How do I teach social studies without depressing students with all those stories about injustice? How do I investigate the effects of colonialism and globalization but not perpetuate a view of victimization? How do I help students think critically about the suffering in the world without making it one long sad story?
Over the years I included in my curriculum at Portland, Oregon Franklin High School examples of resistance, set up simulations and activities where students challenged the system or took on the roles of change-makers. Still, I sent too many students into the world as cynical young adults when what I wanted was to empower students to become active citizens — thinking critically about society, identifying its problems and working toward solutions. I wanted to start this school year with one hopeful story we could return to repeatedly. I found it in Salt of the Earth, a compelling and dramatic film that demonstrates alliances, solidarity, and resistance.
Film is in public domain. View Salt of the Earth or download free online at Internet Archive.
This lesson was published by Rethinking Schools in Rethinking Our Classrooms: Teaching For Equity and Justice (Volume 1). For more teaching activities like “Salt of the Earth: Grounds Students in Hope,” order Rethinking Our Classrooms with essays, teaching ideas, compelling classroom narratives, and hands-on examples.