The Conversation Continues: “Purest Sons”(15+ Minutes)
“The Conversation Continues” activities are discussion prompts and resources to dive deeper into the issues raised in the Basic Plan. These flexible resources require little to no preparation on your part.
NOTES TO EDUCATOR:
This activity asks students to discuss the institution of slavery. Please be sure to inform students of this content prior to viewing and remind students of the respect and rigor required to study this history. This is hard history, but it is necessary history to study.
- Process personal reactions to the ideas in “Purest Sons.”
- Examine the implications of Thomas Jefferson’s failure to fulfill Thaddeus Kosciuszko’s will.
- Evaluate the significance of the contradictions between Enlightenment ideals and American practices.
RESOURCES FOR FURTHER RESEARCH:
Choose the questions that seem most relevant for your students and curriculum.
- What surprised you about this episode? What ideas or questions do you have after watching it?
- What are the central ideas of this episode, and what parts of this story about Agrippa Hull, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and Thomas Jefferson do you think people should know? Why?
- What might this story reveal about how others were thinking and behaving during this time? In other words, what characterized the dominant sociopolitical systems, cultures, and beliefs at the time?
- Where can you find contradictions or inconsistencies between Jefferson’s words and actions? Where did Jefferson’s personal interests conflict with civic virtues, democratic principles, or human rights?
- What are the implications of contradictions or inconsistencies between words and actions? For example, if you say one thing but behave another way, how does it affect those around you? How does it affect yourself?
- Living in a legal system that allows injustices such as slavery while also being an individual with agency and the power to chose what you do is a complex life. How can we use our understanding of these complexities to grapple with ideas such as individual responsibility? Does this conversation change when we consider individuals such as Thomas Jefferson who played a key role in creating this legal system? (Potential follow up: how do these questions relate to systems we live in other than legal systems, such as social, economic, educational, etc. systems?)
- If Jefferson had followed through with Kosciuszko’s will, how might things have been different? For the individuals and families emancipated? For other enslavers and enslaved people of the time? For us, today, in the present-day United States?
- If you were to construct a question for any of the people introduced in the episode, who would you pick and what would you ask? Why?
- What connections can you make between this story and anything else we have studied so far? What patterns do you notice? How are things similar or different?
- What connections can you make between this story and current events? What patterns do you notice? How are things similar or different?
DISCUSSION STRUCTURE IDEAS:
The best discussions often come when students have the chance to develop ideas before discussing as a class. Using the following structures, students can practice initiating and participating in small group collaborative discussions before a larger whole class discussion of the same questions.
- Small Groups (no-tech, low-prep): Have students discuss the prompt list in small groups, with one student taking notes. Then, discuss as a group.
- Written Response Chain (tech-optional, low-prep): Have students write quick (2-3 minutes) responses and then exchange (digitally or otherwise) papers and read and respond, in writing. Repeat process for a total of 2, 3, or 4 passes.
- Rotating Groups (no-tech, low-prep): Have students meet in small groups and discuss one question at a time, recording their thoughts. Between questions, have one or two members of each group rotate to a new group.
- Chat Stations/Gallery Walk (low-tech, medium-prep): Write the questions on chart paper around the room. Have groups rotate through the prompts, recording their thoughts and their reactions to the thoughts of other members.
- Digital Breakout Rooms (high-tech, low-prep): Use the breakout room feature of Zoom or create multiple Google Meets to allow students to talk in small groups and take notes.
- Parlay or other digital discussion board: (High-tech, medium prep): Use an online discussion board. Parlay and Google Classroom can both be used as a traditional board, while a tool like Today’s Meet enables back-and-forth conversation.
Written by Precious Musa, Hannah Barr, Zeynep Ertugay, and Michael Lawrence-Riddell, © Self-Evident Education, 2022