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Diversity Institute at The Pennington School

For: Classroom Teachers (especially of the Humanities) and School Administrators

Sunday, June 16 - Thursday, June 20, 2019

Hosted by:

The Pennington School

112 West Delaware Avenue

Pennington, NJ 08534

*Residential option encouraged*

The Diversity Institute at The Pennington School extends the Harkness principles of collaborative, student-centered learning, and enables educators to help students learn about themselves as they are learning about others. Additionally, you will learn skills and acquire resources to have engaging conversations with your students and colleagues -- conversations that offer academically rigorous, and personally challenging, yet potentially transformative, experiences.

Participants will experience a week of Harkness discussions, self-reflection, experiential learning, and collaboration in order to gain powerful insights about educating students in environments that are ever more diverse and inter-cultural.

At the Diversity Institute at The Pennington School, you will learn:

  • How to select course materials that present social justice themes and principles;

  • How to use cultural studies vocabulary and texts to discuss themes that deal with race, class, gender, sexuality, and other identity issues, in history, literature, and in our daily lives on campuses;

  • How to use cultural studies literacy to engage students and colleagues in discussions about privilege and other power dynamics.


Sample Schedule

This is a sample of how your time is organized.

A final scheduled will be emailed to all registered participants one week prior to the conference.



1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

Registration/Dorm Check-in

3:30 - 4:00 p.m.

Welcome and Introductions

5:00 - 6:30 p.m.

Opening Dinner

8:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Evening Social Time

Monday - Wednesday


7:00 - 8:15 a.m.


8:30 - 10:00 a.m.

Morning Class 1

10:00 - 10:30 a.m.


10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Morning Class 2

12:00 - 1:15 p.m.


1:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Group Sessions

3:30 - 3:45 p.m.


3:45 - 4:30 p.m.

Optional Information Discussions with Leaders

4:30 - 6:00 p.m.

Free Time

6:00 - 7:30 p.m.


8:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Collaborative Activities



7:00 - 8:45 a.m.

Dorm Checkout/Breakfast

9:00 - 10:00 a.m.

Morning Class

10:00 - 11:45 a.m.

Conference Conclusion/Evaluations

11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Lunch and Departure

Morning Classes

Morning sessions will focus on discussions of the short stories, personal essays, and excerpts from memoirs. We will talk about the various approaches the writers take in speaking to divergent readers, either in their portrayals of their own lives or their creations of their characters. We will strive to answer these questions:

  • How do we use the text in our curriculums?

  • How do we arrange these texts to engage students in ongoing conversations about the value of multicultural approaches to understanding their own experiences and the writers' perspectives on the world?

  • What cultural studies and literacy terms are useful in helping students develop maps to form their own informed interpretations of multicultural literature and historical texts?

Afternoon Group Sessions

Afternoon sessions will include movies and discussions, guest lecturers, and general topics.

A Closer Look – What You Will Learn

You will experience and analyze the sometimes messy process of conducting a productive discussion on topics that may be difficult to discuss.

  • You will experience a "Harkness" classroom as a student, studying literary and historical texts; leaders will model classroom approaches that facilitate in-depth conversations about privilege, race, equity, and belonging.

  • You will engage as a professional with other participants, leaders, and guests analyzing and brainstorming specific topics, including the following: adapting Harkness principles for different types of classrooms; handling resistance--from students and adults--constructively and creatively; coping with personal challenges for educators, such as how to find ways to "belong" at an institution, while still maintaining a sense of integrity to oneself.

You will learn about diverse resources for humanities classrooms and beyond. You will study specific texts and analyze what kinds of resources will fit your own needs.

  • Which "primary documents" challenge students to understand history from many viewpoints.

  • What resources are essential to understanding the essential elements of African-American experience in the United States, and why the experience of Black Americans is important for understanding the experience of other groups.

  • How to develop paradigms for analyzing power dynamics between groups, as well as the effects of cultural conditioning on individuals in different groups.

  • How power paradigms play out with both similarities and differences in intercultural relations (both in the U.S. and in the world) including: Women in different economic and ethnic groups (and different countries); Asian Americans; Native Americans; Religious minorities-- Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and others; European Americans; Economic status; LGBT and gender-ambiguous individuals; Sufferers living with mental illness or intellectual challenge.

  • Which cultural studies concepts and which terms from the "no shame, no blame" language of cultural analysis can give both teachers and students ways to explore issues that dominant groups often find it hard to discuss, especially with members of non-dominant groups.

  • Which diverse classroom materials can be used to shed light onto "traditional" materials (from the dominant culture) so that students' perspectives are rapidly expanded.

You will observe, discuss, and practice advanced, specific Harkness skills that facilitate fuller exploration and deeper understanding of American history, literature, and contemporary culture.

  • Create building blocks for analyzing power dynamics: learn how to prepare for topics that evoke strong and conflicting emotions; analyze how to design specific, manageable tasks that lay the foundation for a more complete, subtle understanding.

  • Model multi-level listening: Practice how to listen on all levels, and how to coach students in developing these same listening skills.

  • Consider context: Sharpen awareness of those social and historical contexts needed for students or adults to grapple responsibly with a current event or with course materials. Develop strategies for encouraging students and other adults to develop the habit of seeking out additional contexts and perspectives.

  • Consider audiences: Learn to look for clues that a text is "double-voiced," intentionally containing different messages for different audiences within a single text.

  • Judicious prodding: Learn reliable strategies for challenging students to take an idea further, or to expand their thinking beyond their initial limited interpretations.

  • Model Cultural Self-Awareness: Explore how one's own cultural lenses developed, and learn techniques for encouraging students or adults to become curious about their own cultural lenses.

  • Provide a common language: Practice using specific conceptual terms that help people with different viewpoints to collaborate and go deeper together. Learn when and how to introduce such concepts to students as they are ready to use them, gradually building a common language that includes emotion and avoids shame and blame.

  • Analyze linguistic clues: Practice describing a speaker's or writer's worldview and assumptions. Identify powerful clues that betray the unawareness of a dominant group toward the impact of its own actions. Learn how to identify and prevent linguistic "micro-aggressions" that can hinder free discussion.

Program Leaders

John Daves

Dean of Faculty, The Pennington School, Pennington, NJ

Dr. John Patrick Cansler Daves ‘90 is the Dean of Faculty at The Pennington School in Pennington, NJ.  Prior to his current position, Dr. Daves spent several years at Phillips Exeter Academy. While he was at Exeter, Dr. Daves developed the vision for The Exeter Diversity Institute and taught in the English department for six years. Dr. Daves came to Exeter after receiving his doctorate in American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he won a teaching assistant award in the American Studies Department; and Dickinson College, where he was a Visiting Assistant Professor in the American Studies Department. Dr. Daves also earned a Master’s of Arts and Teaching degree in English Literature from Colgate University and a continuing education certificate from Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf School of English.

Alex Myers

English Faculty, Phillips Exeter Academy

Alex Myers is a writer, teacher, and advocate for transgender rights.  Raised as a girl in Paris, Maine, Alex went to Phillips Exeter Academy, where he came out as transgender and returned for his senior year as a boy. Subsequent to Exeter, Alex earned his bachelor’s at Harvard, where he worked to change the university’s non-discrimination clause to include gender identity. Starting in his college years, Alex has spoken and led workshops with a wide variety of audiences, from training help-line operators to guest lecturing in college courses, to addressing elementary school classes on the topic of transgender identity. In addition to teaching, Alex writes fiction and nonfiction. His debut novel, Revolutionary, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2015; it tells the story of his ancestor, Deborah Samson, who in 1782 ran away from home, disguised herself as a man, and fought in the Revolutionary War. His essays have appeared in a number of journals, including Good Housekeeping, Salon, and Newsweek. He has also been featured on PBS  NewsHour. Alex holds master’s degrees from Brown and Georgetown and an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.  He currently teaches English at Phillips Exeter Academy, where he lives with his wife and two cats.

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