Three Ways Teachers Can Discuss DACA in the Classroom

From the White House on September 5, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced, on behalf of the current administration, the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program was founded by former President Barack Obama to protect the 800,000 undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation. These children, referred to as ‘Dreamers,’ dreamed of living life as an Americans. For many of them, America is all they know. In the wake of this announcement, it is important for teachers in classrooms across America to have discussions with their students about DACA regardless of subject and regardless of the school’s demographics because at the end of the day we are all Americans. America should be known as a country that is compassionate and fair. We have to support Dreamers who are our brothers and sisters and we cannot turn our backs on them. Here are three ways teachers can discuss DACA in their classrooms.

1: Answer the question: What is DACA?   

Before DACA, there was the DREAM Act. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act was a proposed bill that aimed to help people brought into the country illegally when they were 15 years old or younger.  First introduced in August 2001, the bill eventually failed in the Senate after passing in the House of Representatives in December 2010. Although the DREAM act failed to pass, the immigrants who it would have benefited are still referred to as ‘Dreamers.’

The failed act paved the way for President Obama to introduce DACA in 2012. It allowed people brought to the US illegally as children the temporary right to live, study, and work legally in the America. Teachers can begin with this definition and then take students through an activity to discuss individuals who have benefited from DACA. High school teachers could use Socratic Seminar to discuss DACA.  Giving students background on what DACA means is vital to any conversation about it.  

2: Teachers can use DACA to show students what makes America great.

We often take for granted being Americans. We take for granted the liberties and the freedoms we are afforded living in this country. It is often during school age where those freedoms are taken for granted. DACA reminds us just how fortunate we are to live in this country. Schools should not just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic; schools should also teach us life and give us knowledge that will far outlast those subjects. President Obama said it best, “What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideas- that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will.” What a powerful lesson for a teacher to use. Teachers could dissect the quote with students and it would be a great guide for the discussion on what truly makes America great. 

3: Teachers can use DACA to show students how important it is to stand for one another. 

As mentioned previously, schools should teach much more content than subject areas, they should also teach the important soft skills and life skills. DACA gives teachers the platform to teach their students to stand for something. In many schools across America, there are classrooms filled with DACA recipients who right now are living in fear and turmoil about what is going to happen to them. This is the time for teachers to step to the forefront and teach students to be advocates. In classrooms across America, teachers should be working with students to write a statement in support of DACA. Classrooms should be a place where students learn how to write to their politicians on why we should support DACA. Teachers could teach persuasive writing using DACA as the topic.  

Schools need to do more than just support DACA; schools must also fight for the individuals who benefit from DACA. They are under attack. There are 800,000 people being affected. This is nothing more than another example of the current administration’s racist agenda to divide our country. DACA holds the hopes and dreams of people who, just like all of us, want a better life. Many of them only know America and to deport them to essentially what would be foreign land is simply not American. Teachers, we have to come together and have these discussions in our classrooms to ensure our students understand what it means to truly be American.

 

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David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.