This lesson takes a historically significant event in our country’s history and allows students to unpack the events surrounding it. The heart of the lesson is having students evaluate the Emancipation Proclamation through a number of lenses: military, moral and diplomatic. They will take on both sides of each issue in order to examine the historical purpose and brainstorm reasons why each viewpoint is correct. The lesson could be delivered as short as a single one hour class, or could extend two to three days, depending on how involved you want to get.
The intellectual exercise students undertake in this lesson will help them to view history for what it is; a series of debates and choices. Just as many of today’s political issues and major decisions are not clear cut for all, historical events such as Lincoln’s actions towards the slaves during the Civil War were made within a political and military environment few would currently understand. One shift in education is the focus on student exploration. I included talking points at the end of the lesson, but the reality is that it is more important what the students believe and how they arrived at that belief. In short, don’t feel that you need to provide a final answer.