History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself, but similarities can be identified, examined and debated.
So says Travis Foltz, a Kent-Meridian High School social studies educator who welcomes the study of the past and how it connects to the present. More specifically, Foltz has identified the 1960s and how that volatile decade parallels the uncertainties of today.
“History never repeats itself identically,” Foltz said, “but one of the great things about history is drawing comparisons.”
Intrigued by “The Sixties” – a complex period of cultural, political and societal change – Foltz is going back to the classroom in an effort to further engage his students.
Foltz recently was selected to attend the Summer Leadership Institute at Brown University in Providence, R.I., on July 8-12. This year’s institute is focused on helping teachers develop the knowledge and skills to lead their classes in deliberations about the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and other events of the ’60s.
Papritz to join the program
Joining Foltz at the symposium will be Mike Papritz (inset photo), a social studies and AP human geography teacher at Kentridge. Papritz will attend a three-day Summer Geography Institute at Brown themed “Thinking Geographically About International Issues: The Choices Approach.” Using material from the university’s United States in Afghanistan unit as a springboard, the institute will explore ways to introduce students to international issues through a geographic lens.
Like Foltz, Papritz intends to bring back key knowledge, skills and strategies to help other social studies teachers with their classes
For Papritz, geography presents a different approach to learning.
“Geography is a study which is very dynamic all the time,” said Papritz, who is in his ninth year at Kentridge and has 20 years in the Kent School District. “If you know how to reach kids from a geographic standpoint, it makes learning social science information much more interesting in my viewpoint.”
From Foltz’s viewpoint, lessons from the past remain relevant to the those posed today.
“The 1960s are still very relevant,” said Foltz, one of 23 selected teachers from the country with an opportunity to learn about the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War from scholars, foreign policy experts and civil rights movement leaders at Brown. “It’s relevant because students can make connections between what’s going on in terms of current events and past wars. Also, that era – in terms of the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and the identity politics sprung up – is a great study in terms of social movement.
“Right now, whether we’re talking about Occupy Wall Street or talking about the huge social movements that are going on within the Middle East … students can make connections.”
History captivates Foltz, 32, who grew up in Ballard. He would listen to his grandfather’s stories about how he endured the Great Depression and served in World War II.
In contrast, Foltz listened to his father’s stories about witnessing the turbulent ’60s as a teen, serving in the U.S. Army Reserves National Guard as the Vietnam War came to a close. Russell Foltz told his son about a time of social dislocation, protests and challenges to the Establishment.
As Foltz has observed, war fuels considerable debate, in particular its justification, political maneuvering and use of the country’s combat troops.
Foltz enjoys the examination of American foreign policy, adding that “Vietnam is a great case study.”
Historians argue about the connections between the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars, Foltz said. In both instances, the U.S. entered a long conflict, with uneasy allies and neighbors, fighting a guerrilla war, a conflict that has become unpopular in many circles.
Such comparisons provoke thought and debate.
Brown University’s Choices Program sponsors the institute. The national education program is designed to introduce substantive international content into secondary school classrooms. The program offers 40 curriculum units on topics relevant to classes on U.S. history, world history, civics and current issues. All units use a problem-based approach to make complex international issues accessible and meaningful to high school students.
“Choices provides valuable tools for teaching the 21st century skills my students need to develop as citizens in our global society,” Foltz said. “I am excited to learn more about this important time in U.S. history and to become more adept at using Choices’ materials on a range of important topics.”
“I am looking forward working with Travis,” Papritz said. “We are just trying to add a greater relevance to social studies and education in Kent.
“One of the reasons I applied for the institute is to be able to share my learning with other high school social studies teachers so that all students in our district can benefit from these training modules that incorporate higher-level thinking skills and common core application.”