A Reflection on the Monument Showdown Competition

by Max Keller ’23

Prior to April Recess, 7th grade history teacher Mr. Shaker challenged the students with a “monument showdown competition.” Mr. Shaker started by presenting a map of Chicago and assigned students to locate various monuments currently in the city of Chicago. Once the students identified the monuments, they gathered information about the gender, race and ethnicity of each individual memorialized by the monuments. Upon reviewing the results, the students realized that the monuments throughout Chicago are primarily dead, white and male. There were very few female honorees and even fewer of non-white races. Eighty four percent of monuments represented white figures, and ninety five percent of the monuments were male honorees. Monuments are intended to represent inspiring figures from history. If the monuments are only white males, could they possibly inspire people of other gender and racial backgrounds?

Mr. Shaker challenged his students to go home and think of meaningful criteria and attributes for modern-day monuments. Students were then randomly assigned to groups and collaboratively decided which criteria to consider in determining who to nominate for Chicago’s next monument. Upon determining the criteria, the students applied the criteria to nominate one individual to advocate as Chicago’s next monument. Each group member worked individually on a persuasive essay, and parts of each essay were then included in a final group essay. The content of the combined essay was presented to a panel of judges, who chose a winning group from each class. To choose a winner, the panelists considered not only the content of the essay, but also whether the group presented with good chemistry, energy and persuasiveness. The four winning groups presented to Alderman Michelle Smith and Alderman Sofia King on Thursday, April 27.

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Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.