Middle Schoolers Learn The Power of Asking Questions – MS Hilltop Diversity Conference

power of questions It was Horace Mann’s turn last week to host the annual MS Hilltop Diversity Conference. Here is an excerpt from Patricia Zuroski, Director of Diversity Horace Mann…

Markell (Markell Parker; Associate Diversity, Assoc. Director of Admissions)  is the master of “lean into discomfort” and his vision for the annual MS Hilltop Diversity Conference was an example of why this is an important practice. The format of the conference did away with the usual workshop choices. It reduced the number of transitions in the day and concentrated more time in two small discussion groups. The risk was that it required at least 20 facilitators and a level of trust that the 180 middle schoolers from six schools would invest themselves in to build a conversation around some sensitive issues.
The keynote, Irshad Manji, challenged the students to turn negatives into positive, to take time to think before they act, and to remember that silence is a choice. She encouraged the students to think deeply and to learn to ask questions that seek knowledge and understanding. (see document below) She modelled this by having a dialogue with six students who came on the stage and told their own stories of being offended by or of offending someone.
After a morning family group discussion about understanding the potential for positive action in situations where an offense may have occurred, (i.e., someone making a false assumption about your identity), the students participated in an afternoon affinity group identified by race, ethnicity and several categories requested by the students including bi-lingual, female, and Jewish. The closing session, intentionally designed to be the second half of the keynote, was led by Irshad. She had collected hundreds of questions from the students and engaged them in responding to some questions. Among them were: What do you do when your imam (an Islamic leader) is mean? What do you do when people always mistake you for a girl and you’re a boy or if you’re a boy and you are mistaken for a girl?  Should you intervene if  two friends are having an argument?  
Thank you for the great work done with our future leaders….see you on the bus to PoCC  Patricia & Markell!

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