School Diversity: Building Stronger Human Communities

  • Equity & Inclusion
  • Give Each Child
Steve Wilkins, Head of School Blog


Gec Washman, Carroll’s mythological guru whose name is a loose acronym for  “give each child what she or he most needs”, gets involved in practically every facet of Carroll School life. Today, Gec talks about giving children what they most need as citizens of the 21st Century.

People tend to misunderstand why schools engage in diversity work. Is it to increase the number of people of color in a school's community? Is it to do the politically correct thing? Is to assuage the guilty feelings of white leaders who understand the inequities of our society? Is it because some regulatory agency tells us we need to engage in more inclusive practices?

Surely there are elements of truth and value in affirmative answers to some of these questions. Yet, in actuality, diversity work is about building stronger human communities. It is about developing a broader view of what our schools can be. It is about building better schools.

When Carroll School originally embraced the statement "give each child what she or he most needs," we were referring to providing an academic and social environment that truly addressed the unique needs of each child. We thought we were talking about academic interventions, amplifying a child's strengths, and being a highly "plastic" school that addressed the neuroplasticity in each child. We thought we were building a school that was complex enough to effectively serve our complex student population. Upon further review, we now understand that "giving each child what she or he most needs" is also a statement that must encompass all types of human diversity. Note: We even now realize that the pronouns in the statement are binary female and male terms, not a fully inclusive view of the world.

Diversity work seeks to help us all be thoughtful and aware of the implications of our decisions and actions. It helps us gauge our activities through a lens of many people -- children and adults.​ We seek to ensure that everyone in the community feels respected, included, and valued. It is important, as part of diversity work, to acknowledge that we all hold implicit biases that impact our work in schools. There are implicit biases within even the most well-intentioned.

We need to engage in courageous conversations. When hard topics come up, when someone says something that seems racist or sexist or deliberately insensitive, what do we do? Do we "shush" those conversations or do we take on the challenge? Diversity work suggests that we take on the hard conversations. We work through the uncomfortable. We allow for disagreement in a kind and civil manner. In harmony with Carroll's core mission, we acknowledge that there is no one right way to be a good human being. We embrace difference.

Carroll has already improved as a result of our diversity, equity, and inclusion work over the past 18 months. Our student recruitment process reaches into more zip codes than ever before. We are marketing Carroll more intentionally and broadly. We have redesigned our hiring processes to give access to Carroll to a wider population of candidates. Our faculty and leadership is more mindful about selecting curriculum, books, and special events. Carroll teachers and staff are all engaged in professional learning communities where we are reading and discussing a book called "We Cannot Teach What We Don't Know" by Gary Howard. We think differently about how we group children, assign roles to teachers, and about the questions we ask.

In the words of Claude Steele, Stanford University Professor and author of "Whistling Vivaldi", we should strive to build communities that love humanity and deal with difference lovingly. That's why we do diversity work.

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