The right to public protest is a cornerstone of democracy in the United States, but it’s often presented in the classroom as a historical relic–or an activity solely for adults. Here are some resources that can expose students to this type of activism, both in the past and happening here and now.
Note: resources are grouped by suggested age-level, but may well be appropriate for students of many ages.
For elementary grade students:
Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside, by Kenneth Braswell, as profiled at The Root. Braswell’s book deals with contemporary Black Lives Matter protests as well as previous civil rights protests. Written for kids ages 6-9.
Gwen Gamble had just been released from jail and didn’t want to go back. Shortly before the crusade, the teenager had been arrested for participating in a lunch-counter sit-in and jailed for five days. “We were put in with people who had actually broken the law. It was scary. They weren’t nice,” says Gamble, who was 15.
She and her two sisters were trained by the movement to be recruiters for the Children’s Crusade. On the first day of the march, they went to several schools and gave students the cue to leave. They then made their way to 16th Street Baptist.
“We left the church with our picket signs and our walking shoes,” says Gamble. “Some of us even had on our rain coats because we knew that we were going to be hosed down by the water hoses.”
More information on the Children’s Crusade appropriate for middle and high school students can be found at Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Encyclopedia.
Despite warnings from teachers that there could be consequences for ditching class, students said they were proud to stand up for their beliefs.
Yesenia Flores, 15, a sophomore at Roosevelt High, held a sign: “Trump makes us fear for our lives.”
“All I’ve wanted to do is make my parents proud,” she said. “I can’t make my parents proud if they’re not here.”
Blanca Villaseor, a sophomore at Collegiate Charter High, said she was protesting the president-elect on behalf of her parents. The sign she was holding read: “Latinos contra Trump” — Spanish for Latinos against Trump.
Suzanne Rueda, 15, a sophomore at the downtown Ramon Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, said she’d been protesting since the day after the election. As of Monday, she hadn’t been reprimanded for missing class, but she said she’d heard an announcement that morning over the school intercom that students who missed school could be suspended. She thought that was misguided.
“It feels like we’re leading ourselves,” she said. “We can’t vote. This is all we can do.”
The public radio show “On Being” curates a series of interviews premised on the idea that people with opposing viewpoints can communicate calmly with one another. The series, called The Civil Conversations Project, aims to provide “tools and resources for renewing civic discourse at every level and nourishing common life.” It features audio, transcripts, writing, and activity guides appropriate for high school students and beyond.
Students can to listen to inspiring conversations between, say, opponents and proponents of gay marriage or abortion rights. Or they can try their hand at cultivating conversation among classmates or community members who come at issues relating to race, religion, economics, and the environment from differing or opposing perspectives.
The Civil Conversations Project (CCP) is an open, ongoing conversation offering tools and resources for renewing civic discourse at every level and nourishing common life.
Anchor Editions has some wonderful primary source photographs of the process of Japanese American Internment, taken by none other than the photographer Dorothea Lange. Unlike many of Lange’s other images, these works are not well known–by design. Until 2006, they were quietly kept in the National Archives, unpublished.
Particularly chilling are these words from General DeWitt, justifying the internment action. Emphasis ours:
…It, therefore, follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity.
The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.”
— General John L. DeWitt, head of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command
Unfortunately, since the election there’s been an increase in both incidents of hate crimes and, therefore, the need to track them. Several groups and publications are doing this in formats that can be useful for educators in various ways.
A general note with these resources: the content is intense. Assume that there will be offensive language and disturbing scenarios. They may potentially be more useful as background material for educators, or, with some screening, as sources of scenarios to use in Forum Theatre or other similar exercises.
Each week we will update this post with information about the most recent hate crimes, racist incidents and harassment reported around the country under Donald Trump’s presidency. If you have an incident to report, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include in the subject line: “Hate Crime Tracking.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center Hatewatch has updates dating to November and a separate form, #ReportHate, for reporting an incident. Notable are the analyses of patterns, in particular that “nearly 40 percent of all incidents occurred in educational…settings.”
The SPLC collected reports from news articles, social media, and direct submissions from the #ReportHate intake page. The SPLC made efforts to verify each report but many included in the count remain anecdotal.
While the total number of incidents has risen, the trend line points to a steady drop-off. Around 65 percent of the incidents collected occurred in the first three days following the election.
Other patterns pointed out previously are holding too, notably that anti-immigrant incidents remain the top type of harassment reported and that nearly 40 percent of all incidents occurred in educational (K-12 schools and university/college) settings.
From the National World War II Museum, this is a 9-12 grade curriculum that includes readings on the Bill of Rights and Japanese internment camps in order to help students analyze how and why internment was a violation of multiple Constitutional Amendments. The curriculum also contains some detailed enrichment activities as possible extensions.
The Library of Congress created this 5-8th grade curriculum. It is spread across multiple links and includes primary sources, such as photographs and online exhibits. Some of the student primary source framing material is basic, but it can be applied to a variety of documents. The writing that students are asked to do is varied, including creating a two-voice poem and newspaper article.
The curriculum is available via a series of links. Notable is the tool that allows teachers to search Common Core and other state education standards to check alignment.
While the educators’ material isn’t ready yet, I’m posting this in hopes that it will be soon! This is actor George Takei’s passion project, a musical based on his family’s experience in internment camps during World War II.
A sample lesson plan for middle school through community college students
Students will work together to communicate their opinion on an important issue with their senators and congressperson.
Students will think and talk about congressional districts and how they come to exist.
House of Representatives
If students will not have access to research tools, ID local and state representatives and have their contact information ready to share.
Using the US Census site, prepare to display your state or regions’ map of congressional districting lines.
Decide how best to group students—preselected groups, self-chosen groups, etc. You might also choose to group students whom you know live in the same area (i.e., will have the same representatives).
ID the roles that you’ll use with your students. Be mindful that students’ citizenship or immigration statuses could impact how comfortable they are taking certain roles or giving their names to representatives.
Decide whether students will be contacting their representatives about issues of their own or whether the class will focus on one or two issues in particular.
Come up with a method for calling or writing representatives that will work with your students. You might have them make calls during class time using a school phone, for example, or they may be responsible for emailing representatives out of class.
Good news! There’s something really easy that you can do, that we can all do: call your two Senators and your Representative’s offices and tell them to publicly and vigorously oppose the appointment. Don’t email. Don’t tweet. Don’t fill out the online form. Call. Calling works best. Especially if a lot of us do it.
Gabriel Stein has written a quick, easy guide to calling your representatives. Students can do it too! Congresspeople and senators are constitutionally mandated to represent the people in their district, not just eligible voters.
Next post, an example lesson plan for one way to integrate this kind of outreach into a classroom.
The number one question I get is, “ What can I do?” In that question already lies the answer. Follow your instincts to do some- thing you believe in or care about. When you get to the end of your day or your life, you must answer to yourself, to be able to say, “If I saw something wrong, I spoke up.” When you make a decision based on instincts, you won’t regret things later.
–Gerda Weissman Klein
From the Southern Poverty Law Center, in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, is the middle school curriculum, “One Survivor Remembers.” The title’s survivor, Gerda Weissman Klein, was a prisoner for six years in a Nazi concentration camp.
The curriculum includes free online access to a 1995 documentary on Klein’s life, a contemporary interview with Klein, a detailed teacher’s guide, digital handouts and primary documents, and lesson plans.