Mountain View High School history teacher Chris Lewis was recognized last week for his essay on “how a people’s history is being taught, how teachers were introduced to the work of author Howard Zinn, and how students are responding to learning a more complete version of U.S. history,” along with how he implements the works Zinn in his classroom.
“The Zinn Education Project website has allowed me to find lesson plans and activities that help my students interact with challenging information,” said Lewis. “What impressed me most about the lesson was the engagement required by students. They had to interact at a high level of critical thinking.”
Lewis’ class recently held a Socratic seminar discussion of “The Coming Revolt of the Guard,” in “A People’s History of the United States,” centering around Zinn’s prediction for the future of America where students assessed the impact of small revolutions and evaluated Zinn’s proposal that it will be the disgruntled middle class that will rebel against the current system.
“Students are analyzing the ways in which the American Dream has changed over time and how the definition changes depending on the lens through which it is viewed,” said Lewis. “I want students to see that the so called “dream” was different for the Puritans as they fled religious persecution, different for African Americans during the Civil Rights movement and different for those that live below the poverty line in today’s world.”
After analyzing the dream through themes such as race, gender, class, and religion, according to Lewis, students will develop a prediction for the future. It is his goal that they actively engage in history and that their predictions inspire them to take a more active role in creating the America they hope it can be.
“Chris Lewis is clearly helping students not only learn about history, but how to see themselves as historians and to see the role they play in shaping history,” said Deborah Menkart, Executive Director of Teaching for Change for the Zinn Education Project: “At the Zinn Education Project we are pleased to have the opportunity to share the story of his work.”
“Too often students spend time answering simple questions about terminology or dates,” said Lewis. “It was great to see students experience history and grapple with controversial issues. Many of my students do not realize that they make history every day.”
Sponsored by the Zinn Education Project, Lewis’ essay was one of 90 submissions from across the country, including a winning submission from South El Monte High School social science teacher Sara Quezada. Both won a class set of “A People’s History of the United States” from Teaching Outside the Textbook along with a free copy of “The People Speak” DVD, “Voices of A People’s History,” and “A Young People’s History of the United States.”
Students gathered around Lewis as he opened the box of books he received.
“We hope that many more teachers are inspired by Chris Lewis’ example to help students step into history by using the teaching activities available for free on the Zinn Education Project website,” said Menkart.