STAFF ED: Road to Acceptance
The Globe's District Recommendations on Diversity
April 10, 2017
Over the past months the Clayton community has been in a state of crisis over increasing instances of hate-speech. These incidents are not the result of a new problem, but are merely bringing to light a problem that has ailed the Clayton community since its onset.
These instances of hate speech have stemmed from cultural insensitivity and a lack a full awareness of what might be offensive to others.
Clayton has always been a stellar school when it comes to academics – we consistently place on national lists of the best public schools, our standardized test scores are off the charts, and we send kids off to amazing colleges ready to tackle any level of academic rigor.
But academic education is only one portion of the education of the “whole child.” What good does this academic education do if students are sent out undeveloped in other areas such as cultural sensitivity and awareness?
The School District of Clayton raises many students from 18-months when they first teeter into the Family Center to 18-years-old when they stride across the stage to receive their diploma.
And in these years students spend eight hours a day for the better part of the year in school buildings.
So regardless of what you think the limits of a public education should be, it is clear that the School District of Clayton has a profound effect on shaping children in their most formative years.
Some community members argue that it is not the responsibility of the Clayton administration to deal with the “personal” issues of hate-speech of the students – that the job of the district is to educate its students not regulate their speech. However, the School District of Clayton administration has already taken upon itself this responsibility.
The handbook of the School District of Clayton outlines the five “core values” of the District one being, “to model and promote inclusiveness by valuing individual differences and the contributions of a diverse student body and staff” and further another is “to model and promote accountability by aligning our actions and resources with our stated objectives and taking responsibility for the outcomes.”
The Clayton administration is stating that it is their responsibility to promote an inclusive environment and that they must take accountability for making actionable changes and allocating resources in alignment with stated objectives such as this.
The District has promised the Clayton community that it will take action to support an inclusive environment, but a lot of the action the District has taken has been reactionary to negative situations as opposed to implementing sustainable proactive changes.
The District has put into place measures that they can point to when accused of not doing their part to ameliorate the diversity and inclusiveness of the Clayton community, however we must take a proactive stance on these issues rather than a reactive one.
One important, yet often neglected, way to build cultural sensitivity and tolerance is in the curriculum itself. The majority of the western history we learn about is dominated by white colonial powers and most of the literature is by white men.
This is hard to avoid because of the nature of our nation’s history.
Our studies of the history and literature of foreign cultures is ancillary to our mission of getting educated in the western canon and western history.
Clayton High School offers a senior elective history class called African American History, but how much of this course should be part of the mandatory curriculum of all students not just a handful of volunteering seniors?
The District’s recruitment of the Anti Defamation League (ADL), while a y direct reaction to instances of hate speech on social media, was a good start in taking action.
However it should be just that: a start. Our eyes now turn to the administration to see what their next actions will be and if they make any real actionable and long-term changes. It is our position that the District should consider the following actions to meet that goal of long-term changes.