Dealing with Difference Institute

2014 Dealing with Difference Institute

The most visible of the programs the ECDP has developed is probably the Dealing with Difference Institute (DWDI). Though the length and format of the DWDI has changed somewhat over its 20-year existence, its focus has always been on cultural diversity and its significance in education. Within this broad focus, the institute has revolved around various themes, among them race/ethnicity (with separate institutes on African, Arab and Middle Eastern, Asian, Latino/a, and Native Americans, though European American cultures have been a constant), gender, class, sexual orientation, disability, privilege, identity development, Paulo Freire’s educational philosophy, media, intercultural communication, interactive learning, the uses and abuses of fear, nonviolent social action, and multiculturalism vs. assimilation.

DWDI speakers have included national and international as well as local and regional scholars and activists. Among the most widely recognized are African American International Grand Master of Chess Mr. Maurice Ashley, who uses chess to help at-risk youth; Dr. Sut Jhally, founder and executive director of the Educational Media Foundation; Dr. Peggy McIntosh, author of one of the very earliest articles on white privilege; Dr. Jack Shaheen, author of Reel Bad Arabs, an analysis of the representation of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood films; Dr. Garry Shirts, creator of BaFa BaFa an interactive game that simulates the challenges of intercultural communication; Dr. Christine Sleeter, co-author of Teaching with Vision and Critical Multiculturalism: Theory and Praxis; and Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, psychology professor and current president of Spellman College;  Without exception, the speakers have incorporated Q&A and discussion into their sessions, with some integrating other interactive and experiential exercises as well.

2014 Dealing with Difference Theme: Social Justice and Education

Over the past several decades, educators have become increasingly aware of the diversity and inequity among school systems and their negative effects on colleagues and students. They began to focus on multicultural education and the need to go beyond the traditional, limited content and perspectives offered by a white patriarchal approach. In doing so they expanded their vision and became more inclusive in multiple ways when approaching history, the social sciences and the humanities, and even the sciences and math. When doing so, some educators became aware that they needed to explore their own cultures and those of their students if they were to interact effectively across their cultural differences. Their commitment to multicultural education moved them toward a commitment to cultural competence, an awareness and understanding of the value and perspectives of multiple cultures that allowed them to respond effectively to their culturally diverse students. However, educators were also conscious of the need to move beyond the cultivation of communication skills if they were to counter the inequity present within school systems and within the larger society. Activism in the name of social justice and equity became an imperative.