There has been a lot of discussion recently about identity politics–whether or not they played a role in Secretary Clinton’s defeat. Some say that her focus on diversity—on groups such as African-Americans, Latinos, the L.G.B.T. community and women strengthened her support among them, but alienated and excluded other groups. Donald Trump called the other groups—the “forgotten men and women”—largely composed of the white working class and white evangelicals. The people in these groups created what has been called the “diversity backlash,” which some have claimed,, with their votes, led Donald Trump to victory.
I have written Op-ed pieces about the wars in Syria and Libya, highlighting the role dignity could play in healing the wounds of those conflicts. Never would I have imagined that I would be writing about the uncivil war in my own beloved country, brought on by the protracted presidential election.
It was astonishing to see “Equal Dignity” on the front page of The New York Times last weekend. It was a good day for Dignity all around. The Supreme Court ruling making gay marriage a right nationwide focused its argument on protecting the inherent worth of all people. It was a long awaited decision for the gay community and for all of us who care so deeply about how people are treated, especially under the law. There is one thing, however, that has been missing from the ensuing discussion after the ruling, overshadowed by the joyful celebrations.
This is the last guest blog about the remarkable dignity work happening at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, NY. Don Shacknai is the father of one of the middle school students who studied Dignity last with with his teacher, Mike Wilper.
When our son Noah came home from school sometime in the second week of 6th grade at The Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, he used the word “dignity” in a sentence. He’d never spoken that word before and we weren’t expecting it.
The last post was by Mike Wilper, a middle school teacher at Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, NY. This post is by two of his students, describing their experiences learning about dignity.
Dignity, such an underrated word. It impacts you and changes your life. It is the center of triumphs and when disregarded, the beginning of wars. When my humanities teacher Mr. Wilper introduced us to the word dignity, it seemed like a word used as a term of pity. “Leave the man his dignity,” people would say. That was the meaning of dignity, no more no less. But when I met Mr. Wilper, I realized how impactful the word really is.
Mike Wilper, a middle school teacher and Master Dignity Agent at the Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, New York, has written this guest post about his remarkable and inspiring work with his students.
Note: Soon to come will be a blog by Mike’s students describing their experience with the dignity curriculum. Following that, a parent of one of the students will also post a blog on the changes he sees in his child after learning about dignity.
“So long as students must surrender a piece of their dignity to the current system, many will continue to withhold a significant part of themselves from the process of learning.” – Robert Fuller
For the past 12 weeks, Carol Gramentine’s third grade class at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth, Texas, trained to become Dignity Agents. At the invitation of the Headmaster, Dr. Gary Krahn, I gave a series of talks last fall at the school–for teachers, administrators, students and parents. Dr. Krahn was committed to establishing a culture of dignity at Trinity Valley, and Carol Gramentine was the first to take up the challenge of teaching her third grade students the basic building blocks of dignity.
I attended a Neuroscience and Social Conflict conference at MIT this week, sponsored by Beyond Conflict and Saxelab, MIT’s Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. The goal of the conference was to examine the practices of the conflict resolution community to determine whether research in neuroscience could shed light on the effectiveness of our work. For example, one of the assumptions about resolving conflict that was being challenged by our science colleagues was that resolution to conflict requires a “rational” approach. The idea is, bring people together to have dialogues about the issues that divide them and you will ultimately be able to resolve the differences. Well, how many well-meaning conflict resolution organizations have convened dialogues in, for example, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? I would answer that by saying hundreds if not more. So why hasn’t that conflict been resolved? What else is going on in these intractable conflicts that our methodologies are not reaching? What are we missing?
David Brooks, NY Times Op-Ed columnist, stirred up a lot if interest with his column last week entitled, “The Moral Bucket List”. He tried to come up with a list of qualities that moral giants possessed–people whom he describes as having a powerful inner light that radiates out into the world, making us all feel good.
We admire these people. We want to be like them. Among the qualities that he came up with to describe these morally evolved beings were humility, generosity of spirit, depth of character. These “good people” were good at relationships, good at loving, good at embracing one’s “weaknesses.” They were people with a calling—deriving meaning from something bigger than themselves. They were more than comfortable with being in service to others. No narcissism in these folks.
Every semester I teach a weekend class at Columbia University through the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution in the Teacher’s College. The course is entitled, Healing and Reconciling Relationships in Conflict: A Dignity Approach. It is always a powerful experience. I love sharing my learning about dignity with 20 graduate students from all over the world. This semester was different. I had only 9 students.