Early Learners Can Think Critically Too

Hello! I’m Valerie Badica, Operational Support at Thinking Nation. I was excited to take over this week’s blog to be able to share a bit about myself and experience in the education field. Although I have a few years of experience in the role of operations, before this, I was a preschool teacher for six years and received my Masters in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Early Childhood Development. During my teaching career, I had the privilege of working at a preschool that supported children with their intrinsic motivation to explore, learn, and think critically. This really shaped the way I viewed teaching and helped me to understand that all children are curious about the world around them and inherently want to learn and create. 

I think it’s safe to say that we all learn better when we’re engaged in activities we’re already interested in, right? The same goes for children! That’s because learning seems interesting when we can relate to it. This thought is already found in research as one approach for successful ways to integrate social studies into elementary classrooms– by making content relevant to student’s lives as stated in 2023 CCSSO Guidelines: “Effective Social Studies Integration in Elementary Classrooms.” (Check out our past blog post for more research around elementary social studies).

One of the things I found most rewarding in working with young children was building close relationships with them but most importantly, knowing that I was helping them add social and learning skills to their toolbelt that are required of them by the time they get to elementary school. An example of what these relevant teaching opportunities looked like was when I would help children through conflict resolution if they were fighting over a toy. I never resolved the situation for them by telling them what they needed to do but rather, act as a narrator and state what I noticed and then helped facilitate a solution that was agreed upon by all children involved. This might sound like me simply stating, “It looks like you both want to ride the bike right now but we only have one bike, I wonder what we can do about that?” This helped students think critically and start a conversation about coming to a resolution while learning about perspective and empathy.

Another favorite memory of mine was watching children engage in pretend play. This happened every day at preschool but I especially remember a time where children built an ice cream shop using big wood blocks and later took on different roles such as customer, cashier and even traffic officer. So much learning is happening during this play time; children are engaged physically, socially, cognitively and developing turn-taking, negotiation skills, authority and so much more. Children can relate to this because they are clearly imitating what they see in the social world and by allowing these types of learning experiences to happen in the early years of a child’s life, we allow their curious minds to think critically and continue being curious and harness their love for learning later in life as they move on to grade school and on.

Thinking Nation’s Disciplinary Thinking Skills

Similarly, Thinking Nation’s mission to cultivate critical thinkers goes hand-in-hand with the skills taught as early as preschool age to become thoughtful leaders in society. In fact, one of the reasons why I enjoy working for an organization like Thinking Nation is because I noticed that the disciplinary skills used to empower students and feel confident in their thinking, are similar skills I taught early learners and complement each other.

I’d like to leave you with some good news! Thinking Nation is working to develop a curriculum for young learners in the near future and I’m excited to be a part of something that helps students’ ideas feel important and think critically so that they have a voice wherever they go, at any age.

The National Charter Schools Conference – In BOSTON

Last week, Thinking Nation (Spenser, Liz, and I) flew out to Boston for the annual National Charter Schools Conference. As we’ve noted, this is the 2nd year that we partnered with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools to do a themed student art contest and history exhibit for the conference. Naturally, since the conference took place right up until Independence Day in the city many see as the seed of the Revolution, our theme was easy! Below are some pictures of the little exhibit that attendees were able to take in. 

Overall, the conference was so exciting! The exhibit hall was bustling and we had so many great conversations with such passionate educators. The organizers of the conference, in particular Angela Christophe and Patricia Guidetti, truly put on such a wonderful event. We feel so fortunate to play a small, but personally special, part in it.

While at the conference it was great to meet or see again in person so many leaders in California Charter Schools, where we got our start, and in the civics space. Embodied relationships are so refreshing in the virtual world we often live in. 

The team at our booth!

Of course, what would a conference in Boston be like for Thinking Nation if we didn’t incorporate some mini history field trips? The three of us walked the Freedom Trail, which was really a surreal experience given it being the week of Independence Day. Some highlights for me personally, as it’s been a decade since I’ve been in Boston: 

Spenser standing on the site of the Boston Massacre.

1. Visiting the graves of the victims of the Boston Massacre – I don’t take lightly that Crispus Attucks has a named grave in a colonial Boston cemetery. Boston did not outlaw slavery until 1783, 13 years before Attucks, a African-Indigenous man was killed in front of the Old State House and memorialized in the Granary Burial Ground alongside the other four victims. In the spirit of this note, John Wheatley, who enslaved America’s first Black Author, Phillis Wheatley, is also buried there.

Faneuil Hall

2. Visiting Tremont Temple and Faneuil Hall. While these two sites hold great historical importance, those of you who know me know that I spent a year of my scholarly life with the writings of Frederick Douglass, so re-thinking these sites knowing he, too, visited and spoke at them, was especially exciting.

3. Having dinner at America’s oldest restaurant, Ye Old Union Oyster House. Not only did we eat right next to the “Kennedy Booth,” where JFK ate, but while there, I learned that before it was a restaurant (pre-1826), French King Louis Philippe I taught French to Bostonians there! How cool is that?

4. Seeing the beautiful mosaic representing the site of our nation’s first public school. After all, quality public education is why we were in the city!

The site of the first public school in the U.S.!
Hey Wally!

5. Attending a reception at Fenway. Fenway is one of those Baseball stadiums that borders a spiritual experience so any excuse to be alongside the green monster, and as the picture shows, Wally the Green Monster, is a good one.

Boston, you are a great city. It was a great National Charter Schools Conference!

Summer Reads for the History Teacher

Grades submitted ✔

Classroom packed✔

End-of-Year Checklist turned in ✔

Now what?

If you are like me, you are hoping to find that elusive balance of relaxation and professional development. After a busy year in the classroom, I always look forward to these weeks to recharge and revitalize some parts of the curriculum that didn’t quite hit the mark last year. 

Both Thinking Nation’s Executive Director, Zach Coté, and I completed our MA in American History through the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!). Deepening our content knowledge had a massive impact on our ability to create engaging learning experiences and ignite our students’ curiosity toward studying the past. 

That’s why the Thinking Nation Team put together a curated list of our top recommendations for your summer professional development. Use this list to find some reads to get you inspired to take your teaching to the next level!


  • Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning by Jenna Copper, Ashley Bible, Abby Gross, and Staci Lamb
  • Reading Like a Historian: Teaching Literacy in Middle and High School History Classrooms by Samuel Wineburg
  • We Got This: Equity, Access and the Quest to be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor
  • Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer: Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7-12 by Bruce Lesh


  • On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Mundy
  • The World: A Family History of Humanity by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
  • The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough

Historical Fiction

  • We Are Not Free by Traci Chee
  • This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Four Winds by Kristen Hannah

We hope you find this list of recommendations as valuable as we have. Summer is the perfect time to invest in yourself and your teaching practice. By diving into these impactful books, you’ll not only deepen your own understanding but also bring fresh, engaging content into your classroom next year.

Take this time to relax, recharge, and get reinspired to enter your classroom with newfound knowledge, diverse perspectives, and enthusiasm for studying the past. 

Happy reading and enjoy your well-deserved break!


*For more book recommendations, join me on Instagram and Goodreads where I host The American History Teacher Book Club.

Welcoming our Summer Intern, Elena Quiroz

[Note from Zach: Elena joins us as an intern for the next 8 weeks and we are really excited! I asked her to take over this week’s blog and newsletter to share more about herself, her internship , and her goals. Enjoy!]

My name is Elena, and I’m currently a rising junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was born in New York but moved to Peru when I was five and lived there my whole life until I moved back to the US for college. Growing up in Peru, I was able to see the political and social divide and instability, which motivated me to study Political Science and History. 

I’m currently living in Washington DC and staying here for most of the summer as a part of the Academy for Civic Education and Democracy (ACED) program at the Ronald Reagan Institute. The program focuses on creating the next generation of civic leaders, something which resonates with my passion for civic engagement. The program includes incredible opportunities to network with peers, listen to speakers, and visit organizations all around DC. Alongside this program, I’m thrilled to be interning at Thinking Nation. Coming from Lima, Peru, my journey to this point has been heavily shaped by witnessing firsthand educational disparities and societal divisions and seeing how these can limit opportunities for people across the country. Growing up, it was clear how unequal access to quality education impeded the ability of many to become engaged and involved citizens. My background is the main reason why I am enthusiastic about involving myself in initiatives that create fair learning opportunities for everyone. Thinking Nation’s mission to create critical thinkers aligns perfectly with my strong belief that education can empower individuals and create a powerful impact on society. 

During my internship, I will primarily focus on one of my main projects involving creating comprehensive unit overviews and ensuring Thinking Nation’s resources meet educational standards. This hands-on experience will help me sharpen my research and analytical skills, and help deepen my understanding of curriculum development. 

Choosing to join Thinking Nation was an easy decision for me. The organization’s commitment to empowering students to become thoughtful and active thinkers and citizens aligned perfectly with my values. During my internship, I hope to gain practical experience and tools to address the challenges in education. I’m incredibly excited to make an impact on students’ lives. Whether it’s refining curriculum materials or advocating for educational equity, I am really driven by the idea of helping students reach their full potential. I believe my upbringing in Peru has made me appreciate diversity and the power of education more and I’m excited to talk with colleagues who share the same dedication about creating a social impact. Through this experience, I am eager to learn and contribute to meaningful projects. 

Looking ahead, I see this experience with Thinking Nation and through the Academy for Civic Education and Democracy as a crucial step in both my personal and professional growth. Being able to be involved in projects that have an impact on the real world is something that will help me deepen my understanding of civic engagement and social unity. As I start my journey with Thinking Nation, I am filled with excitement and optimism to learn, grow, and be able to contribute to a mission that aligns with what I’m passionate about.

AI for Human Flourishing

Last week, I read The Atlantic article, “The Big AI Risk Not Enough People Are Seeing: Beware Technology That Makes Us Less Human” by Tyler Austin Harper. His primary case, that AI must be used for human flourishing, is one that I have often made in AI circles the last year. Harper has recently been one of my favorite journalists to read. His cultural commentary consistently verbalizes things I’ve been thinking about in ways I couldn’t have done so effectively. I’m thankful to the Atlantic for prioritizing his writing regularly. 

I want to take today’s post to dissect his claims a bit and also elaborate on how we take those claims seriously at Thinking Nation internally, as well as how we uphold the vision behind those claims in our collaborative work in the civics space. Generative AI has upended life as we know it, and it will only continue to do so. Not all upending is bad, though, so we must take into account how we use it in order to promote human flourishing. What we can’t do, as Harper so helpfully describes, is let it use us to detract from human flourishing.

Harper explores a space that we in the civics and history education space are perhaps not that up to speed in: online dating (disclaimer: I met my wife in HS, so have not had to navigate this space). In a growing “innovation” in that space, AI-run algorithms can weed out all the likely wasted first dates so that you can have the highest chance of relational success from the get go with the person you swiped right for. At its core, it’s a way to make the dating process much more efficient, but Harper points out the dehumanizing qualities that should really be the focus.

Harper marks the 20th century as one empowered by the onslaught of “disabling professions.” These professions took common skills to a community (medicine, schooling, child-rearing) and exported them to professionals. He calls these “disabling professions.” In some cases, such as medicine, this saved lives. But it also weakened human ability to cope with many aspects of life that had been inherent to human life for centuries (education) or even millennia (child-rearing). This “standardization and professionalization of everyday life” disabled normal human life.

In the 21st century, with the help of AI, these disabling professions were replaced by “disabling algorithms,” he argues. The latter being much more ominous for the future of humanity than the former.

He writes,
” Disabling Algorithms as tech companies simultaneously sell us on our existing anxieties and help nurture new ones. At the heart of it all is the kind of AI bait-and-switch peddled by the Bumble CEO. Algorithms are now tooled to help you develop basic life skills that decades ago might have been taken as a given: How to date. How to cook a meal. How to appreciate new music. How to write and reflect.”

Later in the article, he writes of the consequences of these disabling algorithms and how we need to have a clear understanding of our humanity to parse out the good algorithms from the bad. “We can’t take a stand against the infiltration of algorithms into the human estate if we don’t have a well-developed sense of which activities make humans human,” he posits. This is key. 

CivXNow AI Working Group

Back in the fall, I had the opportunity to serve on a working group under CivXNow around the intersection of civic, social cohesion, and AI. My constant push in every meeting was that our conversations around the barriers we should set around AI are all irrelevant if we don’t have a common understanding of what it means to be human. Without first defining the ontological characteristics of humanity, any sort of walls around AI are too flexible, constantly adjusting to the whims of society at any given moment. 

Harper addresses this need succinctly, “Without some minimal agreement as to what those basic human capabilities are—what activities belong to the jurisdiction of our species, not to be usurped by machines—it becomes difficult to pin down why some uses of artificial intelligence delight and excite, while others leave many of us feeling queasy.” If we don’t know what it means to be human, how will we know whether AI contributes to or detracts from human flourishing?

I had the opportunity to author the introduction and conclusion of the CivXNow Report that came out of our working group’s meetings. The report, titled “Unchartered Waters: Education, Democracy, and Social Cohesion in the Age of Artificial Intelligence,” gives some recommendations for how we can work together to ensure AI’s support of humanity, rather than its replacement. You can access some of the resources developed here.

In the introduction, I start with the famous line of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” as it sets a tone of human equality (and therefore some definition of humanity) that AI must must be seen in light of, especially in a civics space. My portion of the introduction ends with this, “As a community, we must be willing to honestly think through the various uses of AI and its implications in order to successfully wield its power without compromising our own humanity.” These discussions are imperative as AI becomes more ubiquitous in our daily lives. Otherwise, we don’t run AI, it runs us.

AI and Thinking Nation

Sample AI feedback on a Student Essay.

At Thinking Nation, we think deeply about how to use AI on our platform. Currently, we use it to grade student work to provide students with instant feedback and teachers with clear data on student growth. Since all of this feedback and data enhances the teaching of history as a discipline and better facilitates students ability to engage with the past, it also enhances their own flourishing. We incentivize this approach to teaching social studies because we know this way empowers students with the agency they need to actively engage with the world around them. There are many uses of AI that we choose not to entertain as it could cloud the difference between human and machine and blurry distinctions are no distinctions at all.

Sample Teacher Data Report from AI-generated grading

I was incredibly encouraged by Tyler Austin Harper’s piece in The Atlantic. He is calling our attention to the intense ramifications of AI that are hidden in the mundane aspects of our lives. This calling attention to is critical as we move forward in the age of AI. I’ll leave a portion of the CivXNow report’s conclusion here as I hope to continue the conversation around AI, human flourishing, and education:

“As leaders in the civics and education spaces, we know that just because something can be done, does not mean it should be. One of the core aspects of being a good citizen is to think about what is best for the community, not just oneself. At the core of that civic aim is really a question of our humanity.

As people, we are inhumane when we detract from human flourishing; we are humane when we contribute to it. These are the terms in which we should think as we consider how to harness the power of AI in a way that centers our own humanity and, conversely, how AI might be used in ways that lessens that humanity.”

Concluding AP Exam Season and Embracing Civic Learning Initiatives

Wrapping up AP Exam Season

Last week marked the end of the AP Exam testing season (unless you have students taking the late test). After piloting our Mock AP Exams last year with a few schools, we were excited to officially launch them for hundreds of students this year.

It was an intense endeavor that included the creation of authentic and aligned full-length practice exams for AP European, United States, and World History, as well as, AP American Politics and Government. Then, utilizing the expertise of our Business Analyst Valentina Carvajal-Bueno, we developed an AI program for immediate grading for teachers and students. Our tech team worked diligently for months to generate robust reports to provide targeted feedback to aid in the preparation for these high-stakes exams.

It was truly a group effort for Thinking Nation and it was exciting to see the strengths of our team members shine as we seek to consistently improve our offerings for teachers and students.

After completing the exams, we asked students and teachers to provide us with some feedback about the process and exams.

Here are a few highlights:

  • 90% said the feedback and scores were helpful in preparing for the AP exam.
  • 100% said the questions were representative of the topics covered in the AP exam.
  • 100% of respondents recommend taking our Mock AP Exam.

With these positive results, we hope to provide even more schools and students with access to our Mock AP Exams in the 2025 testing season. For information about how to make sure your school is set up for next year, please reach out to our Chief Operating Officer Spenser Mix at spenser.mix@thinkingnation.org.

Calling all Teachers Advancing Civic Learning!

Thinking Nation is a proud partner of the CivXNow Teachers Advancing Civic Learning (TACL – pronounced “tackle”) project, an effort to build an ongoing movement and advance policy within their schools, their districts, their states, and nation. We encourage educators interested in being part of this peer community to join the TACL effort

As part of this effort, we are joining our partners to implement a quarterly educator training/webinar. Join us on May 28 at 7 p.m. ET (REGISTER HERE) as we hear from Lindsay Sobel, Chief of Policy, Planning, and External Affairs at one of the nation’s leading organizations emphasizing teacher leadership, Teach Plus. Together with CivXNow partners collaborating on the TACL project, we’ll provide you with tools and strategies to make the case for stronger civic learning policies within your school and district, among parents, and with decision-makers at the local, state, and national levels.

Empower yourself to champion #CivicLearning

Join the TACL Policy Primer and learn how to advocate for civic learning initiatives in your school, district, and beyond!

Closing out the School Year

While we know some of you are concluding your school year this week, others still have several weeks left with your students. As always, please reach out if you would like support with any end-of-year assessments. Additionally, if you’re going to the AP US History reading in Kansas City in early June, let’s make sure to connect! I always enjoy meeting people in person from our vibrant virtual community.  


Annie Jenson

Our Platform Got a Refresh!

If you’ve been on our platform in the last couple days, you’ve noticed that we got a platform refresh! As a small nonprofit organization entering a space with many VC-backed edtech companies, it is always exciting when we can streamline the edtech side of things to be more user-friendly and helpful for our teachers and students. It’s always for the mission!

I wanted to take today to highlight some of these new changes for those teachers wondering about the changes. Let’s explore!

First, the teacher portal:

In addition to making the look feel cleaner and more intuitive, there are minor adjustments for teachers. For instance, the Icon Key is now on every page at the bottom, but with the option to minimize it to have more room to view your rosters.

Also simple changes, like the icons matching our brand colors have been updated, too. It’s the little things for this little organization, folks!

Now, if you ever want to unsubmit an assignment that is past the due date, you can. Before, teachers could only unsubmit active assignments, but thanks to your feedback, we’ve realized that sometimes that second chance comes for a student well after the assignment was due (I see you end-of-year make ups!). Hopefully, this will make it easier for the student to demonstrate their growth mindset and raise their scores! So teachers, just hover over any assignment that a student has turned in, and you can unsubmit it on their behalf.

We’ve also made the resources tab a lot easier to navigate! With buttons and more visible drop down menus, we hope it will be easier for you to find that resource you were looking for! Also, stay-tuned, in the next couple months, this tab will go over a 2.0 makeover as we sort the resources by historical/content topic, rather than type of resource. We hope that it will help you see all of the types of resources for each corresponding topic, rather than having to hunt around for them on the platform. Once again, thank you teacher feedback!

Students, too, have a more streamlined experience. On their homepage, the layout is much easier to see, and depending on which sources they want to see, they can simply click the buttons on the top of their screen. If a resource type is in green, it will show up, if it is gray, it won’t be visible. Hopefully this can help students focus on the task they need to first, as well as sort through the assignments as the year goes on and the resources accumulate.

The “Notes” and “Chat” features are more visible and easy to use, too. For both teachers and students, don’t forget that you can annotate or ask questions via chat when working on any assignment on the platform. Notifications for the chat will always show up in the top right corner of your homepage.

As you navigate the platform refresh, you may notice other subtle changes not addressed here, but hopefully they all provide a more user friendly experience. And of course, we’d love to hear more feedback if you have it teachers. Just send a help desk ticket once on your portal and let us know what you want to see!

The National Civic Collaboratory and Building Hope Summit

Last week, I was honored to attend my first National Civic Collaboratory. This summit is put on 3 times a year by Citizen University in order to shift “the current paradigm of individual achievement towards collaboration and shared success.” You know how much I love the language of paradigm shifting! Generously hosted at the Reagan Library by the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, about 100 civic leaders gathered in Simi Valley, CA to commit to the broader work of strengthening democracy. 

There was such a wide variety of civic-minded organizations there, with representation from presidential foundations, former elected officials, educators, artists, philanthropy, youth-led organizations, and more. As a whole, it was an act of pluralism, where people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and visions came together to support one another in civic initiatives. I was both encouraged and inspired. As we at Thinking Nation continue to cultivate thinking citizens by shifting the paradigm of social studies education, I was so energized by the work of so many in the room over the summit’s two days.

Our little Civic Collab sign under the Reagan Library’s beautiful Wisteria (Go smell some, it’s blooming!)

The National Civic Collaboratory is a unique set up. When various organizations share to the group about their own work, the listeners are not asked to provide feedback or advice; rather, they are asked to make commitments of support. In this way, the civic circle grows exponentially. We all can leverage our own resources and networks to further civic’s ultimate aim of preserving and protecting democracy, even if we are not directly involved. This type of pluralism gave me great hope, even as I look at an increasingly polarized populus. I look forward to more of these and getting more involved with the other organizations in the community.

The Building Hope Impact Summit

In the same vein of finding hope wherever you may be, the leadership team at Thinking Nation is excited to head to Miami today for the 3rd annual Building Hope Impact Summit. Our own Spenser Mix and Liz Connolly will be presenting on how we are leveraging AI to empower students, which will surely be an engaging session (I’m looking at you, Spenser, and former 6th grade teacher!).

I’m excited to meet so many changemakers in the education community and learn from their successes (and hopefully share some of ours!). It is bound to be an enriching time. Whereas the National Civic Collaboratory gave me hope about the state of civic initiatives in a fractured democracy, I am excited to identify areas of hope in a fractured education system. Our students deserve it.

Not Too Late for Mock APs!

The last thing I want to put on your radar is our Mock AP exams! It is not too late to get your rosters all set up to give a Mock AP exam to your students on our platform. Our AI instantly grades the student exams, giving students immediate and specific feedback. Both the students and their teachers get detailed data reports that outline exactly what needs to be studies in the final days before the exam. If you are looking for a way to give your students the best shot to be successful on the big exam, this is it! If you want more information, head over here to download the informational flyer or request a meeting to set things up. Also, shout out to History For Humans for detailing the Mock APs on social media!

Happy Civic Learning Week!

Today marks day 1 of Civic Learning Week! It has already been a busy one for us. 

The first mark we made on the week came in the form of an Oped I wrote in The Fulcrum that explored the essential nature of social studies skills for cultivating civic dispositions. In a recent oped on the same site, a binary of skills vs. content was established that I don’t think fully captures the goals of the social studies classroom. In today’s blog I responded and outlined just why the skills of our discipline are so essential. Give it a read.

Next, at 9am PT, I joined Dr. Larry Paska of the National Council for Social Studies for a webinar on the state of social studies education. If you’ve been following our blogs recently, you know we’ve hosted a mini podcast series on this topic, where I interviewed various thinkers about the subject. In fact, we released episode 6 of the series on Friday, March 8th. In that interview, I really enjoyed my conversation with Shawn Healy of iCivics. Shawn serves as Senior Director for Policy and Advocacy and he brought a really helpful policy perspective to the conversation. Take a listen!

Back to the webinar with Dr. Paska. We started with a brief interview of Dr. Bill Daggett of the Successful Practices Network. We wanted to hear what an outside perspective had to say about the current state of social studies education and were grateful to Dr. Daggett for sharing his own perspective built on decades of experience in the broader education reform movement. 

From there, Larry and I explored the research from Thinking Nation’s white paper, NCSS’s annual survey, and three studies that specifically looked at the state of social studies education in the elementary classroom. The studies are:

  1. 2020 Fordham Institute Study: “Social Studies Instruction and Reading Comprehension: Evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study”
  2. 2023 Rand Corporation Study: “The Missing Infrastructure for Elementary (K–5) Social Studies Instruction”
  3. 2023 CCSSO Guidelines: “Effective Social Studies Integration in Elementary Classrooms”

It was really helpful to take all the data together and think through its meaning and how we can best move forward as a discipline. There are so many exciting events for Civic Learning Week and it was exciting to kick off the week with NCSS!

Moving on to midday, Larry and I were the primary guest’s for KPBS’s Midday edition. KPBS is San Diego’s public radio station and it was such a treat to speak with host, Jade Hindmon. The recording of the interview should be uploaded as a podcast soon, and I’d encourage you to listen to this more focused (and less data-oriented) conversation around social studies and civic education. I’m grateful to KPBS for prioritizing Civic Learning Week in their programming!

Lastly, tonight, Thinking Nation will take over the #sschat feed on X for 10 or so minutes as part of Civic Learning Week. Follow the hashtag #sschat on the app from 5-6pm PT to engage with several organizations who are trying to think together about how we can make the most of this important week. 

Student Art Contest – Final Days!

It’s of course a busy week, and we hope that for your students it is too! Friday is the last day that students can submit an art piece for our annual art contest! As a reminder, We teamed up with the National Alliance for Charter Schools again this year to host a nationwide student art contest for middle and high school students. (Check out last year’s!)  This year’s National Charter School Conference will be in Boston, MA from June 30-July 3. Since the conference leads right into Independence Day in one of the nation’s most revolutionary cities, we decided to build our theme around the future of American democracy. Students can create a creative work of art that addresses the prompt: What does the future of American Democracy look like?

Submissions for this Student Art Contest for Democracy will be accepted until March 15th and the top 20 will be featured at the National Charter Schools Conference! The top 2 will even win cash prizes! For full details on the contest, check out the contest flyer. Be sure to have your students submit!

ExcelinEd and a Thanksgiving Reflection

Last week, Thinking Nation’s executive team headed to Atlanta, GA for the 15th Annual National Summit on Education hosted by ExcelinEd. Each year at ExcelinEd, policy makers, nonprofits, and other education organizations get together to talk to and learn from each other on how we can build an education system that prioritizes students over systems. I left feeling both inspired and challenged in and I am looking forward to integrating some of the takeaways into our own work at Thinking Nation. Today, I’d like to highlight two of the keynote addresses from the conference that equally inspired and challenged me.

Jonathan Haidt has been inspiring me with his research and writing for the better part of the last decade. So, as you can imagine, when I learned that he would be at the conference, I was excited for what he would focus on. In the past few years, his book The Righteous Mind gave me a concrete way to understand how people come to different political views. His research is very much aligned to the historian’s chief job: to understand people from a time and place not like our own. In 2018, he and Greg Lukianoff wrote The Coddling of the American Mind. Once again, I was taken by their findings. This time, he explored “How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas” (chiefly at universities) “Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.” I encourage all of us who work in education to read it.

As you can tell, I’m great with selfies…

For the past couple of years, Haidt has built off that research and explored the specific impact of social media on our younger generations. Thus, in his talk for us, he introduced some of his new findings that will be in her newest book, The Anxious Generation, coming out in Spring 2024. As he’s written elsewhere, he pointed out that social media is producing much more harm than good, especially for younger users, and especially for younger female users. Second, he called on the audience, many of which have the power to introduce corresponding legislation in their states, to “get phones out of school now.” His ExcelinEd presentation provided compelling findings that demonstrate the negative impact of screens in school. Both he, and the next speaker I’ll highlight, Arthur Brooks, noted that at the schools that they teach at (NYU and Harvard Business School, respectively) do not allow devices in their classrooms. If these elite institutions recognize the need for analog classrooms, we all must consider the ramifications of our own technological choices in the classroom.

Of course, as an organization, we have built an entire web-based platform for teacher and student use. This complicates things. At Thinking Nation, we recognize just how much technology can help us shift the paradigm of social studies education. Still, we know that not all classrooms operate the same. This is why all of our resources are available to our teachers both to assign directly on our platform, or to download as PDFs for student use. Technology can expedite growth but we also must be realistic about the times that it is a growth inhibitor.

The second speaker I’ll highlight here is Arthur Brooks. Brooks has become a mainstay in my weekly reading over at The Atlantic with his Thursday “happiness” column: How to Build a Life. Not to be confused with that overly-optimistic friend we all have that secretly makes us want to throw up, Brooks’ columns and research feels both authentic and practical. 

Brooks’ talk challenged us at ExcelinEd to think about how we can teach happiness to our students and he gave us very practical approaches to do so. First, he highlighted that happiness is comprised of three things: enjoyment, satisfaction, and meaning. 

Arthur Brooks speaking with former congressman, Eric Cantor

While each of these three things are important on their own, it is when they work in concert with each other that we experience happiness. He continued to give us at ExcelinEd practical outlines and activities to promote self-awareness and happiness, many of which can be done with students. But it was his two questions he left for us to answer that stuck with me the most. He said that the mere ability to answer the following two questions are the best indicator to whether you have found meaning in your life. One’s answer to those questions doesn’t matter as much as the sheer ability to answer them. The questions?

  1. Why am I alive?
  2. For what would I be willing to die, today?

Brooks continued to challenge us, but this is a good spot to transition to the other topic of today’s blog: Thanksgiving. Before I do though, whenever I travel for Thinking Nation, I like to prioritize at least one historical landmark. So, thank you ExcelinEd, for giving me the ability to see Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church. MLK was a model for us of how to best be an American and it was special to visit those sites.

MLK’s Birth home

The original Ebenezer Baptist Church


Thanksgiving is a special holiday filled with historical tension. While it is worth exploring the tensions of the ethnic roots of some of the holiday traditions, today (as I’ve done in the past), I’d like for us to merely consider the purpose of the day: to give thanks. At the heart of gratitude is humility. We cannot be thankful for anyone or anything without acknowledging that others help us. A humble person gives thanks. 

History, with its core purpose to be the understanding of people and places not like our own, is a discipline rooted in humility. As I wrote in the blog linked above:

“With no urgent need to use the past for present benefits, historians can humbly try to understand the past rather than co-opting it for a specific purpose or use. This intellectual humility can lead to an intellectual gratitude.”

This intellectual gratitude is embedded throughout our resources. We challenge students to understand diverse perspectives, identify historical significance, and take on historical empathy. These tools, inherent to our discipline, is why we believe that our curriculum, assessments, and professional development can support teachers in cultivating thinking citizens.

Thinking Nation’s New Look

For those of you who have followed along with the last couple of blogs, you’ve seen that we’ve changed and added things over summer (more to come!). Today, we want to explain what is really at the core of these exciting shifts: our new brand identity!

If you go to our website right now, you will see that we have a new logo and colors to define who we are. We are really excited about our new brand identity and especially excited to explain why! (If you’re a partner school who has already had beginning of the year PD with us, this is probably just a review!).


First, why change? As Thinking Nation has grown into more schools across the United States, we’ve also had so many more conversations with people from different contexts. Throughout these conversations, we’ve learned a couple things about how people see us.

First, people assumed that we only covered Civics and American History. With the red, white, and blue, and Lady Liberty as our identity, who could blame them? However, like calling our essays “DBQs” took an extra layer of explanation, we’d have to take extra time to explain that we focus on social studies more broadly and that we really want to emphasize the disciplinary thinking that is inherent to good study in our field. 

Second, many people saw our organization as partisan. However, a crucial aspect of our nonprofit mission is to be nonpartisan. We believe that good history and social studies education transcends political ideologies and can encompass both sides of the aisle, even if our current culture wars think otherwise. By focusing on the “why” of our discipline as the chief aim (rather than the “what”) we are proud to work with schools in a variety of political contexts. After all, the two largest states we work in are California and Texas. Historical thinking is for everyone, even if we disagree come election day.

As expressed on our website, we want to shift the paradigm of history education. This is our purpose. We believe that when students learn how to think historically, they are better equipped as citizens. They can lean into the tension produced by listening to multiple perspectives. They can take the time to contextualize the stories they come across. They can empathize with others in an attempt to understand rather than judge. If we can shift the way we see social studies away from a memory-based education and into a thinking-focused education, our students are better served. We wanted a brand to represent this. 

Our new brand, designed for us by Lunour, gets to this vision. With two dialogue bubbles, we stress the importance of nuance. There is never only one historical narrative, but history is filled with multiple perspectives. Dialogue bubbles illustrate that. Similarly, when our students engage in disciplinary study, they have to recognize that what they study is not stagnant. Scholars are in constant dialogue about the subjects they study. In fact, historiography, this study of historical writing, demonstrate that the discipline of history is one big dialogue about the past. 

Not only do dialogue bubbles get to the heart of how we should teach and learn in social studies, they also get to the heart of our vision: “that all students will mature into thinking citizens, equipped with the essential skills to participate in a robust democracy.” If we want to sustain a pluralistic society governed through democracy, we have to learn to talk with one another. Through our work, we hope to equip educators to empower students for that future, a future where empathetic conversation dominates the public square, not bitter polarization. We’re excited for a logo that captures all of this!

Oh, and it’s pretty cool (in case you haven’t noticed yet) that the two dialogue bubbles make a “T” and the negative space makes an “N.” A Thinking Nation is built on dialogue.

To wrap up this lengthy post, we want to acknowledge some logistics. Thinking Nation is a small nonprofit, so this new brand identity will come out in waves. We will update our website, platform, and social media first. We are currently working on updating our curricular resources to fit the new brand, but this will take some time! So, if you see some materials in our old brand and some in our new, know that we are working hard at bringing everything over to our new and exciting brand! Our mission hasn’t changed, but we’re excited for an identity that better reflects who we are as an organization. 

Happy beginning of the school year!

The Importance of Bipartisan Ed Reform: Reflecting on RISE

Last week, some of the Thinking Nation team was able to attend the Reagan Institute’s Summit on Education (RISE) in Washington DC. The day was jam packed with thoughtful panels, fireside chats, and discussions among some of the nation’s leading thinkers on education and ed policy. Most importantly, these leaders adhere to diverse political persuasions. This context meant that there was fruitful (and sometimes tense) conversations about how we can truly make education better for all children in the United States. As Thinking Nation spends most of its time in social studies and civics spaces, this was a very special event to engage with even broader bipartisan ed reform and ed policy.

I wanted to take some time to highlight some of the panels and speakers here as we reflect on how essential these bipartisan summits are if we really want to enact systemic change.

The Panelists on “The Imperative for Education Reform.

To start the morning, the first panel, “The Imperative for Education Reform,” engaged conversation among Arnie Duncan (Sec. of Education under President Obama), Rick Hess (Ed. Policy Fellow at American Enterprise Institute), Bill Kristol (Founder, Defending Democracy Together), Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone. I personally remember the documentary Waiting for Superman, which highlighted Canada’s work being very transformational in my own journey into education. Needless to say, I was excited to learn.

Thinking Nation’s Chief Partnership Officer, Liz Connolly and Executive Director, Zachary Cote hanging out on at the Reagan Institute.

The conversation among the panelists was robust as they reflected on the political context that has led to the many crossroads we are at in public education. But for the sake of brevity, I’d like to highlight something Canada said: “Often education has been a political cudgel.” He said this as he reflected his own journey in education and how at some points he was praised by progressives and at other times he was praised by conservatives. As he noted, he was simply trying to do what was best for kids. But he remarked how political allegiances clouded both sides’ ability to do the same. Canada’s focus on the needs of children was a breath of fresh air.

Later in the morning, a panel entitled, “Teaching and Learning in the Age of AI,” was incredibly apropos for our current moment. While I felt that the panel leaned more optimistic without really wrestling with ramifications for rigorous learning, I was struck by something that Mary Snapp, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Microsoft, stated. In ensuring that developers build out resources that don’t undermine democracy, she noted that “engineers need to learn history too.” Absolutely, Mary. Absolutely. 

Remarks by the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden.

After lunch, we were fortunate enough to hear from our First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. Biden remarked that the last time she came to RISE, she was late because she had to rush over after teaching her class at a local community college, a good reminder that FLOTUS has quite a bit of first hand experience in education. Her address consistently thanked the Reagan Institute for hosting a bipartisan ed reform forum, and while she reminded the audience often of the President’s plan for education, she took quite a bit of time emphasizing the need for stakeholders of different persuasions to seek out commonality to effect real change. I hope we make real waves to push for such consensus.

NBC’s Chuck Todd interviewing Maryland Governor, Wes Moore.

In the afternoon, we were able to hear from former Governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, who recently announced his candidacy for President, followed directly by the new Governor for Maryland, Wes Moore. These two men of opposing political persuasions did not emphasize those areas of opposition. They healthily staked their claims while advocating for as much bipartisan legislation as possible to initiate change. Moore reminded the audience that even though he could have passed state legislation with just the Democratic Party’s support, he pushed for legislation to be written in ways that would garner bipartisan support, because he knew that “it simply won’t work” if only one party is behind it. I hope that wisdom around bipartisan ed reform transcends his state boundaries and enters the Capitol that was just a couple miles down the road from us at the time. 

In all, the summit was a day to both challenge and bring hope for public education in the United States. We are grateful to the Reagan Institute for having us.

No, ChatGPT has not killed the essay

If we think OpenAI’s ChatGPT has killed the essay, we’re missing the point of writing.

Humanists have sounded the alarm over OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Some are even saying that ChatGPT has killed the essay. Its capability to generate accurate, readable, and even engaging text given any prompt is incredible. It will undoubtedly become a tool used (and abused) by students in both secondary and postsecondary education. Focused on its potential misuses, many teachers express worry about what it will do to writing in the classroom. While some of those fears are warranted, I hope that the existence of ChatGPT and its future competitors will cause reflection about why we teach writing, not fear about its demise. ChatGPT’s existence does not have to mean the death of the essay.

Of course, if the only goal of writing an essay is to convey an idea, then yes, this may be the end of the essay as we know it. But I have to believe that there is more to writing. In order to discover what that might be, it is important to draw a clear connection between what it means to write and what it means to learn.

My first introduction to this connection came as an undergraduate majoring in history at California State University, Channel Islands. I was taking Historiography, our historical methods course, when my professor, Dr. Nian Shen Huang, reminded the small group of students in the room: “Talking rarely deepens people’s minds, but writing forces one to think; good, persistent writing produces good thinking.”

Always looking to him for wisdom, my pen quickly recorded his words on my spiral notebook. Like other moments in his classes, which I signed up for as often as my schedule allowed, I was inspired. To him, writing’s purpose was not solely found in its product, but perhaps even more importantly, its process. 

Fast forward to my 5 years as a middle school history teacher in South Los Angeles, I took that inspiration and emphasized writing daily in my class. The above quote from Dr. Huang made my “quote of the week” section of my whiteboard at least once a year. I often reminded my students of the importance of using writing to solidify their thoughts. In this respect, the art of the rough draft held deep importance–something I attempted to model regularly by writing essays as a class up on the whiteboard, the quote of the week serving as our inspiration in the corner.

In December 2021, Adam Grant, Organizational Psychologist at The Wharton School, reminded us of this approach to writing in a Tweet:

Writing is more than a vehicle for communicating ideas. It’s a tool for crystallizing ideas.

Writing exposes gaps in your knowledge and logic. It pushes you to articulate assumptions and consider counterarguments.

One of the best paths to sharper thinking is frequent writing.

When I read Grant’s tweet, I instantly thought of that Historiography class almost a decade prior. Why do we write? To formulate our ideas. To sharpen our thinking. The product is only part of an important process. If we can do a better job of getting this goal of writing across to our students, perhaps the essay is not dead.

At Thinking Nation, we continue to stress this goal of writing whenever I can. We believe it is transformative for empowering students. When students write, they think better. We cannot let artificial intelligence take that away from them.

Almost every week I get to enter into secondary classrooms where students are wrestling with deep questions, analyzing various sources, and presenting their thoughts through that very medium that is supposedly “dead.” But it’s not. 

The essay provides students with a place to try out their ideas, explore the use of evidence, and refine their ability to make a claim. Of course, the product still does matter, but the process reveals far more useful information on student thinking.

ChatGPT has not killed the essay. To be sure, we may need to rethink how we do essays in our classes given AI technology. But writing an essay is far more than the product at the end. ChatGPT may transform the way we think, but we cannot let it replace our thinking.

As long as we can remember that as educators and emphasize that for our students, we can still rely on that trusty, and perhaps even timeless, method of assessment: the essay.

Building Collaboration Without Losing Autonomy: Our Session at the California Council for Social Studies

In a month, we get to join hundreds of California Social Studies teachers at the CCSS (California Council for Social Studies) annual conference. As every year, I am excited to engage with those passionate about social studies education in our home state. 

On Friday, February 24th, I will be leading a session called: Building Collaboration Without Losing Autonomy: Common Assessments on Historical Thinking. I am excited to talk with teachers about the importance of common assessments, historical thinking, and the collaboration that can be had by combining the two. 

So often, history teachers work in silos. The lack of funding, the variety of content eras under the umbrella of “social studies,” and the general lack of time often keep us from collaborating with others both in the department and in other departments. Common assessments, when built in as a routine, can change that! By widening the community of practice, we can gain more support, better ideas, and clearer data on student growth. These are all wins as we pursue the aim of cultivating historical thinkers in our classrooms. 

Often, our counterparts in ELA and STEM have clear means to build collaboration with one another (not to mention the funding to go with it… sigh). But by utilizing common assessments that emphasize historical thinking and the skills of the historian, we too, can build this type of collaboration. What’s even better about this approach to common assessments is that they do not interfere with the general content scope and sequence of our classes. By assessing our students’ ability to think historically, we assess how they navigate the information that their class is defined by, rather than their mere retention of that information. This opens up so many doors for both vertical alignment in Social Studies across grade levels, but also interdisciplinary collaboration with our ELA and STEM peers. 

I’m excited to dive into the specifics of this approach with a room of impactful educators up in Santa Clara County. If you are attending the California Council for Social Studies conference, be sure to come and say hi at our session or our booth!

Thinking Nation’s First Webinar

This week, we hosted our first Thinking Nation Webinar. We walked attendees through our mission and vision, our resources, and our platform. Knowing that not everyone can attend these time-specific meetings, we’re posting the recording to this week’s blog. If you’ve wanted to to get to know Thinking Nation a little better, we hope this webinar recording helps!

Click here to watch the Webinar Recording.


Empowered Middle School Writers

When visiting one of our partner schools this week, I was able to watch students engage in the writing process using Thinking Nation DBQs centered on historical thinking. At this particular Los Angeles middle school, the 6th and 8th grade classrooms sit directly across the hallway from each other, allowing me to bounce between the two classes while on campus.

In the 6th grade classroom, students were beginning the outlining process for writing an essay to answer the question: In what ways was Queen Hatshepsut’s reign as Pharaoh of Egypt historically significant? In the 8th grade classroom, students were about half way through outlining their essays to answer the question: Why did the founders create a government built on the separation of powers?

A 6th Grader outlining their essay.

Both groups of students were thinking critically about primary source materials in order to answer those questions. For the 15-20 minutes that I was able to hang out in each classroom, I saw all types of analysis as students engaged with the material. 6th grade students were looking at pictures of statues of Hatshepsut and noting how she portrayed herself as a deity in order to give herself legitimacy as a female pharaoh in a largely male-dominated society. They drew attention to her building projects like her massive obelisks or her mortuary temple, Deir el-Bahari. Students were constructing a thesis statement that highlighted how accomplishments like this made her historically significant.

In the 8th grade classroom, most students were interrogating James Madison’s meaning for the behind “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition” and thinking of clever ways to word their paragraphs in order to explain how the founders wanted to build a government that recognized the inherent selfishness that Madison saw in human nature. Their conversations straddled the line between history and philosophy and it was inspiring to listen in and even engage with some of their thoughts. 

A table of 8th graders collaborating on their outlines.

In both cases, students were not merely passively receiving a historical narrative and telling their teacher what they remembered about it. Rather, they were actively engaging in historical arguments. Arguments of both significance and purpose. Of course, understanding significance and purpose for many is a lifelong endeavor; but how much more equipped will these students be to ask such questions of their present after dissecting their meaning in the past?

Historical thinking not only builds up students analytical skills, it gives them a necessary tool belt to engage with life’s biggest questions. They can think historically about their own world and rather than simply be bystanders to the events of the day, they can enter into the conversation in order to offer up their own solutions, just as they offer their own interpretations of the past. Historical thinking matters.

Keeping the Conversation Going: Thinking Nation’s Chat Feature

On the teacher’s homepage, teachers are notified when students have asked them a question.

Students often have “in the moment” questions about history, historical thinking, and writing during class. Truthfully, we can’t get to them all nor do all of our students feel that they “really” need to ask their question. With Thinking Nation’s chat feature, however, all students can ask their teacher questions during the analysis and writing process. Even if teachers can’t get to the questions immediately, they can sift through student questions on their notifications tab on their own account home page. This way, students can ask their questions when they are top of mind even if the teacher is unavailable to answer them at that moment.

When teachers click the student comment, they can reply. Students will then be notified that the teacher responded.

We want the conversation about historical thinking and writing to have the opportunity to continue even after the bell rings. Our chat feature, embedded in all of our DBQs, allows just this. All students need to do is highlight the text or section of the resource that they have a question about. Next, they type their question, click the “send as chat” option and press “save.” Teachers are notified and can then respond when they are able. Students are also notified when a teacher responds so that an intellectual direct message conversation can ensue.

So, teachers! Make sure your students know that they can do this and be sure to utilize this feature as you continue to empower your students to think historically. Lastly, in light of our last blog. THERE ARE ONLY 10 DAYS LEFT IN OCTOBER. You got this!

Student questions are highlighted in yellow to distinguish them from their regular annotations.

The Dreaded Month: Teaching in October

If you’ve taught more than one semester before, you’ve experienced teaching in October. The honeymoon stage with the students is over. Behavior in the class, if things were not established in incredibly explicit terms, begins to be harder to manage. Students begin feel a little tired and perhaps even a little apathetic toward learning, wishing to be back on summer break. October is hard! Many people know that November 1st of my first year of teaching was my lowest point as an educator. I felt defeated and I quite literally questioned my choice of going into education. I was equally exhausted and perplexed. 

These scenarios and reflections are not uncommon in education. Just talk to a teacher. With that being the case, though, what do we do? How do we set ourselves up for success despite the pitfalls that come in this month? How can we continue to set the foundation for a year of academic growth for our students? 

Unfortunately, I don’t have a 5 point plan for success when teaching in October. I’m not sure one exists. But there are some important things we should consider and reflect on, especially as history teachers.

First, we must remind ourselves of our purpose as teachers. As this blog has emphasized time and again, our job is to teach students how to study the past. Teaching the past is not enough. History is bigger than a timeline. It’s a discipline of study. Creating routines in our classrooms around reading, analyzing, and writing about the past reminds students that they are in our classroom to become better thinkers, not better at recall. Reminding ourselves of this purpose (DAILY!) is critical for cementing our purpose as history teachers.

We also have to reset structures if they need to be reset. Do you see things that irritate you as a teacher but aren’t quite enough to call out? Call them out anyway. Set your behavioral standards in stone. Resetting is hard, but it is better in October than in January. Good, quality, historical thinking cannot happen in classrooms where management takes all of our energy. 

The last thing worth considering, at least in this post, is to set a routine of historical thinking in your room. Make that word have daily resonance with your students. Introduce a new skill each week. Give concrete examples of it and adequate time to practice thinking that way. Have students write something argumentative, even if short, as often as possible. If they aren’t ready to do it on their own, do it with them! Students cannot do what they’ve never seen. Be a model of analysis. Doing heavy lifting for students at this point of the year is ok! Especially if you are giving them the framework to do that lifting on their own later in the year.

Teaching in October is hard. So many things are thrown at teachers. But, reminding ourselves of our purpose daily, resetting structures to create pathways to success, and embedding historical thinking into every lesson are important steps to take to make it a successful year of academic growth.


For most of the 12th grade students we served this year, their entire 11th grade year was virtual. That simple fact made this year so special. It was a year to rekindle friendships, play sports again, interact with teachers in person, and so many other benefits to being in person. These students also were able to push their thinking and writing skills in their social studies classes with the Thinking Nation curriculum. To say congratulations class of 2022, we want to recount some fun moments in senior-level classrooms this year.

Early on in the year, seniors in US Government analyzed Enlightenment-era and founding documents in order to determine why America’s founders set up a government based on the separation of powers. Students interrogated the documents in a Socratic Seminar and then wrote essays to argue their point. 

Students in an Economics class explored some of the key foundational writings of Adam Smith in order to determine the extent of his influence on modern economics. Reflecting on his ideas in the context of the 21st century gave students the opportunity to identify his most lasting impacts. In one particular class, students intensively dissected a seven sentence excerpt of The Wealth of Nations over the course of an hour long period. Their questions and the level of detail in their analysis illuminated why inquiry-based history education is so valuable.

In another economic class, students debated various solutions for solving economic inequality in the United States. They explored scholarly research, government graphs and charts, and popular level journalism in order to write evidence based arguments justifying their point of view.

One government class spent a week with our DBQ on Social Media’s role in democracy. After combing through the documents, the class was pretty split in their lively debate: does social media strengthen or weaken democracy?

In an Ethnic Studies class, seniors pored over 150 years of evidence to analyze the environmental injustices experienced by American Indians and how they have cultivated solutions for environmental justice (FREE RESOURCE!). The analysis and detail in their essays showed great depth and nuance for such an important topic. 

As a whole, the seniors who used Thinking Nation this year thought critically, wrote persuasively, and pushed themselves intellectually. In short, they grew. As they move onto life after high school, many of them moving away from home and going to college, we wish them the best! Congratulations class of 2022!

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15th kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month! To celebrate this month, today’s blog post will focus on some pictures and other magazine clips from El Malcriado, a Chicano labor newspaper from 1964-1976, established by Cesar Chavez. Chavez was a core leader in the United Farm Worker’s Movement of the 60s and 70s that advocated for farmworker rights and fair wages.

In preparing for one of our DBQs on the Delano Grape Strike, we relied heavily on El Malcriado  as it is full of rich documentation of the farmworker’s movement. Here is a brief summary of the strike, excerpted from our DBQ: 

In 1965, after a successful strike in Coachella Valley, Larry Itliong led the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to Delano to fight for farm worker rights during the grape harvest. Having gained a $1.40/hour wage for farm workers in Coachella, he prepared workers to go on strike in Delano when growers refused to pay more than $1.20/hour. However, while the Filipino workers under Itliong readily joined the strike, Mexican workers were willing to accept $1.20/hour and work in the strikers’ place. 

Recognizing that unless they banded together, no one would win, Itliong approached and convinced Cesar Chavez and his union, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), to join the strike. AWOC strikers began on September 8, 1965 and the NFWA joined the strike on September 16. For the next five years, the strike persisted into a global movement of labor strikes and consumer boycotts to fight for fair wages for farmworkers.

In March 1966, Cesar Chavez led a 300 mile march from Delano to Sacramento to pressure the state to answer farm worker demands. Then, after almost a year of striking together, the two unions merged together as the United Farm Workers (UFW) in August 1966. Chavez, Itliong, and Dolores Huerta were its top leaders.

Below are some clips from the Magazine:

Dolores Huerta holding “HUELGA” sign in issue 21 of El Malcriado. ‘Huelga’ means ‘strike.’
More protesters holding “HUELGA” signs from issue 21 of El Malcriado.
A powerful essay on unity in the strike from issue 23 of El Malcriado.
The cover from issue 26 of El Malcriado.
Scenes of farmworkers from the August 22, 1966 issue of El Malcriado.

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!