I think that students who learn in school about what is going on in the world are motivated to do something about it, to act on what they have learned. When I say it goes both ways, when you have students become active in human rights and feel that human rights has touched them personally, then they are likely to come back into the classroom and have the curriculum reflect their own consciousness.
In My Teaching
In my teaching I never concealed my political views: my detestation of war and militarism, my anger at racial inequality, my belief in a democratic socialism, in a rational and just distribution of the world's wealth. I made clear my abhorrence of any kind of bullying, whether by powerful nations over weaker ones, or governments over its citizens, or employers over employees, or by anyone, on the Right or the Left, who thought they had a monopoly of the truth. This mixing of activism and teaching, this insistence that education cannot be neutral on the crucial issues of our time, this movement back and forth from the classroom to the struggles outside, by teachers who hope their students will do the same, has always frightened the guardians of traditional education. They prefer that education simply prepare the new generation to take its proper place in the old order, not to challenge that.
What We Can Do In The Classroom
What we can do in the classroom is to teach history and to teach history in a certain way, one that departs from the traditional approach where students learn certain facts and reproduce these facts on paper. That kind of history does not lead to action but passivity, based on an idea that students take their obedient place in the classroom.A different history is one that emphasizes human rights, which emphasizes problems that people have had in this country and other parts of the world, and the resistance that people have put up in their lives.
What Is Important
What would be important is for students to see a set of heroes that are not orthodox.Typically students learn about presidents, military heroes and industrialists. But there are heroes who have struggled for human rights over history. Rather than promoting Theodore Roosevelt as a hero in the Spanish-American War, present Mark Twain who protested against what was being done to the Filipino people when the US invaded them at the turn of the century. Another example is Helen Heller, who was against the war and fought for the rights of poor people.There are a huge number of people who would inspire young people to become more active in their world.