On March 4th, parents and students gathered at Ancona’s third biannual Social Justice Data Fair where they discussed middle school students’ projects on topics from implicit bias to environmental racism to social cleansing. The following Sunday, in an Ancona family’s home, the conversation continued in the parents’ Honest Conversations group as we discussed police violence in Chicago. “It’s like one of the students’ projects,” said one parent. “She was talking about societies with more diversity having more gun violence.” Several parents cited points their children or other students had made, discussing the specific implications for Chicago. In fact, the fair has sparked ongoing sharing among and between families.
One pair of students took the Harvard Implicit Bias Test and were shocked to discover that news media and other cultural forces shape their own subconscious thoughts. Other groups investigated how gender and racial bias can lead to severe wage gaps and tied this in with their budget simulation in math class–79% of a White Man’s salary means that you can no longer afford any extras, 54% sends your credit card debt spiraling out of control. How did social media boost the Black Lives Matter movement? Why is the Syrian refugee crisis a big deal? Why does America lead wealthy countries in gun violence? Our students can tell you.
From their very first years at Ancona, students are taught the stories of leaders and ordinary people who have fought to make the world more just. By middle school, students are able to pinpoint injustice and work to develop their voices within their own communities. In the Social Justice Data Fair, students select justice issues that are particularly meaningful to them, conduct research, analyze data, and select and present evidence to support a thesis. The academic work of developing an argument is rigorous, and students produce excellent projects because the subject material is so relevant to them. How should we move forward to correct injustice? Many students noted that the first step is to “Make a project and get the word out!” Others are already taking further steps such as writing a petition for fairer media coverage and organizing a water drive for Flint, MI. Parent experts are visiting the middle school to help students contact their elected representatives about the issues of police brutality that their projects raised. One parent is even looking at implementing a diversity survey at her university based on her daughter’s project on microaggressions!
At some schools, teachers fear they will get in trouble for teaching about injustice or encouraging students to argue and fight for change. At Ancona, our social justice learning flows freely between home, classroom, and the wider community. Be a part of the conversation! Join other parents and educators to learn about the student conversations that make the Social Justice Data Fair meaningful at Ancona’s Diversity Symposium on May 14th.