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Unit Four: Comparing and Contrasting the Past

Once court-ordered busing was mandated in Boston, it did not take long for people to choose a side of the controversy. Residents of Boston became either for or against busing, and for many different reasons. This unit will help your students understand multiple viewpoints of some of the harder moments of history, and investigate that they think was/would have been the best solution.

Classroom Activities

Tug of War; For or Against Busing:

1. Have the students think about busing in Boston, and the “sides” to that story.

2. Before giving them the documents have them brainstorm what each side was arguing or could have been trying to create/say. (ie, people who didn’t support busing could have been racist, or didn’t want to spend money on the buses) or (people who supported busing wanted equal schools, or selfishly wanted their children to go better schools).

3. Then give them their packets of documents to help them better understand the thoughts from both sides. As they are seeing these things have them write their points, or tugs, on post it notes.

4. Create the “tug of war” on the board, with the question pasted right in the middle and the sides clearly displayed.

5. Have the students take turns adding a tug: have them bring up their post it notes and make a cases for why their side was the best decision. (one pro should go then, then one con. Each student can play off the information given before their turn)

Lesson adapted from:

Historical Red-Rover:

1. Students choose sides of the room (for or against) in terms of busing. (These can either be self-chosen or randomly selected depending on the intent of the lesson)

2. Once they have picked sides, they will find their new team and a packet of documents to help them make their case for their chosen side.

a. While going through these documents students may solidify their choice of being on their side, or see things that make them want to change.

b. After about 15 minutes looking through documents and forming their argument as a group, the students will them try to persuade their classmates to switch sides based on the facts in the artifacts.

c. These arguments should be rooted in facts and student should be using language that shows they’re pulling information from documents given, i.e. “On page 2 on document C, we see…” or “Mayor White said …”. Students cannot move on a point that does not have evidence to back the claim.

d. Continue while there is still “productive” conversation watching as students move from one side to another. Note the students who move so during the discussion you can have them help walk through their thought processes.

3. Once the red-rover moving is complete, have people who moved sides share their thought process for moving. (You could even go more in depth and have students brainstorm what would have made them move if they did not move.)

Discussion Questions

  • What groups of people are involved? What do they believe?  What do they want?
  • How do these individuals or groups go about getting what they want?
  • What are the pros and cons of court-ordered busing? What arguments can you make for or against court-ordered busing? What do you think was the main reason to support or fight against court-ordered busing?
  • How would you describe the sides of the court-ordered busing controversy?
  • What other documents might be helpful to learn about these people’s feelings?

Primary Source Set

Correspondence between Mayor Kevin White and a Boston resident: 0245001-002-022-014

Correspondence between Mayor Kevin White and a person in Cambridge, MA: 0245001-002-022-028

Correspondence between Mayor Kevin White and a woman in Danvers, MA: 0245001-002-022-022

Letter to Mayor Kevin White: 0245001-002-024-009

Letter to Mayor Kevin H. White: 0245001-002-026-021

** Many more letters, and other various forms of correspondence in response to court-ordered busing, can be viewed in the Mayor Kevin H. White Collection. **



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