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Educators Use Twitter To Teach About Ferguson, Build Syllabuses

St. Louis Public Radio

Teachers are using Twitter to gather material and talk about Ferguson.

Marcia Chatelain, a history professor at Georgetown University and a University of Missouri–Columbia alumna, created the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus this week to gather that material.

“I believe strongly that in a time of crisis, everyone should provide their best talent to help ease tensions and to help solve problems, Chatelain said. “I started #FergusonSyllabus as an opportunity to not only challenge educators to talk about Ferguson in meaningful ways, but to help people understand that regardless of the topic they teach, there’s a way to use this moment to teach our students something valuable.”

Chatelain said her students related to the turmoil in Ferguson. “They wanted to do something substantial,” she said. Students are organizing a vigil, participating in a national day of action and told her they wanted to talk about Ferguson in the classroom “in ways that inspire people for change and not simply rehash old arguments,” she said.

“I think a lot of people feel like they are not equipped to say anything meaningful, and that’s just not true,” Chatelain said. “One of the things that we are really careful about in using the hashtag … is to make sure that there is age appropriate and climate appropriate material. I think this is exactly the moment to deputize all of us to be meaningful and thoughtful educators for change.”

Chatelain said participants are asked to tweet resources that can be used in a syllabus for all ages and all climates. So far that includes information about the Missouri Compromise, slavery in the state, tear gas and how the media portrays experts.

“We have been tweeting titles and links to articles, to books, to pieces of music, to artwork that can help inspire us,” she said. “We are tweeting news articles as well as text from centuries past because the issues again in Ferguson are issues that we have grappled with as human people for centuries: conflict, separation, the rule of law, the role of authority. All of these things have been with us and have been interpreted and expressed in many different ways.”

Chatelain’s plans to expand the project to create the Ferguson Freedom Library. “Educators can designate a book or some type of learning resource that they want to donate, either to a library, a prison literary program, to a community center, to help them have these materials to talk thoughtfully about this moment,” she said.

“What’s great about using 140 characters to communicate is that we see that all of these parts, when put together, can do something really amazing.”

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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