Successful Upper School Diversity Day
Is ignorance bliss? This is the question that Upper School students, faculty and staff asked themselves on Diversity Day. Sponsored by the Students for Cultural Awareness (SCA) and the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), the carefully planned morning was filled with a variety of thought-provoking ideas and discussions. Rodney Glasgow, Director of Diversity and Community Relations for the Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, and Co-Chair of the National Association of Independent Schools' annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference, was the engaging and provocative keynote speaker. Mr. Glasgow spoke of growing up in a tight-knit African American community in Baltimore, sharing his distrust of other ethnic and racial groups and relating his experiences as a student at Gilman School where he, as one of a very few African-American students, felt isolated. In a question and answer period with students and faculty, Mr. Glasgow urged the group to be honest with one another regarding prejudices and pre-conceived ideas. He shared his conviction that one must be true to his or her own culture and avoid trying to "blend in," for being true to oneself and presenting oneself honestly is the only way to achieve real friendships and teach others about the value of diversity.
Students met in small groups for follow-up discussions, which were led by volunteer student facilitators trained in the methodology used at national and regional diversity conferences that Upper School students have attended for years. As these student discussions were taking place, the Upper School teachers met with Mr. Glasgow to further discuss and explore the pedagogical and curricular dimensions of diversity and multiculturalism. The morning culminated in an Upper School community-wide "fish bowl" conversation. To begin, approximately half the group sat on the floor and discussed a series of questions developed by the student facilitators, while the other half sat around the perimeter and listened. After a half-hour, the two groups switched roles with the listeners becoming the "fishbowl" group. Upper School Head Todd Casey said, "The morning's discussions were remarkable for their candor, sincerity and investment. I believe all of us learned from, and were changed by, our experience."
Written in The Key Review - Spring 2008