This unit comprises four lessons: Lesson 1 introduces students to the 10 Questions Framework that will serve as the foundation for their inquiry throughout the unit. Lessons 2 and 3 explore the 1963 Chicago Public Schools Boycott and 2018 Parkland student activism to deepen students’ understanding of the pathways and pitfalls of student activism throughout recent history. Lesson 4 asks students to apply these lessons to their own plans for collaborative civic action.
Aligned with the last phase of the Facing History and Ourselves scope and sequence, “Choosing to Participate,” the four lessons in this unit encourage students to reflect on the values and actions that will strengthen our communities rather than make them more fragile. The final lesson provides explicit guidance to assist students’ civic participation, helping them transfer the knowledge gained from their unit of study into tangible opportunities to take action in their community.
The 10 Questions for Young Changemakers
The digital age has given rise to dramatic changes in political practices and media consumption. Social networks and partisan websites serve increasingly as the central place for people to get news and express their political beliefs. These also operate as platforms for individuals and groups to raise funds, mobilize others to vote, protest, and work on public issues. Young people, in particular, are among those who are most affected by these changes. Having come of age surrounded by digital technology, young people today are often at the center of digital participation.
In partnership with the MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP), Harvard professor Danielle Allen developed a framework for civic participation, “The 10 Questions for Young Changemakers.” Rather than a to-do list, the 10 Questions Framework asks students to respond to a series of open-ended questions geared toward helping changemakers become smarter about the best use of digital tools and platforms. By proposing a method of reflection, rather than a specific course of action, the framework cultivates in students the capacity to adjust and pivot as circumstances change, which they always do.
One key insight students can gain from the 10 Questions Framework concerns the difference between voice and influence. Voice represents self-expression with the goal of attracting public attention or changing values. Influence reflects efforts to drive change through policymaking. Voice is important in its own right—expressing who someone is and showing what they care about is key to civic life. It can change minds and inspire others to take part. But if the ultimate aim includes policy change, then people need to know how to pull different institutional “levers of power” to get policymakers to act on their voice. Converting voice to influence requires a degree of tactical knowledge—for instance, knowing how a bill becomes a law and how to use the tools of government effectively.
Addressing Current and Controversial Issues
This unit investigates a student-led movement against gun violence in Parkland, Florida. While it is an important case study, it is not an easy one to discuss in the classroom: the movement began with horrific violence, and it centers around school safety and gun control policy, topics that divide the nation along partisan lines.
For this reason, we recommend that you be proactive in creating a foundation for reflective and respectful discussion of these events in the classroom. Fostering Civil Discourse: A Guide to Classroom Conversations provides specific and detailed guidelines and strategies for setting the stage for your work with current events. We especially recommend creating a classroom contract with your students.
Unit Essential Questions
The following essential questions provide a framework for exploring this unit’s main ideas and themes:
- How can young people change the world?
- How can we use digital media effectively and safely when we "choose to participate"?
These essential questions challenge students to make important connections between the historical and contemporary case studies they examine and their own civic participation. We do not expect students to determine a single, “correct” answer. Essential questions are rich and open-ended; they are designed to be revisited over time, and as students explore the content in greater depth, they may find themselves emerging with new ideas, understandings, and questions.
Each lesson includes one or more guiding questions. Unlike the unit’s essential questions, which are broad and open-ended, guiding questions help to direct student inquiry at the lesson level and are aligned with its specific learning objectives. Answering guiding questions requires deep thinking and textual interpretation. Unlike essential questions, guiding questions might have clear answers, which students should be able to support with specific evidence from the lesson to demonstrate their understanding of the content.