As a former Social Studies/History teacher, teaching tragic events like Charlottesville is both challenging and intriguing to present to students. Despite the realities of the emotions and the built up anger and resentment, a practitioner has to find the most intellectually non-offensive approach to talk about such a happening in today’s society that sometimes pulls at the creative genius of an educator.
To avoid having to think too hard, one might even stray away from even discussing it, leaving the commentary up to social media platforms and news outlets. It takes a brave individual to channel their emotions in such a way that creates a conducive learning space for such topics to be intellectually discussed. You still must approach this with an agenda. This is not the time for random conversations, aimless debates, but a hearty discussion of what is happening and what happens next? It’s a time to infuse the present with occurrences of the past and tie it in to paint a picture while posing the question, “Is history repeating itself?”
Charlottesville belongs in the classroom. At the basic level, it’s a current event. More deeply though, it represents the remnants of history that displays some of the darkest moments and times in American and world history. Beyond the Social Studies and History classrooms, Charlottesville belongs. It has so much impact in any environment where students gather daily to learn, grow, and develop.
As the leader of the classroom, it’s your responsibility to adequately incorporate Charlottesville; it’s almost a non-negotiable. The reality is maybe we haven’t discussed these matters enough. Maybe we thought we left these kinds of acts in history books or plastered across walls of memorials in museums? Maybe we actually thought this all was a distant memory of what this country was and certainly not what it currently is? Maybe we figured it was only a Southern thing, or East coast thing, or a random act of….? Racism? Hatred? Violence? All of the above?
I wonder how will Charlottesville show up in the classroom? Oh, how I wish to be given a week with students just to ensure Charlottesville does indeed show up in the classroom. Honestly, I can’t blame any teacher not wanting to be the carrier of such tragedy and the facilitator charged with dissecting it all and helping to guide students to a deeper understanding. I am in full acknowledgment that Charlottesville may not end up in our classrooms, but it should. Why? It’s already in our communities, city, and country? Let’s simply add another C, the classroom.
If we don’t teach against Charlottesville, then we’re leaving it open for our students to form their own opinions and come to their own conclusions. We have enough of that happening with adults. Let’s empower our students. Let’s encourage them. Let’s do what we’ve been called to do - educate them. We can’t afford not to. Charlottesville is real. No different than the race wars of early history, the segregation and the sit-ins of the 60s, the revolutions of the 70s, all part of the fabric of a country that said we were all created equal, given the same rights as one another, yet still a threat simply because of the color of skin.
I absolutely applaud those that have inserted Charlottesville. Interestingly, Charlottesville inserted itself. My plea is that students everywhere know that history does not have to repeat itself. Let’s teach against what’s obviously still being taught: hatred, racism, and violence.
Classrooms everywhere deserve the chance to tackle this now, so the next generation of leaders can leave it all where it belongs - back in history.