The Syllabus of All Syllabi | My Top Six #FergusonSyllabus

ferguson syllabus

In the wake of the Ferguson, MO grand jury decision NOT to indict Darren Wilson, a police officer who fatally shot teenage Michael Brown, educators rallied to prepare to facilitate classroom discussions about racialized violence and policing in America. Georgetown professor, Dr. Marcia Chatelain, leveraged digital media to compile content through the use of the hashtag, #FergusonSyllabus. This movement, along with posts from students, faculty, activists, and public opinion leaders, led to the curation of rich resources to stimulate and sustain conversations and action through the new year around racialized violence in America. Below are a few of my fave “digital syllabi” (in no particular order) that achieve this end:

1. Contemporary Philosophy: Police Violence & Incarceration – by Lisa Guenther

By far, the most comprehensive, traditionally formatted syllabus published to date!

Highlights: The syllabus is complete with course objectives, a short list of required textbooks, a schedule of course activities and deliverables, and embedded links to digital resources. A zinger for me was the integration of “virtual days” that leveraged digital media to cultivate discussion and reflection regarding course content.

2. Ferguson Syllabus – by Evan Kindley in the Department of Literature at Claremont-McKenna College

This syllabus is designed for first-year college students. It features readings highlighting historical and contemporary commentary on racialized violence, background reports, contextual documents, essays, personal reactions and legal analyses — all available via links on the website.

Highlights: Readings are accessible to early career students. They are also conveniently categorized by composition type, which allows for teaching about literary genre and the utility of each for facilitating different types of discourse.

3. Ferguson Syllabus – by Sociologists for Justice

This syllabus is composed of a list of essential and highly recommended readings around the hyper-criminalization and marginalization of people of color. These course readings were curated via a Twitter hashtag, #socforjustice.

Highlights: Although the readings list has an apparent and understandable sociological bent to it, publications were selected across disciplines, including from school and social psychology, criminology, race and ethnicity studies.

4. Teaching about Ferguson – by Zinn Education Project

This list compiles digital resources and references, and is categorized by themes related to Ferguson and racialized violence in America. Major themes include (1) police brutality, (2) the history of racism, (3) international human rights, (4) militarization of the police, student fear and resilience, and housing inequality.

Highlights: The compilation of related themes included hints at the structural nature of the violence encountered by Blacks and other POC in America. It acknowledges the need for a macro-level, and at times, a historiographic gaze at Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Brown.

5. How to Teach Kids About What’s Happening in Ferguson – by Marcia Chatelain

The rich list contains references to blogs, children’s books, commentaries, reflections, music, film, social media campaigns (i.e. “hashtags”) and other media that comprise ” a crowdsourced syllabus about race, African-American history, civil rights, and policing.”

Highlights: This is a lengthy list of resources that can be integrated into lesson plans and syllabi. It is particularly useful for teaching youth about age-appropriate themes related to Mike Brown’s death and the Ferguson decision.

6. Ferguson Theater Syllabus – by Claudia Alick & Megan Sandberg-Zakian

This resource compiles a list of theatrical plays that offers thought-provoking imagery and discourse, and sets the stage for audiences to engage in critical reflection.

Highlights – Although it is not exhaustive/comprehensive, I don’t think I’ve seen a richer list of plays that invoke critical reflection at intersections of race, class, and gender in American culture. Plus, additional readings are listed to complement the play list.

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