Historical association schools teachers on White House history

Some 200 K-12 teachers — including some from D.C. and from Anne Arundel, Arlington and Fairfax counties — are learning about White House history this week, through a five-day online program presented by the White House Historical Association.

“We’re focused on those who lived and worked in the White House, which of course includes presidents, first ladies, White House staff. We’re also focused on the history, actually, of the structure itself and how it’s changed over time,” said Colleen Shogan, senior vice president for the White House Historical Association and director of the David Rubenstein Center on White House History.

“Every day, we have historians who are giving brief presentations about different aspects of White House history,” she said.

Teachers learn of not only the mansion’s human history but also the momentous events that happened there, and the critical decisions made there that would determine the course of war and the prospects of peace.

“We heard a 30-minute lecture about slavery related to the White House and the history of slavery concerning the construction of the White House and also enslaved people who worked at the White House,” Shogan said.

During the online lessons, teachers learn White House history through primary sources including letters written by the presidents. The goal is to equip teachers with knowledge about the White House that they pass along to students in the fall.

Shogan hopes the lessons give teachers important information to help students better understand and evaluate the nation’s leaders — both current and former.

“No leader, contemporary leader or leaders that existed 100 or 200 years ago, including some of our most revered presidents such as Abraham Lincoln — none of those leaders were perfect individuals,” Shogan said.

“They all made mistakes, and it’s very important to look at the whole of history in which to judge them.”

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