Monday, March 25, 2013

Equality in Education at Quaker Schools

Today we have another student entry about Equality in Friends Schools. Imani focuses on one element of equality afforded to students at her school. She even begins the debate for us, on the exclusivity (or not) of Advance Placement (AP) courses. I welcome readers to post comments on this topic or simply enjoy reading!
By Imani Stone, William Penn Charter School Sophomore

Quaker schools are unique to other schools in that they have certain specific values that are focused on through the years. These values are integrated into every aspect of a students school life. In turn each student comes away from a Quaker education in some way impacted by what was taught to them in their school life. I think one of the most important Quaker principles is equality, because without it, only the privileged few would be able to achieve the goals for which they set out. One of the most important place for equality is in education because knowledge is, in fact, power, therefore it is important that all children receive the same opportunities in education. I feel that Quaker schools are good role model for this system.

One way in which Quaker schools display equality in its education is the lack of the tracking system many public high schools have. This system of tracking, places students in a certain academic level based on their grades, and once placed in a certain track, it is very difficult to catch up or move up to a higher level. Because Quaker schools do not have this system each and every student has the opportunity to move up to an advanced or AP class, if they wished to go in that direction, because they had the same (or very similar) learning experience as their fellow students.

Students who may have a learning disability, or learn slightly different that the other students are given the aid needed, specifically extra time on tests. These students are treated the same as the rest of the students by their teachers. From what I have observed, students treat their peers who have extra time with the same respect their teachers do. In addition, it is not made obvious who has extra time and who does not. It is done discretely, so that a major show does not ensue, and so that it may save the child some embarrassment. They are not talked to in condescension or looked down on, they are respected and, because of the principle of equality, have the same opportunity as other students. In addition, it is not made obvious who has extra time and who does not. It is done discretely, so that a major show does not ensue, and so that it may save the child some embarrassment.

Of course there are the AP classes that require an application and certain prerequisites in order to take the class. This could be classified as an inequality, but as I said earlier because there is no tracking system, every student has the opportunity to move up to advanced classes and APs. Because different students have different interests and different strengths, there is, at least at my school, an AP class for every student. From AP Biology to AP Art History, there is a class for most student interests. This shows equality, while highlighting and celebrating the academic diversity of the student body.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Equality: One Way In Which My School Exemplifies the Quaker Tradition

For a change of pace, our next post comes from a Friends School student voice. Tom Rickards, the Chair of Religious Studies at William Penn Charter School asked his 10th graders, who recently finished a Quaker Principles and Practices class, if they would be interested in write a post for this blog. Those interested were instructed to focus on particular Quaker testimony to explore. This first submission focuses on the testimony to equality.

By Julia Truten, William Penn Charter School Sophomore

I go to the William Penn Charter School, a Quaker school in East Falls, Pennsylvania, and witness examples of equality and inequality at school every day.
Our school has an active GSA (gay-straight alliance), in which I am as an active a member as I can be, and we are constantly fighting for our peers and classmates to treat LGBTQ kids the same way they would treat everyone else. However, when we really delve into the matter, I think the GSA has realized from a few discussions that what we want isn't for people to be kind to gay kids, because that would be inequality, for most kids aren't kind to everyone. What we're fighting for is kindness all around. Our slogans aren't just comprised of, "Chicks marry chicks; get over it!" We also try to spread messages like, "Think before you speak!" and "Everyone has problems--don't add to them." We focus on LGBTQ people because they've received so much hatred and injustice throughout history, and because no one else will fight for them. My school seems to be focused on the idea that if you stand up for gay rights, you must be gay. They don't realize that it's even more powerful when straight people stand up for them.

Our school
, namely the administration, is uncommonly supportive of equal rights in all minorities, especially LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer) people. This may be because we have openly gay teachers that make our community an obviously better place, or it could be because there are over 50 members of the GSA; it's the biggest club in the whole school. It's one of the things I like best about my school. Also, I know that those administrators who will, appropriately, denounce its students for screaming homophobic cheers at sporting events, and will do so in the full high-school assembly, will also find upon further inquiry and/or reflection that they do hold that standard of respectfulness and non-judgmental-ness to every student and regarding every student. I'm quite proud of my school for that, and even though some would say that my school is pretty "un-Quaker" for a Quaker school, maybe because it has a football team or all-school dodge-ball competitions, I think that this is one way in which my school exemplifies the Quaker tradition.