Re: A meeting on diversity in svs-model schools

Jbradford1@aol.com
Sun, 1 Sep 1996 15:34:40 -0400

In a message dated 96-08-31 15:03:44 EDT, Michael Levy (Pacific Village)
wrote:

<< --I also want to mention that one person at the meeting felt that ther=
e is
no
reason to take on diversity as a goal. >>

I confess; it=92s me.

Diversity of ideas, experiences, and opinions is desirable; however, I fi=
nd
it highly offensive that a person=92s color, social status, or disability=
is
what diversity has been reduced to. Does having group members in any one=
or
all of these classes ensure diversity? What would the =93black woman=94
described in Michael=92s message think about being held up as some sort o=
f
token? Not once was her ideas discussed, just her skin color. If we are
indeed trying to be =93color-blind=94 in our society, of what relevance i=
s her
color to the group? How about the person who described her =93urban star=
tup
group as quite diverse=94? Did she mean diversity of ideas, experiences,=
and
opinions, or did she mean her group is comprised of varying socio-economi=
c
backgrounds and physical limitations? One does not guarantee the other. =
Is
a group or school that happens to be comprised of a wide range of ethnic =
and
socio-economic backgrounds somehow intrinsically more valuable or better =
than
a group that is all white and middle class? If not, then what is the poi=
nt?

I contend diversity (my definition) occurs naturally over time. To force=
it
in to some type of preconceived framework is not democracy at all, it is
simply coercion. History clearly illustrates that coercion does not work.
And this type of coercion seems to me to conflict with the philosophy of=
a
Sudbury model school.

If we base diversity on demographics, then how does one define diversity =
as a
goal? When have we reached the ideal level of diversity in our schools?
Logic tells me that we must set an "ideal" numerical value (also known a=
s a
quota) of persons (students) of differing diverse populations. When we r=
each
that "quota", then our school would be considered diverse. Quotas, by th=
eir
nature, promote discrimination. If we accept Student A because of his
physical disability, then Student B will not be allowed to attend due to =
her
not being of the right grouping. Don=92t we have an open admissions poli=
cy?
How would we go about discriminating and based on whose agenda?

I feel strongly that democratic schools should not be the vehicles of soc=
ial
change. If an adult wants to promote a certain agenda, the democratic mo=
del
is not the mechanism by which to do it. If students demand more diversit=
y,
it should be handled within the school meeting. I doubt students place m=
uch
emphasis on diversity; I contend that they would consider their school
population diverse as it is--filled with a richness of similar and opposi=
ng
views and ideas and expressed openly in a free society. =20

At the SVS conference, I learned a very important lesson. I had thought =
we
should be =93selling=94 our school to everyone. Instead, I learned it is=
best to
help potential students and parents eliminate themselves. This makes it
easier for all involved. Having said this, how do you propose to =93sell=
=94 our
philosophy particularly to these desired groups and at the same time aid =
them
in self-elimination?

During our break-out session, Nan Narboe stopped in at the beginning to o=
ffer
Cascade Valley=92s non-discriminatory clause for schools to use if they s=
o
desire. While I don=92t recall the exact verbiage, I remember that it was
well-written. It is important to include a statement like this on all
materials associated with the school, not just from a legal standpoint, b=
ut
from one of inclusion. This allows the school=92s policy related to equa=
l
opportunity and admissions to be stated in a way that is not patronizing.=
=20

To me it=92s enough to have your doors open to everyone. Those who wish =
to
attend will find a way to do so.

Jeff Bradford
Liberty School Founder=92s Group

P.S. Michael states (in relation to the make-up of the conference
attendees):
<< We had some diversity of sexual preference and people from a variety =
of
class backgrounds and religious backgrounds. >>
How did you find this information out? It seems rather personal to me.