Once a month at HPA, the regular school schedule of quizzes and classes, physics and poetry, pauses for a day so that the community can engage in learning beyond the classroom. In January, HPA welcomed Dr. Jackson Katz to speak to HPA students, faculty, and parents about issues of gender equality and gender violence.
Katz is known internationally for his pioneering scholarship in this field, as well as his consulting work for professional sports teams and the military. In three separate highly-engaging talks that integrated personal narrative and current research, Katz asked his audiences to consider a range of issues: the idea that gender equality is as much a men’s issue as it is a women’s issue, how our culture and media can define masculinity in harmful ways, and the “bystander” approach to the prevention of sexual violence.
In the debriefing sessions afterwards, students had an opportunity in small groups to ask questions and reflect on what they heard; for example, a group of ninth graders noted how Katz’s framing of the issues got them to thoughtfully consider a topic that can cause confusion or discomfort.
Why do we take time out to address these issues? Education’s purpose is to help us think critically, to create thoughtful citizens in a complex world. We have to be bold.”
—Dr. Jackson Katz
HPA’s readiness to engage in a topic of such complexity and significance can be attributed to the leadership of Sarah Schorn ’98, director of student affairs, and Crystal Sebastian, Upper School health and wellness coordinator. Schorn and Sebastian met Dr. Katz at a Harvard conference two years ago, where they were presenting on HPA’s progress confronting issues of gender equality and violence. After hearing Katz speak, they asked him if he’d be interested in bringing his message to the Big Island.
“We knew it was a stretch to ask an expert of his stature to come to our school,” noted Sebastian, “but we also knew it would be transformative.” Schorn explained that Dr. Katz’s visit is part of HPA’s ongoing effort to increase preventative education in this challenging landscape of gender and the media. “It’s about getting our students to see that issues of equity and justice are human issues,” Schorn added. “As educators, we want our students to be change-makers.”