I have used several resources from the Zinn Education Project over the course of my student teaching term. I found them useful and grounding in both my literacy and history courses. For example, in my freshmen history course, we are currently covering the Progressive Era, and to introduce the unit I used the One Country! One Language! One Flag! activity. Students were perhaps most immediately surprised by the familiar (and infamous) hand gesture that accompanied the Pledge of Allegiance, as originally recited. However, their thinking deepened during the following day’s activity.
As a Montessori school, our weekly teaching incorporates two full days of “work cycle,” during which students collaborate and work independently in mixed age groupings. I used the Zinn Education Project activity as a jumping off point for students to do some self-directed learning during the following work cycle. Using resources I provided to them, students researched and wrote reflectively about Bellamy’s 1892 pledge as a lens into the time from whence it emerged. After more deep reflection, students were struck by the contradictions inherent in the history of our nation’s Pledge (for instance, that it was simultaneously written within an internationalist-socialist framework, yet tainted by nativism). Several of the journal entries I received from this assignment were quite poignant.
In the current American moment, nativism has re-emerged as a mainstream political stance at the same time that the likely Democratic nominee for the presidency calls himself a Democratic Socialist. Through the “One Country! One Language! One Flag!” activity, students came to discern certain continuities of our moment with one from our receding past.