SEED Draws Record Number of Students

Basil Shillingford ’21, Mike Burrell ’21

 SEED was introduced to the Berkshire School community to give students and faculty a safe and respectful space to talk about the school and its culture. SEED is a nationwide organization created by Dr. Peggy McIntosh, who launched SEED as an experiment to confirm her belief that teachers could be leaders of their own professional development.

 The National SEED Project is a peer-led professional development program that creates conversational communities to drive personal, organizational, and societal change toward greater equity and diversity. Through the organization’s methodology, SEED equips participants to connect their lives to one another and to society at large by acknowledging systems of oppression, power, and privilege.

 SEED stands for “Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity” and is structured in a way that gives students the ability to express their opinions in a respectful, safe environment. This environment allows students to identify the systems in Berkshire that could be improved and change them. 

 SEED has met three times this academic year, with more meetings to come. This year, the group of the student SEED group is twice as big as has been in past years, with close to forty students participating across all forms. 

 Over the course of the meetings, students have tackled a wide range of challenging topics that have sometimes lead to uncomfortable moments. In the first meeting, perspective was the focus, learning the difference between windows and mirrors: mirrors mirror what you see; in other words, they share your perspective. Windows show you something different, a new perspective to look at. 

 With the newfound knowledge of perspective and the difference between windows and mirrors, the group came to the conclusion that acknowledging the existence of other perspectives is important when talking to peers about topics as everyone can have a different perspective.

 In the second meeting, SEED discussed the difference between sympathy and empathy. Students watched a short video, then gave a visual representation showing the contrast between the two, making it clear that empathizing is the more effective way of showing you care about someone, but is also a difficult task to complete. 

 To empathize means to bring yourself down to someone else’s level, to climb into their hole. Climbing into this hole of emotions not only allows you to understand the person’s perspective more but improves your ability to help that person out of the hole. 

 Sympathy is when you pity someone or try to feel their sorrow. The most common sympathetic response starts typically starts with, “at least…” Students came to the conclusion that when you sympathize with someone, you refuse to go into the hole with them, and instead are trying to make them feel better about themselves by offering a different scenario that did not happen.

 Participants also took the time to talk about the majority vs minority and those two groups at Berkshire. We formulated a list of these groups that fall into the two. One of the more controversial groups was on political ideology, conservative versus liberal. This topic is touchy at Berkshire, yet it is important to keep the discussion of politics active at Berkshire. It was clear that it was unknown to most people whether their peers are liberal or conservative, or whether they even had a viewpoint. 

 The intention of SEED is to start discussions that contribute a greater understanding of the community that we are apart of. Sometimes, that transparency can be hard to swallow, but in most cases, as is the ultimate goal of SEED, students are respectful of each others’ opinions and use that knowledge to inform their future actions for the better.