Human Rights Class: A Last Look Reply

Human Rights is no longer taught at BSGE, starting this year. One of the many changes that went into effect in September is that Health has replaced Human Rights as the weekly “elective,” and Physical Education has replaced Health as a main class. Human Rights, taught by Peter Wilson, has been a distinctive feature of ninth grade ever since this school opened, but scheduling and homework concerns have trumped tradition.

There are two main reasons for the change: scheduling issues and parent pushback. Ninth graders in past years have had gym/yoga only for half of the year, which when combined with the fact that juniors only have it once a week meant that BSGE students weren’t getting enough physical activity overall. Health, which used to replace it, now has its own slot in the schedule so ninth graders can be more active. The other reason is that recently, parents of ninth graders have been complaining that their children receive too much homework from what is theoretically an “elective” course. Together, this ended the class.

Mr. Wilson is very unhappy that he can no longer teach this class. To him, it was an opportunity for “engaging in real international and global issues.” He explained that we all go to an international school, and his class was one of the most important experiences we have with conflicts worldwide. Peter is worried that there are “less and less things that are truly global” at BSGE, such as how we will also soon no longer have Mandarin classes. Most people in the United States do not understand the importance of paying attention to human rights issues, such as how this country is one of very few that has not yet signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In addition to being a global experience, Peter explained that his class also prepared people for work later on in life. Dozens of students have gone to him, thanking him for human rights class because it helped them on the Global History Regents or the Extended Essay. Moreover, according to Peter, the vast amount of homework it required helps to prepare students for the realities of life in the IB program. The goal was for it to be hard, but rewarding both in study habits and content.

Opinion on this change is split amongst the upperclassmen. They generally agree on two main points, but not on much else. The consensus is that there was far too much homework, including reading and responding to an article that would hang on the wall outside of the classroom, which was a major problem everybody had with the class. The other point that people agree on is that the movies were usually very “interesting and eye-opening,” as Danielle Gutkovich ’17 put it. Some think that the movies outweighed the homework and human rights class was beneficial overall, like Lap Tran ’17, who said, “I don’t think any other class can actually replace it.” However, Malcolm Sherman-Godfrey ‘17 and Adrian Kulesza ’17 expressed envy that the ninth graders this year have Health instead. Adrian said, “That is so unfair! We only had one semester of gym, and they get health instead of human rights!” Simona Matovic ’17 offered an explanation for why this dichotomy exists: “The fact that there was too much homework turned [the class] into something people dreaded instead something beneficial.”

Human Rights has been a great experience for many and a grueling one for others, but everybody can agree that it was memorable. For better or for worse, no students at BSGE will ever have that experience again.

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