The essay contest sponsored by TEAM Westport — our town’s multicultural commission — has sparked worldwide coverage. An AP story using “outrage” in its headline went viral. Outlets from the Christian Science Monitor to the Onion ran stories.
Like a game of Telephone, each telling brought more inaccuracies.
This morning, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey issued a fact sheet about the contest. It won’t get as much press as the kerfuffle story, but for “06880” readers fielding questions from friends around the world — generally framed as What the hell is going on there?! — it’s a start.
The actual essay prompt reads:
White privilege surfaced as a topic during the recent presidential election. In 1,000 words or less, describe how you understand the term “white privilege.” To what extent do you think this privilege exists? What impact do you think it has had in your life — whatever your racial or ethnic identity — and in our society more broadly?
The challenge asks students to research the concept of “white privilege,” and describe to what extent they think it exists.
It does not
- Make any statement one way or the other about its existence
- Imply a right answer
- Imply or signal anything about the town of Westport, beyond an openness to explore the topic.
The essay contest is voluntary. No student is forced to enter. Nor is it a part of any school curriculum or classroom requirement.
The contest is open only to residents of Westport in grades 9-12 attending any school anywhere, and non-resident students who attend public or private schools located in Westport. It is not open to individuals or groups outside the town.
The contest requires written permission of a parent or guardian for entry.
No taxpayer dollars are involved. All funding comes from private contributions (email firstname.lastname@example.org to donate!).
All members of TEAM Westport are volunteers.
This is the 4th consecutive year that the group has sponsored an essay contest. Previous topics involved race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
The essay topic is meant to allow Westport students in grades to 9-12 write about what the challenge means to them.
It is not about what older people, people outside Westport, the press or political groups think.
Think about that!