What is the most important thing that teenagers should take away from an exhibit including the short-handled hoe?
For teens, there are a lot of different reactions that one could have towards this hoe and I would suspect--and I could be wrong--but I would suspect that there are two different areas that would be important. One would be Chicano history or Latino history, that this hoe really is a great symbol of Latino history in the United States and there's this great opportunity to think about a huge number of Americans and what this means in terms of identity and roots. Beyond that, I think that another important story and for teens is that of fairness.
We did an exhibition several years ago on sweat shops and I frankly was amazed. I expected this show to be of interest to a fairly small group of very well educated adults and I was wrong, that as I read through the comment books where people sat down and wrote comments, some of the most perceptive, some of the most interesting comments were written by middle schoolers and one of the reasons as I looked at those comments, I started to understand was that that is a time in life when one is dealing with peers, one is dealing with pressures of an outside world when [there're] a lot of challenges, when the world looks pretty darn unfair, and teens are very understanding of injustice and can identify with injustice and the short-handled hoe is a symbol of injustice and I think that adults sometimes start to see this kind of injustice in more abstract terms and teens, it's more personal. It's about what happens to them every day, what's really fair, how people treat them.
Interview with Peter Liebhold, National Museum of American History, May 31, 2006.