In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon organized a rebellion against the ruling class in Virginia (and, unfortunately the local Native Americans).
In 1786, farmers in Massachusetts were being imprisoned and losing their means to life because they could not pay the debts incurred during the Revolutionary period. The farmers organized and battled against the merchant class. The merchant class, with the power of the government behind them, squashed Shays Rebellion.
In 1794, Alexander Hamilton was the Secretary of Treasury. He created a plan that would run the United States Government finances. One piece of his legislation was an excise tax on whiskey. The livelihood of farmers in the western states particularly Pennsylvania were seriously injured by this tax. They took it so seriously that they decided to rebel against the United States government. In the end, George Washington sent about 13,000 reluctant draftees and squashed the rebellion. In my history class, we read and reenacted the rebellion from the view of the ruling class in the government and the farmers. The kids learned some valuable lessons about the role of government.
I spent considerable time teaching these three rebellions.
In 1999, the state of Michigan implemented the social studies MEAP (Michigan Education Assessment Program). There is not an objective that says "students will be able to explain conflict using the concept of class antagonism." Within the Michigan Curriculum Framework, I could find objectives in which I could fit these learning experiences. However, I truly believe that these three events are not events that the curriculum writers and test makers had in mind when creating the Framework and the social studies MEAP. Therefore, when the students take the test, they may not have the knowledge that these curriculum and test makers "expect" them to have, but they will have gained knowledge nonetheless.
This brings be to an experience I had with a MEAP priest. Back in December, to get our social studies staff prepared for the MEAP, the administration accepted an invitation from a Macomb County Social Studies consultant. He was to present information that would help us as social studies educators. He started off assuring us that what we were doing was probably just fine. He said, however, that we should not spend too much time on one subject otherwise we might not be able to cover the curriculum. He would say such things as "on our test" and "just make sure your picture fits into the big picture." I decided that I could not let those two comments stand without being questioned.
I asked him just whose test it was and what happens if our picture does not fit into the "big picture." He brushed these questions aside as he had a presentation to make. After a couple minutes, I said to him that the suggested curriculum would take forty weeks to "cover." If it took forty weeks to cover, was there room for other material. In addition, I asked that if a teacher chose to teach events or ideas that were not emphasized in the curriculum or in the test makers' heads, but the kids were still learning, would the test be a reflection of the knowledge and skills they learned? Again, he did not respond but brushed the criticism aside and continued his canned presentation. I interrupted him and asked him quite frankly why he was doing what he was doing. He said that he was trying to help schools pass the MEAP. I told him that I was opposed to the MEAP as a measure of a school's or student's achievement. He agreed. I then asked him why he was doing what he was doing. He repeated his earlier statement and said that this might not be the place to have this conversation. I told him that I thought through his actions he was supporting the MEAP something he said that he was opposed to. He did not agree. Thus I asked him again why he was doing what he was doing. He finally said "this is my job."
The curious part of the exchanges was that nowhere was it mentioned that this was good for communities, schools or kids. It was being done because it was his job and to help schools pass the test. Education reform at its finest.
By Greg Queen