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Landmark Celebrates International Day

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

international day landmark high schoolLandmark High School celebrated its Fifth International Day on Wednesday, April 18. The program included presentations, panels, and slideshows in the Black Box Theater by members of the International Group and faculty. Each year, the group selects a theme, and for 2017–2018 the group chose "Privilege" as its theme. The word means different things to different people and carries with it a range of emotion and responsibility.

Members of the audience were asked to give examples of words they think about when they hear the word "privilege." Opportunity, race, gender, education, location, social status, and wealth were among the terms offered.

Peter, a member of the International Group from Norway, said, "Privilege is not a choice. It's how you were born." Several teachers offered their interpretation of privilege.

Ms. Ellner, a language arts teacher, said those born into privilege should take advantage of it to help others. "Use it to give back to those who weren't given privilege at birth. Open doors to them and help them succeed."

Ms. Day, a science teacher and a leader of the International Group, said it's important to remember that privilege is by chance. "Until we started talking about privilege, I had no idea how a lack of privilege impacts people. This doesn't mean that people who lack privilege can't succeed, it's just that it's so much harder for them."

Concept Hits Home

Volunteers participated in a "One Dollar Race,” to make the concept of privilege/fairness “visible.” Based on "The $100 Race" video, as well as their personal experiences, the International Group students came up with a series of statements, such as "You have never been ashamed of your learning ability," "Your parents are still together," "You feel safe walking in your hometown after dark," and "You have never had negative assumptions made about you because of your race or ethnic background." Those who answered "yes" to those statements stepped forward.

The exercise was intended to show how little control one has over their circumstances—whether or not they have privilege. As the questions progressed and participants moved accordingly, it became evident that not everyone shared the same privileges; some were more fortunate than others.

Mr. Dixon said that privilege is hard to recognize, particularly for people who live in suburban areas, such as those surrounding Landmark, where many people share privilege and advantages. “Until you go to a neighborhood that doesn’t have those advantages, such as Baltimore or DC, or other inner-city communities,” people may not understand what it’s like to attend to a “school that’s not safe or doesn’t send kids to college.”

Pedro, a High School student from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, told of how he was not allowed to walk alone after dark until he was 14 years old. "You have a constant fear that if you walk alone that you'll get mugged. I knew never to take my phone out on the street because I could get mugged for it." By contrast, Pedro didn't hesitate to pull his phone out of his pocket to read a text on a recent trip to Salem.

Scenes From a Journey to Africa

landmark high school international day mozambique tripIn the second part of the presentation, Landmark teachers who spent March break volunteering at schools in Mozambique shared their experience. Ms. Bartz, Ms. Tansey, Mr. Gray, and Ms. Bergsten showed slideshows of the schools they visited. The classes ranged from small and intimate (think Landmark) to large and loud. But the students all embraced their studies and their American visitors. The presentation and the meaningful Q&A session that followed gave the Landmark community valuable perspective.

A student asked if the American teachers felt any resistance from the teachers in Mozambique for imposing their privileged, Western ideas about education on them.

“There are a lot of ideas and theories about how we help developing countries, and we sometimes face adversity from these countries because they feel we’re pushing their ideas on them or saying we know more than them,” Ms. Bartz said. Instead, the teachers focused on training and working with their Mozambican colleagues. “It’s a conversation, and we get ideas from them as well. They are also educators. Making it a conversation is a better approach.”

Embracing Landmark's Diversity

Students who were born in foreign countries or who have ties or interests to other nations presented slideshows that depicted landmarks, maps, food, and cultural items from those countries. Some debunked stereotypes. For example, we learned from Ethan that people in Mexico do not dress like performers in mariachi bands. Cam, who represented Italy, however, was eager to embrace—and portray—the stereotypical Italian crooner, belting out a rendition of "That's Amore" that would make Dean Martin jealous! Other countries represented included Australia, Brazil, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Namibia, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and the U.K.

The purpose of the day and mission of the International Group is to foster a sense of identity, acceptance, and belonging for the international community, as well as to explore, raise awareness, and honor Landmark's rich cultural and ethnic diversity.

Landmark High School teacher Kanella Zaralides spearheaded the effort. "Over the years, I have been impressed with the palpable sense of community evident during the event, when discussing sensitive issues such as privilege or bias. We are indeed privileged to belong to a community where members feel safe and comfortable to share their identity and voice their opinions knowing that they will be valuable and respected. It is this kind of reflection and discussion that facilitates growth and betterment."

Other faculty members closely involved with the initiative include: Jennifer Day, Sam Ellner, Kylie Murphy, Eleni Nikitas,  VictoriaTansey, Caroline Teague, and Carole Rein (who came out of retirement to help!).

In the weeks leading up to International Day, SAGE Dining Services prepared delicacies from around the globe. The inspired fare included currywurst (Germany), pea soup and pancakes with jam (Sweden), oliebollen (Holland),  fiskesuppe (Norway), and brigadeiros (Brazil).

See the video below to watch the entire program: