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Forum, July 18: The value of teaching students how to think, not what to think

Published: 7/17/2021 10:00:10 PM
Modified: 7/17/2021 10:00:09 PM
The value of teaching students how to think, not what to think

I applaud Ryan Richman, of Timberlane Regional High School, in Plaistow, N.H., and Kelsie Eckert, of Moltonborough Academy, for their teaching of social studies as described in the New Hampshire Bulletin article (“Divisive concepts law vexes teachers,” July 15). Both implement various methods of inquiry that foster student analytic skills and exploration of issues in U.S. history. They clearly underscore that inquiry-based practice is student-centered, with the teacher playing a key role in seeding a productive environment.

The inquiry method is not new. As a graduate student in 1967 at the University of Michigan, I studied under Byron Massialas, author of Inquiry in the Social Studies (1966). Research and discussion about inquiry before and since has been plentiful (Jerome Bruner, John Dewey, Edwin Fenton, Joseph Schwab); funding for special inquiry-based projects began during and after 1963 and many cases of inquiry-driven teaching have been written by educators. The Framework for Social Studies State Standards (“C3” or “College, Career, and Civic Life”) was produced in 2010 with collaboration among 15 professional organizations committed to the advancement of social studies education. It represents a conceptual foundation of inquiry-based practice for K-12 civics, economics, geography and history.

Accumulating evidence shows that, with teacher assistance, all students can successfully read and write in inquiry-based contexts. Studies of large-scale testing demonstrate a clear and positive link between high scores and inquiry-based practices.

The model for inquiry-based teaching focuses on helping students develop the capacity to ask questions, to analyze, explain and argue about interdisciplinary challenges in our social world. In other words, to teach students how to think, not what to think, about critical issues.

The approach would be consistent with Gov. Chris Sununu’s view: “The biggest misconception (about New Hampshire’s “divisive concepts” law) is you can’t talk about slavery or implicit bias. ... We need to know what implicit bias is, where it might exist, what racism is and slavery and civil rights, and what that movement was about, the successes, the failures — all of that can and must be discussed.”


West Lebanon

Thank a Claremont firefighter today

I have previously written about the skill and bravery of the Claremont Fire Department. Once again, their fast work saved lives and property.

On June 28, at 9:42 p.m., the Claremont Fire Department was dispatched and responded to a Union Street location for a fire in a building’s attic caused by a lightning strike. The fire department was on scene three minutes later.

The fire crew entered the building and found fire above a third-floor apartment. The fire was brought under control at 10:58 p.m. Fire crews remained on the scene well into the morning. No residents were injured. One firefighter was transported to Valley Regional Hospital for an undisclosed injury and was released a few hours later.

This is impressive work by our chief and firefighters. They put their lives on the line every day for us and they keep us safe. Unfortunaely, a brave firefighter was injured.

The response time and the injury to a firefighter highlight the skill and bravery of our team.

Today, please thank a firefighter for protecting us.



The writer represents Ward II on the Claremont City Council.

Opportunities for ‘WindowDressers’

Thank your for the article about the WindowDressers programs in Hanover, Norwich, Thetford and Strafford (“Towns aid in window effort: Hanover, Norwich, others join nonprofit to help low-income homes,” July 14).

Your readers in Bradford, Corinth, West Fairlee and Vershire may want to send an email to to sign up for the WindowDressers “build” coming up this November for residents of those four towns.



Loving our neighbor a sacred value

Everyone has God-given dignity. That belief is core to every religious faith. No matter what we look like, how we pray or where we were born, we all possess the same precious human worth. America’s policies and laws should honor that truth. Yet, for far too long, the immigrant community has had to suffer the cruelty of separation and deportation from their families.

Sadly, most of the 5,500 immigrant families torn apart by the previous administration’s vindictive “zero-tolerance” policies, which intentionally separated children from parents who had fled poverty and violence, have not been reunited. The trauma inflicted upon them is unimaginable and surely grows with every day they remain separated.

People of faith should not rest until all the children are reunited with their families and every immigrant is free from deportation and detention centers. We must advocate for systemic changes to end family separation and make sure resources are available for trauma-informed mental health services. We must ensure that all immigrants have safe pathways toward citizenship.

Belief in human dignity, family and loving our neighbor are sacred values. Our teachings and traditions are clear that these values apply to immigrants.

Let’s work to ensure that our laws honor these principles.


West Newbury

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