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ADL education leader suggests tools for anti-bias lessons

Scottie Nash

Scotland (Scottie) Nash, director of education for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Pacific Northwest region, presented three sessions on Anti-Bias Lessons for Educators for the International Conference on Hate Studies in November.

Those sessions offered tools for people to explore their identities and connect with others as means to empower them to build understanding and empathy.

In the first session, "Growing Up Culturally," she offered practical suggestions for teachers committed to doing anti-bias work in their classrooms. She is hearing from teachers who are now having in-person classes that there is more conflict in their classrooms than prior to the pandemic shutdown.

Using the example of a woman describing herself in the New York Times, Scottie solicited information from participants about what they heard her say about her race, ethnicity and culture.

The point of the exercise was twofold: first, to clarify assumptions and use her self-description either to find out how she identified or to be able to raise questions that would clarify this, and second, to find things a person might have in common with her.

Scottie then went on to explain how such an exercise might be used in a classroom to help students identify and modify their biases to achieve greater justice and harmony.

In the second session on "Anti-Bias Education: Unpacking Race, Ethnicity and Culture," Scottie shared experience from 20 years as a high school history teacher and as education director with the 100-year-old ADL.

"We as an organization fight hate through education, investigation and advocacy," said Scottie, who works with K-12, universities, religious institutions, communities and work places.

Her work focuses on anti-Semitism and bias in general.

Doing anti-bias education since the 1980s, she offers a four-part framework: 1) Identifying or understanding oneself to understand one's relationship to bias, power and society; 2) Understanding diversity/difference through being able to connect across differences; 3) Understanding bias, implicit vs. explicit, and how it presents itself internally and externally, and 4) Championing justice with education as a call to action.

In the third session, she showed participants videos in a "Being 12" series on how students understand their identity through the lens of race, ethnicity and culture. She offered the video as a tool for starting discussions:

Youth on the video include an Indian British girl, an adopted African-American with two dads, an African-Irish-American, a Hispanic girl telling of shopping, a white privileged person and an Ecuadoran student.

"In showing the video, we work with teens on identity, talk about white privilege and encourage building empathy muscles. We ask students to write what they see, hear and feel in the video to elicit constructive listening," Scottie said. 

Students in history, reading or science classes respond to a prompt and talk to connect.

"We assure their voices will be heard, as they have an opportunity both to speak and to listen," she said. "It takes bravery to tell their stories, to build listening muscles and build bridges as they discuss examples of stereotypes, bias and racism they hear in the video. 

"We ask: What person do you relate to? Who? How? How does it make you feel? If it was filmed at your school, how would it be the same or different? How can you be an ally to students?

"For me, it's about empowerment," said Scottie.

As a teacher, she worked on projects for social justice and social action. Then she worked with adults, collecting data to make sure there were equitable practices for every student in a classroom.

She worked with principals and coached teachers to be more equitable in the classroom.

After doing that, she wanted to do more self-reflection to talk about race, ethnicity, culture and belonging. It's been a journey of self-discovery and growth for her, drawing on her experience and connecting with others different from her.

"As a mother to two sons, I want to make sure they feel confident in who they are, to explore their own identities and connect with others who are different than themselves," said Scottie, who earned a doctorate in educational leadership at Seattle University in 2010, and holds a master's in secondary education from Northwestern University in 1997 and a bachelor's in history and education from Bucknell University in 1996.

Growing up with a Jewish mother, a Christian father and in a traditional Christian setting, she said she works from a spiritual lens.

Scottie said the ADL offers programs on understanding hate and bias.

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December, 2021