Faculty Reads Whistling Vivaldi

By Will Nuelle Co-Editor-in-Chief The entire faculty was tasked with reading the book Whistling Vivaldi this summer. Written by then-Columbia-now-Berkeley provost and social psychologist Claude Steele, Whistling Vivaldi explores the nature of stereotypes and how the presence of what Claude calls a “stereotype threat” affects the way people live and, more importantly to Latin, the way students learn. One example that Mr. Graf cited was how girls in math or science classes—when faced with a high-pressure situation like a professor giving a test that determines if the student is “smart enough to be in the class”—might do worse simply because a stereotype is present in their minds that girls are worse at math and science. Those negative thoughts require extra energy to ward off and can end up hurting performance. Assigning the faculty summer reading is an unprecedented move in the eight years Mr. Graf has been at Latin, but the administration felt that Whistling Vivaldi was a book that all faculty need to sink their teeth into. The idea is that all faculty can come back ready to join the discussion on stereotypes and their impact. All parents were also invited to read the book so that they, too, could join the discussion. Mr. Graf said that one of the reasons the book appealed so well to the administration is because it isn’t just about racial stereotypes; there are parts about all types of people and Mr. Graf felt that all readers could find something in the book that they can easily connect with. Although Mr. Graf admitted that creating real, community-wide discussion on the impact of stereotypes is a long-term project, he said that Whistling Vivaldi has the potential for immediate impact. He added, “if you can disrupt stereotypes… then you can stop cycles of prejudice.” The administration hopes this is one small step in working towards a community that knows everyone comes from very different experiences and that stereotypes are only stopping us from understanding each other.  ]]>