My name is David Bally, and I am a history teacher at Lyons Community School in Brooklyn, New York. Lyons is a 6-12 public school, where 90 percent of the students who attend receive free or reduced lunch. All of the students that I teach identify as Black or Latinx.
I love books – real books. I love the way books feel, the way they look and of course what’s inside of them. I love diving in a book and going on an intellectual journey with that author.
In a world where a growing percentage of people get their information from social media sites like Facebook, books play an ever more important role in developing an authentic and informative world view. As a high school history teacher, I try to convey the importance of books to the students I teach.
Several years ago, our school’s library closed due in part to budget constraints. Sadly, this is happening all over the United States, highlighting the need for me to create and maintain a classroom library. Lyons is part of the Consortium, a network of schools in New York that is exempt from the New York State Regents exams. In lieu of the exam, we teach inquiry-based classes that culminate in a Performance-Based Assessment Task, a ten-page research paper, that students must present to a group of evaluators.
Last year, through the generosity of the L.I.F.T Foundation, I was able to obtain a classroom library of books for students in my Guns in America class. I had piles of books on the Second Amendment and students could walk over and browse during their research for their PBAT. For example, in the book Black Against Empire, students read about the Black Panther Party and the Mulford Act and in Dying of Whiteness they learned Red Flag Laws could lower gun suicides.
Now, I will be teaching a course called Wealth in America. That course will look at the racial wealth gap by examining the historical causes of this gap such housing discrimination, the destruction of Black Wall Street and the failure of the Freedman’s Bank. The course will then analyze possible solutions to the racial wealth gap through worker cooperatives, Universal Basic Income, affirmative action, among others. As a final assessment, students will conduct independent research in the spring. The books provided with the L.I.F.T. Teacher Grant allow my students to do the best possible research, as well as question norms and inspire them in their future endeavors through the books they now have access to read!