Podcast Episode

Creative problem solving: Developing solutionary thinkers

We welcome back Zoe Weil, of the Institute for Humane Education, along with Laura Trongard, Oceanside (NY) High School teacher to discuss how teachers are implementing IHE’s Solutionary program. Laura describes how students adopt habits of solutionary thinking in their schoolwork and their lives. Zoe talks about IHE’s new micro-credential program, an online course that prepares teachers to use the solutionary framework. The new edition of Zoe’s book, “The World Becomes What We Teach,” with new content on pandemics and racial tensions, will be released in June.

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Research in schools (Part 2): Safeguarding the data

We continue our conversation with Marianna Azar, director of NYC Department of Education’s Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). This week, Ms. Azar discusses the potential privacy dangers created by collection and dissemination of research data, strategies to combat them, and the need to strengthen the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

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Students as subjects: Ethical considerations of research in schools

We talk with Marianna Azar, Director and Chair of the NYC DOE’s Institutional Review Boards. The IRBs review all research proposals conducted through the schools to make sure they are conducted ethically and that the benefits to the students outweigh any burdens. In Part 1 of a 2-part interview, Ms. Azar describes how the IRBs work and their impact on researchers, schools, students and parents. Next week we’ll continue exploring the ethical issues that confront IRBs, including issues raised by Big Data.

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Ethical outreach: a parent coordinator anchors immigrant families

We speak with Herminia (Ita) Saldana, parent coordinator at MS 328, a middle school in Washington Heights, Manhattan. Every public school in NYC has a parent coordinator. Virtually all of the MS 328 students are current English Language Learners or have tested out of ELL status. As parent coordinator, Ita encourages and facilitates parent engagement as both advocate and navigator. She also helps recent immigrant families to access all kinds of community services as they adapt to life in NYC.

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Making anti-racist change: A template for educational leaders

We speak with Dr. Sarah Diem of University of Missouri and Dr. Anjalé Welton of University of Wisconsin, Madison. They discuss the seemingly neutral “colorevasive” policies that actually reinforce racial inequity. Drs. Diem and Welton present an action protocol for school and district leaders who seek to create antiracist schools.

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Grief and loss: Supporting students, families, and teachers in a pandemic (encore)

As of today, March 31st, 2021, over 550,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. We’re reposting our conversation with Cynthia Trapanese former grief counselor, now teacher, who explains that the adults in a school need to grapple with their own losses in order to help children and families.

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Exacerbating inequality: Private money in public schools

We speak with Dr. Sue Winton of York University in Toronto about the effects of private money–much of it from parents- that replaces decreased public funding of schools. Fundraisers and fees for special programs benefit affluent schools and the children who already have the most access to opportunities. Low income parents often feel pressure to donate beyond their means for their children’s sake.

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Shared visions: Creating an abolitionist school culture

We continue our conversation with Grace Alli Brandstein, a school improvement and instructional coach supporting struggling high schools in the Bronx. This week, Ms. Brandstein focuses on humane, antiracist education, and explains Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s construct of literacy as identity, skills, intellect, criticality, and joy. She also speaks about the conditions for successful adult learning, giving teachers the training they need to lead one another and the space to coalesce around a shared vision, expectations, and protocols.

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The bigger picture: High school improvement in the Bronx

We speak with Grace Alli Brandstein, an improvement and instructional coach with the New York City Department of Education. Ms. Brandstein works with Bronx high schools that the State has designated as needing support. This is part one of a two part interview. Today, we discuss challenges teachers and students at these schools face, and their everyday achievements. Ms. Brandstein talks about the impacts, both positive and negative, of being rated as needing improvement, especially the pressure it puts administrators, teachers, and students. Next week, Ms. Brandstein talks about abolitionist education.

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Toward Antiracism: The evolution of an undergraduate teacher ed program

We speak with Dr. Marsha Daria of Western Connecticut State University. Dr. Daria teaches undergraduate courses in the Department of Education and Educational Psychology. She explains how in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, the department reconfigured its curriculum to center social justice, equity, and self-reflection. She discusses the department’s recruitment initiatives to increase teacher candidate diversity.

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Teaching the “isms”: Students’ lived experiences in context

We speak with Jillian McRae and Sam North, English and history teachers at Ossining (NY) High School, and their student, Alaysha. For 15 years, Sam and Jillian have co-taught a college-level course called “racism, sexism, and classism: a popular approach.” They focus on pervasive systems of power, and encourage students to discuss their own experiences of privilege, disadvantage, and intersectionality.

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Antiracist school leadership: Courage and commitment

Dr. Bradley Carpenter, associate professor of educational leadership at Baylor University, speaks about developing and supporting antiracist school principals. Very few leadership prep programs prioritize or embed antiracism principles or practices. A principal committed to centering antiracism needs to have a full equity audit of existing curriculum and practices and to lead faculty members through the emotionally laborious process of examining everyone’s own privileges…

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Early childhood education: It is play, but it is not “babysitting”

We speak with Michele Washington, longtime early childhood lecturer at Lehman College, about expertise at the preschool level. Head Start, pre-K, and 3-K teachers can support children and families in myriad ways once parents or guardians trust them. Cultural humility is essential; teachers need to understand and respect their children’s families and communities.

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Student record privacy: Danger looms from police and hackers

We speak with Mark Lieberman, Education Week tech reporter. Pasco County FL schools give the sheriff records of students deemed “destined to a life of crime.” NYS Education Department funded facial recognition of school visitors to schools. Hackers hold district data hostage for ransom. We discuss legal and ethical privacy issues in the age of tech, including the dilemmas for teachers if a “D” leads to a police database.

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Districtwide decisions: Day to day ethical considerations

We speak with Dan Callahan, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education in Peekskill City School District, 45 minutes north of Manhattan. The low-income district in wealthy Westchester is 70% Latino, including many students from immigrant families. We discuss how the district has adapted to rapid demographic changes and schools’ role in helping students meet challenges. Mr. Callahan reflects on the decisions he and his staff make that impact students’ lives in very concrete ways, and the tension between consistency, applying the same rules for all students, and specificity, looking at the totality of circumstances in each individual case.

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UPDATE: Moving toward admissions equity and culture change at Manhattan’s Beacon High School

We speak with Beacon PTA members Toni Smith-Thompson and Robin Broshi about NYC’s new requirements and the school’s proposed admission plan. Then we listen back to last June’s interview with activist students from the Beacon Union of Unions.

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Systemic racism in special education: Parent participation legitimizes inequities

We continue our conversation with LaToya Baldwin Clark of UCLA School of Law. Dr. Baldwin Clark explains how the special education system advantages White middle class families. Poor families and families of color tend to lack cultural capital to navigate the system and advocate effectively for their children. While resources flow to White children with special needs, Black children tend to be stigmatized and placed…

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Policing attendance boundaries: Education as private property

We speak with Dr. LaToya Baldwin Clark, assistant professor at UCLA School of Law. Dr. Baldwin Clark explains how school boundaries are used for racial exclusion. In many cases, schools don’t just reflect, but cause, segregated neighborhoods. Dr. Baldwin Clark argues that closing the education gap isn’t just about bringing up the bottom, but bringing down the…

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Supporting English Learners: pandemic and post-pandemic solutions

We speak with Dr. Julie Sugarman of the Migration Policy Institute about meeting the needs of English Learners. We discuss the meaning and implications of ELs “falling behind” during virtual instruction and difficulties administering upcoming English language proficiency tests. Dr. Sugarman talks about a model for incorporating ELs into planning. She also talks about what is lost (and gained) through technology, given the importance of personal relationships to teaching and learning.

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Students as experts: Diversity, equity, and inclusion

We speak with Dr. Judith King-Calnek, United Nations International School’s first Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Since UNIS faculty and students come from all over the world, they draw on one another’s backgrounds and lived experience in presenting and analyzing social issues. Faculty, parents, alumni, and, especially, students are involved in new DEI initiatives. Students are actually writing curriculum, providing feedback, and delivering DEI modules to…

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Dodging responsibility for our children: Reducing learning to test scores

We speak with Samuel E. Abrams of Teachers College, Columbia University. The root problems in K12 education — including poverty-related stress and underpaid and underprepared teachers — are pervasive and expensive to fix. So instead, the U.S. has  adopted a “commercial mindset,” measuring success through standardized test scores and increasingly outsourcing school management to for-profit and nonprofit corporations. Dr. Abrams explains what we can…

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Students doing original research: Project-based learning in Ohio

We speak with middle school teachers, Debbie Holecko and Claudia Bestor, and their former student, Rafel Alshakergi, about a student-led research project that led to ethical civic engagement. Rafel explains how the experience emboldened her to ask questions and “speak [her] mind.” The project, which got national attention, cut against Ohio’s high-stakes test orientation; many teachers are afraid to do project-based learning because Ohio doesn’t have tenure and bases 40% of teacher evaluation on student test scores. The teachers discuss how to meet standards through project-based learning. This interview is just a joy to listen to!

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Abolitionist education: Creating liberatory spaces (Part Two)

We continue our conversation with Dr. Edwin Mayorga of Swarthmore College. We discuss the corporatization of schools that reduces students to their test scores. Dr. Mayorga encourages educators to center joy and healing. Schools should be liberatory rather than places that are too often focused on punishment and surveillance. Schools, as “localized nodes of political power,” should adopt democratic processes that cultivate voice, participation, and collaboration. As an organizer, he encourages coalitions of people resisting different aspects of racial capitalism, including those fighting destruction of the planet and exploitation of other species.

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Abolitionist education: Creating liberatory spaces (Part One)

We speak with Swarthmore’s Dr. Edwin Mayorga, who explains how abolitionist classrooms and schools create “freedom as a place” in contrast to racial capitalism. Teachers are the lead inquirers and try to “move at the speed of trust,” helping to create classrooms full of joy. Edwin describes Philadelphia’s Kensington Health Sciences Academy as a school where teaching and learning are based on establishing relationships of mutual respect.

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BIPOC and undocumented: A trauma-filled intersection

Dr. Christiana Best, who spent thirty years in the New York City child welfare system before becoming a full-time academic, discusses her personal experience of being left behind in Granada while her mother settled in the US. Dr. Best, now an assistant professor of social work at St. Joseph’s, delves into the difficulties of providing holistic support to immigrant children and families, who are (justifiably) hesitant to trust government agencies.

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The impact of deportation policies on Latinx students’ mental health

Dr. Randy Capps, Director of Research for U.S. Programs at the Migration Policy Institute, surveyed Latinx high school students to see how fear of deportation – of their parents, relatives, friends, or themselves – impacts their mental health. The students, roughly half foreign-born and half US-born, suffered anxiety, depression, and PTSD at significantly higher rates than other students their age. Strong bonds immigrant students formed with one another were a source of mutual support. Students who engaged in public policy activism showed improved mental health.

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Empowering school counselors to support struggling students

Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer of Harvard Graduate School of Education sees counselors as schools’ academic conscience, the hub for providing holistic support to students. To be effective, they need a seat at the leadership table. Respondents in Savitz-Romer’s 1000-counselor survey described obstacles and successes in serving students during the pandemic.

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Holistic history: The African diaspora

Dr. Kim Butler, who leads Rutgers’s Africana Studies program, says that while we usually teach history and social studies in discreet, testable units, events are complex and interconnected. Slavery throughout the Americas was central to the development of capitalism. Dr. Butler describes how working class students often can’t choose a liberal arts education because they have to focus on getting jobs.

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Students leading change: Inclusiveness at an elite school

Stacey Cervellino Thorp and Naima Moffett-Warden teach drama at Manhattan’s famed LaGuardia High School, and Abigail Rivera is a senior in the drama studio. Although all LaGuardia students are extraordinarily talented, their families, neighborhoods, and middle schools have vastly different resources. Students and faculty, led by students of color, have won changes and are demanding more steps to make the school more accessible and the curriculum more culturally responsive.

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Teaching economics as political and ethical choices

We welcome back Lev Moscow of the Beacon School to discuss his approach to teaching political economy, which actually applies to any social science. It’s not primarily about the numbers but about the human choices behind them. How do we determine who gets paid what and who gets to spend 80,000 hours in a lifetime engaged in meaningful work? Also, how our mantra of continuous economic growth will end life as we know it.

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Education denied: What should reparations look like?

Daarel Burnette II of Education Week delves into the history of Black communities demanding education and school boards conspiring to deprive them of opportunities and resources. We zoom in on Virginia’s reparations to Black citizens, now in their 60’s, who were excluded from schools when Prince Edward County shut its schools to avoid integration. Mr. Burnette, a “military brat,” theorizes about why children of Black military families do so much better academically than their civilian peers.

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Identity-focused classes: Experiments in cultural relevance

We speak with Dr. Emily Penner, who studied the impacts of two programs in which students delved into their respective races, ethnicities, and communities. San Francisco’s was designed for academically-struggling students of a range of ethnicities. Oakland’s was designed for young Black men across academic achievement levels, as part of the district’s “targeted universalism” approach. The results, in both cases, were dramatic.

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Practicing ethics: Case studies

We speak with Meira Levinson, Professor of Education at Harvard, about her website justiceinschools.org and books of “hard cases,” designed to help educators and youth workers think about the ethical implications of their decisions. Often, there are no perfect solutions, and  these decisions can have far-reaching consequences in children’s lives. A former teacher herself, Meira would like teachers to be able to consult with specially trained school ethicists.

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Parent voice: Supporting families with special needs

Ellen McHugh, long time activist and Public Advocate Williams’s appointee to the NYC Citywide Council on Special Education, delves into the challenges facing parents of students with special education needs. Ethical relationships among educators, parents, and the students themselves are crucial to these students’ success. Too often educators minimize the importance of parental input even though the law requires that they be equal partners in their children’s educational planning. Remote and hybrid learning has added new obstacles to and opportunities for partnerships between parents and educators.

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Anti-racism: Lessons for the classroom and faculty lounge

We speak with Mica Pollock about US vs Hate and Schooltalk. Student anti-racism messaging in any medium can catalyze youth activism. Comments embedded in teachers’ everyday communication can impact students’ lifetime trajectories.

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Consumption as ethics: Talking with students about food

We welcome back Monica Chen of Factory Farming Awareness Coalition. She describes the animal-agricultural complex that exploits workers in meatpacking plants and animals in factory farms and devastates communities and the environment. Monica introduces FFAC’s culturally-competent virtual lessons and presentations for students from middle school through university, customized for all subject areas. Students who want to become social justice activists, with food as the hub that connects worker rights, sustainability, and environmental racism can apply to FFAC’s intern program.

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Busting out of the classroom: Connecting local history to everyday life

Social studies teacher David Edelman and student Raúl Baez speak about their class’s “Virtual Walking Tour of Slavery in New York City” and other projects in which students become teachers. David’s goal is to instill curiosity and encourage students to connect history to their lived experiences. He shares suggestions for virtual teaching and teacher collaboration.

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Food injustice: The corporatization of school meals

We speak with Monica Chen, veteran teacher and executive director of Factory Farming Awareness Coalition. Monica tells us how cow’s milk became a staple in school lunches even though most children of color do not have the ability to digest lactose, the main carbohydrate in dairy products. She explains how checkoff programs like Got milk? mislead the American public into thinking these are healthy foods for human children.

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Audit culture: The dehumanization of education

World renowned educational consultant Bill Stroud talks about schooling within our capitalist culture and the impact that on-line learning will have on teachers’ autonomy and teacher-student relationships. He discusses similarities and differences among classrooms in different countries, the potential impact of the Movement for Black Lives on schools, and what envisioning a different system of schools would look like.

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Supporting student civic activism: Social studies on steroids – Part 2

Dr. Alan Singer, Dr. Pablo Muriel, and Gates Millennium Scholar Dennis Belen-Morales, three generations of teachers, describe how they center student activism in their project-based social studies and history classes while giving students the tools to pass the NYS Regents exams. Dr. Singer was Dr. Muriel’s professor in college, and Dr. Muriel was Mr. Belen-Morales’ high school teacher and college professor in turn. Now all three are at Hofstra University. Part 2 of a two-part series that contains lots of specific strategies for teachers and passion for civics education.

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Supporting student civic activism: Social studies on steroids – Part 1

Dr. Alan Singer, Dr. Pablo Muriel, and Gates Millennium Scholar Dennis Belen-Morales, three generations of teachers, describe how they center student activism in their project-based social studies and history classes while giving students the tools to pass the NYS Regents exams. Dr. Singer was Dr. Muriel’s high school teacher, and Dr. Muriel was Mr. Belen-Morales’ teacher in turn. Now all three are at Hofstra University. Part 1 of a two-part series that contains lots of specific strategies for teachers and passion for civics education.

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Police and metal detectors in schools: Student perspectives

Nia Morgan and Anahi Ortiz Fierros of Urban Youth Collaborative describe how police and metal detectors humiliate and traumatize students. The story of the “fork in the backpack” illustrates the system’s absurdity. And while NYC school arrests are down overall, Black and Latinx students are arrested at much higher rates than white students. NYS legislature considers Solutions Not Suspensions Act. Campaigns for police-free schools are taking place around the country.

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*UPDATE* Civics education: A Constitutional right?

Last year we interviewed Mark Santow, one of the plaintiffs suing the State of Rhode Island under the 14th Amendment for failing to provide some students civics curricula and other components of an adequate education. After we revisit our interview, Dr. Santow updates us on the suit and reflects on the lawsuit’s particular relevance at a time of pandemic and the Mobilization for Black Lives.

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Too Late For Reform: Abolishing the Police in Schools

Toni Smith-Thompson, Senior Organizer at NY Civil Liberties Union, discusses the importance of replacing police presence in schools with restorative practices. Toni envisions ethical schools, in which all students feel both appreciated by and accountable to school communities, and conflicts are resolved internally. Students returning to school, many of whom will have experienced trauma associated with the pandemic and police violence, will need nurturing, not punitive measures.

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Savage inequalities: How school funding intentionally privileges white, wealthy communities

Zahava Stadler, Policy Director of EdBuild, explains how housing discrimination and state funding policies disadvantage Black and low-income districts. EdBuild has reported on funding schemes throughout the country, documenting a $23 billion annual funding gap between White districts and districts of color. Ms. Stadler describes how states could allocate education dollars more equitably, benefitting at least 70% of students.

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Reimagining college admissions: Performance assessment pilot at CUNY

Dr. Michelle Fine speaks about better alternatives to standardized tests for students to demonstrate college-readiness. NYC’s Consortium Schools, which use Performance Based Assessment Tasks, collaborated with CUNY to open CUNY’s 4-year colleges to more low-income Black and Latinx applicants. Students, especially Black males, did better at college than test score-admitted peers. Dr. Fine gives a passionate call for democratic school cultures based on student initiated work and collaborative revision.

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Students demand equity and inclusion: call for admissions, curriculum, counseling changes

Manhattan’s Beacon High School students are fighting for racial equity in NYC’s highly segregated school system. Three student activists talk about their experiences in the elite public school, the student-led demonstrations and teach ins, and the Beacon Union of Unions’ comprehensive list of demands.

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Crises and opportunity: A holistic approach to supporting and empowering youth

In light of the pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted BIPOC, and BLM uprisings, we’re revisiting Jon’s interview with Jason Warwin of The Brotherhood/Sister Sol. COVID-19 has devastated Bro/Sis’s community of Black and Brown youth and their families. And despite the pandemic, Bro/Sis staff and members are joining protests to demand systemic change. We’ll check in with Jason and then listen to the interview from last June.

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Challenging hierarchies: The role of the social justice teacher educator

Dr. Sherry Deckman speaks about creating classroom environments that challenge cultural and social hierarchies. Teachers need to be aware of the lenses through which they view the world and their students, especially lenses that center Whiteness. She discusses everyday anti-racism for educators and creating humanizing spaces for all students, as well as the isolation that teacher educators of color often feel.

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Why teach history? Knowing “why” shapes “how”

Richard Miller, who taught in progressive NYC secondary schools for 28 years, talks about teaching students to think like historians, weighing different sources and drawing their conclusions from evidence. The past gives context to the present, and understanding historiography, or how history is interpreted over time, equips students to view current issues from multiple perspectives.

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