LWV, GHS Sponsor Harvard Case Discussion on MLK and Voting Rights


If you were a civil rights leader after Selma in 1965, how might you have responded to the violence and worked to move the cause of voting rights forward for the African American community? This question will be the focus of an innovative program on Nov. 13 offered by the League of Women Voters of Greenwich together with the Greenwich High School Social Studies Department. Participants will not only include League members from Greenwich and New York, but also students from up to five area high schools. This will be the second in a series of case discussions that the League is aiming to make into an annual community program.

The cases are all taken from Harvard Professor David Moss’s book,” Democracy: A Case Study.” The book applies the Harvard case study teaching method to 19 pivotal episodes in American political history, from the drafting of the Constitution to the recent “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision. The voting rights case was chosen for a few reasons: 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King and it is a case that resonates with the work of the League since its founding nearly 100 years ago.

The event will give participants an opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of the leaders of the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, immediately after the tragedy of Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It presents them with a dilemma faced by those leaders when they had to plot a course forward for their cause. Those attending will read the case in advance and take part in an illuminating discussion and learning experience. The League has organized the program with balanced participation between adults and high school students.

According to Deirdre Kamlani, League Board and Program Committee member, “We are delighted to be able to offer this program again this year, especially since we were so heavily oversubscribed last year that we could not accommodate everyone. Not only will participants in the new case discussion learn about voting rights in a historical context, they will also see how this debate remains very relevant to our politics today.”

The League’s pilot in Greenwich in 2017 has become the impetus for greater League involvement around the country with the Harvard cases. The Greenwich League began its work to scale the program last December, and they have 150 Leagues so far that have expressed interest in partnering with their high schools and offering similar programs in their communities.

Greenwich High School’s Social Studies Department has joined with the League to offer this program. Lucy Arecco, Bella House and Social Studies Program Administrator at the high school, was an early supporter of this collaboration with the League and the case study approach. She said, “Our teachers were enthusiastic about adding Professor Moss’s cases to their curriculum, and they have been doing that since late last year. They have given regular feedback to the team at Harvard, and they are delighted to see this program expand to include other high schools around the country.”

The case will be moderated by three Greenwich High School teachers who trained in the case method under Professor Moss at Harvard in 2017: Karin Boyea, Steve Swidler and Jessica Keller. Karen Boyea, Social Studies Learning Facilitator at the high school commented, “I have seen how the Harvard case study method fosters greater critical thinking in my students about key episodes in American history. They have all benefited from the inclusion of Professor Moss’s cases in the curriculum, and I am looking forward to moderating the Martin Luther King case for our community.”

And, while Greenwich High School is hosting and co-sponsoring the event, students and teachers from Brunswick, Greenwich Academy, Sacred Heart and Rye Country Day School will also be participating.

The event is being held at Greenwich High School in Room 900 on Tuesday, Nov. 13 starting at 6:30 p.m. Although admission is free, space is limited and early registration for non-school participants is required by emailing: eventsLWVG@gmail.com

If you are a student or teacher at one of the participating schools, you need to register directly with your school. Any questions can be directed to the League at eventsLWVG@gmail.com

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