distance between them and Parliament, “colonists began to ask if they were obligated to obey laws passed without their consent.” When the Britain tightened its control over expansion in the colonies, imposed taxes, and enforced a staunch anti-smuggling regime, this anger turned into vast resistance of British controls. It is a fun oversimplification to say that the American Revolution was caused by taxes, but it is more realistic to argue that these taxes represented an oppressive British regime that was in no way accountable to the colonists and was out of touch with the situation in the colonies. This was the source of rebellion.

Realizing the differences between the Scottish “Yes” campaign and other independence movements makes the question of Scottish secession from the Union all the more complicated. It brings up new questions about how we define a country, how we consider the rights to self-determination, how we think about the problems of proportional or representative democracy. Should we keep drawing new borders until people feel appropriately represented by their governments? Where do we stop if we start doing this? How do we understand the roles of international organizations who seem to be a form of global government, if we believe that political decisions can only be made by a tightly localized government? Is there a case for other independence movements that have (like Scotland’s) up until now been dismissed as impractical or unlikely, such as in Texas or Quebec? Do the concerns raised by the Scottish independence movement help us to understand some U.S. modes of governance, such as state government and how the union works?

Rally for Scottish Independence. Image by Martainn MacDhomhnaill (CC BY-NC 2.0) via flickr

Rally for Scottish Independence. Image by Martainn MacDhomhnaill (CC BY-NC 2.0) via flickr

For up-to-date happenings surrounding the Scottish independence referendum as well as in-depth analysis, visit the BBC’s Scotland Decides page or Al Jazeera’s Scotland page.

Other interesting articles include Something extraordinary is happening in Scotland (from the Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog) and Fate of United Kingdom hangs in balance after new Scotland polls (from South African paper, The Mail & Guardian).

 

More Choices units that deal with the theme of self-determination:

 

ISIS, Iran, and the Nuclear Negotiations: A Teaching with the News Extension

The Choices Program has just published two new Teaching with the News lessons. The first is on the Iranian nuclear negotiations. The deadline for coming to a final agreement is November 24, 2014, conveniently coming after U.S. elections and during a lame duck session of Congress.

The second lesson is on the threat of ISIS in the Middle East.

There is an important connection between these two issues. The United States and Iran share an interest in rolling back the threat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It is fascinating to watch the video below of the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator,  Abbas Araghchi, as he chooses his words carefully about whether U.S. and Iranian military forces are already coordinating their efforts against ISIS. In the months after September 11, 2001, there was also substantive cooperation between the United States and Iran against the Taliban—cooperation whose end could be marked with President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech a few months later.

In both the United States and Iran, domestic political opposition to any kind of accord between these two countries remains significant. Whether cooperation against ISIS is merely tactical or  is part of  a recognition of shared security interests remains to be seen.

There is an opportunity for teachers using one or the other of these Teaching with the News lessons to explore with students the relationship between the nuclear negotiation and the international response to ISIS. These two issues are critical to both the United States and Iran. It’s a terrific way to explore how complex policy making can be. Here are a few questions to spark discussion:

  • How does being aware of both of the issues effect students’ perceptions of how to respond these two policy issues?
  • How does the relationship between these issues affect Iran? …the United States?
  • Do students see the connection between the issues as an opportunity or a complication?
  • Henry Kissinger said, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only  interests.” How does this statement relate to this situation? Do students agree with Kissinger?

 

 

Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall: A Course Made for Choices Materials

Blog Post by Choices Teaching Fellow Deb Springhorn

21st-century-skillsFor 30 years I have lamented the lack of time to teach the current global situation in the context of a world history course that is supposed to go from the prehistoric to the present in one year!  Given the global paradigm shift after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rapid shift again after 9-11, it has become even more imperative to prepare students for global citizenship by developing their understanding of complex global issues and instilling the disposition to see others as they see themselves.  Choices Curriculum units and Teaching with the News lessons do just this.  The goal in developing the course, Global Issues Since the Fall of the Wall was to create an interdisciplinary, common core based course that would incorporate as many materials from the Choices Program as possible.  Beyond the Choices materials, students will read articles from a wide variety of journals and literature of several genres.  They will examine photographic images by James Nachtwey as a way of seeing themselves in such places Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda.

This year long course is divided into four units:

  • The New World [dis]Order of the 1990s: Nationalism, War, and Genocide
  • America After 9-11: The Single Story of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq
  • The Frustration and Hope of “The Arab Spring”
  • Globalization: Geopolitical, Environmental, and Economic Issues.

Each of the four units is organized around 21st Century Skills, reflecting the Common Core.  Choices Curriculum units and Teaching with the News lessons combine with the philosophical, literary, and artistic elements to provide students with an in-depth awareness of the complexities of the current global situation.

The web site for the course has unit overviews, detailed day-by-day plans, resource links, and annotated bibliographies of all the sources used for each of the units.  The attached document illustrates each of the four units with materials from the Choices Program  already incorporated in the first version of the course as well as others that will be added as the course continues to evolve.  The key literary works are listed as well to show the literary connections.

On the 100th Anniversary of World War I

By Leah Elliott, Choices Program Associate

The upcoming year presents a special opportunity for classrooms to reflect on the history and impacts of World War I. While mainstream media coverage has granted attention to the war’s famous battles and grave sites dotting Europe and the United States, we encourage you to also explore with your students the narratives of those societies that fell within the colonial and/or imperial boundaries of the Central and Allied Powers.

Over the past ten months, Choices has produced three new curriculum units that speak to “other” perspectives from World War I: Indian Independence and the Question of Partition, Colonization and Independence in Africa, and Empire, Republic, Democracy: A History of Turkey (just released this summer!). Below are a few excerpts and images from these curricula.

“Britain forced its colonies to contribute vast sums of money, raw materials, soldiers, and other resources to support the war effort. Tens of thousands of Indian troops fighting for Britain in Europe and the Middle East lost their lives.” —Indian Independence and the Question of Partition

 

Africa 1914 color

“Africans who participated in the war efforts thought they would be rewarded with additional social, political, and economic rights when the war was over…. It soon became clear that Europe and the United States did not believe that Africans deserved this right…. Germany’s former colonies became mandates—administered by foreign countries on behalf of the League…. Criticism of colonialism grew louder in Africa around the world after World War I. Four conferences between 1919 and 1927 helped bring international attention and support to anticolonial movements in Africa.” —Colonization and Independence in Africa

 

"In 1915, Russia made substantial gains into Ottoman territory in Eastern Anatolia. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) government feared that minority groups in the region, especially the Armenians, planned to revolt against the empire with the help of Russian forces.… April 24, 1915 marked the start of the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman government ordered the arrest and deportation or execution of over two  hundred Armenian politicians, religious leaders, and businessmen in Istanbul.… CUP officials claimed that the Armenians planned to revolt and destroy the Ottoman Empire. This accusation produced widespread public support for the government’s actions. By 1923, 1.5 million Armenians—over two-thirds of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire—had been killed, deported, or forced into the desert where they starved to death." —Empire, Republic, Democracy: A History of Turkey

“In 1915, Russia made substantial gains into Ottoman territory in Eastern Anatolia. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) government feared that minority groups in the region, especially the Armenians, planned to revolt against the empire with the help of Russian forces.… April 24, 1915 marked the start of the Armenian Genocide. The Ottoman government ordered the arrest and deportation or execution of over two hundred Armenian politicians, religious leaders, and businessmen in Istanbul.… CUP officials claimed that the Armenians planned to revolt and destroy the Ottoman Empire. This accusation produced widespread public support for the government’s actions. By 1923, 1.5 million Armenians—over two-thirds of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire—had been killed, deported, or forced into the desert where they starved to death.”Empire, Republic, Democracy: A History of Turkey

These pieces draw attention to just a few of the narratives that are often lost when sole focus for the 100th anniversary of World War I is given to people who identified with, instead of were subjugated by, the world powers of the time. In addition to widespread death and economic upheaval, World War I was also an event that turned the world’s attention to the fight for self-determination. For people living under colonial rule in Africa and South Asia, as well as the diverse ethnic groups within the Ottoman Empire, World War I fueled efforts for self-determination that would drastically shape the course of the twentieth century.

 

Cultivating Decision Makers after AP Exams

by Derek Reichenbecher, Choices Teaching Fellow
Howell High School, Farmingdale, NJ

I have been teaching Advanced Placement US History II for twelve years. A tricky part of teaching the class is that the American History timeline must be completed in time for the Advanced Placement Exam in early May. This leaves a full month between the completion of curriculum content and the district final exams. In order to motivate students as summer nears, I encourage them to apply what they learned throughout the year to the world they inherit. To do that I combine two Choices units: The Teacher’s Guide for the Fog of War and The U.S. Role in a Changing World. Students begin by completing background briefings in the US Role. This work and subsequent discussions help dovetail earlier class discussions with current policy and issues. We then watch and discuss the Errol Morris documentary THE FOG OF WAR, incorporating the accompanying lessons from the Choices’ Guide. After screening the film, students are asked to layout an overview of their preferred American foreign policy through a written assignment. They are expected to reference their own understanding of history as well as the issues and resources discussed through the Choices Program. Four pathways provided by the Choices unit are helpful as the students organize their own priorities and concerns. If time allows, students also explore the Choices role play at the end of the U.S. Role unit and deliberate on the best possible path forward for the United States.

It is critical that as teachers we not only provide students with facts and information, but also encourage them to think critically about their world. By using the Fog of War and the Choices Program units I aspire to create a classroom environment where students consider themselves as decision makers. Ultimately, the goal is not just to teach history, but also to support the students in making a connection between the knowledge they acquire and the country they are one day going to help govern.

The Fog of War Trailer

 

Rethinking History: A Look at the Writing Process at the Choices Program

Maya at AAS

Maya Lindberg accepted the Franklin Buchanan Prize on behalf of the Choices Program at the AAS convention in Philadelphia.

Late last month, three members of the Choices curriculum team received the 2014 Franklin Buchanan Prize from the Association for Asian Studies for the outstanding curriculum resource on Asia. Leah Elliott and Maya Lindberg were recognized for their work as writers and Tanya Waldburger for her videography in Indian Independence and the Question of Partition. Congratulations to the three of them for this well-deserved recognition.

After publication last fall, Choices received an email from Mr. Ted Lockery, a ninth-grade teacher in Seattle with some really interesting questions from his class. With his permission, I am able to share them with you along with our responses. I think they provide insight into the issues and process we go through when writing curriculum. I hope you find it interesting.

Dear Choices,

My name is Ted Lockery.  I teach ninth-grade world history at Nathan Hale High School, in Seattle.

My students and I are examining how historians make decisions about how & what to emphasize in their publications.  We have been entertaining the question, “Where is the truth in history?”

This morning we compared the latest edition of “Indian Independence and the Question of Partition” to the previous edition, noticing the change from “the Mutiny of 1857” to the “Great Revolt of 1857.”  (This examination was inspired by the Teacher Resource Book’s “The Great Revolt of 1857: Source Analysis.”)

We would greatly  appreciate knowing how CHOICES came to the decision to revise the title and that section of the text.  What issues were discussed in the decision-making process?  Was there debate?  What were some of the motivations and/or justifications for the change? 

Thank you SO much for your time regarding this.

It is very exciting for us to take up this question with actual historians!

Sincerely,

Ted Lockery

 

Dear Mr. Lockery,

Thank you for your email.

It is great to hear that your class is discussing and trying to locate the “truth” in history. It is a challenge that Choices curriculum writers continually face. Your class poses great questions regarding Choices’ decision to use the “Great Revolt of 1857” over the “Mutiny of 1857.” Please find our responses to their questions below.

What issues were discussed in the decision-making process?
The decision to use the “Great Revolt of 1857” over the “Mutiny of 1857” was guided by a number considerations. The Choices Program decided that the new edition should deviate from a history of the Indian subcontinent that privileges the perspective of the colonizing power, i.e. the British, over other “voices,” such as everyday people. British historical accounts written shortly after 1857 and well into the twentieth century used the term “mutiny” to downplay the widespread participation of Indians. These accounts and more contemporary ones perpetuated the long-mistaken view that the events of 1857 were isolated to a mere mutiny of Indian sepoys in the Bengal Army. Contemporary scholars have challenged this perspective, pointing to other groups that participated in the rebellion. We decided to follow these scholars’ example and break with the tradition of using the “Mutiny of 1857.”

What were some of the motivations and/or justifications for the change?
We first heard the events of 1857 referred to as the “Great Revolt” from a historian we worked with at Brown University—Vazira Zamindar. Following her lead, we opted to go with “Great Revolt of 1857” because it is a broader term that encompasses much more than “Mutiny of 1857.” As the updated unit describes under the question “Who joined the revolt?” on page twelve of the student text, sepoys were not the only participants in the uprisings against the British in 1857. Civilians, landlords, peasants, merchants, and policemen, to name just a few, participated alongside sepoys in revolts and initiated demonstrations of their own. Using “mutiny” in this instance would have been misleading because the term itself means “an open rebellion against the proper authorities, esp. by soldiers or sailors against their officers.” Since the historical record shows that soldiers were not the only participants, we opted to go with a broader term—revolt.
Now, you might be wondering, what makes the revolt of 1857 a GREAT revolt. This an important consideration as well. The Great Revolt of 1857 was an important moment marked by unparalleled, widespread participation against British rule in the Indian subcontinent. It also led to the end of the rule of the British East India Company over the subcontinent and the establishment of Crown rule.

Was there debate?
The Choices writing team had several conversations about the naming of the Great Revolt. For reasons explained above, we decided to eliminate the “Mutiny of 1857” as an option. We also considered using the name, the “First War of Independence,” which has been used by some people from the Indian subcontinent. However, others, including contemporary historians from the region, disagree with this portrayal of the events because the rebellions were not unified in their goals. While resistance spread across the Indian subcontinent, there were varying social, political, economic, and cultural reasons for why people rebelled. These reasons were not limited to grievances with British rule; and therefore, it would be incorrect to categorize the events of 1857 as a united attempt to overthrow colonial rule.

Although we all agreed, given the available research on the topic, to changing the name from “mutiny” to “revolt,” we did debate whether or not to include an explanation of all the historical names (Great Revolt, the War of Independence, the Mutiny of 1857) in the student text. Ultimately, we decided for clarity and ease of reading to not include this explanation in the student text and reserve the conversation for a lesson. And we are so happy to hear you all worked on the lesson and are talking about truth, history, and naming!

Kind regards,
Leah Elliott and Maya Lindberg
Co-writers of Indian Independence and the Question of Partition

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