Our country’s demographics are changing. About 1 in 3 American residents is now multicultural. Much of that change has been in the South, which has seen a multicultural growth of 34 percent in just the last decade. Demographers project that white Americans will be a minority by 2042. These changes have already begun to affect the nation’s electoral map and have huge implications for November’s presidential election. And few places illustrate the pace of those changes more than Clarkston, Ga., where the PBS series “Need to Know” spent time with both old-timers and newcomers. The program, “America by the Numbers: Clarkston, Georgia,” airs tonight and will then be available online to teachers.
The 27-minute documentary will be hosted free on Vimeo. Teaching Tolerance provides two classroom lessons to accompany the program.
The first focuses on the concrete statistical data that puts Clarkston’s changes in the context of its own history. Students will see how those numbers form a narrative—one that tells the story of America’s ethnically diverse “new mainstream.” They will also see how the varied viewpoints of Clarkston’s residents help flesh out that story.
The second lesson challenges students to be ethnographers of their own communities—digging into the government data that provides an initial profile and then interviewing residents to put those numbers in context. Finally, students will predict how their communities’ issues and priorities will affect voting in November.
Together with “America by the Numbers,” the lessons for grades 6-12 provide a great opportunity for teaching the upcoming election, applying current information to government curriculum and helping students link local issues to nationwide trends.
Most importantly, they will help students see themselves as part of the “new mainstream”—one that is inclusive and one in which the word “minority” is turned on its head.
Trend tracker Guy Garcia, who is featured in the video, says it best.
“Whites should only be afraid of becoming a minority if it’s within the old definition of what a minority means—marginalized, left out, disenfranchised,” he says. “The new American mainstream is inclusive. Everybody is welcome to the new mainstream.”
Koenig is a freelance education writer and editor living in Texas.