an interactive DBQ by Scott Hearron explores the question: Education for political participation, or indoctrination for political power? A chapter excerpt from Exploring History Vol IV. http://bit.ly/2iyHMaX
Education for Political Participation, or
Indoctrination for Political Power?
SOLDIERS OR TEACHERS?
Instructions: Look at the image
on the right and answer the
questions below as best you
This is an image depicting a group of Nicaraguan Literacy Instructors, known as
Brigadistas, as they mobilized to teach the rural poor basic reading and writing skills.
Brigadistas were trained to venture to far flung Peasant villages, to live and work with
the people there while teaching them the basics of literacy and mathematics. This
project was began by the Nicaraguan revolutionary government, the
Sandinistas (FSLN), shortly after victory in a civil war.
1A. What can you tell about the Literacy Instructors
from the image?
1B. Do the instructor's fit your mental image of what a
teacher should look like? Why or why not?
1C. What other images or pictures have you seen that
remind you of this image? Why do they remind you of
1D. Examine the words to the Literacy Campaign
Anthem. How does this seem different than usual
Barndt, Deborah, and Mary Ann Kainola. The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade: Second War of Liberation: A Collective Project.
Canadian Action for Nicaragua. Toronto: Action, 1982. P. 2.
SOURCING AND CONTEXTUALIZING
These three images are the first pages of a report written in 1981
by Educational specialist Dr. Charles L. Stansifer on behalf of the
American Universities Field Staff. This report outlines the basics
of the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade of 1980: when it happened,
who organized it, what caused it, and what its’ goals and effects
GALLERY 1.1 The Nicaraguan National Literacy Crusade by
Instructions: Look over the source document
images in the gallery to the left, read the text,
then answer the accompanying questions.
Then, examine the excerpt below and answer
1A. Who wrote this document? Is it a firsthand account?
What biases or limitations might come with this
1B. When and why was this written? Do you think it is a
reliable source to use? Why or why not?
The full report outline six goals for the Literacy Crusade. Read
over the goals then answer the questions:
“THE CRUSADE LEADERS AGREED ON THE FOLLOWING PRINCIPAL
OBJECTIVES OF THE CRUSADE: 1. TO ERADICATE ILLITERACY IN
NICARAGUA; 2. TO CONSCIENTIZE AND POLITICIZE THE ILLITERATE
POPULATION; 3. TO CONSCIENTIZE NICARAGUA’S YOUTH TO THE LIFE AND
PROBLEMS OF THE RURAL POPULATION; 4. TO PREPARE FOUNDATION OF
THE VICE-MINISTRY OF EDUCATION FOR ADULTS TO FOLLOW UP THE
CRUSADE; 5. TO STRENGTHEN THE ORGANIZATION OF THE MASSES; 6. TO
DEEPEN NATIONAL INTEGRATION”
2A. Based on these goals, what was the purpose of
Nicaragua's Literacy Crusade education?
2B. What questions do you have after reading these goals?
2C. Where might you go to find answers?
Stansifer, Charles L. The Nicaraguan National Literacy Crusade. Report
no. 6. 6th ed. South America. American Universities Field Staff, 1981. P. 3.
SOURCE, CONTEXTUALIZE, AND CLOSE READ
Instructions: Examine the following excerpts from
Sandinista (FSLN) political statements and writings, then
answer the corresponding questions.
This excerpt outlines the state of Nicaraguan
education under the old Somoza government,
according to the new FSLN government:
“ONLY 1.1 PERCENT OF THE NICARAGUAN POPULATION HAS COMPLETED PRIMARY SCHOOL.
FIFTY PERCENT OF THE POPULATION HAS HAD NO SCHOOLING WHATSOEVER. THE
PROPORTION OF STUDENTS THAT LEAVE SCHOOL IN THE FIRST GRADE OR REPEAT GRADES IS
EXTREMELY HIGH (73 PERCENT). ONLY 21 PERCENT OF THE STUDENT POPULATION COMES
FROM THE SECTOR OF SOCIETY AT OR BELOW THE COUNTRY’S AVERAGE. OUT OF 200,000
YOUNG PEOPLE FROM FOURTEEN TO NINETEEN YEARS OF AGE, BARELY 20,000 ARE
ENROLLED IN HIGH SCHOOL OR COMMERCIAL, VOCATIONAL, OR AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION”
1A. Based on the source information, what problems do you
think the author has with the old Nicaraguan education
1B. Based on your previous readings and your own thinking,
how likely are you to trust this document?
1C. Speculate on what sorts of other documents might give
another perspective different from this document. Whose voice
This excerpt comes from a book written by two planners of the Literacy
Crusade and gives FSLN-approved reasons that education was poor
under the old government.
"THE PROMOTION OF UNIVERSAL LITERACY OR ADULT EDUCATION WAS IRRELEVANT AND
POTENTIALLY THREATENING. … ILLITERACY WAS BOTH A CONDITION AND PRODUCT OF THIS
SYSTEM. IN 1979 A SPECIAL CENSUS REVEALED THAT MORE THAN 50 PERCENT OF THE
POPULATION WAS ILLITERATE, A FIGURE WHICH SOARED ABOVE 85 PERCENT IN SOME RURAL
AREAS. THIS PROBLEM WAS NEVER SERIOUSLY ADDRESSED DURING THE DICTATORSHIP
BECAUSE THE PROMOTION OF UNIVERSAL LITERACY WAS NEITHER POLITICALLY ADVISABLE FOR
THE MAINTENANCE OF THE SYSTEM NOR ECONOMICALLY NECESSARY FOR ITS FUNCTIONING.”
This ﬁnal excerpt is a record of a speech given by Tomas Borgé, a FSLN
government leader, to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in
October of 1980.
“YOU NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO THE PEASANTS WHO HAD GREASE SPREAD ON THEIR
GENITALS SO THAT DOGS WOULD EAT THEM. YOU COULD NOT TALK TO THE MEN WHO WERE
SCALPED ALIVE WITH RAZORS AND HAD SALT AND VINEGAR RUBBED INTO THEIR WOUNDS SO
THEY WOULD SUFFER UNTIL THEY DIED. YOU CERTAINLY NEVER HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO
THE PEASANT WOMEN WHO WERE RAPED, AS ALMOST 100 PERCENT OF THEM WERE IN SOME
NORTHERN PROVINCES. PROBABLY YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT THE PEASANTS WHO WERE
BURIED ALIVE IN THE MOUNTAINS. YOU DON’T KNOW THE INCREDIBLY HORRIBLE STATISTICS
ON THE NUMBER OF VICTIMS. YOU HAVE SPOKEN OF THE LARGE NUMBER OF VICTIMS – WE
KNOW THAT THEY NUMBERED IN THE TENS OF THOUSANDS. MORE THAN 100,000
NICARAGUANS WERE KILLED."
2A. Compare this document to the previous excerpt. Does this author
disagree or agree with the previous author?
2B. Based on the background information from the first document,
3A. Who is the audience in this speech? How might who the speaker
is talking to affect how they talk about the old government?
Cardenal, S. Fernando, and Valerie Miller. "Nicaragua 1980: The Battle of the ABCs." Harvard Educational Review 51, no. 1 (1981): 1-26. P. 4.
Borge, Tomás, Carlos Fonseca, Daniel Ortega, Humberto Ortega, and Jaime Wheelock. Sandinistas Speak. New York: Pathﬁnder Press, 1982.
EXAMINING HOW THE FSLN VIEWED
The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade faced criticism when it was
launched from both within the country and internationally for
being overly political. Rather than make it less political, Crusade
planners argued that politics needed to be included. Read the
excerpts outlining their reasons, then answer the following
This excerpt is a quote from Fernando Cardenal, the overall
leader of the Literacy Crusade, explaining why the campaign
pedagogy (teaching method) had to be political.
"IT IS A POLITICAL PROJECT WITH PEDAGOGICAL IMPLICATIONS, NOT A
PEDAGOGICAL PROJECT WITH POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS. THERE ARE NO
NEUTRAL PROJECTS, NOT IN NICARAGUA, NOT IN THE UNITED STATES, NOT
ANYWHERE. EVERY SOCIAL PROJECT CARRIES WITH IT AN IDEOLOGY – IN
ORDER TO MAINTAIN A SYSTEM, TO REPRODUCE A SYSTEM, OR TO SUSTAIN A
PROCESS OF PROFOUND CHANGE."
1A. What is the author trying to convince you of?
1B. What is the reasoning the author uses to support his claim?
1C. Can you think of an example that supports the Cardenal's
reasoning? Can you think of an example that contradicts it?
This is an excerpt from a book written about the Literacy
Crusade by Crusade planners, outlining how politics and
education should come together in Fernando Cardenal's
“EDUCATION, THEREFORE, MUST ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO TAKE CHARGE OF
THEIR LIVES, TO LEARN TO BECOME INFORMED AND EFFECTIVE DECISION
MAKERS, AND TO UNDERSTAND THEIR ROLES AS RESPONSIBLE CITIZENS
POSSESSING RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS … EDUCATION FOR LIBERATION
MEANS PEOPLE WORKING TOGETHER TO GAIN AN UNDERSTANDING OF AND
CONTROL OVER SOCIETY’S ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, AND SOCIAL FORCES IN
ORDER TO GUARANTEE THEIR FULL PARTICIPATION IN THE CREATION OF THE
NEW NATION. LITERACY AND PERMANENT PROGRAMS OF ADULT LEARNING
ARE FUNDAMENTAL TO THESE GOALS. WE BELIEVE THEY ARE ESSENTIAL TO
THE BUILDING OF A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY IN WHICH PEOPLE CAN PARTICIPATE
CONSCIOUSLY AND CRITICALLY IN NATIONAL DECISION MAKING.”
2A. Does this document support the position Cardenal takes in the
previous document? Why or why not?
2B.Compare the idea of "maintaining, reproducing, or profoundly
changing" a system from Document 1 to the ideas about education
and democracy in this document. What would the Nicaraguan
2C. Does the author believe in Cardenal's philosophy? Should we
trust this document more or less based on that? Why or why not?
Hirshon, Sheryl L., and Judy Butler. And Also Teach Them to Read = Y, Tambien, Enséñeles a Leer. Westport, CT: L. Hill, 1983. Pg. 7
Cardenal, S. Fernando, and Valerie Miller. "Nicaragua 1980: The Battle of the ABCs." Harvard Educational Review 51, no. 1 (1981). P. 6.
CLOSE READ PRIMARY SOURCES.
During the Literacy Crusade, volunteer instructors used a
government-issued instructional workbook to help them
teach the basics of reading. These workbooks were all based
around a theme and were printed with pictures representing
this theme. Examine the following images of the workbook,
then use them to answer the following questions on the right.
Images accompanied every Lesson in the workbook. This is the
image for the Lesson 3. Examine it, then answer the last
Republica De Nicaragua. Cruzada Nacional De Alfabetizacion. Ministerio De Educacion. El Amancer Del Pueblo. Republica De Nicaragua, 1980.
Workbook Page 29
GALLERY 1.2 El Amancer del Pueblo (Sunrise of the People)
1A. Does the author of the workbook seem to agree with how
Fernando Cardenal thought about education? Explain your
1B. Does this workbook support a specific group or promote
anyone in particular? Do you see any issues with a government-
made book supporting one group?
2A. What do you see in
the picture? How does the
picture relate to the
2B. Does the picture send
a political message of its
own, different from the
one in the written words of
the workbook? Why or
EXAMINING THE MULTIPLE
PERSPECTIVES OF TEACHERS.
Most of the actual instructors in the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade were
usually Brigadistas, volunteer teachers who primarily came from High
Schools and Colleges. These youthful instructors, some as young as 13, did
the bulk of actual teaching and spent 5 months living with poor rural families
while teaching them. They brought a variety of perspectives to the Crusade
and did not always agree with the government leaders. Read their accounts
and examine the differences in perspective.
This is an excerpt from a Brigadista talking about what they took away
from living for 5 months with a peasant (campesino) family.
“THE EXPERIENCE I TREASURED THE MOST WAS LIVING WITH MY CAMPESINO FAMILY,
ADAPTING TO THEIR WAY OF LIFE … IT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF MY EDUCATION –
LIVING DIRECTLY WITH THEM, KNOWING EXACTLY HOW THEY LIVED – HOW THEY THOUGHT –
HOW THEY SPOKE – HOW THEY EXPRESSED THEMSELVES.”
This is an excerpt talking about why a pair of teachers decided to become
instructors in the campaign.
“MANY OF THE TEACHERS FROM THE INSTITUTE WORKED IN THE NATIONAL LITERACY CRUSADE. MY WIFE
AND I DECIDED TO JOIN THE CRUSADE ALSO. AS CHRISTIANS, WE FOLLOWED THE TEACHING OF THE BIBLE TO
TEACH THOSE WHO DID NOT KNOW AND ALSO, AS FOLLOWERS OF THE PRINCIPLES OF THE SANDINISTA
REVOLUTION, WE WANTED TO HELP CONVEY THESE PRINCIPLES TO THOSE WHO DID NOT KNOW THEM.”
This is an excerpt where a Brigadista describes part of their "teaching"
duties in the poor rural villages.
“THE ‘CAMPESINOS’ HAD ORGANIZED TO RECEIVE US AND PART OF OUR WORK WAS TO HELP
THOSE FIRST COMMITTEES EXPAND INTO COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS, FARMWORKERS
ASSOCIATIONS, WOMEN’S GROUPS, AND PEOPLE’S MILITIA. OR, AS THE MEMBERS OF THESE
GROUPS NOW LIKE TO SAY, IT WAS DURING THE LITERACY CRUSADE THAT THEY “PUT IN THE
BATTERIES” AND GOT GOING.”
This is an excerpt detailing what one Brigadista thought about peasants and
“AMONG THE PEASANTS, THE TRUTH IS THAT LIFE IS DISORGANIZED; IN THE HOUSE EVERYTHING IS STREWN
ABOUT. THE HOUSE IS FAR FROM WHERE ONE BATHES; BY THE TIME YOU GET BACK TO THE HOUSE YOU ARE
DIRTY AGAIN. THE PEASANT IS HARD TO DEAL WITH; YOU TRY TO TEACH HIM BUT HE WON’T LISTEN TO YOU
AND GETS ANGRY ... THE EXPERIENCES OF BEING A TEACHER IS NEAT, BUT SOMETIMES IT CEASES TO BE SO
NICE BECAUSE THERE ARE PEASANTS WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND – THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING. YOU
HAVE TO TAKE IT CALMLY AND REPEAT AGAIN AND AGAIN. TEACHING REQUIRES A LOT OF PATIENCE AND I
DON’T HAVE MUCH PATIENCE”
Barndt, Deborah, and Mary Ann Kainola. The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade: Second War of Liberation: A Collective Project. Canadian Action for Nicaragua. Toronto:
Flora, Jan L., John Mcfadden, and Ruth Warner. "The Growth of Class Struggle: The Impact of the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade on the Political Consciousness of Young Literacy
1A. What does the author probably believe about the Literacy
1B. What evidence does the author use to support what they
2A. What is the author saying motivated them to teach in the Literacy
2B. Does the author disagree with or agree with the government? Does
3A. Based on the source information, what was this Brigadista
doing when they came to villages?
3B. Was this sort of political activity really related to teaching?
4A. What about this excerpt seems different from the others?
4B. Do you trust this account more or less than the others based on the
ways it is different?
EXAMINE VIDEO SOURCES FOR
During the Literacy Crusade, peasants who were
taught to reading and writing skills wrote songs,
poems, and letters to express thanks for their new
literacy skills. Watch the following video, listen to
the music, and read the translated lyrics, then
answer the following questions about the content of
INTERACTIVE 1.1 Mecate - New Song of the Sandinistas
Songs like these, written during and after the Literacy Crusade, celebrate the
efforts by the FSLN to teach peasants reading and writing skills.
1A. Who is singing in the video?
1B. Who does it sound like wrote the song?
1C. What historical events were influencing the writing of
1D. What problems do you see using this as a source to
understand the perspective of the people being taught to
read? Can we trust it as an accurate representation of
1E. Based on the background information from previous
lessons, which group does this video seem to be
1F. Why might looking at a single video not give you the
whole picture about how people felt about the Literacy
1G. What sort of language is used in the song? What is
the singer asking the listener to do?
FINAL THINKING AND QUESTIONS
You have read documents, listened to music, looked at images, and
examined different perspectives. These all focused on one narrow
slice of education, the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade. Discuss and
answer the ﬁnal questions and think about how your understanding
of the education in Nicaragua in 1980 can be applied to your thinking
about schools and learning today.
1A. What was the purpose of education in
the Literacy Crusade. Was there a single
purpose, or did groups disagree? Explain
your thinking and argue whether the Literacy
Crusade had an educational purpose.
1B. What is the purpose of your education?
What are the goals? Is your education
political, like Fernando Cardenal argued?
1C. Is your education fundamentally different
from that of the learners in the Literacy
Crusade? Why or why not?
1D. Is education the same thing everywhere?
In the end, what do you think the purpose of
education is? Explain your reasoning.
Exploring History Vol IV
University of Portland Students
Peter Pappas, Editor
! When I began designing my chapter for our shared iBook, I
considered only a handful of ideas before settling on the Nicaraguan
Literacy Crusade. Having spent the better part of the last year researching
the campaign, becoming intensively familiar with the historiography of the
topic, and looking for sources, I had constructed an excellent library of
documents and evidence to draw from. The iBook design process offered
an opportunity to showcase some of these ﬁndings, and choosing such a
familiar topic meant that much of the grunt work had already been done. I
could focus, almost entirely, on selecting my absolute favorite documents
and creating an educational experience built from those sources.
! Working within the iBook design process offered another opportunity,
however. For months, I have played the role of historian, looking into this
topic to discover new understandings, and form new conclusions. The
nature of the Document Based Lesson format, which puts students into
much of the same role, meant that with some careful planning, I could
provide a lesson that would mirror my own experience, and offer students a
chance at a history project more closely aligned with how academic
historians operate. I sequenced documents in a way that mirrored, in
general execution if not in exact similarity, my own research process, and
my own journey of discovery. In my lesson, students examine some of the
same secondary sources I did to gather context, come to understand the
historical event through the same quotes and excerpts I used, and are
given a chance to carefully examine the same primary materials I did, with
a different but no less meaningful focus.
! One of the aspects of the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade that drew me
to the topic when selecting it for a Thesis, and again when beginning this
project, was it’s relevance to both myself and to a degree, all students. The
Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade is a story of how a nation came together —
albeit in sometimes controversial ways — to better their society. It is a story
of relying on the youth to make this vision happen. As an educator, a
historical event centered around teaching and instruction naturally appeal to
! But I hope that for students, the emphasis on education can bring
some relevance as well. Students spend the lion’s share of their day at
school, immersed in an educational system they’ve known in some form
almost as far back as they can remember. School is a ﬁxture in student’s
lives, and a ﬁxed one at that — a system that changes slowly, is deﬁned by
the past, and presents one narrative of what education is and what it should
look like. Creating a lesson about a project where middle- and high-school
aged students not only played a vital role in a national endeavor, but also
served as teachers themselves, opens up an opportunity for students to
step outside this system and reﬂect on the differences between different
ways we educate. Perhaps, in the process, they can begin to think critically
about their own education, and the structures that facilitate that education.
! Designing a book like this could be challenging at times, from a
mundane technical standpoint, but that challenge never seemed so big as
to obstruct the overall goal. iBooks Author proved to be intuitive enough,
for me at least, to make the real difﬁculty of this assignment the challenge
of sequencing interesting content and providing meaningful questions to
accompany that content. Finishing the chapter was extremely rewarding,
both due to the sharp professional look of the book, and the satisfaction of
being able to incorporate an event I ﬁnd fascinating into a new and fresh
format. This was a fresh look on a topic I have spent much time looking at
already, and the new perspective was valuable and refreshing. Knowing
that I already had most of the documents I needed due to prior research
additionally reinforced to me the value of the skills I have acquired to ﬁnd
sources in the future, for future, similar projects as this.
Class of 2017
University of Portland
REFLECTIONS FROM THE AUTHOR
This eBook is a collaborative project of Peter Pappas
and his Fall 2016 Social Studies Methods Class
School of Education ~ University of Portland, Portland Ore.
Graduate and undergraduate level pre-service teachers were assigned the
task of developing an engaging research question, researching supportive
documents and curating them into a DBQ suitable for middle or high
For more on this class, visit the course blog EdMethods
For more on this book project and work ﬂow tap here.
Chapters in chronological order
1. Mysterious Bronze Age Collapse by Sam Hicks
2. From Revolution to Government by Valerie Schiller
3. Imagination, Innovation & Space Exploration by Molly Pettit
4. The Real Romanovs by Kelly Marx
5. World War I: The Human Cost of Total War by Anna
6. Collectivization and Propaganda in Stalin’s Soviet Union by
7. Holy Propaganda Batman! by Karina Ramirez Velazquez
8. The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade by Scott Hearron
EXPLORING HISTORY: VOL IV
Engaging questions and historic
documents empower students to be
the historian in the classroom.