Hands on revolution

Teacher demonstrates the practicality of civil disobedience

Fathan Kelley, Staff Writer

English teacher Dona Parks took an alternative teaching style where she oppressed the minorities of the class in order to help her students understand the essay “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau. Parks taught under the idea that experience teaches better than analyzing a narrative.

“The lesson objective was twofold: Give the students the arsenal to write an argument essay on disobedience (stemming from an Oscar Wilde quote on an AP Language exam) and also to experience hands-on a real life situation where they would have to make a moral decision,” Parks said.

Parks had chosen arbitrarily on what basis to put them into minorities, which included clothing, grades, and religion.

“[The oppressed students] were sent outside to await instruction,” Parks said. “I directed the students remaining in the classroom to offer no help to the group that I sent outside or else they would get five zeros in the grade book. Initially, the outside group was unaware of the ‘oppression.’ They just knew they had to work, while the inside group knew that they were receiving privileges that the outside group was not.”

Over the next few days Parks had denied the group certain courtesies she had given to the others, and had been dismissive and contempt towards them.

“She was so disrespectful, I’ve never seen a teacher treat them like she did; she literally threw their assignments in the trash and didn’t let them sit on the bean bags and didn’t give them the chance to speak their mind and she also put up a bible verse opposing their.” Junior Bri Cortes.

Eventually one of the outside groups figured out the plan and went along with it.

“One class period stood in solidarity against me until I gave them an assignment that was impossible to complete in a single class period,” Parks said. “In all the classes, once I began inputting zeros, the majority made the decision to keep to themselves and do their own work. A handful of students confronted me after class about not liking how they were supposed to treat the others. I casually brushed them off and told them they were free to choose what they thought was the right thing to do, but that if they went against what I said, their grades would reflect their choices. Some even confronted me in front of the class, but because their responses were emotion based and not evidence based, they fell like dominoes.”

A student had said that she didn’t trust authority and this gave her more reason not to. She also said the comments felt so real that it was hard to just brush them off as a lesson.

“I told them at the end after we talked that their feelings are important, but they don’t determine whether something’s right or wrong or whether something should be done, and that our feelings change, and our feelings for different situations change, so they can’t be the gauge of what we do, they can be a catalyst and help us,” Parks said. “Our feelings are a big deal, they’re important.”