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Lesson Plan June 16, 2021

Reckoning with the Enlightenment through Student Community Journalism


This unit was created by Catherine Irving, a high school social studies teacher at Northside College Preparatory High School  in Chicago, IL, as part of the Spring 2021 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Journalism and Justice. It is designed for facilitation across approximately six 100 minute class periods.

For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.

Unit Objectives

Students will be able to…

  • Connect the philosophies developed through European Imperialism and Enlightenment to contemporary systemic oppression across the world
  • Analyze how ideals developed in the Enlightenment have evolved over time
  • Evaluate primary historical and contemporary sources to support a claim 
  • Propose solutions to contemporary, discriminatory issues
  • Analyze events from different perspectives
  • Identify and research examples of counter narratives/disruptors  in their own communities
  • Plan and conduct interviews
  • Present reporting on the past narrative and the current disruptor

Unit Overview

How do counter narratives in our communities demonstrate that the historic ideals of liberty and equality born in the Enlightenment have become increasingly accessible to more communities today through the efforts of individuals or organizations?

This unit will examine the traditional themes of the European Enlightenment such as liberty and justice. Students will then explore how the same thinkers who left a legacy of proposed freedoms also created systemic discrimination for many communities. After engaging with primary sources and examining the history of imperialism, students will review news stories funded by the Pulitzer Center that connect this legacy to current global events. Ultimately students will create their own projects highlighting a narrative in their own community that counters traditional Enlightenment legacies. The idea is to identify and report on the disruptors to the past stereotypes. 

Students will practice the following skills throughout this unit:

  • Connections of cause and effect
  • Analyzing change over time
  • Using primary sources to create and support a position
  • Proposing solutions to problems
  • Analyzing events from different perspectives

The unit is written for freshmen students in World Studies in a 1:1 technology setting. The class meets for 100 minutes twice a week. The foundation lessons through the initial assigning  of the culminating project takes 6 days or 3 weeks. Teachers will decide for themselves if after the 6th lesson they will continue to use class time for the project or if it will become an outside of class activity with occasional check ins

Performance Task

The original Enlightenment promises of liberty coupled with the historically accepted views of discrimination are meeting in our current communities and lives. Those who have always controlled the narrative are still influential, however, more and more groups are starting to change that narrative. The historic ideals of the Enlightenment are being used against itself to bring about more liberty and justice for all. 

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