Humboldt County educators grapple with January 6 lessons on riot anniversary – Times-Standard


January 6, the anniversary of last year’s riot in which hundreds of people stormed the United States Capitol with the intention of overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election , teachers in Humboldt County discussed it with their students in history and social studies class.

Jeff Michael, a social studies teacher at Ferndale High School, taught a lesson in Source Assessment and Media Literacy aimed at improving students’ critical thinking and educating them on how to analyze and to consume the news media.

“This will be done by having students evaluate the event using sources oriented left, center and right. The aim is to make students understand what prompted people to commit the illegal acts they committed on January 6, how it was reported then, and how it is shown today. By using this division event as a time to study cause and effect, I hope students will be able to see an overview of the sources they trust and how to best assess the sources, ”said Michael in an email to The Times. -Standard.

Teachers across the county, including Ferndale High School, told their students about the Capitol Riot on her birthday this week. (Shaun Walker – The Times-Standard File)

This media analysis strategy was one of the recommendations for teaching the riot by Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit educational association dedicated to demonstrating the connection between past injustices and current problems. The group notes on its website that breaking news coverage is often incomplete and students need to understand what disinformation is and the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sources.

Within 18 hours of posting the page with tips for educators, it had 100,000 pageviews – a level of interest that, according to Abby Weiss, who oversees the development of teaching materials for Facing History and Ourselves, was unlike nothing the group saw. before.

Over the next year, Weiss said, Republican lawmakers and governors in many states defended legislation to limit the teaching of material exploring how race and racism influence politics, culture, and the law. Americans.

“Teachers are anxious,” she says. “At first glance, if you read the laws, they’re pretty vague and, you know, hard to actually know what’s allowed and what’s not.”

Teaching about the riot, in which five people died, one was killed and 138 police officers were injured, could be a politically tense topic, and the Northern Humboldt Union High School District taught it in their classes. history to help students improve their historical analysis skills regardless of political affiliation, according to Roger Macdonald, the district superintendent.

“Like everything else in history, we provide the facts to the students and help them see how this relates to our democracy and our constitution,” he said. I spoke to a few of our history teachers today and they told me it was good, it was an important lesson, and the students were receptive.

Racial talks are hard to avoid when discussing the riot because white supremacists were among those descending the corridors of power, said Jinnie Spiegler, director of programs and training for the Anti-Defamation League . She said the group feared the insurgency could be used as a recruiting tool and wrote a recently released guide to help teachers and parents tackle these radicalization efforts.

“Talking about white supremacy, talking about white supremacist extremists, talking about their racist Confederate flag is heavy for so many reasons,” Spiegler said.

He said it was about discerning fact from fiction.

“I think the biggest takeaway from all of this is that it’s not a lesson where you talk about politics per se,” Macdonald said. “No matter what your political beliefs, it’s about looking at the facts and how people reacted and helping children understand that, and understand how our democracy is supposed to work. “

“It is extremely important for students to be able to analyze events as they occur, to be able to look back and to assess them critically. It helps them make decisions for themselves and helps them understand our nation, ”he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Jackson Guilfoil can be reached at 707-441-0506.


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