- Jasmine Rao and Jillian Zolot
Club Spotlight: Social Justice Book Club
In the midst of violent protests and racial inequity, Edgemont displayed new efforts to educate students: a Social Justice Book Club. Multiple high school students volunteered to facilitate short discussions in small groups of students who ranged from kindergartners through 12th graders. These five-minute conversations on racism extend beyond what we learn in school and aimed to educate and open the eyes of both students and leaders to a world of injustice.
From picture books to poetry to novels, the literature used in the discussions on current day issues. This summer especially, it was of the utmost importance to enlighten our generation on history and different forms of racism.
We interviewed Mr. Curtin, the founder of this book club, to understand his thought processes. The administration's initial incentive behind this club was to keep kids reading during a time of e-learning and uncertainty. As the murder of George Floyd unfolded, Mr. Curtin suggested “why not choose books that have some kind of a social justice theme... what's going on is huge and it’s important for kids… to talk to one another about it”. Aware of the ways in which kids can reach each other, an email was sent to the high school students asking for volunteers to lead these important conversations. High schoolers were chosen because it was a great opportunity to get students involved in a leadership role. Though it was the middle of summer, 25 students embraced this opportunity and volunteered to lead the groups. Both facilitators and club members participated in what proved to be a proactive and informative exercise. Even without an official survey to collect feedback, positive thoughts surrounding the book club continue to circulated the Edgemont community.
In addition to this book club, the administration is looking at new ways to educate students on racism. One involves reexamining the English class booklist to include authors from many different ethnicities and backgrounds. Helping teachers to engage students in conversation is critical to advancing knowledge on these subjects. Behind the scenes, the administration is already improving their hiring practices. Mr. Curtin recognizes that “the composition of our faculty, demographically, is significantly different from the student body.” Making sure to provide equity and fairness for all students and staff through Edgemont’s hiring is crucial.
The Social Justice Book Club served as a channel for meaningful conversations to flow. Mr. Curtin emphasized that “learning how to have those difficult conversations in a way that’s respectful is really important.” It is the first step to growth and change. He stressed that “if you can help other people to have... an open mind...and not shy away from asking hard questions, that’s half the battle.”
This student-run book club brings Edgemont one step closer to raising awareness for racial equity and justice. Not only did the club members learn about these new topics but the leaders took this opportunity to educate themselves as well. Junior and club member Shivi Jain explains, “The books I read forced me to look further and do research on my own to explain these same topics to the kids.” The Edgemont Social Justice Book Club offered students of all ages a low-stress discussion-based learning environment that may produce lasting social change.