Exploring Ideas in Multiculturalism

Upper School Friends Multicultural Day on March 7 was bookended by a humorous and thought-provoking morning presentation from a guest speaker who has Tourette's Syndrome and rock-the-house student performances in the afternoon. Between the two, Upper School students attended discussion- and activity-based workshops on a range of issues and topics.

The day opened with a presentation by Marc Elliot: "What Makes You Tic?" Elliot, who has Tourette's Syndrome and a rare disease that has left him with virtually no intestines, has a unique perspective on tolerance and being different.

"I've had a different experience in life than most people have," he said. "I've really had a chance to see what it's like to be different, what it's like to stand out."

Elliot, who spoke later in the day to Middle School students, told of his uncontrollable tics caused by Tourette's – teeth chomping, "barking," and yelling racial slurs or curse words – and the effect this had on strangers and friends alike. He shared stories of other people's judgment, or even disgust, and of their compassion. He warned against making assumptions about people when, in fact, we may know nothing about them.

"Live and let live" is Elliot's philosophy, he said, and the path to tolerance and acceptance. But just as important as acceptance of others is acceptance of ourselves.

"When we tolerate ourselves," he said, "we give ourselves permission to live our lives without regard to what others think."

After Elliot's presentation, Upper School students and faculty spent the day attending discussion-driven and activity-based workshops that were designed by students and facilitated by them – teachers were on hand, but as workshop participants, not leaders. Topics included mindfulness meditation, Islam, hip hop, Palestinian culture, gays and lesbians in pop culture, women's rights, South African dance and movement, cricket and other international sports.

The student musical performances in the Kurtz Center ranged from original music, a song in Spanish, Michael Jackson's "Beat It," and lots more. Photos.