"Fighting for Democracy" is intended to complement but also rethink and reframe the familiar curriculum in its focus upon the deeds of excluded groups that ensured and extended democracy's compass.
Too often, students see those separated from power and privilege as victims. They appear in textbooks because of what was done to them rather than what they themselves did. They are passive, and not active. Students thus read about the conquest and near extinction of Native Americans, the enslavement and emancipation of African Americans, the conquest and immigration of Mexican Americans, and the exclusion and detention of Japanese Americans.This curriculum stresses instead the struggles of those excluded groups against physical and cultural genocide, against inhumanity and economic exploitation, and against inequality and racism. Their acts of resistance, as individuals and collectives, constitute a human and civil rights movement that flows like a river through the entirety of the nation's past.
Even when conventional understandings endow agency to those denied power and privilege, they oftentimes depict their deeds as discrete and separate acts. It is thus a commonplace for students to see the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s as organized against white supremacy in the South by and for African Americans. The principal relationship is between white and black (and possibly North and South), and the sole beneficiaries are African Americans.
Rather, "Fighting for Democracy" and especially its follow-up lesson that focuses on the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s will highlight the intersections among excluded groups (like the related efforts of African, Asian, and Mexican Americans for integrated public schools), instead of their divergences, and in place of the familiar binary of white and nonwhite, this curriculum will present a more complicated formulation of race in the U.S. Finally, "Fighting for Democracy" emphasizes that the benefits of equality extend to those who hold and are denied power alike.Multiculturalism, this curriculum maintains, does not consist of separate strands of experiences or even the summation of those diverse cultures and their contributions. "Fighting for Democracy" encourages students to discover and forge connections across those apparent divides of race, ethnicity, gender, class, and citizenship, and, above all, to find in the lives of others themselves and their fortunes.