Extraordinary Upstander - Charlotta Bass | Not in Our Town

Extraordinary Upstander - Charlotta Bass

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)

Republished from ChampionsofUnity.org. Find the original here

Charlotta A. Bass stands among the most influential African Americans of the twentieth century. A crusading journalist and extraordinary political activist, she was at the forefront of the civil rights struggles of her time, especially in Los Angeles, but also in California and the nation. Teachers can use Bass as an inspirational example of fighting for non-violence and equality, with the following lesson plan and activity. 

Objective:  Students will conduct a town hall meeting, create a survey, and interview fellow students regarding violence on campus.  Using the information obtained, students will write a Declaration of Non-violence (or whatever topic your group has selected) which will then be presented to the student body for ratification, then to the administration for possible implementation. 

Lesson Rationale:  Throughout history, people have declared their independence, their rights, and their demands.  These declarations have led to change.  The United States Declaration of Independence delineated our demands for representation, freedom and independence.  It became the guiding principle for our country.  Similar declarations have occurred around the world, having various impacts.  The goal of this lesson is to have students develop their own declaration around a social issue at school, to gather support as well as a vehicle to pursue change.  The topic of violence on campus is modeled here, used to develop this lesson, but any social issue that is relevant to your campus can be used.  

Suggested Procedures

1. The pre-meeting:  Brainstorm with students the relevant and pressing social issues that impact their school or community.  Topics could include: violence, racism, lack of health care, lack of jobs.  The outline of this lesson focuses on violence, but any of these topics can be substituted.

2.  Town hall:  In your classroom, hold a town hall meeting on violence in the school.  Ask students to respond to questions such as:  reasons for violence, methods to stop the violence, effectiveness of current consequences of violent acts.  Have one student act as the moderator, asking the questions and guiding the discussion.  The teacher will be the expert of sorts, giving any pertinent facts needed to continue the conversation.  This is not telling the students what to do, but an opportunity to give a little background or what the current laws state.  Have two or three students act as scribes during the town hall to record the group’s comments.

3.  Summing it up:  Using the notes from the town hall, have students (who will become the interviewers) create a survey regarding violence on campus and possible solutions.  After making numerous copies of the survey, have interviewers take the survey out to clubs and teams on campus.  After the club/team members complete the survey, the interviewer may ask for general comments and/or suggestions. 

4.  Creating consensus:  Interviewers compile the data from the survey; this can be done by creating a master tally sheet with each question and possible responses.  Each interviewer records his or her results; the teacher/student adds up the grand total for each response, thus showing the number of students who chose each response and creating a picture of the student body’s opinion.   Once this is complete, the interviewers should be able to identify the student body’s understandings of the reasons for the violence, possible solutions, the student body’s ideas on the consequences of violence, and his/her own view on the topic of violence.

5.  Drafting a declaration:  Have students research “declaration” on thinkfinity.org.  The results will pull up declarations such as the American Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen, and/or The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Students use these models as a guide to construct their own “declaration of non-violence”, or whatever their topic may reflect.   

6.  Declaring it: Have students transfer the declaration onto large poster paper, leaving ample room at the bottom for student signatures.  Have each member of the class sign the declaration, then post the declaration at lunch and gather signatures of the student body.  Present the signed document including signatures to the school paper for publication and to the administration for its consideration. 

Extension:  Have a member of the administration and a member of the school board come to the class for a discussion of the declaration and its possible implementation. 


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