“Society is a home we build together,” writes Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. “Making something together breaks down walls of suspicion and misunderstanding.”1 In recent years, however, a politics of difference has heightened suspicion and misunderstanding and threatened the ideals of liberal democratic society. This scheme of work is designed to inspire students to stand up for their democracy, and to help foster in them the critical thinking, mutual respect, and toleration necessary to renew the common enterprise of maintaining and sustaining a society together.
These 15 lessons, designed for use in classrooms in the United Kingdom, explore ideas and historical events that have global resonance. They are grouped together into four themes that are central to the mission of Facing History and Ourselves and at the heart of the process of bringing about a more humane, just, and compassionate society rooted in democratic values:
- The Individual and Society: The first four lessons explore the complexity of each of our multifaceted identities as students examine the essential question: What is identity? What makes each of us who we are?
- We and They: The next five lessons prompt students to grapple with the ways we tend to divide ourselves at every level of society, and how “in” and “out” groups tend to minimise the complexity of our identities by elevating in importance single characteristics around which we differ. Students consider the essential questions: How do our beliefs about difference influence the way we see and choose to interact with others? How do others’ beliefs about difference shape the way they see and choose to interact with us?
- Understanding Human Rights: These two lessons ask students to consider the idea, essential to democratic societies, that we are all entitled to a set of fundamental rights regardless of our differences. Students consider the essential questions: What is a right? What rights should belong to every human being on earth?
- Choosing to Participate: In the final four lessons, students analyse examples of civic participation and standing up to hatred and injustice—the types of actions that are the lifeblood of a democracy—and consider the power of their voices and actions in shaping their society. In these lessons, they respond to the essential question: What must individuals do and value in order to bring about a more humane, just, and compassionate society?
Before teaching these lessons, it is important to read more about Facing History’s pedagogy, teaching strategies, and how this unit is structured.
- 1 : Jonathan Sacks, The Home We Build Together (New York: Continuum, 2008), 14–15.