Stories That Need to Be Told

On Monday, January 17th, 2022, we will honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. in the United States. I say, “we,” though I know that not everyone, even today, appreciates this man’s contributions to the advancement of civil rights for all. And there is a disturbing amount of people in our country who would rather not acknowledge our past. Some will ignore the date, some will protest against it, and some will argue that commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. somehow harms the children of this generation.

My anti-racist link for this week is to a Storycorps video about one of the men who motivated Martin Luther King Jr. to become an activist, Maceo Snipes. Snipes was an army veteran who returned from fighting for our country in World War II, voted the next day, and was murdered for exercising his right — one of the many rights he defended valiantly as a soldier.

This egregious crime prompted a young college student, Martin Luther King Jr., to write a letter that was published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. In that letter, King refers to the “scarecrow” arguments racists utilize to defend their terrible acts, attempting to justify themselves by claiming they were only protecting White people from Black people who want to take over. Sound familiar?

We often recall Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech this time of year, but I think we need to make sure we don’t forget why that speech needed to be made. It’s not pleasant to think about the horrific sins of our past, but we are in grave danger of returning to them if we choose to ignore them.

For more resources for teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr., you can go here. I will also be adding a link to this post to my collection of Anti-Racist Resources.

Photo by Wilson Rodriguez on Pexels.com

Native American Heritage Month 2021

Although it is not mentioned in this history of the origins of Native American Heritage Month, I imagine it is not a coincidence that November, the month when we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, has this designation. Traditional stories of the first Thanksgiving are often misleading about the roles played by the Native Americans (who some prefer to refer as Indigenous Peoples) and the Europeans, and the holiday is rife with opportunity for cultural appropriation. Last year, I shared some materials to help teachers honor the rich cultural influences and contributions of our American Indigenous Peoples, and I want to summarize that list and add to it this year. I’ll be adding a link to this post in my Anti-Racist Wakelet, as well as in my Thanksgiving/November Wakelet.

Lastly, if you are short on time (as most educators are!), I think this brief summary of “5 Orientations to Support Indigenous Studies Curriculum” is a very helpful reference to aid us in avoiding the harmful language that perpetuates myths and stereotypes surrounding Native Americans.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

I am ashamed to say that I have lived in San Antonio for over 30 years and only became aware of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) a few years ago. The holiday originated in Mexico, but is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd by people all over the world who have Mexican heritage. With its proximity to the American holiday of Halloween on October 31st, as well as the proliferation of skulls and skeletons, Día de los Muertos may be confused by some as another excuse to wear costumes and ask for candy, but those are not the purposes of Día de los Muertos. Instead, it is a time to remember those who have died — not in a mournful way, but one of joyous respect. Private altars dedicated to dead relatives and friends are built in some homes, while a number of families visit graveyards to clean and decorate the resting places of those no longer living.

Special traditions are observed during this holiday, including one of the most famous: sugar skulls. Unfortunately, coloring or decorating sugar skulls may be all that non-Mexicans learn about Día de los Muertos in school, and those activities in and of themselves are not the most meaningful way for students to understand another culture. (Tomorrow’s Anti-Racist post will be about how to examine whether or not an action or activity is an example of cultural appropriation.) I have collected some resources that include short videos, websites, and lesson plans you can use in this Wakelet.

If you have any other suggestions for resources or if I made any mistakes in my explanation of Día de los Muertos, please let me know.

Día de los Muertos Altar Display at Pearl Brewery in 2018

Jon Stewart, M.C. Hammer, and Data

I spend a lot of time curating random things that interest me (see my NEO post on my curation methods here) , and I sometimes find obscure connections that inspire me to group them together into a blog post. As I was browsing my “Blog Ideas” Wakelet after my morning dog walk, I rediscovered a couple of resources I’d saved that correlated quite well with the podcast I’d just been listening to, Smartless. First, I’ll share a screen shot of this tweet from @AlvinFoo:

Next up, I have the updated Interactive Media Bias Chart, which has also been included in my Wakelet for “Evaluating Online Information.” (My daughter had originally shown me this site when she was taking a Journalism class last year, and I found it fascinating.) Whether you agree with its findings or not, it’s definitely worth discussing with older students when talking about current events and/or the reliability of news sources.

And, lastly, I have a quote from Jon Stewart that he attributes to M.C. Hammer (beware an expletive near the beginning) — and it is something we should never forget when looking at any data, including standardized test scores in education (click here if the embedded audio does not appear below):

There is nothing quite so satisfying as finding a way to tie together so many seemingly disparate topics in one post, so I consider my work done for today 😉

Teacher Checklist for Current Events

As school boards, districts, and states pile on bans of teaching Critical Race Theory in the classroom without even understanding what they are censoring, others are substituting vague language in weak attempts to disguise these racist laws. I am not a lawyer or a history teacher, but I oppose any efforts to restrain students from learning the truth and exercising their own critical thinking on the lessons that could be learned from that truth. I also think it’s important to keep things relevant in the classroom, and that means that current events should not be ignored. Facing History has a free checklist for educators to use for planning purposes when considering current events. You will need to create a free account on the site in order to download this editable PDF, which also has links to reliable news sources as well as suggested strategies to use during student discussions. Armed with this and a list of the state standards you are addressing, you can be prepared to help students make connections between the past and the present, as well as to their own personal experiences.

I will be adding this post to my Wakelet of Anti-Racism Resources. Click on this link to find more!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Free New York Times Webinar for Discussing Race and Racism in the Classroom

The New York Times is offering an on-demand webinar for teachers to learn about ways to use the NYT resources to discuss race and racism in the classroom. This is a free webinar, but you will need to register in order to access it. You will be able to download a certificate as evidence of professional development hours. In addition, there are comprehensive resources available here. Nationwide attempts to discourage and even outlaw discussions like these make it more important than ever for these conversations to happen. I will be adding this resource to my Anti-Racism Wakelet. You can find more links to free materials to help you actively stand up against racism there.

Photo by Viktoria Alipatova on Pexels.com
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