This year has been filled with various events that unveiled unresolved issues American society is currently facing. Racism and race-based inequality are some of the most burning problems that led to considerable unrest in many states, cities, and communities across the country several months ago. The lack of people’s awareness of the cultural heritage of African Americans and the peculiarities of their life may be one of the factors contributing to the existing tension between whites and blacks. Educators should address these gaps and help young people to understand the background of the current situation and associated issues. Being a teacher, I want to contribute to this effort, so I intend to develop a lesson unit for Black History Month.
The central concepts to the topic of the proposed unit include awareness, understanding, equality, racism, activism, and social change. The concepts should be discussed with adolescents as these discussions will have a positive influence on students’ psychological and social development (Smagorinsky, 2002). The understanding of the trends taking place in society is critical for proper maturation according to the major stages of human development (Bergin & Bergin, 2018). The topic of racism and social activism in the United States also has a considerable cultural significance because students learn more about their country’s cultural background and the essence of American multiculturalism.
It has been acknowledged that students learn about complex concepts and events by looking at problems from different angles (Smagorinsky, 2002). Reading diverse sources and discussing related concepts and topics with peers are effective methods to achieve this goal as young people express their views and listen to other people’s arguments (Bergin & Bergin, 2018). Various skills are trained during such activities, which is important for the attainment of academic goals. However, it is also essential to help students prepare for adult life and exposure to numerous complex and often controversial topics, concepts, attitudes, perspectives, and reactions.
American society is still plagued by racism and inequality, which leads to social activism, radical actions, or even criminal activity. Adolescents are specifically vulnerable to have radical reactions due to their developmental peculiarities (Bergin & Bergin, 2018). Their values and worldviews are being formed during this period. Therefore, it is pivotal to assist students to see all the facets of the problem and raise their awareness of similarities and differences between diverse groups residing in the USA.
I intend to devote five to seven lessons to this unit concentrating on racism and social activism with the links towards current events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. The students will read two novels and discuss diverse aspects of the issues touched upon in the books. During lessons five and six, the students will debate on certain topics, expressing diverse views and providing philosophical underpinnings and arguments. I will make sure that the atmosphere will be friendly and positive to encourage learners to share their opinions freely and actively participate in the discussions.
The books to be utilized during the unit will be The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The former is a novel that dwells upon the events related to the lynching of Emmett Till that took place in 1955. Tyson (2017) describes the life in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s, the alleged cause of the lynching, the peculiarities of the law case, and the consequences of this murder.
Some may argue that such controversial topics and events highlighted in the book can make students have negative feelings. However, the exposure to historical events told by a renowned author will encourage students to explore the essence and causes of the events that actually take place. At the same time, people’s inability to address the existing issues and attempts to avoid such discussions lead to misunderstanding and growing tension between groups who know nothing but stereotypes about each other. Adolescents’ exposure to violence in the street without the understanding of some historical background can be much more harmful. Young people may find it difficult to identify the most appropriate way to react in diverse situations they may encounter in their adult or even adolescent life.
As far as stereotypes and actions to be undertaken are concerned, the book by Angie Thomas will help students to look at the problem from another angle. Thomas (2017) describes life of an African American girl from a low-income community, studying in a prestigious school. After the murder of her friend by a police officer, the girl becomes a social activist standing up to police brutality and racism. The description of riots may seem an inappropriate stance for adolescent reading.
Some may assume that young minds may become too radical and choose antisocial types of activism. However, the discussion of the book will lead quite to opposite consequences. We will discuss different forms of activism and antisocial behavior and draw conclusions regarding the reasons for avoiding antisocial ways. Students will have an opportunity to contemplate their own position regarding the most recent events related to police brutality, racism, social activism, as well as more abstract notions, such as empathy, understanding, and society.
In conclusion, the unit addressing the issues of racism and social activism will help students address burning issues in American society. Through the discussion of the tension that has existed for decades, students will develop a deeper understanding of the peculiarities of the nation. Importantly, the discussion of different cultures and the ways they interact in the contemporary United States will help young people become more prepared to live in one of the most culturally diverse countries.
Bergin, C. C., & Bergin, D. A. (2018). Child and adolescent development in your classroom, chronological approach. Cengage Learning.
Smagorinsky, P. (2002). Teaching English through principled practice. Merrill Prentice Hall.
Thomas, A. (2017). The hate u give. Balzer + Bray.
Tyson, T. B. (2017). The blood of Emmett Till. Simon & Schuster.