Author Archives: Taylor

We’re Looking for Tomorrow’s Leaders

The HES Equity Committee is actively looking for students interested in taking a leadership role in equity, diversity and inclusion in our school!

Our Student Advisory Board will guide the Equity Committee’s work by:

  • providing insight into the school community
  • working with the Equity Committee’s student club
  • working with Catonsville High School student mentors to learn more about civil action and leadership

Anyone interested in getting involved or learning more, please email the Hillcrest Equity Committee at hesequity@gmail.com.

What Do We Do About Halloween?

We all know that this has been a challenging year. From a global pandemic to sweeping social unrest, we’ve had to really examine how we define our community, and what our place in it is. 

Now Halloween is almost upon us, and it’s time to look at the holiday from every angle and ponder its place in our school community. Hillcrest has a long tradition of celebrating the holiday, from teachers teaming up for epically themed costumes to the annual students’ Halloween Parade, but as we strive to be a more inclusive community, how does that change? Should it change?

First, let’s look at some of clearest offenders: Halloween costumes. For every inflatable T-Rex on the shelf, there are myriad costumes that hyper-sexualize children or make a mockery of marginalized groups. Teaching Tolerance offers lesson plans geared toward children in grades K-5 on how to handle the prevalent racism in some Halloween costumes, as well as how to question how certain costumes—and the models displaying them—influence our implicit bias.

But even in a school full of kids wearing old bedsheets with eyeholes, there are still things to take into consideration. Our style of Halloween celebration may be uniquely American, but America is a mosaic of different people, each with their own history, beliefs and traditions. 

Members of the Orthodox Jewish community don’t celebrate Halloween because of its roots in pagan worship; devout Muslims only celebrate two religious days each year; anyone who celebrates Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) has suffered the indignity of seeing their celebrations rebranded “Mexican Halloween” (it is not); and beginning several decades ago Evangelical Christians began decrying Halloween as the Devil’s holiday. 

So no. Maybe we don’t want to give up our Halloween parade. But maybe we can expand our observance of the holiday in a way that respects others’ beliefs: learn the difference between the Day of the Dead and Halloween; talk about why some view Halloween as a religious holiday while others view it as a secular night for kids to go a little wild and eat candy; make conscious choices about costumes that empower and inspire our kids; and raise kids who question, explore, and respect the world and people around them. This is not cancel culture but merely a chance to put history into context, to teach tolerance for others, to show empathy. Celebrations this October 31 are already going to look a lot different than years past; let’s challenge ourselves to look ahead to next year. What does a more inclusive Halloween look like? How much stronger can a more inclusive October 31 make our community?

Dive into LGBTQ+ Heritage

October is LGBTQ+ History Month! If you’d like some guidance talking to children about the diverse history of the continuing fight for LGBTQ equality, Teaching Tolerance has an extensive collection of lesson plans geared toward K-2 or Grade 3-5 students. Though the lessons are created specifically for classroom use, parents and caregivers may find many elements useful in their own discussions.

There is a lesson that teaches children about the rainbow flag and pink triangle as common symbols of the community, and also encourages children to think about what other images they’ve seen that may symbolize something they never realized.

There are lessons about how words can hurt, why gender stereotypes are dangerous, why representation matters in children’s literature, and how to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

And for children with LGBTQ parents, children in nuclear families, and all the children in between, there’s a scavenger hunt for 10 different kinds of families.

The lesson plans are thorough and thoughtful, the ideas are encouraging and realistic…perfect for raising thoughtful, realistic and strong young leaders.

Online Book Club – An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The HES PTA is pleased to facilitate a discussion about An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, the latest selection of the HES Equity Committee.

Please join us on Wednesday, November 18, immediately following the PTA General Meeting, to discuss this “meticulously documented…thought-provoking treatise” and 2015 American Book Award-winner. If you are interested in joining us but cannot purchase your own copy, let us know. We don’t want that to prevent you from sharing your perspective on this or any other title in our series. Email hesequity@gmail.com for more.

Using the Courageous Conversations protocol (https://courageousconversation.com/about/), we will work together to discuss various aspects of the book. To join our conversation (and to hear what the PTA has been up to!), please use the following Zoom link:

Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/84443456597?pwd=S3pqQXByYkZXV0xOUmlnd2ZTU1RLdz09

Meeting ID: 844 4345 6597
Passcode: 492844

The General Meeting begins at 7:00 pm, and the book club discussion will follow, around 7:30 pm.

Our Book Club selections and discussions focus on our part in strengthening racial equity. Please join us if:

  • You would like to become more comfortable talking about race.
  • You would like to build a greater tolerance for uncomfortable conversations.
  • You would like to strengthen the way you listen in conversations about equity.
  • You would like to strengthen your capacity to have courageous conversations about racial equity.
  • You’re curious and open to diverse points-of-view.

Reexamining “The Classics”

Discrimination isn’t always blatant. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize how what you’re reading may be building bias in your subconscious.

Take Tikki Tikki Tembo, for example, a decades-old children’s book billed as an adaptation of a Chinese folktale. It is not. And there is danger in treating it as an example of Chinese culture. For one thing, no part of Tikki Tikki Tembo-no Sa Rembo-chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo’s great long name means “The Most Wonderful Thing in the Whole Wide World” the way the story claims. In fact, there are no Chinese words in the name at all, which critics have called out for reinforcing the stereotype that Chinese words sound like nonsense. And more egregiously, if anything it’s a mangled retelling of a Japanese tale, suggesting that all Asian cultures are the same.

And Tikki Tikki Tembo isn’t the only offender in the canon of the classics. Dr. Seuss is also problematic, not only because of the racist caricatures in his illustrations, but because of a general unwillingness for audiences to see these works as anything but beloved childhood favorites. Nostalgia can be fine, but when it exists in a vacuum without context, it is not. NPR took a quick look into how depictions in Seuss impacted children’s identities in marginalized group, and a 2019 article looked a lot deeper.

The website https://socialjusticebooks.org/ guides caregivers and educators in choosing anti-bias literature, and offers book reviews that that break books down into “recommended,” “recommended with caveat,” or “not recommended” categories.

There are other things to think about as you choose what you and your children are going to read, and how. For example, what if the work is not as blatantly racist as Seuss’s visuals? Millions of fans have a special place in their hearts for Harry Potter; does it matter now that his creator, JK Rowling, is anti-trans? Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game film adaptation faced a boycott for Card’s anti-gay rhetoric. Do we have to separate art from the artist? Can we? What if we make the mindful decision to NOT separate the two, but to keep ourselves open to recognizing where the authors’ biases may be influencing our own?

Does that seem like a lot of work just to escape into a good book? Maybe. But for those without the privilege of escaping into a good book, we should do the work.

Peace A Pizza Fundraiser!

Save the date for a PTA fundraiser at Peace a Pizza: Thursday, November 5th, from 3-7 pm!

To place orders, call 410-747-2255 or 410-747-2299.
Visit http://www.peaceapizzacatonsville.com/ to view the menu.

·        Curbside pick-up only. Orders must be called in and will be brought out to your vehicle.  

·        In order for Hillcrest to receive credit for the transaction, diners must mention the fundraiser at check-out

·        Sweet! Babas purchases are now included in the fundraiser, but all dessert orders must be included with your pizza orders. 

·        Order early! We highly encourage diners to pre-order either earlier that day, or even a day or two before. This will help tremendously with the call volume.

Online Book Club – Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum, PhD

The HES PTA is pleased to facilitate a discussion about Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum, PhD, the latest selection of the HES Equity Committee.

Please join us on Thursday, October 1 from 7-8:30 to discuss this “unusually sensitive” national bestseller.

Using the Courageous Conversations protocol (https://courageousconversation.com/about/), we will work together to discuss various aspects of the book. To join our conversation, please use the following Zoom link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87028549195?pwd=djhaWGorTVUraFo1eGNiRHVpYXRaUT09

Meeting ID: 870 2854 9195
Passcode: 730276

Our Book Club selections and discussions focus on our part in strengthening racial equity. Please join us if:

  • You would like to become more comfortable talking about race.
  • You would like to build a greater tolerance for uncomfortable conversations.
  • You would like to strengthen the way you listen in conversations about equity.
  • You would like to strengthen your capacity to have courageous conversations about racial equity.
  • You’re curious and open to diverse points-of-view.