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This initiative seemed dedicated to an urgent matter in the summer of 2020.   It still is. 


Teaching remotely, frustrated that we were experiencing a pandemic that seemed unthinkable in our lifetime (despite the fact that pandemics have been a fact of life in so many corners of the globe), and wondering what exactly was the most essential thing for my students to learn as we approached the 2020-2021 school year --- all of these motivated me to think outside the traditional curriculum box.   


Surely we have civic obligations and responsibilities.   Why aren't we talking about them?


Travel to places, considering the "power of place," trying to do what is essentially archaeology of historical events: all have been key to my approach to teaching.  I desperately sought to counter the inability to travel and what I think is essential -- to experience history and to hear multiple global voices and perspectives --- by leveraging the technology that today enables us to communicate beyond borders and cultural and language differences.   

This is what motivated this initiative.  It has at its center questions that are urgent and relevant throughout the globe as we enter the third decade of the 21st century.  It is asking students around the globe to reckon with those questions and break down the barriers of individualism in favor of shared, collective ideals and goals.   

After dedicating the first half of my career to work as an art museum curator, I shifted to teaching history to students ages 16-18 at what I think is a critical moment in their lives.   Adolescents are figuring out who they are, who they wish to be, what sort of lives they wish to lead, what they are going to do lead meaningful and rewarding lives of value.   In my 21 years at Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in the United States (founded in 1635), I have been grateful to have been a part of the lives of so many young people at this crucial time in their development.  I believe that educators are critical to students at this moment in their lives.  That is especially true right now, when news and information has made civil discourse far more charged and complex.   And questions related to civic obligation + responsibility seem at the core of what all of our lives will look like in the future.  

When I embarked on this initiative in summer 2020, I reached out to everyone I could think of in the fields of civic and history education as well as global engagement.    They helped me to shape my thinking, identify potential partners for this initiative, and craft and curate the tools that would make this a vibrant and thoughtful experience for students.   I was also fortunate to be in the inaugural class of educators in the New York Times Teaching Project and developed a yearlong project related to this initiative as part of my project for The New York Times.

I am grateful to the following individuals and organizations for their generous advice, assistance, and support:

  • Alterra Global Education Initiatives, Fungai Kanogoiwa and Aaron Casey 

  • Citizen University, Talya Gillman

  • Columbia University Teachers' College and UNESCO, Felisa Tibbitts

  • Dover-Sherborn Public Schools, Elizabeth McCoy

  • Educator’s Institute for Human Rights, Kate English, Kim Klett, Aimable Mpayimana, and Alma Zero

  • Embassy of the United States in Berlin, Germany, James Griffin

  • Facing History and Ourselves, Marc Skvirsky, Dimitry Anselme, and Karen Murphy

  • Former Boston Latin School students Olivia Paquette, JD Moore, Kimmi Vo

  • Forum Dialogu Warsaw, Olga Kaczmarek and Julia Machnowska

  • Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Sara Roy

  • Harvard University, Democracy Engagement Project and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Danielle Allen

  • Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Carrie James, Shaylynn Carey (Middle Eastern Professional Learning Initiative)

  • iCivics, Natacha Scott

  • International School of Prague, John Crane

  • IREX and Fulbright Teacher Exchanges, Emily Lester Dudley

  • Jimmie Jones

  • Lynne Mooney Teta

  • Maysa Mourad 

  • New York Times Teaching Project, Rachel Manley, Ross Fiatt, Michael Gonchar, and Nicole Daniels

  • One World Now, Jordan Goldwarg

  • Peace Education Initiative Rwanda, Albert Rutikanga

  • Pedanow Educational Consulting and Training, Petteri Elo

  • Project Zero, Harvard University, Veronica Boix-Mansilla, Liz Dawes Durasingh

  • Reimagining Migration, Adam Strom and Veronica Boix-Mansilla

  • Wojciech Smolén, Kraków, Poland

  • The Teacher Foundation, Maya Menon

  • Tufts University Tisch College of Civic Engagement Circle Project, Deborah Donahue-Keegan

  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Psychological and Brain Sciences Department and Public Engagement Project, Linda Tropp

Here in Boston, I have benefited enormously from the insights and ideas of my students at Boston Latin School as they have engaged with this initiative, as well as


  • Boston Latin School, Rachel Skerritt, Patrick Hourigan, and Daniel Gavin

  • Boston Latin School Clough Center for Global Understanding, Thomas Kennelly

  • Boston Public Schools Department of Global Education, Kayla Dorsey-Twumasi

I am also grateful for the help and good counsel from Chris Dubia and Kent Lewis at Narrative Atlas/MapWorks Learning as we began using their Narrative Atlas platform with Phase II of the initiative.


Julie Ng, my former student who (with my husband Tony Rudié) is the wisest advisor on all things technology, made major contributions from Munich.  And my more recent student, Natasha Karunaratne, joined the initiative in February 2021 and already has made immeasurable contributions to this project.   

Finally, and most important, I am grateful to all of the educators who are participating in this initiative for their enthusiasm and dedication to our collective effort.   Their students and mine have been nothing short of remarkable.   We are learning every day from one another.   It is a privilege to be engaged with them in this exemplary effort at global understanding and education.  

Judi Freeman

Seevak Chair in History

Boston Latin School

Boston, Massachusetts USA

February 2021

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