How Star Wars Can Teach Kids About The Struggle For Civil Rights

Bill Gates highlights how a great teacher can combine pop culture and history for maximum effect.

In honor of back-to-school season, Bill Gates has shared a lecture about how the original Star Wars trilogy can be viewed as a metaphor for the civil rights struggle. Rather than taking place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it’s featured on his personal blog, GatesNotes. The speaker is Nate Bowling, Washington’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, who appears to have mastered what Gates calls the “Jedi mind tricks” of keeping students engaged.


As Gates explains in a related post, Bowling represents the kind of creative, empowered teacher who can radically change the lives of kids in poor communities. Many of Gates’s larger educational reforms have drawn skepticism. But the idea that teachers thinking inventively can help save the republic? No dark side there.

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About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.