This unit has been developed for seventh and eighth grade students and it will be taught in social studies, language arts and through team teaching and an interdisciplinary approach.
The unit’s main focus is on the civil rights issues of the nineteen-sixties. It will also focus on the school and some communities. It will focus on the definition of defining human rights including not only political and civil rights, but also social, economic, and cultural rights.
Civil rights are freedoms and benefits that are guaranteed to people by law or tradition. The term “civil rights” refers to guarantees by law of fair and equal treatment for all people, regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities, or personal beliefs.
The term “civil rights” is often used interchangeably with the terms “civil liberties” and “human rights.” Together, these phrases refer to the natural desire of all people to achieve freedom, equality, and justice. They include such basic rights as freedom of speech, religion, and assembly; the right to take part in the political process; and the right to fair and equal treatment under the law. These rights are also protected against government interference. Civil rights and civil liberties are the cornerstones of a free society.
The idea of civil rights and civil liberties has grown out of three main schools of thought. Some philosophers in the 1600s developed the theory of natural law. They argued that because human beings are created by God or nature, people have certain natural rights. The idea of natural rights was later included in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776. It states that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
A second school of that time took the position that rights and liberties came from the political state or society to which a person belonged. According to this group of thinkers, a person living outside organized society had no rights except that of self-defense. Therefore, it was argued only a government with the power to enforce the law can protect the rights of an individual. In order to have rights, then, a person must accept society’s rule.
The third school held that human rights were utilitarian because society benefited from the free and open exchange of ideas. One of the leaders of this school of thought was the English philosopher John Stuart Mill who believed that freedom was good for both society and the individual. Freedom made people think and act for themselves, and this made them better people.
Long before civil rights came to the forefront in the societies, people’s civil rights were being violated. After World War II the record of the federal government on civil rights was mixed. In Asia and Africa particularly, news of mistreatment of Negroes or other signs of color prejudice in the United States always damaged the nation’s reputation. Nevertheless, civil rights became the most controversial political and social problem in the United States.
Civil rights and civil rights acts date as far back as 1865 and earlier, and they continue until today. The Civil Rights movement of the sixties demanded the end of Segregation in all aspects of American life, but that has not happened. There is segregation in almost every facet of our life, from the food we purchase to the school we attend, the church and society at large.
Race relations and poverty played an important role in civil rights. In the sixties one fourth of the poor was nonwhite, although nonwhites comprised only eleven percent of the population. The average minority earned just slightly more than half of whites’ earnings and over half of the minorities were unemployed.
In the sixties several millions of whites escaped from poverty while only a few million of minorities did. Economic was not the only problem; deep-seated prejudices highlighted the lives of minorities who was economically well off. In order to try and eradicate poverty the federal government passed the Economic Opportunity Act and they implemented the Job Corps, a community action program to finance local efforts. Included was an educational program for small children and a system for training the unskilled unemployed.
Young people were in the forefront in both the fight for minorities and women in general. They were discontented, full of dilemmas and conflict and were affected more strongly than the older people and they reacted more forcefully. No valued institution escaped their criticisms including the educational system which poorly met their needs.