What does it mean to be “diverse”?

Friday, February 10, 2017 - By: Mr. Bud Patel

I recently attended the Independent Schools Association of British Columbia (ISABC) Head’s meetings in Nanaimo. The Association is made up of 26 schools from around the province and we try to create a theme for generative discussion during every meeting. This time we discussed the notion of “diversity” and how we, as an association, were supporting this laudable notion. We welcomed speakers from TransFocus Consulting to discuss LGBTQ+ support, the Executive Director of Student Affairs at Vancouver Island University to discuss equity and access, and we listened to the Director of Admissions at Mulgrave School in West Vancouver discuss support for an increasingly diverse ethnic population in the Lower Mainland.

While the topics are poignant, my thoughts did occasionally wander and I found myself doodling – shhhh – let’s keep this to ourselves. I created a bubble diagram reflecting some ways that diversity could be represented. I do apologize for my poor penmanship and I’ve rewritten the words below.

Diversity includes… 

  • National(ities)
  • Disabilities
  • Ethnicity/Race
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Socio-economic status
  • Gender identity
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Opinions
  • Thoughts

I understand that this list is incomplete and I invite you to add to it – please send me an email with your additions (bud.patel@brentwood.bc.ca).

The final two words (opinions and thoughts) perhaps don’t get as much acclaim yet in an age that has featured extreme rhetoric, post-truth, and alternative facts. Listening to and accepting other perspectives requires some attention. Places of learning need to provide safe spaces for academic discourse and disagreement. It is not if, but when, we challenge each other. How we engage, however, is most important. Do we plug our ears, shout down others, and minimize varying perspectives OR do we discuss, converse, and  debate under the tent of civility? As Evelyn Beatrice Hall famously wrote in her 1903 book The Life of Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" – wisdom we need more than ever.

De Manu In Manum, Bud Patel, Head of School

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