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December 17, 2014 0

Bring Malala, Ferguson, Unaccompanied Minors and Ebola into the Classroom

Malala.  Fer­gu­son. Immi­gra­tion. Ebola. Voter ID Laws. Cli­mate Change.  These are just a few of the top­ics teach­ers are reg­u­larly and actively bring­ing into their classrooms.

Unaccompanied Minors essay pic for blogWhether they teach Eng­lish, Social Stud­ies, Advi­sory or another sub­ject and whether they have five min­utes or decide to do a week– long study, teach­ers know that top­ics in the news will engage and inter­est stu­dents in a deep and mean­ing­ful way.  Research shows that cur­rent events instruc­tion has a long list of ben­e­fits for stu­dents includ­ing skill devel­op­ment in read­ing, writ­ing, vocab­u­lary, crit­i­cal think­ing, media lit­er­acy, speak­ing and lis­ten­ing.  It also helps to develop life­long informed cit­i­zens and inter­est in the news.

Young peo­ple want to be part of the pub­lic con­ver­sa­tion and talk about what’s cur­rent and in the news.  Cur­rent events instruc­tion pro­vided an oppor­tu­nity to con­nect the present with the past; address impor­tant top­ics like bias, bul­ly­ing, diver­sity and social jus­tice; and build crit­i­cal social and emo­tional skills like emo­tions man­age­ment, empa­thy and eth­i­cal decision-making.

Julie Mann is a high school teacher in New York City. She teaches a Human Rights class and brings a wide range of top­ics, events and sto­ries to her stu­dents, most of whom are recent arrivals to the United States and Eng­lish Lan­guage Learners.

Malala Quote for Blog

In Octo­ber when Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize, Julie decided Malala would be a great per­son for her stu­dents to learn more about, as a youth activist who advo­cates for girls’ edu­ca­tion.  Julie wrote a Donors Choose grant to pro­vide copies of I Am Malala for all of her stu­dents and taught ADL’s Who Is Malala Yousafzai? les­son with her stu­dents.  Stu­dents learned more about Malala’s back­ground, per­spec­tive and what she stands for by read­ing an arti­cle and watch­ing her 2013 speech at the United Nations.  Then, stu­dents read and reflected on some of Malala’s most sig­nif­i­cant quotes, talked about their mean­ings and made posters out of the quotes.

Because many of Julie’s stu­dents are from the three “North­ern Tri­an­gle” coun­tries in Cen­tral Amer­ica (Hon­duras, Guatemala and El Sal­vador) most impacted by the chil­dren on the bor­der cri­sis which peaked this sum­mer, Julie decided to teach the Who Are the Chil­dren At Our Bor­der? les­son.  Stu­dents read sto­ries of two chil­dren who recently trav­eled to the U.S. by them­selves, watched a news video about the sit­u­a­tion, explored their own thoughts and feel­ings and finally, wrote per­sua­sive let­ters to Pres­i­dent Obama to con­vey their per­spec­tives, using “evi­dence” they learned to sup­port their points of view.

Ferguson student picture for Blog

As Julie’s stu­dents were deeply moved and impacted by the recent non-indictments of the police offi­cers involved in the deaths of Mike Brown (Fer­gu­son, MO) and Eric Gar­ner (Staten Island, NY), Julie again turned to ADL’s teach­ing mate­ri­als: Teach­ing About Fer­gu­son and Beyond  to help stu­dents learn more about the issue and sort through their thoughts and feel­ings.  She pro­vided back­ground read­ing, showed a Jay Smooth video  and had them look at rel­e­vant pho­tos while respond­ing to ques­tion prompts such as: What do you see in the image?  How does the image make you feel and why?  What are your hopes and wishes?

In explor­ing these three cur­rent events, Julie is teach­ing her stu­dents to think crit­i­cally, under­stand impor­tant events that are hap­pen­ing in the world, express their thoughts and feel­ings about the issue and do some­thing about it. For more les­son plans and cur­ric­ula resources, check out ADL’s Cur­rent Events Class­room.

 

 

 

 

 

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October 3, 2014 2

California Takes Lead In Ending School-To-Prison Pipeline

Cal­i­for­nia has once again shown itself to be a leader in pro­mot­ing civil rights and equal­ity for all by ban­ning school sus­pen­sions for K-3rd grade stu­dents and expul­sions for all stu­dents under the sub­jec­tive and often-abused “will­ful defi­ance” stan­dard in the Edu­ca­tion Code.  As part of our mis­sion to fight big­otry of all kinds, ADL has had a long his­tory of sup­port­ing equal access to qual­ity edu­ca­tion for all students—the goal promised in the land­mark Brown v. Board of Edu­ca­tion Supreme Court rul­ing in 1954.  This momen­tous change in Cal­i­for­nia law, which ADL proudly sup­ported, will bring us a sig­nif­i­cant step closer to that ideal.school-to-prison-pipeline

The new law spec­i­fies that a pub­lic school stu­dent in grades 6–12 may be sus­pended for will­ful defiance—which can be as minor as a dress code vio­la­tion or fail­ure to hand in homework—only after the third offense in a school year, and pro­vided that other means of resolv­ing the behav­ioral prob­lems were first attempted.  The law also pro­hibits a school from rec­om­mend­ing that stu­dent for expul­sion solely for will­ful defi­ance.  The law now encour­ages schools to invest in chil­dren rather than resort­ing to harsh out-of-school dis­ci­pline for rel­a­tively minor offenses.  Its pas­sage will ensure that stu­dents remain where they need to be—in class—and not on the streets or in the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

Although there are many fac­tors that con­tribute to a student’s inabil­ity to thrive in school, the cycle of sus­pen­sions and expul­sions is among the best indi­ca­tors of which stu­dents will drop out.  Stu­dents who drop out of school have more dif­fi­culty find­ing gain­ful employ­ment, have much lower earn­ing power when they are employed, and ulti­mately are more likely to wind up in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.  This trou­bling phenomenon—which dis­pro­por­tion­ately impacts stu­dents of color, stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, and stu­dents who iden­tify as les­bian, gay, bisex­ual or trans­gen­der—has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”  Work­ing to dis­man­tle the pipeline has become a key focus of ADL’s civil rights and edu­ca­tion agendas.

Both the Los Ange­les Uni­fied School Dis­trict and the San Fran­cisco Uni­fied School Dis­trict have already com­pletely banned sus­pen­sions and expul­sions for will­ful defi­ance, tak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant step towards dis­man­tling the school-to-prison pipeline.  California’s new statewide law will sun­set in three and a half years.  Dur­ing this time, ADL will be work­ing with coali­tion part­ners on new bills and ini­tia­tives to strengthen pro­tec­tions for stu­dents and develop addi­tional alter­na­tive meth­ods for chang­ing neg­a­tive stu­dent behav­iors with pos­i­tive interventions.

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July 2, 2014 0

From the Archives: ADL & the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – Part 1

News­pa­pers head­lined accu­sa­tions of police bru­tal­ity. Steel hel­mets became stan­dard daily equip­ment for police­men in a grow­ing net­work of cities besieged by riots … This was the long, hot sum­mer civil rights experts had warned against – a long, hot sum­mer that threat­ened to become the Amer­i­can year-round cli­mate. – ADL Bul­letin, Octo­ber 1964

President_Kennedy_addresses_nation_on_Civil_Rights,_11_June_1963

Pres­i­dent Kennedy addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963

It was in the midst of this “long, hot sum­mer” that Con­gress passed and Pres­i­dent John­son signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a sweep­ing bill that pro­hib­ited seg­re­ga­tion in pub­lic places and required deseg­re­ga­tion of pub­lic schools. A tumul­tuous period of debate and fil­i­buster in Con­gress was the last hur­dle in the long and ardu­ous process that pre­ceded its passage.

Com­mit­ted to fight­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion since its found­ing, ADL had sup­ported Con­gress’ pas­sage of the first fed­eral civil rights leg­is­la­tion in over eighty years, the Civil Rights Act of 1957. As plans for a new bill began to take shape, ADL joined a coali­tion of civil rights and reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions that fer­vently lob­bied leg­is­la­tors to pass it.

On June 11, 1963, just two months after not­ing ADL’s “tire­less pur­suit of equal­ity of treat­ment for all Amer­i­cans” dur­ing his address at ADL’s 50th annual meet­ing, Pres­i­dent Kennedy addressed the day’s events, which included a dra­matic stand­off with Alabama Gov­er­nor George Wal­lace, and intro­duced the Civil Rights Act in a tele­vised speech. In a last ditch effort to pre­vent the deseg­re­ga­tion of the Uni­ver­sity of Alabama, Gov­er­nor Wal­lace placed him­self in the door of Fos­ter Audi­to­rium to block the enroll­ment of two African Amer­i­can stu­dents, Vivian Mal­one and James Hood. Gov­er­nor Wal­lace relented after a pres­i­den­tial procla­ma­tion com­manded him and any­one else “engaged in unlaw­ful obstruc­tions of jus­tice” to step aside, and Mal­one and Hood suc­cess­fully enrolled in the sum­mer session.

Over the course of that year Amer­i­cans wit­nessed increas­ing momen­tum in the civil rights move­ment and blood shed, includ­ing the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy in November.

To be continued…

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