Celebrating Deaf Culture and Civil Rights

As the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) reaches its 25th anniversary, my group in special education read “No Pity” by Joseph Shapiro. The book charts the course of the Disability Civil Rights movement at its height. It also inspired us to create a series of important projects that we would like to share with the general public. While no replacement for the book, it is a great resource. Below is a Deaf Culture and Civil Right Webquest that any Civics teachers is welcome to use in their classroom. For a pdf version, just email me.


Deaf Culture & Civil Rights History Webquest

Designed by Andrew Levin, ahlevin@gmail.com


The 1988 protest by deaf students at Gallaudet University was defining moment for the disability rights movement. It was the closest the movement has come to having a touchstone event, a Selma or a Stonewall…The Gallaudet campus takeover… was a made-for-television solidarity phenomenon, thick with drama. Cameras feasted on the sea of hundreds of outstretched arms signing “Deaf President Now,” over and over, in a rhythmic choreography. A school that prided itself on preparing deaf students for the hearing world had decreed a deaf person not ready to lead a deaf university.

-Joseph Shapiro, “No Pity”, page 74


As Mr. Shapiro points out, the student protests that successfully led to the first deaf president of Gallaudet were an extremely important step for Americans with disabilities. It emphasized a positive culture of disability and increased support for what would become the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In this Webquest, we will learn some background on deaf Americans and about the event itself.


  1. http://www.disabilitymuseum.org/dhm/edu/essay.html?id=38

As hard as it might be to believe today, the first school for the deaf Americans did not open until 1817. What did deaf Americans do prior to this? What drove Mason Fitch Cogswell and Sylvester Gilbert to form the Connecticut Asylum for the Education and Instruction of Deaf and Dumb People? Would any words used in the school name be considered outdated or even offensive today?







  1. http://aam.govst.edu/projects/sdomas/imagetable.htm Alexander Graham Bell was a famous inventor in the 1800s. He was also hard of hearing. Take a look at primary documents from Bell’s life. What links can you find between his inventions and deaf culture?







  1. https://youtu.be/oxiJ02-hpZY

Helen Keller was both deaf and blind. Despite these conditions, she became a well-known and well-liked advocate for Americans with Disabilities. How did she learn to communicate? What were greatest achievements?





  1. http://www.gallaudet.edu/dpn-home/issues/week-of-dpn.html

This timeline of the Deaf President Now (DPN) protest give details of what happened each day during that week. In just eight days, students and their supporters changed Gallaudet University fundamentally. Read through the timeline, how did deaf American embrace their culture? How did they involve politics?







Continuing especially the epilogue. Which reasons seem most likely to be why this protest was so successful, so quickly?







  1. http://www.edline.net/pages/S/About_Us/Sabre_News_Network/Broadcast

Watch this local high school’s newscast. At 1:38, there is a segment called the “Sign of the Week”. Watch the clip and then decide whether such segments are a positive development of deaf Americans. Cite evidence for your answer.






Deaf Culture & Civil Rights History Webquest Exit Slip

How would you define Deaf Culture?







How would describe the Deaf Americans Civil Rights Movement to a friend?





Podcasts in the Classroom

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While listening to the latest Freakonomics podcast (http://freakonomics.com/podcast/ask-not-what-your-podcast-can-do-for-you/), I was delighted to hear about efforts to personalize the education experience for high school students through that medium.

For those of you not yet in on the fun, podcasts are recordings that can be either streamed or downloaded. You can find podcast channels with segments on almost any topic from sports to politics to dating. Obviously for the classroom setting, students focus on their subject matter such as social studies or science. Given I LOVE the social studies, here are some of my favorites for newbies:

Freakonomics (Oddities of Economics)

Planet Money (NPR Personal Finance)

Toastmasters Podcast (Speaking Skills – occasionally hit or miss but usually good)

Under the Influence (Marketing)

Candidate Confessional (Political analysis of failed political campaigns by the politicians and advisers themselves)

We all have students in class who are constantly fiddling with the cell phones or want to put in their ear buds – by incorporating podcasts, these classes adapt to student habits. But more importantly, education becomes personalized. Each student can listen to a different (teacher-approved) podcast that fits their interests. By making the learning differentiated and relevant to students, the result is a more authentic learning experience. For example, while studying Campaigns and Elections in Civics, students can choose a podcast segment from Candidate Confessional and understand how one politician’s experience relates to the facts in the textbook. It will make it more real, this has shown an increase on their grades and learning experience so we offer them once in a few podcasts to do an interactive one, in which they can talk about personalized topics as sports, events happening in the week and like last podcast, topic was referring to online games as we found out there are a lot of gamers at school and students loved the insight of knowing something extra like learn about services by professional gamers or which types of consoles and which games are the most popular right now, it’s little break in the studying matter and helps them to expand their minds and to get more interested in the podcast experience.

Once I earn my professional teaching license this Spring, I look forward to bringing this technology to my own high school classroom in the Fall. Having already designed a course curriculum at Harper College, I know how to plan and collaborate with my department and the administration to bring innovative ideas into the classroom. As such, I would be able to bring podcasts into classes such as US Civics. There is always something of interest to each student and this tool can help us educators find those ways to engage every single young adult.

Aristolte and American Democracy

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There is a great upcoming event at the National Hellenic Museum on January 28th. “Greek Philosophers, Founding Fathers, and American Law” will address how our government and its laws have been influenced by Greek classical thought, especially Aristotle. The event is free for students and you can sign up at the link above.

Teaching: The Year in Review

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Four years ago this month I began teaching. This past year was the most successful and intellectually engaging year yet.

It began in January with my teaching evaluation process at Harper College. I decided to improve Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Inequality Education (DIIE) in my classes. Throughout Spring courses, I provided a short survey to students after each class. This anonymous, optional survey about how well the sessions had addressed diversity, inclusiveness, and inequality. After a few weeks of results, I implemented course improvements to further engage diverse students in authentic, relevant learning.

I prepared my success stories from my research and presented them at the Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association (APSA). I got to spend my Labor Day weekend presenting a lecture and a poster presentation on diversity and inclusion in political science. The conference attendees raised even more interesting teaching suggestions that I have since added my classes such as a unit on the political struggles and successes of Americans with Disabilities.

Following Spring semester, I headed out west to Salt Lake to grade AP US Government exams. Three thousand essays later, I know exactly how this exam is graded. Yesterday, I was honored with another invite for this year’s grading cycle.

The rest of the summer was spent teaching an online version of Non-Western Comparative Politics. When not teaching, I designed a powerpoint and a test bank for a new American Government textbook coming out next year. I am also publishing a book review in the Journal of Political Science Education in 2016.

Finally, I am beginning the next phase in my education career by becoming a secondary  education teacher. In September, while continuing to teach at Harper, I began a one year masters and certification program in social studies education at National Louis University. I have already passed endorsements in political science, history and mathematics and plan to complete additional endorsements in economics and special education (LBS1). So far the courses have been illuminating and provided me with great strategies for students with disabilities and diverse students in general. I was also able to observe teachers at Fremd High School, Hoffman Estates High School, and Baker Demonstration School. Thank you to those at all three schools for opening your doors to this young teacher. In the new year, I look forward to bringing all my experiences and newfound knowledge into a high school classroom. I will also get to continue to mentor other educators in my new role as Region 1 Representative for the Illinois Council for the Social Studies.

Getting to the Point: Documentary Film Excerpts to Use in Your Classroom

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Check out my recently published article in the Summer/Fall 2015 issue of Political Science Educator.

The article starts on page 7: PS Educator Vol19issue2


Celebrate Constitution Day at Harper College


Constitution Day 2015 is scheduled for September 16, 2015 at Harper College in room J 143 from 9:30 a.m. until 10:45 a.m. The Harper community will be invited to attend. The format for this year’s program will be a panel presentation and discussion. The topic is “ Drones, Your Privacy and Due Process: How do we strike a balance between Personal Privacy and Public Safety”? The program will begin with an introduction by Kathryn Rogalski, Dean of the Business Social Science Division, Harper College. Professor Michael J. Harkins, Chair of the Harper History Department, will then provide an overview of Constitution Day, the 2015 topic and then introduce the panel members. Participating on this year’s panel will be Constitutional Law Professor Jerry Kendall, John Marshall Law School, Chicago, Professor Bobby Summers, Chair of the Harper College Political Science Department, and Andrew Levin, Adjunct Professor of Political Science also at Harper. Each of the three panel members will have 20 minutes to discuss the topic. At the conclusion of the presentations the audience will be able to ask questions of the panel members. Professor Harkins will moderate the discussion.

Check out my students’ awesome work with African, Latin American and Asian countries!

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Please take a minute to look at my Non-Western Comparative Politics students’ final projects. They have done an amazing job learning about these developing countries and really show tremendous insight into how critical challenges such as pollution and gender inequality are being addressed.

Chicago Tourism’s Global Presence: Goodbye Europe, Hello China

Choose Chicago, the local tourism bureau, has begun adjusting (and shrinking) its international presence. According to Crains, the bureau is closing its office in the Netherlands. It is also ending its contracts with tourist agents in London, Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, and Tokyo. Meanwhile, it will retain its offices in Mexico City and Toronto and expand its presence in China from contracted in agents in 3 cities to 4. For a complete look at the new configuration, click here.

Sweet Home Chicago!

The map really visualizes some of the changes of modern globalization on many levels. Europe will no longer have a single contract agent (except on specific projects). This seems to parallel Europe’s economic challenges and reduced strategic importance. Also losing out are Japan and Brazil. This too seems to parallel the countries’ recent challenges: Japan with near constant recessions and aging and Brazil with crime and finances.

Meanwhile, once again China is the jewel of the crown. The four offices with contracted sales agents will attempt to wow Chinese tourist groups into visiting our beautiful town. They are especially important given that visitors tend to be part of the growing wealthy segment of the country’s population. Here, even Chinese students, are being courted by iconic brands – something that would have been unheard of under the socialist regime of the 70s and before.

Now admittedly, we can’t say these moves are a be-all, end-all of what is happening globally, but it does indicate a symptom of globalization from the US perspective. Choose Chicago is looking for value, and they are finding it in North America and China.

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