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Best of the Week 2018-2019: Excellence in College Prep


What is it that makes us human? Our desire to love was the focal point of Theology teacher Mr. Chris Merriman's Social Issues class this week. Students watched segments from "HUMAN," created by filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand who spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. The film captured deeply personal and emotional accounts of love from people of all backgrounds, genders, races, cultures and religions. The underlying purpose of Mr. Merriman's lesson was to bring to light the social justice issues of our world that are entangled in what it means to love and that, despite all the differences that separate us, all humans can identify with our shared desire to love and be loved.

Throughout the video, individuals from various countries (Cuba, Brazil, France, Peru, Japan, Mexico, Senegal, Lebanon, South Africa, etc.) shared their personal love stories. As these stories unfolded, they began to touch upon the many social justice issues our world faces today and dove into different beliefs toward monogamy, polygamy, homosexuality, transgenderism, divorce and domestic violence to name a few. After listening to these testimonies about love, Mr. Merriman's class began their discussion, uncovering these examples of social justice issues and how people from all over the world seek love yet are faced with many difficult challenges. He brought to light how different countries, cultures and religions can enforce boundaries and limits on how people can love and who people can love and he addressed how time, location and technology can play a role in how people find love.

As a way to prepare them to think outside the box before heading to college and to be conscious of the social justice issues our world faces today, Mr. Merriman's lesson challenged his students to raise questions that test the justifications formed by societies and religions about love and to recognize that our limited sense of the world doesn't reflect the whole world with all of its complexity and diversity. We must learn to explain how and why we take justified stances on social issues that might be viewed as "normal" by some and "weird" by others, "right" by some and "wrong" by others. "The class was challenged to differentiate when a social issue is a matter of opinion and when it is more objectively expressing an issue of fundamental rights, justice, and freedom," says Mr. Merriman. "This is always done in the context of Catholic Social teaching which, in this unit's case, focuses on the meaning of love and its power to save."

Additionally, students were challenged to then connect the film's content to the message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In Mr. Merriman's Social Issues class, students analyze excerpts from Scripture that are relevant to Catholic Social teaching in every class. From the reading of the Prodigal Son, students compared what it says about God's nature, represented by the father in the story, and what it says about humanity, represented by the two sons. "The younger son, who is typically the focus of the parable, strays from the father and wastes what he's been given until he comes to his senses and returns home, receiving a warm welcome and celebration. On the other hand, the older son who has not strayed is angry with the father for being so generous and forgiving of the younger son. We talk about what this parable teaches about our relationship with people we view as sinners, and about our own anger and unwillingness to forgive and love people," says Mr. Merriman. The overall message from this lesson not only challenged students to think about the social justice issues of our world, but encouraged them to recognize that love is ultimately what binds humanity as one.

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