About The Bennion Teachers' Workshop

What is the Bennion Teachers Workshop?

The Bennion Teachers' Workshop for the Perpetuation of Democratic Principles is a program made possible by an endowment to Utah State University's Mountain West Center for Regional Studies. The endowment was created by Ione Bennion, a teacher and community activist, to "provide an atmosphere and the educational resources to explore the concepts upon which democracy is built, the conditions under which it flourishes, and the dangers to its existence." Taught by Utah State University faculty and guest speakers who represent the latest scholarship in the topics presented, the workshops focus on giving inservice and pre-inservice teachers practical tools that they can use in the classroom.

highlighting democracy in dictionary

Premise of the 2024 Bennion Teachers' Workshop

What can material objects such as the mundane helmet, a religious text a soldier carried, or a postcard sent from war zones reveal about the experience of twentieth-century war? The 2024 Bennion Teachers’ Workshop will explore this question, using the First World War, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War as case studies. Wars are moments when democratic norms are at their most vulnerable as they upend the structures of politics, economics, and everyday life alike. 

While historians of war traditionally rely on texts to understand past conflict, this interdisciplinary teacher’s workshop focuses on the material culture of modern war. We will examine how objects connect us to past events, places, and experiences. Given the diversity of participants in the military, we will showcase the intersectional identities of veterans in terms of age, class, gender, race, and place of origin. A fuller understanding of the participation of civilians and combatants in America’s modern wars through a study of material culture (objects and artifacts) alongside conventional historical texts enables us to appreciate how such conflicts shape our society and the American experience.

Interactive activities, field trips, hands-on workshops, and lectures with prominent scholars, museum educators, and public history practitioners will allow participants to:
  • Learn how to locate and define innovative historical sources including material objects and oral histories,
  • Use innovative sources including material culture and oral history in community-focused classroom projects,
  • Develop skills with digital tools and archives that focus on material objects and oral history,
  • Engage with public-facing history and its role in shaping new perspectives of the past,
  • Acquire a nuanced understanding of war and its legacies which is vital to being a fully informed democratic citizen.