What I Did with My Summer: Falmouth Social Studies Teacher Gains Perspective on School Desegregation

“I always think that the interactions with other teachers from different parts of the country are fascinating,” said Maine educator Keith Magnuson after virtually attending a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) workshop this past summer. “We are all experiencing some of the same basic trends in teaching, but they play out in such different ways depending on your exact location.”

Magnuson teaches social studies at Falmouth High School and this past summer he decided to take a week-long virtual workshop entitled, “The Long Road From Brown: School Desegregation in Virginia”. Hosted by professors of history and education from Old Dominion University through NEH, there were about 30 teachers from around the country that participated in the workshop along with Magnuson.

He became aware of the workshop through Maine Department of Education (DOE) Social Studies Specialist Joe Schmidt’s popular Social Studies Listserv. “Each year I try to get information out through my listserv about relevant programming, and the NEH runs these institutes each year,” said Schmidt. “Each summer there is a different slate of topics/locations.”

This particular workshop unveiled the unknown stories of school desegregation in the State of Virginia and throughout the nation after the US Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. It highlighted the role African Americans played in bringing about Brown, the state’s determined resistance, the processes that led to initial and then token school desegregation, the eventual integration of public education, and the slow decline of school integration in recent decades.

“We talked a lot about covering difficult or controversial topics in high schools,” explained Magnuson. He also recounted that there were a lot of interesting details that came from former VA high school students, in schools during that era, who spoke, and that workshop participants also got to see many primary source photographs and documents which also provided a lot of interesting information.

“I love participating in workshops like this,” he said. “Especially when they pull in such a diverse group of teachers with a variety of teaching positions and from schools scattered around the country,” adding that this workshop was on an interesting topic relevant to our times.

“I am going to be much more capable of talking in detail about the Brown decision and the implementation of it in class,” said Magnuson, adding that, “every teacher should take advantage of some of the many opportunities we have to broaden our knowledge and perspective.”

To learn more about NEH Workshops visit https://www.neh.gov/divisions/education/summer-programs or https://nehforall.org/programs/summer-programs-for-school-teachers.

To join Joe’s Social Studies Listserv click here. For more information and questions about social studies resources for Maine educators, contact Joe at joe.schmidt@maine.gov.