During Hard Times, Students Deserve Hard History

Constructing Modern Knowledge 2022 is only a few short months away, July 25-28, 2022 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The annual CMK institute not only distinguishes itself from other professional events for educators with its emphasis on computing-fueled project-development, but by sharing some of the world’s leading thinkers, scholars, and doers with educators assembled from around the world. CMK 2022 is no exception!

Dr. Kate Shuster is one of the guest speakers at Constructing Modern Knowledge 2022 – July 25-28th

For fifteen years, CMK has punched way above its weight with the stellar roster of mind-blowing guest speaker voices. We have shared three MacArthur geniuses, National Book Award winning authors, bestsellers, multiple Grammy Award winners, scientists, filmmakers, TV star treehouse designers, technology pioneers, and progressive education legends at CMK where the goal is for educators to spend time with their heroes and sheroes, rather than just listen to them.

A rare few guest speakers are so wise, invaluable, and popular that they have been invited back to speak at CMK more than once. Deborah Meier has been at CMK four times, Alfie Kohn three time (including in 2022), and during the pandemic, we lost a great friend, scholar, and patriot who graced Constructing Modern Knowledge twice, Dr. James Loewen.

Officially a sociologist, Jim Loewen, published some of the best-selling and most-loved books about US history and how to teach it. At CMK, he implored educators to create the conditions in which children could become historians, rather than merely be taught history. Jim was a man of rare intellect, passion, generosity, and courage. Decades before America was embroiled in hysterical battles over critical race theory or 2019 CMK speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones conceived of the 1619 Project, James Loewen not only wrote a an accurate history book for school children, but when the State of Mississippi banned his book from being used in its schools, Loewen sued the state and won!

Best-selling historian James Loewen speaking at CMK 2018

The process of making history is wholly consistent with the panoply of learning-by-doing projects found at Constructing Modern Knowledge. Over the years, may groups of participants have engaged in history projects as part of their CMK learning adventures.

Dr. Kate Shuster will be at CMK 2022!

CMK 2022 has invited Dr. Kate Shuster to be one of our guest speakers this July. Kate is the director of the Hard History Project, which works with archives and historical sites that collect and tell stories about race, racism, slavery, and settler colonialism, often with digital technology. The Hard History Project helps these entities tell stories and get their materials into K-12 classrooms. The Hard History Project has been attached to multiple NEH, IMLS and NHPRC grants with projects in places including New Orleans, Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, and Washington, D.C. As part of this work, she became the Educational Director for Freedom on the Move, the world’s largest archive of fugitive slave advertisements.

The Hard History Project and spinoff efforts like Freedom on the Move provide the materials and access to primary sources that allow school students to be historians. Such objective experiences result in knowledge construction and an ability to make personal sense of complex issues, free of coercion or instruction. These projects develop literacy, communication, analytical, empathy, and computational skills while developing citizenship and sustaining democracy.

Dr. Shuster’s scholarship leads her to think critically about effective pedagogy, how it is measured, and who gets to decide what counts as evidence.

It’s not easy to make historians cry, particularly those who have devoted their professional lives to studying chattel slavery. Yet we Freedom on the Move historians, with many decades of archival research between us, could not hold it together when we saw the students’ projects for the first time… what these kids have done with the archives will make you cry. But they should be hopeful tears.

What Happens to Middle School Kids When You Teach Them About Slavery? Here’s a Vivid Example. – Slate February 2022

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