Civil Disobedience

This Civil Disobedience lesson plan also includes:

When is civil disobedience acceptable? Class members read examples of Jim Crow laws, an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," and a newspaper article and then consider the factors that make a law just or unjust.

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CCSS: Adaptable
Instructional Ideas

  • Expand the lesson to include a discussion of the consequences of breaking a law
  • Have class members read Thoreau's essay, "Resistance to Civil Government" before conducting the lesson
Classroom Considerations

  • The opening activity mimics Jane Elliott's controversial discrimination exercise; before deciding to use the activity, read the many articles available online that discuss the intended and unintended consequences for participants
  • The excerpts from King's letter are difficult to read; reprint the same paragraphs from an online source
  • Establish a classroom environment for a safe, respectful discussion of sensitive and controversial issues
  • The premise of the lesson is that some class members will object to and refuse to engage in the opening activity, which may or may not be the case
  • No debriefing period is provided after the opening exercise; budget some time in the lesson for discussion

  • The lesson stresses that civil disobedience involves breaking a law that participants regard as unjust