BSM’s Community Conversation about unconscious bias was set to be held in the Moore Library on Wednesday, April 10, but it was cancelled due to worsening road conditions and increasing snowfall. Rescheduled for Saturday, May 4 at 9:00AM, the event reveals how BSM is holding true to its Benedictine tradition in calling each other to “listen with the ear of our heart.”
Open to all community members, parents and students alike, this Community Conversation had and will have a specific purpose. “[It’s intended] to explore the reasons why someone might have a different perspective than you, through that process you can acknowledge and understand the experiences that have happened to that person,” Director of Mission, Ms. Lisa Lenhart-Murphy said.
The Community Conversation starts with a training session from Lenhart-Murphy on what respectful dialogue looks like and how to engage others in conversations. The attendees will then watch an 18-minute TED Talk by American author and diversity advocate Verna Myers, titled “How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them.” After which, the attendees will reflect on the TED Talk via a group conversation.
Lenhart-Murphy thinks that BSM’s status as a Catholic school should motivate BSM to hold itself to a higher standard when it comes to engaging in critical discourse and getting to the heart of issues. “As a Catholic institution, we are looking for the complexity of many different issues. We’d like to do this in the fall with all our students. We thought we’d give parents the opportunity to see the presentation, come together as a community, and practice,” Lenhart-Murphy said.
Using the principles endorsed by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), BSM strives to challenge students to think critically and analyze thoughtfully while participating in respectful discussions of complex issues. “This was a new event. I planned it because over the last three years a lot of parents have asked for more community conversations on complicated topics. So, what I did was I found a really great framework through NCEA, and I did their training session on what respectful dialogue looks like in a Catholic community,” Lenhart-Murphy said.
The Community Conversation was created with the intention of training parents and teachers which in turn would allow students to vocalize concerns about controversial issues in the classroom in a more informed and critical way. “What we want, is as an academic institution with rigorous curriculum. Students have reported that when controversial issues come up in the classroom, it feels like people just argue about it––it doesn’t feel like a great learning opportunity. They don’t want to fight about immigration, they want a dialogue about it. A lot of us, including adults, don’t have the skills. You first need to learn the skills and then have the will to participate in dialogue like that. Because the outcome is a better understanding of the multiple outcomes of an issue. Respectful dialogue isn’t a debate, it’s the revealing of the complexity of an issue,” Lenhart-Murphy said.
Lenhart-Murphy considers the Community Conversation an important step in bettering BSM’s community and allowing it to grow, and hopes to see it implemented into the school. “We’re really sad that the weather didn’t cooperate, but I’m excited about the new May 4 event,” Lenhart-Murphy said.