At work we talk a lot about diversity, not just for our students, but also for faculty and staff too. When I first started working at the school, I thought we didn’t really have diversity. 100% of the student body is black American and from low income DC. I’ve observed our students in the hallways and at lunch and they seem to listen to the same music, talk about the same social events and dress alike(part of the likeness in dress is due to the school uniform, but most students elect to sag their pants, not tie their ties all the way or pop their collar). The staff is predominantly black American from DC, but we do have five white people, two people from India and one person from Germany.
So how can we talk about diversity when it all looks to be the same? What I realized through this lesson is that I was looking at the surface of what diversity means. Surface level diversity only looks at the physical attributes that sets us apart or unites us, ethnicity, demographics, etc. (Campus PSU World, 2017).
I took another look at the student body this week to look at the deep-level diversity of this group. The deep-level diversity refers to the way people behave, their interests, thoughts; the things that we can’t see or know just by looking at them (Campus PSU World, 2017). It seems that these are things we discover only by getting to know people.
We break our students into one of five academies. All the first year students (9th grade) are in an academy, and then we have the Fine Arts Academy, Health Science, Information Technology and Early College. Each academy has attracted students based on their interest and talents. Members of these academies are knowledgeable about their fields, for example I spoke to one of the students in Information Technology who told me that our Wi-Fi “sucks” and that he knows how to fix it, if only we would let him. I got to teach a master class to the dance students in the Fine Arts academy and they were interested in the lesson, asking questions, engaging in the activity and discussing their future career goals.
I say this, because I’ve learned that diversity is not just what we see, but when we get to know others, we get to see the world through new lenses. To me, it seems that this is how change is made, how policies can be updated and human rights can be honored. Even though leaders may have the same skin color, or gender, it doesn’t mean that they can’t bring value to the discussion.
So how can the diversity of the staff encourage conversation of what diversity means and looks like for the students? To me, it is no longer about bringing the white, Indian and German staff members together; instead, it’s about bringing different walks of life and opinions together; really listening to someone that I disagree with and trying to see where he or she is coming from and how we can compromise.
Campus PSU World. (2017). Penn State University. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from www.psu.edu: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1826457/modules/items/21654094