Recent Events & Reflections on Equity

October 16, 2011

On Sunday, October 16, from 4:00 to 5:00 pm, the Community Service Club and the Parents Association hosted a dinner to raise awareness of World Food Day in the Lunch Room. More than half of the world suffers from hunger each day, and they need help. The cost was $5 per person, and attendees were encouraged to bring canned food items to be donated to the St. Philip's Food Pantry.

The Day School has a tradition of raising student awareness of the issue of hunger through a variety of means. It is part of the MacArthur Campus curriculum, discussed throughout grade levels in chapel services and Grate Patrol activities, highlighted in Gifts for Good charitable giving, and now a focal point for the Grades 5 and 6 Community Service Club.

In a year in which there are growing numbers of people in America, now nearly 20%, answering “yes” to the question of whether their family has faced food hardship (“Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”), we want to bring this issue into the forefront of discussions for our families in an accessible and interesting way.

October, 2011

In an effort to increase students’ geographical awareness and knowledge, the large center bulletin board in the Lunch Room will highlight one of the world’s continents each month. While the Lunch Room already has a wall-sized world map that students frequently consult, focusing attention on each of the seven continents is one small but important way to build children’s geographical knowledge and awareness. As David J. Smith writes in If The World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People, “A strong sense of world geography lays a foundation for discussion with or about people of other regions, countries, and cultures.”

In October, the focus is on South America, as it is also Hispanic Heritage Month and Spanish is one of the main languages in South America. The other large bulletin board features information on Hispanic Heritage Month as a complement to South America. Along with a large map of South America, there are 10 interesting facts posted on the board along with the names of the 12 independent countries that make up South America. Did you know that the highest waterfall in the world is in Venezuela? Or that one of the driest regions in the world is the Atacama Desert in northern Chile? The second longest river in the world is in South America. Do you know what it is? We hope that teachers will take a few minutes to share these facts with children as a way to inspire interest in world geography.

Gretchen Spencer
Head of Lower School

September, 2011

“We cannot control what changes us. But we can control our reaction. 9/11 changed us. Only we can determine HOW it changed us.”

These remarks by Senior Rabbi Bruce Lustig at Washington Hebrew Congregation followed a Muslim Call to Prayer.

It may have been the first Muslim Call to Prayer ever uttered in a Jewish synagogue.

A few of us in Grade 8 were fortunate enough to see it during the opening ceremonies for the 7th Annual Unity Walk on 9/11. The message of the walk is simple: If hatred and misunderstanding between religions ignited the horror of that day, then only mutual respect, compassion, and understanding can heal it. “From different walks, one.”

And walk we did – down Massachusetts Avenue – visiting as many houses of worship as we could before the program resumed on the steps of the Islamic Center of Washington. We ate a delicious lunch outside of the National Gurdwara and then went inside to learn about the beliefs of the Sikh religion, listen to religious music, and watch a turban-tying demonstration. We even asked why Sikhs always wear their turbans and found out that they wear them as crowns and to spot fellow-believers in their travels. Farther down Massachusetts, we learned about the mosaics in St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church, toured the Vatican Embassy, and experienced Hare Krishna Mantra Meditation in Khalil Gibran Memorial Park. Arriving at the Islamic Center, we were greeted by the Imam who, together with other religious leaders, urged us to practice the Golden Rule, a rule common to all faiths. And then we heard another first: “Amazing Grace” sung on the steps of a mosque.

Our day ended at Busboys and Poets, a restaurant, event center, and poets café, (now one of three in fact), established by an Iraqi to honor and revitalize the African-American roots of U Street and named for Langston Hughes, who was both busboy and poet, and on whose shoulders much of the fight for civil rights rests. We shared a meal with a Muslim Egyptian-American family and lived the creed in warmly welcoming the mere seventh-grader to our table.

We are grateful for the exposure to so many new ways of worship, impressed by literally seeing unity among so much diversity, and inspired by the parting remarks of a reverend, who reminded us that the greater the horror, the greater the unmasking of evil, and, unmasked, the more easily destroyed. The first step is remembering that we all belong to the family of man, as a Sheikh reminded us, and – just as we are not always crazy about welcoming our difficult uncle to family gatherings – we nevertheless welcome him because he is family.

Global Citizenship – this is where it starts!

Sofia A., Nora C., Sam D., Penn D., Carson P., Wesley P., Ann Adams, and Anne Tyler

May, 2011

Imagine that you are a barber. It is 1912. You are shaving a customer with a long, straight-edge razor. As he talks to his colleague, you suddenly realize that your customer is the man who murdered your father twenty years earlier – and got away with it.

What do you do? Try not to be too rational because, chances are, with that blade no doubt stopped dead against this man’s throat, you wouldn’t be.

Unless, of course, you are African-American and you have developed superhuman self-control in your dedicated climb to become the owner of the most successful barbershop in Chicago. And you know that one gleam of anger, even short of murder, will cost you your life’s work, will cost your daughter her father, will cost every African-American barber under your employ his job, and will set back advancement for every African-American in Chicago, perhaps beyond. What white man will ever trust his neck to the razor of a black barber again?

It gets worse. What if this customer knew all along that you are the son of the man he murdered? And he is sitting in your chair to prove a theory to his colleague – that all African-Americans are subservient and should never be treated as equals.

And you know that your carefully honed calm, while it is preserving so much, is also preserving this stereotype.

Does the metaphor of being between a rock and a hard place spring to mind? Or, alternatively, damned if you do and damned if you don’t?

Well, the scenario itself, taken from Charles Chesnutt’s “The Doll,” a short story read this year by Grade 8 students, is a metaphor that captures the primary reason America experienced the modern Civil Rights Movement. Slow, quiet progress was not achieving anything near to equality.

When we say that the Civil Rights trip is the culmination of our study of 20th century American history, we mean it. W.E.B. Du Bois was correct in stating that the problem of the 20th Century was the problem of the color-line – in the United States and throughout the world.

But our pilgrimage in tribute to the movement is not just in recognition of a century of deferred justice (in fact, the movement is rightfully called “the second Reconstruction”) – but also a tribute to another primary theme of our humanities program – the hoped-for triumph of American ideals.

When we return from our trip, I ask the students who and/or what were the heroes of the movement. They rightly name many leaders, starting with Martin Luther King. But they also rightly say every individual who risked harm, loss of job, even death, to join a march, a boycott, or a voting drive. But none of these heroes could have gotten anywhere without our Constitution to back them. As Martin Luther King stated in his very first speech as the just-inaugurated leader of the bus boycott, “If we are wrong, then the Constitution of the United States is wrong.” In a radical, unprecedented-in-the-world act of illumination, our founding fathers invoked the rights of all to liberty, justice, and equality of opportunity – however much we want to argue about what they truly meant.

Our study of Grade 8 humanities is a study of how those values or ideals have slowly and certainly not without struggle, lifted us up out of countless unjust realities – from political corruption to labor abuses, from reactionary policies to racial and ethnic prejudice (including overseas). Unfortunately, national legislation and a bureaucracy to back it up was too often necessary to enforce alignment with those ideals, and the very freedom that democracy and capitalism embody has been curtailed. This is one last conundrum the students contemplate throughout the year. Teddy Roosevelt and his cousin have been blamed as beginning the march toward a centralized, socialist state, and, not coincidentally, they both told us why. The first Roosevelt wrote, “No matter how honest and decent we are in our private lives, if we do not have the right kind of law, we cannot go forward as a nation. That is imperative; but it must be an addition to, and not a substitution for, the qualities that make us good citizens.” Much of the new legislation FDR proposed he claimed was necessary because the financial leaders of our country had abdicated their moral responsibilities. Sound familiar?

What does all this have to do with our Civil Rights trip? All of these clashes come together in the fight for civil rights.

In our pioneer days, three or four teachers drove minivans through the ad hoc street design of Atlanta and across the interstate to Birmingham. When it was clear that five minivans could never caravan successfully (we had a few close calls when there were four), we graduated to the wonderful luxury of a bus and, with the time thus saved, we could include the all-important city of Montgomery, which provided the two bookends to the central part of the movement. In Montgomery, we have visited the Rosa Parks Museum, which chronicles the planning surrounding the bus boycott that first showed the power of mass protest in this country in 1955. We visit Martin Luther King’s first church as a new minister, where much of this planning took place, and his home that was bombed during the protest. One of the most moving moments of the trip is in his kitchen where we learn that he, sitting at a small formica table, asked God whether he should continue – and continue risking his own life and his very young family’s life. That night he felt he received a divine message to proceed for the greater good.

Fast forward to 1965 and the march from Selma to Montgomery, which delivered the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act. In spite of the 15th Amendment ratified in 1870, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting, the combination of literacy tests, poll taxes, and terrorism reduced the number of registered African-Americans in the southern states to less than three percent. In Selma, we symbolically cross the Edmund Pettus bridge, where marchers were violently turned back by Alabama state troopers until President Johnson called in the National Guard to assure the safety of the marchers for the full 54-mile march to Montgomery, where they would register to vote at the state capitol. Retracing the route by bus, we stop at the National Park Service’s interpretive center that chronicles the march but also the aftermath – the Tent City that arose AFTER the Voting Rights Act was passed, and countless African-Americans who dared to register to vote lost their jobs and their homes and were forced to live in these tent cities.

Because of such injustices, Montgomery’s Southern Law Poverty Center was created, now also the home of the magazine Teaching Tolerance and the powerful Civil Rights Memorial and Civil Rights Memorial Museum. The entire message of this organization and its memorial and museum is the importance of the individual. Martin Luther King’s mighty words serve as the backdrop for the memorial, but the memorial itself honors forty martyrs of the 14-year movement, and the museum chronicles the martyrs to all forms of intolerance and hate in the years since then. On the video Wall of Tolerance, students are thrilled to add their names to all those who have pledged to fight prejudice – which I never tire of reminding them one month later when they have exhibited some wretchedly uncreedlike behaviour!

We actually begin our journey in Birmingham because it is home to the Civil Rights Institute. I will never forget my first visit in 2002. I had never seen a museum like it. After an introductory video on race relations in Birmingham through the 19th century, the screen rises and visitors are invited to literally walk through the history of the fight for civil rights, starting in the Jim Crow South – the entire period between collapsed Reconstruction and the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. We face recreations of segregated water fountains, buses, school rooms, neighborhoods, businesses. If we didn’t get it before, we do now. The rest of the museum again recreates the major moments of the movement itself – the lunch counter sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, and the major marches, including the March on Washington in 1963, at which Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and the Children’s March, earlier in 1963 in Birmingham, during which Martin Luther King was jailed. His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” together with the March on Washington, is credited with achieving the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But the most enlightening artifact at this museum is an NBC-TV documentary filmed in 1963. Birmingham was known as the most segregated city in the country and had also been nick-named “Bombingham” because of the number of violent attacks primarily by the KKK. In fact, the Institute was intentionally built across the street from our other destination in Birmingham, the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed when a KKK-planted bomb exploded while they were changing into their choir robes.) John Chancellor interviewed many citizens of Birmingham, trying to capture the climate of the city, and he found the heart in one elderly lady wearing a flowered hat, head of the local arts committee, who ingenuously illustrated the “excellent relationship between the races in Birmingham” by telling the story of how she had enabled a young black girl, who had won first place in the annual art contest, to enter a public library, normally closed to blacks, so that she could see her art on display. A close second was a city official who explained that a good farmer never let his black chickens mix with his white chickens.

These clips bring home the limits to laws and even mass movements. Brown vs. Board, desegregating the schools, was held hostage in the South, until the mass protests forced change. But even they could not change the feeling of racial superiority so entrenched in so many hearts.

What this museum makes clear, along with many other places we visit, is that video coverage began to make this necessary change. Short-lived mass protests had been tried before – especially after the two world wars, when many African-American soldiers came home to injustice after fighting “to make the world safe for democracy.” But without nationwide exposure, these protests were quickly crushed and hushed. Starting in 1955, the footage of the hatred, violence, and irrational defenses of racism aroused an entire nation out of bigotry.

Because Martin Luther King made clear that the North was no less guilty than the South. On our last stop, in Atlanta, we visit King’s birth home, part of the National Park Service’s Martin Luther King Center. A separate exhibition retraces the Civil Rights Movement as it played out in King’s life. King’s greatest disappointment was after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, when both government officials and public opinion stated clearly, you’ve achieved your goals, now shut up. King knew that the new legislation wouldn’t change much if racism wasn’t healed. Nowhere in the country, he said, had he witnessed more hatred than in the supposedly more just northern city of Chicago.

Here, too, for full understanding, the students have to know their 20th century history – and a huge movement that is only now finally getting exposure: the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North between World War I and the Great Depression. Before then, few African-Americans had migrated North. Greater freedoms in the North did not include the freedom to get a job. Not until the waves of immigration abated because of World War I did northern employers consider hiring African-Americans. With the huge demographic shift (1.5 million in 15 years), Northern whites established their special brand of racism: residential segregation. The resulting limited space because of de facto borders and the growing poverty because of the return of soldiers and immigrants at the end of the war and then the Great Depression (during which, at its worst, unemployment reached 25% nationally and 50% among African-Americans) created the ghettos and “cycle of poverty” in the North that King and others exposed but that have only grown increasingly entrenched today.

Where we are today is the last question we face, when we return from the trip. Did the students notice that a large part of the tourism in the South is based on civil rights? Yet, right next to the Voting Rights Museum in Selma is the Sons of the Confederacy headquarters. Schools are desegregated in Birmingham, but only 10% of the children in the Birmingham public schools are white; the rest now attend the private schools that sprang up after Brown vs. Board.

In some ways, the progress is great. King’s vision in his “I Have a Dream” speech is a reality at St. Patrick’s and in countless schools in every state. A black man is President of the United States.

But listen to a voice of today, Immortal Technique:

The cold war is over but the world is still gettin colder
Atlas walking through the projects with the hood on my shoulders
I would like to raise my children to grow to be soldiers
But then the general, would decide when their life would be over
So I work hard until my personality split
Like the black panthers, into the bloods and the crips

Unfortunately, so often those who see that the system has to be changed then set out to overthrow the system. Early in the year, we read portions of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which exposes the horrors imposed by meat monopolies on hapless immigrants. Sinclair’s solution? Socialism. Martin Luther King, near the end of his life, also sought the answer in more equitable wealth distribution and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society legislation was a partial result. Immortal Technique definitely goes on to blame the capitalist establishment:

cause three strikes will get you life for stuffin cracks in a duffle
Upstate behind steel gates intact in the scuffle
Razor blades stuck on the side of pencils, hacked to your muscle
But the emptiness is what bleeds you to death when it cuts you
And it’s the lawyers, not the inmates scheming to f*** you
Trying to fight the system from inside, eventually corrupts you
But that’s what you get when you put a corporation above you

What I hope that my students see is that we have a choice, but the choice really depends, as Theodore Roosevelt said, on the morality of the citizens. Our economy is capitalistic because only that form of economy allows the most individual economic freedom. Our government is a democracy because only that form of government allows the most individual political freedom. That freedom was the battle cry of the Civil Rights Movement. But with that freedom comes responsibility. Each of us has to root out prejudice in our hearts, just as each politician and businessman and woman has to root out corruption in theirs. Where do you start? Well, according to Immortal Technique:

The mind of a child is where the revolution begins
So if the solution has never been to look in yourself
How is it that you expect to find it anywhere else?

This trip is one small seed in the solution. Does it take root? The Grade 8 students depart on this trip with a wide range of agendas. They are 14. They are about to leave the school. The trip is as much about them and their friendships and a final bonding farewell as it is about Civil Rights. It is as much about the common experience of drinking Italy’s favorite (and to the 14-year-old American palate) most disgusting Bitter Aperitif at The World of Coke in Atlanta as it is about reliving the experience of crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge.

But here are two reflections that represent many responses over the years:

“As I visited these places, I thought more about what God was calling Moses to do. God called for Moses, because he needed him to go to the Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt, and God was able to ask Moses and get his attention by disguising himself into a burning bush. This situation was very similar to the Civil Rights Movement, because African Americans called for people to help them get rid of the injustice in the United States. African Americans got the public’s attention through non-violent protests, where their souls and chances of being treated as equally as white people burned like the bush. During the Civil Rights Movement, everyone could see this cry for injustice needed to be fixed. Everyone should have the right to a good education, to work at any kind of job, and to be able to walk the streets like a regular human being. During the times of segregation, many people thought achieving equality for African Americans was too great a task to handle. Yet with hope and faith, many passionate people, who were mostly African Americans, were able to initiate the Civil Rights Movement.”

“Some things that I learned on the trip that made me proud to be an American is the progress we have made with integration and the idea that so many Americans had come together to fight and stand up for their cause and prevail. This shows me that many Americans can be brave, generous and hard working. It shows me that American can overcome the bad parts of their history and become an even better country. I think America still has room to grow because the KKK is still around and many other hate groups that hate Catholics, Jews, Blacks, and new immigrants. I think America will grow if more cities and neighborhoods become integrated and these hate groups leave America.”

Working through the courts, culminating in Brown vs. Board, wasn’t enough. Stories like “The Doll,” autobiographies like Black Boy, and novels like Invisible Man enlightened but did not reach enough of the population. It required a mass movement to shake the entrenched white control, and mass media to begin to shake the entrenched racism, to heal the hatred. That is why we take this trip.

Ann Adams, Grade 8 humanities

Now more than ever: Equity-in-Action
October 2010

The Equity Community Conversations are gone from the calendar this year, but dedicated equity work is not. More essential than ever, this work will pursue specific goals.

Rather than talk about it, we will examine the practice behind our preaching to ensure that we are modeling our premise:


Where will we look?

* At the Parent Equity Survey: What specific concerns can we address and respond to?
* At the next component of our equity audit: a Faculty Equity Survey.
* At our curriculum: As part of the school’s strategic plan, we will be auditing our curriculum through the lens of our Equity Guiding Principles.
* At our Professional Development: How can be best support our teachers’ equity work, especially in areas highlighted in the Parent Equity Survey: gender, socio-economic status, and ability. How can we improve our presentation of holidays and heritage months?
* At our community: An initiative this year is the International Connections Committee made up of parents interested in making the school more reflective of the diverse city in which it resides . . .

. . . which sounds remarkably like:

“Nothing less than the nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this nation of many peoples.”
Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell

Check in on our progress. Keep Mr. Barrett’s comments from back-to-school night in mind as you talk with your children. Ask them:

Did they work or play with somebody new?

Did they discover a new world half-way around the globe?

Did they learn empathy for a different culture through a character in a book?

Did they see themselves in a character from a book?

Did they struggle with learning a new concept?

Did they learn about a person who overcame a daunting challenge?

“Education needs to enable the student to look through window frames in order to see the realities of others and into mirrors in order to see her/his own reality reflected. Knowledge of both types of framing is basic to a balanced education.”
 Emily Style*

Please visit the Equity website to look through and in more windows and mirrors.
Global education, equal opportunity, and mutual understanding remain at the forefront of our agenda because we have come full circle: the world is flat.

Ann Adams and Erica Thompson
Co-chairs, Faculty Equity Committee

* Seeding the Process of Multi-cultural Education: An Anthology

Community Conversation, April 13, 2010

“I believe that the foundation St. Patrick’s has provided my children from nursery through sixth grade has consistently instilled in them a sense of fairness, and they have demonstrated a good balance when choosing friends at St. Patrick’s and beyond. They seek schools and situations that provide an experience enriched with diversity and, I think, would be bored without it. They do not see race or religion or socioeconomic status as obstacles. They have maintained a broad mix of close friends who often look different but usually have common values.”

Last week’s Community Conversation on Equity opened with 25 of the hundreds of such comments from the recent Parent Equity Survey. We ended with the quote above. Our goal, as a community, should be for all its members to be able to summarize their experience here in such terms. As many of the other comments made clear, we are not there yet.

In sharing selected comments, we wanted to display the wide range of perspectives here. Some members of our community expressed feelings of marginalization. Other members think we are focusing too much on equity at the expense of academic excellence. Yet almost all parents are confident the academics here are excellent, with just over 93% describing the quality as “excellent” or “very good.”

As equity and diversity consultant Randolph Carter noted in his survey summary that followed the specific comments, there is still a disconnect in many parents’ minds between excellent academics and an equitable community, or even the mindset that they are in competition with each other. In fact, as a parent pointed out in the stimulating discussion later in the meeting, in our increasingly global and therefore multi-cultural society, a student is no longer fully educated and ready to lead (or even follow) unless that individual has been educated in a diverse community. We are not all hard-wired to embrace change or even difference. But when we develop those attitudes, others noted, we have learned essential skills for the changing world, and we are continually enriched by our openness to the ideas of others.

Mr. Carter pointed to the large number of parents who selected “neutral” or “no opinion” on a number of questions about how the school addresses issues including gender, race, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation, suggesting that they have not directed enough attention to these issues to form an opinion. By cross-tabulating responses according to self-identifiers, Mr. Carter also showed differences in responses between white parents and other groups, although not on the quality of the academic experience.

He noted that, ironically, the members of our community who have the most to gain through embracing difference and nurturing a diverse community are the members of the majority, because they have been less likely in the past to need such skills as flexibility, adaptability, and openness in the face of change and difference.

In her thought-provoking remarks that followed Mr. Carter’s presentation, Dr. Marilyn Benoit, past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, questioned the use of the terms majority and minority as ones that maintain the status quo and a sense of conflict. She supported the interpretation of equity as one emphasized in our fall community conversation―as an attitude of empathy and enthusiasm for all kinds of people.

She offered this magnificent quote from Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Garden:

“What is always needed in the appreciation of art or life is the larger perspective. Connections made or at least attempted, where none existed before, the straining to encompass in one’s glance at the varied world the common thread, the unifying theme through immense diversity, a fearlessness of growth, of search, of looking, that enlarges the private and public world. And yet, in our particular society, it is the narrowed and narrowing view of life that often wins.”

Widening our world and making diverse connections will nurture an equitable environment faster than a thousand how-to workshops. In fact, Dr. Benoit cautioned against “learning” about different ethnicities as the primary road to equity. She quoted from Removing Cultural and Ethnic Barriers: “In our efforts to know the cultural background and current life styles of ethnic minorities, gross generalizations are relied
on. At the same time that they provide us with a beginning understanding, they can also be used to obliterate the individual differences that exist between members of a given group.”

The evening ended with a candid conversation about where we go from here. We need to identify the best way to share the results of the Parent Equity Survey beyond the attendees at last week’s Community Conversation on Equity and the brief glimpses here. In the meantime, the question kept coming: How do we get the entire parent body to become invested in fostering a community in which every member canbless the opening quote?

Ann Adams, Grade 8 Humanities
Erica Thompson, Grade 3 Resource
Co-Chairs, Faculty Equity Committee

March, 2010

On Tuesday, March 2, six members of the St. Patrick’s faculty and staff attended the Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS) Making Schools Safe conference, held at Roland Park Country School in Baltimore.

Representing all three of our divisions—Nancy White and Mendy Thaler of the Nursery School, Gretchen Spencer and Erica Thompson of the Lower School, and Judy Barr and Amy Yount of the Upper School—these educators sought insights to bring back to St. Patrick’s about ways to continue to make the Day School welcoming and safe for all members of the community.

The day began with a keynote speech by Ritch Savin-Williams, a Cornell University professor and author of The New Gay Teenager, whose research has focused on sexual orientation as it relates to child and teen development. In his talk, he encouraged parents and schools to allow students to self-identify how they view themselves in terms of sexual orientation as well as gender. Rather than confining individuals to rigid boxes of identity, he encouraged communities to recognize that there is a spectrum of behavior that encompasses gender expression and sexual identification, and communities should focus on the unique gifts of each member of the community. Recognizing that a safe environment is essential to this kind of appreciation, he stressed the importance of working to eliminate nonconformist gender bullying at all ages.
Subsequent small-group discussions focused on sharing ways in which our schools foster an open and inclusive learning environment, challenges we face in that task, and what more we can do to create a culture of inclusiveness for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) faculty, staff, parents, and students. Student participants in the conference spoke honestly and thoughtfully about their hopes for each of their schools, and we learned from each other in our efforts to work toward our common goal: Making our schools safe and welcoming for all children and families.

February 2010

Yesterday, the Grades 3 through 6 lunches looked a little different as we hosted our third annual Mix-It-Up Lunch. The goal of the Mix-It-Up Lunch is to help students cross invisible lines of social division, meet new people, and make new friends by placing them at new tables during their lunch periods. Organized by Teaching Tolerance, Mix-It-Up lunches took place in schools across the nation this week.

When students arrived in the Lunch Room, they each received a color-coded sticker with a table number indicating where they should sit. After receiving their stickers, students collected their lunches and then went to their tables. Teachers made sure that each student was sitting next to a child from a different grade level.
There were table tents on each table with questions to help spark conversation and to help students get to know more about each other. There was also an adult at each table during each of the lunch periods helping students talk to each other and make new friendships.

By all accounts, the lunches were a success. Based on reports from students at a few tables, we now know that a large number of Grade 5 and Grade 6 students prefer Five Guys burgers to Z-Burger (with at least one exception), that more Grade 3 and Grade 4 students have favorite movies than do their Grade 5 and Grade 6 counterparts, and that, regardless of grade level, St. Patrick's students are an interesting and enjoyable bunch who are glad to make new friends.

Dan Spector
Assistant Head of School for Academic Affairs

January, 2010

From time to time, we celebrate special chapels to reflect on, acknowledge, and appreciate important moments on the calendar. On January 15, we came together for a Kindergarten - Grade 8 chapel to celebrate and honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year, we welcomed Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights leader Andrew Young and author of the children's book Child of the Civil Rights Movement. Ms. Shelton spoke on her experience growing up as the daughter of a Civil Rights leader. Upper School students complemented Ms. Shelton's talk by reading from the writings and sermons of Dr. King. Members of our Grade 3 classes recited a poem by Charlotte Blake Alston about Martin Luther King, and Extended Day students will recite an original piece on Martin Luther King. We also welcomed performer Jali-D, an accomplished percussionist and spoken-word artist who first visited St. Patrick's for our Kwanzaa Karamu Community Potluck. Three Grade 6 girls (Tristen Matthews, Madison Eldridge, and Briana Bryant) reprised a dance they performed at that event. Finally, in what is an annual tradition, Kindergartners sang the beautiful "Oh, Martin Luther King."

December, 2009

In early December, four teachers and administrators from St. Patrick's traveled to the mile-high city of Denver to participate in the 22nd annual National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference (PoCC). The theme for this year's event: “Moving Mountains, Mining Within.”

Attending were more than 2,500 educators and high school students from across the country and world, with four international participants. The students, comprising a little less than half of the overall attendance, participated in a parallel conference, the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC). Kankunda Klingenberg, Religion Teacher and Diversity Coordinator; Stacia McFadden, Director of Technology and Summer Programs; Shannon Scott, 3B; and Erica Thompson, Grade 3 Resource, spent two days immersed in workshops and discussions of the experiences of people of color in independent schools. All four teachers returned from the conference refreshed, rejuvenated, and reaffirmed—ready to contribute even more to St. Patrick’s efforts toward equity and diversity.

Among the many highlights of the conference, several speakers stand out. In the opening keynote address, John Quinones—co-anchor of ABC TV’s Primetime, correspondent for Primetime Thursday and 20/20, and host of the hit show “What Would You Do?”—spoke from the heart about his experiences growing up in a family of migrant workers, speaking only Spanish until Grade 1, and working extremely hard to become an Emmy Award-winning journalist. Kenji Yoshino, the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at NYU School of Law, related his personal story of being a gay Asian American to talk about the pressures society places on people to “cover” true aspects of their personalities in order to fit in with the mainstream. The speaker at the closing ceremony, Marcia Ann Gillespie—former editor in chief of Essence and Ms. magazines—spoke candidly to the audience about her work for the civil rights of African Americans and women. Ms. Gillespie tied her thoughts into the theme of the conference, letting us know that, yes, we are all at different places on the mountain and that we must be trailblazers; however, instead of creating trails for others to “climb” behind us, she asked how we take the trails down the mountain and to the people. These remarkable speakers provided us with passionate professional and personal stories to challenge and inspire us.

In addition to hearing keynote speakers, participants attended smaller workshops and presentations dealing with a range of topics related to life in independent schools. Some of the workshops our representatives attended included “How to Make the Invisible Visible: Tools for Pulling Back the Veil of Privilege,” “The Societal Impact of Race, Religion, and Creed Inside and Outside of the Classroom,” “Never Too Young: Exploring Multiculturalism in Elementary Years,” “What Mainstream Movies Teach Us about Race,” “From Hottentot to Barbie: Dismantling the Beauty Standard for Girls of Color,” “Shared Voices: A Documentary on the Experiences of Faculty of Color,” “Yes We Can—Succeed Despite What Some Perceive,” “Promoting Cultural Pluralism through Technology,” and “Creating an Anti-Bullying Program at Your School.” There were also opportunities to view two very powerful documentaries—The Prep School Negro, one man’s journey from the ghettos of Philadelphia to a prestigious independent school and how that shaped his life, and Straightlaced, a film about how gender, race, culture, and sexuality affect students of color.

PoCC also hosts affinity group sessions that allow participants to develop their own racial/ethnic identities as they relate to their personal and professional experiences. The key difference between these sessions and the other workshops is that affinity groups provide an opportunity for each participant to explore him/herself in a safe and trusted environment led by a team of trained facilitators. Mrs. Klingenberg has served as a facilitator for many years.

The PoCC experience allowed participants dedicated and focused time to think about their individual roles as educators in independent schools. They brought back ideas, lessons learned, and enthusiasm, all which are important to the continuing equity work we believe in at St. Patrick's.

Stacia L. McFadden
Technology Director / Summer at St. Patrick's Director

November 19, 2009

The Equity Committee thanks all members of our community who attended our Community Conversation on Thursday, November 19: Nurturing Equity through Empathy and Respect.

Pat Spector, a founder and long-time chair of the Equity Committee with Kankunda Klingenberg, began the evening with an overview of the history of equity work at St. Patrick’s, including not just the evolution of the Equity Forums and conversations and the development of the Mission Statement and Guiding Principles, as well as equity positions in the Parents Association and Board of Trustees, but also the important changes in practice that have resulted – from potluck dinners held at school rather than private homes, to limits on school activities that highlight socio-economic differences, from establishing affinity groups to encouraging broader afternoon playdates, from sponsoring deliberate professional development in equity to ordering multi-cultural paper and crayons. David Evans then introduced the audience to the concept of empathy and its critical importance. He emphasized that it is a skill that can be taught and must be nurtured. A faculty panel then surveyed the deliberate steps teachers have taken to foster equity and empathy in the class room and beyond.. We offered this as a springboard for group discussions on what we can all do, as parents and educators, to foster empathetic, respectful, and therefore equitable children.

A summary of the panel presentations follows:

Helen Gasparetti

Helen showed the ways the nursery teachers nurture equity in the curriculum and in the many teachable moments throughout the day. In the curricular units, all cultures, family structures, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds are represented, respected, and validated. For a unit on Castles, royal residences from all over the world are included. A unit on Homes addresses apartments, as well as houses. The Family unit shows that all kinds of families exist, from single parent to two mommies or two daddies. Some children are adopted. Some families are adopted. A Space unit features books, photographs, and materials with female astronauts and astronauts of color. Both girls and boys are encouraged to be construction workers if a construction site is set up in the play corner. If a boy wants to dress up as a princess during a unit of Fairy Tales, this is accepted and validated by the teachers. Children are cast in non-traditional roles in the Christmas Pageant.

The unit on Self-Portraits supports this recognition and celebration of diversity but also shows the universal attributes that all humans share. The Nursery teachers talk about the various skin tones, eye colors, shapes and sizes we are and how these varying characteristics make us all unique. But they also talk about the fact that we are all human – with flesh, blood, bones, organs, and emotions. If children understand the “human-ness” of all of us, then they can start to develop the empathy that nurtures equity.

Outside of the curriculum, Nursery teachers look for ways to teach empathy in daily interactions. During a dispute between two children, a teacher might say, “Look at Johnny. He’s crying. How do you think he is feeling right now?” On the playground, a teacher might say, “Mary looks like she is looking for a friend to play with. Why don’t you ask her to play with you?” Other deliberate cooperative activities provide opportunities for children to work and play together who might not usually do so. The Nursery motto is, “Can’t say ‘can’t play’.”

Careful language is vital to instilling empathy and equity. Instead of asking, “What did you do over the holidays,” a better question – one that validates the holiday experience of every child – is, “Did you enjoy your time with your family?” Similarly, because all kinds of families exist, teachers deliberately say, “your family” or “your parents,” rather than “your mom and dad.”

Lower School
Erica Thompson

Speaking for the Lower School, Erica Thompson stressed similar themes of deliberate instruction and careful alertness to diversity. While teachers make use of countless “teachable moments” on the fly, deliberate instruction provides the terminology for those moments. Erica gave the example of the “crumpled heart,” on which students write down a few of their favorite things and then crumple the heart-shaped paper into a ball. Just as careful smoothing can not recreate that flat piece of paper, a simple apology cannot always repair hurt feelings. An “apology of action” -- understanding what you did wrong and trying to correct that wrong becomes an understandable goal for a child who has the visual image of the crumpled heart. The “Peace Path” – used throughout elementary school – is another piece of deliberate instruction in useful language. In the Peace Path, two children who are in conflict share their feelings with each other. Each child repeats what the other child has said. Then each student offers an apology and a solution. Students then reach an agreement on the solution and shake hands.

Books add to the deliberate instruction, with titles carefully chosen to show diverse perspectives and expose the hurtfulness of teasing and bullying, as well as the rewards of embracing difference. They are also vital to validating each student’s experience – every child should be able to find him or herself reflected in the curriculum.

On top of planned instruction, teachers must always be alert to any activity that exposes differences in a harmful way. School activities that require money or class activities like a family tree that reveals “missing” pieces are two examples.

Alertness and deliberateness come together in “The Responsive Classroom,” a classroom approach all lower school teachers have learned – an approach that believes in the importance of the social curriculum and promotes the idea that we must really know our children individually, culturally, and developmentally, in order to best serve them. At morning meeting, therefore, teachers use care to ensure that sharing time validates every child’s experience, so children share experiences or knowledge rather than new toys or vacation trips.

Upper School
Therese Khan

In Upper School, building respect for difference continues in and out of the classroom, as students become more aware of these differences. Therese Khan listed the areas in which upper school students begin to categorize each other:

* Different learning styles
* Different levels of athleticism
* Different personalities – especially noting those with eccentric personalities different from what is deemed cool
* Different levels of maturity
* Different interests

Again, an upper school teacher lives equity both within and outside of the curriculum. In our interactions with the children, upper school teachers insist on mutual respect, not universal love. They help students with learning challenges, such as low patience, find tools and language. They reinforce empathy by reminding students how they would feel if they were excluded from an activity or a lunch table. They remain alert to sudden challenging social situations and deal with them in the moment by listening to everyone’s point of view, analyzing the dynamic, and helping to form solutions to prevent a similar occurrence and to repair any damage. They emphasize personal responsibility in every social situation, thus discouraging the role of “bystander.” Allowing mean behaviour is a form of supporting that mean behaviour, and students are shown the difference between tattling and knowing when to get an adult involved. And, finally, teachers encourage students to be grateful for the privileges they have – whether it’s meeting well-known authors at the book fair or having the right to vote and speak – rights people have historically died for to achieve.

Literature and history provide a safe context for understanding different perspectives, ranging from the experience of Native Americans and migrant workers to the necessity of seeing both sides of a military or political conflict, as well as the pros and cons of any kind of societal or technological progress. The urgency of understanding and respect globally easily translates to the idea that such goals start with individuals.

Grade 6 ends with the Identity Project – a two-to-three week investigation of some aspect of identity, including gender, politics, media, family, and socio-economic status. All the topics ask students to examine themselves, their circumstances, and the situations of others – with an eye toward better understanding themselves and others, thus gaining empathy and respect for those who may live in quite different circumstances.

Middle School
Ann Adams

Middle School, through its study of American History and Ethics, provides nothing but a spring board for equity issues, ranging from the experiences of immigrants to the battle for civil rights. Here, the goal remains for every student to see him or herself in the curriculum and to look hard at the intolerance that has met every “different” group of people that has entered since the British first colonized North America. At the same time, it is essential that students see strength in these mirrors. We learn about the Jim Crow South, not from To Kill a Mockingbird, in which a white male is the hero, but from Black Boy, the memoir of a strong, eloquent black male.

Literature continues to nurture empathy, as students make connections between diverse characters and their own experience – and, it is hoped, learn from the damage done by prejudice.

A large portion of Service Learning and Ethics is devoted to anti-bias – breaking down stereotypes about groups of people the students will serve – whether is it the homeless or senior citizens. And a short story unit in Ethics explores stories of self-discovery by all different kinds of people, in the face of societal and peer pressure – again with the goal of understanding, identification, and empathy.

Outside of the classroom, the middle school has an advisory program that allows for pre-emptive and reactive conversations on any social issues that arise – cliques, bullying, stereotyping, etc. During orientation, a concerted effort is made to show the Creed in action and to start discussions among the students that cross-pollinates the grades and groups of friends. A group of Grade 8 students attends a middle school diversity conference and then presents the information to the rest of the student body. Recent topics have been stereotyping and gender bias.

At the heart of all middle school equity work are the same characteristics so necessary in lower school – consistency, awareness, and deliberate instruction. Building on the education and a system of discipline and honor outlined in the student handbook, we also try to be alert to damaging social issues and then get to the bottom of them, expanding the perspective of all of us in the process.


A description of equity work in our curriculum would not be complete without noting the work in the arts. You need only attend a school concert or walk through the school halls to see and hear the variety of cultures explored and represented.

September 15 – October 15, 2009

As part of our ongoing effort to understand and respect the full spectrum of diversity within the St. Patrick's community, we celebrate different heritage and awareness months by creating displays in the Whitehaven Campus Lunch Room. Our first recognition honors the contributions of people of Hispanic heritage. Beginning on September 15, Hispanic Heritage Month marks the anniversary of independence for five Central American countries--Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Further, Mexico declared its independence on September 16, and Chile on September 18.
It is important for us to help our students understand that Hispanic heritage is not limited to Central and South Americans. According the United States census bureau, Hispanic (American) refers to any Spanish-speaking individual in the United States. There are now over 45 million Hispanic-Americans, and the United States has the second largest Hispanic population worldwide. Mexico has the largest with over 108 million citizens. Spain has just over 40 million citizens.

September 2009

What is equity? When we hear the word equity, many may think of it in a corporate or real estate context. Some individuals may think of diversity, and a few may think of race in particular. Yet, equity, at a school like St. Patrick’s, encompasses much more than diversity and race. Derived from the Latin word aequus meaning equal or fair, to me equity can be summarized as the Golden Rule, and the St. Patrick’s Mission Statement for Equity and Diversity embodies it quite clearly:

St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School recognizes the infinite value of every individual as a child of God. Our community is committed to embracing, respecting, and honoring differences in religion, ethnicity, race, economic background, age, family configuration, sexual orientation, gender, physical ability, and learning style. It is within a diverse community that we are best able to educate ourselves and one another to live in a global society, to actively and effectively promote justice, and to oppose prejudice and bias.

Some experts have created social identifiers—age, culture/ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, family structure, socioeconomic status, and ability—that help one consider equity issues. In fact, a couple of these social identifiers, ability and socioeconomic status, guided our Community Conversation last spring. But, identifiers are just the beginning of the concept of equity, no more than the roots of the tree. Equity, at least for me, is the tree in full foliage and bloom, the fundamental fairness that can be achieved from an understanding of diversity in all its many forms.

How are we doing? This year is my second year as the Parents Association Vice President for Equity. When I started this position last year, I did not really know what it entailed. I had attended most Equity Forums and Salons and belong to a minority group, according to some definitions, but these things were clearly not sufficient to qualify me as an expert on the topic. So I started asking a lot of questions of individuals who knew about equity or who ran equity programs at other schools. I contacted schools that were mostly in the area, independent and public, as well as a few in other states (Massachusetts and California).

I had assumed that St. Patrick’s was behind in equity work and that it needed reforms partly because my position at the Parents Association, Vice President for Equity, was a newly created position at the Executive Committee level. I presumed that the equity work at other schools was much more advanced and sophisticated. To my pleasant surprise, as I talked with parents, teachers, administrators, and equity coordinators at other schools, I learned that St. Patrick’s was already doing a lot of the things that other schools were just starting to do or did not do at all. Our school was more caring and had already embraced equity in a more thoughtful way than other schools. Equity representatives at other schools, including one well-known for being one of the most diverse schools in the area, were impressed as I described some of the events already in place and actions taken by the Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff at St. Patrick’s as well as by the attendance at our previous Equity Forums.

While it was a pleasant surprise to learn that St. Patrick’s was well on its way to being a school where each day all are welcome and each individual’s differences are embraced, it also became clear that there is more to be done. And I am confident that more will be done.

To this end, we hope that parents will attend the three Community Conversations on Equity that will take place this year on the evenings of November 19, January 14, and April 13. Our first Community Conversation in November is meant partly to showcase some of the tools, practices, and events that are already in place to infuse the community with empathy and make equity part of the fabric of the school. I hope to see you there!

Mariana F. Bush


The history of African Americans in the United States is comprised of beautiful stories as well as some troubling times. Years of past oppression have been replaced with stellar opportunities to succeed and grow. Years of tireless efforts and thousands of lives have been devoted to the advancement of African Americans in this country. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African American educator, historian, author, and editor, saw a need for everyone to acknowledge the positive, life-changing contributions that blacks have made to United States and the world beyond.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson was born to parents who were former slaves. He spent his childhood working in the Kentucky coal mines and enrolled in high school at age twenty. He graduated within two years and later went on to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard. Dr. Woodson was disturbed to find in his studies that history books largely ignored the African American population and, when blacks did figure into the picture, it was generally in ways that reflected the inferior social position they were assigned at the time.

In 1926, Dr. Woodson launched Negro History Week as an initiative to bring national attention to the contributions of black people throughout American history. This celebration has since been extended to Black History Month. At our nation’s Bicentennial Celebration former President Gerald R. Ford made these remarks:

In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.

St. Patrick’s, let us join together in the celebration of February as Black History Month, a time for reflecting on and enhancing our knowledge.


For well over a decade, faculty at St. Patrick's have joined a Faculty Equity Committee determined to advance equity and diversity work at St. Patrick's. We are honored to be the new co-chairs of the committee and look forward to a year that builds on the work of then-Associate Director of Admission and Fnancial Aid Shavonne Pegues, who led the committee for the past three years. Branching out into some new areas of diversity work, last year's newly-named Community Conversations sparked an energetic and thoughtful exchange about socio-economic diversity at St. Patrick's, which we hope to continue to explore.

Our first year as co-chairs coincides with a planned schoolwide equity audit, the Equity Climate Survey. At our first Equity Committee meeting this year, we mapped out our plans for the three Community Conversations that should complement the audit, which we will ask you to complete through an electronic survey later this fall. For November's Community Conversation, we will have a faculty panel that will present the many ways teachers try to further equity by nurturing empathy and respect among students. By January, we hope to be able to share with you the results of the Equity Climate Survey and then to use those results as a guide for our guest speaker in April, a distinguished adolescent psychiatrist.

Other initiatives:

We are excited to launch a pilot SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) program, inviting all community members to read articles on various equity topics and meet quarterly to discuss them. Many schools have found such discussions energizing, and a few have extended the program to a satellite group, student SEEDLINGS.
We are also planning to highlight much more of the work that goes on here beyond the "official" equity program--field trips, service learning, class activities, and special events that heighten our awareness and understanding of each other and the world.
We are thankful for the expert guidance of Pat Spector, who nurtured and led this committee from its beginning, and Kankunda Klingenberg, our longstanding Diversity Coordinator. Xiomara Hall, the new Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid, dove in immediately as our liaison with the Board of Trustees Equity Committee, chaired by Dennis Perkins. And Mariana Bush, the Parents Association Vice President for Equity, has been tireless in generating ideas and in promoting our work.

Ann Adams, Grade 8 Humanities Teacher
Erica Thompson, Grade 3 Resource