RE: DSM: [SVS Discussion Board] questions


Joe Jackson (shoeless@erols.com)
Tue, 18 Apr 2000 12:24:18 -0400


Hi Alan!

> The experience of those who are not of the majority/power groups in this
> society is too ubiquitous to ignore, however. race, gender, sexual
> orientation, and religion are still ways in which people are routinely
> treated unfairly, i.e., they are not treated according to "the actual
> differences between individuals", as you and I both advocate. To
> ignore this
> is to blind ourselves to the realities of the lives of all to many people.

This I agree with, and I applaud you for your work! But my point is
fourfold:

- that using the school to combat the evils of society make the school a
less effective place for ALL colors, creeds and sexual orientations. A
School Meeting is, of course, free to conduct its business however it wants,
but that's what I would argue in SM.

- that the divisions between many demographies that have historically been
the buzz-definition for "multiculturalism" are literally disappearning. My
step daughter is half native American, my son-in-law is full
Salvadorian-American. Will my son have people who want him in a school
because he is at least three times as "multicultural" as a WASP? Certainly
not: his skin is white.

- multiculturalism is much more than skin deep. I agree the questioner
seemed to want Scott to do the distateful work for him of making judgements
about what races (or combinations thereof) constitute "multiculturalism" and
subsequently critique the school based on these assumptions. I don't blame
the questioner, either; it's hard to look like a cool researcher when you're
asking questions like, "how many ancestrally pure African-Americans do you
have at your school?" Which is one (of, I'm sure, many) of the things he
*actually* wanted to know.

No one is debating the idea that hanging out with people of, for example,
different color or sexual persuasion is important. I am debating that true
multiculturalism cannot not be defined by and should not be evaluated based
on such superficial standards, and that this true "multiculturalism of
character" is at least as important as racial diversity.

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where
they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of
their character."

-Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

> Multiculturalism, for me, is simply a fact; it is either there or
> not. When
> I do a "diversity" workshop, as I did the other day, with a team of 25
> workers from a major high-tech manufacturing company who are all
> white, all
> male, almost all Protestant, and who's average tenure with the company was
> 31.5 years I feel on safe ground to say that there was not much
> multiculturalism within that group. Nothing wrong with that. It was just a
> fact. My tack with them was to look at themselves as individuals
> and to look
> at the similarities and differences they embodied. We talked
> about how they
> handle those differences and looked at effective ways to take advantage of
> them and to lessen the complexities of doing so.

I respectfully submit that if there were no multiculturalism in that group,
then there would be no differences to handle.

Great talking to you Alan!!

-Joe J
shoeless@erols.com
http://www.jazztbone.com
************************
See Fairhaven School's website at
http://www.fairhavenschool.com

> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> [mailto:owner-discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org]On Behalf Of Alan Klein
> Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2000 11:24 AM
> To: discuss-sudbury-model@sudval.org
> Subject: Re: DSM: [SVS Discussion Board] questions
>
>
> Joe,
>
> Thanks for your thoughtful and thought provoking posting. I resonate with
> your concern that we not allow others to frame the assumptions behind a
> discussion/argument, but rather do this mutually.
>
> In this case, however, I am not sure what all the fuss is about. The
> question, "Is the student body multicultural?", simply asks for
> demographic
> information (or at least a summary thereof); information that would be
> available, for example, through a census. It makes no attempt to place a
> value judgment or a hierarchy on the information.
>
> It seems it would have been very easy for Scott or Mimsy to reply (I am
> making these numbers up), "We have about an equal mix of male and female
> students and staff. About 90% of the student body is white, as is
> all of the
> staff at this time. Most of the rest of the 10% is Asian. We really don't
> know about religious affiliation, but there seems to be a mixture. The
> percentage of Jewish students and staff is probably a little above that of
> the local population. We don't formally track our students (or staff's)
> sexual orientation, but there are a few openly gay and lesbian
> students and
> one staff member. Socio-economic class is always hard to tell, since we
> don't ask such questions, but we know that our student body runs the gamut
> from folks who scrimp and save just to make our (low) tuition payments to
> those who are pretty well off. Most seem solidly middle-class." This could
> have been accompanied by a statement such as the one you make in terms of
> the most important criteria being that people come who want to come.
>
> Multiculturalism, for me, is simply a fact; it is either there or
> not. When
> I do a "diversity" workshop, as I did the other day, with a team of 25
> workers from a major high-tech manufacturing company who are all
> white, all
> male, almost all Protestant, and who's average tenure with the company was
> 31.5 years I feel on safe ground to say that there was not much
> multiculturalism within that group. Nothing wrong with that. It was just a
> fact. My tack with them was to look at themselves as individuals
> and to look
> at the similarities and differences they embodied. We talked
> about how they
> handle those differences and looked at effective ways to take advantage of
> them and to lessen the complexities of doing so.
>
> It is easy for me (a white, middle-class, straight, guy whose mental and
> physical capabilities are in fairly good order) to say (as you did),
> "(these) alleged generalized differences between individuals
> based on their
> color, religion and presumed ancestry...(are an) arcane and increasingly
> obsolete manner in which to generalize traits between people! - color is
> increasingly not related to the nationality (-ies) and family culture;
> religion is increasingly not related to any generalized cultural traits
> whatsoever, and the entire arrangement only serves to reinforce
> prejudices."
> The experience of those who are not of the majority/power groups in this
> society is too ubiquitous to ignore, however. race, gender, sexual
> orientation, and religion are still ways in which people are routinely
> treated unfairly, i.e., they are not treated according to "the actual
> differences between individuals", as you and I both advocate. To
> ignore this
> is to blind ourselves to the realities of the lives of all to many people.
>
> ~Alan
>
> ----- Original Message -----
>
> > Hi - Joe from Fairhaven School in Maryland
> >
> > I would probably had gotten defensive if I were asked the
> question "Is the
> > student body multicultural?" because that is an inherently attacking
> > question. Attacks compel people to defend. I believe whether Scott
> > appeared evasive or defensive is largely immaterial as the
> questioner made
> > no attempt to disguise the attacking nature of the question.
> >
> > That particular question is completely predicated on an item of
> conventional
> > wisdom that there is a hierarchy of multiculturalism that is
> based not on
> > the actual differences between individuals, but between the alleged
> > generalized differences between individuals based on their
> color, religion
> > and presumed ancestry. An arcane and increasingly obsolete manner in
> which
> > to generalize traits between people! - color is increasingly not related
> to
> > the nationality (-ies) and family culture; religion is increasingly not
> > related to any generalized cultural traits whatsoever, and the entire
> > arrangement only serves to reinforce prejudices.
> >
> > The true multiculturalism is a group of people who, for example, have
> widely
> > disparate opinions of the definition of the word "multiculturalism".
> > Getting a bunch of people of different colors who all think
> multiculturalism
> > means having a bunch of people of different colors is homogeneity in the
> > most non-superficial sense. Differences in the actual content
> of people's
> > character cut across all supposed categories of race and creed,
> silhouetting
> > the degree of true diversity.
> >
> > In any case, the various opinions of what constitutes multiculturalism
> > should take a back seat at our schools to the obvious sole criterion of
> who
> > should be on the rolls - the folks that want to be there the most.
> >
> > Removing obstacles, financial and otherwise, is an entirely
> different and
> > unrelated subject. They should be though of in two distinct
> steps: 1) You
> > market the school loudly, getting the word out to as many people as
> > possible, using the best judgment you can as humans to decide where and
> how
> > to market, then 2)you do what Alan said, which is sit back and wait for
> the
> > ones who really want it to come.
> >
> > Back to the question - it's a trap: only someone who advocates that mere
> > visible and religious diversity define multiculturalism would ask it, so
> to
> > answer yes or no based on the questioner's interpretation is to tacitly
> > endorse that view. To answer yes or no based on a literal definition of
> > multiculturalism (as I think Scott did) looks like one is evading the
> > question. Any question one cannot answer without either capitulating or
> > appearing esoteric is a manipulation and therefore an attack.
>



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