One of the sacred obligations of any great school is to produce culturally competent citizens – people who leave our halls with deep empathy, with an understanding of the excellence that comes from diverse communities, and with a desire to tackle the inequities in our society linked to historical prejudices and structural disadvantages. In my experience, one of the reasons why this work does not always take root in schools is that it is solely framed as an extra: a talk in assembly, a conversation in a club meeting, language in a handbook. It becomes too easy for some students to think that this is not about them – that it is not important to them or to the institution. For this work to take hold, I have found that the best approach is to embed cultural competency where the real work happens: in the classroom. 

Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing stories of teachers and students partnering on classroom work  linked to Black History Month: studying Black chemists who have made contributions to their field, analyzing the perspectives of black classicists and classical historians who have questioned and reinterpreted the canon; reading James Baldwin, Robert Hayden, and Gwendolyn Brooks in English class. And while we have a long way to go, you will read about ways that we are working to weave this and other threads through the curriculum year-round so that the work we do in classes speaks to the lived experiences of our students and prepares them to shape the communities they will lead some day.

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