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At the 94th National FFA Convention, held in late October in Indianapolis, the Paris FFA won the Model of Excellence award for the top FFA chapter in the nation. It was a moment members say they will never forget.

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The Sand Creek Massacre, from History of Colorado; the national historic site was dedicated in 2007.

By Ken Burns

I’ve been making films about American history for more than 40 years. In all of those years, there’s something central that I’ve learned about being an American: Veneration and shame often go hand in hand.

Today, however, I fear patriotism is presented as a false choice. It seems that for many, to be patriotic is to remember and celebrate only our nation’s triumphs. To choose otherwise, to choose to remember our failings, is thus somehow anti-American.

But it is not so simple.

When the National Park Service opened its 391st unit — the

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site

— the site became the first and only to include the word “massacre” in the title, a reminder of the Nov. 29, 1864, attack on

Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho

people that was misrepresented as a “battle” for nearly a century. In a 


, I reflect on the legacy and contemporary resonance of this massacre.

Being an American means reckoning with a history fraught with violence and injustice. Ignoring that reality in favor of mythology is not only wrong but also dangerous. The dark chapters of American history have just as much to teach us, if not more, than the glorious ones, and often the two are intertwined.

As some question how to teach American history to our children — and even question the history itself — I urge us to confront the hard truth, and to trust our children with it. Because a truly great nation is one that can acknowledge its failures.

Ken Burns is a filmmaker whose digital history project UNUM connects scenes from his documentaries to current events.

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Axios llustration by Aïda Amer

Illinois has become the first state to require students to take a course in media literacy, and tonight at 6 p.m. CT the Illinois Media Literacy Coalition will

showcase award-winning videos by Illinois high school students

 about the importance of understanding media,


Monica Eng of Axios.

The course will be required in the 2022-23 school year. The law says the course should help students analyze the purpose of media messages and how they are made, how media influences behavior, and the importance of digesting multiple media sources, Eng reports.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Teutopolis, said the law is "anti-Trump, anti-conservative" and a bid by liberals "to get into our school systems at a young age,"

according to

the Illinois Radio Network. "Supporters of the law tell Axios it's not about politics, but giving students tools to develop their own BS detectors," Eng writes, quoting attorney Maaria Mozaffar, who helped write the law: "I would use the analogy of financial literacy classes."

Columbia College Chicago professor Yonty Friesem, who is co-writing the teaching framework, told Eng that Lessons in the course will be framed as discussions: "We don't want to dictate how it's going to be taught. Instead, we want to show the value of asking questions and reflecting on how the media impacts us. This is not about making the teacher the sage on the stage, but about facilitating discussions where people can have different opinions . . . civil debate and deliberation." Friesem invites comments and suggestions at


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Red shift: Chart of Virginia counties and independent cities' vote by The Washington Post; click on it to enlarge.

Rural voters' voices were plainly heard in statewide elections Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey.

"Rural America roars again," read a subhead on a Politico story that gave rural voters' strong turnout part of the credit for Republican Glenn Youngkin's 2.5-percentage-point defeat of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the governor's race. "In counties throughout rural Virginia, Youngkin ran even with or, often, ahead" of Donald Trump's performance last year, Steven Shepard and David Siders report.

The standout example of that was Bedford County, between Roanoke and Lynchburg, where Youngkin got 79 percent of the vote, 6 points better than Trump. "Moreover, turnout in many of these counties easily surpassed the last governor’s race four years ago, a sign that Trump’s base was motivated to turn out without Trump on the ticket himself, or even an in-person Trump rally," Politico reports. "The other side of that coin: Democratic candidates continue to sink to new lows in rural areas, especially among white voters. According to exit polls, Youngkin won white voters without a college degree — who are overrepresented in rural areas — by a 3-to-1 margin, 76 percent to 24 percent." Trump's 2020 edge among them was 62-38..

Anecdotal evidence showed voters punished McAuliffe for saying "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," but the result -- and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's narrow escape in a race that wasn't rated as close -- sparked analysis and recriminations.

"I don't think Democrats are comfortable campaigning in rural America, and they don't go, and it becomes self-fulfilling," NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd told House Democratic Whip James Clyburn on "MTP Daily."

Clyburn told Todd that the key for Democrats to regain rural traction is to do something for them, such as the $65 billion for broadband in the House spending bill: "If people knew they had this coming, and felt comfortable with it, we would have a better message to deliver in rural America."

Rural Voices USA, a network that says it is "working to advocate, communicate, and hold policy makers accountable for rural issues," said likewise: “The disconnect between rural America and Washington, D.C. only continues to widen. The divide is evident in one-sided election results in rural counites that are increasingly frustrated they are not being heard and that lawmakers are not delivering on their priorities. . . . After passing those key pieces of legislation, lawmakers must get out into rural communities and actually talk about what those bills do. We need meaningful engagement on how universal preschool will create opportunities for rural parents and kids, how construction projects will create good jobs locally, how broadband will expand in their communities and more. The only way smart rural policy beats cynicism about government and far-right-wing talking points is if rural folks can feel and see it in their everyday lives.”

But longtime political analyst Jeff Greenfield wrote for Politico that Youngkin won on the school issue, and the "real lesson for Republicans on Tuesday" is that "One of their most powerful political assets is alive and well: the power of cultural issues over policies."

In a similar vein, Clyburn also said his party is perceived as too cosmopolitan, and Democratic strategist James Carville said that much more strongly on PBS NewsHour. He said Youngkin never mentioned Biden, and voters are reacting to "left-wing nonsense" by "woke" progressives. "What went wrong is this stupid wokeness," Carville said. "Some of these people need to go to a woke detox center or something. . . . They're suppressing our vote."

Former U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Virginia Republican, agreed, saying rural and suburban women liked the optimistic Youngkin better than Trump, "the surly sore loser who hopefully is in the rear-view mirror now." She might be accused of wishful thinking.

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Mask and vacine mandates have sparked widespread, often heated debate in public meetings for town leaders, school boards and more all over the country, even in places known for town-meeting civility.

“Our meetings have been the victim of politicization,” Lorrie Carey, a Merrimack Valley School Board member who has held local elected and volunteer positions in New Hampshire for 30 years,


the New Hampshire Bulletin. “We have to consider the behavior of those who will attend. You have to think about, how will I get in or out of the meeting? It’s like a time of war. I never thought I’d see that in the United States of America.”

Things have gotten so bad at school board meetings that the National School Boards Association recently wrote a letter to President Biden saying that board members, officials and students are under "immediate threat" from malice, violence and threats that are "a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes," Brendan O'Brien reports for Reuters.

In response, Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered the FBI to "work with local leaders nationwide to help address what he called a 'disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence' against educators and school board members over highly politicized issues such as mask mandates and interpretations of critical race theory," Timothy Bella and Devlin Barrett report for The Washington Post. Garland wrote in the memo that, while "spirited debate" about policy is legal, threats against public servants are not. He also wrote that the Justice Department will hold strategy sessions with law enforcement over the next month and is expected to announce measures to combat the trend.

More than 20 right-wing advocacy groups, who say they represent 427,000 members, responded with an open letter blasting NSBA's request and Garland's answer. They are angry, they say, that school boards are restricting access to public meetings and sometimes violating state open meeting laws in order to duck debate. They "unequivocally oppose violence" and say the "tiny number of minor incidents" cited by the NSBA do not justify the DOJ's response. 

However, the incidents are not so rare nor so minor as the letter claims. "At a school board meeting in Illinois, a man was arrested after allegedly striking an education official. At another in Virginia, one man was arrested for making a physical threat, a second was issued a citation for trespassing and a third was injured," Brittany Shammas reports for The Washington Post. "And at other meetings in states such as Washington, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Tennessee, school board members have had to adjourn early after being confronted by angry mobs."

A growing number of school board members, who are mostly unpaid volunteers, "are resigning or questioning their willingness to serve as meetings have devolved into shouting contests between deeply political constituencies over how racial issues are taught, masks in schools, and Covid-19 vaccines and testing requirements," Carolyn Thompson reports for The Associated Press. NSBA interim executive director Chip Slaven "said there isn't evidence of widespread departures, but he and several board members . . . said the charged political climate that has seeped from the national stage into their meetings has made a difficult job even more challenging, if not impossible."

Carey told the Bulletin's Annmarie Timmins that she listened in disbelief at an August meeting as parents swore and yelled at board members during a mask-policy discussion. The board canceled a meeting the next month and called for police backup when attendees who declined to wear masks also declined to watch the meeting from the cafeteria, a designated mask-free zone.

The protests have reached the state level, Timmins reports: "Angry protesters shut down an Executive Council meeting last week where law enforcement escorted state employees to their cars. Some of the same angry protesters stopped the state Department of Health and Human Services from rewriting the vaccine registry’s rules they believed expanded the state’s reach. Gov. Chris Sununu canceled a '603 Tour' stop last month, citing a concern for attendees’ safety."

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Photo by Russ Dillingham, The Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

A bus-driver shortage is hurting rural school districts, and may especially hurt impoverished students," Aallyah Wright 


 for Stateline. "Bus routes have been shortened or extended, drivers are working longer hours, and in some cases administrators, mechanics and even teachers are climbing behind the wheel. Some districts have offered hiring bonuses, increased drivers’ wages and paid families to bring kids to school."

The problem is widespread, according to an August survey by the National Association for Pupil Transportation, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation and the National School Transportation Association. "About 78 percent of respondents, including school administrators, transportation directors, bus drivers, mechanics and other managers said the shortage is getting 'much worse' or 'a little worse,' while 51% described their shortage as 'severe' or 'desperate,'" Wright reports. "Sixty-four percent of respondents in rural Southern states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma reported much more difficulty in retaining drivers, a higher percentage than respondents in the Northeast, Midwest and West."

A number of factors influenced the shortage: many older drivers retired early because they worried about catching the coronavirus. "Vaccine mandates have prompted some drivers to quit and dissuaded some would-be drivers from applying for the job," Wright reports. Some in the survey cited concerns with obtaining or updating a commercial driver's license, not getting enough work hours to make a living, and lack of benefits as issues that can impede hiring. One driver Wright interviewed said she knows drivers who have quit because of the lack of respect for the profession.

Rural education experts worry the shortage will exacerbate rural inequalities and leave many children—especially in high-poverty areas—even further behind academically, Wright reports. Families that don't have a car have a harder time getting their kids to school without school bus service, and many such families also may not have home internet access.

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Rural/urban vaccination rates as of Aug. 12, compared to national average and adjusted to account for vaccinations not assigned to specific counties. (Map by The Daily Yonder; click the image to enlarge it or here for the interactive version.)

It's well known that coronavirus vaccination rates are generally lower in non-metropolitan counties, but a new data analysis cross-referenced rural vaccination data with other demographic markers, including votes for Donald Trump. to create a more granular picture of vaccination rates within rural counties.

According to the study, published in The Journal of Rural Health, "lower rural rates are explained by a combination of lower educational attainment and higher Trump vote share. Within rural counties, rates are lowest in farming and mining-dependent counties and highest in recreation-dependent counties, with differences explained by a combination of educational attainment, health care infrastructure, and Trump vote share." And, though vaccine resistance and hesitancy are primary reasons for the lower rural vaccination rates, the researchers note that lack of access is also frequently a problem.

"Differences in perceptions of risk and virus severity and differences in attitudes about personal choice versus collective responsibility may also be related," the researchers write. "Consistent with this explanation, rural residents have been less likely to adopt Covid-19 prevention behaviors, such as physical distancing, avoiding dining out, and wearing face masks. Smaller shares of rural residents report being worried about getting sick, and larger shares say that the severity is exaggerated, getting vaccinated is a personal choice, and believe in at least one myth about the vaccine."

The researchers assessed vaccination rates as of Aug. 11, 2021, for people ages 18 and up in the 2,869 counties for which Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data is available. For comparison's sake, here is The Daily Yonder's write-up on rural vaccination rates from that week (map above). The Yonder's numbers include all vaccinations, not just those for ages 18 and up, as this study does.

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