Imagine that on Monday, Easter Monday 2016, all of the students in all of your high school history classes began a two week “live tweet” of their world as it might have existed a century ago.
Some students might be IRB rebels in seized sites across Dublin or throughout Ireland. Some might be British, or French, or German, or Austrian, or Russian, or, or, troops engaged in the battles of the Great War. Some might be British troops or the Royal Constabulary trying to regain control of Dublin.
Or they might be Brooklyn dock workers loading munitions — or perhaps sabotage — onto ships bound for the Entente Powers. Or maybe a German grocer in Milwaukee, or a Serbian politician.
What if they took the world of Easter 1916 and brought it to social media. Brought it with historical and emotional accuracy.
What if you let the history of this incredible moment in time expand far beyond the great events to encompass the every person who was involved, or observed, or simply impacted in one way or another.
In many ways the spring of 1916 definitively began the 20th century. The great 19th century empires became doomed no matter if they hung on to the next war. Germans began to starve. Austria, truly a 1,000 year reich, fell to shreds. And in Dublin a century of revolution opened in ways both Quixotic and brutally effective.
While at Verdun an almost year long battle that would annihilate the Europe all had known was just getting started.
And you can let your students slip back into that time. And you can make it real by letting them be real. Even in combat or revolution there was, of course, desire and play, heroism and vice, fear and the need to eat, sleep, and tes, shit.
As your students begin let them build their characters, and let the interactions matter. Do not make it stagnant. Do not make it a book.
Give it two weeks. If you can’t start Monday, wait until April 24, which was Easter 100 years ago.
And let this be history and geography and literature. Because it will be all.
Just a suggestion. Our children live in turbulent times. Let them practice for it with a time past.
- Ira Socol