Reset Revolution and the fight against discrimination at ISB

The events of the past year have done more than just put the resilience of our community to the test; they have taught us, shaped us, weighed on us, and proved to us that there is much to be proud of at ISB.

Of the many successes that could be celebrated at this point in time, there is without a doubt the continued bravery, diligence and reliability of all the students who keep up their hard work and lead by example. Amongst these are twelfth-graders Morgana Angeli and Kotoha Kudo, who have been fighting for a better future this year by providing a platform that facilitates the learning of social injustice around the world. Together with Paris-based student Sara Kimura, they co-founded Reset Revolution, a safe space where people can share their personal testimonies with the world, and come together to speak out on issues that – according to this young trio – should matter to absolutely everyone.

With the aim of exploring the different realms of social injustice, Reset Revolution listens to and learns from the stories of those who have suffered in the hands of racism, gender inequality, mental disorders, body shaming, and other forms of discrimination. Morgana explains how the most effective way to communicate with her generation is to listen to those who have experienced these issues firsthand.

“Our platform was made to give a voice to the voiceless. At first, we focused a lot on racism. Our Instagram account was mainly created for the ISB community, during the peak of the Movement for Black Lives, to promote education on racial discrimination. We quickly realized, however, that there was a larger issue at hand that didn’t just encompass race, and so we slowly started to branch out a little bit. We began to understand that students don’t just possess a black identity or an Asian identity, but that there are so many other aspects that go into identity, and we wanted to explore and discuss all those other forms of discrimination that are integrally tied to identity, as well.”

The girls post regular interviews and stimulating discussions that they hold with young people on a wide array of topics. They have spoken to students worldwide about the perils of academic pressures, the reality of cultural barriers to healthcare, the struggles surrounding LGBTQ+ rights, abortion rights, religion, and other pertinent discrimination matters.

Sara joined forces with her co-founders after experiencing various unsettling incidents of discrimination against her Asian background during the first wave of Covid-19. At that time in France, as in many other parts of the world, Asians were being heavily targeted. Sara says that she had experienced a level of racism her entire life, but that it reached its peak with the onset of the pandemic. She recalls being attacked with racial slurs while walking down a busy street, or how, in one instance, she was chased by a group of angry people in a public place. She felt that the time had come to not only vocalize these issues, but to really get to the root of what was causing so many people so much hurt.

Driving change, however, is never easy. Kotoha reflects on how the support of those who are in a position to actually implement the changes that other people are advocating for is just as imperative as the courage to advocate in itself. Which is why, she adds, they are very appreciative of all the teachers and faculty members at ISB who continue to support their work with Reset Revolution.

“ISB helped us to get noticed. The role of some of our teachers was so important. They encouraged us and helped us get to the place where we are now by teaching us how to be able to actually realize some of the changes that we wanted to see. They weren’t just supportive, but reactionary, too. They modified the Change and Challenge curriculum to include a deeper look at race and identity, and the Global Politics course to examine further ways in which race functions within society. They created a group to review the Social Studies curriculum across the Middle School and High School, and they gave us opportunities to voice our opinions at conferences and events. There is also something to say about the communities of international schools like ISB. Even though we may be miles apart and have never met in person, there is a communal understanding between us that makes it really easy to form connections on important things.”

Despite these significant steps, the girls feel that there is still a long way to go in the quest for more socially just and anti-racist school communities. International schools, they said, need to play a central role in this realization. The curriculum can, and will, continue to be improved. In Sara’s view, teaching students how to act and react in the face of discrimination is also a crucial part of the learning process.

“I feel that the hardest part of all this is knowing what to say and how to say it. This is essential in order for people to be able to stand up for themselves and for others, and not just act as passive bystanders. The problem with this is that most of us aren’t equipped with the knowledge and understanding that is needed to be able to support one another, or to take a stance in the safest and most proper way. I’m not saying that schools should be pushing students to put themselves in danger, but rather that they should be empowering them to learn how to advocate and take action in the right way.”

Linked to this, Kotoha and Morgana also underlined the importance of actually educating students when a conflict or disagreement arises on campus. Focusing on the younger ages is particularly important, because it is much harder to shape adults who have already developed their own set of ideas and moral standards. The girls feel that to avoid taking one side over another, international schools sometimes run the risk of not taking any significant stance at all. As most students who behave in discriminatory ways come from households that support this kind of behavior, they believe that it is not enough to simply make the students apologize and then move on, but that schools have a responsibility to educate, as well. Morgana concludes this by emphasizing how these discussions can force each one of us to reflect on our own actions, too.

“One of the great things about ISB is that it teaches students to be empowered, to voice what they care about. And this is what many students today care about, and not just at this school. Through this project, Kotoha and I have learned the importance of being critical about our own actions and words, and how we might be unintentionally perpetuating some biases as well. Schools should be open to doing the same thing, because there is still so much that we as individuals, and as a community, need to evaluate.”

James MacDonald, ISB Director, highlights the importance for each member of the community to play a role. "Given the events of the past year, we’ve all been made more aware of the issues surrounding social justice, and the need for us to be working on these issues. It's very impressive to see our students and colleagues pushing this forward to find ways in which we can address this both as an organisation, and within our learning programmes, as well."

Amid the flurry of safety updates, health concerns, new strategies for continued improvement and a greater focus on continuous learning at ISB, a commitment was also made by the school to incorporate social justice and anti-racism more thoroughly throughout the curriculum and school culture. At the start of the year, groups of faculty and staff members came together to review all of these aspects, and work towards a step-by-step plan for curricular change over time. As part of our Professional Development Days in January, ISB organized an online session with Cornelius Minor, Brooklyn-based educator, to engage the community in dialogue on these important issues. More events will continue to be organized, including the upcoming Parent Talk Series session on anti-racist parenting, which will be hosted by the Early Childhood Centre and Elementary School’s Counselling Team on March 24. The school’s first social justice newsletter was shared with the community this week, offering a space for members of the ISB community to share content, practice, and ideas centered around social justice, antiracism, and anti-oppression education.

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