On Thursday, January 12, 2012, Jesuit students filed in to the Terry Center throughout the day to participate in discussions on the topic of human rights at this year’s Issues Day. Issues Day is an annual event put on every January by the Jesuit social studies department. The event’s purpose is to educate students about current events on a specific topic by bringing in guest speakers as well as teachers to elaborate on certain topics.
Issues Day is a favorite among Jesuit students. “This is the fourth Issues Day that I have attended,” said Clark Durham ’12. “I really enjoy taking time out of my day to learn about the social issues of today in a non-classroom setting. I always come away feeling energized and with a desire to take a proactive approach towards major issues.”
Teachers have the option of taking their respective classes to Issues Day during the normal class period. This year’s presentations, centered around human rights issues, included presentations on a wide variety of topics including political power in human rights violations, the death penalty, and human trafficking.
But a lot of work goes into organizing Issues Day, from picking a topic to finding speakers. Social Studies teacher Katherine Guinn was in charge of planning and organizing this year’s Issues Day.
“One thing that was particularly important for this Issues Day was empowerment of the student body,” said Guinn. “We did not want students to walk away feeling like there is no hope, so the day culminated with a panel of faculty members who could speak about their activism and share ways that students can get involved in activism. It is important to understand that while these problems are big, individuals can make a big impact.”
Ms. Guinn, along with organizing the event, also presented on Issues Day. “It was great to share my interests and experiences in activism with students. I think it is important to know how average citizens can get involved and make a difference.” Guinn highlighted faculty involvement as her favorite aspect of Issues Day. “I think that the most enjoyable part of the day was getting to see my fellow faculty members share their experiences and passions,” Guinn said. “It allowed me to see them in a new light and to learn about other areas of activism or arguments about civil rights issues.”
One of the more interesting presentations covered political power in human rights violations, presented by social studies teacher Dr. Tracy McFarland. She spoke on how politics and political power play into the preservation, or continuation, of human rights violations.
She went on to talk about the U.S.’s and United Nations’ role in dealing with human rights violations in international situations. “I am happy to work in an environment where both administration and faculty understand that sometimes learning comes outside the traditional classroom,” McFarland said. “There is also a lot of benefit for students, in my opinion, to hear from outside speakers who volunteer their time generously to help our students learn more about important social and political issues.”
This year’s Issues Day seemed to stick with students, who found the presentations informative and helpful. “I had no idea that, even in this day and age, human rights are still systematically abused,” said Durham. “In the future, I hope to be a force for good in the various human rights issues I come across.”