Diversity, equity, inclusion embrace all
Diversity, equity and inclusion. Three words that, for most of us, embody a moral rightness and imperative, not merely a “virtue signal to the ‘woke’ left.” Education, government, business, law, policing, life itself should reflect the meaning inherent in these three words. Diversity means including people from a variety of social and cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientation, etc. Equity means providing all people with the tools they need to enjoy and take advantage of the equal opportunity provided by inclusion. Inclusion means providing equal access and resources to all people, regardless of race or economic status, who might be excluded or marginalized.
Education, as it is a public right for all, seems a very logical place to develop a culture and curriculum of diversity, equity and inclusion, and schools seem logical places to cultivate an attitude that embraces the meaning of all three words. However, there seem to be some major misunderstandings about the advantages to children of working toward greater diversity, equity, and inclusion when it comes to improving their education. This misunderstanding is reflected in the current campaign for the at-large Cape Henlopen school board member. It is both a pity and a travesty that the issue of race has become a focus, since diversity, equity and inclusion by definition include all different people and curricula. Yet, because of the misrepresentation of the 1619 project, because HB 198 has been equated with Critical Race Theory, which has then also been misrepresented, and because the Oregon Department of Education’s new course offering based on A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction has been decried, it is critical for Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice to address the implication that tending to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters would dumb down the curriculum and harm our children.
The suggestion that the arrival in 1619 of Black people who were enslaved was just a small part of American history fails to recognize that the impact of Black enslavement resounds throughout our history, impacting all moments from then until now. The United States gained its economic prosperity and global superiority on the backs of enslaved Black people, first harvesting sugar and then picking cotton. Even after Black people were given the right to vote, Southern states found a multitude of ways to limit their voting, including poll taxes and literacy tests, to name a few, an effort to that continues today. Teaching this information is not a matter of bias, but of fact. If we are to teach both the bad and the good, we cannot sugarcoat our history. The 1619 Project illuminates the experiences of Black people from slavery to now in a way that has never been included in the history education of our children. Because history has only been partial, it has not enabled the dialogue, the reckoning and the possibility of change. Slavery and racism are a major part of our history, and to know that creates the possibility of not continuing it.
It is for this reason that HB 198 is being considered. HB 198 is a bill that would require the inclusion and integration of Black history into Delaware’s public-school curricula. It is not Critical Race Theory. Nor is Critical Race Theory a “Marxist ideology,” aimed at “indoctrinating our kids to want communism.” Critical Race Theory is, in fact, an ongoing examination and critique of ways that racism, from the very beginning, permeates every level of our society. The goal of this examination is to develop understanding and, through understanding, implement change. HB 198 may be an indirect result of CRT since it aims at broadening the history our children learn, thereby increasing understanding, which may, in turn, lead to change. CRT does not encourage people to hate one another. Rather it encourages dialogue, conversation, listening, all aimed at working to eliminate racism from our society.
In Oregon’s A Pathway to Equity Mathematics Education document, the authors state that in current math teaching, “The focus is on the right answer.” This is not a denial of the right answer, but rather a change in focus to gaining an understanding of mathematical concepts, encouraging critical thinking about math rather than rote learning.
Reading further into the document, it becomes clear that the goal of Equity Mathematics is to meet the needs of all different learners, to acknowledge that sequential learning is not helpful to all, especially because of lack of background knowledge, and to recognize that people learn in a variety of ways. While the document highlights the need to make math more equitable for Black and Brown learners, the changes they suggest would benefit everyone.
Clearly all of the above involve diversity, equity and inclusion. Broadening our understandings and meeting the needs of all children can only benefit and empower all children and improve their outcomes. Some argue that it only calls attention to blackness and whiteness, when, after all, didn’t Martin Luther King Jr. himself say that we are to judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin? And, since children don’t see color anyway, why should they suddenly become aware of it? Of course children see color; we all do. It’s ridiculous to deny what is right in front of our eyes. But children don’t attribute any meaning to that color or judgment based on it; they only move in that direction through their interactions with adults, the media, their schools. Is it that we are afraid that children might come to wonder at the racial prejudices of their parents, of the media, and in their schools? Might they begin to question the flaws in our country, our historical inability to live up to the true ideals spoken daily in the Pledge of Allegiance and named in the Constitution, even as our founding fathers contradicted those ideals in their lives? Indeed, might our children become the catalysts of change? And if so, why do we continue to try to resist the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion and oppose and prevent that change, which can only make life better for all?