New English Electives Off to a Successful First Semester

The two new English electives, offered to juniors and seniors at MHS, are approaching the end of their first semester.


Fatimah Khan

A poster featuring one of the books discussed in Stories of Power, Oppression, Justice, and Pride.

Anatoli Velikov, Spotlight Page Editor

As the nation becomes more culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse, lessons in diversity and justice continue to spread into schools and classrooms. With this, two new electives have emerged in Mamaroneck High School’s English department: Voices of the World and Social Justice. Each seeks to foster understanding and encourage personal growth in students.
Voices of the World, co-taught by Aaron Shansky and Christina Barquin, dives deep into culture, its meaning, and its influence on one’s views. The course has started off by reflecting upon one’s personal heritage and history. Then, through literature, music, traditions, art, and film, more cultures will be explored, expanding students’ perspectives.
Students are able to immerse themselves in various cultural stories through independent reading, literature circles, and class-wide texts. All of which culminates in what Barquin refers to as “the wealth of choice this course offers.” The class also promotes the exploration of the impact numerous cultures have had in shaping one’s community, along with the entirety of Westchester County. Through this, students cultivate personal stories that reflect cultural dynamics throughout the nation.
The Voices of the World course enables students to learn about various cultures i including: where people come from, what their traditions are, and what struggles some may face as a community. As Jordan Davis (‘23) describes, the class forces one to criticize assumptions about their daily life and practices, promoting meaningful personal growth. She says, “I am learning about so many different people and cultures and learning to deal with my own predispositions as I try to learn from the perspectives of others.” For her, the class offers a safe space for students to learn in a way that she says is seldom offered in the school.
Examining the progress of the class, Shansky imparts that “Students have found sharing, reflecting on, and analyzing culture meaningful, whether it is thinking about our own cultural identity or examining it in fiction.” In the class, rich discussions have been fueled by students’ appreciation for the freedom of choice and enjoyment in what they read. Davis communicates that she is “more enthusiastic to read” than she ever has been in an English class, and finds herself choosing to read books introduced to her in class in her spare time. Shansky also conveys that he immensely enjoys teaching the class.
The other elective new to Mamaroneck High School is the Social Justice elective: Stories of Power, Oppression, Justice, and Pride. The elective, taught by Sarah Silverman, is centered around exploring social justice movements and identity. This is done not just through the lens of struggle endured, but through discussing how people take pride in who they are, especially in a society where they are not always respected.
The class was born out of conversations with students who were frustrated that they didn’t have a consistent space to talk about social justice. Students wanted to talk about these subjects due to a desire to care for and uplift others. A motivation towards helping others while being seen also furthers an effort to become more knowledgeable people.
In response to general critiques around the nation of such curricula that articulate them as political indoctrination, Silverman expresses that’s not how the class is taught. “This is taught in a compassionate way in which we meet people where they’re at… it’s taught with a lot of choice. So everyone gets overviews of things and also gets to talk about what they’re passionate about.”
When asked how the class is going, Silverman asserts that “It’s going well and students seem interested and engaged in the topics, and appreciate the opportunity to talk about these kinds of issues in school.”
As the school year progresses, students find themselves in enriching discussions, advanced by the new English electives at Mamaroneck High School. Those in these classes become more knowledgeable individuals, cultivating an understanding of the world and the people around them. They find great value in the new curriculums and look forward to the rest of the year.