When Nelson Mandela stated in his speech, “Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world,” he spoke a most valuable truth for our time.
Education is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially in America, which has the potential to shape brilliant minds.
But when those brilliant minds aren’t being properly taught, funded, or represented, how are they supposed to prepare themselves for the diverse future ahead?
Recently, The Evergreen State College announced the cancellation of its yearly Day of Absence. The Day of Absence was an event where students would learn about the importance of diversity and value of others despite differences. Students and teachers of color left campus for the day and white students stayed. The next day, it would be the Day of Presence when they’d return and both groups would speak about the importance of diversity.
Personally, I’d only heard about this event during the controversy and I must say, it was more than many people in this country do to teach their children about diversity. But with the dismantlement of the event, I’m positive the community of South Puget Sound will continue fighting for equality, education, and the acceptance of other.
Diversity carries weight and receives a lot of hostility, especially in America where some view it as an end to the white supremacy mentality. The end of that mentality is a good thing, in case you were wondering. Recently a Southern Poverty Law Center survey concluded that high school seniors in America have trouble answering even the most basic questions on slavery and only 8 percent could identify slavery as the main factor for the civil war.
If America is to progress with diversity, equality, and education, children and adults should know their history, and the foundation of the country that says it values “freedom for all” but doesn’t always act like it.
According to Dr. Robert W. Sussman in his book Myth of Race, biologically humans aren’t racist, sexist, or homophobic; it’s a social construct used to divide and oppress others they deem inferior. Psychologically, this outlook is driven by fear of someone or something different than yourself because of the lack of knowledge.
How can we fix this? Learning and exposing yourself to diversity, especially at a young age. Being knowledgeable about one another and our backgrounds makes it easier to receive, adjust, and be open-minded. Think of it like learning calculus, biology, or any other subject. The more you know about it, the easier it is to function in the real world.
How does diversity factor into education? A great deal. Diversity means exploring and accepting others for their complexion, gender, culture, history, and beliefs despite differences. Learning about diversity is a valuable education tool.
There’s no clicking your heels and chanting, “There’s no place like 1920s segregation.” So how about preparing yourself and your children through knowledge of diversity such as respect, valuing others, and celebrating one another?
Let’s start at home. Although you might not have a lot of diversity in your current community, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still learn about it. We are privileged enough to have easier access to more information than before from books, media, articles, people, etc.
The first step is always respect, especially for those who obviously can’t change physically or sexually. Even if you don’t understand a certain lifestyle, you can still respect it.
Introducing diversity can be as easy or as hard as you like it to be. Many schools and libraries within Puget Sound house have a plethora of books on diversity suitable for students in pre-school all the way to readers in adulthood. As a former teacher, I enjoyed teaching my students about diversity, being inclusive, practicing different languages, and learning to celebrate other cultures and people.
Personally, I’m still learning about diversity myself, how to familiarize myself with dissimilar cultures, especially when teaching and studying outside the U.S.
But at least I’m learning. How about you?
Jordyne Watford formerly taught in the Olympia school system and is working to earn a master’s degree in English. As a member of the 2018 Olympian Board of Contributors, she may be reached via email at Nemadrestia@gmail.com.