For many years UT historians have reached beyond our campus, working with East Tennessee public school teachers to improve history education in their classrooms. This year we are helping Knox County teachers to address the history of race relations in America. The American Dilemma: Race and Democracy in American History is a series of lectures and conversations with UT historians that will help teachers and their students better understand today’s pressing issues in their wider historical context.
This series continues our partnership with Katherine Schultz, the social studies coordinator for Knox County. “Our teachers absolutely love the opportunity to be the student, and to learn about the content they love and teach,” she says, “and they want to be able to facilitate conversation in the classroom that connects what students are learning to relevant/current events they read and hear about in the news.”
Dr. Michael Woods led the first lecture and conversation in September. “I’m proud to be a member of a department that cultivates these kinds of connections with local teachers,” he says. His sessions provided teachers with the latest scholarship on the history of slavery, and directed them to useful resources for their classrooms. An expert in antebellum history, Dr. Woods joined the department this fall as our new director of the Papers of Andrew Jackson. “The teachers I spoke with were very happy about their relationship with our department,” he found, “and I was glad for the chance to contribute to sustaining it. Academic historians should always look for opportunities to engage with larger audiences, and it is especially rewarding to talk about history with teachers, because I know that what I share with them will have a ripple effect far beyond our campus.”
Teachers who participated in this conversation with Dr. Woods said they would be able to make “immediate use” of the materials he provided. As one put it, “this information has always been important for students to learn, but in light of events over the last few years where Americans have been forced to grapple with this country’s history of the unfair treatment of African Americans in almost every aspect of society, it has made the information even more relevant.”
This timely series of lectures and conversations will continue throughout the year, one part of the department’s wider effort to support the state’s hard-working history teachers and their students.