In recognition of Black History Month, we want to talk about the ways One Schoolhouse is working to celebrate Black identity and represent the African Diaspora. Like many independent schools, we grapple with our identity as a predominantly white organization; we recognize that many traditional courses, including ones we’ve offered in the past, erase and elide both Black identity and the experience and impact of systemic racism. We’re committed to ensuring that the courses we offer students now, and in the future, are identity-affirming.
One Schoolhouse courses center students’ identities in course design. We see this as a core aspect of a learner-driven, personalized, competency-based pedagogy, with an explicit focus on creating a space of belonging where students can engage constructively in a diverse and changing world. The opportunity to engage with other students in an identity course -- Asian American, Black, Gender, or Latina/o/x -- provides a haven for a deep dive into what it means to be uniquely you in America today. Here, we share three commitments to honoring Black identity and the history of the African Diaspora:
Black identity is reflected in our curriculum and catalog. Our course, Black Identity in the United States, takes a transdisciplinary approach to exploring cultural, social, and political movements. Other, more traditional courses don’t shy away from engaging with similar questions. For example, our Civics and Politics course asks students to read Frederick Douglass’s speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July,” alongside the Declaration of Independence, ensuring that the United States’ founding documents can be understood in their historical context, examining the wide range of their impact.
Curriculum constantly widens perspectives. In our Modern Language sequences, we’re asking what it means to decolonize the teaching of a colonizing language. For example, the majority of French-speaking people live on the African continent, but language learning materials–including ones that we’ve used in our courses–spend the majority of time exploring Francophone culture in France and Canada. We’re committed to ensuring that our curriculum doesn’t replicate distortions and erasures, and accurately reflects a diverse world.
Our courses have to address how we innovate to evolve. We aren’t afraid to rebuild courses so that students can explore the legacy of slavery or the impact of racism on modern society, and ask questions that connect the past to real-world issues. In our AP European History course, for example, we’re examining not only European colonialism but also African resistance in a deep inquiry into the Mau Mau Rebellion, which leads students to ask their own questions about imperialism, hegemony, and cultural identity. In this course, “AP Readiness” is just one of the four course competencies, making space for students to explore the essential context and information that illuminates the course content.
No one at One Schoolhouse should check their identity at the door. We are more effective and joyful when we embrace the fullness of ourselves, tackle privilege, and open ourselves up to change. Everyone at One Schoolhouse -- students, teachers, administrators, board members -- is accountable to and for their identities, and every day we work to make this explicit in our work.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)