The topic of diversity is so complex that I can sometimes find myself vacillating from having a clear understanding of what it means to feeling that there are just so many perspectives and meanings that one definition can be quite elusive. Regardless, what is most important, in my mind, is that the availability of diverse perspectives, ideas, personalities and backgrounds is an enriching and vital resource for the future.
This morning I was driving along the Sea to Sky highway on my way home from a holiday with friends in Whistler. The scenery was beautiful and my mind was so far away from work and the daily grind- a sign of a wonderful holiday. It didn’t take long, however, for me to connect what I was listening to with how we want to consider our approach to ongoing learning for our girls and also for our school as an institution.
I was listening to The Current on the CBC. The particular program, entitled “David Suzuki’s Andean Adventure” was focused on a unique approach to environmental sustainability. The country of Ecuador has granted constitutional rights to ‘nature’ such that those changes appearing to negatively affect the environment could be stopped if they were proved to be encroaching on the rights of nature. This concept is a unique one but reportedly has been successful in deterring some significant environmental damage.
While the whole program was very interesting it was the last part of it that grabbed my attention and brought me to the reason for this reflection upon our world at St. Clement’s. David Suzuki had been traveling in Latin America and studying innovative strategies for sustainability emerging out of Latin America. His final comments were what resonated with me. Suzuki said, “One of our problems is that we have been caught up in a kind of economic system where we feel trapped to do things in a certain way and here are these poor, developing countries that are coming from a different perspective and saying no, we have got to do it in a different way.” Suzuki comments that he is delighted about this because, as he states, he thinks the challenge today is a lack of diversity. He feels that we are ‘mono-culturing’ our world with a single idea of economics and development, and we are no longer able to see that maybe there are other ways to do it.
Regardless of what one is talking about, whether it is economics, environment or rights, it was this comment about the need to ensure diversity in order to enhance our abilities to problem-solve and to ensure ongoing improvement that struck me.
As a school, we have spoken about the importance of our girls stepping outside their comfort zones while learning, and that involves encouraging them to take risks in their learning. However what is also vitally important is ensuring that our learning environment continues to foster and recognize the benefits of diverse points of view, backgrounds and approaches. This is important, not only for our girls, as students preparing for school and life, but also for us as an organization. We must continue to ensure openness and enthusiasm for what diverse approaches can provide, as this will set us up for an exciting and exceptional future.