Teaching Students About Susan Smith
Susan Smith, a complex and controversial figure in American history, provides a rich opportunity for educators to engage students in discussions about mental health, crime, and the media’s role in shaping public opinion. This article will provide tips on how to teach students about Susan Smith and how to facilitate student engagement in meaningful discussions about this multifaceted case.
Lesson 1: Background and Context
Start by providing students with a general background and context surrounding Susan Smith’s case. Talk about the crime itself, including the details of what happened during that time in 1994 when Smith claimed that her car was carjacked with her two young sons inside. Connect the case to other high-profile criminal cases involving parents who have harmed their children and discuss how such cases spark emotion and debates within communities.
Lesson 2: Mental Health Discussion
In teaching about Susan Smith, discuss the role of mental health in this story. Provide information on her childhood, relationships, and upbringing to demonstrate the complexity of her situation. Additionally, discuss how her emotional state may have contributed to her actions. Encourage students to explore the larger issues around mental health – including stigma, access to care or therapy, and how mental illness can affect decision-making.
Lesson 3: Media’s Role and Public Opinion
Have students investigate how the media played a role in shaping public opinion about Susan Smith during her trial as well as after she was convicted. Encourage them to analyze media reports from 1994 and compare them to today’s reporting standards. Discuss with them other examples of high-profile cases where media influenced public opinion both positively and negatively.
Lesson 4: Ethics and Moral Dilemmas
Ask your students to consider the ethical aspects of this case. Present hypothetical scenarios designed to provoke discussion about ethics and moral dilemmas. For example:
– If you were on the jury, would you vote for the death penalty or a life sentence for Susan Smith, and why?
– If you were a reporter covering the case, how would you balance your responsibility to report the facts and the public’s right to know versus the potential harm your reporting might cause to those involved?
Lesson 5: Reflecting on Lessons Learned
After studying Susan Smith’s case, ask students to consider what lessons society can learn from this story and how similar situations can be prevented in the future. Provide them with an opportunity to express their thoughts through essays, presentations, or group discussions.