A little thread for my colleagues in the history education profession, who are heading back into the classroom in states that have passed laws attempting to ban and/or regulate the teaching of history. First and foremost, I am sorry that you have to deal with this nonsense.
It’s hard to do your job effectively when your own state government views you as the enemy, but there are steps you can take to ensure that you have a successful and productive year.
Remember that you are the expert. Have confidence in your knowledge and pedagogical skills.
Keep the lines of communication open with your department chair and other administrators. Hopefully, your department is already talking about some of the challenges associated with teaching the history of slavery and race this year.
Meet regularly with your colleagues to review lesson plans and other goals related to the teaching of this history. Considering other perspectives will help to clarify your goals and the means by which you plan to engage your students.
It goes without saying that you need to understand the history that you plan on teaching. You need to be able to explain why it is important and how it connects with your state standards.
In this highly politicized environment, remember that your audience includes parents.
Your lesson plans and class discussions will inevitably end up around your students’ kitchen tables. It will be discussed and likely misinterpreted. This is where your subject knowledge, clarity of pedagogical goals, and adherence to your state standards will be critical.
The legislators responsible for these laws are not interested in history education. Many of them would no doubt benefit from taking your course. These laws are so vague it’s impossible to know when you’ve run afoul, but this is also an opportunity.
It is an opportunity to demonstrate what it is that we do and why the teaching of history, in all of its complexity and nuance, is so important.
Thank you for everything that you’ve done for your students over the past year and will do in the coming school year.