Studying the school’s history

Amelia Feiner

While discussing the anti-Apartheid movement in America during a Book Day workshop, I was confronted with old Record articles documenting protests for our school to divest, or defund companies that traded with South Africa. The contextualization of our own community’s role within the historical movement made me wonder: why don’t we do this more often?

For example, in history class I have studied the civil rights movement and women’s suffrage movements in America, but I have never discussed our own school’s integration of women and African-American students into the community.

This is not to say that we do not address our school’s diversity, identity, and value within the context of current events; teachers frequently encourage conversation about racism and prejudice both in and out of our school and push students to work together to solve conflicts. This aspect of our school’s education is one of its greatest strengths.

However, beginning this same discussion when thinking about history is a powerful tool that we have not yet harnessed.

This contextualization would allow us to think about history in a concrete and quantifiable way. When I was presented with evidence of our community’s struggle to divest from South Africa, the history became more tangible, less distant.

Thinking about our own school’s history also allows students to recognize the power that they hold when they come together. After learning about the student protest that forced the board of trustees to divest, I left the workshop thinking about changes that I could make within the school community that students would read about 40 years from now.

The ability to weave our school’s narrative into the history that we learn should not be reserved for Book Day. Instead, we should work to question our community’s role within both American and global history to engage with our past in a meaningful and personal way.