Middle School hosts Pollyana Conference

The Middle School hosted the second inaugural Pollyanna Conference, in which more than 250 representatives from 16 independent schools convened to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion Oct. 27. This year, attendees addressed how to combat implicit biases within a school environment.

“During the conference, we talked about how our implicit biases affect how we teach, as well as what kinds of students we admit and the kind of curriculum that we have,” participant Xenia Bernal ’19 said. “We’re trying to address these issues and steer away from implicit biases because more often than not, it’s actually negatively affecting our experiences in schools.”

Keynote speaker Jerry Kang, Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, initiated the conference by giving a presentation about the origins of implicit bias and how it affects the way individuals perceive others.

Representatives of each school then broke into separate pods, comprised of trustees, students, teachers and administrators, and discussed, more generally, how to promote inclusivity and diversity within their own communities.

“One of the problems with conferences like these is that it caters to a very specific group of people who are already having this kind of dialogue,” student representative Lucy Kim ’19 said. “Something that a lot of us focused on in this conference is that in order to effectively increase diversity, we have to spread the message to parts of our community that don’t want to hear it. The Pollyanna Conference has been very beneficial in uncovering of a lot of the issues that we try to avoid.”

Upper School Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Nate Cardin organized the conference and said that the meeting was successful, as it allowed representatives to hold honest, constructive discussions about eliminating implicit bias.

“Everyone came prepared to dedicate their day to being open-minded about [implicit bias] and being self-critical about how to improve each of their school communities based on the topic,” Cardin said.