100 minutes is not enough time to tackle complex issues

There are racial issues at New Trier. That isn’t a secret. I think generally, we have a very shallow understanding of the nuances of race and how race exists outside of the walls of our school.

The logical thing to do would be to learn about race (history, intersections, culture, etc) so that we become more well informed and better people as we go to college and beyond.

Yet New Trier does not seem to care about this as much as they should, at least it doesn’t look like that to me. The N-word presentations only served to reinforce that idea.

Obviously, as a white person, my opinion and perceptions about these presentations matter less. Even so, after the presentations, I had a lot of frustrations with how it was handled, and expressed this to a handful of my teachers.

While they were sympathetic to my ideas, they did remind me that the administration was doing its best. It made me feel a little bad and then I was like ‘Fine. They’re doing their best.’

But then I thought about it, and I was like ‘No they’re not. This is not even remotely close to their best, and if this is their best, their best is not enough.’

We spend weeks every single year with multiple extended adviseries to do scheduling. We spend hours on choosing classes. And yet they could not carve out more than 100 minutes to talk about the N-word? It’s a complex issue that needs more than 4 advisery periods, and the time allotted was far from sufficient.

Another thing that absolutely perplexes me is why the people teaching this were our advisers. I think many handled this as well as they could, but they don’t have the training or background to really understand how to teach kids about the complexities of race.

The purpose of an adviser is to advise, not to teach lessons on race or any other intense topic. It seems unfair to expect them to successfully deploy this presentation, when many of them are probably in a very similar spot to students in terms of understanding race.

I am not qualified to teach this topic, so why should every adviser be expected to?

There are plenty of highly qualified people that I’m sure would have been happy to come speak to us. Why they couldn’t hire people to come in and talk about the N-word is truly beyond me.

To give them some credit, the school tried bringing in people with Seminar day, aka New Trier’s attempt at addressing race prior to the N-word presentations.

Despite the controversy, it was probably helpful because we had educated professionals talking to us about racial issues, and it had a lot of positive feedback. But the administration kicked it after two years.

I asked the administration why they got rid of it, and they said that is was exhausting for teachers, especially multiple years in a row.

They also said that one day wasn’t enough. The next year, they went to 0 days. Then 100 minutes this year. I’m not great a math, but I feel like one day is more than both of those.

The final thing I had an issue with was them choosing the N-word as the only thing to address. Non- black students saying the N-word is a problem that deserves attention. And addressing the word is valuable and necessary, regardless of its success rate.

But talking about the N-word in a manner that seemed forced and scripted does little to address the underlying issues of racism that persist at New Trier.

It would be better if they gave students an idea of what the plan is for future presentations in order to address similar problems, but based on my conversation with administration, it seems like these plans don’t exist outside of a vague desire to keep talking about how language exists in relation to minorities.

There are racial issues at New Trier. We need to go beyond a presentation and do more.