On Tuesday I will be working with a group of k-12 history teachers in Virginia on how they can introduce the subject of historical memory in their classrooms. The news that Virginia may set aside a day to honor Abraham Lincoln could not have come at a better time and I plan on offering some suggestions on how teachers and students can get involved.
This morning I came across the state’s Lincoln bicentennial commission website and it includes some very helpful links on their work as well as sources on Lincoln’s deep Virginia roots. There is a section for teachers, students as well as other helpful resources that can be used in the classroom. My suggestion to history teachers in Virginia is to find a way to integrate this issue into their classrooms as a culminating activity. The sesquicentennial is a unique opportunity to involve students in the act of commemoration based on their understanding of this crucial period.
Have students debate the resolution in its present form. Should Virginia commemorate President Abraham Lincoln with his own day? Present the results to the rest of the student body. Better yet, contact your local state representative and have him/her visit the class to receive the results. Have students write their own resolutions as individuals or in small groups to reflect the challenges of committee work. Students who disagree with the resolution can offer a counter-resolution that supports their preferred candidate.
Don’t just study history, shape it!