NEW PALTZ — Alfie Kohn, a former teacher turned author and lecturer, will deliver the keynote address at a conference titled, “Building Bridges: Continuing the Multicultural Dialogue,” at the State University of New York at New Paltz on Friday, May 7. His topic will be “Beyond Self, Beyond the Basics: Diversity in an Age of Standards.”

The previous evening, Thursday, May 6, Kohn will give a public lecture on “Competition: Is it Helping or Hurting our Children?” The May 6 talk will be held in the New Paltz High School cafeteria at 7p.m.

Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior and education. Of his many books, the best known are No Contest: The Case Against Competition and Punished by Rewards. His concerns about competition and rewards have helped to shape the thinking of parents and educators across this country and abroad.

Kohn writes for many newspapers and magazines, among them Parents and The Atlantic Monthly and he is a contributing editor to Psychology Today. Kohn has appeared on more than 200 television and radio programs, including two recent appearances on Oprah.

The keynote speech at the Friday conference will address ways in which educators can work to create a school environment that continually encourages collaboration and appreciation of diversity. Kohn feels that the same progressive vision that encourages a celebration of diversity and a bridge between cultures can also assist in creating a learner- centered approach to schooling that is important to the education of all students.

“This year’s annual multicultural conference will be a collaboration with the Matteson Conference and bring together educators, students, and parents to gather fresh insights and to make new connections with others who are working to affirm diversity in schools,” said Nancy Schniedewind, a member of the faculty of the educational studies department at SUNY New Paltz and one of several conference coordinators. The program will begin with Kohn’s address at 8:30 a.m. in the Lecture Center.

“Classrooms and schools in which students feel respected, safe and listened to are essential to academic achievement of diverse students,” said Schniedewind. “Workshop participants will address the challenging issues and promising practices that contribute to making equity in race, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, and language a reality in the school systems,” she added.

The conference is sponsored by the School of Education, the Matteson Conference Fund, the Mid-Hudson Teacher Center, Ulster County BOCES, Concerned Parents, and the Multi-Cultural Coalition of Teachers.

Throughout the day there will be workshops on more than two dozen topics, among them, “Fostering Dialogue about Diversity, Discrimination and Equity in the Classroom and School,” “Creating Partnerships: Managing for the Future,” ” Puerto Rican/Hispanic Youth Leaders Speak Out,” “Perspectives of Parents of Color: Multicultural Dialogue,”and “Creating an Effective Inclusion Program.” Other topics will include “Building Multicultural Bridges through Music,” “Building a School Community that Appreciates Diversity,” “Working Together in Partnership to Create Change,” and “A Mainstreaming Diversity.” Another workshop will afford participants an opportunity to engage in a dialogue with Kohn about the issues mentioned during his lecture.

The conference is open to the general public. There is a $25 registration fee. Students pay $10. For additional information about the conference contact Nancy Schniedewind at 257- 2827 or 257-2831. To register, contact the Office of Conference Services at 257-3033.

The 7 p.m. free public lecture is sponsored by the New Paltz Central School District PTAs in conjunction with the School of Education at SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz School District, Ulster BOCES, the Mid-Hudson Teacher Center, and Multicultural Coalition of Teachers.