Sue, the author of the note, told her friend Rhonda that she thought Jill was wrong to break up with her boyfriend Tony. Tony’s mother had committed suicide, and Sue thought it was insensitive of Jill to dump him.
But Rhonda broke Sue’s confidence by showing the note to Jill, and Jill got mad. Other girls took her side against Sue. In no time at all, a major conflict had arisen within the class and Sue was ostracized by her former friends. Shunned, verbally and physically abused, she felt her self-esteem slip away. Even well-meaning parents and teachers were unable to resolve the conflict.
“I always hoped that I would have someone to talk to and I didn’t. And that was the thing that hurt the most,” Sue said.
This real life conflict, with transcribed interviews from five of the girls and their teacher, forms the basis of an online discussion sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves, the national educational and teacher training organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of prejudice.
Adolescent relationships will be further explored on Wednesday, Nov. 15, when Facing History and Ourselves sponsors its 13th Human Rights and Justice Conference, titled “All That Jazz: Adolescents and Adults in Relationship.” The conference will take place in the Loeb Drama Center.
Featured participants include: Professor of Law Martha Minow, conference chair; Carol Gilligan, the Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor in Gender Studies at the Graduate School of Education; James Gilligan, clinical instructor in psychiatry; K. Anthony Appiah, Professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy; and Pedro Noguera, the Judith K. Dimon Professor in Communities and Schools.
Through a series of talks and panel discussions, the conference will explore various aspects of adolescence in the context of school, home, the neighborhood, and the larger world. There will also be dramatizations and an art exhibition.
In keeping with the conference’s title, there will be a performance by student jazz musicians playing with Eli Newberger and other members of the New Eagle Jazz Band. Newberger, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the author of “The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character,” will comment on the connections between character and creativity in adolescence and music.
According to Margo Stern Strom, executive director of Facing History and Ourselves, “For the past 25 years, Facing History and Ourselves has honored the capacity of young people to be moral philosophers by providing opportunities to confront the past in all of its complexities, to cope with its legacies, and to make a positive difference in the world today and tomorrow. This conference continues that tradition by exploring strategies for building new relationships between adolescents and adults and strengthening ongoing ones.”
For information on registering for the conference, please call 617-232-1595, x689. To participate in the online discussion, visit http://www.facinghistory.org/.