Just Mercy Book Club // Grab your copy now, and join the conversation!

We are excited to announce our summer OER Conference for Social Studies Book Club pick! This month you are invited to join us in reading Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, who happens to be our keynote speaker on August 3. He is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Montgomery, Alabama. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill, and aiding children prosecuted as adults.

Our community discussion about Just Mercy will be led by Jayson Wilkinson from the OER Project Team, and Hajra Saeed, BHP teacher in Long Beach, CA.  We’ll kick off with our first book club driving question on July 15 right here in this thread, located in the OER Conference for Social Studies discussion forum. We’ll post a new driving question each Thursday for three weeks leading up to the conference which takes place August 3-5. So don't wait, grab a copy of the book, bookmark this thread so you can return on the 15th, and prepare for some rich discussions with other members of the community. Let the reading begin! 

Just Mercy // Week One Questions

We are excited to start our book club conversation on Just Mercy as we make our way to Bryan Stevenson’s August 3rd keynote address in the OER Conference for Social Studies. Post your thoughts and answers to the questions below, or add your own question.  and  will be leading the conversation and will be checking in throughout the day to respond to the discussion.   

  • Did Just Mercy make you want to explore an aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system more closely? If so, what part and why?  
  • In Just Mercy, Stevenson tells us his story of growth and discovery in relation to his understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system. Have you had a similar journey in your own life? 

Post your comments below and let's get the conversation started!

Just Mercy // Week Two Questions

  • As you are reading Just Mercy, is there a quote that "sticks with you?" Why? 
  • Is there a specific call to action that can be taken from a reading of Just Mercy? If so, what is it? 

Let's continue the conversation by posting in the comments below.

Just Mercy // Week Three Questions

  • How do the topics and concepts in Just Mercy connect to your work with students? 
  • What lessons from Just Mercy or Stevenson are you taking with you as you prepare to welcome students back to our school communities in the fall? 
  • Do know of a specific person (whether they are a personal connection, colleague, or something else) that would benefit from reading and discussing Just Mercy with you? What makes you think that and what lessons might they learn?

Post your response to the questions in the comments below as we complete our final week of the Book Club. Be sure to join us for Bryan Stevenson's Keynote Address on August 3 at 9:00 AM PDT!

Top Replies

  • The quote that sticks with me is "We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the condition of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent." It stuck…

  • For me, Just Mercy really pushed me to question my position in institutions. When I started teaching, I think I was comfortable just doing what I was told and keeping my head above water in my new school…

  • Is it possible that I jump on to the Just Mercy Train? I got to the station late, and would love to hop aboard if it is still an option. Can I hop aboard.  

  • Just Mercy Week One Questions // 07-15-2021

    Did Just Mercy make you want to explore an aspect of the U.S. criminal justice system more closely? If so, what part and why?  

    In Just Mercy, Stevenson tells us his story of growth and discovery in relation to his understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system. Have you had a similar journey in your own life?

    Post your comments below and let's get the conversation started!

  • I'm excited to learn from you all in this book discussion. The part of the U.S. criminal justice system I want to learn more about is the incarceration of youth. When young kids are condemned at such an early age, the whole trajectory of their lives and the lives of their families changes. Why aren't we using the brain science we understand about teens  to help them grow instead of just punishing them?

  • Because we are a society resistant to making necessary changes when they are too expensive (we could gather a long list of this in schools like start times, mental health options, etc.) or when they conflict with deeply engrained (but often false) core beliefs (i.e. our legal system is fair, it's in the bible, etc.). This book and the reality it's based on is the clearest example of systemic racism, and yet still many resist its clear and fact-based glimpse into the mirror that is American society and history. I am hoping to start a conversation on how we here on OER can help educators who invariably get into trouble teaching actual history. See also:

  • In addition to incarceration of youth, I’d like to know more about the relationship between mental illness and incarceration. @Hajra Saeed, I know you’re an AP Psych teacher as well. Are you able to explore that topic in your class?

  • Thanks for that article  . I've been trying to explain this to others a lot lately, "Critical race theory is a college-level discipline that, at core, shows people how racism, bigotry, and sexism are endemic to the institutions and social structures in use right now. It’s just a different way of thinking about why things that we can objectively see happening are happening." Unfortunately, too many people just grab sound bites and viral social media images instead of really trying to understand things. I guess that's our job as teachers, and would be an important OER conversation!

  •  , that's something I would like to learn more about. I didn't teach AP Psych last year and think I need to revisit how I teach some topics this upcoming school year. It's hard getting extra content in beyond the AP, but I think that I could start bringing social relevancy to the curriculum in the form of bellringer activities. Do you have any research studies or projects along these lines?

  • @Hajra Saeed, I’ve used the Harvard Implicit Prejudices test every year with my students. It’s such a power tool for demonstrating that bias is more complex than overt actions. Recently, I paired that with a clip from Netflix’s 100 Humans series (love Alan Alda, but his Scientific American Frontier series is getting dated!). That Social Psych unit has been so essential in recent years; I was hesitant to teach it remotely during the spring of 2020 but was so thankful I did as the BLM movement was gaining momentum. 

  • Joe Baginski   Or the misunderstanding that somehow these changes are "too expensive". IF we add up the overall cost of incarceration to our society we by far would be  better served to invest in proactive and restorative measures that throw human beings away. We also have to look at the prison for profit complex that occurs in our country. I think we challenge were WE, as taxpayers want OUR MONEY, invested. Thats a start

  • In addition to incarceration of youth, mental illness, we need to explore and collect data about how many are incarcerated related to crimes that were influenced or drugs were a part of. When you commit a crime in most states they do not look at addiction as a contributing factor when in fact it impairs our judgement so much more than people realize. Then those individuals are sent to prisons that are full of even more drugs and run the risk of overdosing, trying harder narcotics, being assaulted for debts, etc. When they seek addiction services while incarcerated just like on the outside they are put on long waiting lists and not given services generally until they are "closer to their release date". In addition, mental health, trauma, abuse, etc all play into addiction as a whole. 

  •  Hi  ! All good points. Unfortunately, many people still look at addiction as a choice to use drugs or alcohol and treatment has developed in parallel to the standard doctor/hospital system, rather than in cooperation. We have much to do to grow our capacity for mental health and addiction treatments, the first of which is to demystify and embrace people that come forward for treatment.

  •  Thank you for sharing this link and extending the talk about Just Mercy!

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