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Thermo Scientific awards Kristin Qian '14 top scholarship

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Kristin, who will be a first year student at Princeton this fall, was selected from a pool of graduate and undergraduate students nationwide for this $10,000 scholarship. "This scholarship was created to help provide educational opportunities for the future generation of scientists."

Preseason athletics schedule 2014-15

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As of August 4

 The PDF below shows the optional camp and preseason schedules for soccer, cross-country, and volleyball.

Video: PLACE students impress at City Hall, Oregonian newspaper takes notice

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Students from Catlin Gabel's PLACE civic leadership program presented their plans in July 2014 to Portland's mayor and city council for improvements to SE Powell Blvd., a major Portland artery. Their plan was exceptionally well received! A reporter from the Oregonian newspaper took note and wrote this article about their presentation (pdf here and downloadable below).

PLACE program announces new public-private partnership

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Catlin Gabel's civic engagement program getting storefront space in North Portland

Catlin Gabel’s PLACE (Planning and Leadership Across City Environments) urban civic leadership program and One North, a Portland development and neighborhood project, have created an innovative new partnership. This partnership gives PLACE a storefront space in North Portland to continue operations and expand its mission of student and community engagement. The new location is set to open in the winter of 2015.

“Catlin Gabel is an integral part of this public-private endeavor,” said Catlin Gabel head Tim Bazemore. “Being part of this pilot project will create more experiential learning opportunities for our students, and PLACE will be a catalyst for local youth to engage and lead.”

The development group behind One North, Eric Lemelson and Ben Kaiser, generously donated storefront space to PLACE for five years. “Catlin Gabel aligns with One North’s commitment to community involvement, sustainability, and sharing resources. We are excited to create authentic partnerships in the neighborhood, and have a public purpose impact,” said development team member Owen Gabbert ’02.

This month, the unique nature of this public-private development was recognized by Metro, the regional governing body, which granted the project $420,000. The grant will support the development of the project’s outdoor courtyard, which will become an asset available for use by the community.

PLACE uses urban planning as a tool to teach students from Catlin Gabel and other schools in the region how to become active and engaged citizens working toward positive change in their communities and the world. For example, students have completed projects for clients such as Zenger Farm in outer southeast Portland and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in north Portland. For Zenger Farm, students surveyed nearly 900 youth in the David Douglas school district about food insecurity. Not only did Zenger Farm implement some of the PLACE student design recommendations, but its board of directors still uses that survey data to make organizational decisions.

Since its inception in 2008, PLACE has grown into a three-part program with an international following.

• PLACE courses are offered to Upper School students at Catlin Gabel and worldwide through the Global Online Academy during the school year.
• The PLACE summer program has enrolled students from 15 high schools in the Portland area. About 50 percent of summer students receive financial aid.
• In keeping with Catlin Gabel’s mission to model for others, the PLACE curriculum is offered for free to other schools, and is replicated by educators in 40 cities around the world.

PLACE director George Zaninovich shared his excitement about the increased opportunities provided through this public-private-educational partnership: “Expanding the PLACE program into a permanent home in the community provides more opportunities to use the city as a classroom. This will allow our students to develop closer working relationships with people of all ages, cultures, and backgrounds. This permanent home and authentic community partnerships in a vibrant urban and multicultural environment will better prepare PLACE students for collaborating in an increasingly global world.”

During the 2014-15 school year, George will continue teaching in the Upper School while also taking the lead on planning for the PLACE program’s expansion. He will work in consultation with two advisory committees—one made up of community stakeholders, civic leaders, and North/Northeast neighborhood advocates, and one composed of youth from North/Northeast Portland, PLACE, and Catlin Gabel.

One North consists of three office/retail buildings opening up to a large courtyard that will serve as a place for sustainability education and for neighbors to meet formally and informally. The project developers are working to realize a vision focused on maximizing energy efficiency, reducing waste and consumption, and sharing resources with the community. Tenants include Instrument, a digital creative agency, and the Kartini Clinic for Children & Families. 

Ten students complete 500-mile walk from Switzerland through Italy

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This week 10 current and former Catlin Gabel students completed a 500-mile month-long walk on a pilgrimage route from Switzerland through Italy. Palma Scholars director and trip co-leader Dave Whitson said: "From Lake Geneva, we crossed the Alps, descending into Italy through the Aosta Valley. We picked up the trail at the start of the Apennine Mountains and crossed those, too. Then we walked across Tuscany before ultimately arriving in Rome. For a month, they walked every day, despite tendonitis, shin splints, blisters, and other ailments. This is the third time my co-leader and I have taken students on this route, and the first that all students completed every step of the walk." Kudos to the group!

PLACE urban studies students presenting at City Hall

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You're invited!

PLACE students will present their recommendations for improving SE Powell Blvd. to the Portland City Council on Wednesday, July 16, at 9:30 a.m.

Come to City Hall to hear the presentation.

City Council Chambers
1221 SW 4th Ave
Portland, OR 97204

Link to Google Map

They are making the same presentation at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability on Thursday, Juy 17, at noon.

Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
1900 SW 4th Ave
Portland, OR 97201

Link to Google Map

About the PLACE recommendations

PLACE students have created design concepts for the Oregon Department of Transportation parcels on Powell Boulevard between 50th and 82nd to assist with the implementation of high-capacity transit. Specifically, they hope to improve the aesthetics and functionality of the ODOT parcels on Powell, while prioritizing the needs and desires of the community.

Check out the PLACE blog for more information

Senior Alex Lam wins two bronze medals at the 2014 Fencing Summer Nationals

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We salute you!

Alex was 3rd out of 67 in the Division 1A Men's Saber and 3rd out of 262 in the Junior Men's Saber (U19) events in Columbus, Ohio.

His national ranking in the Junior Men's Saber (U19) category moved from 34th to 22nd in the country. He is currently in the top 10 of U19 high school fencers.

Alex was also named to the first team of the 2014 USA Fencing All-Academic Team.

Video: Reflections on Lark Palma's 19 years as head of school

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Please consider making a gift in honor of Lark Palma's extraordinary leadership 

Commencement 2014 photo gallery

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Congratulations to the newest members of the Alumni Association!


Critically acclaimed author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore ’94 reading at Powell’s on July 1

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Alumna Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s third novel, Bittersweet, is a suspenseful and cinematic beach read. Join her at Powell’s on Burnside for a reading on Tuesday, July 1, at 7:30 p.m.

About Bittersweet: Secrets unfold when a scholarship student at a prestigious East Coast college visits her roommate’s pedigreed New England family.

“A page-turner riddled with stubborn clues, a twisty plot and beguiling characters.” —Kirkus, starred review

“Beverly-Whittemore’s novel is suspenseful and intriguing… Her short chapters, with their cliff-hanger endings, will keep readers turning pages late into the night.” —Booklist

“The theme of Paradise Lost courses through this coming-of-age tale tinged with mystery.” —Publishers Weekly

“A suspenseful tale of corruption and bad behavior among wealthy New Englanders.” —Library Journal

“Evokes Gone Girl with its exploration of dark secrets and edge-of-your-seat twists.” —Entertainment Weekly, A- review

“Like a Downton-in-Vermont, Bittersweet takes swift, implausible plot turns, and its family secrets flow like a bottomless magnum of champagne, but Beverly¬Whittemore succeeds in shining a light into the dark, brutal flaws of the human heart.” —New York Times Book Review

Gabby Bishop '14 on her experiences as CatlinSpeak co-editor

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

I came to Catlin Gabel in my sophomore year from Grant HS. . . . I had never done any journalistic writing before.
One of the favorite stories I wrote came about because I heard that a friend was involved in a protest against austerity measures in November 2012 with the Portland Student Union. There was no permit to walk in the street, but they walked near Lloyd Center, and the police pepper-sprayed them. Researching it was a very long process of asking for and being denied access to public records. . . . It was a fun article to write, but I found the process to be the most interesting part.
Editors Simon McMurchie, Nico Hamacher, and I each lead groups of three to four people, and each group publishes every third week. It keeps the workload lower but allows for more in-depth articles. The editors lead the groups, create schedules, help students come up with ideas, and edit the articles.
Our advisers Pat Walsh and George Zaninovich review the ideas and content to see if we are on the right track with angles and help facilitate class discussions. We talk about current events and about possible articles. We talk about how to pump an article up or offer angles so a student can choose a direction if they are having trouble writing.
CatlinSpeak is a creative outlet for me. Catlin Gabel has an open curriculum, but CatlinSpeak is astronomically more open. Writing about what I’m interested in is very rewarding, especially when I think I’ve done a good job or learned from it. As editors, it’s gratifying to see other students fulfill their full potential. The education offered here is amazing, and students accomplish wonderful things. CatlinSpeak is just one way.
I guess I just have an open mind. I’m very determined about things and have opinions, but they’re not set, and I want to learn more. If people ask me for my opinion and I’m not educated enough, that drives me to find out more.
From an interview in March 2014

»Read about her co-editor Simon McMurchie '15

My Introduction to Journalism

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The CatlinSpeak newspaper provides an incredible learning opportunity

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Simon McMurchie '15

I had little idea what to expect when I entered into CatlinSpeak, the student newspaper, in my sophomore year. I was aware that it had only just become an official class, moving beyond its traditional club status, and it was clear its presence in the community in the school community was growing from year to year. Still, I wasn’t quite sure how I would fit into it, especially as a feckless youngster in a class of accomplished juniors and seniors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was welcomed right away. My editor, Fiona Noonan, who graduated at the end of that year, was a phenomenal writer and leader in the class, and as much could be said of the rest of its members. What at first had been a typical course, consisting of semiimportant assignments that begged to be completed half-heartedly, quickly transformed into a wonderful opportunity to be ambitious and creative in a loosely structured system.
I wrote an article on the quirks of the electoral college, I attempted to tackle the complex and convoluted relationship between federal and state legislation, I submitted a 4,000- word piece that previewed each and every one of the 32 college football bowl games that was met with a smile and an editor’s critical eye (the final version was a tidy 1,500). I interviewed, among others, a member of college basketball’s March Madness selection committee, and gained the valuable experience of teasing out the words and phrases I needed for a quality piece.
With little instruction, and a healthy dose of freedom, I found I could research any topic I found interesting, learn how to synthesize it into something meaningful, and then publish and share it with the community. Suddenly the pieces I wrote for school extended beyond the essay process: my grandfather emailed me about a piece; I found myself speaking to friends and classmates about something I had written; Peter Shulman, a history teacher, approached me and said one of my articles had sparked an interesting debate between him and a friend.
In January of 2013, CatlinSpeak’s advisers, Upper School teachers George Zaninovich and Patrick Walsh, reached out to non-seniors working on the paper to feel out interest in filling the positions of the graduating editors. I leaped at the opportunity, sensing the chance to push further my role in the class, and was lucky enough to be selected along with Nico Hamacher, a fellow sophomore, and Gabby Bishop, then a junior.
Changes were proposed for the new year, including a switch to daily news updates in place of the traditional weekly editions. Most ideas were student-driven, and the structure of the class was largely left up to discussions between the editors-to-be and the advisers of the course. All of a sudden I found myself helping to design a curriculum, the type of responsibility I would never have expected of myself, but which presented a wonderful and exciting opportunity.
Summer came and went; with its departure came the arrival of a new crop of writers ready to forge a new identity for the class. Daily news began without a hitch, and even as new writing styles and heavier workloads were introduced, students produced an incredible number of quality pieces.
Lauren Fogelstrom, a current junior and a newly appointed editor-to-be, followed an interest in the issue of youth homelessness, writing a piece focused specifically on the issue in Washington County. While it would have been simple and easy to do the entirety of the research online, Lauren reached out to nonprofits in the area and directly interviewed kids on the streets. She wrote an article that felt authentic and relatable, going beyond the requirements to produce something with a greater level of meaning.
Trevor Tompkins, a senior fond of writing about basketball and hip-hop culture, visited De La Salle North Catholic High School for its Black History Month celebration and reacted so positively that he wrote an article both describing his visit and, to some degree, pointing out the lack of effort by the Catlin Gabel community to promote discussion on issues of racial diversity.
Trevor’s story is key to what makes CatlinSpeak important. This is one of the few opportunities for students to have a voice in the community, to speak up and, at the very least, start the discussions that need to happen. Often, Catlin Gabel’s biggest problems are student-driven, and thus the response needs to come from within the student body. CatlinSpeak provides both a forum and a firestarter for meaningful discussion and, hopefully, change.
Looking to next year, fewer students have signed up than in years past, but to look at the numbers as a negative would be a mistake. With the ability to scrap the class structure and start from scratch at our fingertips, CatlinSpeak’s future is thrillingly malleable. Perhaps we’ll be a monthly periodical, with students required to report on topics within the school community. Perhaps we’ll make each edition focused on a particular issue, ranging from climate change to election coverage and more.
What makes CatlinSpeak such an incredible and unique opportunity is its nature as a class that will give back however much a student puts in. All it takes is a few inspired kids to create something great, and with some effort, those kids can make a difference in a community they care for deeply.
Simon McMurchie will be a senior this fall at Catlin Gabel.  

What Happens When the Bullets Stop?

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

In their own words: Dave Whitson and his Transitional Justice students on examining hard questions of genocide and reconciliation


How can a country, scarred by genocide, ever recover and regain a sense of normalcy? How can two rival factions, guilty of committing horrible atrocities against the other, ever learn to live together in peace again? How can victims of torture rebuild their internal worlds while their external circumstances remain equally fractured?

What is transitional justice?

Countries and the international community endeavoring to move from chaos to stability, punish the guilty, document the historical truth, and help victims heal.

Three central concepts

Truth. How do you establish historical truth? Why is truth critical for peace and healing? How can the pursuit of truth compromise peace?
Justice. What is justice and who is justice for? Is justice possible following mass atrocities?
Reconciliation. Is this an external or internal process? How can one heal and forgive? Is reconciliation predicated upon forgiveness or punishment? International cases: Canada and South Africa, international tribunals devoted to the Yugoslav Wars and Rwandan genocide, the aftermath of the military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina, the civil wars in Liberia, and the Holocaust.


The ideal history class feels highly relevant to students’ lives, speaks to important contemporary issues, challenges students emotionally and intellectually, and defies simplistic black-and-white thinking. This class lives very much in the gray, with no easy answers or definite routes to success. The hope offered here is not Pollyanna-ish. It’s a hope that twists in your gut and yet also uplifts. That’s the realm I want students to inhabit in class.


Transitional Justice was a truly formative high school experience for me. It introduced me to the critical thinking that I have employed at Vassar College and the areas of study that I am continuing as a women’s studies major and Native American studies minor. Dave Whitson’s class was the first academic experience at Catlin Gabel where there was never one “right” answer to the question at hand (whether it be about the ethically complex conditions of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the morally ambiguous actions of Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, or the reparations feasible for survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential School system).
Frequently Dave didn’t have a set answer either, and the whole class was able to cooperatively puzzle through the moral gray areas of the implementation of transitional justice. This ideological structure of the course, where students and teacher are on even footing and all trying to make sense of the complex nature of transitional justice, is the same as many of my classes in college. In these classes, students are expected to respectfully assert their opinions while also listening to and truly considering the differing beliefs of others. In this way, Transitional Justice gave me the tools to quickly adapt to and succeed.


We attended the BC national event for Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC is devoted to Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, which carried out a sort of cultural genocide (a loaded and controversial term, but many support the notion in this case) on Canada’s First Nations youth, with the intent being to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to boarding schools where they were physically, psychologically, and sexually abused. Upon being released, many took up alcohol and drugs as a form of self-medication; tragically, many repeated the violent acts that had been perpetrated against them on other indigenous people living on their reserves. The result is a cycle of violence and a complete destabilizing of First Nations populations across Canada. The last residential schools closed in the 1990s, so this is still a relatively fresh wound.
The TRC is part of a nationwide initiative to acknowledge the historical wrongs and begin to pursue healing. At the commission, survivors of the schools testify about their experiences. Thus, for three days we sat and listened, serving as witnesses to the events. All students were also asked to initiate a one-on-one conversation with someone attending the event. In some cases, those conversations lasted for more than an hour.


Transitional Justice, especially when coupled with the experience of attending the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada, was a highlight of my academic career so far. The class simultaneously exposed me to riveting historical events and stimulating intellectual and ethical dialogue with my classmates. We strove to answer the question that is consistently posed to the modern world: how to achieve reconciliation and recovery following widespread tragedy, initiating conversation that stretched beyond the challenging readings and into our own morals and views of right and wrong.
Our visit to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was truly a life-changing event. To witness the survivors of Indian Residential Schools tearfully recount their heartwrenching experiences brought the classwork to life. I was able to extensively converse with a particular survivor, coming face to face with the effect nationwide tragedy has on the individual, and how far it can extend past those directly affected.
Transitional Justice was an unforgettable class, and the knowledge I acquired through it has aided me in my everyday thoughts on modern events.


Growing up, my perception of history was that of a succession of wars with only brief flashes of peace. It’s a discouraging narrative, one in which we humans continually screw things up and display a consistent incapacity to get along. I think it spreads a fatalistic way of thinking, in which students develop a cynical view of human nature, one in which we are all inherently greedy, intolerant, and doomed to conflict. To make things worse, when I first developed a course on the modern world, I found myself falling into the same pattern, constructing units around the Napoleonic Wars, the Latin American Revolutions, the Age of Imperialism, the World Wars, and the Cold War! It’s hard to break out of that dominant narrative.
And yet, that narrative misses a critical piece of the picture. All history classes emphasize the tragedy of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. However, that treaty is reflective of many that came before it, promoting victor’s justice and the absolute punishment of the enemy. There is no attention paid to rehabilitation, to recovery, or to reconciliation. It’s small wonder that another war developed within the next two decades.
Instead of focusing on how wars are won, I think it’s more instructive—and probably more useful—to focus on how the peace can be won. Not many students will have a practical application for the lesson of not invading Russia in the winter. However, they’ll all benefit from some consideration of how former enemies can overcome their animosity and the legacy of violence in pursuit of healing and a constructive relationship. It’s also just generally more life affirming to think about forgiveness and justice than the optimal methods for killing off the enemy.
It also happens that this is a major point of emphasis in the contemporary world. While the Nuremberg trials were an early attempt at international justice, only after the Cold War ended did the international community begin to take this seriously. Over the last two decades, many states have recognized the importance of these issues and academic circles have followed suit. This is an issue of immediate relevance in the world today


When I was in Dave’s class as a senior, something clicked for me. Though I had studied history throughout my time at Catlin Gabel and knew what kinds of wonderful and awful things people were capable of, it was in that classroom that I really started to be able to comprehend just how deep human hatred and compassion can run, and what that means for nations politically and socially. I became so passionately interested in the subject, and my classmates and I spent all kinds of time both in and outside of class discussing our emotional reactions to the material that we had covered and our opinions on the mechanisms and politics we learned about. The trip to Canada then really solidified that feeling.
Experiencing a transitional justice mechanism first-hand and being able to interview survivors was an experience that I find myself returning to almost every day. At the moment I am actually pursuing a career in comparative politics, focusing on transitional justice. That class changed me as a student and as a person and I will never stop being thankful for it.


Genocide is depressing. War is depressing. Oppressive political regimes are depressing. Often, though, our study of the material ends there. In this class, we start there, and then examine how people have endeavored to move beyond those tragedies. This is not a fairy tale. Everybody doesn’t live happily ever after. The first reading in the class acknowledges the bitter truth: when someone you love is killed in an act of injustice, closure is not possible. However, when you see stories of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of acknowledgment by a government of past wrongs, you start to believe that we are not condemned to an endless cycle of violence. In South Africa, we met a man named Thulani Mabaso. He had been imprisoned in Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. Today, he leads tours of the island with his former warden. The men have reconciled and today they are colleagues. It’s a small, isolated case, but it speaks to what is possible.


When I decided to do this, I thought that the big draw was a life devoted to learning. And that has certainly happened—my understanding of history and the world has deepened a great deal over the last ten years. I am also a performer at heart, and there’s something invigorating about “performing” every day, even on the smaller scale. As a young, aspiring teacher, I didn’t fully appreciate how meaningful working with students would become. I derive a great deal of meaning from seeing my students in all of their different activities and seeing their growth over the course of a year, and over the course of their four years in the Upper School. Being an active, invested part of a community has become my overriding priority.
Dave Whitson has been teaching Upper School history at Catlin Gabel since 2011, and spent spring break with students on a trip to Argentina and Chile to study pursuits of justice there. He is also the director of the Palma Scholars Program. Jonathan Bray graduated from Catlin Gabel in June. Julianne Johnson ’12 is a women’s studies major at Vassar College. Jemma Pritchard ’12 is studying comparative politics at the University of Oregon.

Startup Camp

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Economics teacher Meredith Goddard brought an exciting focus for student entrepreneurs to Catlin Gabel

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

Last summer Upper School economics teacher Meredith Goddard took action on her belief that education in entrepreneurship was lacking. “I say to my students, ‘Your future is not dependent on what college says yes to you, or what some potential employer says yes to you. It’s based on what you say yes to,’” she says.
Sparked by Catlin Gabel parent Monica Enand’s idea of a Startup Weekend, run by a national organization, Meredith branched out on her own and created a homegrown event to give students an intensive experience in entrepreneurship. She and a large group of committed volunteers, including CG parents and alumni, contacted the many local entrepreneurs they knew—and the response was overwhelmingly positive. With these entrepreneurs’ support and commitment to mentor students, Meredith and her team put together a three-day weekend in February 2014 that exceeded all their expectations.
Eighty students from Catlin Gabel, Oregon Episcopal School, and Lincoln High School came to campus to pitch a product or service, form teams, write a business plan, get support from mentors and the local community, create websites and apps, and quickly actualize their innovative ideas. The judges were deeply impressed by the students’ energy, enthusiasm, savvy, dedication, and ambitions. They awarded the top team prize to the group that developed a new way of advertising using crowdsourced videos. Other prizewinners came from teams that developed plans for a new kind of ice cream cone, an app that helps people find friends to play sports with, an app that links youth with volunteer opportunities, and an online newspaper catering to teens.
“I can honestly say that Startup Camp was one of the most inspiring few days in my professional life,” says Meredith. “I feel that we need people to believe in innovators, and that entrepreneurship is a natural career path.”

»Read about Meredith Goddard's hard-hitting economics class

Nadine Fiedler is the editor of the Caller and the school’s publications and public relations director.  

Economics Like It Matters

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Meredith Goddard teaches hard-hitting economics with conviction and verve

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

It’s early in the day, first class of the day, the time you think high schoolers would be sleepy and taciturn. But these eight students in this Catlin Gabel classroom are bright eyed and engaged, right in there with their whip-smart economics teacher, Meredith Goddard. And what’s more, they’re grappling with one of the thorniest issues right now in economics—the U.S. health care system and reforms.
Focused and intense, Meredith shoots off the first of the many rapid-fire queries she’ll ask during this session: “I’d like you to investigate how much it costs to get an appendix out.”
Her students turn to their laptops, and the room is filled with the tapping of keys. “$1,530,” answers one boy. “Is that a good price?” asks Meredith. “Is it in the U.S?” “Hmm, might not be,” he answers. More tapping, and students start yelling out prices: $1,500, $9,000, $55,000, $186,000. It turns out the $1,530 price came from a Washington Post article. “But in which hospital can you get the operation? The Washington Post doesn’t say,” says Meredith. Several minutes go by. No one can find the answer.
By investigating the question themselves, her students have come around to the point Meredith hoped to make by doing this exercise. “So it’s an impossible question. You can find a $5 candy bar, but you all are stellar researchers, and you can’t find affordable surgery,” she says. And again, she prods them to think further: “Why?”
“We’re not the customers, Medicaid and Medicare are,” says one student. “The insurance companies are the customers,” says another. “There are no easy answers,” she replies. “We’re going to be dealing throughout our lives with a very messy healthcare situation.”
Meredith’s aims for this elective class are ambitious. She would like students to develop fluency in the language of economics, to be able to read and understand articles in the Economist and tune in to economics news in the media instead of tuning right out. She says, “Once they have this vocabulary and this new language they seem more confident and able to engage as citizens in conversations they hear adults having. They can engage in powerful conversations because they’re not jaded, and they have unique ideas and solutions that are powerful and need to be heard.”
She ends this course’s journey through key issues such as college costs, supply and demand, problems of cheapness, minimum wage, the moral limits of markets, unemployment, the causes of the Great Recession, monetary policy tools, the environmental marketplace, and global markets with a week of discussions with students about their own personal financial futures. Most of all, though, she wants to teach an economics that is live, relevant, and meaningful. “I try to think about not just cultivating economic fluency among my students, but cultivating social justice in thinking about economics,” she says. “A huge focus of my class is thinking about solutions to economic crises and issues of increasing economic inequality, one of the most dire crises of our time. Those at the bottom don’t have the power or the money to advocate for themselves, so if we don’t start talking about it more widely and about creating an economy that works for most people systemically, then people are going to fall further and further behind.”
Meredith comes to her convictions about how to teach economics well armed by her own Economics 101 learning experiences. She had always been fascinated by economics, was a model student, and wanted to know more—but felt that her economics education was inauthentic and lacking. Originally a teacher of U.S. history and a voracious learner, when Meredith transitioned into teaching economics she worked with fierce determination to figure out how to right those wrongs for her students. Along the way she found herself among a groundswell of students who felt that the way Economics 101 had always been taught was not applicable to their lives. “We were given this blind faith that markets were working—then along came the Great Recession. And there were no good solutions from economists for the crisis,” she says. Being part of this movement gave her the tools to become the strong and committed teacher she is now, creating classes in which her students are fully engaged and on their way to a useful and lifelong understanding of economics.
Her own journey to Catlin Gabel was also intensely personal for Meredith. She had been teaching in Chicago public schools, but felt stifled by the overwhelming burden of continual preparation for testing. She traveled to Walden, Massachusetts, to study Henry David Thoreau, whom she had long admired, and whose theories she deeply identified with. “I was swimming in Walden Pond and thought to myself, ‘I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be in this place thinking about Thoreau. This is my one life. This is my chance to do something really meaningful. I decided at that moment to find a way to live a freer life, with more choices.” She found her way to Catlin Gabel—and the school is now lucky to have this talented teacher who has added immeasurably to our school.

»Read about Startup Camp, which Meredith brought to Catlin Gabel to encourage student entrepreneurs

Nadine Fiedler is the editor of the Caller and the school’s publications and public relations director.

As History Changes, So Must the Teaching of History

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Peter Shulman

In 2003, when I became the first new history teacher at Catlin Gabel in decades, I worked alongside titans. John Wiser, Harriet Wiser, and John Keyes emanated academic rigor and challenged students to think critically, write incisively, and wrestle with defining moral quandaries. In addition, I was fortunate enough to become friends with the just-retired Dave Corkran, and quickly came to know his legendary intellectual intensity and fierce moral integrity. The eloquence, industry, and ethical consideration of our alumni are a living legacy of their teaching.
As the last departmental link between this revered generation and a new, dynamic cadre of colleagues, I often find myself considering a central problem identified by students of change: excelling in one context often diminishes adaptation to new circumstances. After all, why change what’s been working extremely well? Qing China is a classic governmental example of decline in spite of strength, while Western Union’s strategic error of protecting its telegraph monopoly by giving away mastery over the telephone wires speaks volumes about the perils that accompany success. Education is of course rife with strategic decisions, fueled by prognosticators of decline and evangelists for the latest workshops promoting “education for the 21st century.” Suffice to say that there is a lot of hype about transformational education, but it would be equally foolish to ignore that the times, they are a-changin’.
The 21st century’s dizzying pace of change has turned old realities upside down. The U.S. is now a net exporter of petroleum products, the Blackberry phone teeters on extinction, and marriage equality, decisively defeated at polls in the century’s first decade, seems an unstoppable force in its second. Karl Rove predicted, with apparent justification in 2004, a “permanent Republican majority,” only to find a Democratic congress by 2007. Meanwhile, a century that began with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi firmly in power is a distant memory in a roiling Middle East, and the giddy optimism of Tahrir Square has chilled into an Orwellian winter. The speed of change should give any pundit pause.
These heady transformations are joined by a communications revolution whose scale rivals the Gutenberg press. The increasing power of the individual to publish text, imagery, and music is collapsing massive hierarchies, while the merging of the human mind with computer databases forces a central question: what must students “know” when so many answers are a click away? As such, the department confronts its own version of the “innovator’s dilemma”: how to keep the best aspects of an esteemed program while adjusting to an increasingly globalized, digital society.
Our goal is to maintain the core, non-negotiable assets of our predecessors. Effective writing, careful reading, measured analysis, and the strong teacher-student relationship must always be central to our work, and each of these requires one element that isn’t changing: the finite nature of available time. But we have launched several new initiatives to adapt to a changing world:
Greater focus on contemporary issues and problem-solving: Historians focus on great cataclysms that we should never forget, but a diet of man’s inhumanity to man can demoralize students. Hence, instructors have built solution-oriented explorations into the curriculum. Freshmen tackle family-planning strategies to address overpopulation, while sophomores use historical case studies of Poland and Yugoslavia to offer prescriptions for mitigating conflict in multi-ethnic states. Recent electives in Public Health, Race and Class in Portland, Economics, and Environmental Politics are all built around getting a better understanding of key challenges confronting the 21st century. Patrick Walsh changed the Globalization curriculum to include an imperative for students to propose and enact solutions to climate change.

Experiential education

Experiences” are easy enough to create, but truly meaningful experiential education takes genuine savvy and keen intentionality. Freshmen engage contemporary businesses on the nature of global production, and supplement their study of religion with visits to unfamiliar houses of worship. Sophomores had the opportunity to meet with Bosnian refugee and Jonske speaker Ismet Prcic in the context of studying the disintegration of Yugoslavia. George Zaninovich’s PLACE electives have long pioneered experiential forays, as students produce plans for a variety of real-world clients, including the Portland Parks Department, Zenger Farm, and Lincoln High School. This year, Dave Whitson led his Transitional Justice students to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools in Vancouver, B.C., where his class sat in on hearings and interviewed indigenous participants. Dave also brought students to Chile and Argentina to directly engage transitional justice issues in the aftermath of military rule. Finally, Meredith Goddard’s new Economics of Innovation elective, coming on the heels of her wildly successful Startup Camp, has students champing at the bit to try out their entrepreneurial chops.

Increased global perspective

The first two years of the Upper School core curriculum have been totally reconstructed in the past two years, with greater focus on India, Japan, China, and sub-Saharan Africa. New classes over the past three years include 9/11 in a Global Context (cited as exemplary innovation by Bill Gates in his 2012 NAIS keynote), Modern China, and Revolution in the Middle East. Research: Given the transformative access of the internet, efficiently finding and carefully evaluating online materials are crucial skills. As such, teachers have opened up space in the curriculum for greater research opportunities. Sophomores interrogate the invention of nationalism in distinct countries through research, while U.S. History has traded in an exam on the Cold War in favor of student research projects that evaluate the impact of U.S. foreign policy in countries such as South Korea, El Salvador, Angola, and Pakistan. In Revolution in the Middle East, students assess the stability of the Saudi monarchy and the economic clout of the Egyptian military, while Economics students research the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Transitional Justice students have posted their research on Wikipedia, and have found that editing the historical record can elicit contentious resistance from those with a great investment in a particular version of the past.

Public speaking

Catlin Gabel’s small classes are uniquely positioned to provide robust speaking experience. A given day might find students teaching about the Japanese response to Western encroachment, debating U.S. military intervention in Syria, or running an Upper School assembly on contemporary income inequality. Patrick and George’s Journalism students have staged two Portland mayoral debates; on the latter, the Oregonian’s Steve Duin wrote that “the student organizers at Catlin— who moderated the forum, asked the questions and publicized the event—were at the top of their game.”

Current events colloquium

Recently, thanks to librarian Sue Phillips, two dozen students spent their free period with history faculty to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. The students’ intellectual hunger and sophistication was great evidence of their ability to use history to understand, and, indeed, to teach. What hasn’t changed is the importance of having a historical context. It helps us to ask the right questions, identify true outliers, and fact-check the scurrilous and misleading uses for which history is too often deployed. It gives us practice in the art of multi-variable analysis, for unlike a science lab, human interaction has too many variables to control. It will always be a way to understand the diversity of human experience, and at Catlin Gabel, it strives to be an essential aspect of the credo “inspired learning leading to responsible action.”
Peter Shulman has been teaching history at Catlin Gabel since 2003.