Teachers can be easily overwhelmed with the number of resources available to help us do our jobs…but I’m going to add another one anyway.
Facing History and Ourselves is a site that challenges teachers and students to “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” (Mahatma Gandhi). This website contains lessons and activities that teach students how to critically assess historical events that epitomized prejudice, hatred, intolerance, and racism (to name a few). Children–our students–are constantly exposed to dysfunctional relationships and interactions in video games, movies, and TV. What they see informs their mindset and potential actions.
To address social justice issues, it is important that teachers use events from history to teach students to ask the difficult questions, develop empathy, and critically analyze the details. Social justice focuses on equity and equality as a basic human right, empowerment, and promotion of social responsibility. But social justice issues are not solely regulated to the past. Unfortunately, our current social and political climate continues to offer a plethora of social justice issues. Some of our students (or at least their parents) fled their home countries because of civil unrest, injustice, and even genocide. What better way to make learning meaningful and relevant but to have them explore the historical events that prompted their parents to seek a better life here in the United States? And why not also explore why others have not been able to leave? What barriers exist that prevent people from escaping the various types of injustices inflicted upon them?
So all this begs the question, how can we help our students to become informed citizens? To give them the confidence that they voices matter? To show them that they can BE THE CHANGE?
Well, I think one good place to begin is by exploring the Facing History and Ourselves site. But this stuff isn’t just for the history classrooms; social justice issues do not exist within a particular realm or discipline. All educators have a responsibility to teach students about their civic duty, to empower them with knowledge, and to give them a voice.
Let’s be the change.