Students consider how the coronavirus pandemic has revealed gaps in our public health system, amplifying calls for universal health insurance and a national paid sick leave policy.
Ella Baker, who helped build many of the most important organizations of the civil rights movement, defied traditional gender roles. She deprioritized charismatic leadership from above and instead empowered people to take charge of their own struggles for freedom.
Public attitudes about crime and punishment have shifted over the past decade, including among politicians from both parties. In this lesson, students examine the move away from "tough on crime" approaches and consider new proposals for criminal justice reform that are in the spotlight during the 2020 election season.
After a series of deadly shootings this summer, lawmakers and 2020 presidential contenders are shining an intense spotlight on the issue of gun control. In this activity, students read about and discuss where President Trump and Democratic presidential candidates stand on the issue, and the role of youth activism in bringing it to the fore.
Where do the 2020 presidential candidates stand on climate change? And why is the issue getting more attention in 2020 than in past elections? Students explore the issue, the candidates, and the social movements that are helping to drive the debate through readings, discussion, and activities.
There's a hidden cost to our free accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media platforms: our privacy. In this lesson, students learn about and discuss how corporations make a profit from our data, potential policy solutions, and how young people are making their own decisions about online privacy.
Does social media promote positive democratic debate, sow hatred, or both? Students explore whether social media has contributed to echo chambers, and hate speech — and consider options for improving public discussion on social media.
Two high-profile proposals to tax the rich are gaining attention and popular support. This activity has students explore these proposals, the historical precedent for them, and their possible benefits and pitfalls.
The Brexit controversy has roiled the U.K. for years. What is Brexit? And why has it torn British voters apart?
Students learn about and discuss the original Brexit vote, explore arguments for and against a second referendum, and examine why some people voted to back the “Remain” or “Leave” positions.
Less than half of eligible voters typically vote in national elections in the U.S.. The House of Representatives has passed a bill to encourage voter participation by making Election Day a national holiday. This activity explores the arguments for and against this and other proposals for making it easier for people to vote.
Several billionaires are thinking of running for president - and one is already in office. Is this good for democracy? In this activity, students learn about and discuss the debate over billionaire presidential candidates - and the impact of the growing wealth gap between elected leaders and the rest of us.
The economy is growing. Why aren’t people feeling it? This lesson has students examine whether the way economists measure the health of the economy actually reflects the reality Americans experience. Students explore alternative measures that some countries and states have begun to adopt aimed at better capturing the real conditions of everyday people.
50 years after the movement against the war in Vietnam reached its peak, students explore that movement - and consider why we don't have a more powerful anti-war movement today.
Does the U.S. political system live up to the principle of one person, one vote? In this lesson, students explore arguments about whether the Electoral College and the U.S. Senate might hinder the quest for fair, democratic representation.
Young people are suing the U.S. government over climate change, and their case comes before federal court on October 29, 2018. In this lesson, students examine the suit, read the personal testimony of two of the plaintiffs, and consider other strategies that young people are using to affect climate policy.
2018 is the 50th anniversary of a landmark protest at the Miss America beauty pageant. The protest was part of a new period of feminist activism—one with renewed significance in the #MeToo era. In this lesson, students learn the details of the protest using an original document and explore how the protest affected the women's liberation movement and our lives since the decades since.
Students learn about and discuss what impeachment is, how it works, and the possibility of impeachment for President Donald Trump stemming from the ongoing Department of Justice investigation.
The United States is suffering from a crisis of affordable housing. This lesson consists of two student readings on this issue. The first examines the arguments for and against Yimby-style development. The second looks at solutions that go beyond market-focused fixes, considering alternative ways to ensure that all people have access to affordable housing.
This lesson introduces students to the controversy over Justice Kennedy’s retirement and Trump’s role in reshaping the Supreme Court. The first reading reviews Kennedy’s career and highlights the significance of his role as a swing vote on the court. The second reading examines possible consequences of a Kavanaugh appointment and examines how a variety of groups are resisting Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Protests across the country reflect widespread outrage over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies. In this lesson, students learn about the controversy over the administration's policies to separate and/or detain families who are seeking to immigrate to the U.S.
This lesson uses the example of a bidding war by cities to become Amazon's second headquarters to explore the question of providing public subsidies to private companies. Students also learn about and discuss ways cities can ensure that companies like Amazon hold up their end of the bargain through strategies such as "clawback" rules and "tracking" for public subsidies.
In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, many have called for increased "school security" measures. In this lesson, students consider whether such measures make schools safer and discuss their impact on young people and the school climate.
Students learn what gerrymandering is and why it poses a problem for U.S. democracy, and consider recent attempts to combat the practice.
Fifty years after Martin Luther King's Poor People's Campaign, a coalition of multiracial groups has announced that it is launching a new Poor People’s Campaign aimed at addressing divisions in the United States, from racism to economic and gender inequality. In the this lesson, students learn about the original Poor People’s Campaign and the new one, and discuss how the two drives are similar and different.
The U.S. has more people detained while awaiting trial than any other country in the world. In this lesson, students explore the issue of cash bail, why some criminal justice reform advocates argue for ending it, and what has happened in cities and states that have ended cash bail.
America is in the grips of a nationwide opioid epidemic. In this lesson, students think critically about the opioid crisis, its origins, and potential solutions.
The Republicans have introduced one of the largest tax overhaul plans in many years. In this lesson, students consider what taxes do and why Americans pay them; and examine the Republicans' proposed tax reform and how analysts are projecting it will affect the country.
Threats by Donald Trump and by North Korea have stoked worries about nuclear war. In this lesson, students learn about the work of International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and about past social movement campaigns that have worked to avert war and promote nuclear disarmament.
In two readings and discussion, students explore the meaning and history of DACA, including the social movement activism that won DACA during the Obama years and prospects for future action.
When President Trump announced that the U.S. would be pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, governors and mayors across the country announced that they were still on board and would continue their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In this activity, students read about and discuss how cities and states are leading by example when it comes to climate change.
Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow changed the conversation about race, racism, and incarceration in this country. In this activity, students explore Alexander’s argument that our criminal justice system has relegated millions of people of color to a permanent second–class status, and examine how people are challenging the policies mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow.
With Republicans gaining control of all three branches of the federal government, unions are under increasing attack. For students, this raises some pertinent questions: What are unions? Why are they important? And how will the attack on unions affect working people in our country?
Questions loom over whether President Donald Trump can avoid conflicts between his business interests and the interest of the people he represents. In two readings and discussion, students consider how past presidents have tried to prevent conflicts of interest, how Trump has addressed this concern, and challenges Trump is already facing over potential conflicts.
Donald Trump has said that climate change is a "hoax." His appointee for Secretary of State is a former Exxon Mobil executive who now says he believes climate change is a serious threat. In two readings and in discussion, students explore what the Trump administration might mean for climate change and for those who are concerned about it.
Students learn about and discuss the president's power to name leaders within the executive branch of government and consider two of president-elect Trump's most controversial appointments: Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Steve Bannon for chief strategist and senior counselor.
What are sanctuary cities, and why are they girding for conflict in the wake of Trump’s election? Students explore the concept of "sanctuary" and learn about efforts by advocates to defend undocumented immigrants.
Polls show that a high percentage of voters are dissatisfied with the 2016 presidential nominees of both major parties. And yet, as in past years, third parties have struggled to gain a foothold. In this lesson, students learn about U.S. election laws that make it difficult for third parties to emerge, and discuss reforms activists have proposed to give voters more choices.
Hillary Clinton stands on the brink of becoming the country's first female president. In the lesson, students learn about women who have run for president in the past and consider the significance of having a woman as president of the United States.
Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign has reopened discussion about what would it take to get truly universal healthcare in the U.S. This lesson, which includes two student readings and discussion questions, examines the debate over Sanders' proposal for a "single-payer" national healthcare system, and efforts by states to adopt a single-payer program.
Three short student readings provide background on the sharing economy and its critics and examine the pros and cons of Airbnb and Uber. Questions for discussion follow.
What is 'democratic socialism'? Bernie Sanders' presidential bid is raising a question many Americans have never considered. In two readings, students explore Sanders' version of socialism and learn some background about democratic socialism in Europe and the U.S.
In three readings and discussion, students examine President Obama's proposal for free community college, weigh arguments for and against it, learn about the historical significance of community colleges, and consider the question, "Should all higher education be free?"
Two student readings provide a brief history of the embargo of Cuba and its role in Cold War foreign policy and consider different opinions about President Obama's move to normalize relations.
Massive student-led protests have erupted in Mexico against government corruption and the state’s failure to protect its citizens from widespread gang violence. In this lesson, students learn what sparked the protests and discuss the wider issues behind them.
In this lesson, students learn about a performance art piece by Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz that dramatizes her reactions to the handling of her campus sexual assault case. Then students consider the wider issue of sexual assault, particularly on college campuses.
Students read and discuss a brief history of the Polish Solidarity movement, and consider how an unarmed group was able to overcome a powerful and heavily militarized government. (See also our companion lesson marking the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the legacy of the Cold War.)
Students learn about why so many languages around the world are facing extinction, and how indigenous movements are fighting to preserve their languages. They consider several distinctive words for which there is no English translation, and, in small groups, make up a word of their own to describe something in their world.
The People's Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014 was the largest climate march in history. In this lesson students learn about the march and the current scientific consensus on climate change, and consider what we and political leaders should do about it.
Would free higher education be possible in America? How did people in other parts of the world win and defend their right to affordable higher education? In this lesson, students examine the issue of rising student debt and proposals to deal with it, including free higher education.
While homelessness has declined over the past three years, it's still a serious problem, especially for young adults. In two readings and discussion, students consider this problem - and one promising approach for remedying it.
A new book by economist Thomas Piketty has touched off a national discussion about economic inequality. This lesson uses the book as a jumping off point for two student readings on economic inequality in the United States and whether progressive taxation is part of the solution. The readings are followed by an exercise in which students analyze and compare charts, graphs and videos about income and wealth distribution.
This lesson consists of two student readings followed by discussion questions. The first reading reviews the history of the Freedom Summer project, which took place 50 years ago. The second reading discusses some of the challenges to voting rights that we face today.
Should any one company be able to control the internet? Should all websites be treated equally, or should companies be able to pay to have their sites load faster? Two student readings and discussion questions explore the debates over net neutrality and the Comcast-Time Warner merger.
Benefits have just been cut for the one in seven Americans who receive food stamps, and more cuts may be on the way. In two readings, students learn about the debate over food stamps and the effect of cuts, and compare the US approach to hunger to that of other countries.
In three readings, students learn about protests surrounding upcoming World Cup and Olympic events; consider whether such events benefit the people of host countries; and learn about Russia's recent anti-gay legislation and the debate surrounding a possible boycott of the 2014 Winter Games.
Environmentalists passionately opposed to a giant pipeline that would transport crude oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf coast are going head-to-head with proponents of the project. Students explore the controversy surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and the strategic questions it raises for environmentalists.
This lesson is designed to get students to think critically about hot-button issues such as the "fiscal cliff," "sequestration," and the ongoing debate about the US budget. Two student readings examine the general debate about the budget and the human impact of budget cuts and sequestration. Questions for discussion follow each reading.
A wave of protests by Walmart workers highlights the low wages and anti-union climate facing workers at Walmart - and many other companies. In two readings, students explore the debate over Walmart’s business model and labor practices and find out about recent protests at Walmart stores across the country.
Student readings examine the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of excluding gays, as well as efforts by scouts themselves to challenge discrimination from both inside and outside the organization.
President Obama's recent decision to stop deporting some young undocumented immigrants came in the context of a powerful movement by young people to enact the immigration reform proposal known as the DREAM Act. Student readings examine the new Obama policy and the tireless efforts of young activists to change U.S. immigration policy.
TeachableMoment marks the 50th anniversary of Michael Harrington's influential book with a series of readings and discussion questions for high school students. In Part II, readings focus on the debate about who should count as poor in this country and proposals for combating poverty.
Two student readings, with discussion questions, provide an overview of Harrington's book and consider the state of poverty in the U.S. now.
What is the human cost of an iPad? The labor conditions at factories making Apple products have been in the public spotlight lately. While Apple is not unique in using low-wage Chinese labor to produce its electronic products, the popularity of the iPad and iPhone, along with publicity surrounding the death of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, have renewed debate about what labor conditions constitute modern-day sweatshops.
Students view a clip from Colbert's Comedy Central show about his Super PAC, then read and discuss several views on the role of Colbert's spoof of the election process.
Through two readings and class discussion, students think critically about the effect of corporate campaign donations on our political system and consider efforts to reform campaign finance.
Students learn about the protest and its message, and consider how the Occupy Wall Street protest is related to public protests in other countries in the past year.
Student readings explore unemployment statistics and the human impact of joblessness, and examine the effect of government proposals on the crisis. Discussion questions and an opinion continuum activity follow the readings.
Two student readings and discussion questions probe the history of the War Powers Act of 1973 and the current controversy over whether President Obama's deployment of U.S. forces to Libya violates that law.
Two student readings focus on the reasons for rising gas prices as well as the true social and environmental costs of oil, with discussion questions and an internet inquiry.
After an introductory reading about the debate now raging in Washington, students try their hand at balancing a projected 2015 budget themselves.
Two student readings and discussion questions examine the safety of nuclear energy as well as the wider debate about the pros and cons of nuclear energy.