LAGRANGEVILLE, N.Y. -- Arlington High School is hoping to enhance students' understanding of the issues of race and racism at a special all-day teach-in Wednesday.
"Race and Racism in America" will be discussed from 7:30 a.m. until 2:10 p.m. Speakers like Maria Hoen will discuss refugee solidarity, while Dr. Mehmet Kucukozer will talk about the sociology of race. A local imam and the school safety officer will also be talking to students.
Julia Bucklin, a teacher at Arlington, came up with the idea after talking about race in her philosophy class led to three heated days of discussion.
"There was a lot of talk and a lot of soundbites," Bucklin said. "But not a lot of understanding."
Bucklin had previously put on a teach-in about the War in Iraq.
"I really felt this was a similar urgent moment, particularly for young people," Bucklin said. "This is the world in which they live and their understanding of one another is limited. It's useful to get grownups in here to put this into context."
After each speaker finishes their 20-25 minute talk, students will get a chance to ask questions. Bucklin said Arlington is a pretty diverse district, both racially and economically.
"We have kids who want for nothing and we have kids who are homeless," Bucklin said.
When Bucklin tried to discuss racism in her class, she found students wanted to talk about a wide array of issues- from white privilege to black lives matter to affirmative action. She said they didn't get very far.
"One girl started heading for the door in reaction to what someone said," Bucklin said. "I told her to get back here, that we don't walk away from this stuff. What is it about what this person is saying that you're finding troubling?"
Bucklin said racism is an issue everywhere, including Arlington.
"We've had to explain to students why they can't wear a belt buckle with the Confederate flag," Bucklin said. "They say it means rebel, but no, it doesn't just mean that. We've had discussions about freedom of speech and political correctness. Where is the balance there? You don't want people to just say whatever they want, not in a public school."
Bucklin admits that talking about race and racism is a complicated and messy issue, but she hopes kids will have a better understanding of the issue and be able to talk more openly after the discussion.
"I want them to open themselves up and be more attune of the larger dialogue that is going on," Bucklin said. "This won't begin and end on Wednesday, but hopefully it's the beginning of a dialogue going forward."
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