Last week, Teaching Tolerance highlighted the process that guided the selection of the nearly 300 readings, images and video and audio clips in Perspectives for a Diverse America, our K-12 literacy-based curriculum. Our staff handpicked each and every title in the Central Text Anthology to equip anti-bias educators with a free, high-quality curriculum; a few have become staff favorites. Read about the readings that are especially near and dear to TT staff and see if your favorite is listed among them.
“An Open Letter to Ann Coulter” by John Franklin Stephens
Grade level: Sixth grade
Text type: Informational
Themes: Individual and society, membership and solidarity
Anti-bias domains: Identity, Justice
After Ann Coulter called President Obama a “retard” in a tweet about the 2012 presidential debates, athlete John Franklin Stephens offered a rebuttal on the Special Olympics blog. Stephens, a man with Down syndrome, tackles Coulter’s insinuation that Obama should feel belittled by the word, by being associated with people with disabilities. Instead, Stephens believes that the association should be a “badge of honor” because people with disabilities overcome a great deal.
Writing with humor and grace, Stephens reminds us that our language matters. It can be hurtful or it can show great compassion. Choosing the latter, Stephens invites Coulter to visit the Special Olympics and extends his friendship to her. “An Open Letter to Ann Coulter” is a wonderful demonstration of loving ourselves and appreciating others.
Margaret Sasser, fellow
“Harlem” by Langston Hughes
Grade level: Seventh grade
Text type: Literature
Lenses: Class, race and ethnicity
Themes: Individual and society, power and privilege, struggle and progress
Anti-bias domains: Justice, Action
In this poem, Langston Hughes asks what happens to a dream deferred and discusses some of the outcomes. Published during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, this poem is truly one of our American gems. Notably, a line in “Harlem” became the title of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.
The message “Harlem” conveys remains important as dreams and opportunities continue to be pushed out of reach, and only so many avenues offer recourse. It’s one of my favorite Perspectives texts because students will identity with the question “What happens to a dream deferred?” as they reflect on their own experiences and aspirations.
June Christian, teaching and learning specialist
“I Am Tired of Learning New Languages” from I Learn America
Grade level: 6-12
Text type: Multimedia
Theme: Struggle and progress
Anti-bias domains: Identity, Diversity
“I Am Tired of Learning New Languages,” a segment from the documentary I Learn America, centers on a teenager named Sing who has lived in enough countries to learn six different languages. In this video, we watch Sing publicly read from his personal essay about struggling to learn each new language.
This is one of my favorite texts because it highlights an important difficultly faced by English language learners, something native English speakers take for granted: the ability to communicate with English words. We get insight into Sing’s perseverance, as well as the pride he feels—and the affirmation he receives—after sharing his story in English.
Monita Bell, writer/associate editor
“A Girl and a Word” by Laura Linn
Grade level: Fourth grade
Text type: Informational
Themes: Individual and society, power and privilege
Anti-bias domains: Justice, Action
Originally written for the Spring 2011 issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine, “A Girl and a Word” is about a young girl named Rosa Marcellino with Down syndrome who is tired of being referred to as “mentally retarded” by her school. Rosa and her family decide to work together to ban schools from using the phrase on official records. Starting with lawmakers in Maryland, they were able to get “Rosa’s Law” signed by President Obama, which keeps “mentally retarded” off official documents.
“A Girl and a Word” is one of my favorite Perspectives texts because the action was sparked by an individual child’s feelings of not being treated with respect and dignity. The text illustrates that individuals can do something and make a difference.
Sara Wicht, senior manager of teaching and learning
“Sikh Eyechart for America” by Vishavjit Singh
Grade level: K-12
Text type: Visual
Themes: Individual and society, struggle and progress
Anti-bias domains: Identity, Diversity, Justice
“Sikh Eyechart for America” stylistically resembles an optometrist’s eye chart and begins with this bold statement: “I am not what you think.” Written and published in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, cartoonist Vishavjit Singh reflects on how there is more to him than meets the eye. As a bearded and turbaned Sikh American, Singh captures the wave of hate and prejudice directed at Muslim Americans, Arabs and other minorities such as himself—who is neither Muslim nor Arab—following 9/11.
I just love “Sikh Eyechart for America.” It’s a smart and simultaneously intimate portrayal of how currents of intolerance and prejudice in U.S. society resurfaced in full force in the wake of a national tragedy and relegated members our society to the margins. Be sure to check out this interview with Singh in the latest issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine.
Maya Lindberg, writer/associate editor
What is your favorite Perspectives text? Let us know which one and why in the comments section below.
Find additional blogs, articles and professional development resources on Perspectives here.
- Celebrate LGBT Pride Month With ‘Perspectives’!
- New 'Perspectives' Readings!
- Perspectives on Women’s Equality Day
- Toolkit for “Perspectives”
- Teach with 'Perspectives for a Diverse America'
- Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education
- Stephen Jay Gould
- The Anti-Bias Framework: Understanding Justice
- Classroom Culture