Skip to content Skip to navigation

More Deadly Than War: How Do We Teach the Lessons of Pandemics — While We Are in One?

a remote learning experience discussing how democracy is threatened and how educators protect democracy
April 8, 2020 - 3:00pm EDT

This webinar is offered complimentary to enhance all learning experiences.

At this moment of global crisis, no topic is more urgent than the Coronavirus. Declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Covid-19 is sweeping the world, affecting individuals in every country, from China and Italy, to South Korea and Iran, to the United States. 

As the number of infections and deaths rises across America, the medical crisis is accompanied by both social and financial concerns. The virus has forced many changes in the way we live, cope and teach. From social distancing to school closings to remote work patterns or — more grimly— how we envision life if we or our loved ones get sick and require hospitalization or quarantine, there is both change and high anxiety in the air.

At the same time, this is a teaching moment for NCSS. Social studies teachers know that “those who don’t learn from that past are doomed to repeat it.” History is instructive. It offers lessons and we are wise to learn them.

In this webinar called More Deadly Than War, we will take a brief look at the history of pandemics, focusing on what the Spanish flu pandemic during World War I meant in America and around the world. While scientists, doctors, and medical writers on the front lines are quick to point out that the Coronavirus and Spanish flu are very different, there is much to learn from the most deadly modern pandemic. What does history teach us about pandemics?

  • What were the most deadly pandemics in history? 
  • How do pandemics disrupt society? 
  • What role do governments play in responding to and managing pandemics?
  • How do war deaths in history compare to deaths from disease? 
  • What happens when governments lie or embrace misinformation and misplaced priorities?
  • What are the specific lessons learned from the Spanish Flu?   
  • What should we be telling our students?


As school systems grapple with huge decisions, our students have questions and so do teachers. This webinar is meant as a conversation, not a lecture, in which we will share our concerns and approaches and try to bring some of the wisdom of the past to bear on the present. Kenneth C. Davis will draw on research from his book More Deadly Than War. He will also be offering 10 free classroom virtual visits, subject to his availability.



Photo credit: Nina Subin
Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times–bestselling author of Don’t Know Much About® History, which gave rise to the “Don’t Know Much About®” series of books, and America’s Hidden History. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives, a Notable Book of the American Library Association in 2017. His most recent book, More Deadly Than War, was also named a Notable Trade Book for Young People by the Children’s Book Council and National Council for the Social Studies. His forthcoming book, Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy, will be published in October 2020.  In addition to his books, Davis has written for the New York TimesWashington PostSmithsonian, and Social Education, among other publications. A frequent guest on national television and radio, he has appeared on CBS This Morning, Today, CNN, and NPR. Davis enjoys both in-person and virtual visits with teachers and students. He lives in New York City and can be found on Twitter @kennethcdavis and through his website, 



Tina L. Heafner, Ph.D. has over 28 years of experience as a social studies educator in K-12 schools and a social studies methodologist in higher education. Tina is the 2019–2020 President of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). She served as Chair of the NCSS College and University Faculty Assembly (CUFA) from 2015–2016. At UNC Charlotte, Tina directs the Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and the M.Ed. in Secondary Education. Her teaching and research focus on effective practices in social studies education with particular emphasis in online learning and disciplinary literacy as well as curriculum and policy issues in social studies.