Democracy Dies in Darkness

Answer Sheet | Analysis

The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about hatred in America. Here's help.

By Valerie Strauss

August 13, 2017 at 10:28 AM

Rescue personnel help injured people after a car ran into counterprotesters after an white nationalist rally in Charlottesville on Saturday. (Steve Helber/AP)

(Update: Adding more information)

#CharlottesvilleCurriculum: That’s the new Twitter hashtag for educators, parents and anyone else looking for resources to lead discussions with young people about the violence that just erupted in Charlottesville, when white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members marched and clashed with counterprotesters. One woman was killed and 19 were injured when a car rammed into the counterprotesters, and two state police officers assisting in the response died when their helicopter crashed on the outskirts of town.

The 2017-2018 school year is getting started, and teachers nationwide should expect students to want to discuss what happened in Charlottesville as well as other expressions of racial and religious hatred in the country.

While such discussions are often seen as politically charged and teachers like to steer clear of politics, these conversations are about fundamental American values, and age-appropriate ways of discussing hatred and tolerance in a diverse and vibrant democracy are as important as anything young people can learn in school. Civics and history education have taken a back seat to reading and math in recent years in “the era of accountability,” but it is past time for them to take center stage again in America’s schools.

The white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan staged their largest rally in decades to “take America back,” displaying Confederate and Nazi flags as they targeted every minority in the United States. Given that the population of students in America’s school are now majority-minority, that’s a lot of young people.

The hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum was started by Melinda D. Anderson,  a contributing writer to the Atlantic, who wrote in an email:

“I started the hashtag for a very simple reason: I know that in these situations a common reaction by educators is, ‘What should I say? Where do I even begin?  I also know that lots of educators are on Twitter – and they look to the platform to connect and learn. So I wanted to create a way to crowdsource resources that would help them begin to explore the historical underpinnings of white supremacy and use the materials to help bring context and clarity to Saturday’s events in Virginia — so they could carry that back to their classrooms and schools.

Teachers and others are already posting material on Twitter:

The American Federation of Teachers has also collected links for teachers, here, and below is a detailed guide from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program on how teachers, counselors and administrators should respond to hate and bias when they are manifested in school. Teaching Tolerance offers a long list of resources for educators, with lessons plans and other material. You can find all of that here.

Responding to Hate at School 2017[1] on Scribd

Here are materials from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for educators, complete with lesson plans and other resources, and below is a full lesson on hate crimes from Teaching Tolerance, which is offering an Educator Grants program that will provide $500 to $5,000 for projects that educate students to thrive in a diverse society, promote a positive and affirming school climate, and help marginalized students. Educators who work in public or private K-12 schools, as well as alternative schools, therapeutic schools and juvenile justice facilities, are eligible to apply at tolerance.org/about/educator-grant-guidelines[tolerance.org]. Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis.

The lesson:

Activities meet the following objectives:

Essential questions

Materials

Pencil and paper
Internet access

Vocabulary 

hate |hāt|
(noun) A strong feeling of dislike.
(verb) To strongly dislike.

crime |krīm|
(noun) An act or behavior that breaks a law. A crime is usually punished by a fine or prison time.

law |lô|
(noun) A rule that helps keep order within a society.

legislation |ˌlejəˈslā sh ən|
(noun) A law or laws passed by a government body.

Procedure

Reading/Language Arts/ELL
1. The word “hate” is a strong one. But we often use it in a casual way. Think about the times you have used it to describe your reaction to something.

Social Studies
1. As a class, brainstorm examples of rules that you live by every day — at home, school and in your community. Discuss some reasons for these rules or laws. (Examples might be traffic laws intended to keep drivers safe, school rules that help keep students and teachers focused on learning, or laws in your community that protect its citizens from others who might harm them.)

Within each group, take notes on the information needed for your group’s presentation.

POLITICAL CARTOON

 

Reprinted with permission. Teachers may purchase individual cartoons for lesson plans at PoliticalCartoons.com.

In this editorial cartoon, artist Daryl Cagle depicts a group of students expressing “hate” for an undisclosed group of people. In pairs or small groups, discuss:

External Links

Preventing Youth Hate Crime: A Manual for Schools and Communities

Related Resources

LESSON

Critiquing Hate Crimes Legislation

This lesson leads students to analyze the nature of hate and explore legislation that addresses hate crimes.


Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

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