Teachers will do the learning the next couple days as Western Illinois University hosts the annual Dealing With Difference Institute.
The conference helps teachers delve into the various aspects of cultural diversity. This is its 21st year.
“It’s really kind of one of my highlights of the year,” said Tracy Davis, professor and coordinator of the College Student Personnel graduate program at WIU.
“We’ve been really fortunate to have over the years some of the real central people who are leaning into issues around multiculturalism, diversity, and social justice.”
Davis is also on the committee that put together this year’s conference. It will be held Tuesday, May 13, and Wednesday, May 14, at WIU’s Multicultural Center. The institute is designed for teachers but others can attend by registering and paying a small fee.
This year’s theme is “Social Justice and Education.” Davis said social justice can be considered a way of living up to the standards of democracy.
“It’s holding us accountable to what we say we’re going to do,” Davis said.
“Issues of fairness, issues of access, and issues of equity have been hurdles in our history, and social justice is trying to address those issues.”
He believes education has a central role to play in addressing social justice. And while progress has been made, he feels there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“We very often don’t give voice to people with identities who’ve been marginalized in this country. So African-Americans, Latinos, people who are gay, people with disabilities – they’re not at the center of the conversation,” Davis said.
The keynote presenter for this year’s institute is Dr. Heather Hackman. She will open the conference with a presentation and workshop that organizers said will offer participants a clear overview of the role of social justice in education.
Hackman is a faculty member in the Human Relations and Multicultural Education Department at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.