The APS Social Studies Office envisions that, “All APS students will have the social studies knowledge and skills to become informed, responsible, and reasoned citizens of a democratic society and an interdependent world.
”We, as social science educators, support our students in examining issues of justice and human rights around the world. Teachers should support student inquiry through exposure to primary sources, multiple perspectives, and compelling questions as students learn to communicate, collaborate, and take action as global citizens.
Teaching difficult history and current events can be a challenge for all social studies educators. Issues from both the present and the past can bring up many feelings for both students and teachers. Addressing issues at the classroom level allows teachers to use knowledge of their students to prepare them to engage in lifelong inquiry and informed civic action.
The Social Studies Office has curated information and resources to help guide and support teachers as they plan for teaching hard history/ current events. It is imperative that the classroom materials and instructional strategies that teachers utilize do not replicate trauma for students or foster inequities. We encourage teachers to use materials from a variety of sources and perspectives to support student inquiry and meaning-making around difficult topics. Teachers should use professional judgement and knowledge of their students in order to determine what resources are appropriate for use in their classrooms.
The links represented on this page do not represent an endorsement of any specific resource. Instead they are meant to help provide the means for teachers and members of the community to help build knowledge and skills as they prepare to discuss difficult topics.
Slur: an insulting, offensive or degrading remark, often based on an identity group such as race, ethnicity, religion, ethnic, gender/gender identity or sexual orientation.
Hate Speech: abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.
|Role Playing and Simulations
|Resources on Current Events
Role Playing and Simulations
APS Social Studies Office Position
“We absolutely treasure the freedom to debate ideas and perspectives in schools. That’s precisely why we forbid talk that threatens harm or harasses and so obstructs the opportunity to learn. And to insist on schools kept safe for learning—and on educational standards where claims’ accuracy is bolstered by evidence—we challenge and question all speech that devalues or distorts fellow human beings.”-Mica Pollock (Responding to Hateful Speech in Schools)
APS Social Studies Office Position
|Racial slurs and hate speech are used to cause harm. When engaging with text and sources that contain racial slurs and hate speech, these should not be replaced with the name of a group of people.
Racial Slurs and Hate Speech in Sources and Texts
There are many times when the N-word will appear in historical sources, books, and literature. It is the stance of the APS Social Studies Office that the N-word NEVER be spoken in any classroom. The N-word is a word that has been used as a symbol of hate, to perpetuate violence, and dehumanize a group of people. Students may engage with primary source text and literature where the word appears as developmentally appropriate but care should be taken so that the word is not spoken out loud by teachers or students in a school learning environment.
As we, as educators, increase our equity literacy and racial and cultural consciousness, we recognize that language is evolving and that we need to be aware of the impact of the language we use. There are a variety of terms that cause harm to many groups. Those words should be treated similarly to the N-word.
What to do when text contains racial slurs or hate speech.
Strategies that Support Criticality and Intellectualism
|Focus on fostering skills of civility, civil discourse, and civic action. Make sure to set the ground rules for conversations with students in the classroom and consider the variety of perspectives that your students may have.
|Plan ahead for the ways you will address these topics with intention in your class.
If a student raises a question or brings up a topic that you feel unprepared to talk about, consider acknowledging the question and setting up a date to talk more in-depth about that topic or question in a later class. This will allow students to feel heard, while ensuring that you are prepared to facilitate the conversation. It’s okay to say, “That is an important question. I want to make sure that we talk about that when I can be prepared to fully address that. Let’s plan to come back to that question, next class.”
Provide ample opportunities for students to examine primary source materials, including photographs, artwork, diary entries, letters, government documents, and visual history testimony.
Such an exploration allows for a deeper level of interest and inquiry on a range of topics from many perspectives and in proper historical context.
Include Time for Reflection
Assign reflective writing exercises or lead class discussions that explore various aspects of human behavior such as scapegoating or making difficult moral choices. These activities allow students to develop compassion and empathy, share how they feel about what they’re learning and consider how it has meaning in their own lives.
Do not ask students to pretend to be historical figures and write from their perspective. Instead, ask students to write about what they think people might have thought or felt.
Thoroughly Review Materials
Make sure that you have previewed/reviewed every text, video, or podcast that you plan to share with students. If you plan to utilize content that a student or parent may find distressing, communicate with parents in advance of sharing that content with students.
Resources on Current Events and Issues
|Learning for Justice: This collection of resources —organized by the themes Countering Bias, Civic Activities, Getting Along and How To—offers a range of resources for engaging students on some of our most pressing societal issues.
|Black Lives Matter
|The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict