Middle School Lessons Embrace Dr. King’s Legacy

To honor American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., sixth graders in Brittany Farrar’s Latin class studied Dr. King and the Greek and Roman revolutionary thinkers who inspired him.
“We discussed King’s education and his training as a philosopher and theologist, then talked about Socrates and the way Dr. King compares himself to Socrates in ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’” Farrar explained. “I wanted my students to know that Dr. King is considered the greatest American philosopher by many and that he is tangling with the same ideas (How can we teach people to be good? What is the best of all ethical worlds?) that philosophers in the ancient world were thinking about.”

Eleanor Sykes ’29 was amazed by all that Dr. King accomplished, explaining that “He worked on racial justice, he worked on workers not getting paid enough. It’s interesting that he stuck with it all his life even though it was tough for him.”

For Leela Gibson ’29, Dr. King’s global work made a strong impression: “He went around the world to see how people made peace in their countries so he could learn from them.”

“I think we should always learn about people who had a great impact on changing the world and making it a better place,” Jake Tang ’29 said.

Middle school science teacher Georgia Warren and her seventh graders commemorated Dr. King’s legacy with a lesson on the connection between redlining, the discriminatory practice of denying services based on race or ethnicity, and community health.

“The history of redlining and its environmental and health consequences in the affected communities is something that is frequently ignored, but has grave implications,” Warren said. “I wanted to follow the thread woven by the all-school assembly and the work that Dr. King did with bringing awareness to marginalized communities and relating it to what we have been learning in science. It’s important for students to see that continuing work related to diversity, equity and inclusion can happen in all subject areas.”

Jules Manfredi ’28 found the topic and its history interesting because she “didn’t know anything about it before.” Oliver Mandel ’28 learned “how the government ranked neighborhoods based on who lived there.” And Auden Griffiths ’28 was surprised by “just how many companies were blatantly racist.” 

Warren looks forward to their continued research in the days to come: “We had some deep and interesting conversations. I had students who don’t normally participate as much who were really engaged in the conversation and sharing a lot.”

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