Ethical Action & Experiential Learning over Peace & Justice Weekend
Anne M. Glass, Ed.M.

At Purnell, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and acknowledged that it is also known as a Day of Action. This year's Peace & Justice Weekend emphasized ethical engagement and "positive action."

"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

At Purnell, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and acknowledged that it is also known as a Day of Action. This year's Peace & Justice Weekend emphasized ethical engagement and "positive action." It featured programming in support of our interdisciplinary approach to providing our students with the knowledge and self-awareness to navigate today's contemporary challenges. Organized in conjunction with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Weekend's highlight event was an interactive workshop titled:


Human Rights, Economics, and Environmental Impacts of the Fast Fashion Industry

The day included a keynote address and workshop for students and faculty led by Fulbright Scholar and Rutgers master's student, Shaheena Shahid. She speaks five languages fluently, is an advocate for women's rights and human rights, and has taught and volunteered in refugee camps and orphanages around the globe.

Ms. Shahid's talk spotlighted ongoing abuses in global apparel manufacturing, including economic inequality, ecological impact, human rights abuses, and violations of basic health, safety, and labor standards. Students and faculty also viewed the film The True Cost, which maps the garment industry from production—mainly exploring the life of low-wage workers in developing countries—to its after-effects such as river and soil pollution, pesticide contamination, disease, and death. Using an approach that looks at environmental, social, and psychological aspects, it also examines consumerism and mass media.

Purnell students and faculty considered the industry in five breakout groups, each using a different lens:

  1. Environmental
  2. Economic: wages, hours, working conditions
  3. Women's rights/human rights
  4. Educational opportunity
  5. Consumerism/materialism

Each group brainstormed ideas to mitigate or eliminate the negative impacts, then came back together to share their suggestions. Among the many rich ideas they generated were the interconnectedness and circular reinforcement of consumption in the United States and production processes and labor conditions overseas. Students identified that the costs of the Fast Fashion Industry (human, environmental, health, educational opportunities) are not accounted for in GDP, which calculates the market value of goods that are traded, nor are the costs reflected in value of the stock market.

The garment workers are the only point in the supply chain that can be squeezed, and suffer human rights abuses as a consequence. Many students articulated that as consumers of cheap fashion, we are part of the problem of perpetuating this industry, and that we need an international, collective solution. In addition, the students recommended establishment of global standards for environmental impact and chemical disposal.

The Fast Fashion day was truly an eye-opener for all of us. It was also part of our deliberate move at Purnell to ensure that our students leave here equipped and empowered to become fully engaged participants in today's society. Events like this one seek to support the rigorous academic offerings at Purnell with life-based case studies that encourage analysis, problem-solving, and ethical engagement.

We prepare our graduates for success in college and for the greater endeavor - a life of critical, ethical, and global thinking. Our students have the opportunity to understand the impact of decisions made by governments and movements. Framing world events through a moral and ethical lens, we encourage our students to ask, "What is the right thing to do?" They are reminded that how we act makes a difference and are challenged to make our school community and even our world, better.