speak truth to power:
in the classroom and beyond


Joseph Karb, a middle school social studies teacher in Springville, NY, is one of the educators who helped develop the STTP curriculum. He said one lesson he wants to impart to his students is that human rights advocacy doesn’t begin “over there.”

“I want them to leave with an understanding that there are human rights issues around the world,” he said, “and internalize the role of the defender, so when they have the opportunity, they are going to stand up for someone else.”

This word, defender, is key to the STTP program. Karb defines it as “standing up for others, sometimes at personal risk.” Defenders featured in Kerry Kennedy’s book, and as part of the curriculum include The Dalai Lama, Elie Wiesel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter, Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela.

Click on each image to link to a video, interview or lesson

Christopher Buckley teaches high school American history and contemporary issues in Darien, Conn. He facilitates Speak Truth to Power leadership training with teachers: “We talk about educating the whole student and teaching students the importance of empathy and standing up for your conviction,” he said.

In his own classroom, Buckley has created what he calls the Ripple of Hope Project, inspired by RFK’s speech on apartheid, at the University of Capetown in 1966. Students examine the underlying tenets of the speech, and study STTP defenders as well as laureates who have won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

Part of the project is figuring out how high school students can be active participants.

“A suburban kid from Darien isn’t going to go rescue a kid out of the Congo, but what can they do,” Buckley said. “It’s about students becoming more aware of their surroundings and the impact their action has.”

After learning about LGBT activist Jamie Nabozny, Joe Karp said, a group of his students decided to launch an anti-bullying club. Some of Katie Gould’s students started a community garden after studying farmworkers’ rights and defenders like Librada Paz. Her students were invited to watch Paz receive the 2012 RFK Human Rights Award.

Students with Librada Paz (holding her Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award/Photo contributed by Katie Gould

Students with Librada Paz (holding her Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award/Photo contributed by Katie Gould

“The kids aren't just reading about some perfect person on a textbook,” Gould said. “Speak Truth to Power humanizes these folks who are total rock stars. I know it transformed not only the way (my students) saw the world, but it gave them a new perspective on how they saw themselves. It made them feel like 'why not me'?” (Next)

About the Author: Holly Leber is the editorial director of the Daily Do Good. She wants to see more girls and boys looking up to a rock star like Malala than to insert-name-of-latest-celebrity-making-tabloid-headlines-here.

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