Showing posts with label Lyndon B. Johnson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lyndon B. Johnson. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Historical Triage

If you are a history teacher then you probably already know what I mean by historical triage. The history of America, the history of the world, the history of Georgia, and even the history of a button can be a very vast area to cover. We simply can’t do it all in the amount of time we are given. Sometimes, however, I wish I had more time to share everything I would like to with students.

That is often impossible, however, because as the teacher I’m given a set of standards with the directive of making sure those items are taught. If I deviate from “the plan” then students aren’t prepared for the next set of standards for higher grade levels, and they aren’t prepared for the state assessment. However, as a passionate history teacher I know that more information can help students see a bigger picture, more information can help students connect to information already learned, and more information can help motivate students to dig further. It is quite a conundrum though. Out of all of the possible tibits of “extra” history, which ones do I attempt to include and which ones do I sacrifice for another day, another time, or even for another teacher to cover? It’s all a matter of triage.

For example, in the fifth grade one teaching standard states, the student will describe the importance of key people, events, and developments between 1950-1975. Now that standard covers twenty-five years of history jam packed with people, events, and developments. How do I know what Georgia considers important?

Luckily elements are given with each standard to serve as a guidebook when planning lessons, so that I know how specific I should get. Element (a.) states the student should be able to discuss the importance of the Vietnam War, and (b.) the student should know something about Justice Thurgood Marshall. This leads me to the conclusion that President Johnson will need to be introduced to students along with his two-front war….the war in Vietnam and the domestic war against racial inequality, poverty, and many other social ills more commonly known as The Great Society simply because President Johnson greatly increased our involvement in Vietnam and he also appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court.

Sadly, this could mean much of the interesting life of LBJ could be triaged and left on my planning room floor. I believe sharing President Johnson’s social programs with students is key to understanding the entire decade of the sixties and on towards present day. A look at the Great Society also ties in with previous studies such as the War Between the States, Reconstruction, the resurrgence of the Ku Klux Klan, etc., but I have to be reasonable. I cannot cover everything.

One way I attempt to share more of LBJ with my students is with a discovery activity I have devised. After a few days spent in the jungles of Vietnam I turn students’ attention to the Johnson’s domestic programs and his wish to improve American society. We discuss how the Great Society was an effort to eliminate poverty, reverse racial injustice, improve education, clean up urban blight, and protect the environment. We discuss how Johnson had an incredible amount of money flooding into Asia as well as gushing into Great Society programs.

One morning students arrive to see a question I’ve written on the board in large letters, “What would make President Johnson so passionate about improving American society?”

With that question in mind, students move into groups armed with copies of one particular resource covering President Johnson’s early life. The resources stop at the point he became a politician. Every group member has their own copy, but each group has a different source. Students are instructed to keep the question on the board in mind, and I ask them to read and analyze the source. Their job is to pull out facts about Johnson that might possible answer the question on the board. For some class groups we might spend a moment or two breaking down the question to make sure students are clear regarding what they are looking for.

I love activities like this because I am allowing the student to discover the information. They love to tell me something I might not know, and as the year progresses they become very competitive with one another in an attempt to learn something new. After a few minutes we gather again, and I ask each group to share one thing they learned. As they share I begin to make a master list on the board underneath our focus question.

One group tells me the Johnson family lived in a very small home with no electricity and no plumbing. Many are amazed by this and I tell them that even as close as fifty years ago there were homes in our own community that still had outhouses. Another group shares that the Johnson’s father was a state legislator, but the family was poor as the father tried to make a living as a farmer and a cattle speculator. Someone on the other side of the room begins to wave their arm frantically. I call on Mr. Wavy Hand and he excitedly shares, “It wasn’t just his father who was a lawmaker. His grandfather was too!”

I say, “Hmmmm…..” as I begin to write that fact on the board and call on the next group. In a rush one young lady advises President Johnson was born in 1908 and his father’s name was Sam Ealy Johnson. His mother’s name was Rebekah Baines Johnson.”

Several students emit a chorus of “Ohhhhhhh!” as they now know where the “Baines” came from in President Johnson’s name. I notice one group seems to be about ready to bust with their tidbit from Johnson’s early life. I go ahead and call on them to show us how intelligent they are. Very Loud Young Man lets out a sigh of relief and states, “I thought someone else would tell you before we could.”

I say, “What? What it is?”

A girl in the group says, “Oh, EHT. This is just soooooo good. You’re going to like this.”

I put my hand on my hip and sigh as I say, “Well……..”

Very Loud Young Man finally explodes by saying, “Johnson grew up near Johnson City, Texas. Johnson City was named for his ancestors who helped settle the area. One of them was named James Polk Johnson. He went to Texas after the War Between the States and….HE WAS FROM GEORGIA!.”

There are several “ohs” and “ahs” around the room including my own, “Really? That’s so neat. Let’s put a star by that fact because if you are like me we will want to know more about Mr. Johnson from Georgia.”

A voice from the back of the room mimics what I often say during class, “Yes, let’s save that for further research.” I smile. I don’t repeat things over and over merely because I like to hear my voice.

We continue on with the facts. As a group we discover President Johnson was talkative in school and was described as awkward. Several students related to this while others related to the fact that even though he probably lived very simply his classmates elected him as president of his eleventh grade class. Another group found a quotation of President Johnson’s where he said, “Poverty was so common we didn’t know it had a name.” We discuss the meaning of the President’s remark and moved on to more facts.

He had four siblings. Someone remarked his house was probably crowded. Another quipped, “Well, he didn’t have his own room. That’s for sure.”

Another group discovered Johnson’s mother’s grandfather had been George Washington Baines. He was a Baptist clergyman and was President of Baylor University. I let student groups discuss this for a minute after wondering outloud why the Johnson family was so poor if they have a university president in their background. Students arrive at all sorts of reasons such as crop failures. and maybe the rest of the family never had the same amount of education for some reason. Someone else remarked that perhaps President Johnson’s mother’s family was better off than his father’s.

We also discover Johnson worked his way through college at Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College. The next group, however, correct my factoid on the board by stating their resource said the college is known as Texas State University---San Marcos today.

Finally, we discovered that for one year before he left for Washington, President Johnson taught school. Oh my, he was a school teacher! He taught at the Welhausen School. His students were almost entirely Mexican and were from very simple circumstances.

Through this activity students learn that politicians are often passionate regarding certain issues because of their past experiences. Now that students understand President Johnson’s zeal in wanting Great Society programs, they are ready to examine and analyze the various components of the various social programs proposed during the late 60s.

This post also appears at American Presidents.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Giving Gifts

This week I have a special two-year-old to shop for. I haven’t done that for some time as my children are in their 20s and teens, and my youngest nephew is fast approaching his upper elementary years. I don’t even know what is trendy right now for toddlers. I believe we are going to go towards books and Dora the Explorer, however. I love the giving, I adore the shopping, but actually getting the right thing….that’s the part that drives me insane.

You can go back pretty far in history and find that government leaders have been exchanging gifts as far back as ancient times. This week’s wordless image was a gift of state. It is customary when heads of state visit they exchange some sort of gift. These visits are arranged by the Department of State and there is a method of protocol that is strictly adhered to during the entire visit.

The office of the Chief of Protocol arranges and coordinates all state visits as well as visits our president makes abroad. The cermonial division of the Office of Protocol is responsible for the appropriate selection of gifts to be given by the President, Vice President, Secretary of State, and their respective spouses to foreign dignitaries. Information regarding the handling of gifts and their legal status can be found here.

An article from the New York Times relates Abraham Lincoln, who did not have to disclose any gifts he received, was inaugurated in a suit that was provided to him as a gift. Among the many other things he received was a John Hancock autograph and several potions and laxitives. Yes, that’s right….laxitives. He turned down, however, a herd of elephants from the king of Siam.

Tokens and Treasures connects to some explanations regarding some very interesting gifts presented to U.S. Presidents all the way back to Hoover.

The particular piece of jewelry I shared for the wordless image this week is an auquamarine and diamond brooch given by His Excellency Arthur da Costa e Silva, President-elect of Brazil at the end of January, 1967 during a state visit to Washington D.C. You can see the toasts given at the official state dinner for President Johnson and President-elect Silva here.

The brooch can be seen on exhibit along with many of the state gift items presented to the President of the United States during the Johnson Administration. The two-inch long auquamarine is tear-dropped in shape and is set in platinum. It can also be worn as a pendant. Nine diamonds are found on each side leading up to five brilliant cut diamonds topped with four baguettes set at angles. Mrs. Johnson wore the piece of jewelry during the remainder of her husband’s term in office.

*the first image with this post is from the official state dinner for the Republic of India and is courtesy of the White House
*the pendant image is courtesy of the Archival Research Catalog of the National Archives and Records Administration.

This post also appears at American Presidents Blog