Saturday, June 10, 2006

Warren G. Harding-Unanswered Questions

Thanks for clicking over to the first installment about Harding at the American Presidents Blog or here to read the entire post.

Since I posted about Harding yesterday I’ve continued to think about the question I posed. Can you use Harding to teach character in relation to the new standard Georgia will soon be implementing?

Here’s what I’ve decided…

Sometimes when we teach history it is not necessary to teach the ins and outs of every presidential life or administration. Sure, the time period is important, but the man himself may not fit the student’s needs. Elementary students don’t need to hear about every grimy detail or even every stellar detail for that matter. We would never complete our curriculum if that was the case.

However, I would expect high school and college students to hear about every aspect of the Harding presidency since it occurred at the beginning of the decade we remember as the Roaring 20’s. Many of the administration policies begun during the Harding administration lead us down the road to ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime’ as well as placing us in a vulnerable position at the beginning of World War II. The more risqué side of Harding’s presidency could even motivate some older students to delve deeper into the culture of the time period to figure out how Americans were making the transition from a Victorian society towards a more modern ‘let’s have fun’ mentality.

As far as my elementary classes go or even middle school students Harding’s presidency can be a great lesson on voter responsibility. Students should learn that voters should investigate candidates on their own. They shouldn’t get caught up in campaign rhetoric and, voters should listen to the candidate and not the pundits. Students should understand the danger of the “smoke-filled room” and presidential appointments such as Harding’s Ohio Gang. Younger students can understand the debacle of such scandals as Teapot Dome and the thefts from the Veterans Administration. Younger students can and should learn about Harding’s foreign policy regarding his refusal to allow the U.S. to join the League of Nations, yet he allowed the U.S. to join the World Court. Students should understand the long reaching effects of the Five Powers Treaty and how it weakened our military.

As far as meeting the Georgia standard regarding teaching character education with historical figures luckily it’s not required with each and every person. I’d probably skip Harding though I will admit I am intrigued by all of the unanswered questions that surround his administration. Our fourth and fifth graders have bigger fish to fry, however.

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