For many teachers, a pall has been cast over the first few days of school. This weekend, a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., turned deadly when a 20-year-old man drove his car into counter-protesters, fatally injuring one woman and hurting 19 others. The Associated Press reported that the high school teacher of the man accused of the incident said he had been fascinated with Nazism in school, and had “deeply held, radical” convictions on race in the 9th grade.
Even before the violence, the images of the white supremacists—including neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan—marching in droves were shocking. And they left many teachers wondering how they would address this overt display of racism and hatred in class.
If you’re a white teacher or TOC, white parent or parent of color, and you’re stuck at “Where do I even begin?” #CharlottesvilleCurriculum✊🏾
— melinda d. anderson (@mdawriter) August 13, 2017
To help start the conversation, Melinda Anderson, a contributing writer for The Atlantic who covers education and race, created the hashtag #CharlottesvilleCurriculum for educators to share websites, videos, and other documents to use in class. Here are some resources, from both the hashtag and elsewhere, that can help start the conversation in your classroom.
- Generation Nation, a nonprofit on civic engagement, tweeted a helpful list of questions teachers can pose to their students to start a conversation.
- Share this 18-minute podcast (or the transcript) with your students: It’s a conversation between an interview with two people who helped organize the counter-rally in Charlottesville to protest the white nationalist demonstration. The podcast covers the history of the KKK in Charlottesville, as well as how anti-racism groups organized and mobilized the community.
- The Anti-Defamation League compiled a guide to talking about the so-called “alt-right” in class, including talking points on the use of propaganda as a recruitment tool and the First Amendment’s protection of hateful speech.
- The Shoah Foundation, a nonprofit that maintains eyewitness records of the Holocaust, released 100 classroom resources for middle and high school teachers that focus on combatting hatred and intolerance.
- The National Network of State Teachers of the Year compiled a “social justice” reading list for educators. The list includes diverse picture books for early learners and equity-themed books for elementary, middle school, and high school students, as well as books for teachers that address culturally responsive teaching practices and equity in the classroom.
- The American Federation of Teachers’ site “Share My Lesson” includes educator-submitted classroom resources on civil rights and social justice, including those on activism and peaceful protests, teaching tolerance and respect, and helping students address their feelings. Educators must register to access these lessons.
- Last summer, after a spate of police killings of black men and the killings of five police officers in Dallas, my colleague Evie Blad compiled resources for discussing race, racism, and traumatic events with students. Many of these will be helpful now, too.
- For more, check out this Twitter-powered #CharlottesvilleCurriculum Google Doc filled with resources for educators, which include a section on having difficult conversations in class.
On Twitter, educators stressed the importance of having these conversations, no matter how intimidating and challenging they can be.
-- Natasha Jefferson (@jefferson_first) August 13, 2017
Yesterday we mourned, today we learn and plan, tomorrow we will teach. Hope is in the classroom. #charlottesvillecurriculum
-- Aubrie Rojee (@RojeeHistory) August 13, 2017
Today is a new day:stand up, speak out against white supremacist, racist, actions. Educators must not be silent. Our sts are listening.
-- Delores Lindsey (@DrDBL) August 13, 2017
And Education Week Teacher opinion blogger Christina Torres wrote that it is essential for teachers to have honest conversations with students about racism and white supremacy.
We must teach our students that the "history" of these events is far from "past" and "passed." The history our students face now is a very living thing that we must learn about in order to affect change for our future. ... As many of us prepare to return to our classrooms, we don't just need to buy flowers and make bulletin boards. We need to prepare and read resources (like #CharlottesvilleCurriculum from Melinda Anderson) that help us make space in our classrooms to discuss these events. We need to ensure that we treat our students' stories and the stories happening right now as a very real, living thing that our kids have the ability to change. They deserve that knowledge. They deserve that power."
Teachers, let us know how you’re discussing the events of Charlottesville in your class in the comments below. Anything I’m missing here? Tweet me, or share in the comments section below.
Photo: Multiple white nationalist groups marched with torches through the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Va. on August 11. —Mykal McEldowney/The Indianapolis Star/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.