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Future Teachers Learn About Korean War

photo of soldier who died in Korean War
Private Joe Stanton Elmore

Lester Beaty speaks with emotion when he talks about the uncle he never met, Private Joe Stanton Elmore. He went missing in action during the Korean war in 1950. Last month, after the passing of nearly seven decades, his uncle’s remains were laid to rest next to his brother, who was Beaty’s father.

Last week, Beaty sat in an auditorium at the University of Kentucky College of Education speaking to college students who are preparing to become teachers. The students were attending a workshop to learn about the Korean war and methods for teaching their future students about it. It was organized by UK College of Education professors Kathy Swan and Ryan Crowley, through the Kentucky War Legacy Project and the Kentucky Council for the Social Studies.

“Often we study history as these events that sit above humans,” Swan told the students. “History is made of people’s experiences, contributions, and efforts. The individuals make the collective.”

Swan has personal connections to Korea as well. Her teaching career started at Seoul Foreign School where she taught economics and U.S. history and regularly took students on field trips to the demilitarized zone in Korea. Her father was a Korean War Veteran—a fighter pilot who was in the Air Force and later part of the United Nations peacekeeping force. He died this past March.

photo of Korean War event speakers
Dr. Ryan Crowley, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Lester Beaty, nephew of Private Joe Stanton Elmore, and Dr. Kathy Swan, professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction

“Think of individuals like my father and Joe Elmore and how they tell the larger story of the Korean war,” Swan told the students. “It’s that tension between the individual and the collective that make history.”

The conference focused on the past, while making the content relevant to the present. Today’s students may have heard of Korea in terms of the cars they drive, such as Hyundai or Kia, or the cell phones they use, such as Samsung. There are pop culture influences in the U.S. through Korean music and cinema.

“We are a more global society today compared to when we last wrote social studies standards, and that should be reflected in what we teach students,” said Ryan New, a UK doctoral student and teaching fellow for the Korean War Legacy Project. “Talking about world issues, past and present, is not something students should wait to hear during a class in their junior or senior year of high school, or even college. The standards we are writing today for social studies should mirror the globalization we are experiencing, as cultures are melding together. We need to give younger students intentional exposure to things they are already exposed to through the globalization we see in the world today.”

In 1950, when 20-year-old Elmore joined the army, cultures were much more isolated. The furthest Elmore had ever been from home was when he traveled 10 miles to a movie theater. Beaty, who knows of his uncle through decades of hearing stories from family, described him as a very humble person who sang at church and taught Sunday school. He was in Korea about six months before two uniformed soldiers approached his family’s home.

“My grandma, she was papering the wall,” Beaty said. “She wanted to fix the house up real good because she was expecting Joe home.”

They didn’t have to speak. A mother knows. She screamed and ripped the wallpaper down.

Swan moderated a discussion with Beaty about his uncle during the workshop. She asked what it’s like to know a family member has, in all likelihood, died, but has a “missing in action” denotation.

“We really didn’t know, maybe he was a prisoner of war,” Beaty said.

Last spring, the family attended a briefing in Louisville where they learned Elmore was likely killed in a battle where U.S. soldiers were outnumbered eight to one. The temperature was below zero during the battle and they were using their bare hands to fight.

“It hurt because they were massacred….your heart goes out to them. I’m honored to come up here today and talk in his memory because that’s the least I can do for what he has done.”

An audience member asked Beaty what it was like to sit through the day’s sessions where future teachers were learning about the Korean war.

“When I went to school many, many years ago, Korea was never mentioned,” he said. “And it’s something like it’s forgotten. We need to recognize these people. Anybody who puts a uniform on is a hero to me.”

The workshop audience was comprised of more than 100 college students preparing to become teachers, studying at UK, Eastern Kentucky University, the University of Louisville and Morehead State University.

Swan told the future teachers to think about facts, such as historical dates, events, names and places, as if they are building blocks.

“We don’t want students accumulating blocks,” Swan told them. “Blocks are important, but they are a means toward an end. Students need individual blocks to build something great. That is what we are trying to do in schools. Build the facts toward something meaningful.”

The only living family member who remembers Elmore is his sister, Mary Bowlin, who was 15 when her brother left for Korea. Now 83-years-old, she has prayed for years for her brother’s return. Her motto has been “don’t give up.”

Beaty said it was 1994 when remains from the battle that killed Elmore were originally found by the Korean army. They ended up in Great Britain. Bowlin and another sister contributed DNA, but a match couldn’t be made. The unidentified bones were sent to the U.S. for a time, and later returned to South Korea to be buried again. They remained in Korea for about 20 years until DNA technology improved enough to test again. By this past May, officials were 99.9 percent certain they had identified Elmore. By July, Elmore’s sister got the call that they had 100 percent confirmation.

Elmore has a great nephew serving in Okinawa, Hawaii. He was able to escort Elmore’s casket from Hawaii to Nashville, TN. A hearse drove Elmore back to Kentucky. Beaty said people stood on the side of the highway with their hands on their hearts and saluting.

“It brought tears to your eyes, you couldn’t keep from it,” Beaty said. “People waving flags, honking horns. It was an experience. I wouldn’t trade it for nothing in the world.”

Beaty’s words were moving to the audience who had spent the day in sessions focusing on how to make history meaningful to students.

“History is made up of individuals, acting,” Swan said in the workshop’s closing session. “I hope today has given you the sense of the individual and the collective. The ways we make sense of history. Together, they made up this period of history known as the Korean war and their lives mattered and their service matters. As we teach history, we take the personal and make history relevant. It’s often biography, the individual stories, that give meaning to headings and sub headings in textbooks.”

Description of Sessions

Keynote Address: “Stony: One Man’s Korean War Legacy” – Presented by Jared Stallones

Stallones is professor and chair in the UK College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Prior to his move to higher education, he had a twenty-year career as a teacher and school administrator in Texas. He will share about his father’s time in the Korean war.

Why is the Korean Peninsula divided, and with what consequences? Using historical and digital maps to analyze the two Koreas – Presented by Kenny Stancil

ESRI is a leader in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that makes frequent contributions to social studies curriculum. One of their products, Story Maps, offers abundant opportunities for students to explore the historical geographic context of various phenomena. One of these digital maps, titled “The Two Koreas ,” provides an excellent jumping-off point for educators. To the extent that “The Two Koreas” focuses on the consequences of the 1945 subdivision of Korea, it is a valuable resource. However, by treating the partitioning of Korea itself as a largely unexamined starting point of peninsular conflict, it misses an opportunity to interrogate the factors underlying the separation of Korea at the arbitrary 38th parallel, including the emergence at the end of World War II of a fierce
geopolitical competition between the Soviet Union and the United States as well as the history of Japanese colonization. This session seeks to highlight how teachers might work with and even supplement Story Maps (much like textbooks) with historical maps and other sources in order to facilitate more critical student understandings of the past and present.

Kenny Stancil is a social studies teacher at Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kentucky, where he currently teaches U.S. History and World History. He is a member of KCSS and a 2017 graduate of the secondary social studies MIC program at the University of Kentucky. He was also extremely fortunate to participate in the KWLP-sponsored Korea Research Trip in the summer of 2017, where he learned about Korean history and culture as well as the complex dynamics of the Korean War and its ongoing aftermath.

How should history be made? Using oral history to add dimension and perspective to our understanding of the Korean War – Presented by Grant Stringer

The KWLP website features short oral history veteran videos from the 800 interviews that have already been collected by historians on the project and then transcribed, curated by classroom teacher fellows. This resource is a treasure trove of primary sources that can shed light on the personal impact of war through the eyes of those who lived it. The emotional power of these first-hand narratives are met with their limitations. Are these memories accurate? Whose version of an event is most trustworthy? How do historians corroborate historical accounts? If all history is perspectival, then oral history allows us to examine its construction. In this session, we will search the KWLP Memory Bank archive and listen to the personal accounts of war. We will also consider memory as a disciplinary source that provides a window into the past. And, lastly, we will consider the unique opportunity we have with oral history as well as the limitations we face when using oral history to construct interpretations of events. This workshop is designed to provide a clearer understanding of how to apply oral histories and narratives within the classroom to help students understand Korea’s dynamic nature.

Grant Stringer is a social studies teacher at Scott County High School in Georgetown, Kentucky and currently teaches Psychology and Government. As a recent graduate of the secondary social studies MIC program, he found the opportunity to become involved with the KWLP and traveled to South Korea as a part of the organization-sponsored research trip. Outside the classroom, he continues his work for KWLP as a teacher fellow for the project and member of KCSS.

How can we use sources to better our instruction? Using sources to examine and dismantle North Korean Propaganda – Presented by Ryan New and Maddie Sheppard

Sources provide an avenue for understanding perspective, delivering content, sparking curiosity for students, but they also provide unique challenges to teachers. By selecting and shaping sources, teachers seek to use the source to build historical thinking skills that range from close reading to cause and effect. In this session we will focus on how to teach sources using late 20th century North Korean propaganda as a model for approaching sources more generally. Be prepared to work together in collaborative groups as we construct meaning through leveraging sources to meet instructional and curricular goals around inquiry-based learning.

Ryan New is the Instructional Lead for Social Studies for the Jefferson County School District, a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky, and is the President of the Kentucky Council for the Social Studies. With nearly a decade of classroom experience, he was named as the National Council for the Social Studies Outstanding Secondary Teacher of the Year in 2017 and was the 2017 Kentucky Teacher of the Year Semi-Finalist. He was a standards writer for the upcoming Kentucky Academic Standards for Social Studies. He became involved with KWLP as an AP World History teacher and is currently working on building curriculum that aligns to the AP World History course.

Maddie Sheppard is in her 5th year in Education as a Deeper Learning Resource Teacher in Jefferson County, Kentucky. In previous years Maddie taught grades 2-5 in all subject areas, though social studies has proved to be Maddie’s passion. Currently, Maddie works with teachers across the district to empower teachers to be co-designers of learning experiences alongside learners. Maddie employs a variety of strategies to ignite shifts in classrooms aimed at providing opportunities for learners to have more ownership and agency over deep and authentic learning experiences; PBL and IDM are just a few of these. Finally, she is the president elect for the Kentucky Council for the Social Studies.

How do we remember? Using community memorials for historical inquiry – Presented by Carly C. Muetterties and Emily Rentschler

People memorialize the past in many different ways. One way that communities tangibly represent historical memory is through public monuments. The Kentucky Korean War Veterans Association recently built a monument in Lexington, intentionally challenging the Korean War’s indelible title of the “Forgotten War.” This session will explore ways to propel inquiry through assessing historical monuments as artifacts of history. The lack of memorialization, and the messages communicated through silence, will also be considered.

Carly C. Muetterties is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky focusing her research on civics education and world history. She taught high school social studies for several years before beginning her work at UK, where she has taught social studies methods and education policy courses. She serves as the managing editor of C3 Teachers, secretary of the Kentucky Council for the Social Studies, and has had fellowships with the Korean War Legacy Project and Southern Poverty Law Center.

Emily Rentschler is a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky and a former MIC student. She taught seven years at Bryan Station High School and is excited about returning to the university to pursue her Ph.D. in social studies education with a focus on global citizenship. While never having traveled to Korea, she used to teach about the Korean War in her high school classes and she had fun shopping for the Korean snacks that shared during this workshop.

Does GDP tell the right story? What data can tell us about Korea’s economy today – Presented by Kathy Swan and Ryan Crowley

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is often referred to as “the mother of all economic indicators” and is used by nations around the world to measure their economic activity. Because GDP is so important and so widely used, many people often think of GDP as the best way to represent the well-being of a nation. But is this true? In this session, we will use a series of economic data to examine whether or not GDP tells the right story about Korea’s economy.

Kathy Swan is a professor of social studies education at the University of Kentucky and is co-chair of the secondary social studies MIC program. Her father was a Korean War Veteran and she used to live in Seoul, South Korea where she taught IB economics and US History at Seoul Foreign School. Kathy serves as Director of Curriculum for the Korean War Legacy Project.

Ryan Crowley is an assistant professor of social studies education at the University of Kentucky and is co-chair of the secondary social studies MIC program. Ryan taught a variety of secondary social studies courses during his eight years as a teacher in Texas, including several years teaching economics. Ryan has never been to Korea but would love to go! He also really enjoys dolsot bibimbap.

What is the story of democracy in South Korea? What photographs can tell us about how democracy is formed and maintained – Presented by Thomas C. Clouse and Bonnie Lewis

Courses that focus on a linear progression of events through the use of the textbook treat history as something that is in the past, static, and done. Photographs allow for educators to engage students in analyzing the past through a modern medium and assess the way that images are framed, but also how their distribution can magnify the meaning and importance of an event. In this session we will use a set of photographs in order to piece together the story of democratization in the South Korea.

Thomas C. Clouse is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky focusing his research in geography education. He teaches middle level social studies methods and has also served as a teaching assistant for both secondary and elementary social studies methods courses. He serves as a fellow for the Korean War Legacy Project and C3 Teachers and just returned from Seoul, South Korea–a trip sponsored by KWLP where he learned to say, “anyoung haseyo”!

Bonnie Lewis teaches Government, World History, and United States History at Scott County High School in Georgetown, Kentucky. She is a 2016 graduate of the MIC program and has presented on Inquiry in the classroom at NCSS and KCSS. Her grandfather is a Korean War Veteran, which sparked her interest in the Korean War Legacy Project. This past summer, she had the opportunity to travel to South Korea with the KWLP.

Literacy, Justice, and the Korean War: Using Visual Texts and Poetry for Critical Thinking and Empathic Citizenship – Presented by Leslie David Burns

Non-print texts and images offer powerful and important opportunities for teachers and learners to both study history and learn through literate practices such as writing and discussion to think critically and operate as global-minded citizens. Such learners and their teacher have significant opportunities to use such studies to increase their knowledge, and also act with greater empathy and understanding history and culture in their day-day lives as a result. In this session, participants will view, discuss, analyze, and write poetry to realize how social studies and literacy can interact to enhance student engagement and learning.

Leslie David Burns is an Associate Professor of Literacy and Program Chair of English Education at the University of Kentucky. Les’s father served in military intelligence as a cryptographer in the aftermath of the Korean War. Les is a specialist in curriculum design, language arts pedagogy, literacy, and social justice education. He has taught for 25 years in high school and university-level education, and currently serves as co-editor of Peter Lang Publishing’s series Social Justice Across Contexts in Education.