7th graders in Raleigh Seminar on HB2

When my colleague (Paideia Faculty Member) Joan Certa-Moore told me that she was going to facilitate a seminar on HB2, I thought “Oh my, there’s a loaded text!”

Larry Lesley’s students had been working in a unit called “Waves of Change” and asked if they could include the newly passed state bill in their study. Many highlighted sections of the text evidence they had read it carefully.

What seemed to Joan and me the most important goal for the seminar was for these kids to practice how to talk about differences in a civil fashion (what many believe is missing in the political sector) as much as it was about position on the issues involved. So, Joan began the seminar with a “Brief Academic Conversation” to emphasize the importance of listening for understanding before promoting one’s own perspective. In this way, she set the tone by raising awareness of communication habits.

You would not believe how completely inspiring it was to observe these two classes of 7th graders participating in Paideia Seminar! Hear my enthusiastic applause to their teacher, Mr. Lesley! They were so thoughtful and collaborative, it made me breathe a sigh of relief and buoyed my vision of our country’s future.

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As the students entered the classroom, several got busy moving the desks into a circle while a few other distributed name tents. Joan led the seminar process step by having select students read what the class had established as their speaking and listening guidelines.

Joan’s opening question was: would you vote for this bill or not? Cite a sentence or section from the text to support your response. Well, out of all the students in both classes, except one, said they’d vote against the bill. The cards were on the table. After that, Joan moved the students through looking at various facets of the bill to discuss the many implications.

One boy said, “This just doesn’t seem morally right… It’s not your right to judge someone.”

Another later followed with “I’m a white, straight male and I’m not in the best position to know how it feels to be discriminated against and neither does Pat McCrory. He’s not looking at it from another’s point of view and that’s not cool.”

After all of the sentiment had been flowing in the same direction for a while, a Black male student said, “But wait a minute you all, having a small family business is like inviting people into your home. I think we should go into the mind of the business people.” Later, this same student pointed out, “We elected them to represent us. They shouldn’t think about only themselves. They should think about all the people.”

How students’ minds shine when we give them practice, time and space!

See https://www.paideia.org/teachers/seminar-lesson-plans/ for a copy of the HB2 Seminar Plan coming soon.