Us and Them: The First One Book, One Campus Discussion

By Amy Lothian
SC Contributing Writer

This semester marks East Stroudsburg University’s third annual One Book, One Campus initiative.

Each semester, the One Book selection committee, headed by Dr. Peter Prium of the philosophy department, selects a book in hopes of stirring discussion among students and faculty, as well as the surrounding campus community.

The committee highlighted Jess Row’s novel, “Your Face in Mine,” a novel that supports this year’s theme, “Diversity, Race and Inclusion: Where are we going?”

Row’s novel follows the life of Kelly Thorndike, a Jewish man who—following the death of his wife and child—makes the decision to transform himself using “racial reassignment surgery” to become an African-American man.

To encourage engagement, Prium has called on faculty and staff at ESU to create book discussions to be held around campus and local cafes throughout the next six weeks.

“This book creates a safe environment to talk about race”, stated Pruim at the first of the One Book presentations on Sept. 2, 2015.

The night’s speaker, professor of psychology Dr. Bonnie Green, shared her theories on racial and cultural inclusion and exclusion with an emphasis on ideas from Swiss developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget.

Her presentation, titled “Us and Them; You and Me (A Piagetian Approach to race and racial identity),” created a thought-provoking discussion about how people develop and organize knowledge about groups throughout their lifetime.

Dr. Green mentioned that humans construct ideas of an ‘in-group’ and an ‘out-group’.

This creates what she calls the ‘in-group, out-group bias.’ The bias was explained as the tendency to see those similar to our identified group, as more diverse and people outside our group as single-minded.

“My hope is that you leave here tonight with a changed schema (idea) about something you believed before,” she stated.

She went on to emphasize the idea of constructivism, or learning through experience, and stated “children learn best by doing.”

She concluded by saying, “Experiences shaped by culture, determine our differences in ideas,” and noted that accommodation, or re-structuring a previous idea, is ultimately the key to understanding all members of the society we share.

Dr. Green’s perspective of Row’s novel supports the One Book initiative of uniting varied people through a shared experience.

The messages of the novel are sure to bring more insightful discussions as ESU’s faculty share their points of view on “Your Face in Mine.”

The next event, to be held on Tuesday Sept. 15, will feature Dr. David Daniel of ESU’s Business Management Department.

His presentation, “Where does your happiness lie?” is sure to bring a further analysis of the novel and its theme of social connectivity.

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