The Ferguson Syllabus: Talking About Social Justice with Kids

Readers of this blog may or not take an active interest in issues of social justice, which tend to reside (as we confess that we do) on the progressive end of the political spectrum. But it would be hard for anyone in the parenting or educational business to have missed the tsunami of responses to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the shooting by police of Michael Brown.

The shooting and the subsequent community unrest have highlighted any number of issues, from the nature of policing to the extent to which racism is bred in the bone of American society. For high-minded rationalists, the civil unrest is a symptom of something complex and nuanced, and for those who lead from the heart in response to the death of a young, unarmed African American man, these events are indicative of a deep and festering wound in the soul of American society.

For the parents and teachers of interested children, the Ferguson situation seems to require some kind of response; children who pay attention to current events will have questions from which it is hard to turn away. This matter has very much been on the minds of educators, who have tried hard–ourselves among them–to consider the most honest and direct ways of responding to these questions while balancing a teacher’s responsibility to promote thoughtful inquiry against the equally compelling civic obligation to call out injustice and advocate for justice.

To this end–and I know that some of our readers here are in the home-school world and may not be attuned to discourse in the traditional school community–we would like to call attention here to a gathering resource for talking to and teaching kids of various ages, developmental stages, and perspectives about the events that we now refer to simply as “Ferguson.”

If you are familiar with Twitter–and it’s actually a pretty worthy resource for information and ideas relating to educational interests–you may know and understand the “hashtag” concept: that certain topics can be tracked or searched for by hashtag, which is simply a topic name, compressed to a single character string, preceded by the pound sign (#). Thus, anyone with a Twitter account can search or follow the tag (for example) #RedSoxNation (caps optional) to keep tabs on what Boston Red Sox fans are thinking about. Trending events, whether in the news, sports, or entertainment areas, quickly generate their own hashtags, and #Ferguson has been virally popular in recent days.

Educators, eager to gather resources or teaching about “Ferguson,” have created the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus as an identifier for ideas, materials, readings, and approaches to bringing Ferguson-related issues and events into their classrooms. For parents of interested children, as well, a search on #FergusonSyllabus on Twitter will yield useful resources. And if you are home-schooling your child, then the resource will be doubly valuable.

The District of Columbia public school system has also created a handbook of teacher resources on this topic, many of which could be adapted for home use.

We try to stay away from politics here, but the fact is that the events in Ferguson have struck a chord in educational circles that seem to require a response, and so we offer the #FergusonSyllabus as one way for those who are raising and who work with interested children to explore the many serious questions the events in Missouri have been raising for so many of us.

Incidentally, if this inspires you to take the plunge into Twitter, you can follow us there @interestedchild.

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