Faculty tries to include Syrian crisis into classroom setting

St. Paul Academy and Summit School prides itself on its rigorous curriculum, aimed at shaping active and curious global citizens. However, there is little to no discussion of global issues within the classroom, sparking the question: Is SPA doing enough to educate its students on current events?

Understandably, academics are the number one priority at SPA, but many current events affect the student body and this fact is not being addressed when teachers decide what to discuss in class. The conflict in Syria, for example, affects members of the SPA community who have family living in affected areas overseas, but it has not been brought up in everyday classroom discussions. “Syria is a country nobody used to know about so that fact that people are talking about it at all is big to me, but I still wish that people were more involved,” sophomore Boraan Abdulkarim, who has family living in Syria, said.

“I don’t think much discussion is happening in school right now except in [Student Political Union], but I think there should be,” sophomore George Stiffman said.

SPA offers a current events class taught by Upper School history teacher Mollie Ward but it is not available to underclassmen. Even with an available class, it would be challenging to teach students about current conflicts such as Syria due to the depth of the situation. “It’s really hard [for students] to find out about anything that’s going on because it’s a really complicated situation,” sophomore Liza Buckingolts said.

Nonetheless, SPA is doing the minimum to work through this complexity. “If you’re really going to talk about this topic you have to know about Syria, you have to know about its history, you have to know about the history of chemicals in the world,” Upper School History teacher Tom Fones said. “It’s the school’s responsibility to keep global affairs and USA’s role in the world in front of students. We try, but it is a competition for time,” Fones said. Some senior history electives, such as Ancient World, begin class each day with current events discussions. If this system was applied into more of the classes it could serve as a possible solution to the issue of time balance.

The reality is that with so many conflicting opinions in our news it is hard to get the full story about these issues. “We have a media that tends to be aligned one way or another politically,” Fones said. This makes it hard for students to get a full understanding of the issue and for teachers to educate students on the issue in nonpartisan matter. “I think we know six inches deep, I don’t know that we know three feet deep.” Fones said.