Teaching the 1960s in the Age of Trump

As they have for many teachers – including some on this blog here and here – the results of the presidential election have raised both old and new questions for me about teaching United States history. I taught two sections of U.S. History, 1865-present the morning after the election, still shell-shocked at the election of a man who, along with his supporters, openly embraced the racism, sexism, and nativism of seemingly bygone eras of U.S. history. While I struggled to explain the precise consequences of the election to my students and spent more time dissecting the election’s electoral results, the outcome made clear the connection between past and present, and crystallized the important role history teachers will play educating students in the “Age of Trump.”

I am still debating how to address the Trump presidency in my classroom. He comes up every day in various ways (today, for instance, while discussing Flint and the closure of American automobile plants). Sometimes, these connections are stressful and upsetting to talk about (as it was last week when discussing the notion of a Muslim registry with my students).

Rather than ruminate on pedagogy and teaching philosophy for today’s post, though, I’d like to share some materials that have helped me demonstrate the roots and ramifications of Trump’s campaign in my class. These materials all relate to the politics of the 1960s, the class topic for the last week or so.

  • A LBJ ad playing up the KKK’s support for Goldwater and V.P. candidate William Miller during the 1964 election. Some obvious overlap to the 2016 election here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_i9Bq2tntY&feature=related
  • More from the 1964 election: The “Daisy Ad,” which critiqued Goldwater as a trigger-happy zealot who couldn’t be trusted with nuclear weapons. Once again, serious overlap. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDTBnsqxZ3k
  • Another from the ’64 election: A phone call between LBJ and RFK talking about losing the white ethnic vote in northern, rustbelt cities: https://kc-johnson.com/lbj-civil-rights-legislation/
  • A Goldwater ad from the 1964 election called the “Choice Ad,” which suggested that the country had lost its sense of patriotism and morality (so controversial it never aired): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaL1lrGftqs
  • A “law and order” campaign clip from Richard Nixon during the 1968 election. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swyFqRB3dxY

These are just a few examples of the materials I’ve utilized with some success recently. If anyone else has employed other sources similarly, please share away!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *