There are as many paths to every truth as there are people, and thanks to a Social Justice class at Westview in the Department for Exceptional Children, students are learning how to find their own paths. The class, led by teachers Tim Baker and Kyle Norton, combines history with current events, and teaches critical thinking skills. It gives young people a chance to understand the challenges of inequality and bias in society and find positive, meaningful ways to deal with it. A recent project used music to bring students face-to-face with their personal feelings about these difficult subjects.
Students were each tasked with choosing four songs that addressed topics like racism, bullying, mental health, gender inequality and more. They explored their reactions to each song: Why did the song hold power for them? How did it relate to their own lives? How did it make them feel? What did they learn? Each student created a slide presentation, shared it with a room full of peers and staff, and fielded unscripted questions.
Jair spoke about unfair racial stereotypes, citing songs by Lil Baby, Polo G and Joyner Lucas. “Blacks have stereotypes about whites and … white people have stereotypes about blacks,” Jair said. “Somebody must break the cycle of racism, so we must start somewhere.” Danielle shared deeply personal stories of anxiety and being bullied. Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful” touched her. “Everyone is beautiful in their own way even if others don’t think so,” she said.
“Public speaking is not something any of these kids wanted to do,” said Baker. “They not only did it, they did it extraordinarily well. When they open up like this, they find that they have so much in common – the music they like, the experiences they have, the way that they feel. I’m so proud of their bravery and how far they have come.”