Listening, Learning, and Empathizing

A recent Diversity and Inclusion workshop replaced Saturday morning classes with provocative meetings—almost all student-run—on difficult subjects of societal significance. The aim: to help students learn to listen, learn, and empathize.
Topics ranged from environmental racism and business activism to social justice and gender identity.

In one session, “Climate Change, Social Justice, and Environmental Racism,” students reviewed case studies demonstrating how the poor bear a disproportionate burden from environmental neglect. In another classroom, “Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ as a Pop Culture Phenomenon” explored feminism, racism, misogyny, and other issues through the popular “Lemonade” album.

A workshop with particular post-election relevance was “Opposing Viewpoints,” which helped students disagree, sometimes vehemently, but still find points of commonality and respect. Similarly, “From Left to Right: Bridging the Ideology Gap,” explored political conservatism and liberalism, political parties, and how different points of view can be respected—both in society and at Groton.

Other workshops delved into the power of poetic expression, religion and spirituality, trans identities, the Black Lives Matter movement, body image, and how activists pressure businesses to affect public policy. “The Gendered Classroom” focused on how gender affects the academic experience, with discussions touching on discipline, performance, and confidence.
In a workshop on mental health, Dr. Margaret Funnell, a past Groton parent and associate professor in Dartmouth’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, explained concrete ways to tackle anxiety, such as meditation and nature walks, that actually affect the brain.

For another workshop, "The Artist as Social Commentator," students visited the “Desperate Cargo” exhibit in the Brodigan Gallery then heard artist Mohamad Hafez explain his works and the message they carry about the Syrian crisis.

One of the most powerful sessions seemed, at surface level, quite simple: “Telling Our Stories”  encouraged participants to do just that, but those personal stories drove home the realization that we frequently know very little about the people who surround us.