National History Standards

 

The following standards are based on the National Standards for History, Grades 5-12, created by the National Center for History in the Schools.

The Knights of Labor website offers a rich collection of documents teachers can use to deepen any unit related to the industrialization of America. It falls precisely into Era 6 as outlined in United States History Standards for grades 5-12, covering the industrial United States from 1870-1900. Teachers can also use the documents and questions to improve historical thinking skills in the classroom, particularly historical comprehension (Standard 2), historical analysis and interpretation (Standard 3), and historical issues-analysis and decision-making (Standard 5).

First, the site points to the ways that the rise of corporations and industry transformed the American people, touching on the connections between immigration, social and economic transformation, and the rise of the labor movement (Era 6, Standards 1, 2, and 3). Starting from the period students understand most, the present, the Introduction moves backward into an overview of nineteenth century industrial revolutions, the effects on the class structure, and the impact on the average worker, finally connecting these developments to the rise of the Knights of Labor. The Introduction thus provides context for understanding the primary documents on the site. The Knights of Labor Constitution (Document 1) Preamble lists the reasons for the formation of the Knights in bold and critical terms that may surprise students, but which reflect the urgency of the plight of the worker in the late nineteenth century. Students get a sense of the importance of fraternal culture in building nineteenth century communities when they examine the "Secret Work," a document detailing the elaborate ritual involved in Knights of Labor membership. Other documents, such as letters, proceedings, and pastoral letters illustrate the sense of community, organizational structure, and interconnections between the Catholic Church and Knights membership.

The Knights of Labor website also encourages students to think historically. From the Introductory exercise focusing on unionizing Starbucks workers through the Church's response to Cardinal Gibbons' plea to Rome for tolerance of the Knights' work, each section of the website poses questions that engage historical thinking. Worker letters to Terence Powderly describing anger at bad work conditions and corporate power, for example, are accompanied by questions that generate comprehension of nineteenth century economic conditions (Historical Thinking Standard 2, Historical Comprehension). Other documents, such as the Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Corrigan of New York, defends acquisition of wealth and condemns ideas related to its redistribution, encouraging students to think about how a single set of conditions can generate opposing views (Historical Thinking Standard 3, historical analysis and interpretation). Finally, students are asked to envision the conflict and resolution between the Knights and members of the Catholic Church resulting from differing views of addressing social and economic problems (Historical Thinking Standard 5, historical issues analysis and decision-making).

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