by Stephanie Goodwin
Imagine a parent comes to the school board and says they are upset about the curriculum because their child feels uncomfortable taking algebra. Taking algebra upsets their child, making them feel singled out, awkward, or embarrassed when they don’t understand a concept, or when they must discuss it publicly. Indeed, they argue, teaching algebra is divisive because it highlights who is good at math and who is not, instead of teaching that all students are the same. The parent wants the board to remove algebra from the curriculum.
I suspect that many of you are laughing and thinking “That’s ridiculous, parents don’t get to dictate the curriculum. We pay experts to make those decisions.” Or “That would never happen.”
But that is exactly what is happening right now when it comes to discussions of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools. A small number of politically motivated and poorly informed individuals are trying to drive a wedge in our community by arguing that even talking about the value of diversity, the importance of equity, and the necessity of inclusion is harmful and divisive. Teaching these values is not harmful to our children. Indeed, scientific studies of educational outcomes demonstrate that diversity increases innovation, that equity promotes short- and long-term student success, and that promoting inclusion by valuing difference – not just “tolerating” it –improves student mental health, wellbeing, and academic achievement for all students. When we teach our children to embrace difference, to listen empathically, and to practice humility, we prepare them to enter an adult world that will not shield them from their own discomfort around these issues.
Regardless of our own political or religious beliefs, we all likely agree that every student, teacher, and staff member in our district is deserving of respect and belonging in our schools. Creating a culture of respect and belonging cannot be achieved by avoiding difficult topics like diversity, equity, and inclusion. It demands modeling for our children the empathy, cultural humility, and acceptance that will serve them throughout their lives by teaching them how to navigate and understand these issues. Education should be about knowing, not avoiding, truth. DEI is only divisive if we feel threatened by knowing the truth.
Any candidate who does not recognize the importance of DEI values in shaping our students’ success will not earn my vote.