Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have witnessed the controversy over the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) movement in schools all over the country. There are layers of confusion among the headlines, none of which are worth your time. Confusion over what DEI work truly is, boils down to two root causes.
- Our lack of focus on DEI as an essential condition (sadly we’ve too often seen it as an initiative, and initiative that like others can be derailed or cancelled or defunded).
- Our lack of community education (let me say this clearly, if you aren’t proactively educating your community about the ‘why’ and ‘what’ behind DEI work someone else will retroactively educate them in spades).
DEI work in education is not new in any way, shape, or form. For at least ten years science has demonstrated a missing link between intentional work to create equitable systems of learning and just using words. Too often words like inclusion or equality make it into our work without doing the hard/real work to operationalize those words into habits of being. The hard/real work only comes when training, expectations, accountability, and outcomes align.
We have, for far too long, witnessed lagging outcomes for individuals who don’t fit into the majority profile. When we know we aren’t doing something(s) right, isn’t it the right thing to do to make a concerted effort to improve?
When we see a child unable to swing at the park because they are in a wheelchair, we should advocate for an accessible swing. When we see a peer continually denied a promotion, with the only outlier being gender we need to speak up. When we witness an adult over 70 struggling to access resources, we need to be the neighbor that shows up. When we see a student that doesn’t feel valued because they don’t read or write at the same pace, we need to change our practices to help them achieve their goals. When we see a person of color in line at the store but continually dismissed and ignored, we need to move them ahead of ourselves in line and ensure that they are served.
DEI work is about making sure our communities and systems are the best that they can be, for the all people who live, work, and grow there. That does not necessitate sameness, but rather an…