Re: A meeting on diversity in svs-model schools

Pacvillage@aol.com
Wed, 4 Sep 1996 11:03:34 -0400

I am a middle aged white male and I notice I have a different viewpoint,
which I would like to express in the spirit of celebrating diversity. I do
not claim that this viewpoint represents middle aged white males or any other
group.

I came away from the conference at Sudbury ValIey with a renewed resolution
to critically examine everything that we do in our school from the question
"To what degree does this come from our 'new' paradigm, and to what degree
does it come from the past, without examination?"

Any implication that there is something wrong here regarding diversity in our
school which needs to be fixed, strikes me as distinctly old paradigm. And
who says balance is desirable? In some parts (not all), the discussion about
how to remedy the situation reminds me of a debate between intelligent and
well-intentioned adults designing an age appropriate curriculum to supply
children with what they lack. Think about it.

It seems clear to me that we want to encourage DIVERSITY WITHOUT
DIFFERENTIATION in our school. (Could that be a bumper sticker?) This is not
a question of social engineering, but simply a practical matter--we get tired
of talking to ourselves and people like us. Of course we have the BEST ideas
:). However, we begin to see that even the best is kind of limited, but the
world is not.

In the realm of personal responsibility, if I am missing the richness
diversity could provide, what suggests itself to me is the practice of
TALKING TO STRANGERS. Everyone I don't know is a stranger, but I would place
particular emphasis on those strangers I would normally avoid because I am
uncomfortable with them. And I would talk to them in the way I talk to
students at school--with respect for who they are as people, with the
expectation that they are willing and capable to be responsible, and that we
are going to do some growing together.

Having engaged in this practice from time to time when I can stand it, I am
able to report that my world has consistently been enriched by the
interaction. In keeping with our paradigm, this is not a top-down approach.
I talk to strangers, my world is enriched by the conversation, and I think,
people who wouldn't previously give me the time of day start to show up
around me. Next thing you know, they want to enroll in the school.

Someone is sure to think that I am a dangerous person to have on staff at a
school. I probably don't teach children not to talk to strangers (I don't).
I probably encourage twelve year olds to strike up conversations with pervos
hanging around the bus station. (I don't). Talking to strangers is
potentially risky, because living is risky. But it is worthwhile to
distinguish what is really dangerous from what is merely uncomfortable
because we have been taught: Don't talk to strangers!

Paul from Pacific Village

PS: Our enrollment for the fall has DOUBLED since we came back from the
conference and the procrastinators keep rolling in. We open on the ninth.