By Matt Doran
The impeachment of Andrew Johnson in 1868, as with all of the Reconstruction Era, provides a good lens for the study of historiography—the history of historical writing/interpretations. How have historians answered the question: Was the impeachment of Andrew Johnson’s justified?
Early American history texts presented the Johnson impeachment as an outrageous overreach—part of a broader interpretation in the era of Jim Crow that portrayed Reconstruction as too radical.
From David Saville Muzzey, A History of Our Country (1943)
Not content with reducing President Johnson to political impotence, the radicals were determined to drive him out of the White House. On the same day (March 2, 1867) that it destroyed the President’s governments in the South by the Reconstruction Act, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, which took from him the privilege, exercised by every President since Washington’s day, of dismissing the members of his own cabinet at his pleasure. It was an outrageous measure, designed merely as a trap to catch Johnson in a “violation” of the law and hence furnish a reason for bringing an accusation against him. When, therefore, the President dismissed his Secretary of War Stanton, who was a virtual spy in the cabinet in close alliance with the radicals in Congress, the House of Representatives impeached Johnson of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Senate tried the case from March 30 to May 26, 1868; but in spite of the frantic efforts the radicals to secure a conviction, seven Republican Senators were honorable enough to place justice before partisan hatred and vote with the twelve Democrats for the President’s acquittal, making the vote (35 to 19) fall one short of the two thirds necessary for conviction. By this narrow margin the country was saved from the disgrace of using a clause of the Constitution as a weapon of personal and political vengeance against the highest officer of the land.
From Samuel Eliot Morrison, The Oxford History of the American People (1965)
The Radical leaders of the Republican party, not content with establishing party ascendancy in the South, aimed at capturing the federal government under the guise of putting the presidency under wraps. By a series of usurpations they intended to make the majority in Congress the ultimate judge of its own powers, and the President a mere chairmen of a cabinet responsible to Congress, as the British cabinet is to the House of Commons. An opening move in this game was the Tenure of Office Act of March 1867 which made it impossible for the President to control his administration, by requiring him to obtain the advice and consent of the Senate for removals as well as appointments to office. The next move to dispose of John by impeachment, so that Radical Ben Wade, president pro-tem of the Senate, would succeed to his office and title.
In the wake of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, historians challenged traditional Reconstruction interpretations. Writing during the height of the Watergate investigation in 1973, Michael Les Benedict argued that impeachment was a legitimate response to Johnson’s efforts to undermine Reconstruction.
From Michael Les Benedict, "The Impeachment Precedent," New York Times (1973)
Andrew Johnson, however, was not nearly so innocent a victim. After the war, he arrogated to himself the entire responsibility for restoring civil government in the South—under his inherent war powers as Commander in Chief, he claimed—and denied that Congress had any authority in the premises. . . .
Like Benedict, Eric Foner has shown little sympathy for Andrew Johnson in his four decades of writing on Reconstruction.
From Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010).
Andrew Johnson was self-absorbed, insensitive to the opinions of others, unwilling to compromise, and unalterably racist. If anyone was responsible for the downfall of his presidency it was Johnson himself. With Congress out of session until December 1865, Johnson took it upon himself to bring about Reconstruction, establishing new governments in the South in which blacks had no voice whatever. When these governments sought to reduce the freedpeople to a situation reminiscent of slavery, he refused to heed the rising tide of Northern concern or to budge from his policy. As a result, Congress, after attempting to work with the President, felt it had no choice but to sweep aside Johnson's Reconstruction plan and to enact some of the most momentous measures in American history: the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which accorded blacks equality before the law; the 14th Amendment, which put the principle of equality unbounded by race into the Constitution; the Reconstruction Act of 1867, which mandated the establishment of new governments in the South with black men, for the first time in our history, enjoying a share of political power. Johnson did everything in his power to obstruct their implementation in 1868. Fed up with his intransigence and incompetence, the House of Representatives impeached Johnson and he came within one vote of conviction by the Senate.
by Matt Doran
If we want to find enduring relevance in education, we must draw from the deep cultural foundations of history and philosophy, not economic and business principles. Education is a social institution with a civic mission. It's not enough to define what we want students to know and be able to do. We must also wrestle with the question: What do we want to students to value? College and Career Readiness is a necessary, but not a sufficient mission for schools. A more comprehensive vision needs to include College, Career, and Civic Life Readiness.
The Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools defines civic dispositions as a concern for others' rights and welfare, fairness, reasonable levels of trust, and a sense of public duty. Civic dispositions are crucial to democratic character formation, and the sustainability and improvement of constitutional democracy. If standards must drive our work, then we need a set of civic anchor standards to match those that define critical knowledge and skills. One good option is to pair some of the indicators from the C3 Framework with the Social Justice Standards from Teaching Tolerance.
From the C3 Framework:
Dimension 2. Civics: Participation and Deliberation: Applying Civic Virtues and Democratic Principles
Dimension 4. Taking Informed Action
From the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:
Identity Anchor Standards
Diversity Anchor Standards
Justice Anchor Standards
Action Anchor Standards
By Matt Doran
Those who believe the directive to focus on literacy requires less attention to social studies have failed to understand literacy or social studies. It is true that reading skills help students in other content areas. But the converse is also true: A content-rich curriculum provides the necessary vocabulary and context for successful reading comprehension.
The Council of Chief State School Officers has summarized the importance of social studies in the elementary grades.
Nell Duke, Professor of Education at the University of Michigan, explains the importance of teaching Social Studies and Science in the elementary grades.
By Matt Doran
My social media posts typically fall well behind the news cycle (if they even make to publication). Rather than retweeting and linking to articles about the issue du jour, I try to use social media platforms in educative ways that promote contemplation and reflection.
One question many have recently asked: How is it that seemingly decent people justify and rationalize fundamentally deplorable policies and leaders? The psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance helps us understand why individuals will often "explain away" the indefensible. Cognitive dissonance refers the mental discomfort that results from contradictory beliefs, or when our beliefs run contrary to our behaviors (especially in light of new evidence). We seek consistency in our attitudes and perceptions. When what we believe is challenged, something must change in order to reduce the dissonance (lack of agreement).
The need for dissonance reduction is especially acute when it involves beliefs about the self. Everyone wants to believe they are fundamentally good people who make good decisions (about health, finances, politics, etc). But sometimes the evidence mounts against us. In government and politics, this happens when parties and leaders engage in actions and policies that violate clear moral and ethical boundaries. To reduce the dissonance, supporters must change a belief--either I'm not so good at making decisions after all, or the actions/policies are justified.
Aesop's fable, the Fox and the Grapes, helps illustrate cognitive dissonance. The Fox noticed a beautiful bunch of ripe grapes hanging from a high vine. After multiple attempts to jump for the grapes, the Fox fell short. He finally concludes that the sour grapes are not worth it after all. Clearly, the Fox believed two things: the grapes are desirable and he had the ability to reach them. But when the evidence showed the falsity of his belief about himself, the Fox reduces the dissonance by rationalizing that the grapes really aren't so desirable.
Here's a good explanation of cognitive dissonance: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-cognitive-dissonance-2795012
From Why Learn History (When It's Already on Your Phone) by Sam Wineburg.
"Wedging a media literacy course into an already crammed curriculum is like slapping a new coat of paint on a house that's teetering on its foundation: it lends to better street appeal but it does little to address the underlying problem.
Making headway will entail more than a four-week media or news literacy course. It will require a fundamental reorientation to the curriculum. . . .
What once fell on the shoulders of editors, publishers, librarians, and subject matter experts now falls on the shoulders of each and every one of us. The big problem with this new reality is that the ill-informed hold just as much power at the polling station as the well-informed. Reliable information is to civic intelligence what clean air and water are to public health. . . .
Jefferson's solution is no less apt today than it was in his era. 'If we think [the people] are not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.'"
- Sam Wineburg
By Matt Doran
Especially on patriotic holidays, our propensity is to sanctify the causes of our wars. But clear historical analysis compels a more complex and nuanced narrative.
The back cover of Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth by Holger Hoock gives us pause for reflection and analysis.
by Matt Doran
I have recently started using the graphic below as a hook activity in my Introduction to Blended Learning workshops. Participants are quick to note that, after 20+ years of online learning, we still have yet to achieve consensus on how to do it well. Sociologists refer this phenomenon as cultural lag--when technological advancements occur faster than the rules and norms of society that go along with those advancements.
Unfortunately, two decades of haphazard technology integration efforts make it difficult to forge new paradigms in the face of long-standing practices. There are, however, a number of models and principles that can guide our shift. I have summarized these principles in four points below, with an overarching emphasis on placing learning first.
1. Emphasize Effectiveness over Efficiency
The primary motivation for technology integration is not doing school more efficiently, but doing education more effectively. To be sure, there are a myriad of technology tools that allow schools and teachers to use their time more efficiently, and produce more actionable data. We should employ these tools to their fullest extent.
There are, however, other ways in which emphasizing efficiency can be counterproductive. Online classes with teacher caseloads of 200+ and credit recovery labs with 30+ students working on different courses/subjects monitored by one teacher may be more efficient ways to do school. But neither practice is supported by the plethora of research on the importance of foundational direct/explicit instruction and meaningful teacher to student discussion and feedback.
By contrast, technology integration through the lens of educational effectiveness places technology as a means to an end. Using the TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical, And Content Knowledge) Framework, we can establish pedagogical content goals, and leverage technology to achieve the ends. We begin by aligning our content goals with standards, then determine best practices to meet them. Layering in the technology, we ask: how can technology help meet these goals?
The ISTE Standards for Students help envision technology’s role in cultivating 21st century learners. These standards call for students to be empowered learners, digital citizens, knowledge constructors, innovative designers, computational thinkers, creative communicators, and global collaborators. Again, technology, effectively leveraged, serves as a means to developing these dispositions.
2. Prioritize Pedagogy over Paperless
Moving lessons from paper to paperless provides little impact without transforming our pedagogy. Paperless is great, but so is paper. When to use either is a contextual decision--neither medium is inherently better.
Technology presents us with ample opportunities to transform pedagogy from teacher-centered to student-centered classrooms. The SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) Model provides a framework for transformative student-centered pedagogy. In Substitution, technology acts a direction substitution, with no functional change. Augmentation offers tool substitution with some functional improvement. Both of these uses provide lesson enhancement. Modification and Redefinition, by contrast, transform learning. Modification allows for significant task redesign, while Redefinition allows for the creation of previously inconceivable tasks. There are good reasons to assign tasks at any level of SAMR. But our highest aims should be the transformation of learning.
3. Build Better Lessons through Blended Learning
Technology is most effective when it is part of a seamlessly integrated syllabus of face-to-face and online activities, with both types of activities building toward common pedagogical content goals.
Blended Learning provides for increased student agency, with greater student control over time, place, path/and or pace of learning. Blended Learning restructures the classroom, with time for in-classroom collaboration and small group activities. A Blended Learning approach also helps cultivate a community of learners by using online tools to foster cognitive presence (critical thinking), teacher presence (instruction and feedback), and social presence (student-to-student interaction).
Station rotation is a popular model of Blended Learning that works well in non-1:1 classrooms. In an elementary classroom, rotations may occur within the literacy block, or may include multiple subject areas in a day. In a secondary classroom, stations typically last several class periods with 1-2 stations completed in a day.
4. Require Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships
We should have the same expectations of our software that we have of our face-to-face instruction: deep alignment to standards, cultivation of critical thinking, high level engagement, and opportunities for building communities of learners. We should avoid Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) programs that offer little more than textbooks pasted into a browser, accompanied by low-level comprehension questions. Too often, these programs use only keywords to determine standards-alignment, with little regard for the cognitive demands or requisite process standards. Reasons other than high-quality pedagogy are often the decisive factors in CAI adoption decisions. Ease of use, system compatibility, breadth of coverage (it can be used for all courses) and past practices must take a back seat to rigor and relevance.
A better approach is to look for the best digital products (commercial, open-source, and locally-developed) within each content area, and customize them with a robust Learning Management System. An LMS also serves as a hub for building an online community, strengthening the relationships that are created through face-to-face discussions in the classroom.
Technology will continue to rapidly advance and change our schools. Our understanding of best practices in technology must continue to grow as well, along with our abilities to effectively employ these practices. But when we keep a learning first mindset, we recognize that the principles that guide us are more important the gadgets among us.
by Matt Doran
This month we began year three of our middle school professional development program, with an emphasis on pedagogical content knowledge. We are focusing our discussions on creating and implementing a vision for social studies in alignment with the C3 Framework.
Since social studies is not a state-tested subject in Ohio middle schools, there is often a perception that it is the least important of the core subjects. Balderdash. The opposite is true: Social studies is too important to force into the constraints of state testing. Free from the yoke of testing, middle school social studies teachers have the freedom and flexibility to execute a vision of social studies education that aligns with both the original intent of social studies and its vital purpose in 21st century democracies. The skills, reasoning capacities, and civic dispositions social studies cultivates cannot be effectively captured through a standardized test.
The centrality of social studies among the school subjects lies not in its place within the cesspool of corporate testing and sham accountability systems, but in its instrumental purpose in modern democracies. As conceived by the Report of the Social Studies Committee in 1916, social studies is a discipline designed to actualize a Deweyan vision of pragmatism in education. Drawing from a wide-range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, social studies aims to tap into students’ interests and use inquiry-learning to solve real-world problems. Its purpose is explicitly instrumental: to improve society.
Having emerged in the Progressive Era, the creation of the social studies in school curricula was part of a broader response to the ills and excesses of Gilded Age industrial capitalism. The Progressive Era ushered in democratic reforms in states (referendum, initiative, recall) and the U.S. Constitution (17th and 19th amendments). Laws were passed to safeguard food production and the environment, limit the power of corporate trusts and monopolies, and establish compulsory public education.
In the decades since the Progressive Era, historians and social scientists of the various disciplines that make-up social studies have defined thinking skills central to the disciplines. Such skills include conducting original research, contextualizing historical sources, creating and analyzing data sets, evaluating sources, supporting arguments with evidence, and unpacking cause-and-effect relationships.
Many scholars today argue that we are living in a Second Gilded Age, defined by social and economic inequality and political corruption. Even if one doesn’t agree with this characterization of our present times, it is difficult to imagine a case being made against the critical importance of social studies in the 21st century. Do we need increased civic engagement, better civil discourse, more cultural awareness, heightened concern for social justice, greater discernment in evaluating the credibility of information, creative cross-disciplinary solutions to real-world problems, and sharper ethical thinking skills? If so, then we need more social studies, not less. As Natalie Wexler has written in a recent Forbes article, “We know that only a minority of students will end up working in STEM fields. But virtually all will be expected to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.”
With great freedom comes great responsibility. As social studies teachers, we bear the responsibilities of communicating the importance of our vision to the broader community, and designing and aligning our curriculum to meet this instrumental purpose. We cannot decry state testing on the one hand, while continuing to pack our non-tested courses with a superfluity of Googleable names, dates, and facts on the other. In Why Learn History, When It’s Already on Your Phone, Sam Wineburg describes the ongoing work of the Stanford History Education Group to “change history class from a forced march through an all-knowing textbook to a journey where students, to invoke the late Ted Sizer, ‘learn to use their minds well.’ ” In practice, this requires more student-centered inquiry, research, problem solving, disciplinary thinking, discussion, presentations, and taking informed civic action.
by Matt Doran
Anchor charts help make thinking visible by identifying key content, strategies, and processes during the learning process. Posting anchor charts (and/or distributing reference sheets) provides a scaffold tool for students as they read, discuss, and write about ideas in class.
The four new anchor charts below are designed for use in the social studies classroom to support students in historical event analysis, close reading of primary and secondary sources, classroom discussions, and evidence-based writing.
Download the posters here:
The posters can be printed on 8 1/2 x 11, 8 x 14 or scaled all the way up 24 x 60 on a poster printer.
Here are some summary tweets from a panel discussion on Personalized Learning at the 2018 ISTE Conference.