CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Bryan Christ’s fourth grade class at Jackson-Via Elementary in Charlottesville is learning important lessons: how they represent their city, and how their city represents them, specifically how the Charlottesville’s historical image is encapsulated in monuments.
“Students were asked to make an argument on what they think Charlottesville public memory should look like, like what statues we should take down, what kind of statues we should put up,” Christ explained.
His students, most of them only nine or ten years old, took it upon themselves to share their research, and opinions, with Charlottesville’s government leaders. When they heard back from Vice Mayor Sena Magill, the class invited her to a Q&A on Zoom, asking her a range of questions, from, “What’s your favorite color?” to “Why do we have certain statues that hurt people’s feelings?”
“Kids, they don’t ask easy questions. Adults ask easy questions, Kids don’t. They just don’t stop themselves,” Magill said.
Nearly every student in Christ’s class were able to share their opinion, or ask Magill a question, many of which, would stump even some even most grown-ups.
“They really started pushing with the hard questions and I could see that the gears were turning in their heads,” Christ said.
Some of their hardest questions included what to do with some of Charlottesville’s most contested statues, like the Robert E. Lee and Lewis and Clark statues.
Christ says it gave his students a chance to make their voices heard and expose them to civic engagement.
“A lot of times, people, especially the students in Charlottesville City Schools who are from diverse backgrounds, often feel like they don’t have a voice in politics or that they can’t get things done, just because maybe they haven’t seen someone they know do it,” Christ said.
He explained the opportunity to have a Q&A with Vice Mayor Magill shows them how they have the power to hold government leaders responsible.
“If someone isn’t listening to what the people say, even if they’re 9, they may not get elected again,” Christ said.
“Whether it’s a nine year old or a 99 year old, it’s really important to listen to people who are not like you, and think differently than you, because they’re going to see the things you miss,” Magill explained.