In this essay, how would you describe Baldwin's perspective on history?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Baldwin speaks to teachers in his essay with an understanding that history is a form of prologue that can provide the transformational pivot to change what is into what can or should be.  Baldwin never loses sight that the primary value of history is to impact that which is in the future.  He uses historical insight in relating to not only the present, but the cause that makes the present able to change into the future.  The use of slavery as well as modern post- emancipation conditions of people of color is something that Baldwin uses to make the case that education, teaching, can be transformative.  When Baldwin suggests that teachers who seek to construct what can be out of what is will face "determined resistance," it is through the illumination of this inertia through history that enables Baldwin to make his case and his pivot.  The use of history is where "the tremendous potential and tremendous energy" enables teachers to realize how important they are in the assurance that the present and future does not mirror the sins of the past.  It is here where Baldwin understands the true value of history, a discipline whose study of the past can provide a type of looking-glass that can make what should be out of what is.

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