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BCIL Course Highlight: Exploring What it Means to be Made in LA
by David Hernandez, BCIL Upper School Curriculum Innovator and Collaborator, Class of 2022 Dean, and US History Teacher

Frank Lloyd said it best, “Tip the world on its side, and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” There is no doubt this city has been able to welcome people, ideas, and cultures. Los Angeles has historically been and continues to be a place of opportunity for so many. As the byproduct of immigrant parents from Jalisco, Mexico, my parents choose to live in Los Angeles and call it home. Their story is just one of the millions of different experiences that comprise this city. This lens inspired me to propose and teach the BCIL elective course: "Made in LA: Los Angeles and the American Dream." It has been one of the things I am most proud of in my time here at Brentwood. 

In this course, we take a socio-historical dive into the city of Los Angeles. Beginning with the founding of El Pueblo de Los Angeles in 1781 and tracing forward to the opening of Sofi Stadium, we unpack Los Angeles’ story and its people through an interdisciplinary lens of history, art, policy, literature, film, urban planning, education, legislation, and more. At the same time we recognize the efforts and impacts of many different groups, as well as historical forces that have contributed to the fabric of LA.

Some themes we have been looking at this semester are:

  • What is the American Dream?
  • What is the symbolic meaning of Los Angeles as a place to attain it?
  • What does access to the American Dream look like for Angelinos, who has access to it, and why?
  • What solutions can be implemented to address some of Los Angeles’ most pressing realities?

As a Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership course, we dive deep into understanding the real world challenges of our city. What are the roots of significant challenges facing Los Angeles, and what are the policy solutions being imagined and proposed? How do young leaders get involved in making effective change? What are the skills and tools needed? This course offers students a chance to do policy research that is applicable to Los Angeles decision-making and think about what it means to be an agent of change. 

It gives me great joy and pride to be able to have students examine Los Angeles’ diverse population, not as singular or isolated groups, but rather in their relation to one another. To have students analyze their own city and its past as well as its future is truly special. Even more remarkable is engaging students on issues such as class, race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, access, and citizenship.

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