Star Wars & Civil Rights with Bill Gates and Nate Bowling


It’s really important for me, for my teaching to be relevant. I use a lot of metaphors. One of the metaphors I use is Star Wars, and I talk about the idea of Star Wars being a three-chapter film, and then the same thing happened basically with civil rights. We have this kind of 100-year period of a lie where we said that we have a due process clause, we have the equal protection clause, but they weren’t actually enforced, and so I use Star Wars to explain that to students. I start with the class and I’m like, who’s seen Star Wars, and about half the hands go up, so I have the nerds kind of explain Star Wars to everyone else. So I say, okay perfect, don’t think about Star Wars, think about the Civil War. So, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. About 1860, we had the Civil War, and at the end of the Civil War there’s a big celebration. Chewbacca’s like “Aarrr wgh ggwaaah” right. And we pass the 14th Amendment. And The 14th Amendment is supposed to make black citizens, supposed to create due process, equal protection. It should have been the end of the conflict, but it wasn’t. Okay, so 1896 happens and there’s a lawsuit, and the good guys think they’re going to win, but they lose. and that’s Plessy V. Ferguson. Plessy V. Ferguson is the empire striking back, and I explain how the empire is like the force of racism, white supremacy, the Jim Crow south. The Empire Strikes Back happens in 1896, and civil rights in the south takes a huge step backwards. And so we have this period of civil rights that happens where these lawsuits go back and forth, and we end up in 1954, with Brown V. Board of Education. Brown V. Board of Education happens in 1954. It’s like the ultimate victory of the good guys, and we should have fully integrated schools. When we talk about the Civil Rights Movement being this period from ‘54 to ’68, in which the Voting Rights Act is passed, the Civil Rights Act is passed. So these are the kinds of metaphors I use with my kids. This is one of my favorite ones. I’m a nerd, I want them to be nerds. This is the ultimate nerdery. So I’m taking government and nerdery and making an awesome teaching sandwich for the kids. Amazing!

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