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India's untouchables ending discrimination.

I had a chance to share a draft of this issue's article on India's "untouchables" with a small group of middle school students. Right from the first paragraph, the kids noticed and discussed parallels between the Dalits' experience in India [being forced to drink from different wells and sit in different parts of school, for example] and racial segregation here in the United States. It turned into a wonderful student-driven lesson that blew me away--and helped me remember what teaching and learning are all about. Use the ideas below to launch a similar compare-and-contrast exploration in your classroom.



Students will:

* compare and contrast discrimination against India's Dalits with discrimination against African-Americans.

* work collaboratively on a PowerPoint presentation.


Have students read "Untouchable No More" on pp. 10-13. They'll be able to make many comparisons using the article and their own background knowledge, but conducting additional research will deepen their understanding. Gather books and other resources on India's caste system and on racial segregation in the U.S. You might bookmark useful Web sites in advance, such as:







1. After reading the article, ask students if they think India's struggle to combat deeply entrenched caste discrimination is unique to that country. Elicit that while castes may be unique to India, discrimination has occurred all over the world, including in the U.S. Briefly discuss some similarities that students notice between the way Dalits have been treated in India and the way African-Americans, have been treated in U.S. history.

2. Explain that the class will work together to compare and contrast the two forms of discrimination. Divide students into small groups and explain that each group will have one question to discuss and research. Groups will put their findings in PowerPoint slides to be synthesized into a single class presentation.

3. Assign questions, then allow a class period for teams to conduct their research. Below are some questions to try; you can also include other questions that may have emerged during Step 1. Each team should research the answer to its question for each type of discrimination, looking first at the IS article and considering their own background knowledge, then consulting other resources.

Team 1: Who is the target of each form of discrimination? On what basis was the group singled out?

Team 2: What are the historical roots of each form of discrimination? How did each start?

Team 3: What are some concrete examples of each type of discrimination or prejudice?

Team 4: Did the targeted group try to combat or move past the discrimination? If so, what steps did the group take?

Team 5: What did the laws of the land say about each form of discrimination? Did laws effect enough change to prevent the discrimination?

Team 6: Does each form of discrimination continue today? If so, are there signs of change?

If you have a large class, you can assign more than one team to answer a question.

4. Have each team create three PowerPoint slides. Slide 1 should state the research question. Slide 2 should present the findings for discrimination against African-Americans. Slide 3 should present the findings for discrimination against Dalits (untouchables). Students can include photos on the slides if they wish. If their findings are lengthy, they may create more than three slides.

5. Compile the slides into a single PowerPoint presentation, and let teams take turns presenting to the class. Wrap up by discussing the similarities and differences that the teams uncovered. Ask: Were these forms of discrimination more alike or different, in your opinion? Why do you think people discriminate against certain groups? What will it take for discrimination to end?
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Author:Kellaher, Karen
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Apr 2, 2012
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