by Dr. Samantha, C. Sweeney, Founder, Culturally Competent Kids
I have a pet peeve with how the words ‘culture’ and ‘diversity’ are used in our society. I have noticed that these words are often used as euphemisms for race and ethnicity. For example, a Pakistani child is referred to as a ‘diverse’ child or a school that has only Black children of low socioeconomic status is described as a ‘diverse’ school. I wish someone would explain to me how a child is ‘diverse’. And a school that has only dark-skinned children with limited means is about as diverse as a school with only light-skinned children who are all wealthy. Not diverse at all. Diversity means difference and if you are going to use the word, please use it correctly. A diverse school is one that has large percentages of several races and socioeconomic statuses. If you look in the classroom of a diverse school, you will see kids of all different skin colors and sizes, with different clothing choices and hairdos. A diverse school is one in which children are learning so much from each other because they are from different backgrounds and have different worldviews and, therefore, bring different perspectives and opinions to classroom discussions.
Now, I think that it is important to point out that when I talk about diversity, I’m not just talking about race. Race, and to a certain extent ethnicity, are arguably the most visible and therefore the most widely discussed parts of diversity in our society. But this is not the only important part about someone. This is where culture comes in. There is collective culture and personal culture and they are both important in understanding others. I choose to take a much broader view of diversity and culture. This includes, but is not limited to: gender, ability level, religion, sexual orientation, country of origin, family make-up, language, age, and education. This is by no means an exhaustive list. While there are many ways in which we as humans are similar, we also have a lot of differences, which can and should be celebrated.
I highly encourage my readers to comment on this post and to add their own perspectives about diversity and culture. What does diversity mean to you? What does culture mean? Do you think a particular part of one’s culture is more important than another? If so, which ones and why? As long as they are respectful, I always accept and encourage dissenting opinions. Part of my philosophy is to encourage children to welcome perspectives that differ from their own. In some ways, this is much harder for adults to do, but I hope to model some of that here. So please join the discussion!