On August 28, 1963, over 200,000 demonstrators participated in the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” It was the largest demonstration for human rights in United States history and it unified several civil rights organizations. It was on that day that Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. delivered his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, and it was on that day that Americans of various races and religious creeds shared speeches, songs, and prayers led by clergymen, civil rights leaders, politicians, and entertainers.
Dr. King activated the power of voice and helped people understand that you have to possess passion and be equipped with knowledge to make critical, well-informed decisions that improve our society. With social media and technology at times taking the place of marches and protests and augmenting others, the young activist of the new millennium has the power to have the issues of their community heard and seen globally. It is the responsibility of all who teach and mentor them to be sure they know how to get correct information and know how to critically analyze it.
In "The Purpose of Education" (1947), Dr. King wrote, "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."
In the U.S., our political framework requires citizens be involved, informed and engaged. A ‘government of the people’ cannot function if there are no avenues for civic involvement, no methods for community deliberation, or no opportunities to influence government decisions. Elections, petitions, and public deliberation are all a form of civic participation. It is the role of the people to exercise these rights to participate, and the responsibility of the government to respond and respect them.
In this light, immigration is one of many topics where the need for factual information, dialogue, and youth voice are integral for understanding our past and present as a diverse nation. We developed an immigration and civic engagement lesson plan for high school students where they wrestle with the essential and “American” question: how deep is our commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Using our nation’s founding documents and Dr. King’s words as a launching point, students will learn about five historical examples of restrictive immigration law and policy and also about the value of young people’s voices in movements to secure rights. This Common-Core and C3 Framework aligned lesson plan has an adaptable Prezi presentation, Cornell Notes handout, and opportunities for student writing. It would make a great companion to a close read of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech.”
To access our “Teaching Freedom, Fairness, and Equality” lesson plan, please click here.
We thank you for the work you do and wish you a great start to the school year!