GENEVA – A 2014 Geneva High School graduate representing 1,739 current and former students, urged the District 304 school board to incorporate more diverse perspectives in the curriculum for the 2020-21 school year – particularly Black perspectives.
Speaking at the July 20 school board meeting, Annie Waldoch said the 1,739 past and current students she represents spans across more than 50 graduation years.
“In early June, these students sent a letter to the the school board and GHS Principal (Tom) Rogers, challenging the faculty at GHS – especially the history, English and government departments – asking them to actively incorporate additional diverse perspectives into the 2020-21 curriculum,” Waldoch said. “Specifically, to add more Black writers and viewpoints.”
The letter, entitled, "Ignorance was never bliss," contains specific examples of fiction, non-fiction and videos. Information about it can be found online at bit.ly/GHS-BLM.
Waldoch said the recent spotlight on “systemic oppression and racial injustice has been an important collective awakening to how we as a country can improve.”
She praised Geneva’s schools, saying she had a wonderful education, a caring community and a wealth of advantages
“But it is not the most diverse place on Earth,” Waldoch said, citing Geneva’s population according to the 2010 census, was 94.8% white and 0.5% Black. The whole state of Illinois was counted as 14.23% Black in 2010, according to census data.
“This demographic reality does not prepare students for world outside of Geneva,” Waldoch said. “Change comes from the process of awareness, acknowledgment and understanding. The education system is the theater for awareness. By actively incorporating black perspectives and history, GHS can increase awareness of our country’s long guilty history of systemic injustice and racism.”
It is also powerful to discuss racial incidents closer to home, such as “awareness of historical redlining that segregated Chicago and directly led to the lack of generational wealth opportunity for Black families, also the violence visited on (the Rev. Dr.) Martin Luther King Jr. during his time time in Chicago,” Waldoch said.
She said the 1,739 students and former students who signed on to the letter are also asking the school board to challenge educators to include Black perspectives into next year’s curriculum.
“Education has not and has never been just about facts and figures, memorizing trivia for a test,” Waldoch said. “It is a holistic deepening of awareness, knowledge and understanding.”
The letter was sent on June 11. In response, School Board President Taylor Egan said they would consider “this collective voice of former Geneva graduates.”
“We are proud to know Geneva students continue to come together encouraging progress in our community, while also continuing the district’s tradition of collaboration among students for the greater good of a world beyond our town,” Egan wrote in response.
Rogers replied on June 12, stating he had already shared their recommendations with the GHS Building Leadership Team.
“Thank you very much to all of you for taking action,” Rogers’s letter stated. “Many times each school year I have the occasion to tell people how proud I am to be the principal of Geneva High School. The civic engagement demonstrated by the 1,739 graduates and students who support this initiative is inspiring and I’m now even prouder to be the GHS principal.”
Rogers wrote that two of the components of the district’s vision statement are “We are: collaborative and productive citizens and lifelong learners.”
“It’s so exciting and rewarding to see those words come to life,” Rogers’s letter stated.