MERCY HIGH SCHOOL ADOPTS SOCIAL ADVOCACY BASED LEARNING MODEL TO PREPARE WOMEN FOR THE INNOVATION AGE
SAN FRANCISCO—February 21, 2017--Mercy High School (www.mercyhs.org), the all-girls Catholic college preparatory high school in San Francisco, today announced the adoption of Social Advocacy Based Learning (SABL) as it renews its commitment to meeting the needs of its students and creating the next generation of innovators and social advocates.
For the Mercy community, two things are clear: the world needs more young women capable of questioning the status quo to tackle the biggest, most pressing challenges of our time, and school should be joyful, engaging, preparatory for work and life, and serve a public, moral purpose.
“The traditional approach to education served many of us very well, but it’s no longer relevant to our new economy or adequate to prepare students to solve real problems,” said Scott McLarty, Head of School. “Not long ago almost everything relevant fit in the minds of teachers and an encyclopedia. Now information multiplies daily and we have 24-hour access to all of it. We side with scholars like Tony Wagner, Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab and Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute, that ‘what matters today ... is not how much our students know, but what they can do with what they know.’”
Educational research tells us that schools should move from a traditional teacher-centered approach, through a student-centered classroom, to a student driven environment. However an unacceptably wide gap exists between what the research says schools should do and what most schools are doing. Mercy is filling that gap by applying SABL to prepare students to both succeed in this innovation age and dare to improve their world. SABL roots Project Based Learning (PBL) in the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy and their activist spirit to create social advocates in service of the common good.
With SABL, Mercy students will gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period to investigate and respond to authentic, engaging and complex questions, problems, or challenges that affect our world locally and globally. The commitment to social advocacy will aim to achieve real-world change through a shared understanding of leadership, service, and activism.
“Because of who we are, PBL is just not enough for us,” said McLarty. “Every aspect of the school should be saturated with the Catholic tradition and Mercy charism -- we can accomplish that with SABL. We need to prepare students for jobs that haven’t been invented yet, but it has to be about more than economics; it has to be about daring action to improve the world.”
Mercy’s commitment to SABL includes a significant expansion of its professional development opportunities for faculty and staff and fostering partnerships with outside educational and social advocacy agencies.
“Fear often gets in the way of daring change and schools are places that are often change-averse,” said Dan Meyers, Assistant Head of School for Academics. “Today we set that fear aside and put our students first. It is invigorating to work with this dedicated, talented, and selfless group of educators as we practice what we preach by rededicating ourselves to lifelong learning, risk taking, and embracing the growth inherent in trying.”
A 21st century education focused on innovation and advocacy also demands a campus environment that offers enhanced opportunities for learning and collaboration. Mercy will invest in facilities improvements that will create open work spaces, collaborative learning environments, and additional campus improvements.
“This is just the beginning,” affirms McLarty. “Though SABL will change how teaching and learning happens at Mercy, the next step is to boost investment in our teachers and in creating spaces and experiences that support SABL’s implementation. We anticipate making more exciting announcements in the coming months.”
“SABL breathes new life into Mercy as it continues to educate young women to take charge of their world,” remarked Diane Lawrence, Mercy Board Chair, former Mercy teacher, and alumna of the class of 1965. “As we move forward with a vision that enhances our community and deepens our commitment to the charism of the Sisters of Mercy, we are confident that our graduates will become advocates, innovators, and changemakers.”
Mercy High School’s transformation to a SABL curriculum is underway. Liz McAninch, forty-one year veteran teacher at Mercy commented, “This is so exciting. I feel like I can teach for twenty more years!”
About Mercy High School
Mercy High School, San Francisco, educates young women to pursue lives of spiritual and intellectual depth, determination, and daring action to improve our world as an inclusive, Catholic, college preparatory community enlivened by the Gospel of Jesus and the charism of the Sisters of Mercy.
On behalf of Mercy High School San Francisco I feel compelled to comment on the recent Executive Order severely limiting refugee and immigrant entry into the United States. At Mercy we are particularly engaged with issues of immigration as it is one of the enduring and critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy and many within our own community are directly affected.
There are those who think that Mercy and other Catholic schools should remain neutral in the face of politics and the decisions of our government. If neutral really means “silent” or “compliant” this idea must be rejected outright. Our Catholicity and Mercy charism demand that we not be neutral in the face of injustice - it means, among many things, speaking and acting on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, the immigrant, and the refugee. Why? Because Jesus was all of those and more. How we treat the refugee is how we treat Christ himself. Whether we like it or not, there are political implications to the Gospels.
We are proud to be a part of the global community of the Sisters of Mercy who, on January 31st, issued a statement denouncing “as immoral the Trump administration’s Executive Order issued this past week to halt refugee resettlement in the United States…” We echo the Sisters’ claim that “these measures are counter to our Gospel call to ‘love our neighbor’ and ‘welcome the stranger,’ as well as this country’s founding principles and values.”
We are adding the voice of Mercy High School San Francisco to the voices of so many other individuals and institutions who want to support our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters. As Bishop McElroy said in his statement “...the historic identity of the United States as a safe haven for refugees fleeing war and persecution is for American Catholics both a source of justifiable pride and an unswerving religious commitment, even as we recognize that at shameful moments in our national history prejudice, fear and ignorance have led our country to abandon that identity. This week is just such a shameful moment of abandonment for the United States.”
Muslim communities are hit particularly hard by these orders. A new wave of anti-Muslim sentiment threatens both our values and the safety of the American Muslim community. The Sisters of Mercy and their ministries are actively challenging islamophobia and fostering solidarity with Muslim communities across the country. We at Mercy High School San Francisco pledge to do the same. To start, this morning we participated in the National Day of Solidarity with American Muslims by praying as a community for our Muslim brothers and sisters and asking God for the courage to act in solidarity with them as siblings with the same father in faith, Abraham.
Let it be stated unequivocally and fearlessly: Mercy High School San Francisco stands with our fellow human beings who are immigrants and refugees, no matter their religious identity. Their humanity trumps their legal status; the demands of the Gospel of Jesus trump the demands of citizenship. Every member of our community must know that they are safe and protected. Those who are in our larger community of San Francisco and the Bay Area who are afraid should know that they have an ally in Mercy. We see you. We hear you. We are with you. You are not alone.
Scott L. McLarty
Head of School
Mercy High School San Francisco
Photo Credit: SFO #noban Protest -Jan 29, 2016 by Kenneth Lu. Licensed under CC BY 2.0