Session 1

Cultivating a School Community of Viewpoint Diversity

Jessica Minick

Jessica Minick is a high school English language arts teacher in Suffern Central School District in Rockland County, NY. She currently teaches 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. For over five years, she has taught Global Perspectives and Research, which is a two-year course offered through Cambridge Assessment International Education that focuses on critical thinking and exploring contrasting viewpoints on contemporary issues. Jessica is a member of the advisory board for Allelo, an educational tool that is designed to foster open-minded and productive discourse skills. She has also worked closely with the team at OpenMind reviewing and piloting their online platform which fosters empathy and mutual understanding across differences. She hold a bachelor’s degree in English, and a Master of Arts in Teaching. You can follow her on Twitter @JessicaMinick.

Erec Smith

Erec Smith is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at York College of Pennsylvania. Although he has eclectic scholarly interests, Smith’s primary work focuses on the rhetorics of anti-racist activism, theory, and pedagogy. In his latest book, A Critique of Anti-racism in Rhetoric and Composition: The Semblance of Empowerment, Smith addresses the detriments of anti-racist rhetoric and writing pedagogy based on identity and prefigurative politics and suggests that a more empowering form anti-racism be considered.

Jonathan Zimmerman

Jonathan Zimmerman, Ph.D. is the Berkowitz Professor in Education and Professor of History of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. A former Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher, Zimmerman is the author (with cartoonist Signe Wilkinson) of Free Speech and Why You Should Give a Damn (City of Light Press, April 2021) and eight other books. He is also a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, the New York Review of Books, and other popular newspapers and magazines. Zimmerman taught for 20 years at New York University, where he received its Distinguished Teaching Award in 2008. He also won Heterodox Academy's Leadership Award in 2019. For more information, please visit his website.

Session 2

Viewpoint Diversity in Curricula: Introducing Heterodox Perspectives,

Critical Thinking, and Art Education

Samantha Hedges

Samantha Hedges is Heterodox Academy's K-12 Program Manager. Prior to joining the HxA team, Samantha was an elementary school teacher for Chicago Public Schools and public policy advocate for child and youth public health programs, early childhood education, and youth afterschool programs in Illinois. In graduate school, she studied how evidence was used in policymaking for K-12 education and taught an undergraduate course that prepared aspiring teachers to enter the profession. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a master’s degree in Social Work, and a PhD in Education Policy Studies. You can learn more about her research and writing by visiting her website.

Ora Itkin

Russia-born pianist, Ora Itkin, began her piano studies at age four under the guidance of her father, Igor Itkin, who became known as one of the pioneers of subversive Russian jazz. Professor Itkin is a faculty member at both the Music Department of University of St. Thomas and MacPhail Center for Music. She is also a founder of Reprise School of Piano and Musicianship in Saint Paul, Minnesota and an artistic director of a multi-disciplinary music series entitled Muse Salon. As an educator and a lifelong advocate of a holistic approach to learning, Ms. Itkin seeks to promote an interconnectedness of music with the arts, humanities, and sciences in everything she does, especially in her original multimedia productions ArtAffects, cultural ambassadorship initiatives, interdisciplinary seminars and presentations, and individual work with students of all ages. For more information, please visit her website.

Erin McLaughlin

The founder of Positive-Ed Consulting, Erin McLaughlin has spent her career focused on the best methods of unlocking potential. As an educator, she has worked tirelessly with individuals, groups, and teams to help them recognize, develop, and apply their strengths to reach their goals. Erin’s main passion is in creating positive cultural change in institutions through implementing viewpoint diversity. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious MAPP program with a capstone project on viewpoint diversity that earned a mark of distinction, she went back to the classroom to apply her work. Erin founded Positive-Ed Consulting to share her ideas and practices with others in order to make a bigger and better difference in the world.

Session 3

Educational Liberty Alliance Debate

Should teachers advocate for social justice causes in the classroom?

Graham Gerst

Graham is the Founder and Board Chair of the Educational Liberty Alliance ( He is a partner at an international IP-focused law firm. He previously was Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General at the U.S. Justice Department, overseeing a variety of technology related national-security matters and international IP enforcement. He also served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. Graham began his career at the University of Chicago Law School, where he was a member of the University of Chicago Law Review. He followed that with a clerkship on the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit and partnership with Kirkland & Ellis. Graham’s nonprofit experience includes serving on the board the Chicago Foundation for Education for over 20 years, including chairing that board, on the Board of Governors of the 7th Circuit Bar Association, and on the board of Metropolitan Family Services.

Tony Kinnett

Tony Kinnett is a two-time teacher-of-the-year, having taught science in inner-city Milwaukee and Indianapolis, as well as rural Wisconsin and Indiana. While obtaining masters degrees in both curriculum development and education technology, he worked on doctoral research teams for Ball State University, studying STEM and Hispanic community integration through engineering. In 2016, he served as a junior education policy advisor to the Office of the Governor in Wisconsin. In 2020, he and Daniel Buck founded The Chalkboard Review, a publication designed for educators of all ideologies to publish op-eds and other articles. His other writing can be found in the Foundation for Economic Education, the Federalist, the Daily Caller, and the Washington Examiner.

Garry Mitchell

Garry S. Mitchell is a doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Stone PhD Scholar in Inequality and Wealth Concentration through the Kennedy School. Previously, he worked as a middle school English and History/HERstory teacher in New York City. Garry’s research commitment to educational justice is inextricably linked to his lifelong identity as an African-American male and student alongside his professional identity as a teacher and pedagogue. Garry's work focuses on the punishment to privilege spectrum within K-12 schools as it relates to broader society. His most recent work examines the ethical underpinnings of college preparatory school programs (CPSPs) that cultivate low-income, minoritized students to compete at elite independent schools. The project engages in a joint empirical and ethical analysis of these programs and their role in shaping upward mobility discourse within the realm of education. Garry’s work aims to contribute to our understanding of education, particularly in elite settings, as a vehicle for broader social, economic, and racial uplift.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

-Beatrice Evelyn Hall's description of Voltaire's stance on free speech

“Growing Diversity of Thought in K-12 Education: Current Challenges and the Path Ahead” is supported in full by Heterodox Academy, other than for Session 3 of the event titled “Educational Liberty Alliance Debate,” which is supported by Educational Liberty Alliance. The ability for HxA to provide Grants for HxCommunities events and other activities are made possible in full through the support of the John Templeton Foundation.

The opinions expressed at these events (or through such activities) are those of the individual grantees, organizers, speakers, presenters, other sponsors and attendees of such events/activities and do not necessarily reflect the views of Heterodox Academy and/or the John Templeton Foundation.

© 2021 K-12 Diversity of Thought

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