A Proposal for Heroes

Many of us are fond of throwing around the phrase, “those who cannot remember the past are destined to repeat it.” Dear ol’ Eduflack is fortunate enough to be the son of an historian, a presidential historian at that, meaning that from my earliest days, I was taught American history and its importance to both today and tomorrow.

I can vividly recall my father teaching my about presidential politics as we watched the results of the 1980 elections reported on television. I remember sitting in the back of the lecture hall as a middle schooler as he taught college students in New York City. I still smile when I think of dinner table conversations and debates regarding everything from what I was learning in school to what title my dad should put on his two-volume history of the U.S. presidency (Ferocious Engine of Democracy was the big winner).

Trained as a social scientist and historian, my father spent much of his professional career as a college president, leading three institutions of higher education (one private and two public). Dr. Michael P. Riccards then went on to serve as the public policy scholar in residence at the College Board for many years, only to “start” retirement by creating and leading a successful public policy institute headquartered in New Jersey.

Those who know Dr. (or President) Riccards would not be at all surprised that he has is now applying his lifetime of both scholarship and successful, results-based leadership to now help policymakers navigate our coronavirus world. He put pen to paper to create a “Proposal to Heroes,” designed to be a policy response to Covid-19 akin to the G.I. Bill and its initial response to World War II. The idea has already sparked a great deal of conversation, with Dr. Riccards working with several state governments to explore the feasibility of such an approach.

For the past decade, Eduflack has resisted having “guest posts” on these electronic pages. But today, I make an important exception. Today, I provide the context for the “Proposal to Heroes” offered by Dr. Michael P. Riccards.

 

In  1944 Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the Servicemen’s  Readjustment Act or the G. I. Bill. Originated by the American Legion, the act provided a series of benefits for returning veterans.  Only about 6% of the armed forces were to see combat, but all were eligible.  Among those who took advantage of the act was George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Al Gore Jr., Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Judge John Paul Stevens, David Brinkley, John Chancellor, Clint  Eastwood, Paul Newman and coach Tom Landry.

After only Social Security, it remains one of the most popular  federal programs initiated by the government.  Benefits have been enlarged over the years.  They included at first low-cost mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business or farm, one year of unemployment compensation, and dedicated payments of tuition and living expenses to attend high school, college or vocational school.  Benefits were available for veterans who had served at least 90 days and were honorably discharged.

This proposal for heroes is meant to deal with heroic sacrifices made in the pandemic of 2020 and who served their nation in its time of peril.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE

Those who served during this period of national emergency certified by executive order, the governors or other government agencies.  This group includes medical responders, hospital workers including in tribal clinics, and related medical servers and custodians.  Also included will be those who were called essential workers and were so defined by the President’s executive orders, first line workers including police, firefighters, and clerical people.  Doctors, nurses, and medical providers may use these funds to help pay off educational debts. In the event of the death of a responder, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shall create a schedule of transferable benefits.

WHY

It is obvious that these sacrifices were above and beyond the call of duty. When the pandemic subsides, these individuals should reap some benefits  that extraordinary expressions of valor warrants.  These provisions in the GI Bill had incredible unintended consequences: they created a new middle class which produced a wave of prosperity and general uplift of the population.  This new bill will create a new middle class, one that will focus on newer immigrant and first generation Americans who will be able to use especially their educational opportunity and financial security to buttress the very underpinnings of modern American democracy.  The questions of income inequality will be muted, and the entire nation will benefit from many more health care workers which may be needed as we continue to fight other pandemics.

ADMINISTRATION

Since these provisions are so similar to the GI Bills of Rights, they will be administrated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs by a special committee of six members, appointed by the President and each house of the U.S. Congress.

INVESTMENTS

The Income Tax Code provides all sorts of investment benefits, recognizing that such allocations create economic and social opportunities.  Public policy studies, including done in the past by the Hall Institute, show that the GI Bill brought a 6-1 multiplier effect in the long run to the federal treasury,  it proves that the best investment in America is in Americans.

Without question, it is an intriguing idea offered through the lens of how the United States has responded to crises and to those who have unselfishly served their nation and their community. It is definitely worth a meaningful debate.

Watch Out History Ed, The Video Revolution is Coming

Over on Medium, dear ol’ Eduflack opines on how our current emergency virtual eduction provides the perfect opportunity to use multimedia — particularly video – to engage students through their computer screens. But even in topics like history, content areas tailor made for interesting and relevant video content, we are falling short on what we provide educators and what we pass along to students.

It doesn’t have to be this way. As I write:

It is insufficient to think we can simply take a Ken Burns video or a documentary from the History Channel, chop it up, and then use the pieces as meaningful content to connect with today’s learners. To ensure that young people embrace American history, we need to commit to create and distribute online content that focuses on: 1) what is relevant and interesting to the student; 2) what is attractive to learners who will vary widely in both interest in history and knowledge of history; and 3) what is adaptable based on changes in learner preferences.

In calling for the adoption of “three legs” to the American history instruction stool, I also note:

Whether our public schools “go back to normal” this fall or whether periods of virtual education become the new normal for k-12 in the United States, we need videos that capture the attentions and interests of today’s students, offering content that often isn’t found in dusty history textbooks. We need content that teachers can successfully use in a virtual environment and that students will want to access in their free time, using a changing learning environment to provide fun, engaging, and proactive content intended to improve both the teaching and learning of American history.

Please give the full piece a read here. It’ll be worth it.

Learning In the Moment

If the first month of the year is any indication, 2020 is going to be a doozy of potential learning opportunities. Yes, we have a presidential campaign. We also have lessons of impeachment, caucuses, immigration, trade, socialism, and many others that haven’t yet shown themselves.

Our collective instinct may be to shy away from the controversial when it comes to classroom teaching. But with such a focus on the news of the day, we may be missing golden opportunities by not using these current events as the impetus for teaching and learning.

How so? We explore the topic on the latest episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen!

Sorry, North Carolina, But We Need History

“If only 21% of North Carolinians under the age of 45 was able to read at an eighth-grade level, we would declare a state educational emergency. Yet in the face of these numbers in U.S. history knowledge and appreciation, our response is to cut high school history requirements by 50%?”

Eduflack’s latest in the Greensboro News & Record, following North Carolina’s decision to cut American history requirements in high school

Civics Falling by the Wayside?

Yes, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is absolutely correct. Civics education, in general, is falling by the wayside, and it is happening at a time when civics ed is more important than ever.

But before we rush to fill the gaps, we need to be mindful about today’s students, how they learn, and what interests them. The answer isn’t just more textbooks, read longer and louder. No, the true answer is experience-based learning, active education, and other such activities they engage and encourage students to pursue more.

We explore this topic on the latest episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network. Give it a listen!

Yes, Impeachment is Teachable

In too many schools, educators are shying away (or being asked to do so by administrators) from using the recent House impeachment of President Donald Trump in their classrooms.

At a time when students are begging for history and civics education to be more “relevant” to their lives, is there a better topic than one that has grabbed headlines for weeks?

On the latest episode of TrumpEd on the BAM! Radio Network, we explore how educators should embrace the recent news and have an obligation to teach the most recent presidential impeachment efforts. Give it a listen.