Today I had the privilege to attend and Law-Related Education Conference at the New Jersey State Bar Foundation. The keynote speaker was a Dr. Mykee (Michael) Fowlin. Dr. Fowlin does one man stage performances to address diversity and inclusion. His performance was nothing short of inspiring and though-provoking. He challenged educators to encourage inclusive thoughts and respect for diversity in our students, through challenging our own perceptions and how we were taught. The points he brought up that were most profound to me were:
1. We must bend our mind not the situation in order to be successful with those we interact with. (a testament to us instinctively boxing ourselves and others in to categories)
2. The older we get the less we think—This point he drove home using an example of the response his daughter gave to him about a joke in which she states “superman is supposed to save us not harm us”
3. It doesn’t matter what happens as a result of our actions, it is our actions that matter!
4. People who are trying to hurt you might be trying to be heard
5. Knowing the difference between what we are supposed VS what we need to do (he gave the example of the case study done of a man who said he would not jump from a bridge if one person smiled at him, no one did what they needed to do, which was smile, but instead did what they thought was appropriate, which was not speak to a stranger.
6. He pointed out that we ask students to be reflective, yet we are not reflective enough as adults.
7. Encouraged us to stop asking children “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and instead ask “what do you want to be right now?”…Frankly, tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us, live well and choose well NOW was what I got from it.
8. Finally, he pointed out how we learn differences was on Sesame Street and vis a vis our first grade assignment where we cross out the things that are different with an X.
His performance of 4 very different people, both from societal “norms” and from each other–1) the high school jock who is popular and a ladies man from the projects with a promising future but struggles with being gay 2) the student who is a mix between Indian and Korean and is constantly picked on and discriminated against 3) the developmentally disabled man who everyone takes pity on and acts as though is invisible 4) the Goth rich kid who no one, including teachers care about.
My analysis of this is that we need to be more forgiving of our youth because they are learning from us and we aren’t perfect. Our own ability to use emotional intelligence and gauge our students development and encourage their self reflection and development based on their ability to be empathetic, self-loving, and effective. Living in this world where there is such lack of appropriate communication, inability to understand one another and perhaps no interest in doing so unless it is for our own selfish gain and understanding, growing a healthy emotional intelligence quotient in young people is essential. It should be encouraged to be infused in curriculum world-wide. In this was we can foster a greater understanding and awareness of ourselves and others.