Former "SCOTUS" Student Hosts Zoom Reunion
US Supreme Court Cases has long been a popular course among Gann Academy students. Affectionally referred to as "SCOTUS," the class, led by history teacher Yoni Kadden, has championed a style of learning that engages participants as both students and teachers. SCOTUS, which stands for Supreme Court of the United States, is also known for leaving an impact that lasts well beyond graduation from Gann—an impact that inspired Talya Lerner '19, who took SCOTUS last year, to organize a virtual reunion of her former SCOTUS peers.
"Throughout this pandemic, I have increasingly realized the depth and breadth of my connection to individual classmates and the Gann community as a whole," explained Lerner. Now concluding her first year at Barnard, Lerner found herself missing her classmates and the investigative nature of SCOTUS. "I wanted to organize a reunion because I wanted to have a chance to again learn from my peers and revisit that process of 'classroom play,' which I found so invigorating throughout my time at Gann," she noted.
"SCOTUS is a special class at Gann because it combines history, conversations on power and privilege, and interdisciplinary skills such as questioning and close reading," Lerner continued. "Most importantly, it is the way Mr. Kadden invites us all into the learning experience. We are just as much the teachers in the classroom."
A date was selected, and after dozens of emails, group messages, and zoom links, the class gathered once more—this time to discuss Grinis V Spaulding, a case focusing on the intersection between COVID19 and prisons in Massachusetts.
"It was the epitome of a Gann SCOTUS class," acknowledged Lerner, "because it became not only an intellectual exercise in close reading and critical thinking, but because it touched on questions of values and privilege which are the heart of what has been most revealing and alarming about this pandemic." Questions flew back and forth: What does deliberate indifference mean? Did the prison wardens exercise deliberate indifference in their failure to administer certain social distancing guidelines?
But by the time the reunion came to a close, it was clear that the class had been about more than pure law. "This was really about community," said Kadden. "A community we had built together though an amazing senior elective experience – wanting to get back together and be together in this moment."
"I feel so grateful to have gotten my high school education at Gann and to continue to learn with and from this community," added Lerner. "Gann is a community of caring and thoughtful friends and mentors, both peers and teachers, who are not only invested in learning about the world and themselves, but who also truly care for each other."