Over the past several days I’ve been reading over some of the teaching resources and ideas that have been published since the murder of Michael Brown and the militaristic police response to protestors in the weeks that followed. Rethinking Schools and The Morningside Center offer excellent curriculum ideas. My friend and principal Chris Lehmann has a thoughtful post on this and I was happy to see Nicholas Kristof’s recent column about race in the US.
The reality of this country is that, for many, stories similar to what happened to Michael Brown are not uncommon. Many of my students witness violence in their neighborhoods on a regular basis. Many of my students have had or know others who have had negative experiences with law enforcement. Many have had experiences that lead them to feel that their people do not have a fair and equal place at the table.
It is the responsibility of teachers to design curricula that help students critically read and make sense of tragic, horrifying events in the public consciousness. It is also the responsibility of teachers to ask big questions which lead to inquiry and the development of larger analyses and connections.
We need to teach about race, violence, and oppression because of Ferguson. But these issues should already be an integral part of humanities classrooms. Classrooms need to be places where injustice is regularly acknowledged and examined. Space needs to be created for students to share stories and experiences in order to learn from each other and to understand their own realities more deeply.
The role of educators is to help students more fully understand themselves, their society, and their world. Our classrooms need to be places where justice is pursued, silenced voices are heard, and visions of transformation and change are nurtured.