Late last year, I tweeted out the following photograph. The brainstorm was student-produced a few days after the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown shooting.
What was great about this brainstorm — apart from the conversation itself — was that it didn’t involve a “break” from our regularly scheduled programming. Juniors already write 2Fer Essays where they analyze a topic of their choice, and we typically pick a topic to play with as a group. Lots of students were keyed up about this topic, and went with one of the questions we generated. But lots of them chose not to as well.
Here are a few of the thesis statements that evolved out of that day:
“If citizens and law enforcers are on the same page, fewer crimes will take place and more people will be safe.”
“Because they are held to such an unrealistically high standard, cops are unreasonably criticized when they make mistakes.”
“The conversations on the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases tend to drift away from the core of the problem, police brutality against black men, and instead use these instances as a platform for discussion on black on black crime and respectability politics. This is because media outlets, which influence much of the public debate, find it easier to comfort in addressing black responsibilities as opposed to addressing a systemic issue.”
“Since because people follow what they are taught… policemen are not at fault, it is the institutions fault because they are corrupt in the way they teach individual officers.”
Again, I emphasize: I didn’t do anything “special” for this assignment — the vehicle for individual research and composition was already built into our curriculum. That’s a benefit of authentic inquiry. Students know they have a safe venue to ask the hard questions and attempt an answer as best they can.