By Katharine Gillen
Last week marked WHS students’ first participation in the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum. SEED, which stands for Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, engages community members from all geographic locations, subject areas and grade levels in order to create a “gender fair, multiculturally equitable, socioeconomically aware and globally informed education,” according to nationalseedproject.org.
SEED was brought to WHS by former English Teacher Ms. Emily Style and was originally limited to faculty involvement meant to be transposed into the classroom. Now, the organization invites students to attend its bi-monthly meetings.
Led by Spanish Teacher Ms. Elizabeth Schultz, topics discussed in last week’s sessions included privilege, oppression and how WHS can move toward equality. Over 200 people participated in the week-long event, according to Schultz.
SEED aims to encourage the school community to be more thoughtful about the messages that are sent through the curriculum and examine how the education system both succeeds and fails to include some populations. Teaching without acknowledging diversity “disproportionately affects certain populations whose voices are not validated and encouraged to come out, both in this school, in the media and [in] colleges,” said Schultz. She added, “Most of the time we don’t even realize that we are doing it.”
In the meeting, Schultz and session participants said they feel the WHS environment succumbs to a “white Eurocentric view” that is reflected in classes. Although Schultz has maintained a strong following in her endeavors, she reported receiving numerous parent complaints regarding her efforts with SEED and said that she was called “anti-white” by students.
Last Thursday, transgender activist Mr. Cameron Mazzeo came to WHS as a guest speaker. Mazzeo, who is transgender, is now working toward becoming a clinician specializing in transgender youth and families, according to genderspectrumssupportnetwork.org. In response to his speech, freshman Jordan Sacher said, “Our biggest ‘problems’ [at WHS] are the scores of lacrosse games, whereas others’ biggest problems are being killed for who you are.”
SEED activist senior Norna Jules, who has spoken out about issues such as police brutality and racism, said that Westfield’s lack of diversity has been a source of struggle during her education. Said Jules in an interview: “We have little social consciousness and little effort to actually be in an inclusive environment. What we do have is the acknowledgement of the smartest students and the most athletic students, most of which tend to be straight white males. Because of this, a lot of people feel forgotten.”
One proposal that was made in SEED sessions is to have a course offered at WHS based on topics that are not focused on in the curriculum, such as the gender and sexuality spectrum and racial tolerance.
Next year, Schultz is leaving WHS to attend law school, and Mr. Antony Farag will take over as SEED Faculty Adviser. Schultz said that she hopes students will continue to dedicate themselves to the work that has been done thus far.