Re: A meeting on diversity in svs-model schools

Richard Bennett (Richard@Bennett.com)
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 00:18:46 -0800

Folks,

The discussion of diversity is devolving, as it ususally does, into
the PC assertion of a biological imperative favoring random variety
versus the objections raised by those with some practical experience
with the diversity of human cultures in a school setting. Seems like
a good point to jump in.

I'm always impressed, in an unfavorable way, with the narrow scope
and limited depth of the PC claims for the value of diversity. PC
multiculturalists generally subscribe to an outcomes view that the
composition of a workplace, a school, or other institution has to
reflect an essentially arbitrary ethnic demographic, drawn from the
composition of the local community, the state, or the nation. The
classic example of this in recent memory is the Democratic
Convention in Chicago, where a party mandate dictated each state's
caucus had to be perfectly gender-balanced, and representative of
the ethnic composition of Democrats in the state. The notion was
carried to such an extreme that the party maintained a pool of
replacement delegates so that people who fell sick could be replaced
by a member of the proper ethnic and gender credentials, even though
the replacements needn't hail from the states they allegedly
represented. Clearly, this can go too far.

But how far does the diversity of a group have to go to represent the
richness of the human cultural experience? Is it sufficient to
include the US Census Bureau's ethnic ethnic categories, or must we mix in
various income levels as well? Isn't the commitment to diversity
lacking if we exclude members whose families have attained different
levels of education and literacy? Do we exclude the physically
handicapped at the peril of diversity? Hadn't we better include the
deaf, the blind, and the mentally ill as well? Should we limit our
school populations to law-abiding citizens, or should we recruit a
few crack dealers and gang members from the blighted inner cities?
Hadn't we make pains to sign up a few representatives of all known
sexual orientations, and perhaps a few child molesters and pedophiles
as well? What about conservatives, radical feminists, Nazis and
anarchists? Should the Unabomber be invited to career day in the
interest of inclusiveness?

And what is this human-centric specism all about, anyway? Can't
chimpanzees, snakes, slugs, and viruses appreciate music and art?
How do we know?

Diversity, it seems, is a bottomless pit.

Every successful school succeeds by creating for and of itself a
unique culture, a sense of community, a shared set of core values, a
system of rules, and a mechanism for resolving disputes. A
democratic school is unique in its insistence that the process takes
precedence over the outcome, in its refusal to impose preconceived
formulae beyond the bare essentials of self-governance. If each
member of the school community is responsible for managing his time
and activities in the school, each non-member is responsible for his
choice not to become a part of the community and to seek out the
school experience he and his parents want for him.

It seems to me that the establishment of demographic (or any other,
for that matter) goals and objectives is counter-productive to the
spirit of free exploration which is vital to these schools.

Lets not poison the democratic school with PC as we already have the
public schools.

RB

--
Richard Bennett                                  Cupertino, CA