A Focus on Civics Concludes the Class V Year

May Madness Winners Nicholas Martin and Bobby Zabin
Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo spoke with students about his work.

For four concentrated weeks each spring, Class V students convene every F Block for a lesson in what it means to be a responsible, engaged, informed citizen of the United States. This Civics mini-course, conceived of by Headmaster Kerry Brennan, has been a hallmark of the Class V program since 2011. It provides students early in their RL tenure with a lesson on the inner workings of the United States government, their own civil rights and responsibilities, and the many forms service to country and commonwealth can take.

The course is team-taught by Kerry Brennan, Stewart Thomsen, and Chris Heaton. Throughout the month, they cover topics like the American election process, our branches of government, and immigration and naturalization. But more often, the three of them step back, handing the class over to an impressive collection of guest speakers who offer first-hand accounts of public service.

This year’s speaker series began with Captain Colin Murphy, RL Class of 2005, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2011 to 2015. Colin gave an overview of the structure of the U.S. Military; the extensive training that is required to join; the reality of active duty; and the many paths that veterans follow after service. Colin was followed by former RL parent and Boston City Councilor Mark Ciommo and his associate Daniel Polanco. They spoke with the boys about serving on the legislative branch at the city level. Finally, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gareth Cook (father of Aidan Cook ‘20) walked the boys through an exercise designed to help them identify “fake news.”

Sometimes expert speakers came in the form of RL faculty and staff. When the course turned to the topic of the legal system, for example, Mrs. Berg, Mrs. Dromgoole, and Mr. Lieb shared their experiences and insights having performed jury duty. In a second RL panel, Mr. Diop, Mr. Roumally, and Elias Simeonov of Class I shared their own personal immigration stories and paths to citizenship. This particular presentation followed the perennial favorite “May Madness” competition, which mirrors the U.S. Citizenship test. Nicholas Martin and Bobby Zabin won May Madness this year (though all boys were allowed to maintain their citizenship).

As a capstone of the course, each boy became a campaign spokesperson for a candidate in the 2020 presidential election, presenting on their candidate’s political platform for their peers. It is fitting that this Civics course relied on so many teachers—including, with final presentations, the students themselves. To rely on the collective efforts of many individuals is in itself a lesson on the American government and civic responsibility.