Coming Soon To A Campus Near You..Well, Maybe, But What Took It So Long?
Okay, so I have a reputation for sharing my wandering with my readership, hence the name of my blog. Well, I must share my thoughts about a new venture that SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Diversity, Pluralism, and Inclusion (CDPI) is excitingly close to launching in partnership with two local high schools, with a third really applying a flattering level of pressure to be included. Starting next semester there is a strong possibility that two North Country High Schools will be invested in promoting diversity and social justice throughout their high schools. These schools are truly attempting to make huge statements about how much they value the differences that exist amongst their students. In addition they are also making significant statements to their communities that before we can truly begin to think in logical sense about being a part of a global society we need to develop more progressive ways to like if not love our neighbors.
I can’t even imagine how much better my life would have been if I had been immersed in conversations centering on respect, promoting leadership, unpacking xenophobia (the fear of strangers/unknown/difference), and the irony of hypocrisy. How different might your adolescent years have been if you had monthly film series that explored differences through popular culture images and then upon the film’s conclusion the lights came on and everyone talked about it? Can you even imagine how engaging the conversation may have been to have been a part of a large audience unpacking the Wizard of Oz or It’s a Wonderful Life or Imitation of Life for their educational and societal merits? How different might your world view be if you understood at fourteen what some adults still haven’t figured out, that respect isn't equivalent to disrespect? Any notion of superiority between two young people that is exacerbated by friends, family, or a school system that doesn’t take the time to challenge such actions is problematic. It situates the so-called superior youth to participate in bullying, as the active bully, along with the inactive bully (bystander(s)), while relegating the so-called inferior youth(s) to victim status.
A High School version of the general education course Examining Diversity through Film will be one of the centerpieces of this initiative. This class immerses students in six concentrated themes for two week periods. The themes that can be covered at the high school level may differ, but at SUNY Plattsburgh we cover ability, race, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, and privilege. Currently this class is taught in two sections, with a third being added next semester to capitalize on the interest from SUNY Plattsburgh’s Education Department. In its seventh semester we have already had as guest faculty Provost Bob Golden, previous Provost Tom Moran, Deans Kathie Lavoie, Cerise Oberman, and David Hill rotating through the class. A nursing professor, Anne Bongiorno was the first to finish all the themes offered in the course and will be teaching it on-line this summer. The chair of the general education committee, James Armstrong has rotated through as well as college historian Doug Skopp. Jean Ann Hunt, Jean Mockry, Susan Mody, and Lynn Schlesinger have all been through the class multiple times. As a matter of fact it is Dr. Hunt who will be co-teaching the newly added third section next semester with Kevin Pearson, a previous student in the class as well as TA. Michele Carpentier, Cat Young, Amy Schlagel, Mike Baumgartner, Steve Matthews, Nancy Allen, Lori Walters Kramer, and David Stone have all rotated through a theme in the class. The current SA President, Executive Vice President, two Vice Presidents, and many Senators have taken and served as TAs for the class. The previous student association president also took the class. As a matter of fact, if you are a scholar affiliated with the Institute for Ethics in Public Life (IEPL) you now must rotate through this class since CDPI and IEPL are in partnership on this initiative. There is really no understating the fact that relative to EDTF at SUNY Plattsburgh, when we built it (Professor Deb Light and I), they came. Have you scheduled your rotation yet?
Kudos must go out to two local heroes (you know who you are) for advocating throughout their school districts for the opportunity to partner with CDPI in bringing the High School CDPI (HSCDPI) to their districts. Their superintendents also should be lauded for buying into the vision of these two principals. Kudos to the two high school teachers from a remote school that journey all the way to Plattsburgh twice a week to take the class so that they can teach a version of it at their respective school. Kudos to retiring Provost Bob Golden’s for his support on the initiative, which has been unwavering. And everyone should be celebrating a young man from Long Island who, as graduate assistant to CDPI, came up with this visionary idea. While I shouldn’t name the potential future partners until contracts are signed, I can give a straight up shout out to Kevin Pearson for his brainchild. KP, good looking out! You single handedly may have lit a spark that lights a new way for our North Country high school students.
What are your thoughts on the impact a High School CDPI might have had in your life when you contrast it to the reality of not having had one? What are your thoughts on how it might affect our communities? What are your thoughts?