A Curriculum for High Schoolers and Middle Schoolers on Class and Classism
“The youth have loved everything that we’ve done from the curriculum, and as a facilitator I too have been very impressed.”
What is Created Equal?
10 Questions + 40 Activities + Stories of Youth Activism = 150 Captivating Pages
Provocative questions on the minds of young people but too often unaddressed in classrooms and in society are what shape Created Equal: Can everyone achieve the American Dream if they worked hard enough? How much is “enough”? What makes people happy?
Created Equal is a curriculum that facilitates conversations across class lines leading towards social economic justice dialogue.
Created Equal provides facilitators and teachers with links to videos, podcasts, online games, websites, organizations and other resources to help guide conversations about class, economic justice, and financial literacy.
Created Equal provides an opportunity to gain a better understanding of class issues, develop analytical skills, and practice being kind along the way.
Created Equal is being used by educators at high schools, faith-based programs, after-school programs, teen empowerment projects and other groups across the nation.
More About Created Equal From Co-Author
One of the co-authors of Created Equal, Phyllis Labanowski, was interviewed on MIT’s Radio with a View. Phyllis discusses her own personal connection to Created Equal and reasons behind its creation. She provides insight into how the curriculum is structured and why it is beneficial for not only students and educators but also for our communities:
“It’s not about the actual content of learning facts and figures but the process of going through an activity, being exposed to some content, and reflecting on and making meaning of it for young people.”
“It has a structure, an infrastructure of support so that teachers can follow what pieces they need, knowing that we all have a different set of content that we carry.”
“We are literally trying to create communities in classrooms and schools where we are all in this together, we all deserve respect, and it is not easy for anyone.”
Listen to the full interview here: Radio With A View – Created Equal.
Why Created Equal?
Education is supposed to equalize the playing field, yet schools often become places of reproduction and reinforcement of class inequities. This contradiction makes schools an especially crucial site for raising class awareness and equipping students to work towards a world we are all truly “created equal.” The curriculum tackles the class questions young people find most pressing in a series of engaging activities, discussion guides, and multi-media “hooks” that facilitate students in discovering more about their own class background, the experiences of others and how to create alliances toward a shared goal of fairness and equality.
Everyone benefits from open and respectful conversations about class and classism-young people and the adults in their lives. Created Equal provides an opportunity to begin or to continue that journey, into an understanding of the issues and a development of the skills needed along the way. In doing so, we hope that Created Equal will support a generation of young people who understand the impact of classism on all of us, who are able to have respectful conversations across class lines, and who are willing to work for economic justice.
Most people are not in a hurry to talk about the ways they are different, especially when those conversations reveal that some of us are privileged (which often brings up feelings of embarrassment or guilt) and others are truly disadvantaged (which often brings up feelings of shame or anger). Both research and people’s lived experiences identify the ways institutions perpetuate and maintain classism. Our class backgrounds inform who we are, what we value, how we communicate, and who we become. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we often identify the class of others and treat them accordingly, based on these presumed identities. Holding the contradictions-our own, each other’s and in the culture and institutions around us-is a skill everyone needs in a diverse society. We cannot walk in each other’s shoes, but we can walk together as allies.
We hope that by engaging with the activities in this curriculum your students will:
- Understand that class and classism are real and explore and make meaning of them
- Develop a language and co-create a respectful environment in order to talk respectfully about topics that are hard for everyone with people from both similar and different class backgrounds
- Strengthen their own understanding of themselves and engage authentically with others in meaningful discussion
- Make sense of their own feelings and responses to class and classism and learn productive ways to process those feelings, learning to be responsible for and to themselves
- Explore ethical and moral choices around what’s fair, what’s just, and what’s right
- Begin to develop a sense of responsibility to others including ways to respond to classist comments and incidents
- Learn to work together for a just community
Given the vision we have for a world where education can make the difference, secondary schools are especially crucial sites for the implementation of this curriculum. To you who are helping to make that difference, we give thanks.
Real Stories of educators using Created Equal
Read Veronica’s Story:
Veronica Quiles led a Created Equal exercise with middle school students. Using Created Equal she was able to open up a safe space for students to think about class issues which encouraged and ignited students to engage in dialogue about class. She felt that the curriculum was a positive asset for facilitating this conversation and providing room for students to participate in a discourse about class:
“The American Dream exercise is just a small slice of what the Created Equal curriculum has to offer students. In working with these student I realized now more than ever how our nation is about institutional/structural inequality. This curriculum starts the critical thinking and conscious raising necessary for social change.”
Feedback from others who have used Created Equal in their class:
“I only used about six of the lesson plans as that is all that made sense in my math course. Each lesson stands alone well. While I imagine that using the whole curriculum would be especially powerful and empowering, my students got a lot of benefit from the lessons we covered.”
“The Created Equal Curriculum was the perfect introduction to the math class about money that I taught to high school juniors and seniors. It made the topic of money come alive. It put the topic into a broader framework than simply How to Budget or How to Balance a checkbook. The lesson plans were provocative, and they led us into eye-opening, engaging conversations about money, society, and class.”
“If we teachers aim to teach civics, we really need to include classism in the curriculum. How great that Class Action has provided us with such a teacher-friendly, engaging package.”
“First of all, let me say that I loved the idea behind the curriculum and wish I were teaching in a classroom where I could use it for an extended period of time…I used some of the resources listed in the book, and would have used much more with more time…One of the things they said they were interested in right from the beginning was what they could do, because “we’re just teenagers.” So as a wrap up to our entire discussion we read a bunch of the Youth Activist stories and discussed what kids can and do accomplish to change the world.”
If you have any questions about Created Equal feel free to contact Class Action at email@example.com. You can order copies at our online store.
To donate to Class Action to help bring Created Equal to more youth, click here.
About the Authors
Pamela Freeman is a long time social activist. She has spent the last 30 years working on issues of social justice, nationally and internationally in variety of settings. She is the founder of the Philadelphia Black Women’s Health Project which advocates round health issues for Black women. She is a graduate of the School of Playback Theater, and the co-founder of Playback for Change a local improves company that focus on diversity issues. She also was a consultant/trainer for Spirit in Action, an organization that provides training around diversity and class issues for social activists. She is a social worker by training and currently teaches cultural diversity at Bryn Mawr College School of Social Work and Social Research as well as works as a therapist.
Phyllis Labanowski is a stepmother, grandmother, godmother, and aunt-so she takes our future seriously. She suffered 12 years of bad teachers growing up in the public schools of rural, up-state New York-so she became a teacher. She was raised in a racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, working class, Polish family-so she became an activist. As a result of hearing the collective visions of activists and organizers nation-wide and the role of artists in those visions, she went to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston at age 50. Now she is a graphic messenger supporting people and organizations that are doing good work in the world and is also working on contemporary public ceremony through Water Dances and Land Rituals.