"History in the Making:" Current Events in the World Studies Classroom

"History in the Making:" Current Events in the World Studies Classroom

Victor, Middle School Teacher

Current events are an essential part of the world studies curriculum, which links history with the current modern world and reminds students that history may not always repeat itself, but it does hum a familiar tune. The reading, viewing, discussion, and evaluation of current events is an essential part of thinking critically about history.

For example, I thought it was essential for students to view the announcement by Nancy Pelosi of the opening of the impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives. This presented the class with the opportunity to first review what we had learned in our short civics lesson earlier in the year about the balance of power between the three branches of our government. Students noted that the House impeaches, but it is up to the Senate to convict and remove the president. We quickly researched the composition of the House and Senate (including the two-thirds of senators—which is 67—required to convict) and conjectured what might happen. It became clear to students that impeachment might not lead to presidential removal, so some students were asking: Why go through the bother of impeaching President Trump if he ended up staying in office?—something Nancy Pelosi has herself been contemplating, no doubt.

We then launched into a discussion about how many impeachment inquiries there have been in our nation's history (this is the fourth) and what the Founding Fathers meant by "high crimes and misdemeanors." Students had learned about Andrew Johnson in their 7th grade studies, and some were also familiar with Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

I've gone through the progression of this one class activity to demonstrate how a short threeminute video on YouTube can lead to a better understanding of our political situation and create links to the past, which, when studied more closely, can provide greater insight into our modern political world.

I rise at 5:40 every morning to allow an extra thirty minutes to go through the newspaper. I often bring up news stories in class and often find interesting videos that explain these news stories, as students sometimes do, as well. However, the bulk of student studies of current events comes from Upfront magazine, published by the New York Times. This magazine not only covers events of great interest to teenagers and adults, but it also gives background and context in understanding the importance of them, which allows for students to move toward an analysis of what they believe and why. For example, when an article about Trump's meeting with Kim Jung-Un appeared, there was also a timeline of the history of North Korea since 1950, including the Korean War, subsequent rulers of the country, and the country’s development of nuclear weapons.

Additionally, students work in groups to present reports to the whole class on current events from the magazine, using Keynote on their iPads, which enable them to project images, charts, and maps that enhance and better explain their presentation. This also provides them with more experience in public speaking, which comes in handy for when they will participate in the Model United Nations at the end of the year.

We cannot pretend that our textbook history lesson of the day is insulated and apart from what is happening in the world around us. To do so is to denigrate that history lesson. After all, current events are "history in the making."