On August 31, Mr. Jeffrey Doerfler, the recently appointed head of UY, introduced the concept of Social Justice education by screening a Ted Talk during the Upper Years assembly.
The conversation about making Social Justice education a part of the school’s curriculum started over the summer, when the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee was formed. Staff and student Council members engaged in discussions about social justice issues, specifically racism, and Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, throughout summer.
Educators have often emphasized the importance of social justice education in high school. For Mr. Doerfler, the motivation to push this at school came unexpectedly from Facebook.
“If I post anything about my dog, I get over a hundred likes in like an hour, and so, with all the injustice going on, I posted one video, which I thought was very mild, about Black lives Matter, and it got two likes. I was like, do people not get my post? Because it was so unoffensive,” he said. That is when Mr. Doerfler decided that students and teachers need to be educated about issues of inequality.
Mr. Doerfler recognised that there is often discomfort surrounding conversations about social justice issues, because people often fear voicing their opinions or “saying the wrong thing,” which is also part of the reason why it’s important for students to be educated about these issues as well as about the skills that are required to have meaningful conversations about them.
Until now, social justice education has never actively been a part of Woodstock’s curriculum.
“For a school that’s supposed to be open minded and diverse, we’re doing our students a disservice if we’re not doing something [about this], Mr. Doerfler said.
According to him, the goal of introducing the curriculum is to simply give students enough knowledge to be able to form educated opinions about issues of inequality in any context, and to “prepare students for the outside world.”
Although great in theory, it is yet to be seen how this will play out in the long run. Mr. Doerfler believes that the only way for this to succeed is if students show leadership and engagement. The success of this initiative depends on engagement from the DEI committee, Stuco, the CFI (Centre for Imagination), and most importantly, all students.
Social Justice education will also be made a part of the PSHE curriculum. The school will encourage advisors and the CFI to engage in conversations about different issues that are globally significant, as well as issues specific to students from different cultures. However, there are concerns that if these are optional, there will be low student participation.
In a time of systemic racism and discrimiantion, this can prove to be an effective tool in creating an environment of empathy and acceptance, both in and outside of Woodstock. Although, like in most areas during distance learning, students will have to take responsibility for their own education.
Janvi Poddar is the Editor in Chief of The Woodstocker
Edited by Riya Gupta