National History Standards

Here are some of the ways the "Catholic Patriotism on Trial: The Oregon School Case" website can be used to help teachers meet United States history curriculum 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.

Historical Eras and Catholic Patriotism on Trial

This website fits easily into a unit on National Standards Era 7, The Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930). Because Catholic Patriotism on Trial asks students to ponder the role of initiative and referendum in American politics, it can be used in the context of discussion related to Progressivism and the passage of the Seventeenth and Nineteenth Amendments, both of which expanded the power of the electorate, the first by establishing direct election of Senators, the second by giving women the franchise. The Initiative and referendum reflected a Progressive Era impulse to expand democratic institutions, hence this website can be useful in illuminating how a very specific political tendency among the period's reformers unfolded. Era 7 standards also stress the student's ability to explain how the decisions of the Supreme Court affected Progressivism; the documents here revolve around a Supreme Court decision that commented on Progressive reforms, so the site can be used fruitfully in that respect as well (Era 7 Standard 1b).

A unique aspect of the site is its mix of national and local historical documents. Not only does it offer documents, analysis, and questions related to political and social developments in Oregon in the context of broader national political developments, it focuses on a single minority group and its relationship to a majority population. In this sense the site enables teachers to address post-World War I changes in the political and social landscape. Specifically, teachers can use the site to focus on Ku Klux Klan anti-Catholicism. It was the KKK, along with the state's Masons, organized the passage of the law that would abolish the state's Catholic schools. The rise of the KKK in the state, and the passage of the so-called Compulsory School Law abolishing Oregon's private schools, illuminates one dimension of the reaction of native-born Americans to a population perceived as un-American because of their religious beliefs (Era 7 Standard 3). Catholic Patriotism on Trial therefore promotes understanding of social tensions and their consequences in the postwar era.

The website's tight focus on legal and political structures make it usable for teaching within earlier time periods, particularly Era 3, the Revolution and the New Nation, 1754-1820s. The National Standards emphasize student understanding of the evolution of governmental institutions, particularly voting structures and judicial decision-making. The documents here are intended to show the ways in which political institutions evolve over time, and one document links the Oregon case to the more well known Tennessee Evolution case ("The Monkey Trial") of the same year, illustrating the interconnections between Supreme Court decisions and the fluidity of the Constitution stressed in the standards.

Historical Thinking Skills and Catholic Patriotism on Trial

The nature of the Oregon School Case of the 1920s requires the careful attention to detail that promotes improved chronological thinking and historical comprehension (Historical Thinking Standards 1 and 2). The questions accompanying each document ask students to consider how the document was created, as well as how each relates to others. A chronology places each case-related event in order, juxtaposing those events with broader yet related national happenings. The site includes several period cartoons, and the accompanying questions ask students to interpret the various historical images within each cartoon. Perspective is crucial to understanding a case such as this one, where the key actors take action based on strong and conflicting beliefs. The documents here, such as the strongly worded KKK minutes and dramatic photos, are chosen because they convey strong opinions. Students are asked not only to sympathize with the underdog figures here, however, but to put themselves in the position of those who might see their customary powers under siege.

In the end, Catholic Patriotism on Trial promotes student engagement in historical issues-analysis and decision-making (Historical Thinking Standard 5). After reading the text of the 1925 Supreme Court decision on the case, which declared the law abolishing the private schools unconstitutional, students are asked to articulate the positions of the plaintiffs, and to understand the arguments made in the courtroom. How would they have decided in the case? A key strength of this site is that students can draw from one or more of 19 primary documents to support their own position on the role of private educational institutions in American life.

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