Target: Arne Duncan, Secretary of the United States Department of Education
Goal: Tell schools to add protest lessons to curriculum
We recently passed the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legendary “I have a dream” speech. The 250,000 display of people that day is one of the most inspiring demonstrations of the Civil Rights movement, of all protest movements because it shows how activism can lead to real change, as in the passage of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is a lesson that should be taught to children in schools; children should learn that they too can stand for social justice through protest. Please call for schools to educate children on key protest movements in history and how to execute demonstrations themselves.
The Unite campaign in the United Kingdom is pushing for educational reforms to include lessons on protesting in schools. Kids are shown videos on how to make placards with powerful messages. Critics in the United Kingdom, like news publication The Daily Mail say that these lessons are about “how to carry out militant protests”. These videos are not aimed towards militancy, but simply teach children ways to peacefully make themselves heard. Children in the United States would surely benefit from these lessons as well. Students should also be taught to look to figures like Martin Luther King Jr. for lessons on how boycotts and marches can elicit real change. Rosa Parks can teach children that every action has the potential to spark something bigger than ourselves. Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head and neck by the Taliban for demanding education for girls and still carried on her protest, can teach students qualities like perseverance in order to empower the powerless and oppressed.
Children worldwide should learn how powerful their voice can be, and even more so when it becomes a collective voice and a movement. Please encourage schools to teach children the history of protest movements and how they too can challenge the status quo in order to make the world a fairer, more human place.
Dear United States Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan,
Children in the United States should be exposed to protest movements across history in school. They should learn how activism has resulted in real reforms, such as the Civil Rights movement and the Women’s Suffrage movement, but most importantly children should learn that speaking out against oppression demonstrates empathy and compassion. I would like to encourage the Department of Education to look to the United Kingdom’s Unite campaign, which shows students videos on how to make signs with messages that aim to make the world a more just place, accompanied with lessons about key figures and demonstrations in protest history.
These lessons will teach children on how to exercise their rights as citizens, to speak out against something they see as wrong and unjust. Children, vulnerable as they are, would surely benefit from being encouraged to speak out, to empower themselves with their own voices.
Criticism against this kind of education, like The Daily Mail’s espousal that the Unite campaign’s videos try to teach children on “how they might make protests more threatening”, completely miss the point. Protests are meant to be challenges, not threats, to the authorities in charge. The Guardian journalist, Patrick Strudwick, articulates the real aim of protest education as a way to teach children that a “protest isn’t simply a march, a petition, a boycott, or a placard. It is the very essence of empathy and humanity: to demand power listens to the powerless. And they must know, too, that in the end it always does.” Please incorporate the history of protest movements and lessons on how to peacefully demonstrate into the national curriculum.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: U.S. Information Agency, Press and Publications Service via Wikimedia Commons