01/22/2019 by Carney Sandoe Staff |

Strengthening Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

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This Friday and Saturday, we’ll be running our fifth-annual FORUM/Diversity (January 25 and 26 in Philadelphia)  — focused on the theme “Lifting as We Climb: Steps to Transformation” — and are thrilled by this year’s keynote speakers, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Dr. Peggy McIntosh, two of the nation’s most important figures in the drive for equity and inclusion in our schools and beyond.

As we look ahead to our time in Philadelphia, we thought we’d remind readers of comments from our 2018 keynote speaker, Tim Wise — a prominent anti-racist activist, author, and an independent school parent — as well as insights from Seliat Dario, a Placement Counselor here at CS&A, who introduced Wise with her own thoughtful observations.

Seliat’s perspective speaks to the core of our work with schools — and to the reason we are so committed to this annual Forum. “We can say we believe in diversity and equity and value multiculturalism and integration,” she told the audience, “but if we send our children to monoracial, monocultural schools, live in monoracial and monocultural neighborhoods, and expose our children to cultural settings in which everyone looks like them, they will see the inconsistencies translated as hypocrisy and conclude that we as parents are lying to them about that which we value.” (Watch Seliat's introduction here.)

Seliat went on to welcome the nearly 750 educators, job seekers, school representatives, and diversity practitioners, noting she was glad so many came “to combat some of those hypocrisies, to diversify the faces, the voices, and the ideas of your school communities.”

For his part, Tim highlighted the changing nature of diversity work from the Obama era to the current atmosphere fueled in great part by white nationalism. During Obama’s time in office, Tim said, it was challenging, given that we had a black president, to convince people that racism and white privilege were still major issues in the nation. Now, with overt racism and hate crimes on the rise, the danger is that we think of racism and white privilege only in terms of deliberate acts of hatred and violence. “While we wouldn’t engage in such overt hostility,” he pointed out, “the reality is that we all still live in a society of inequality for which we are all to blame.”

While outlining many societal inequities, Tim turned his attention to the importance of doing the work in schools — which not only involves diversifying our student bodies and teaching staffs but also shifting the curriculum, helping all teachers develop greater classroom skills to understand and address issues such as stereotype threat that undermine student performance, and otherwise speaking up for and supporting the marginalized in our communities.

Tim also offered some praise for independent schools — making it clear that, because of diversity efforts, independent schools are far better institutions today, both culturally and academically, than in the community’s monocultural past. “Our schools, whether colleges or K-12 independent schools, are better, our children know more, are learning more, are being challenged more than their parents and grandparents ever were. And they are being done that favor in more equitable, more diverse, more multicultural spaces.” (Watch Tim's address here.)

As always, however, greater changes are needed and the work continues — for our schools, communities, and nation. We look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia for what promises to be a highly stimulating and informative conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What DEI initiatives have you started at your school? What has worked, or what hasn't? We'd love to feature your school, so leave a note in the comments below!

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