Growing up, Kristin Wolfgang didn’t dream of being a teacher. But now she doesn’t dream of any other career.
Before heading into the classroom, Wolfgang worked at Borders Bookstore. She heard about a part-time Kindergarten teacher position and tried it out. Her fellow teachers asked her to lead small groups in reading.
“And I was hooked,” she said in an interview with Studies Weekly.
Wolfgang has been teaching for 19 years, and feels it’s not a job, but her calling. She is currently a 5th/6th grade teacher at The Volcano School of Arts and Sciences on the Big Island of Hawaii, but also taught in Austin, Texas.
“I love teaching. I love developing personal relationships with kids and showing them that they can do better. A colleague recently told me that she sees that I accept kids where they are and give them space and confidence to improve,” she said.
That brings her joy as an educator, as well as “creating curriculum, integrating technology and introducing kids to books!”
Of course, even after almost two decades of teaching, she still finds the career challenging. Similar to how other teachers feel, sometimes she stresses about organizing all that is asked of her.
“There are so many things we are asked to do besides just providing instruction and assessment of students. I’m always struggling to collect and report data as well as to revise and maintain my curriculum maps,” she said. “I know that one thing that causes teachers to leave the field is the difficulty of prioritizing our tasks.”
Despite this, she still loves what she does day in and out. One of the things that helps her run her classroom smoothly is Studies Weekly.
“I love Studies Weekly. The articles are engaging and rigorous, and my struggling readers can read along with the articles online. I am also able to integrate reading standards into my Social Studies lessons by using suggestions from the Teaching Supplements. Having the newspapers for the entire year helps me to stay on pace in presenting the social studies curriculum,” she said.
Wolfgang first encountered Studies Weekly after moving from Hawaii to Texas. She used various Texas grade levels there, and ordered the USA publications after moving back to Hawaii two years ago.
She enjoys Studies Weekly so much, in fact, that she also writes 5th and 6th grade curriculum for us. She started writing just one question at a time in 2015, and now she’s working on Teacher Supplements. She was also on the team that recently wrote the Studies Weekly K-2 leveled readers.
Wolfgang juggles a lot, but all of what she does is for the betterment of students. Texas and Hawaii may be vastly different in geography, she says, but for her, it’s all about the kids.
“Kids are kids no matter where you go. I love being with them and helping them learn,” she said.
To learn how you can use Studies Weekly Social Studies in your classroom visit studiesweekly.com.
Here at Studies Weekly, we know there is never quite enough time to do all you want as an educator. That’s why we try to make our ordering and our online platform as easy as possible.
We also know, with the many programs you use in your classroom, sometimes things can still get confusing. So we have a large Knowledge Base that can take you step-by-step through our online platform’s processes.
Students sitting at the desks of today’s classrooms are America’s next voters. They literally will be the deciders of our nation’s future.
To that end, they must understand the importance and power of voting. We educators, in partnership with their parents, are in an important position to help them appreciate this responsibility. Teaching the younger generation about their civic duty has less to do with politics and more to do with freedom of choice.
“For the nation’s democracy to function properly and for government to provide fair representation, all eligible Americans must have the opportunity to vote — and be encouraged to do so. Our collective self-rule is established and fostered through free, fair, accessible, and secure elections through which the voice of every eligible American is heard,” said Danielle Root and Liz Kennedy, of the Center for American Progress, in a July 2018 article.
Teaching the History of Voting Rights
Teaching students the history of voting rights within the United States can help them better understand the weight and sway they have in exercising this right.
Our nation’s democratic process may be an example to others, but it took many protests, movements, and the mobilization of large groups of disenfranchised residents to get where we are today. Education about the history of voting in America expands students’ minds, and gives them a greater appreciation for their own ability to share their voice.
According to research by KQED, when George Washington was elected as our first president in 1789, only 6 percent of the population could vote. This was due to land ownership laws and states’ differing voting regulations. Thus, only white male landowners could vote.
In 1856, land ownership was finally removed from voting requirements, opening the poll doors to all white men.
In 1868, the U.S. passed the 14th Amendment, granting citizenship to former slaves. Legislators followed up with the 15th Amendment in 1870, declaring that the right to vote could not be denied because of race. As citizens, male African Americans could legally vote.
Despite this legislation, some states enacted measures, such as literacy tests and voting taxes to subvert African Americans’ ability to register to vote. In some states, groups used violence and intimidation tactics to keep these same voters away from the polls.
These subversive efforts continued until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed. It made it illegal for states to impose discriminatory restrictions on who could vote. This act came after decades of African American bloodshed while exercising their given right.
Women had been trying to acquire their own right to vote since 1848. It took them more than 70 years to successfully secure that vote in 1920. Well-known early leaders in this fight — Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth — died before seeing women prevail.
Despite the 14th and 15th Amendments, many minority groups in America’s history had to forge their own difficult routes to voting.
Though they could be considered America’s first residents, Native Americans had no voting rights within the new republic. In 1876, the Supreme Court ruled that Native Americans were not citizens as defined by the 14th Amendment and had no voting rights.
Their path to polling places took many steps.
After the 1887 Dawes Act, Native Americans could obtain citizenship and the right to vote only by giving up their tribal affiliations. The Indian Naturalization Act passed three years later, and Native Americans could apply for citizenship through an application process similar to the process of immigrant naturalization.
Decades later, Native American veterans were granted citizenship after they served in the military during WWI. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 also granted citizenship to Native Americans born in the United States. But, again, many states passed laws and policies during this time to prohibit Native Americans from voting.
Finally in 1947, after Miguel Trujillo — a Native American and former Marine — successfully sued New Mexico denying his right to vote, barriers to voting started to crumble. It still took until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for this right to be guaranteed.
Though they were an integral part of building America, especially in the West, Asian Americans had no citizenship rights.
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred people of Chinese ancestry from becoming citizens. Then 40 years later, the Supreme Court ruled that people of Japanese heritage were ineligible to become naturalized citizens. A Congressional ruling in 1925 barred Filipino Americans from citizenship unless they served three years in the Navy.
Finally, in 1952, the McCarran-Walter Act granted all people of Asian ancestry the right to become citizens.
Puerto Rico and D.C.
Congress passed further voting rights laws in the 1970s and 1990s to guarantee better access to polls and voter registration. But today Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories still do not have full voting representation in the federal government. Stateside, those living in Washington D.C. have the right to vote for president, but do not have any representatives in Congress.
Importance of Voter Turnout
The right to vote in American elections has a long history of conflict, and students need to understand the value of making their voice heard. Voter turnout on election days is one of the most powerful ways citizens can do that. It also can be an effective path to enacting change that strengthens the rights of all citizens.
“It’s essential that all of us turn out to vote. Every vote is a building block in our democracy. The more people who vote, the stronger our system of government becomes. As a nation, we should do much better. We can do much better,” said Linda A. Klein of the American Bar Association in an October 2018 article.
As former President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
We highlight women’s contributions to our nation’s history, often during Women’s History Month, and the right to vote is an important topic. During March, and throughout the year, voting rights should be a serious study for our students who will be our next generation of leaders.
Find more primary sources and articles about voting through your Studies Weekly online platform at studiesweekly.com/online.
Studies Weekly publications continue to win awards and recognition.
The Textbook & Academic Authors Association recently announced its 2019 Textbook Award Winners and two Studies Weekly publications took top spots.
TAA awarded “Oklahoma Studies Weekly – Our State, 6th ed.” as one of just two 2019 Textbook Excellence Award Winners for K-12. This publication, in magazine or newspaper format, uses Oklahoma’s history, geography, ecology, economy, and people to introduce social studies concepts in a vibrant, engaging, and age-appropriate way.
Chief Product Officer Kim Mogilevsky,
Editor-In-Chief Monica Sherwin, and Graphic Design Manager David Hall wrote the Oklahoma publication from the ground up with 100 percent new content, as part of the state’s adoption of Studies Weekly materials.
TAA also awarded “New Mexico Studies Weekly – Our State, 1st ed.” as one of just two 2019 Most Promising New Textbook Award Winners for K-12.
This publication, in magazine or newspaper format, provides a comprehensive overview of social studies topics — including complex issues like race and ethnicity, opportunity cost, and citizen rights and responsibilities — handled in a deft and engaging manner.
Mogilevsky, Sherwin and Graphic Designer Heather Larsson created the New Mexico publication also with completely original content.
The Textbook Excellence Award recognizes excellence in current textbooks and learning materials, and the Most Promising New Textbook Award recognizes excellence in 1st edition textbooks and learning materials, according to TAA information.
“Monica and I had a blast writing and developing these. We also enjoyed collaborating with our amazing designers, Dave and Heather, and so many other team members who helped to edit, review, post, print, box and ship the publications to our schools, teachers and students,” Mogilevsky said. “Producing quality publications is a labor of love!
These are some of the topics considered “controversial” in society, on social media, and in the classroom.
But why? In today’s society — more than 150 years since the end of America’s Civil War, almost 100 years since women gained voting rights in America, and 55 years since the Civil Rights Act — why are discussions about rights and equality still flashpoints?
Though our society made these important strides forward in decades past, strongly built foundations and beliefs still rumble beneath those issues. And sadly, there are too many people still unwilling to conduct an open dialogue about these uncomfortable truths, even today.
“It’s a conversation no one ever wants to have,” explained Loki Mulholland, Studies Weekly video manager, founding member of the Studies Weekly Diversity Board, Emmy award-winning filmmaker, and speaker on race relations in America, in a February 2018 presentation at Boise State University.
But he advocates having those conversations, because these issues still affect our students and people all over the world.
Globally, racial and gender equality are still under attack, explained Tendayi Achiume, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance at the United Nations, in two separate reports to the U.N. in March 2018 and July 2018.
“From crowds of youths marching to neo‑Nazi chants in Charlottesville, Warsaw and Berlin, to the racist and xenophobic attitudes of politicians in the highest levels of office worldwide … the assault on the human dignity of millions around the world has reached alarming proportions,” she said last March.
That is why we must still talk about equality and rights. Yes, it is sometimes scary, but we — as educators of our nation’s students — need to thoughtfully and purposefully wade into these murky and muddy issues.
“We don’t give our students enough credit. They know what is going on and it’s our job to connect the dots of what is happening today to the past, and how they fit into that picture. We should be empowering our students to make decisions and draw conclusions,” Mulholland said. “If we don’t talk about it and work towards improving inequality, then nothing is going to change. The students play a role in addressing the inequalities they see around them.”
Discussing Inequality in the Classroom
Despite the current shouting matches between current political leaders, discussions on equality and rights do not need to be divisive. And the classroom is one of the most perfect places to have these discussions.
“Young people need to understand equality and know their rights, to understand both how they should be treated, and how they should treat others. Teaching these topics creates a safe place for students to explore, discuss, challenge and form their own opinions and values,” the Equality and Human Rights Commission said in a May 2016 statement.
Beyond Inequality: Systemic Barriers
Even beyond discussions around equality, we should also teach our students about societal equity and the systemic barriers that women, people of color, and other minority groups continue to face. This idea is best defined through this image, originally created by Craig Froehle:The true history of America includes elements of systemic racism, systemic sexism and other systemic barriers to equality and equity for all. Our society still feels the effects of those today.
Mulholland pointed out just one example of this in his Boise presentation last year. He explained that just one generation ago, African American people — many who are still alive today — received truly inadequate and inaccurate education as a result of segregation. Education — which most of us believe today is the key to opportunity — was not equal or equitable.
Equality of Opportunity
In education, we’ve advanced far since that era of history. Today, educators implement a variety of processes that reach the learner where they are, to give them the best possibly equality of outcome. But we still have more to do, as explained in Stanford University’s “Equality of Opportunity and Education” project.
The Stanford project utilized philosopher Peter Westen’s idea that “opportunity is a three-way relationship between a person, some obstacles, and a desired goal. However, a person only has an opportunity if she has a chance of achieving that goal. One cannot have an opportunity if one faces insurmountable obstacles that make it impossible to secure the goal.”
Further, “for opportunities to be equal within a group, each member of that group must face the same relevant obstacles, none insurmountable, with respect to achieving the same desirable goal.”
It’s Only Us
Just like the fence image above illustrates, ideally all Americans may all be equal under the law, but may not have a true equality of opportunity.
Unfortunately, many American residents face insurmountable obstacles because of their gender, race, religion, culture, geography, socio-economic status or other minority identification. Because of this, they cannot reach the same heights others can.
So, until our we strategically remove these barriers and biases, we must still discuss equality and rights, and listen to and believe others’ experiences.
We need to stop seeing these issues as revolving around “us and them” and simply revolving around “us.”
“You have to be willing to open yourself up, to get uncomfortable and go there,” Mulholland concluded.