by Lenore Broughton
Intrigued by an article written by Winifred McCarthy that appeared in the November 16, 2011 edition of True North Reports, I attended a committee meeting on Diversity and Equity at Burlington High School on December 12 of last year. It was immediately evident that Ms. McCarthy had not been reporting an imaginary issue. Forty or fifty people had gathered that Tuesday, a strong majority of them very eager to get on with the implementation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Burlington Public Schools.
During the public’s question and comment time which preceded the actual meeting, an older long time Burlington resident voiced her concern that the Task Force Report, by focusing so rigidly on group identity instead of the individual, was actually fomenting the very racism it professes to oppose. Furthermore, what about the academic success of the individual child?
There was no direct response to this query of concern. But later David Davidson, School Board Member from Ward 3, asked the committee to “paint a picture of how we get everyone to achieve equally and at a very high level”.
Dr. Dan Balon, Director of the Office of Diversity and Equity, addressed both queries when he explained that his goal is not Utopian. He said the goal of equity will have been achieved when race, gender, religious preference, etc. are not predictors of academic success.
This goal….on the face of it…seems ultimately fair and balanced….hardly racist at all. Who would begrudge an educational outcome that did not depend on the group to which one happened to belong? The outcome should depend on one’s own talents and hard efforts, the expertise of good teachers, and a solid curriculum….. right?
Well……here’s where it gets tricky.
Definitions of a solid curriculum, teacher expertise and just what it means to reach a “high level” vary a great deal. There are no longer the agreed-upon educational targets that once prevailed.
Somewhere in this big conglomerate of groups everyone is going to such lengths to accommodate – those based on gender, or sexual preference, or color, or religion, or income status – there is one group that is singled out for particular disdain. It is the group described variably as conventional, white, privileged, and wedded to its Judeo/Christian values and beliefs.
This over-achieving, particularly successful American group, or culture, from which most of us derive, is to be relegated to the back of the bus.
So, yes, they say let’s have more equity and meanwhile to make our task easier, let’s eliminate the Judeo/Christian culture, thereby lowering our expectations and stifling a child’s natural inclination to excel.
The Task Force Report is replete with disdain for so-called “white culture”. Liz Curry, community member, parent and a member of the original Task Force echoed this sentiment when she spoke of the urgency of making the “white dominated culture” feel the “discomfort”, as a sign that the schools were on the right track.
This discomfort is what the Task Force and now the Committee assumes will cathartically accompany the massive re-training of the leadership, the teachers, and the staff presently in charge of our Burlington Public Schools. The curriculum which has for years been expunging traces of white Judeo Christian culture is in for further refinement, too, in order to insure that it is “anti-racist (and) culturally responsive”.
Oh, woe the children!! How very sad that the innocent refugee, thinking she has arrived in the land of opportunity, finds herself instead in a place that is bent on denying her the keys to the kingdom. In the name of Equity.
Former Speech/Language Pathologist