Social justice is a major topic of discussion due to high-profile news stories like the Michael Brown and Trevon Martin shootings, but there are countless other injustices that are readily available with a click of a button on Youtube. These common, daily discriminations are more noticeable to people of color in communities all over the country.
Whether it be race, diversity, restorative practices, bias, or discussions about poverty, homelessness and police brutality there seem to be a number of recurring questions. These questions represent opportunities for educators to discuss and explore the issues with students. Unfortunately, many educators are left to figure out how to approach these learning opportunities on their own because the available professional development and curriculum resources don’t frame social issues, spotlighted by current events in the media, well enough.
A few years back I was struggling with this very issue and that is when I discovered the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Teaching Tolerance project. In addition to providing professional development for educators, Teaching Tolerance publishes a magazine and develops classroom resources, film kits, and a heap of other great resources. Did I mention this is all free? Well it is, and it is some of the most relevant content available on the subject of diversity, social justice and respecting differences in our schools and communities.
I was excited to hear earlier last month that Teaching Tolerance was developing a curriculum based on Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking, New York Times bestselling book about the current state of racial and social justice in the United States, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
The curriculum, Teaching The New Jim Crow, was just released last week and is geared for High School teachers. It contains a literacy-based teacher’s guide and preparatory materials plus ten lessons that explore many of the issues that author Michelle Alexander elaborates on in her book.
In a recent webinar, Ms. Alexander said that after her book was released many educators told her they wanted to share ideas and thoughts from the book with their classes but they needed resources in a form that would make it accessible in the classroom. Teaching Tolerance worked with Ms. Alexander to create a standards based curriculum, aligned with the Common Core, with a level of rigor that is appropriate for High Schools. I have started to unpack the wealth of content and depth of thought that has gone into the creation of this resource. I hope educators will take a close look at this new curriculum and make it a required component to their overall curriculum for every student and also make the book required reading for all staff.
Do you think this is possible?