PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — A new lesson plan aims to cultivate engaging high school classroom discussions about President Donald Trump’s far-reaching Jan. 27 executive order restricting immigrants from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States.
After hundreds of immigrants, visa and green card holders were stranded at airports across the nation and countless others were denied entry at international airport terminals, Susan Graseck — who directs the Choices Program, a Brown University-based nonprofit that develops curriculum on current issues — says it’s more important than ever to encourage civic engagement among America’s young students.
“If we are going to have a democracy, we need to have a populace that understands how to think critically about public policy issues and how to find their voice and make it heard,” Graseck said.
The lesson plan is part of the Choices Program's Teaching with the News initiative, an online resource that provides lessons and curriculum materials to connect prominent news headlines with content in the classroom.
Titled “President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration and Refugee Policy,” the plan gives students an in- depth introduction into the topic, a copy of the executive order, a range of source materials — from Trump’s tweets to media op-eds to news and commentary videos — arguing for and against the order, and a checklist to evaluate source materials.
Arguments about the executive order have been divisive, but the Choices Program curriculum writers agreed that a wide spectrum of views should be cited. The goal of the lesson is not to steer students toward any conclusion, Graseck says, but to have them think critically about complex issues and understand that people have different views.
And given the ongoing debate about “fake news,” students are asked to differentiate between facts and opinions and present statements with evidence as part of the lesson plan’s assignments.
“How do you understand what’s really happening and what is being said if you don’t understand how to analyze sources and have some sense of where arguments are from or if they have a bias?” Graseck asked.
The lesson plan has been distributed to more than 20,000 teachers in the last week. With all lesson plan resources available online, it’s accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
The topic is one of many subjects presented through the Teaching with the News initiative. Other recent subjects include an examination into Trump’s inaugural address, curriculum about the U.S. response to Syria and a look at activism around the Dakota Access Pipeline.