Archive for Social justice and equity

Courage and Accomplishment

In this video, University Prep and Rainier Scholars alumna Jerusalem Hadush tells the remarkable story of how she found success and purpose through leadership programs, college prep programs, experiential learning, and university. This will be the best eight minutes of your day!

New Courses for 2017-2018

UPrep has a strong tradition of new course development. Each year, teachers consider what could enhance students’ experiences in the academic program. What needs exist, and what concepts and skills have emerged as important? After peer feedback and revision, course proposals are presented to our Academic Council for approval and inclusion in the Course of Study for the following academic year. Here are our the new courses that we will offer in 2017-2018.

Learning Pathways
Language Training, our signature, individualized educational program for students with language-based learning disabilities, has been renamed to better reflect the diversity of needs of students in the program. Students may now take Learning Pathways for one year or two, and instruction may include a broader set of activities in addition to Orton-Gillingham.
Feminism: Effects of Sexism and Advocacy
Proposed and led entirely by Upper School students, this course explores advocacy strategies to combat sexism. Our student-led courses each have a faculty advisor but no full-time teacher. Students enrolled in the class determine the learning objectives and class activities and report to a faculty and staff audience what they accomplished. Last year, another student launched our first student-led course, Social Entrepreneurship. This class enrolled 14 students last semester and met most of its goals, including the design, production, and sale of a product to meet a social need.
Latinx en Los Estados Unidos: Living in Between
Justicia Social en el Mundo Hispano
Introducción al Análisis de Literatura y Cine del Mundo Hispano
We have replaced Spanish 5, 6, and 7 with three topically-focused electives that satisfy language graduation requirements and may be taken in any order. Language learners typically acquire functional fluency by the end of level 4. This change makes existing themes from Spanish 5 and 6 more clear and allows students to study topics of interest to them. It also allows heritage students to take Spanish for language credit, particularly if they are interested in studying Latinx history and culture. With this change, heritage students can now limit their study of French or Chinese to two years and complete their graduation requirement in advanced Spanish classes.
Innovation and Design Studio
A product of the U Lab portion of our Next Generation Learning strategic initiative, this Upper School course provides students the opportunity to design their own semester projects focused on research, advocacy or entrepreneurship. It provides a different option for student-directed learning than student-led courses and independent study, for those students who want to conduct independent projects but need some structure and support to succeed.
An Intentional Media Diet
This course expands our English options in 11th and 12th grades. It focuses on changes in communication technologies over time and critical examination of digital media. Students explore what it means to be a socially responsible media consumer and content creator in a digital, globalized world.
Current Events and Media Literacy
Similar to the previous course but offered by the history department, this seventh and eighth grade elective course examines issues involved in contemporary news production and consumption to empower students to become informed, critical consumers and producers of information.
Digital Storytelling
This course explores the art of storytelling through various digital media projects and provides a second English elective course to seventh and eighth grade students. Students apply knowledge and vocabulary connected to existing digital media analysis to articulate their own design ideas from conception to execution. Project work covers a range of rhetorical modes including personal narrative, informative, and social critique.
Advanced Topics in World History: The FIFA World Cup 2018
This course examines the key issues themes surrounding the FIFA World Cup in Russia to be held in the summer of 2018. Students develop an understanding of the social, economic, and political forces that have shaped the modern world and given rise to this global phenomenon. Through case studies, the course explores how football became a truly global pastime and how this specific international competition became a multibillion dollar event. This elective course is available to Upper School students.

Faculty Summer Reading

book covers
The faculty summer read promotes the sharing of fresh perspectives on education among us when students are away, and classes are not meeting. The book supports next year’s professional development work: to create program proposals for year 1 of our new strategic plan. During opening meetings, we will meet to discuss the books and identify promising ideas.

U Prep purchases these books and provides them to all faculty members and those staff members who would like to participate.

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— Citizen: An American Lyric —
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2014, by Claudia Rankine

“Marrying prose, poetry, and the visual image, Citizen investigates the ways in which racism pervades daily American social and cultural life, rendering certain of its citizens politically invisible. Rankine’s formally inventive book challenges our notion that citizenship is only a legal designation that the state determines by expanding that definition to include a larger understanding of civic belonging and identity, built out of cross-racial empathy, communal responsibility, and a deeply shared commitment to equality.”—National Book Award Judges’ Citation

Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV—everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

More information: https://www.graywolfpress.org/books/citizen
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— Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education —
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2015, by Sonia Nieto

In Brooklyn Dreams, Sonia Nieto—one of the leading authors and teachers in the field of multicultural education—looks back on her formative experiences as a student, activist, and educator, and shows how they reflect and illuminate the themes of her life’s work.
Nieto offers a poignant account of her childhood and the complexities of navigating the boundaries between the rich culture of her working-class Puerto Rican family and the world of school. Brooklyn Dreams also chronicles her experiences as a fledgling teacher at the first bilingual public school in New York City—in the midst of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike—and the heady days of activism during the founding of the bilingual education program at Brooklyn College and later in establishing and running an alternative multicultural school in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Along the way, Nieto reflects on the ideas and individuals who influenced her work, from Jonathan Kozol to Paulo Freire, and talks frankly about the limits of activism, the failures of school reform, and the joys and challenges of working with preservice and in-service educators to deepen their appreciation of diversity.

Brooklyn Dreams is an intimate account of an educator’s life lived with zest, generosity, and warmth.

More information: http://hepg.org/hep-home/books/brooklyn-dreams
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— The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness —
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2016, by Todd Rose

Are you above average? Is your child an A student? Is your employee an introvert or an extrovert? Every day we are measured against the “average person,” judged according to how closely we resemble the average–or how far we exceed it. The assumption that average-based yardsticks like academic GPAs, personality tests, and annual performance reviews reveal something meaningful about our ability is so ingrained in our consciousness that we never question it. But this assumption, argues Harvard scientist Todd Rose, is spectacularly wrong.

In The End of Average, Rose, the director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program at Harvard University, uses the new science of the individual to reveal the remarkable fact that no one is average. Not your neighbors, not your co-workers, not your kids, and not you. This isn’t hollow sloganeering or ivory tower esoterica—it’s a frank mathematical fact with enormous practical consequences for your chances for success. Our schools and businesses are all designed to evaluate and promote talent based upon the mythical notion of the average person, a one-size-fits-all model that ignores the true nature of our individuality. But in The End of Average, Rose finally provides the tools to break free.

Weaving science, history, and his own experiences as a high school dropout, Rose offers a powerful alternative to the average–three key principles derived from the science of the individual: The jaggedness principle (talent is never one-dimensional), the context principle (personality traits do not exist), and the pathways principle (we all walk the road less traveled). These “principles of individuality” unveil our true uniqueness, long obscured by an educational system and workplace that relentlessly judges our value by weighing us against the average.

An empowering manifesto in the ranks of Drive, Quiet, Mindset, and The Power of Habit—Dr. Rose’s book will enable you to reach your full potential by leveraging what is truly distinctive about you.

More information: http://www.toddrose.com/endofaverage/
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— Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance —
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2016, by Angela Duckworth

In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”

Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research, Angela explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success.

Angela has found that grit—a combination of passion and perseverance for a singularly important goal—is the hallmark of high achievers in every domain. She’s also found scientific evidence that grit can grow.

Angela gives a first-person account of her research with teachers working in some of the toughest schools, cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference.

More information: http://angeladuckworth.com/grit-book/

People of Color Conference 2016 Proposals Accepted

We are delighted to receive the news that the NAIS People of Color Conference accepted two of our faculty proposals. It is encouraging to receive affirmation of our ongoing efforts to revise course curricula for cultural competency and social justice. We will see you in Atlanta in December 2016!

¡No más!: Integrating Topics of Social Justice into the High School Spanish Classroom

Elena Tello and Ciara McGrath

Session participants will learn specific strategies to incorporate topics of social justice in the language class. Some topics include: Afro-Latin Identity, Argentina’s Dirty War, Pinochet’s Dictatorship, Bolivia’s Water War, and Immigration Routes to the North. Two presenters will share techniques used with students to enhance their understanding of past and current world events and lead to successful culminating projects and creating cultural experiences in the target language.

What About the Content? Revising Curricula For Social Justice and Educational Equity

Richard Kassissieh and E-chieh Lin

Has teaching for social justice and educational equity penetrated core secondary school curricula? Students spend three quarters of the school day in classes, working to master the knowledge and skills in discrete academic subjects. While diversity programs have made progress in improving classroom climate, launching new elective classes, and running special social justice programs, the content required of all students cannot remain unchanged if we are to fully serve our students. Participants will analyze selected independent school curricula for principles of human and civil rights, address questions of student inclusion and access, imagine an alternate vision of what their own school might teach in the future, and identify points of access to the process of curriculum revision.

Do Students Find Their Cultures In the Curriculum?

Brooklyn DreamsIn Brooklyn Dreams: My Life In Public Education, Sonia Nieto describes her experience at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, where she attended from 1958-1961.

As in elementary and junior high school, there was barely a mention of Puerto Rico or Puerto Ricans in the curriculum. I learned US and European history, American and English literature, French language and literature, art history (of course, primarily European). We learned nothing about Jews, even though Erasmus Hall’s student body was overwhelmingly Jewish, or the other White ethnics who were then the majority of the population in Brooklyn. We heard nothing about African Americans and little about immigration. At Erasmus Hall, I never learned that Puerto Ricans wrote books, created art, or did anything else of public significance. That knowledge took many years for me to discover. No surprise, then, that I felt invisible. I learned that identity was something you didn’t talk about. If you were not completely assimilated, your culture remained behind closed doors; at best, it was a source of embarrassment, and, at worst, a source of shame. This cultural invisibility surely had something to do with my sense of alienation. On the bright side, the invisibility of my culture in those years, and my ultimate acceptance and embrace of it, also had a lot to do with the focus of my chosen profession. [my emphasis]

This lack of representation caused Nieto embarrassment, shame, and alienation. Though she was ultimately stronger for it, Nieto took years to unpack and embrace her cultural identity, and other students might not succeed the way she did.

Although we might ascribe “cultural invisibility” to the era of the late 1950’s, would Nieto have a much better experience today? What attention do contemporary high school curricula give to Puerto Rico, a United States territory, or to the many other countries and cultures from which our students hail? Most schools now teach world history in place of European history, and Nieto’s critique of immigration and Jewish history may no longer apply.

Some schools adopt a critical perspective on United States history, and English novels have diversified. However, our student population continues to evolve at a faster pace than our course content. With a public school population that is already majority minority, instruction in all subject areas continues to lag behind the reality of our classrooms.

All students deserve to see themselves in their school’s curriculum and learn about their culture’s history, literature, luminaries, and accomplishments. Schools should adopt fully multicultural curricula that truly reflect the American student population in all of its diversity and prepares students to understand and participate in the world.

Cultural Competency Through Literature

Current events demand that we teach students the skills and habits of mind of cultural competency. Development of a positive cultural identity, appreciation for other cultures, and the ability to move gracefully through a different culture are required in order to function within contemporary society. Our work to teach for cultural competency throughout the school began years ago and continues today. The school curriculum is one area of focus among many.

monkey king

Gene Luen Yang’s Monkey King

“List three groups to which you belong. What is the identity of each group?” With these prompts, sixth grade students begin to explore the concept of cultural identity. During the week, Carl Faucher and Eric Huff guide the students through an examination of Native American creation myths, the risks of cultural stereotypes, and the Chinese myth of the Monkey King. Connecting personal experiences to the study of literature helps students develop deeper understanding of these topics of cultural identity, stereotype, and conflict.

One week in October, ninth grade students read short stories by Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, and N. Scott Momaday and worked together to analyze how the authors constructed their arguments and evoked emotions. While the Foundations of Composition and Literature course teaches critical reading and analytical writing, literature selections reflect a wide range of contemporary topics, including cultural experiences and transitions. The new 11th and 12th grade electives provide further opportunities to study how ideas of masculinity and femininity have shaped Western culture, how culture shapes our relationship with the environment, and how Americans understand their own identities through history and current media.