The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, Episode 125 Transcript
Jennifer Gonzalez, host
What better way is there to learn about something than to actually live it? That’s the thinking behind classroom simulations, where teachers attempt to re-create an event and have students act as participants. Once they’ve walked in the shoes of the people who are actually part of a given situation, students should, in theory, reach new levels of understanding about that situation.
And for many academic topics, this holds true. Students will understand our legal system better if they participate in a mock trial. They’ll gain a deeper appreciation for what led to the Boston Tea Party after playing out the roles of colonists being taxed. Virtual simulations offer even more possibilities: A digital chemistry lab, for example, will allow students to mix many more chemicals and see their results far more easily than if they tried to gather and mix the same chemicals in real life.
But when it comes to certain events—those related to slavery, the holocaust, war crimes, or any other event where people experienced violence or trauma—simulations can do more harm than good. Although teachers who conduct these activities do so because they want students to develop deeper empathy for the people involved, they end up putting students in a position to inflict pain on each other and experience real trauma, all without much educational benefit at all.
We can do better.
To talk with me about this topic, I’ve invited history professor Hasan Kwame Jeffries onto the podcast. This is the second time Dr. Jeffries has been on; The first was episode 98, when we talked about better ways to teach about slavery. In this episode we discuss why certain historical simulations are harmful and what teachers should be doing instead.
Before we get started I’d like to thank ProWritingAid for sponsoring this episode. We have a lot of good writing tools out there, but ProWritingaid is one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen. It works a bit like your usual grammar checker, but then it goes way deeper into style and writing technique issues. It’s great for learning because along with suggestions, you can click for in-depth explanations about why passive voice or hidden verbs, for example, are problematic. If you’re an English teacher you really need to take a look at this tool—it will reinforce a lot of what you’re trying to teach your students. The summary report will identify the key ways students can improve their writing, which means that you can better personalise your feedback. They have even just released a free teacher’s manual that links their reports back to specific educational standards, so you can measure student growth toward different learning objectives. You can get a lot of mileage out of the free version, but Cult of Pedagogy listeners can get 25% off of ProWritingAid Premium by using the code CULT when you select your plan. Give it a try today at prowritingaid.com.
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Now here’s my interview with Hasan Kwame Jeffries about classroom simulations.
GONZALEZ: So I would like to welcome Hasan Kwame Jeffries to the podcast. Welcome, again.
JEFFRIES: Great to be with you, again.
GONZALEZ: I think you’re only my second repeat interview, maybe the third person I’ve had on. It’s 124 episodes, so that’s kind of a big deal for me.
JEFFRIES: That’s a big deal for me too. I am honored.
JEFFRIES: I’m glad we can continue our conversation and move in, and move in some new directions as well.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. And actually the reason that I even knew you were somebody I could talk to about this was because we saw each other at a conference, and you were there presenting on historical simulations.
GONZALEZ: And we started talking about that, and I thought, well, that’s something else I would love to do an episode on. So before we get into that, just give my listeners a little bit of an overview of, of the work that you typically do.
JEFFRIES: Absolutely. So I teach African American history at the Ohio State University, been here about 16 or 17 years now. And my area of research and teaching is 20th century African American history, really civil rights movements, social movements. But I also do a fair bit of both public history, working with libraries, museums, and historic sites, on interpreting African American history and the American experience. But then also a fair bit of work with teachers and how to, and working with teachers not only on content but then also sort of pedagogical techniques, the best way to teach the African American experience from slavery through the present, both accurately and effectively. And most recently I’ve had, the last year or so, been two years really, been working closely with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project on an ongoing project on what we call Hard History and teaching American slavery. That has been sort of the last year. We have a new, we can get into a little bit of that later on, but then we’re also going to shift into extending that into the 20th century, 21st century, with the civil rights movement. So that’s sort of, a little bit of a broad overview of kind of my areas of interest and, and work.
GONZALEZ: Okay. And that, that’s actually, we spent the last time you were on talking all about the Teaching Hard History curriculum and the podcast and everything. And so this is actually, like, taking an even closer slice, a smaller slice of that, just to talk about this idea of classroom simulations, because it keeps coming up in the news and on social media, teachers that are doing historical simulations in their class to teach students about certain eras or certain moments in history, and really just doing it wrong. And I just think it’s gotten more attention lately. I think it’s been going on for decades and decades, but it seems as though now finally we’re all starting to realize that these can be very, very traumatizing and damaging. And so why don’t we start by just establishing what exactly is a classroom simulation and why do teachers use this method to teach?
JEFFRIES: So first I think it’s important to offer a little bit of a background if I can. The simulations are really, in the larger scheme of things, pretty recent. I mean, by recent I mean the last two decades.
JEFFRIES: So really starting, we start to see them pop up in the ‘90s, and, and it’s connected in part to the interest on the part of teachers to actually teach certain subjects more effectively, to get students to connect with historical subjects, historical phenomenon in ways that they haven’t done in the past. And this has, this has occurred in part as a response to the failure of our education system — particularly early education system, K-5, middle school — a failure to actually deal with these tough subjects, this hard history. So the irony of it is that these historical simulations, or this type of pedagogical technique, is, you know, comes out of a desire to do better in the classroom.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, yes.
JEFFRIES: You know, so it is what it is. But I think that’s, that’s actually, Jennifer, I think an important part of this story, because for the most part, what we find is that teachers are gravitating to simulations. We’ll say what they are, sort of give a definition in a second, but they’re gravitating to them out of a desire to be better, right? And not out of a desire, out of malice or desire to do harm.
JEFFRIES: So, so, you know, that’s really important to put —
GONZALEZ: I’m glad you said that, because I do think that’s, that’s an important caveat there, because yeah, the idea is to engender empathy in students and get them to really put themselves in these shoes of people in different situations. And so the fact that they’re going so badly is, it’s out of lack of understanding, not out of intent.
JEFFRIES: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. And so, okay, so these simulations, kind of what are they? So a simulation is basically an attempt to re-create a situation or a phenomenon from the past to put students in a re-created environment as much as possible so that they can, as you said, generate a stronger sense of empathy, particularly for those who suffered as a result of this historical situation or historical phenomenon. And, and it tends to be focused, most of these stories that sort of bubble up and we’ll give some examples in a second, tend to be focused at the younger grades.
JEFFRIES: So, we know, we see them in sort of late elementary — third, fourth, fifth grades — as well as middle school, sometimes high school as well. So it’s definitely sort of a, you know, K-12, 1-12, phenomenon that we’re seeing. And again, it’s teachers trying to think creatively and get students engaged in the classroom by coming up with these sort of historical simulations. Now the difficulty and the problems that we have seen and have encountered is that we’re talking about simulating traumatic experiences.
JEFFRIES: So the, the scenarios, some of the scenarios that have cropped up have been out of New York. One was simulating an auction of enslaved people in which the teacher, third or fourth grade teacher, in a class that was mixed race, so African Americans, Latinos and whites, and had the African American students sort of step out, students of color step out of the classroom, and then come back in as though they were enslaved people to be auctioned and sold and bid on by the white students in the classroom. So that’s one. Another one, and that’s pretty common, has been to simulate the Middle Passage, the transit of enslaved Africans from the, in bondage, from the coast of Africa, interior of Africa to the Americas. And this has been sort of attempted to be re-created through having children crawl under their desks in close quarters. One, one example, the teacher actually began to sort of walk over to simulate this idea of tight packing, in which the enslaved were bound in chains and in the hulls of these ships, and you tried to get, for economic reasons, as many enslaved people, as many enslaved Africans into the hulls of these ships, so they called it tight-packing, because you knew 20 percent or so were going to die in transit, and so you squeezed them all in there. And this teacher sort of cramming these students in there, young kids.
JEFFRIES: And then, and then sort of walking over them, right? So you can begin to kind of get a sense of where this can go wrong.
JEFFRIES: You know, and, and I think part of the problem with these, both examples and, and trying to simulate, particularly the enslaved experience, right? But the same thing can be said for Jim Crow or really any other traumatic experience or any other kind of oppression like this.
JEFFRIES: Is that, Jennifer, you can’t actually recreate it. In other words, what you would need to do to actually recreate these scenarios would put you in jail, right?
GONZALEZ: Right, right.
JEFFRIES: I mean, to fully create it, you would, you would wind up in jail, right?
JEFFRIES: So, so then what do you have left? Then you have these sort of, you know, sort of pseudo re-creations that, that don’t really re-create the scenario, so you can’t really simulate the Middle Passage. You can’t really simulate the trauma of that. You can’t really simulate what it would feel like to be dehumanized on an auction block and separated from your parents. So then what, so what are you left with? You’re left with not only the potential for traumatizing children, but you’re really left with sort of reinforcing sort of contemporary inequality as a result as it connects to race. So part of the issue is we cannot divorce the present from the past. And so our children are bringing into the classroom and into these historical simulations whether they’re consciously aware of this or not, certain perceptions about other people. So certain perceptions about African Americans and children of color that usually is not based on equality, because we still live in this, in this, in a white supremacist world in which white is right, right? And children are bringing that in. We don’t talk about racism and white supremacy and inequality in our society for the most part. But then we’re going to create this one-off classroom situation in which we’re going to sell black kids. What are you doing, right?
GONZALEZ: Right, right.
JEFFRIES: What you’re actually, what you are in fact doing is reinforcing the notion that sort of inequality was somehow right in the present, but it was maybe might have been bad, I mean it just, what it does is create confusion on the parts of both students of color and white students. It can reinforce stereotype rather than disrupting them. And it can make, especially when you begin to isolate children of color in these scenarios, it can, it can really create a, a traumatic experience because you’re putting these children of color, and any child, in these, in what can be intense, sort of under the microscope conditions in which they are being treated as unequal. And then what are you doing to repair the damage after that?
GONZALEZ: What would you, what would you, I’m trying to put myself in the mind of a teacher who has done this and their, maybe their first question for you would be okay, what if I randomly assign students to the roles of enslaved people versus the — so in other words, you will have some students of color in the role of the people actually participating in the auction and some white students who are in the role of enslaved people. What would be your response to that? How is that not still really solving the problem?
JEFFRIES: Yeah, because we don’t live in a colorblind world. And so essentially you would be telling these other children, okay, you’re going to be the black people for today, right? And, and that doesn’t really help the scenario, because they can just walk, they walk in it, and then they walk out of it. And then how do they carry that into the playground, right? It’s like, okay, I had my black experience, and that is about being sold. Like, so, in other words, even pretending that we’re going to do something that is race-neutral around a subject that is not race neutral doesn’t really help the scenario either.
GONZALEZ: Okay, okay. So the, the practice of a simulation, if, if a person, I want to clear this up too. If a person wanted to do a simulation on, say, you know, the stock market or passing a bill from, you know, into a law. Those are not, those are fair game for simulations, correct? It’s really, we’re talking about really violent, traumatizing types of things that should not be brought into the room as a simulation.
JEFFRIES: Yeah. I mean, so, there is, I believe that there are proper uses for simulations as you pointed out.
JEFFRIES: And, for example, you know, we see mock congresses and model congresses and all this. I mean, that, that’s perfectly fair game, right?
JEFFRIES: I mean it’s useful to put students and young people in these sort of positions of decision-making, right?
GONZALEZ: Got it, mhmm.
JEFFRIES: But we should not be trying to re-create the Holocaust in the classroom.
JEFFRIES: Or anyone’s Holocaust in the classroom.
JEFFRIES: Right? Because it, it, you can’t do it, and if you can’t do it, then why are we trying to do it?
GONZALEZ: Right, right. And I participated in one of those, which I’m not proud of, but I, I remember, do you remember the movie “The Wave” when that came out in the ‘70s or the ‘80s? It was a, it was about a classroom, it was a book and then it was a movie about a long-term school experiment with the Holocaust simulation and this guy really became Hitler-like. I mean he was trying to show these students how, how Hitler got the Nazis to go along with things they wouldn’t normally do. Very, very powerful. But I think that film probably inspired a lot of teachers to do that. And in our school we had this yellow dot project. We got parent permission and some kids were randomly assigned to wear these yellow dots, and it was like this, this star, the yellow star. And, I can remember treating some kids poorly for a couple of days on purpose, because that was part of the lesson. And now I’m looking back and I’m pretty much horrified by it. Because I didn’t have the awareness of that, and so, I do, my experience with that was that I feel like I did some permanent damage to relationships with some of my students. Because even though I was acting, that doesn’t matter. I was treating them very, very badly, and, and I just didn’t understand, I think, the consequences of that.
JEFFRIES: And, and that’s part of, that’s part of the issue, right? It’s, it’s the treating others badly at this young age, right? I mean these aren’t adults, right? I mean it’s one thing, you know, if these are adults, and then they’re still, you know, people are still dealing with their own traumas that they’re bringing to the table that we don’t know might, might be triggered or stumbled.
JEFFRIES: But these are young children, right? Who are still processing the world.
JEFFRIES: And, and yet, and so we are still unclear about what their takeaways will be, how they will remember this activity. How they will remember, you know, what it felt to treat others and to watch this, and then the mix of, of, sort of emotions that they go through in participating in these simulations can be, can be really problematic.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. I mean I can see it being problematic for the kids that are put in the roles of the, the people who do the harm, you know, and being encouraged to act that out in some ways that that could also be pretty traumatic for those kids too.
JEFFRIES: Absolutely, absolutely.
GONZALEZ: So, so if I’m a teacher and I really want to give my students something like an immersive experience to really help them to, to understand maybe viscerally what this experience was like, what do you recommend instead? Or is that just not possible?
JEFFRIES: You know, it’s, it’s, certain things just aren’t possible. And so, the, you cannot create an immersive experience around the Middle Passage. There’s, there’s just too many landmines. It just, I haven’t seen it. Maybe somebody will be able to create something that’s —
JEFFRIES: But I have not seen it. And just, I mean if you just take this a step further, imagine, imagine, if you could, and with the, with the technology of today and certainly the technology of tomorrow, of creating the ultimate immersive experience of the Middle Passage where a child will put on some, you know, one of these virtual reality masks, goggles, glasses.
JEFFRIES: And then you could actually put them into the hull of a, of a slave ship at, you know, in the fourth grade. You could tie, you could tie their hands in the classroom, and you could throw water at them, right? It’s like, okay, you have successfully created this amazing immersive experience. Would you want to do that?
GONZALEZ: Right, right.
JEFFRIES: You know. And so if, if we can’t even get, so if you can’t, if we’re saying that actually recreating it is not something that we would want to do, then we shouldn’t even begin to, you know, to put our toe in that water.
JEFFRIES: And, now that doesn’t mean though, Jennifer, that we don’t study the subject, that we, that we close our eyes to it, or that we, no, you absolutely have to.
JEFFRIES: But there are other ways to create this sense of empathy. There are ways to, to get students to realize, and to at least recognize, acknowledge the horror of what happened. But we also have to think about education not just as something that happens on one day in one classroom, but as something that happens over the course of one’s life. And so while in the younger grades we ought to certainly be introducing, right, we ought not be traumatizing, right?
JEFFRIES: You, you gradually move these children into it so that at certain points that we can get into greater depth and detail about what these things were and what took place. You know, I don’t think we should be, look, if you’re going to talk about sort of simulating slavery, or a slave, a slave auction, for example, I mean you can’t talk about, or really deal with sort of selling people and not deal with the sexual violence that was involved in that. And, particularly directed at African American women and enslaved women. Now, we shouldn’t be, you know, in the third grade, that’s, that’s a heck of a delicate subject.
JEFFRIES: Right? That you’re just not going to throw onto the shoulders of children, right? I mean you’re going to very carefully walk that, it’s going to be age appropriate, it’s going to be very sensitive. But, you know, in the later years, you will, you will deal with it in greater depth and detail. So if we can’t, if there’s elements that we’re just not going to talk about, right, and because it’s not age appropriate, because it’s too sensitive, then we just have to stay away.
JEFFRIES: From the, from that kind of immersive, immersive experience.
GONZALEZ: Right. So if a teacher has been doing this type of thing for years and years, and they’re listening and they’re realizing, oh my gosh, I need to stop that right away, what would be some other suggested activities? Other materials or experiences that would really get students to, to sort of not necessarily put themselves in the shoes, but to get that empathy?
JEFFRIES: Yeah, and I, I think it’s what we really want our students to do. And we talk about, you know, getting students to, to, you know, spend a little time in other people’s shoes or what have you. But it’s really, just be able to think from the perspective of this person, right?
JEFFRIES: And especially from the perspective of people who are the, who are being victimized. Like that is so critically important, right? So, you know, it’s not like, hey, I need you to think about what it meant, you know, what it would feel like to be an enslaver, a slaveholder, right? Like, ah, stop that too, right? No.
JEFFRIES: What, what it would, what it would be like to have to make some of these choices and decisions as a person who is enslaved? Like that’s, and posing, rather than sort of getting into say, hey, let’s create this experience, you just create sort of, you know, scenarios that can be discussed in which a child or children have to make decisions. But, but it’s not decisions that sort of objectify the person, it’s just real-life decisions that a person in this position would find themselves in that then requires people, young people, to think seriously about what all it would take, right?
JEFFRIES: To, to sort of live for a moment, to find oneself in this particular circumstance. And, and there’s a way to get students to, to sort of transplant themselves into that, into that moment. You know, literature is fantastic, right? I mean there’s some really bad children’s literature, but there’s some really good children’s literature, right?
JEFFRIES: And even the bad stuff you can interrogate if you’re doing it right sort of later on. But, you know, just, I mean that’s what fiction is, that’s what novel is. It, it transports you from one place to another.
JEFFRIES: And you create, and you ask questions about characters. So part of what you do is you don’t say, hey, what would you do if you were this person? You say hey, what did this person do? And what were some of their options? And so you’re inviting children on their own terms to put themselves in the shoes of another person simply by thinking about the decisions that they have in their lives.
GONZALEZ: And that’s, you know, that kind of an approach is, is a lot more sort of subtle and it’s, you know, if a person’s walking past the classroom, they don’t see this big activity going on , but it really has the potential to hit students on a much deeper, deeper level, get them more introspective. You know, because another thing I’m thinking about a lot of these simulations, you’re putting kids in this situation where they’re going to be uncomfortable, and things have a real risk, to me, of getting silly, and then you’re making a joke of this whole thing.
GONZALEZ: I’m, you know? Which you don’t want that either.
GONZALEZ: So what you’re describing right now sounds just so much more thoughtful, and it would also require a lot less planning time on the teacher’s part too, which is just another bonus of that.
JEFFRIES: Yeah, we, we certainly, I mean, so one of the risks that, and you just, you just outlined this, one of the risks that we mentioned before, sort of you don’t want to traumatize students, right? Point No. 1, do no harm to your students, applies to teachers too.
JEFFRIES: But we, but we don’t want to trivialize either.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, yeah.
JEFFRIES: We know that young children and traumatic, you know, put in these sort of intense, in intense situations, will respond in different ways, particularly in the classroom. And they will laugh, and will have, you know, I mean, but that’s a response to being insecure in the moment, right?
JEFFRIES: And so, and that can have this sort of ripple effect that then trivializes a subject that you do not want to trivialize.
JEFFRIES: And I think connected with that too, and this is a, a version of the simulations that moves into the realm of computers and technology and virtual reality.
JEFFRIES: Is that we have to be careful of the gamification of, of history.
JEFFRIES: And, because that then, that has the same, that can have the same trivializing effect as well.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, yep.
JEFFRIES: Now, that doesn’t, that doesn’t mean that we just say, okay, no more technology, you know, we’re just going to read books and primary sources. No. It just means that we have to be thoughtful and careful about what we do. So one of the most common, you know, scenarios, online scenarios, simulations, right, is about enslaved people running away, all right. And so you see these, oh, you make sort of these decisions, and this person’s trying to get here, you know, so you know, how does, how does Ruth Anne escape from, you know, Kentucky to Ohio?
JEFFRIES: And I, look, I teach in Ohio, you know, and my students in Ohio, they truly do suffer from Underground Railroad-itis, right? I mean that’s the one thing that they know about, the Underground Railroad. They think everybody was a part of the Underground Railroad.
JEFFRIES: And I’m look, if everybody’s a part of the Underground Railroad, it wouldn’t have to have been underground, right? Like, no. Let’s, let’s complicate what we have here. The problem with these scenarios, right, and I actually like the idea of having students think about the tough choices and decisions that it would take for somebody to escape slavery, because that is a really thoughtful exercise, and a useful exercise. But you have to create the, the right scenario for the issues, for students to understand what the issues are, right? You can’t just have, you know, the character suddenly just wake up one morning and say, okay, do I leave or do I stay? Right? Because you’ve already trivialized what the stakes were, right? And are you talking about sort of what, what are the consequences what are the costs, who’s being left behind, where is this place? What are the other options? Does everybody just go to Ohio? You can’t go to Ohio if you’re in Mississippi. And so there are so many other sort of permutations that have to be included. And if they are not included, then I think you wind up going back to the point that you had said earlier about trivializing this history.
JEFFRIES: Even if the students aren’t laughing, if they’re not getting a full sense of the scope of the, of the conditions and circumstances, including the sexual violence, right, that is so intimately connected to all of this, and the reasons why people would decide to escape and stay, then you’re actually doing a disservice.
JEFFRIES: They’re learning less than what they should be learning. And, and that has been, historically a part of the problem because, you know, the little bit, part of the issue is we do such a poor job of integrating these difficult subjects, this hard history, stuff like slavery, throughout the curriculum over the years, but rather we just sort of drop it in, you know, in Ohio, they get a little Underground Railroad in the third grade, and then they don’t deal with early American history and slavery until the eighth grade, right? So there’s these, like two moments with nothing in the middle.
JEFFRIES: But if that’s all you’re introducing, you know, that, you know, Ruth Anne decided to run away and that’s it, and we don’t even really know what she was running away from, that’s what they’re carrying with them into, you know, for the next five or six years.
JEFFRIES: Which is equally problematic, because that’s also informing how they’re understanding all of these other aspects of the American experience in this context that, that are not being connected to these other problematic histories.
GONZALEZ: Right. So if, if a teacher has been, I’m, I’m really glad that you brought up these sort of online simulations. I think there are a lot of them. You’re, you’re not saying that they should not be used, but that teachers really need to look at them with a critical eye and, and ask a lot of questions of themselves, is this trivializing it? Is it gamifying it? Is it going to basically oversimplify the experience of slavery to the point where we’re actually teaching the wrong thing as opposed to, you know, not teaching it sufficiently?
JEFFRIES: Exactly, exactly.
GONZALEZ: Okay, okay.
JEFFRIES: And, and that’s our job as teachers, right? I mean we are the ones —
JEFFRIES: — that, we don’t have a lot of time to do it, I mean I understand lessons plans, there’s a lot of time devoted to other things, but we really do have to take the time. If we’re bringing anything into our classroom to ask those questions that you just laid out, right?
JEFFRIES: And we would do that with any primary source, with any text, anything that we’re bringing in. We would think about all of the questions that are being asked, that can be asked about this source and this material. And is it doing the work that we want it to do?
JEFFRIES: You know, we, we don’t want to rely on things just because they seem, you know, simple, right?
JEFFRIES: And the kids have fun, and have fun with it.
JEFFRIES: You know, education is not always entertainment.
JEFFRIES: You know? We have, we just have to accept that. And, and sometimes it’s just sitting down, right, and, and literally having a conversation.
JEFFRIES: And getting students, even at the younger ages, just to think critically about things in conversation, in dialogue without, you know, without, again, trying to make it, you know, entertaining, if you will.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. Well, and you know, the number of times that I have had other teachers tell me this, and this has also been my experience too, when you really hit the note right on those kinds of conversations with students, when you really can go deep and serious with them, every single time those kids will walk out of that class that day going, “Can we do this more? That was really great. I felt like I was in a college class.” They’ll say things like that where they, they appreciate their intelligence being respected and being treated more like adults.
JEFFRIES: No, absolutely.
GONZALEZ: Instead of, yeah.
JEFFRIES: Absolutely. And that is especially the case, I think, with sort of adolescents, so middle school moving into high school, right?
JEFFRIES: And the times I’ve had conversations or visited classes and received sort of feedback from teachers afterward, and I don’t go into scenarios. I go in like look, you know, we’re not playing. We’re going to sit here and have a conversation. We’ll talk about this, whatever it is, and they say oh wow, and they really, you know, Dr. Jeffries, it was interesting. You really sort of talked to us like adults.
JEFFRIES: I’m like, because they’re yearning to be treated, right, like adults.
GONZALEZ: They are. Because they have serious thoughts, they have serious questions, and they’re developing that cognitive ability to really dig, dig into that stuff and talk about it.
JEFFRIES: Absolutely, absolutely. And we, we can save, look, we can save the entertainment for other subjects, right?
JEFFRIES: Again, it doesn’t mean that we don’t make education fun. It should be fun to learn. But there are some subjects, there’s nothing fun about it, and that’s okay, right?
JEFFRIES: That’s the hard, that’s the hard history. Everything doesn’t have to be, you know, a Disney production, you know, we have to, we have to get away from that, right? Because it’s traumatic. It is traumatic. And we have to treat it as such, and we have to treat it with the sensitivity that it deserves, I think, Jennifer, so that when these kids move forward in life, they don’t trivialize the related subjects —
JEFFRIES: — and the legacies of these historical phenomenon.
GONZALEZ: This, this concept of, of being much more thoughtful and careful with simulations and not doing them for traumatizing events, this, this obviously does apply outside of just teaching about slavery. But we did want to mention that you’ve been working with Teaching Tolerance on a new curriculum, correct?
JEFFRIES: Yeah, so and, expanding on the Teaching Hard History framework and key points that we had done and released last year, early part of last year, and, and that’s, you know, they can find that by going to Teaching Tolerance and Google searching, you know, Hard History.
JEFFRIES: But that was really focused on a high school level. And, and so what we have done over the course of the last years, we’ve reached out to middle school teachers, sort of 5-8, and, and asked them sort of what, what do they need, what are they using, you know, to talk about slavery, to teach slavery. And so what we have done, and we’re working on sort of the K-5 now, is, is really map out sort of what are sort of key points that our students at this age level need to be thinking about, need to know about, and what are some of the resources that we can tap into as teachers to use in the classroom. So we’ve done some of that heavy lifting for them. You know, at some point if they were to look it up they’ll find that there, the simulations just aren’t there. So they’ll look up a simulation, that ain’t the place to go.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, yeah.
JEFFRIES: But if they’re looking for primary source material, they’re looking for novels and children’s literature, you know, if they’re looking for questions for discussion —
JEFFRIES: — then we have that, and that will be, you know, that’s the place to go, that elementary sort of framework and some of the things that teachers can expect from the new release of the Teaching Hard History American slavery framework.
GONZALEZ: Excellent. So and, I’ll, I’ll make sure that we provide links to people over on the website where they can go and find those new materials.
GONZALEZ: All right. Dr. Jeffries, thank you so much for, for sharing your thoughts with us and, and sharing your expertise. I’m hoping this will help get rid of some harmful simulations out there and, and maybe get teachers to do some stuff that’s really going to have more of an impact.
JEFFRIES: Well, Jennifer, thank you so much for having this conversation and, and allowing me to be a part of it. And I think in the end, our mission is the same — mine, yours and all of the teachers who tune in — and that is we’re just trying to teach the history, the subject, more accurately and effective. Be the best teachers that we can be, so that we can produce the best students and make them the best citizens that they can be. So thank you so much.
GONZALEZ: Absolutely, okay. Thank you.
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