Workshops Encourage Debate, Challenge Prejudice

Groton students grappled with thorny issues of inequality, power, ethics, and identity during special Diversity and Inclusion workshops on Saturday, April 16.
Instead of their usual morning classes, students selected two seminars from a group of fourteen. Among the offerings: “The Impact of Income Inequality: Biases and Bandwidth on the Other Side of the Tracks,” “Ethical Bystanders,” “Cultural Appropriation,” “Get in Formation: Claiming/Reclaiming Identity,” “Body Image,” “Turning Oppression into Opportunity: The Harsh Truths on Treatment of Women Worldwide,” “There Are No Blurred Lines—Discussing Sexual Assault and Consent,” and "Where Are You From? No Actually… Where Are You From?"
Many students opened up in the intimate, student-led, small-group discussions. In “Claiming/Reclaiming Identity," each student's story seemed to embolden the next. One girl spoke of straightening her hair to fit in when she first arrived at Groton; another said she had been ashamed to wear a bindi at family gatherings but now is more comfortable with the Indian forehead decoration. Stories about abandoned shame and reclaimed identity seemed to be shared with pride.

The workshop on income inequality shared shocking statistics about the concentration of wealth in American society, and students reflected on the impact of the increasing disparities. In “No Blurred Lines," students contemplated challenging scenarios that they might someday face, considering issues of consent, empowerment, and how to protect oneself and friends. 

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, made the neuroscience of stress understandable and explained how students could use that understanding to calm anxiety.
Some sessions used film or media to encourage discussion; “Turning Oppression into Opportunity” began with a clip about Cambodia from Half the Sky, a documentary about sex trafficking in six countries. Groton parent Diane Leary, who works with CARE International in Cambodia, enriched the discussion with her expertise and experience.
A session with a deceptively simple title, “Telling Stories,” elicited profound insights and opened eyes about who really is living and learning in the Groton community.
The morning activities were part of the school’s ongoing Diversity and Inclusion initiative, which encourages the community to examine its perspectives, prejudices, and privileges.