Retro Report gives teachers the digital tools they need | News


Retro Report’s director of education, David Olson, considers civics an “essential” part of a “rigorous, high-quality education that students nationwide should receive.” Civics, he says, “involves both analyzing and understanding the founding principles and what makes the United States unique.”

A journalism association founded nine years ago, retro report helps students learn about various aspects of civic education – especially as they relate to American foreign policy. Teachers trying to put the conflict in Ukraine into perspective can show films that give brief overview of an important part of the cold war or to explore the permanent threat of nuclear weapons. All in all, Retro Report offers a library containing over 250 short documentaries (7-12 minutes) on topics ranging from biology to civics. Documentary features are also available.

Retro Report’s mission, says Olson, is to “provide high-quality content that takes a longer, critical look at historical events in the world of the 24-hour news cycle.” An experienced teacher, he started working at Retro Report last summer after teaching social studies in Wisconsin for more than a decade.

“Either we look at the past and the meaning it has for us today,” says Olson, “or we look at things that are happening now and look at historical history that helps us understand our current moment.”

He notes that the Retro Report films aim to make students realize that American history is “not uniform across time, race, and gender.” As he explains, “there were slumps and starts, ups and downs in which more people felt they were part of the population.”

Each film centers on a “compelling story brought to life by multiple perspectives” and is “coupled with gripping archival footage,” says Olson. Films are not intended to replace teaching. Instead, they were created to “get students to ask questions”, getting them used to “discussing different ideas”.

In a time of deadly ideological battles, Retro Report’s films don’t teach from a specific position, Olson argues. But controversial topics should be discussed in class, he argues. “Students must critically examine sources”, which is “an important part of life in a democratic republic”.

For example, he notes that a 2018 movie in Retro Report’s catalog on gerrymandering, which examines a case study of 1990s redistricting in North Carolina, was recently updated in light of the redistricting now being undertaken in many states. The “core of this film is not how bad gerrymandering is”, he argues, “but that it is potentially a political issue and is practiced by both political parties”.

In the film about gerrymandering, students “will hear from black representatives about the positives and negatives of creating a new neighborhood, political operatives who drew the lines, and other points of view.” “Creating a balance between race, ethnicity and partisanship – all of those things are on the table,” Olson continues. “The objective is to bring students to confront the idea of ​​political representation.”

Olson says making these films can take anywhere from two months to over a year. “It allows us to look deeper and understand what we can learn and the different perspectives we can present.” He says each film undergoes “a rigorous fact-checking process”, a particularly important task at a time when public trust in the media is eroding. Retro Report, says Olson, ensures that “what we publish achieves the highest level of journalistic integrity”.

An upcoming film will examine the plight of Afghan refugees, comparing them to Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon; another will take an introspective look at the midterm elections.

Olson notes that Retro Report is making increasing efforts to educate teachers, ensuring that its education efforts are “teacher-led and teacher-focused.” This includes sending out newsletters, attending conferences, and hosting webinars to show teachers how to use Retro Report’s films and lesson plans, which are becoming popular with educators. For the past six months, he has hosted webinars for teachers on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, redistricting, and the Cold War in Latin America.

Last week retro report announcement the creation of two advisory groups totaling 145 teachers from across the country. the Council of Educators directly advises Retro Report on its education efforts, creates classroom materials, and helps educate teachers. Ambassador teachers serve as sounding boards for new ideas and help amplify Retro Report’s mission with teachers.

In our digital age, teachers are well served by using Retro Report’s vast library of films to educate students, transforming them into citizens capable of participating in self-government.

Mike Sabo is the editor of RealClear’s American Civics Portal.


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