How do we help students to move beyond their own perspectives to understand the lives of others? How do we challenge them to deeply understand another person whose life and experiences differ greatly from their own? How do we cultivate empathy, compassion, and even love across the lines of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, and disability?
These questions lie at the heart of social justice education.
To create a truly equitable society, we must be able to empathize with experiences we may never share. We must break down “empathy walls” to transform our society. But how do we do so?
Theater in the history classroom provides one possible answer.
In classrooms throughout the country, the stories of extraordinary women — from Abigail Adams to Carrie Chapman Catt, to Rosa Parks and Dolores Huerta — are taught and celebrated as part of Women’s History Month. The argument for Women’s History Month is that it provides an opportunity for the exploration and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. It’s a compelling argument.
But unless women’s history is integrated throughout the curriculum consistently and authentically, the vitality of women’s participation in U.S. history will be lost on students.
To truly understand American history, diverse women’s stories must be a part of it. Women have always been active participants in American society, and have experiences as complex as the women themselves.
Editors Note: This post was originally published on Catherine’s blog on Medium.
DO NOW: What is Whiteness?
After taking out their supplies and getting ready to engage, my students reacted to the question I’d written on the board as their “DO NOW.”
Some students giggled. Others made faces – perplexed, overwhelmed, entertained. A few began to chat with classmates. Some looked at me hoping for guidance. My co-teacher, having just entered the room, said, “That’s a great question!”
After giving my students time to react, I told them I knew it was a difficult question, but I wanted them to think about it. I told them there were no right answers, but they should draw upon their lived and learned experiences — and that I expected them to try to respond.