Tag Archives: Bonus Army

Marchand’s Lessons Inspire In-Class Innovation

Today’s post is from Bruce Lesh, a high school teacher in Maryland and author of “Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?”: Teaching Historical Thinking in Grades 7-12.

Several years ago, in the midst of changing my instructional program in order to put my high school students in the position of investigating the past, I came across the work of Roland Marchand. Tipped off by a professional colleague from California, I felt as if a door had been opened. Here, within one website, were the assiduously collected materials of a fellow history teacher who understood that students need to be immersed in the materials of the past in order to find value in its study and to develop the skills necessary to be productive members of society. Not only had Marchand collected a wide variety of historical sources, he had the foresight to organize them under thoughtful historical questions which structured their investigation. Ideas that had been germinating in my classroom coalesced as I saw how Marchand organized instruction around student debate about historical evidence. Much of the work I encountered became the basis for the historical investigations I use with my students. While exploring the site, The Bonus Army quickly drew my interest. The interplay between the following sources convinced me that the question of responsibility for the removal of the Bonus Marchers was fertile ground for my high school students to investigate:

  • Excerpts from The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: The Great Depression published in 1952.
  • Excerpts from Douglas MacArthur’s Reminiscences, published in 1964.
  • Statement to the press by General MacArthur, July 28.
  • Excerpt from General George Van Horn Moseley’s unpublished autobiography, One Soldier’s Journey
  • In At Ease: Stories I Tell To Friends (1967) Dwight D. Eisenhower

Over the years, my instinct about The Bonus Army has been rewarded with students investigating the evidence, applying that evidence to the overarching historical question, and developing interpretations substantiated with information derived from the evidence. Marchand’s Documentary Source Problems are the instructional forerunner of much of the work that has been done in history education. I still frequently find myself accessing the site for information, sources, and inspiration. My only regret is that I never got to meet Roland and pick what must have been a brain bountiful with ideas about inspirational history instruction.

Further reading:

Related lesson in the Marchand Collection:


From the publisher’s description of Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?”

Every major measure of students’ historical understanding since 1917 has demonstrated that students do not retain, understand, or enjoy their school experiences with history. Bruce Lesh believes that this is due to the way we teach history — lecture and memorization. Over the last fifteen years, Bruce has refined a method of teaching history that mirrors the process used by historians, where students are taught to ask questions of evidence and develop historical explanations. And now in his new book “Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?” he shows teachers how to successfully implement his methods in the classroom.

Why Won’t You Just Tell Us the Answer?” is available from IndieBound, Amazon, or directly from Stenhouse.

Examining the Past through an “Occupy” Lens

“It would have been a rare spectacle indeed to see troops patrolling Pennsylvania Avenue to protect the life of the President of the United States against a possible attack by a handful of weary, footsore, and bedraggled war veterans.”

Mauritz A. Hallgren in The Nation, July 27, 1932

The Bonus Army marching in parade in Washington, D.C., 1932

The Library of Congress’ recent blog post “Occupying” the Bonus Army Protests of 1932 got History Project staff very excited. One of the treasures left to us by the late Roland Marchand was his collection of “Documentary Source Problems” which were digitized and launched on-line as Adventures in Roland Marchand’s File Cabinet in 1999.  His lesson The Bonus Army in Washington provides context and has students investigating whether the actions taken by the Veterans to occupy the mall in Washington D.C. were a “courageous defiance of lawlessness and a budding revolution” by analyzing documents from the event and considering questions such as: “Was there clear evidence that a Communist-led revolution was in the making,” “Was the Hoover administration trying to provoke a conflict by ordering the eviction of the veterans,” and “Did the clashes between police and the bonus marchers on July 28 amount to an actual riot?” We suggest that current events including the “Occupy” movement in the US as well as protests in the Middle East provide ways for students to make connections to this event from the Great Depression as well as other protest events throughout history.  These protest events provide avenues to discuss how and why citizens seek redress and why this may or may not lead to change. We invite you to peruse this documentary source problem and share your thoughts about using this approach in the classroom with us. The Bonus Army lesson, which has been adapted for high school students, is also available in its original format for use with university students.