The student artwork on this page is from a collaborative poster project, Let America Be America Again, in which students were asked to create a poster to help them move toward a broader understanding of what it means to be an American.
ender roles. Race. Identity. WT students explore issues like these—and more—in Multicultural America (MCA), a required course for ninth graders. In MCA, students work to construct a more accurate version of history with the charge of connecting with one another and their communities in new ways.
“This course isn’t supposed to leave you where you started, it’s not supposed to leave you alone,” declares Dr. Mike Naragon, History and Social Studies Department Chair. “It’s supposed to connect you – to your own truth and to the truth of who we are as a nation,” adds history teacher Callie Gropp.”
Borne of Winchester Thurston’s desire to find a way for students to grapple with difficult, sometimes very personal, issues—and to ensure a safe space for engaging in productive, meaningful, heartfelt conversations around them—Multicultural America grew naturally from the school’s Equity and Inclusion Statement and a decision to give that statement legs in daily practice.
“It is about engaging self and society and where those things overlap,” says Naragon, who developed and teaches the course along with Gropp, fellow history teacher Josh Andy, and Director of Equity and Inclusion Diane Nichols. “We want students to see the way their perceptions of themselves and one another often come out of a specific historical context and how they possess the agency necessary to shape the contemporary issues around them.”
“We recognized the need for students to have baseline knowledge around how identity and experiences can shape perception of Self and perception of Other,” adds Gropp, whose students begin by thinking about their values and beliefs and what multiculturalism means to them. “Their ultimate dreams embraced and intersected with one another as well as with voices from our past. We pulled in foundational American history documents, current voices, and then students collaboratively crafted their dreams for America.”
That exercise yielded essays like The Flag of a New America, in which a group of students wrote: “Our American history is rich because it is interwoven with immigrants of different faiths, backgrounds, and abilities…We need an America where all people are given equal opportunities to participate in, and improve, society.”
Students glean multicultural, interdisciplinary information from newspaper articles, songs, documentaries, textbooks, and historical documents deriving from artists and thinkers of many eras and cultures, from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—who warns of the danger of a single story—to Chinese-American musician MILCK.
This broad and deep reflection fulfills the course’s central goal: “Students are not just accumulating knowledge to regurgitate on a test,” notes Naragon. “They are now obligated as citizens of the world to go out and do something with this.”