Social Justice and Anti-Bias Instruction

Through social justice and anti-bias instruction, students are taught to be aware of bias and injustice, both individual and systemic; to understand the short- and long-term impact of injustice; and about those who have fought for more fairness and justice in our world. Guided discussion provides opportunities for students to engage in dialogue in which they share feelings, experiences, and insights in response to structured lessons and about current events. Students are encouraged both to share their own ideas and to respond to the ideas of a classmate. Students are taught how to discuss issues respectfully with people who might not share their opinions--an important skill that will serve them their entire lives. Social justice topics also provide opportunities for collaboration toward a common goal. Our focus on social justice gives students the critical thinking skills they need to solve problems in their own lives, in their local communities, and on a global scale. IDEAL students see their potential to effect change and are equipped with the tools to be advocates and upstanders.

Although social justice and anti-bias instruction are infused throughout the curriculum, dedicated Community Time in each division focuses on diversity, identity, and social justice programming. Community Time in the Lower School brings students together weekly to have age-appropriate discussions about current events and social justice topics, strengthening students’ awareness of the wider world. In the Middle and High Schools, Community Time occurs bi-weekly and includes student-led discussions of current events and social justice issues, cultivating student leadership, voice, and confidence. By leading the agenda and presenting in front of their peers during Community Time, students grow their confidence and strengthen their own self-advocacy skills, while practicing respect for diverse perspectives of their peers and teachers. Community Time supports students’ own journeys of learning how to be critical thinkers and to form and express their own opinions.

Social justice and anti-bias instruction are also incorporated into assembly themes and the Identity Curriculum. It is part of social studies and history teaching, as well, where it is a natural fit to study the history of social injustice, social movements, and social change and to connect it to the present. Our annual, school-wide Civil Rights Museum weaves interdisciplinary units in each grade focused upon specific historical periods of injustice, related social movements, and the human and civil rights activists who effected social change, such as Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malala Yousafzai. The Civil Rights Museum features dynamic, interactive student exhibits such as music videos, films, and news reports that are the result of weeks of student learning, research, collaboration, and cross-curricular planning with classroom teachers and the music, art, dance, and theater teachers. At IDEAL, we believe that exposing students to the wide range of responses to injustice, including advocacy and activism, encourages students to themselves become agents of positive change.

In the older grades, students take a Civil Rights Journey to the South as a capstone to their study of civil rights issues and activists. On this trip, students will have opportunities to stand in the places where history happened, walk in the shoes of America’s civil rights leaders, and speak to those who were involved. Doing so enhances students’ experience and understanding of what it means to be powerful change-makers. Project Rise (Research, Internship, and Service Experience), our signature three-year High School service project, includes a semester-long class focused on the challenges faced by various populations in New York City, research related to and combined with community service in an area of interest, and a capstone project and presentation to the school community.