Gender Studies at GDS: History, Policy, and Advocacy

Danny Stock

In this all-school snapshot from last week and this week, we are highlighting just four of the many examples of teaching and learning around gender, gender equality, health disparities, gender policy, and LGBTQ+ advocacy.

Gender Studies & COVID-19

For a two-part project on gender and COVID-19 health inequities, students in Julie Stein’s 11th grade U.S. gender history class began by conducting research on the pandemic and its impact on specific groups of Americans at the center of their study this year: Black women, people who identify as LGBTQ+, Native Americans, and immigrants. Julie explained, “As the virus has raged through our country, its impacts have amplified inequalities of race, gender, class, sexuality, citizenship status, and so many more. History shapes people’s social position, access to resources, and physical health.” 

Julie then wanted students to share what they learned about turn-of-the-20th-century history beyond the classroom and motivate people to act. 

Before launching collaborative public awareness campaigns, students wrote individual op-eds to address the particular and unique ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected one of the identity groups. They leveraged what they have been learning about 19th and 20th-century historical and health factors to inform their opinion pieces. They also offered policymakers specific information and a call to action that could prove useful in alleviating health inequities.

Students worked together to produce social media content to inform and engage the public around issues of gender marginalization and the pandemic. 

“I was surprised by how easily and eagerly my students translated their historical knowledge into social media posts,” Julie said. “They understand the power and potential of Instagram, and it was such a rich experience for me to tap into their wealth of skills. They did a fantastic job extracting key information from their research, communicating their ideas clearly, and engaging their audience—critical skills for argumentative essays or Instagram posts!”
 
Max Grosman noted how valuable the project has been for his own learning. He said, “This project has increased my awareness as an advocate for marginalized communities! Often I hear about struggles that different communities face such as the LGBTQ+ community or the Native American community, but I often don't get to see the empirical data backing up the anecdotal evidence. This project has revealed statistics to me about marginalized communities that, while saddening, are still important to know about.”

Felicia Paul emphasized the powerful opportunity to share her research on a familiar platform. She said, “This project is important work because it’s allowing us to educate and connect with our peers in a way that’s so familiar and comfortable for them. Social media is something that most teens use almost every day, so it’s a good space to convey an important and urgent message like how minority groups are treated in health care... I was surprised by the creativity and unique designs and formats our class came up with. We all were given the same format for our posts but managed to give each one its own importance and spotlight.”

Max echoed Felicia’s pride in the work the class did on their public awareness campaign. “I hope that people will engage with our project on Instagram as we put lots of time and effort into the dissemination of important information into the greater community!”

View the students’ online campaign »*

Jazz & Friends Community Readings

As in recent years, the Lower School will once again participate in Jazz and Friends National Day of School and Community Readings established by Human Right Campaign’s Welcoming Schools program. Teachers across the division will be reading books that promote a more inclusive educational environment for transgender, non-binary, and gender-expansive youth on Thursday, February 25. The three books in focus this year are I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas; My Rainbow by DeShanna and Trinity Neal, illustrated by Art Twink; and When Aidan Became A Brother by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. Teachers participated in a number of professional training workshops with Welcoming Schools prior to the pandemic and continue to use many additional resources in fostering the kind of community space that is a prerequisite for emotional safety and learning. The community reading will serve as an important touchpoint in the Lower School’s ongoing commitment to an anti-bias curriculum.

Jewish LGBTQ+ Advocacy

The Jewish Student Coalition (JSC), a student club at the High School, hosted Rabbi Moskowitz in their first-ever speaker series event open to Jews and non-Jews alike. Rabbi Moskowitz is scholar-in-residence for trans and queer Jewish studies at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the world’s largest LGBTQ synagogue. Keshet (a Jewish LGBTQ community organization) describes Rabbi Moskowitz as “a deeply traditional and radically progressive advocate for trans rights and a vocal ally for LGBTQ inclusivity.”

Club heads Maya Stutman-Shaw ’22 and Noah Weitzner ’21 said, “We are thrilled to have him joining us to discuss the intersections between the Jewish community and the LGBTQ+ community.”

Upcoming Event

On March 11, GDS will host its next 75th Anniversary Speaker Series event during Women’s History Month. Unfinished Business: Gender Equality in the 21st Century promises to be a powerful evening with four leaders in the women's rights movement discussing the future of gender justice in the United States and around the world.

Featuring:

  • Jennifer Klein (Jacob ’15, Zachary ’18, and Benjamin Stern ’23), the new co-chair of the White House Gender Policy Council in the Biden Administration;
  • Soraya Chemaly, writer and executive director of The Representation Project;
  • Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center; and
  • moderator Rachel Vogelstein (Sage ’28 and Parker ’30), Georgetown professor and director of the women and foreign policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations

Join our group for a discussion of intersectional feminism in the 21st century. How will women continue to make gains in political power, economic opportunity, and representation? Has COVID-19 irreparably damaged women's progress in the workplace? What's next for the #MeToo campaign? And how will the Biden Administration advance gender justice through U.S. domestic and foreign policy?

RSVP Now


*Thanks to Julie and her students for adhering to GDS policy in their creation and management of this account. For questions about acceptable use of Instagram accounts at GDS, contact communications@gds.org.

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