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The Difficulties of Teaching Social Justice & How to Teach About Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Difficulties of Teaching Social Justice & How to Teach About Martin Luther King, Jr.

Teaching social-justice can be a difficult job for teachers, and as a result many schools present a “simplistic and clichéd image” of important and divisive social issues, says The Atlantic.

In order to avoid glazing over history with this cliche material, many educators suggest approaching teaching social justice issues in a different way. This applies to teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement.

"As the country observes the federal holiday named in King’s honor, it seems that schools are increasingly coming under sharp criticism from educators and activists for their approach to teaching King’s life. Some question a sanitized teaching of the black civil-rights movement, its leaders, and other struggles for social justice that denies students an accurate and complete account of history,” The Atlantic says.

Many argue that the way schools currently educate about King treats him as more a myth than a man, focusing only as him being a “champion of racial unity” as opposed to focusing on the “better part of his words and actions,” said Greg E. Carr, chairman of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University to The Atlantic.

Carr recommends using the primary sources of King’s speeches, statements and actions to best teach students about King’s influence over history, and that understanding of the movement should not stop and start with King.

“'The best way to teach King is to [study] the black people who produced him, who surrounded him, who continued his work,’” Carr said according to the article.

Carr says with the current resurgence of “movement activism,” creating a deeply-rooted understanding of the history of social justice in the country will better help students think independently.

Some materials Carr suggests teachers start with are The Pacific Radio Archives and "the 1970 documentary King: A Filmed Record...Montgomery to Memphis with original footage of civil rights actions.” He also suggests looking at n Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project.

Read the full story.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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