Choices in Little Rock is a teaching unit that focuses on efforts to desegregate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957—efforts that resulted in a crisis that historian Taylor Branch once described as "the most severe test of the Constitution since the Civil War."
The unit explores civic choices—the decisions people make as citizens in a democracy. Those decisions, both then and now, reveal that democracy is not a product but a work in progress, a work that is shaped by the choices that we make about ourselves and others. Although those choices may not seem important at the time, little by little, they define an individual, delineate a community, and ultimately distinguish a nation. Those choices build on the work of earlier generations and leave legacies for those to come.
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Choices in Little Rock
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Students explore the potential negative impact of images through the social media protest #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and develop a decision-making process for choosing imagery to represent controversial events.
Students examine how identity and biases can impact how individuals interpret images and experience the challenge of selecting images to represent news events, particularly connected to sensitive issues.
Students establish a safe space for holding sensitive conversations, before introducing the events surrounding Ferguson, by acknowledging people's complicated feelings about race and creating a classroom contract.
Students explore the role of social media in Ferguson, apply information verification strategies to social media posts, and develop strategies for becoming critical consumers and sharers of social media.
Students evaluate the differences among news accounts about Ferguson, develop strategies for verifying news and information, and understand the challenges facing journalists as they cover complex, fast-moving events.
Help students become informed and effective civic participants in today's digital landscape. This unit is designed to develop students' critical thinking, news literacy, civic engagement, and social-emotional skills and competencies.
Students identify the responsibilities of citizen watchdogs, summarize strategies for combatting confirmation bias and responsibly consuming and sharing news and information, and complete a culminating essay.
Students review the US Department of Justice report, revisit how confirmation bias impacts our understanding of events, and consider how to bridge the gap in understanding that often surrounds events like Ferguson.