Penn Charter hosted a powerful Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Conference on Oct. 6 for more than 1,100 independent school educators who wanted to dig in to learn and to build their skills for promoting equity in schools and classrooms.
Sponsored by the Multicultural Resource Center and the Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools, the all-day conference offered keynote presentations from two nationally known speakers — Mahzarin Banaji, experimentalist psychologist, Harvard professor and author, and Lee Mun Wah, filmmaker, author and diversity trainer.
If the keynotes were designed to raise awareness about bias — “The thumbprint of the culture is on your brain,” Banaji told the crowd. — the nearly 40 workshop offered teachers group sessions focused on relevant topics: Diversity through Literary Theory; The Guide for White Women who Teach Black Boys; Middle School Affinity Groups; Teaching Diversity and Inclusion in the Lower School Classroom through Art and Literature; Teaching the Immigrant Experience; and many more.
Banaji, author of “Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People,” made her presentation immediately relevant with a gender bias example related to the names of hurricanes. The data shows that fatalities during hurricanes with female names are higher than male-named hurricanes. Why? Because, Banaji said, people do not respect the power of female-named hurricanes; we don’t heed warnings for Irma as we would for a hurricane named, for example, Bruce.
In the span of her three-hour morning presentation, Manaji returned frequently to data and what it reveals about biases, whether it be pay equity for women, distrust of people whose eyes are close together, discrimination in hiring, under-treatment of black Americans for pain relative to white Americans, and more.
The work ahead, Banaji said, is to understand hidden biases and “align our behavior with our intentions.” She shared outsmartinghumanminds.org, a new Harvard resource about the “hidden mind: how it learns, how it influences us and how it can be measured and changed.”
Lee Mun Wah, an internationally renowned Chinese American documentary filmmaker and founder of StirFry Seminars & Consulting, a diversity training company, titled his presentation “What Stands Between Us.”
Wah exhorted the educators packed into Dooney Field House to challenge acts of discrimination and learn to listen to our neighbors. “We can never become a community until we have first learned about those who are next to us, our next door neighbors, and those we have been taught to be afraid of. What we are talking about is breaking down the walls we have created out of fear and truly desiring to confront what stands between us.”
Thanks and kudos to MCRC, ADVIS and PC organizers Darryl Ford, David Brightbill, Imana Legette, Bill Quinn, Rosanne Punzo, Nicole Martz and Kaitlyn Norton — and to the Quaker crew of PC teacher volunteers!
Upcoming "Blindspot" Event: Parent Community discussion about “Blindspot,” Wednesday, Oct. 11, 8:15 am at Timmons House.