ETHS staff say the school teaches about reparations. Some students say they haven’t learned enough.


Illustration by Ziye Wang

Some Evanston Township High School students said they’d like to learn more about reparations in school.

Martha Contreras, Reporter

Evanston Township High School senior Aniah Roddy learned about Evanston’s Restorative Housing Program from local news coverage. But when it came to instruction on reparations in the classroom, she said she heard nothing.

“It’s something that I only hear about if I search it up,” Roddy said. “Because I spend the majority of time at my school, for us to not talk about important things like (the reparations program) when we spend hours there is very interesting to me.”

Evanston implemented the nation’s first reparations program in 2021. The first round of ongoing reparations focuses on housing assistance, but the second is set to focus on education, according to Rev. Michael Nabors. Administrators and teachers at ETHS said they’re working to add more about reparations and Black history to the curriculum, but despite that, some current and former students said they haven’t learned enough.

ETHS History and Social Sciences Department Chair Nicole Parker said students learn about reparations through class projects, mock debates and more in civics and history classes, among others.

She added that reparations advocate Dino Robinson, who archives local Black history, spoke to specific ETHS classes in December about the history behind the argument for reparations in Evanston.

“I’m glad that students are exposed (to reparations) so that they can articulate what their thoughts are,” Parker said. 

However, Roddy and ETHS senior Meg Houseworth said neither heard about Robinson coming to the school.

Both 17-year-olds also emphasized the importance of having more conversations about race in school, with Roddy pointing out the significance of discussing race beyond major news events.

“In Evanston and wherever we go, I think it’s important that we have knowledge on issues like these because we are living in a world where there are many problems with equality (and) racial discrimination,” Roddy said. “Just to make sure that everyone feels acknowledged and understood and heard is so important.”

ETHS Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis said class instruction in ETHS is based on the Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education model, which focuses on improving conversations around race.

Bavis said the school is prioritizing working on various equity initiatives, including diversifying the faculty, equity training led by Superintendent Marcus Campbell and an evolving curriculum. Last school year, teachers petitioned to encourage District 202 to hire more teachers of color.

Bavis admitted that while ETHS strives to ensure equity, it is not there yet. 

“Sometimes you can only guarantee so much on paper,” Bavis said.

Parker said this fall, ETHS is adding a new semester-long course — History of Black Chicago — which will include the chance to explore archives and local history. She said she designed the curriculum to allow students to go deeper into Chicago and Evanston’s dynamic history. 

The new course is the first step in offering students rotating courses that look through the lens of different identities. 

Parker said a course about Latine history in Chicago may be next. She emphasized the importance of evolving the school curriculum to match the changing student body.

“Good teaching means that we put our students at the center of everything,” Parker said.

Bavis added that there is real value in helping students see themselves in the curriculum — a statement Roddy echoed when talking about the Civics course, which made her feel like she and other students of color were more included in discussion.

“It made me feel like I could do more in the world,” she said. “It definitely made me feel noticed and heard.”

Civics — a class all students are required to take during their sophomore year — also integrates the topic of reparations into its curriculum through projects on Evanston redlining, according to Bavis. 

However, Houseworth said she did not know much about the reparations program.

“We have not talked about reparations in the classroom, and I’m honestly not sure why that is,” she said.

Former ETHS student and current Weinberg sophomore Mia Houseworth referred to Evanston as a “facade” of progressive politics with “a lot more talk than action.”

She said ETHS needed to educate students more on the reparations program and Evanston history to “foster more important conversations and conscious voting.”

“I definitely think that Evanston’s history is something that needs to be spoken about,” Mia Houseworth said.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @marthacontrerr 

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