As you have read, public schools in our area are struggling to come to consensus on the concepts of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice and if they have a role to play in the education of our kids.
How and if this happens remains the question. Nothing has been decided or set in place as boards of education, parents and community members debate how or if DEIJ will find a place in the culture of our schools.
So, what’s the big deal?
There are those among us who are not in favor of DEIJ. “We have superior schools with high academic standards so let’s stay focused on that.”
Surely smart people like us can, as the old saying goes, walk and chew gum at the same time. And isn’t a good education more than the three R’s and a wide choice of Advanced Placement courses?
What are we afraid our kids might learn from DEIJ that they won’t eventually meet head-on in the world beyond the Chagrin Valley?
The parallel view is “We are not fearful. Lessons in fairness, understanding, respect and behavior toward others should be taught in the home not the classroom.”
It is hard to argue against that point of view. Only the most cynical would dare suggest it is natural parents would teach only what they want their kids to know and leave out that which they do not. Like history, context and proven facts?
Four of us were discussing this at lunch last week and as the conversation ebbed and flowed we discovered that our own educations lacked “accuracy.”
Public school history books and even those we studied from in college had not told the whole truth. Some were laced with propaganda.
For instance, as children we learned that American Indians were the aggressors, the settlers were innocent, just looking for a better life.
We were taught nothing about “The Trail of Tears” or how the white people stole ancestral land and corralled native people onto reservations which still exist – many in poverty.
So how are we righting this monumental wrong? Is changing the names and logos of sports teams really all we should be doing?
Meanwhile, in the deep south, our student counterparts were taught the Civil War was “a war of northern aggression” waged by less genteel folks who failed to understand the finer traditions of servitude.
And who knew, until the musical “1776” premiered in 1969, that some of our founding fathers kept slaves or how politics altered the Declaration of Independence and the fate of America with removal of 168 words condemning slavery.
We were ignorant of our history until advanced communication technologies began to report events as they were happening and providing a real time record that will make it difficult to cook the history books yet to be written.
Today, anyone can capture history as it is happening and as we all witnessed from the painful-to-watch camera phone record of George Floyd’s slow, torturous death.
Closer to home, and not that long ago, the media caught us at our worst when downtown Chagrin Falls was called out for boarding up 99.9 percent of our downtown store windows in advance of a peaceful Black Lives Matter rally. It illustrated how much all of us need a little DEIJ.
At this moment, boards of education are in listening and learning mode but squeaky wheels are loud and school boards fear the noise that might jeopardize the next levy, bond issue or their own re-elections.
The DEIJ conversation is about to get louder. There are nine people who have taken out petitions to run for three seats on the Chagrin Falls Board of Education and the three open seats on the Orange Board of Education have attracted five petitioners.