“To prohibit or not to prohibit. That's not my saying but I love to break rules, rules rule. Just like Rufus.”
~ Oscar Wilde on Sigmund Freud
Currently in Manhattan, Mayor Bloomberg is in the process of imposing a city-wide ban on the sale of large soda/high sugar beverages around local shops, theaters, cafes, etc. This issue affects every soda consuming resident in this huge city, and for this reason has been a controversial proposal. The reasoning behind the ban proposal is the obesity problem here in the United States, with the assertion that consuming soda is to blame. It is this sort of legislation that changes the way that we as American citizens see our choices diminished as politicians mandate laws despite public disapproval.
As a history teacher it is exactly this sort of topic that makes me so anxious to teach. I can think of a countless times throughout history when the ruling class, (or king, or president, or dictator, or chief, or general) imposes their will on the larger population. Incorporating current events and tying them to the past is exactly the sort of classroom activity that will bring historical events to life for my future students.
If I wanted to design a lesson plan for the soda pop news story, I would start the lesson off with a brief greeting and overview of the topic much like given in the first paragraph of this post.
Then I'd get the students engaged with the current event with this video:
I don't know about other people, but when I was in high school showing me short clips really served as an excellent way for me to give my full attention to a topic. I think this is an informative piece featuring Bloomberg himself, and clearly he is in defense of his own proposal. I would end the clip, and I would then like to open it up to class discussion of this topic and let the conversation carry on in an organic way wherein I ask the class to divide into two halves of the room. On one side of the room all the students who thought the ban was a good idea would sit, and those who did not would sit on the other. Then I would ask them to discuss among their groups for a couple minutes the main reasons why they chose to agree or disagree with the ban. Then, I would have the groups turn towards one another and begin a class debate. After both sides had made valid points (which exist for both affirmative/negative stances) and gotten involved with the topic, I would have the class come back together for my next portion of the lesson.
This is when I shift with the lesson and link this current soda ban proposal to topics in history. First, I would ask the class if anyone could think of a time in history when the government or ruler banned substances, resources, or materials from personal use? After getting (hopefully) a decent poll of responses, I would offer them this example:
Prohibition of the 1920s
I would start discussing the topic with the use of this political cartoon:
I think using this primary source from the prohibition era will allow them once again to receive further visual cues and regain focus on the topic. Also, the political cartoon is in fact a wonderful tool to practice interpretation skills on various sources. This skill is an absolute essential for historians. I will be teaching a historical context in which the students can relate the soda ban to, but also teaching them an overarching skill that I will want them to have mastered by the end of my course. That is, the skill to interpret various kinds of historical sources.
After asking them several questions about what they see in the political cartoon and what they think it means about how prohibition was received by US citizens in the 20s. I will have them draw comparisons between how people may react now to the soda ban. As a final class activity I will have them write me a 2 paragraph reflection at the end of the class, the first describing the soda ban in relation to the era of prohibition, and what trends exist in both of these events and the second paragraph would ask them to try and think of another current event that can be related to an event they know of in history. This will require the students to think about what they already know about history in a new way, relating it to their current world.
Despite probably providing here only a rough outline of what I would actually like to do with a topic like this, I dare say I am getting long-winded. I could, however, expand this idea for a unit for at least a week, using different examples of governmental bannings in history (book bannings, religion banning, etc). There are many ways to make the soda ban a lens through which one can examine historical bans. Moreover, it also teaches the students about the hierarchy of society and how the governments' power plays out through history.
On a completely different topic, I love music, and this isn't my first blog. Below here is a link to my tumblr, if you're interested. As well, I'm going to try and find a way to sync a spotify playlist on my page if possible so that when you pull up my page it automatically just starts playing. I'll have to figure that one out.
Until I can figure out a way to get me some tunes goin' on here, I'll just go with a song-of-the-post type of deal.