CREATING A JUST SOCIETY AT MIDDLE WAY

Anti-Racism at the Middle Way School

The Middle Way School of the Hudson Valley hires and enrolls without discriminating against any identifying factor which may include race, age, national or ethnic origin,  religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socioeconomic background. We will make accessibility accommodations for individuals with disabilities to the fullest extent possible. As an institution and as individuals we recognize that we have the responsibility to actively change the power differences that perpetuate biases against historically underrepresented groups. Our inclusion efforts are a dynamic process. We welcome your experience and invite your input on how our school community can continue to evolve.

We actively invite people of color to apply to the Middle Way School. While 75% of all of our students received some amount of financial aid, we are in the process of establishing opportunities through partnerships to provide additional tuition assistance grant for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). Our aspiration is to create a school culture enriched by a diverse community of people and to make the abundant offerings of The Middle Way School accessible to all.

READ MORE ABOUT HOW MWS APPROACHES ANTI-RACISM IN A BUDDHIST CONTEXT (from the April 2021 issue of Chronogram Magazine)

HISTORY

MWS Administration began investing time and energy into anti-racist work in 2019 through the White Awake program, which encourages people who identify as white to explore their history, identities, language, and beliefs. The school increased its commitment in 2020 by hiring Amy Brown White to lead teachers and staff in dedicated anti-racist work, which included two full days of professional development, multiple administrative debriefings, assignments, and ad hoc meetings. 

In the first session, White Privilege (identification and awareness) was brought into sharp focus,  examining what these words mean and how they hold power. With Amy’s support, the faculty and staff were able to define basic vocabulary. Through exercises, small group work, multi-media, a foundation was laid for the work that carried through the rest of the school year. Some topics covered were: Implicit bias, White Privilege (our personal lives and how that effects or professional lives), and micro-aggressions (interactions between POC and those who identify as White). We explored how teachers can actively avoid bias and aggression in the classroom, and shift the perspective on POC. It was abundantly clear that personal change will inevitably affect change in the classroom and in society at large. As part of this exploration, we were fortunate to hear from Richard de Heyl, a male who identifies as gay and Jewish, married to a Puerto Rican male, who chose a transracial adoption of a Black male. He shared the perspective of a White man moving in Black spaces. We also heard from Kunsang Kelden, a communications professional, Tibetan Culture Advocate and practicing Buddhist. She shared very specifically how Buddhism and Anti-Racism intersect.

Our second full-day session centered exclusively on curriculum and infusing culture into our teaching. We discussed the importance of cross-cultural lesson plans and how they improve instruction and critical thinking. We reviewed this Culturally Responsive Teaching Checklist and talked about how to move our lesson plans from an additive approach to an approach that is child-centered. Each teacher designed wonderful lesson plans that connected Anti-Racism and the Buddhist concept of Impermanence, which they are already introducing in the classrooms. This work is ongoing and super exciting for all involved, especially the children, who are seamlessly learning about Alvin Ailey, Romare Bearden, and Marley Dias.

Parent Community Engagement

The Middle Way Anti-Racist Coalition (ARC) is a parent led organization very that meets on a regular basis to help support becoming more actively anti-racist as individuals, families and a community. The group is very open to engagement and exchange, its mission evolving in a process of co-creation, iteration and development. ARC is dedicated to supporting one another in becoming more actively anti-racist as individuals, families and community. ARC works in partnership with MWS administration to create an actively anti-racist community in the school policy, hiring and staff development, curriculum and student culture.

As parents we support one another in practicing anti-racist parenting and developing home cultures that actively discuss and dismantle racist beliefs and practices. Together we explore how dharma can support collective liberation as we learn, practice and grow together. Our commitment is ongoing and reflects our desire to see Middle Way School flourish as a learning community dedicated to collective liberation and justice. We invite you to join us for conversation, peer support, and to develop offerings for the larger school community.

The Coalition continues to meet to assess present and future (short and long term) needs of the anti-racism work within the MWS community. The current task is identifying the needs of the school community, including fundraising, programing, support for and accountability in diversity accessibility to the school community both staff and student body. This includes:

  1. Working to establish ARC’s charter/mission and clarify both the role of the anti-racism work, need and relationship to the school and larger Buddhist practice and praxis. 
  2. Creating, identifying, and developing methods of revenue support for ARC’s anti-racism, including funding for facilitation, educational programing and programs 
  3. Developing offerings to the community around this work including book clubs, children’s book groups, somatic and mediation practice and development work
  4. Working with administration to establish a charter and goals for this work within the school, including scholarship support, database/library support, community work and structural support. 
  5. Setting up and establishing ongoing infrastructure systems of support, including resource databanks, programming/meetings, and a means to identify arising needs, accountability and transformation.

JOIN US!  All are welcome to join this group at any time. We currently meet on Zoom every other Tuesday. To learn more, please contact parent liaison Matt Dilling at matt@litebriteneon.com.

SAMPLE LESSON PLANS FROM MWS TEACHERS

As part of our anti-racist work at Middle Way, teachers were given an assignment to find the links between their content area + the Buddhist concept of impermanence + anti-racism. 

Kelly Peck looked at Alvin Ailey’s Revelations , and asked students to think about how we can tell a story through movement, and how that story changes over time. 

Rachel read My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey by Jeanne Walker Harvey, and discussed Bearden’s mural. How do neighborhoods change and why?

Hannah’s Owls class thought about the ways in which people can be agents of change if there are conditions around them that are problematic.  They started by reading about Marley Dias, who started the #1000BlackGirlBooks initiative as a kid, after noticing that the main characters of the books she was being assigned at school did not reflect her identity or lived experience.  She introduced the class to the concept that books can provide us with both windows into the experiences of people who are different from us and mirrors that reflect and represent aspects of our own experiences. They talked about the importance of both being seen and seeing others.   

More to come!