The remnants of Tropical Storm Florence rained down on us as we entered The EMK Institute, the future home of the Workshop’s exhibition in May 2019. We met with their team to start brainstorming what the showcase might look like. There are so many possibilities for interactive exhibits that engage our students and potential audiences. EMKI is committed to civic engagement, and this is one of the key reasons we are so happy to work with them. Another of our goals for this Workshop is to get students to be active citizens who take the responsibility to shape the world in which they want to live.
We are eager to share these ideas with the teachers once we start our site visits this fall. We think the students will be excited to see the lasting impression they can make with their work!
Thank you so much to Evan Wondolowski of Collective Next for making this beautiful image of all our thinking on our first Professional Day! We were finally able to get almost all of the teachers from our consortium schools in the same room to brainstorm about our Workshop’s first theme: economic inequality.
While each of our schools has a different population of students, we all know that all of these populations are directly affected by economic inequality. Whether our students are part of the 1% at a private school, the 99% at a charter, or, as Matthew Stewart labels it in his Atlantic piece, the 9.9% at an exam, parochial, private, or charter school, they are all subjected to a system that creates an unfair balance of wealth. One of our major concerns during this conversation was how to address the fact that any of our students could fall into any of these economic groups. If their family has wealth, how can we help them to understand the imbalance without feeling disempowered by guilt? And if they don’t have wealth, how can we prevent the understanding of the imbalance from making them feel disempowered by despair?
These questions continue to challenge us as our school year begins. While we may be focused on developing empathy in our students, we of course know that we won’t get anywhere in our process without showing empathy for them. This topic is hard because it is personal and it requires us to be responsible. It requires us to work to understand others and ourselves and to be open to the fact that we may not know how to implement solutions right now.
Our hope is that their work in the humanities will help our students to articulate these difficulties as they try to understand. Economic inequality is not just about numbers; it’s about our history and the narratives we tell about each other and ourselves.
We’re excited to see the lesson plans our teachers develop to help their students navigate this issue. Stay tuned!