By the time Parker students become juniors in the Upper School, they are already hard at work, under the guidance of our fabulous faculty, on “bringing the outside In and the inside out,” moving their knowledge and efforts from a more localized view of our community to Chicago and beyond.
As part of this effort, 11th grade students take part in the interdisciplinary Civic Lab program, working together in small groups throughout the year to explore themes of marginalization as they play out in Chicago as part of their U.S. History and American Literature curriculum. The goal of this program is to promote active citizenship and civic engagement, providing space for building relationships and connections, transforming Parker’s mission into action, advocating for social justice and enriching understanding of how systems of marginalization shape institutions and structures of privilege, advantage and disadvantage in our history and our present-day society.
To help advance this goal, the History Department invited Dr. Rachel Boyle, co-founder of Omnia History
, to discuss the importance of Chicago to labor history and labor activism today. Omnia History is a public history collaborative that uses the past to promote social change, grounded in the simple idea that cultural work should benefit people in tangible ways and serve a larger social purpose.
As juniors are currently studying labor history and immigration history, Dr. Boyle’s presentation was the perfect supplement to bolster their knowledge and lead them to a more robust understanding of this issue. Dr. Boyle explained the roots of the labor movement and that poor working conditions and a great disparity in wealth provided the impetus for greater change. She further detailed Chicago’s role in the movement as a major railroad and business hub and concluded by talking about labor activism today.
Maps and other firsthand sources assisted our students in grasping these complex topics. Upper School history teacher Susan Elliott hopes “students will understand that labor activism, as a result of COVID, is moving into a new era that may result in great gains.” Upper School history teacher Andrew Bigelow offered, “It is always great to make use of our city for guest speakers, like representatives from the Newberry Library, as we try to go beyond the classroom experience during junior year through guest speakers, Civic Lab and field trips.”
Parker is grateful to Dr. Boyle for making time to meet with the junior class. Her knowledge on this topic helped students understand the labor movement in greater detail and allowed them to witness how these roots still help shape the movement today.