Teaching Diversity

25 Jul

Diversity is the big buzzword these days. Schools spend a lot of time and money teaching “about diversity” to students, training teachers to follow the p.c. view of diversity and hiring teachers to fulfill a quota in order to maintain the appearance of being a diverse institution.

I remember, fresh out of college, interviewing for a teaching position. Every interview, I was told “We are a very diverse school. The majority of our students are African American. How would you be able to handle this kind of environment.” Every time, I would point out to them that since I was also a minority, I would handle it much the same way I did growing up. My answer surprised them every time. See, I’m not black. But I am the second generation American of a Japanese woman (now a naturalized citizen), making me half-Japanese.

Let me point out the first fallacy. If the majority of your population is a certain way, how is this diverse? The last school at which I taught prided itself on it’s diversity of faculty and staff. Even black and white; even male and female. However they also had a tendency to hire people that grew up and lived in the district. They went to high school there. They went to the local college. Came back home and worked at the school. Is that truly diverse?

Diversity is not about race. But that is what we are made to believe. My growing up with a Japanese mother and learning about Japanese culture made me more different than the black students I taught or the black teachers with whom I worked. We may have had different skin colors. But we all grew up in the American culture of fast food, pop music, consumerism. That is not diversity.

One of my favorite lessons was teaching color to my elementary classes. This was at a school that had a 98% black student population. I introduced the color mixing concepts and color theory and introduced the lesson – a self portrait. Painting self-portraits always forced the students to mix the colors. Then, I would talk about skin color. Immediately most of the class would cry out that they were black and my one or two white students we exclaim that they were white. Really? I would reply. And I would pull out two pieces of paper. One black and one white. They laugh. Then I would take several different students and we compared the skin. It would range from pale milky coffee to darkest brown with a few creamy peach colors and rich warm brown tones. The kids loved it. They got it. And the paintings were always beautiful and original and unique, just like their creators.

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One Response to “Teaching Diversity”

  1. TwicebabiesMom! August 30, 2007 at 12:56 am #

    Hey there!

    That is one amazing article.

    I am very impressed and enlightened.

    Thank you for your insights.

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