Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 7
Focus On Separation And Unity
United We Stand?

Hands Across The Water
Number 1
A hundred years ago, when Manhattan leaders suggested that surrounding areas join it to form greater New York City in the 1890s, they were mostly met with applause. Communities in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island liked the idea of sharing Manhattan's tax monies and other resources. But the biggest of the communities, Brooklyn -- a city of its own, with almost a million people -- was not so sure. It feared a loss of Brooklyn's identity. City leaders worried about losing control over their city. Depending on whom you ask, those fears have or have not come true.

Unity can bring strength through size, but it can also lead to a loss of local power and identity. This tension between unity and separation is not unique to New York, of course. America itself fought a civil war partly over this question.

What about your own class, school, or community? Each has its own identity and is surrounded by other classes, schools, and communities. In this activity, you will explore what might happen if your class, school, or community unified with another.

Weigh The Pros And The Cons
Divide the class into six groups -- two devoted to class consolidation (one pro and one con), two to school consolidation, and two to community consolidation. Each group should research the pros and cons of consolidation. What are the pros and cons -- that is, the good and bad things -- about consolidation or continued separation? What would be gained or lost if your class, school, or community joined up with its neighbor or neighbors? Think about costs, efficiency, identity, control, independence, and other things.

Don't forget to ask others: both those who might be affected and, just as important, those who would not. It's always good to talk to outsiders. They can offer objective, or non-biased, opinions.

Once you have done your research, debate the subject in class. You could also have the rest of the class vote on consolidation.