Insurrection Day is tomorrow, though history probably won’t call it that.
Thursday, January 6 is the one year anniversary of the Capitol riot, the first violent breech of our nation’s capitol in its 221-year history. Teachers have been debating how to teach about it all year. How tomorrow will take place in classrooms will depend heavily on where you are.
Liz Wagner teaches social studies to eighth and ninth grade students in a small, suburban school in Iowa. Her administration warned teachers to be ‘careful’ in how they teach about the riot. She plans to simply show students videos of the event, and ask them to describe what they see in their own words.
This is kind of what I have to do to ensure that I’m not upsetting anybody,” Wagner said. “Last year I was on the front line of the COVID war, trying to dodge COVID and now I’m on the front line of the culture war, and I don’t want to be there.”
In Massachusetts, history teacher Justin Voldman is able to take a much bolder approach. “It is fair to draw parallels between what happened on Jan. 6 and the rise of fascism,” he says. Voldman plans to spend the 6th having his students write about their experiences a year ago, and discussing the fragility of democracy.
What teachers can and can’t teach about politics is currently a highly sensitive topic, with many states working on legislation to limit teachers in what they’re allowed to say about issues like race in America, or the truth of this country’s history. The issues overlap, because it is not hard to see how differently the insurrection riot would have gone had it not been an all-white crowd. Only six months before, a Black Lives Matter protest, this one peaceful despite a crowd just as large, was met with federal agents in riot gear who opened fire with chemical agents and rubber bullets. The January 6th rioters were allowed in by the police, and federal agents were not deployed at all.
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