Teaching Frederick Douglass in American School Systems

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Teaching Frederick Douglass in American School Systems

With the increasing popularity of educational standards and standardized testing many are beginning to ask, "What is the purpose of education?" Is the goal of education to fill students' minds with a curriculum of facts, or is it to prepare them to be productive members of society? If the answer to this question is the latter of those two, what do they need to know in order to be good citizens and how should that be taught? Tolerance is one issue that educators are leaning towards in their own curriculum. Over the years Americans have made advancements in the area of tolerance, yet there are still some presuppositions that lurk within society. The best way to deal with this issue is to educate people with the truth and provide them with opportunities to see the world through the eyes of one who is oppressed. Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself invites readers into the life of one who is oppressed so that they might see of how damaging intolerance is for those who are enslaved by its prejudices as well as those who hold those harsh sentiments. For this very reason Douglass serves as an excellent resource to personalize issues such as these and bring them into an academic light where teachers and students can open their minds to tolerating and defending differences.

Douglass's Narrative brings an ugly era of American history to life as it weaves through his personal experiences with slavery, brutality, and escape. Most importantly Douglass reveals the real problem in slavery, which is the destructive nature of intolerance and the need for change. Douglass refers many times to the dehumanizing effects sla...

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...s not solely about rote memorization and the three R's or anything else that can be tested with a bubble sheet test. Learning is about growing as a person and gaining meaningful experiences. This is the type of education students receive from Frederick Douglass.

Works Cited

Caporino, Grace M. and Rose A. Rudnitski. General Guidelines for Teaching about Intolerance and Genocide. Teaching for a Tolerant World. Ed. Judith P. Robertson. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 1999.

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. 1845, The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003. 2032-2097.

Young, Iris Marion. "Five Faces of Oppression." Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. Ed. Adams, M., et. Al. New York: Routledge, 2000.
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