Courageous Conversations look to inspire discussion, open-mindedness

The discussions, held by faculty and staff, talk about topics that wouldn’t otherwise be discussed in a professional setting.

Joe Lister, Managing Editor, Print

The Courageous Conversations, held by staff, came about when a group of faculty was involved in a task force focused on social injustices.

That task force “was a group of people who wanted to have conversations that dealt with social class, that dealt with racism, that dealt with sexism, that dealt with all different identities within our community,” Dr. Stephen Borish, Malvern’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator said.

Those conversations blossomed into what the Courageous Conversations are now, meetings where the entire faculty is invited for discussion.

“We thought it was a good way to get people to talk if we gave them lunch, we gave them a space to meet, and we just set that time aside so that we could come together and just discuss one topic and it happened every month of the school year,” Borish said.

According to Borish, discussions that take place in Courageous Conversations often continue to outside those meetings.

What I found is that the conversation always starts somewhere, whether it is within Courageous Conversation or outside,” he said. “I’ve found that those conversations get brought up more in academy meetings and department meetings and individual one-on-one meetings with a certain class.”

When the dialogue continues further, Borish said, is when it makes an even bigger impact on the Malvern community.

“Things were brought out into the light and they were no longer hidden and silently hurting us as a community,” he said. “Because I think we all can agree that any time we hide any aspect of our identity, that’s hurtful to so many people and it just hurts the community as a whole.”

For Borish, the focus of having the meetings is not just to look at the subject of the meetings academically, but also emotionally.

“It’s all about us walking into this conversation with our own thoughts, our own feelings, our own philosophies, and sharing that in a space that’s academic, but it’s also empathetic and it’s understanding, and it builds perspective and it helps us understand other people,” he said.

The purpose of the meetings is not to have all attendees agree on a topic, but rather to give everyone the chance to speak their mind.

“You don’t have to think like me, you don’t have to live like me, you don’t have to act like me,” said Borish. “But it is my obligation as a human, interacting with you, that I maintain a sense of respect and understanding.”

There is also no goal to achieve for Courageous Conversations, says Borish, as the goal is to consistently produce conversation, to which there shouldn’t be an end.

“I think the goal is to maintain conversation and to prevent people from thinking that it’s not okay for them to share their thoughts on a subject,” he said. “There won’t be a time where we’re like ‘We don’t need those conversations anymore.’”

The Courageous Conversations welcome all faculty and staff at Malvern, including Head of School Father Donald Reilly, who said it gives him a broader view of what occurs at school.

“I move around the campus a lot, so I think I know what is happening,” Reilly said. “But I’ll stop in there and I’ll hear something I didn’t know that might be in the minds of some of the faculty members.”

For Reilly, one meeting about student social media use stood out to him because of how it opened his eyes to how students use their technology.

“I never really had a conversation with colleagues about how it affects not only positively, their life, but also how at times negative it can be at isolating people and bullying people,” he said. “I thought that was very interesting because it seems to be something over which we have very little control.”

While Reilly doesn’t attend meetings as much as he would like to, the conversations still have a big impact on his daily life.

“I know it must have an effect, because I’ve never left one thinking anything but, that was interesting,” he said.

For Borish, the Courageous Conversations is about discerning other peoples opinions, something everyone should strive for.  “It’s all about that journey of understanding.”