For my unit, the focus on citizenship and education stems from wanting to provide a concrete basis for my students. As I've worked with students in New Haven in the past 3 years and issues of citizenship and obtaining citizenship during Reconstruction, the Western Wars against Native Americans, Immigration, and current issues interest my students. They understand how the 14th Amendment provides African-Americans with rights and citizenship but they are left at a loss understanding how the law could be bent against them and how they could so viciously excluded from the rights of citizens. Students need to explore the court cases and people who have led the charge for America's various ethnic groups to receive the access to citizenship and their rights focusing around Education case after we discuss
. I want students to be able to research and experience their struggles and see them as individuals and research beyond the textbook. Publishers and American history textbooks have excluded and overlooked countless stories of the people of North America. Important movements become one-dimensional and often understood solely through their leaders. Martin Luther King's story becomes the story of Civil Rights, as it happens for George Washington for the American Revolution, and Lincoln for Civil War. Students need to discover that these movements and changes were powered by ordinary people with ordinary stories.
Going into the story beyond the figureheads is one aspect. The other needs to be showing students that history is not predetermined. Most students, because of class and curriculum structure, will never see that the events that shape our history are determined by a large series of factors and instead they believe that things were "fated" to happen. This unit opens space for students to explore at least a few of those forces. After examining the organization and orchestration that occurred during the
Plessy v Ferguson
case, students will then explore their own case in a similar light. It is important to ask students how they would vote if they had been a Justice at the time, in order for them to see how changes can occur. Studying these changes and forces will definitely benefit students' insight into how the changes of history occur and unfold. That is why the essential question of this unit "Was America better after
Brown v Board
?", transforms this unit into a work of social critique and not just reporting. Students will have to rely on their own experience and ideas in order to fully examine this question. Their research and their experience will help them assess if schools are completing their civic duty to our citizenry.
Going beyond the textbook in this regard is one of the many keys to long term learning success. It inverts the way most students see learning occurring in the classroom by forcing them to become experts in the different issues surrounding citizenship in American History. This will require teachers, students, and classroom to prepare themselves to work and organize around certain issues that this unit will bring up. The questions are also intended to provide more guidance for people working with these topics to focus their students' work. With this in mind, the four questions will aim to address at least one of the main concerns of the unit.