Civil Rights Movements Don’t Just Last for a Day; Freedom Schools Do
Civil rights movements are at times reactive. Individuals or groups will first voice outrage or outrage at the status quo, then construct a strategy to advance positive change, and later celebrate the implementation of that strategy’s implementation. This is one of the reasons civil rights movements have lasted for over a century, and are continuing to flourish in this era of “movement fatigue.”
Families that benefit from helping others are some of the most loyal and resourceful and patient groups that rely on the help of individuals. Think about all the efforts families in South Carolina have put forth over the years to effect change, or the immigrant families that have formed a community in Silicon Valley. Both groups live and breathe civil rights, but there have been strategic shifts in their strategies and tactics.
“Freedom Schools” currently exist in communities throughout the U.S. to address the need for a holistic education that teaches students about social justice. Freedom Schools’ founding committee includes teachers, leaders in education, and social justice activists. Now that schools are mandated to make a positive social and emotional impact on students’ lives, Freedom Schools can fill a critical gap for low income students living in the United States.
Back in 1967, a Senate committee held hearings focused on the well-being of the nation’s children.
During the deliberations, historian Susan Ades Stone described the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.
“We find ourselves watching a group of determined and passionate young people in college. They do not want to sit silently by while whole races of people languish in misery and marginalization. They want to address their own problems. They want to be part of the American people’s movements.”
Fast forward to 2018, freedom schools were the opening up of new opportunities for South Carolina parents who have been frustrated at the underperforming educations their children were receiving in schools, as well as the mounting social problems they saw in their neighborhoods.
As you may have guessed, freedom schools like Freedom Schools evolve and improve as student needs change. By focusing on studies and visual communication, many teachers are able to find ways to integrate social studies into students’ lessons, while looking at broader themes and concepts like the impact of slavery, racism, and other human rights issues. The teachers are also careful to provide time for research, especially for children who may need to use their own resources to understand an issue.
Many parents feel that student-centered learning is the best way to address issues such as racism and social issues.
“It’s rewarding to see the children of students who have volunteered their time in additional ways [like] on the field trips. They connect and learn from other students, but they also learn to work together. It’s like the most important teacher there is. And you see how much they learn when they get home.”
Many parents are relieved that their children are not spending all their time being told what to do and only being exposed to negative stereotypes. Other parents are thankful to be able to spend more time with their own children, especially as many don’t feel the need to attend public schools anymore.
“It’s very exciting and thrilling for me. It means that I get to do what I want to be doing, not just what I am being asked to do. This teaches them about things in a way that is more life-oriented and less punitive. They don’t even have to talk about those things,” one father said.
Your most precious human beings are your kids. Chore or no, social justice education for your children must be a priority, and not just talk about or encourage your children to do it. If you can, make it a priority to participate in these social justice activities.
“I was at my lowest point. I had lost all self-worth. Once you’re in school, you can’t afford to be around something like that. Now I have a purpose again,” the student said.