What's missing from the textbook?: An inquiry-based lesson plan on the untold histories of labor unions

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Georgia Social Studies Journal


U.S. History textbooks and the standards they fulfill are increasingly devoid of references to such topics as labor union history in favor of a grand narrative of American military and political supremacy and the benefits of free enterprise. As social studies education is concerned with the development of democratic citizens, labor history can help develop students’ civic engagement, especially based on issues of collective action, leadership and social justice. In order to counteract this lack of labor history in textbooks, we propose a lesson plan appropriate for grade levels 8-12 and suitable for a unit devoted to labor history, or as part of a larger unit on industrialization, progressivism, the Great Depression, or other eras of large-scale working class and union collective action. This lesson asks students to identify inconsistencies and missing information in textbook accounts of labor history events, and to use this initial analysis as a springboard for their own inquiry, where they will be expected to research and create a supplementary text booklet to provide a deeper understanding of a labor event and its consequences.

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