Illinois Association for Cultural Diversity

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11th Annual Dealing with Difference Institute

Monday, May 10 - Wednesday, May 12, 2004
University Union, Western Illinois University

The eleventh DWDI focused on a number of issues identified with cultural diversity: socio-economic status, intersections of "race" and class, privilege, tolerance and religious beliefs, and Affirmative Action. Participants had the opportunity to continue an exploration of historically underrepresented ethnic groups in the United States through sessions on Middle Eastern American cultures. Presenters and workshop facilitators provided information and insight gleaned through their research, teaching, and activism.

Featured Presenters

Allan G. Johnson is a writer, teacher, and public speaker who has worked on issues of privilege, oppression, and social inequality since receiving his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan in 1972. His books include The Forest and the Trees: Sociology as Life, Practice, and Promise (1977), The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology: A User's Guide to Sociological Language (2000), The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy (Temple University Press, 1997), and Privilege, Power, and Difference (McGraw-Hill, 2001).

Dr. Allan G. Johnson

Dr. Johnson has almost 30 years of college teaching experience and has worked with a variety of schools and organizations. In his teaching and public speaking, he seeks "to present controversial, often difficult issues with gentle and compassionate clarity, in ways that people not only understand but can relate to on a personal level." Through a blend of life experience, humor, social reality, audience participation, and clear analysis, he tries to open windows to new and productive ways of living in the world.

In his DWDI presentation, "Unraveling the Knot of Privilege," Dr. Johnson will share a way of thinking about issues of privilege and oppression that makes it easier to avoid the distractions of individual guilt and blame and gets to the heart of what stands in the way of a more just society. He suggests that "unraveling the knot of privilege" begins with getting clear about what privilege is, about what it has to do with each of us, and about how everyone can see themselves as part of the process of change toward something better. He will draw his illustrations of "the knot" from the privilege and oppression identified with race and class.

In Dr. Allan G. Johnson's Monday, May 10, 2004 Dealing with Difference Institute presentation, "Unraveling the Knot of Privilege" he provided the following information:

Dr. Johnson's Website


Bonnie M. Davis, PhD is a consultant who is passionate about education. She has taught in middle schools, high schools, a community college, universities, a men's prison, a women's shelter, and a shelter for runaways.She has taught in inner-city schools, suburban schools, and rural schools. For seven years she worked in professional development in Missouri and now conducts workshops throughout the United States. She has founded the consulting firm A4Achievement, through which she continues to examine the impact of race/ethnicity upon academic achievement. Her book, Closing the Gap: Building a Classroom of Excellence for Diverse Learners, combines research about achievement and actual examples of instructional methods with questions and suggestions that can prompt readers to explore and expand their own classroom practices.

In "Closing the Privilege Gap: Building a Classroom of Excellence for All Learners," Dr. Davis will lead DWDI participants in an exploration of the cultural lenses we wear and their impact on our achievement as educators. Through her survey, "The Examination of the Educator Self," participants will be invited to assess their personal effectiveness and to build their leadership capacity. Using her book, Closing the Gap, Dr. Davis will also examine differences in privilege and suggest interventions and strategies to close the gap in student achievement these privileges support The interactive workshop will provide methods for building community as well as suggest educational resources and bibliographies for study groups.

Dr. Davis's Website


Bob Laird

Bob Laird worked in admissions and outreach at UC Berkeley for 22 years, serving as director of undergraduate admission from 1993 until his retirement in 1999. He has been a frequent presenter at the National Forum of the College Board and at the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, and he served on the Guidance and Admission Assembly Council of the College Board from 1997-2000. Since his retirement from Berkeley, Mr. Laird has been a consultant on higher education admissions policy and has written extensively on admissions and equity issues.

Mr. Laird's work has appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education and National CrossTalk, among other places. He is the author of two forthcoming books: Somewhere To Get To: Why Affirmative Action Matters in University Admissions and Under Pressure: A Personal Report from the Center of the Affirmative Action Storm at UC Berkeley.

During the DWDI, Mr. Laird will discuss "The Precarious Existence of Affirmative Action: In the Courts and in the Classroom." He will focus on the surprisingly precarious legal standing of affirmative action following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision on the admissions policies and practices of colleges and universities, particularly selective institutions, and will offer several specific guidelines. Finally, he will offer suggestions for discussing the issue of affirmative action in the classroom, particularly with students whose exposure to African American, Asian American, Latino/a, and Native American students may have been quite limited.


Dr. Noorullah Babrakzai, a Professor of Biology at Central Missouri State University, was born in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. After teaching zoology in the College of Agriculture at Kabul University in Afghanistan several years, he received a Fullbright-Hays Scholarship to study at the University of Arizona where he received his doctorate. Professor Babrakzai's non-scientific interests include languages (Pashto, Farsi, Panjabi, Urdu, and English), the history and relationships of Middle Eastern religions, including ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Jewish, Christian and Islamic, and the Sufie psychology.

During the DWDI, Dr. Babrakzai will participate on the panel "Transmitting and Understanding Culture Through Children's Literature," and will discuss the role of children's books and storytelling in the teaching of culture. He has indicated that traditional Afghan stories "paint a more realistic picture of Afghanistan than what's shown on the news, but they do it in an indirect way that itself is typically Afghan." He sees storytelling as a gentle approach to education "that encourages readers to think for themselves instead of telling them what to believe."

Professor Babrakzai will be joined on the panel by two members of the WIU faculty, Aisha A. Barnes, from the Department of English and Journalism, and Nancy L. Chu, from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Barnes, through her work with junior high and high school teachers, diverse texts, and students, will offer some suggestions about how to integrate unfamiliar texts into our curriculum, while Dr. Chu will talk about the "magnificent patchwork" of children's books available to foster understanding across cultures.

Dr. Babrakzai's website


Mr. Kenneth K. Ayouby is an Adjunct Lecturer in Arabic and Education Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the senior Student Services Liaison and Hearing Officer for Student Discipline in Dearborn Schools' Central Administration where he works with staff, students and community members in areas relating to student discipline and cross-cultural issues. Mr. Ayouby's areas of interest are in cross-cultural communication, Arabic pedagogy, second language/culture acquisition and Arab American studies. He is a founding member of the Society for Arab American Studies and a Michigan Chapter board member of the National Association of Multicultural Education as well as editorial board member of the international Internet journal Language, Society and Culture. Mr. Ayouby is also Executive Editor of the Dearborn Educator, a refereed journal published by Dearborn Public Schools in Michigan.

Mr. Ayouby will be presenting "The Middle East, 'Middle Eastern' Americans and America: Representation, Misrepresentation and the Quest for Self-Definition." In the American imagination, the "Middle East" is a vast expanse of the "unknown": not only the region's culture(s) pose a mystery to average Americans, but its very geographic limits seem to be amorphous. Nonetheless, the "Middle East" is presented in American culture as sort of a theater of the exotic or a stage of perpetual terror-or even both. Each representation is a telling indication of our own culture's biases and prejudices towards this part of the world that has contributed to our civilization in many was-not the least of which is being a source of co-citizens in our country. Therefore, the aim of this presentation is two-fold: First, to train the spotlight on some aspects of the nature and significance of our constructions of the "Middle East" (and, thereby, "Middle Easterners") and, second, to demystify the people of the region and to illuminate the experience of some Americans of "Middle Eastern" origins.


Dr. Zaineb Istrabadi earned her Ph.D. from I.U. in 1988. From 1986-2001, she was the assistant of Professor Edward W. Said at Columbia University..  In 1996 she was a faculty member at the Dar al-Islam Teachers Institute in Abiquiu, New Mexico. She is a co-founder of the Muslim Peace Fellowship, an affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconcilation, and a contributing editor to its newsletter As-Salamu 'Alaykum. She contributed an essay to the award-winning May/June 1994 special Fellowship magazine issue on Islam. She has been a member of the faculty of the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Department at Indiana University and Associate Director of its Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program since October 2001.  She has given innumerable lectures at high schools, churches, and civic organizations on the politics, religions, and cultures of the Middle East.

Dr. Istrabadi will discuss "Diversity in Islam"


Western Illinois University Steel Band - (Monday night's Concert)
Directed by Rick Kurasz

The Western Illinois University Steel Band is comprised of WIU students of all backgrounds and majors. The ensemble is an official class as well as a performance group that presents concerts and workshops for schools and community groups throughout the Midwest. The band's concert repertoire includes calypso, soca, samba and many other styles. Frequently woven into its concerts are lectures about the instruments and the cultural and historical significance of the art form.