You Never Stop Learning
By Andrew Wu
My first exposure to the Center for Civil and Human Rights was a field trip from Pace Academy sponsored by history faculty members. Although the Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement Gallery was remarkable in its depiction of notable civil rights leaders and a simulation of the traumatic experience commonly associated with lunch counter sit-ins, the area in the Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement Gallery that introduced the fundamentals of modern human rights and juxtaposed the most powerful inspirational leaders with the most brutal authoritarian rulers of the post-World War II era strongly hooked my interest to the Center. Thus, I decided to apply for an internship at the Center, slightly apprehensive because I did not consider myself to be a typical social activist, but all the more hopeful because of a breadth and depth of historical knowledge and an enthusiasm for understanding contemporary world events. The opportunity, as it turned out, was well worth it.
While working on the educational aspect of the Center’s programs, I realized that planning and organizing field trips and other educational programs involved a painstaking matching of exhibit offerings to state academic curriculum standards. Through this process, I was able to examine both the aspects of the exhibits that may be overlooked more than others as well as a behind-the-scenes process of teaching to academic standards. These matched standards are then used to create field guides, lesson plans, and supplemental materials for schools that visit the Center. Additionally, the connection between the Civil Rights exhibit and the Human Rights exhibit creates an interesting dynamic to promote students’ awareness of connections between past and present struggles for freedom and equality. The Center also provides an environment that sparks casual and formal discussion of present forms of discrimination and human rights abuses, whether in the workspace or in large event rooms. A striking example would be considering one’s “ethical footprint,” which includes the labor costs and potential violations involved in the production of consumer goods that ordinary people purchase unawares.
In short, the presence of a gallery that showcases the American Civil Rights Movement allows for the museum’s expansion into the pre and post-movement efforts of civil rights leaders, while likewise the presence of a gallery that relates current events means that the Center will continually evolve to address the issues of today’s world.