This week's current is about the shooting of an unarmed Black youth by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

The ongoing Ferguson protests are all over the news, but as school resumes I'm surprised by how little my students know about what's happened in Ferguson and why it's such a big deal.

The first step will be to get a bit of information about what happened into my students' hands.

Here's a great interactive from the New York Times: What Happened in Ferguson?
Here's a British look at the violence in Ferguson from the Guardian

And here's some really fascinating polling data from the Pew Center for the People & the Press showing that different races have very different perceptions of what happened in Ferguson


Once we know the what we can move on to the why, and after the students have gotten a bit of information then they can begin to process it, draw conclusions, and form opinions.


Here's some questions I'm going to ask my students.

What happened to Michael Brown in Ferguson?

What was the reaction in Ferguson to the killing of Michael Brown?

Why is the killing of Michael Brown important?

Do you believe that justice will be served in Ferguson?


How often are civilians killed by police in the US?

How does this number compare to other countries?


According to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, by about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves. Fully 65% of African Americans say the police have gone too far in responding to the shooting’s aftermath. Whites are divided: 33% say the police have gone too far, 32% say the police response has been about right, while 35% offer no response. Whites also are nearly three times as likely as blacks to express at least a fair amount of confidence in the investigations into the shooting. About half of whites (52%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the investigations, compared with just 18% of blacks. Roughly three-quarters of blacks (76%) have little or no confidence in the investigations, with 45% saying they have no confidence at all.


Why do you think Blacks and Whites have had such different reactions to the shooting?

What does this incident tell you about the state of race relations in the US?


If we reversed some of the variables in this case, imagining that the police officer was Black and the murder victim was an unarmed White youth how do you think reactions would change?


Describe the Ferguson Police department’s response to the shooting of Michael Brown?

Describe the federal government’s response to the shooting of Michael Brown?

Why do you think those responses have been different?

Which response do you think was more appropriate and just?

What tools does the federal government have to deal with this sort of issue?

Does the fact that we have a mixed-race president make any difference in race relations today?


What is the history of race relations in America?

How does that history affect the situation in Ferguson?


How does the shooting of Michael Brown affect you?

How does the shooting of Michael Brown affect young Black men where you live?


How would you describe your relationship with police in your town?

How would you describe race relations where you live?

Has there been any police brutality against minorities where you live recently?

Has there been any police brutality against minorities where you live historically?

Could this sort of thing happen where you live?


I'd love to hear how this current worked for your students. Please feel free to add any content or questions you've used in your classroom to the comment section of this post