Some topics can be difficult to discuss in the classroom. We have complied resources here to help educators address a wide change of social issues with their students, including lesson plans, informational sites, and articles.

9/11

September 9th, 2001, is a day that will forever stick in the minds of most Americans, but for most young people today 9/11 is no longer a current event but a historical one. How do we teach this event that has forever altered so many aspects of American life from our military conflicts to persistent Islamophobia to government surveillance? It is an important part of our history that allows us to understand how we got now and our present climate.

Black History (Month)

As February is Black History Month, many educators are likely wondering how they should teach their students about this celebrated month in the proper way. This month honors the achievements made by African Americans and their integral role in American society both in the past and present. The theme this year is “African Americans and the Vote,” acknowledging the struggle of black men and women for the right to vote. Learning about African American history is essential for the youth because though times have changed, the fight for racial equality continues on.

Civic Rights and Voting

The United States is built on the foundations of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Along with possessing these unalienable rights, each citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote. However, not all citizens utilize this right or understand civic engagement. In order for this to change, students need to learn how their government works, the process of voting, and how they can become involved. Teaching students about their civic rights and voting is a great way to encourage them to learn more and engage in their communities.

Disability

Teaching students about disabilities doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it out to be. From a young age, curious children are being sent the wrong message about those who look, think, and act differently from them. Therefore, as they grow up, many don’t know how to interact properly with or treat the disabled. Educating students about different types of disabilities, some of which their peers may have or will have in the future, is extremely beneficial not only to the individual student but also to those with disabilities.

Empathy

Empathy is a word that the majority of students have most likely heard before, but it is not one that many fully understand. Psychology Today defines empathy as “the experience of understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one’s own.” Having empathy is an important trait for any person to possess because it helps us to understand one anothers’ experiences and communicate effectively with others. Teaching students about empathy will be extremely beneficial for them (and the rest of the world) in the long run.

Fake News

Fake news is not new news, and it is becoming more of an issue every day. In today’s world, students are so accustomed to having any information they need at their fingertips, they don’t realize that not all of this news is real. Teaching students about fake news and its repercussions is an important job and not one to be taken lightly.

Gender

Even though it’s the 21st century, gender equality is still a prominent issue in the United States and around the world. In order for this issue to improve, both men and women need to be on the same page. The youth is the hope for our future. Teaching students about gender equality and its impacts at a young age will make all the difference in creating equal opportunities for everyone despite their gender.

Gender Identity

Gender Identity is a complicated topic. One that is often misunderstood and confusing to many people. Educating students about it is extremely beneficial because this time we are living in is all about change. Mainly changing our ancestors’ preconceived notions about what is normal and acceptable and changing our world’s idea of who it is okay to love. It is so important for students to learn about the concept in the classroom in order for them to be more accepting and understanding of the people and the ever-changing world around them.

Impeachment

Impeachment has long been a topic avoided or only briefly discussed in history classes across the country, but with President Trump recently being impeached by the House of Representatives and then acquitted of these articles of impeachment by the Senate, many teachers are jumping at the opportunity to teach about impeachment. Impeachment isn’t a process that everyone sees throughout their life and as recent events will certainly be ones that will go down in history, it is the perfect time for students to learn about the topic.

Income Inequality

Inequality is, unfortunately, everywhere in the United States. Over the years, economic inequality, in particular, has become even more prominent as the rich have become richer and the poor have become poorer. It is important for students to be aware of this concept as they enter the real world and begin to face its challenges.

Islamophobia

Islamophobia is “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against Islam or people who practice Islam” (Merriam-Webster). Islamophobia is a form of racism that has grown worse over time, especially after Islamist terrorist attacks. Many of those who fear the religion or harm Muslims because of their beliefs don’t understand or try to understand Islam. A religion is a religion. We all have something we believe or don’t believe in. Just because someone is part of a religious community in which a few extreme members have committed harmful acts doesn’t make all Muslims dangerous. In order for students to grow up and understand this concept, teachers should provide students with resources that encourage them to learn about Islam and accept Muslims, and others of different religious backgrounds, in society.

LGBTQ+ Pride

LGBTQ Pride Month (June) and LGBTQ History Month (October in the U.S. and February in the UK) celebrate the LGBTQ community and their great achievements. These months are significant because they symbolize a huge change that has taken place over the past couple of decades. Although injustices and prejudices still exist within our society, we have made great strides since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, attaining marriage equality. However, as previously mentioned, we still have a long way to go in the struggle for equal rights, as many members of the LGBTQ community still face discrimination. By learning about LGBTQ Pride/History Month, students are more likely to have an understanding and acceptance for all individuals, no matter what they look like, what gender they do or don’t identify as, and who they love.

Neurodivergent Communities

Neurodiversity is a fact of life that is often overlooked in the workplace, schools, and the community. Individuals who don’t pick up on social cues are considered “socially awkward.” Individuals who don’t make proper eye contact are called “rude” or “nervous.” Individuals who can’t sit still regarded as “hyper.” Individuals who have difficulty communicating are thought of as “slow.” However, this isn’t the case and shouldn’t be thought of as such! The more the public doesn’t understand diagnoses like Autism, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, and dyslexia, the worse things will get for those with these conditions. Teaching students about neurodiversity is the first of many steps to creating an inclusive community that is accepting of all, neurodivergent or neurotypical.

Pandemics

Pandemics can easily be stressful and anxiety-provoking if people are not given information in an appropriate manner. Media coverage of a pandemic often causes mass hysteria amongst people who surf the Internet reading everything and anything they can to stay well-informed. Additionally, teaching students about pandemics that are occurring is just as important as teaching them about ones that have occurred.

Police Brutality

Police brutality, as unfortunate as it is, does occur in today’s society more often than it should and is frequently accompanied by racist stereotypes or plain racism. This type of violence is overlooked by many and is therefore a very important concept to teach to students because it does exist. Learning about how to properly interact with police officers, the history of police violence and shootings, and how racism is commonly a factor in this brutality is important for any and all students.

Race

Race has been an ongoing conversation in history, current events, and the media for a long time. Despite the fact that slavery has been long abolished in the United States, not all people are treated equally because of their race and ethnicity. Even though the majority of the population is anti-slavery and anti-discrimination, many of us have prejudices without realizing it. It is important for all students to learn about race because our country is one made up of diverse peoples. In order for us to peacefully coexist and work together, we need to understand that having different cultures and backgrounds doesn’t make us different from one another.

Women’s History Month

As February comes to a close, educators may be contemplating how to approach teaching their students about Women’s History Month. This month is a celebration of women’s contributions to society, and this year’s theme is “Valiant Women of the Vote,” celebrating those who fought for women’s voting rights in the United States. Learning about women’s history is important for both young men and women as the fight for gender equality continues around the world.

World Religions

Religion gives individuals a sense of purpose and has been one of the most powerful forces in human history. Understanding various religions is understanding the values and beliefs that drive a group of people to act and believe the way they do. Therefore, teaching students about world religions is a significant task, as religious tolerance is the ideal result. By being able to comprehend how religion plays a role in the cultural identities of people all over the world, students will be less quick to judge others based upon their beliefs and more likely to embrace individuals of all faiths.