Muddling through the blogosphere

November 12, 2011
by blogwalker

Tora! Tora! Tora! – Why students need access to primary sources

A local TV station kicked off the Veterans Day weekend with a showing of Tora! Tora! Tora! With an all-star cast, I certainly do not question why this 1970’s portrayal of the bombing of Pearl Harbor deserves recognition as an American classic. A number of lines from the movie, however, reminded me of the importance of providing students with access to a broad collection of primary sources for learning about World War II.

It is often through snippets of first-hand accounts of a historical event, that students begin to question information – such as the accounts provided by textbooks. As I listened to one of the American officers in Tora! Tora! Tora! explain that the real danger was the hundreds of Japanese living in Hawaii, I thought about a government propaganda clip, Japanese Relocation, that explained (justified) the need to remove thousands of U.S. citizens of Japanese heritage from the West Coast. This government clip provides insight into the political climate of the war years.

But history is all about who is telling the story.  In working on the Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project, a project I’ve been involved in for that last six years, I find that with each new interview, my understanding of the internment experience deepens, as does my appreciation for war time complexities.

I recently added ten new interviews to the Time of Remembrance collection. Each story is a reminder of what can happen if we allow the loss of rights to any group of people to go unchallenged. Each story is also a reminder that history happens one story at a time.

The additions to the  Interview Archives include first-hand accounts from:

  • Jack Dairiki – Born in Sacramento, Jack recounts his trip to Japan in 1941, being caught there, and surviving the bombing of Hiroshima.
  • Jim Tanimoto – I met Jim last spring during an annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar. Jim’s story is the first in our collection from a No-No boy, a term for resisters. No-No boys answered “No” to questions 27 and 28 on the Loyalty Oath they were required to take.
  • Gary Shiota – Gary explains the issues of the Loyalty Oath.
  • Jim Tanaka – Jim provides a window into the 442nd experience and the experience of the 100th battalion from Hawaii.
  • Roy Sato – Roy shares experiences of signing up for draft and being classified as “4C” – an “enemy alien.”
  • Marion Kanemoto – One of the most powerful stories in the TOR collection, Marion tells of being sent to Japan as part of a prisoner exchange. In later years, with a little help from her law student son, she literally changes history.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll also be uploading a set of powerful lessons created by 12 teachers in my district.  This incredibly talented panel is making available to you grade-level (grades 5-12), standards-aligned lessons that weave in the TOR interview segments. You are free to download, share, and tweak these lessons in anyway that works best for you and your students.

It is my hope that the primary sources provided through the Time of Remembrance site will engage students in “doing history” as opposed to just “studying history.”  Whatever the historical event, all students should have opportunities to construct knowledge and exam differing points of view, and, in the process, gain a sense of what it was like to live through events from the past. The Common Core State Standards support the integration of primary sources into the curriculum because reading through first-hand accounts of any event invites the development of critical thinking and helps students to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.”

As for Tora! Tora! Tora!, it just seems that 70 years later, a movie trailer might be appropriate – one that makes clear that actually not a single Japanese-American citizen was ever found guilty of espionage or traitorous activities.

Wishing everyone a restful, reflective Veterans Day:-)

June 4, 2011
by blogwalker

Two Multimedia Literature Guides – Coming Soon!

My feet have still not quite hit the ground since my Pilgrimage to Manzanar trip and my bike ‘n barge trip across Holland with Hannie Voyles. But already I know that two of my summer projects will be to create multimedia teacher guides for two books I know middle – high school language arts/English/history teachers will want to add to their teaching toolkits:

Kiyo's Story

Kiyo's Story

Kiyo’s Story – One of my favorite take-aways from the Manzanar trip was an autographed copy of Kiyo Sato’s memoir of growing up in California – before, during, and after WWII.

“It is a magnificent memoir, fully worthy of being compared to Farewell to Manzanar. I cannot praise its pointillist realism, its Zen-like austerity, highly enough. Exquisite.”—Kevin Starr, author of California: A History

I have to take issue with Kevin Starr’s review. Kiyo’s Story provides something missing from Farewell to Manzanar: a window into the Issei (first generation of Japanese immigrants) experience in California and also makes visible the power of one’s culture to help overcome extreme challenges and attacks on human dignity. Kiyo also includes samples of upstanders (people who choose to take positive action in the face of injustice in society or in situations where individuals need assistance), such as Edward Kelly Elementary School teacher Miss Cox.

I had the good fortune to interview Kiyo five years ago as part of my Time of Remembrance Oral Histories Project. Kiyo’s interview will make a wonderful accompanying piece to her book – and upcoming multimedia teachers guide.  Since the release of Kiyo’s Story, there are also a number of online inteviews with her, such as the 2009 radio interview with KQED’s Dave Iverson and News & Review piece by Becky Grunewald, that I will be weaving into the multimedia teachers guide.


Storming the Tulips

Storming the Tulips – I first met Hannie two years ago, when my friend Pam Bodnar, a middle school counselor in Chico, shared with me a remarkable presentation Hannie did with Pam’s 8th grade students on how she survived the Nazi occupation of Holland. Hannie was a schoolmate of Anne Frank’s, a few years younger than Anne but also a student for a while at the same Montessori School. Whereas Anne’s story is one of hiding in the Annex, Hannie’s is from a street view.  Hannie and her sister were the eyes and ears for their Jewish mother, who, like Anne, had to remain hidden in their apartment, which was opposite Nazi headquarters.

Hannie’s compelling story is one of 20 first-hand accounts of survival and resilience included in Storming the Tulips:

Storming the Tulips is an intimate encounter with history, as told by twenty former students of the 1st Montessori School in Amsterdam. They were children-contemporaries of Anne Frank -and this book is a companion to The Diary of Anne Frank. While Anne’s story describes her sequestered life in the Annex, Storming the Tulips reveals what children on the outside endured-in the streets, in hiding, and in the concentration camps. Their friends disappeared. Their parents sent them away. They were herded on trains and sent to death camps. They joined the Nazi youth. They hid Jews. They lost their families. They picked the pockets of the dead. They escaped. They dodged bullets. They lived in terror. They starved. They froze. They ate tulip bulbs. They witnessed a massacre. They collected shrapnel. And finally, they welcomed the Liberation. Some lost their families, most lost their homes, but they all lost their innocence as they fought to survive in a world gone mad-the only world that they knew.”

Last month I traveled to Chico, along with Doug Niva, the very talented videographer who has played such a key role in the Time of Remembrance project, to do an interview with Hannie.  We will soon have clips from the interview online, both as stand-alone questions in 11th grade US History teacher Erin Goldman’s Beyond Anne Frank lesson, and as part of the soon-to-be-developed multimedia literature guide for Storming the Tulips.

So it may be a while yet before my feet finally touch the ground.

April 27, 2011
by blogwalker

Heading to Manzanar

Photo by Mark Kirchner

I’m packing my overnight bag for a weekend excursion to the Owens Valley, to visit Manzanar, a former WWII  internment camp for citizens of Japanese heritage. I’ll be traveling with California State University, Sacramento, professor Wayne Mayeda, a group of former internees, students from CSUS,  and a team of teachers from my district.

Our journey commemorates an injustice that began during the spring of 1942, in an act that denied thousands of citizens of their constitutional rights when the U.S. government rounded up the entire West Coast Japanese American community and “relocated” them to mass incarceration camps.

The very talented videographer Doug Niva will be joining me for the trip.  Our goal is to interview those who experienced – or witnessed – first hand the internment experience at Manzanar. We will be adding those primary accounts and reflections to our growing Time of Remembrance website.

So if you teach about Japanese internment and have something in particular you’d like me to research during our whirlwind weekend, please let me know.

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