Editorial, Issue 10 – Volume CVI

What We Can Learn from “Gender Dialogues”

Three weeks ago, Parker held its first all-Upper School discussion on an issue of race, class, or gender in over a year.  While the two-day “Gender Dialogues” planned activities and discussions went well, we hope that the Upper School will have more than just two days of all-school gender conversations in future years.  

This school is still taking baby steps towards talking about race, class, and gender, after last year’s “Whiteness MX.”  We, the student staff of “The Parker Weekly,” independent of our school’s faculty or administration, hope that our school begins to hold more frequent opportunities for dialogues about social dynamics in the next few years.

Our hesitation is not all bad because it provided for the carefulness in planning the “Gender Dialogues.”  However, we shouldn’t let our nervousness prevent us from having more frequent and more extensive dialogues.  We should take what we have learned from these dialogues and apply that knowledge to create more, better conversations.

We have learned from the “Gender Dialogues” and their extensive planning, that collaboration, time, and thoughtfulness can be crucial ingredients to pulling off a large-scale, school-sponsored conversation about a prevalent social issue.

The progression of the day, including an additional optional conversation during lunch, showed the considerate planning that preceded the events.  The student government “Inclusion Coordinator,” the student government cabinet, two faculty advisors, a full class of students, and the Upper School gradeheads all helped shape the “Gender Dialogues” in the 6 weeks of planning.  The time and number of people involved undoubtedly provided for the success of the day.

We have also learned from these dialogues, though, that multiple points of contact are invaluably helpful for the conversation.  As the planners of the event knew, having one discussion is not the same as 4 different opportunities within two days for discussion and thought about gender.

Small details and multiple points of contact for the Upper School–past just one seminar, deeply strengthened the conversations on Friday and overall student experience.  As an example, on the Wednesday before the dialogues, all Upper School advisories watched a video of Sam Killermann’s TEDx presentation about “understanding the complexities of gender.”  This video, in particular, gave important context for some possibly new terms and ideas students would encounter that week.

The gender discussions still had a missing piece, though.  The dialogues were still awkward and sometimes filled with silence because our Upper School student body still needs more context and practice.  

These “Gender Dialogues” were a start, but our student body needs much more work.  While two forty minute discussion sessions and a 16-minute video are good, it’s nonsensical to believe this to be sufficient for issues which run throughout the school every day of the year.  Going forward, we hope that the Upper School holds more discussions and spaces for the entire student body to talk about social issues.