City and Country is a world of its own. It is a place where children have the privilege to spend a week in Chicago at the age of 13 or manage a store at the age of eight. The engaging, hands-on methods used to teach academic subjects are one of the many things that set this school apart from the rest. However, as one spends more time in the C&C community, it becomes increasingly evident that there are some holes in our curricula. One of the most obvious shortcomings is the diluting of controversial or uncomfortable topics.
C&C takes pride in our enriching Social Studies program around which most of the other classes revolve. However, when we examine the topics children in the VIs through XIIs study, we noticed a pattern. Starting at the age of six, children begin their studies by learning about Henry Hudson and the Hudson River, which is familiar to most of them. As the years progress, students spend most of their time learning Eurocentric history with the exception of the Xs, XIs, and XIIIs.
In the Xs and XIs, the Xs and XIs, half the school year is dedicated to either Egypt, Mesopotamia, Ancient China, or Islam. In the XIIIs, students learn about American history as a way to examine Current Events from a global perspective; they also practice conducting research and prepare for high school. C&C’s primary focus is their Social Studies program and a way to make it even stronger is by teaching more diverse topics at a younger age.
On the surface, the topics that City and Country students learn about in Social Studies may seem comparable to other classes, but Social Studies is the foundation of the school’s curriculum. Our school shapes the minds of children from the susceptible age of two, which gives the school the ability to alter how students view the world. Already being a predominantly white environment where 60% of students and 73% of teachers are white, it is even more important that C&C uses their influence to expose students to diverse curriculum that authentically teaches them about the historical experienced of black,brown, and minority ethnic groups, not just the ones most familiar to them. While it may be challenging to explain to a two year-old the concept of systemic racism, it may be a lot easier to teach eight-year-olds that it is okay to talk openly about race, class, and other stigmatized topics.
Avoiding topics around race leads us to situations like our recent MLK assembly. Only the Middle and Upper School attend the gathering in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and unlike many assemblies, the City and Country one consists of singing songs and a two minute speech from Millie Cartagena, Director of Community Life, Equity, and Inclusion.
“I would have divided it into two assemblies, to make more room and have it be less crowded so that Upper School students can stay more engaged. One assembly could be the singing that we do, and the other can be an overview of MLK and how we can continue his legacy today–if we want to,” said Bryan. While the assembly took place three months ago the issues surrounding the event are still prevalent ones. How can we as a school strengthen our curricula in a way that successfully teaches a wide variety of historical narratives from diverse perspectives? In true City and Country spirit, in order to solve this dilemma, we must learn from the children.
C&C does make some effort to ensure that students get somewhat of a diverse curriculum and advertises the following claim on the school’s official website:
“Diversity is a positive aspect of our lives and an essential element of education. We recognize and respect that diversity exists in the languages we speak, the colors of our skin, our gender identities, gender expressions, ages, and sexual orientations, the traditions we observe, the structures of our families, the financial and educational resources in our families, and the special needs we may have…. We investigate many topics, including gender roles, belief systems, and social justice issues, always reflecting back to how history has shaped our lives today.
Regarding diversity at C&C, Lucas Gannon, XIIsP says, “Before I came to C&C I went to public school, which was a lot more diverse and there wasn’t really one overruling race and I kind of miss it sometimes because you never really get to hear a lot of opinions. People at this school can sometimes be unaware of what other people are going through and I think there should be more of a focus on the bad stuff not what happened, like, 3,000 years ago.”
Several students feel the same way about the matter. When the entire Upper School was polled insert stats agreed that it was important to teach about a wide range of groups and have a diverse curriculum, but only insert stats agreed that C&C actually does a good job of incorporating multiple groups in the curricula. Overall there is room to grow and change at C&C, a school with the potential to be groundbreaking and revolutionary.