Editor's Notebook

Social Education, January-February 2005 | Go to article overview

Editor's Notebook


This issue of SOCIAL EDUCATION, our first of the new year, offers a rich variety of articles and teaching ideas from different social studies disciplines. The contributors deal with topics ranging from draft riots in the Civil War to the preservation of the environment today, and from the need to advance diversity in our school system to an examination of the voter turnout among youth in the last presidential election.

Barbara C. Cruz and Jennifer Marques Patterson review a dramatic episode of the U.S. Civil War: the draft riots that broke out in New York City in 1863, most of whose victims were African Americans. Their article on the draft riots opens a window into the social problems that arose from an inequitable draft system that permitted rich people to hire substitutes, and from the troubled wartime economy in which Irish Americans and African Americans competed for low-wage unskilled jobs in New York. The authors offer teaching suggestions and resources that will help teachers bring New York in the Civil War era to the classroom.

The recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Wangari Maathai represented a judgment by the Nobel Committee that environmentalism should be considered a force for peace. In the words of Maathai herself, " ... many wars are fought over resources which are becoming increasingly scarce across the earth." (22) Iftikhar Ahmad introduces our readers to Maathai and her grassroots Green Belt Movement, which arose in Kenya to help rural women plant trees on their own farms to solve the problem of getting fuel without harming the environment. The group has since planted 30 million trees on farms, schools and public places.

The recent surge in oil prices has brought home the fact that oil is not only a resource in limited supply, but also one whose price volatility can have far-reaching economic consequences. We reproduce a lesson plan dealing with oil and alternative sources of energy, from NationMaster.com, which examines how European energy policies have been influenced by oil prices that are much higher in Europe (as a result of taxation) than in the United States. The authors point to ways in which European countries have moved ahead of the U.S. in seeking alternative sources of energy as a result.

The recent Asian tsunami disaster has led many teachers to consider ways in which their classes can become involved in relief efforts. Lynette B. Erickson, Sharon Black and Daniel Seegmiller describe how students in a sixth grade class taught by Daniel worked together to help a class in an Antiguan school in the Caribbean after the damage caused in 1998 by Hurricane Georges. The authors describe how students in the class not only raised funds to send supplies to their "adopted" Antiguan class, but also learned about Antigua through correspondence with their new pen pals.

Many efforts have been made in recent years to encourage higher turnout among young voters. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), an institution that specializes in the subject, reviews the turnout of young voters in the 2004 presidential election, and finds that it rose by at least six percentage points from the turnout in the previous presidential election in 2000. The report presents a profile of the characteristics and political preferences of voters aged 18-29 in 2004. …

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