Partnership Next Generation: New COVID/Racial Justice High School Curriculum

August 3 2020

By Ann Amberg, CPS Director, Outreach & Engagement

Frank Mathews, a long-time social studies teacher in Portland, OR, teaches Modern World history to 9th grade students at Wilson High School. After attending the March 19, 2020 CPS webinar Trauma-Sensitive Schools: Responding to COVID-19, Frank was inspired to do some research on the intersection of the pandemic and it’s effects on economics and people of color. He read Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, listened to numerous podcasts (including NPR’s ‘Interrupt The Systems’: Robin DiAngelo On ‘White Fragility’ And Anti-Racism) and read articles including The AtlanticThe Pandemic Seems to be Hitting People of Color the Hardest”. Frank commented to me, “What has really hit home throughout the pandemic for me personally is how the legacy of European colonialism is still with us”.

As part of The World We Want teacher’s professional development course, Frank designed a new online curriculum that reveals the economic inequities of global colonialism through a racial lens, and how understanding the roots of these domination-system patterns can shed light on the intersection of racial injustice and the current pandemic in social, environmental and economic systems. Frank’s lesson plan, titled “Are the Ghosts of European Colonialism Still Haunting Us?”, takes a partnership approach to learning by including critical thinking, hands-on and self-care oriented learning objectives in three action areas: social justice, ecoliteracy, and inner well-being.

A new partnership-based high school curriculum sheds light on the intersection of racial injustice and the current pandemic in social, environmental and economic systems.

Effective partnership education provides an opening to mutual empowerment and self-actualization, and provides a foundation for students to build their capacity for systems thinking and stand and act with integrity in a rapidly changing world. Portland has recently been in the global news as a center of intensified anti-racism protests and clashes with law enforcement, and high school students are part of the protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Students are learning what it means to educate themselves about systemic racism and how to act as compassionate “disruptors” to the status quo.

One of the learning objectives of Frank’s Environmental Sustainability module reads, “Students will understand the timeline of how systemic racist institutions evolved in the USA and around the world as Europeans colonized the globe and how these systems have impacted the planet”. In the Inner Well-Being lesson, a learning objective reads: “Students will understand and practice methods towards dealing with the underlying anxieties and stresses that are felt once you become “awakened” to these historic truths about systemic inequality”.

Frank affirms that his research encouraged his own self-growth as a leader and role model. In response to the question, ‘How has this experience expanded your consciousness?’ Frank replied, “I think it is the extent to which this topic now “feels” within my soul. I’ve always been aware of these inequities, but now I “feel” them more personally although I am not a person of color. It feels now like it is a part of my purpose for being a teacher than a subject that I teach”.

Frank wrote that he will start using the curriculum he developed in the next school cycle. “I will be threading this COVID/Black Lives Matter curriculum into my pre-established Modern World History curriculum as a sort of “conclusion” to demonstrate how the past impacts the systemic racist systems that exist worldwide today. I still have the same values that brought me into this wonderful profession — a curiosity about the world and its people, a strong sense of social justice, and a love for teaching students about the past so they better understand the present.”

Thank you Frank for your inspired, informed, and caring partnership approach to teaching Modern World History. Understanding the whole truth of our historical roots, your students will be better prepared to work together to build new partnership systems that can put an end to violence, poverty and systemic inequality. They will be equipped to face and act with courage and compassion in the new world we are experiencing now.


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels


View Frank Matthew’s Modern World History Lesson Plan “Are the Ghosts of European Colonialism Still Haunting Us?”

View the slide show “The Ghosts of European Colonialism are Still Haunting Us Today”.

Contact Frank Mathews.

K-12 teachers can earn CEUs or credits for their participation in any CPS event in The World We Want professional development self-design course through The Heritage Institute. Contact Ann to learn more.

Learn about the Center for Partnership Studies Partnership Next Gen program.

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