Beaver has established a national reputation as a pacesetter in this area. Since creating the Hiatt Center in 2005-06, the school has worked to integrate social justice into the learning culture of every classroom. Guided by the mission to prepare students to become global citizens and advocates for social change, the Hiatt Center has developed a set of “multicultural competencies” that provide a roadmap for how to teach these skills across all departments.
Some of the questions the workshop touched on were:
• Which skills need to be developed to move students along the spectrum of multicultural competence from awareness to action?
• What kind of professional development and support are needed for teachers to model and teach these skills?
• Where do traditional diversity programming and community service fit into this approach?
• How do teachers balance teaching subject content along with social justice skills?
• How we measure and assess our progress toward our goals?
By being willing to examine every aspect of its school culture – from admission to hiring to programming – through a multicultural lens, Beaver embraces “getting messy” as a valuable part of the process. “As institutions, schools are often reluctant to try new things, but at the same time they’re asking their students to get out of their comfort zone in order to learn and grow. With this work, we’re simply trying to model the same willingness to take risks that we ask of our students,” Head of School Peter Hutton told the workshop attendees.
In his presentation, Mr. Principe noted that schools traditionally focus on developing cognitive skills, but that a social justice curriculum requires a different, yet equally important, skill set. These skills include an ability to communicate effectively across human differences, to recognize and rethink the “lens” through which each of us views diversity, and an ability to critically assess established social, political, and economic structures and systems. “We would never graduate students who aren’t competent in math and English – why would we send them out without the multicultural competence they’ll need to function in our global society?” he said.
Steve Clem (AISNE Executive Director) said, “The folks at Beaver did a terrific job and showed how a school can get beyond platitudes and good intentions to really begin to transform content and pedagogy in the service of social justice. Thank you!”