We Must Teach Our Kids About Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela
photo credit: 3 heads are better than 1: MYdiba via photopin (license)

We must remember to teach our students and children about Nelson Mandela.

In my 20 years as a classroom teacher, the only time Mandela was mentioned in my middle school language arts class was during Black History month and, occasionally, when a student chose Mandela as a topic of study during biographical research.

As I reflect on my career and Mandela’s life, this saddens me.

Although Mandela’s remarkable worldwide celebrity has made me keenly aware of his exploits, on the day after his death, I find myself researching this amazing man, as if I’d never heard of him. I felt the need for focus on the accomplishments of this legendary figure.

I read numerous articles about Mandela, the man who, after losing 27 years of his freedom in several South African prisons, became his country’s first black president and was largely responsible for ending apartheid. Is it possible for young people to comprehend Mandela’s suffering and his laurels?

There is so much rich history surrounding Nelson Mandela that needs to be taught in schools worldwide. He was at the center of hate, racism, subjugation, politics, courage, leadership, perseverance and much more.

We often wait too long to recognize true greatness — a human failing, of which I’m guilty.

If I were teaching today, I wouldn’t wait for Black History month. I’d dedicate our learning to the memory of Nelson Mandela on numerous occasions throughout the year.

And I would teach kids about him year after year, so his memory and what he stood for survives.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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