Blogs on Diversity

Blogs on DiversityRSS
Christopher R. FriendApril 3, 2014

Editor's note: This blog describes a hostile act and contains language that some might find disturbing and offensive. We generally avoid such representations on Edutopia. However, it would be difficult for the blogger to make his point without this level of impact, and we believe it is a point worth making.

Years ago, I taught high school in a small suburban community in Florida. After my then-boyfriend substituted in my classes one day, my classroom was vandalized with threatening, offensive messages on the whiteboard, my desk, and the overhead projector and its screen. The contents of my desk were strewn across the room, and some personal property I had brought to my workspace was defaced. Overall, very little physical damage was done, but the event seriously shook my nerves.

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Mark PhillipsFebruary 25, 2014

I love movies and have always envied Academy Award voters. So here's my chance! I am giving out my own Edutopia version of the 2014 Academy Awards for Educational Documentaries.

And since this is the first time I'm doing this, I'm taking the liberty of extending eligibility to 2012 films as well. It seems unfair to bypass recent excellent films still playing in 2014.

Following are my Educational Documentary Academy Awards for 2014. I've watched over a dozen this year, a comment itself on the proliferation of educational documentaries. These are my favorites.

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Joshua BlockFebruary 21, 2014

This post represents the work of a group of educators and education activists who wanted to help educators help students process the verdict in the Jordan Davis murder trial. Many of us wrote from our experiences both in and out of the classroom, and as such, many of us used "I" statements in talking about these ideas. The writers are Melinda Anderson, Joshua Block, Zac Chase, Alexa Dunn, Bill Fitzgerald, Matt Kay, Diana Laufenberg, Chris Lehmann, Luz Maria Rojas, John Spencer, Mike Thayer, Jose Vilson and Audrey Watters. You can also link to the Google Doc or download the whole thing as a PDF. Everything written below is collaborative. This document is Creative Commons -- Share Alike.

As educators, we believe that we have a responsibility to use our classrooms to help young people grapple with and address the messiness of the world around them. In collaborating on this, what we know to be true is that there is more than a single lesson plan here. The issues raised by the Jordan Davis murder trial touch deeply on issues of race, law, and social justice, and any and all of these issues could be a course of study. What we hope to do is offer a number of ways for teachers and students to think about the case while knowing that no one way, no one day can possibly speak to all of the challenges this case represents.

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Maurice EliasFebruary 18, 2014

In its comprehensive case study report on socially inclusive schools, Special Olympics' Project UNIFY identified the common factors across schools that had created a bridge from social inclusion programs to a genuinely positive school climate. The case study findings are here, and I'm also going to share with you key lessons learned that reflect my own work in fostering inclusive settings.

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Maurice EliasFebruary 7, 2014

Can a school have a positive culture and climate when its special needs students are not strongly included in the mainstream of all of its activities? This is a question that is not posed often enough in the social-emotional and character development worlds, but it is asked constantly in the offices of Special Olympics International (SOI). Within SOI, Project UNIFY is tasked with creating programming that brings differently-abled students together in various forms of shared activities and purposes, focused on the mainstay of SOI, sports.

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Joe HirschFebruary 6, 2014

Worried about the shrinking presence of empathy in our schools? I know how you feel.

With classrooms operating more like grade factories, it's hard to make the case for school-driven empathy. Faced with an endless cycle of memorize, drill, spit back and test, teachers have become the wardens of a new educational reality that pits the head against the heart. Even if educators manage to skate past the dizzying array of standards and value-added evaluations, they must still contend with this fundamental divide: academic rigor, with its unflinching emphasis on measurable success, seems strangely at odds with emotional intelligence, a soufflé of moods and feelings. Which leaves many to wonder -- can empathy feel its way back into the classroom?

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José VilsonJanuary 24, 2014

My last piece about the anniversary of Wu-Tang Clan's 36 Chambers started a bit of controversy on social media, mostly around the relevance of the album to the work we do as educators. The thrust of the piece was mostly comical, because who thinks an organization like Edutopia would embrace the RZA, the GZA and the ODB with such fervor? Yet, in the piece, I left a few gems about taking classrooms to the next level, especially with students who might otherwise feel disengaged from subjects that don't often reflect their personal experiences.

If we don't find a way to connect with children whose culture is different from ours, how do we expect to teach them at all?

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After the Thanksgiving week, which for many in America is symbolized by bounty, excess, and consumption of all stripes, I was struck by the value of seeing how people live in less wealthy parts of the world. Living on One Dollar is a full-length documentary made by four college students who traveled to rural Guatemala to live on just a dollar a day. Upon their return, they created Living On One, a nonprofit to raise awareness and inspire action around global issues like hunger and poverty -- and started by publishing the Change Series of video shorts. I found it so compelling I've dedicated this whole film fest to it. Each episode not only succinctly frames an issue faced by people in the developing world and makes it personal, but also offers resource links to learn more -- and even better -- to do something about it.

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Becki Cohn-VargasOctober 18, 2013

During more than 20 years as a school administrator, I received numerous reports of bullying incidents from children, parents and teachers. Now that I'm the director of Not In Our School and bullying has become a topic of national discussion, I still regularly get calls from students and parents who share stories of tragic and worrisome incidents.

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Dr. Allen MendlerOctober 18, 2013

Sadly, it seems that terrible tragedy needs to keep striking in order for bullying to retain its status as worthy of serious efforts to eliminate it. The latest incident involves 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick's leap to her death in response to persistent cyber-bullying, and the subsequent arrest of two juvenile female honor students. While all this attention spotlights the serious consequences of this stubborn issue, schools and parents must be equally persistent in providing constant reminders of the dangerous and damaging impact caused by hurtful words, threats and actions when horrors like this aren't center stage.

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