The juniors who are pursuing the solutions that they first created for the AP Language and Composition proposal essay have done all the hard work – many interviews, hours of research and late nights weighing the pros and cons of solutions (“Juniors use proposal essays to push for change”).
Now the baton has been passed to the administration.
But implementing new policies or even courses in the high school can be tough – especially this close to the end of the year.
Nevertheless, having classes that focus on minority history is vital to a balanced education, especially in this age of racial tension. Governor Jerry Brownsigned a bill in 2016 that will create an ethnic studies program for all the state’s public high schools by 2019, and in Oregon and Indiana, it’s already a requirement.
Country Day can’t fall behind.
But because the school is so small and previous attempts to introduce a Civil Rights class were unsuccessful, it’s infeasible to introduce a new course overnight. A better immediate solution is to meld ethnic studies into the high school curriculum, gradually introducing it to all humanities classes – social studies and English alike.
There are many areas in which this can be accomplished.
Take, for example, the literature read and discussed in English classes.
Currently, of the 28 books read by high school students, only seven were written by authors of color.
English classes should include marginalized voices by using books written by diverse writers and having lessons and discussions on minority history, which English teacher Jason Hinojosa already does in his classes.
Likewise, history classes, especially at the freshman and sophomore levels, should do the same, examining documents and first-person narratives of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
There are ways of including underrepresented voices even outside the traditional class setting.
In February, assistant head of school Tucker Foehl visited the Urban School of San Francisco, where freshmen took six-week long classes on identity and ethnic studies, another possible approach.
Other policies can be implemented step-by-step as well.
Junior Mehdi Lacombe’s proposal on an open campus, a policy the school ended 25 years ago, should be gradually reintroduced.
Just as junior Blake Lincoln’s quick fix for the delivery of food to campus via third-party apps such as DoorDash and Postmates was readily accepted, Lacombe’s should at least earn a test run.
And allowing juniors and seniors to leave campus during free periods or lunch would have a procedure similar to that of Lincoln’s proposal: parental permission and a sign-out at the high school front office.
Juniors and seniors are responsible enough to not cause a ruckus in the neighborhood or put their safety at risk; most drive to school, after all.
These juniors and seniors, specifically the editors of the newspaper, are also mature enough to thoughtfully and conscientiously exercise their freedom of speech.
Junior Jack Christian’s proposal to guarantee the Octagon’s right to freedom from censorship should be given a trial run – especially in an era where the president attacks major media outlets for supplying “fake news,” wherein First Amendment rights are more important than ever.
The community – both inside and outside the school – has the right to know what is happening on campus, the good and the bad.
More and more schools are censoring student newspapers – Country Day must not follow in those schools’ footsteps and should give the agreements outlined in Christian’s proposal essay a go.
Christian proposed a series of guidelines for censorship that the Octagon and the administration would agree to.
No such policy exists currently, and without agreeing on what should and should not be censored, the freedom that the newspaper has as an outlet for student expression – one more way in which students may, as the school’s mission statement says, “think critically” – will be extinguished.
Originally published in the June 6 edition of the Octagon.