Why diversity matters
by Head of School Bernie Noe
For more than 20 years, Lakeside School has worked hard to create a diverse student and adult campus community. Being open to all talented and motivated students, regardless of background, is central to our mission as a school and we encourage all who believe they can thrive here to apply.
We believe in diversity at Lakeside for a number of reasons.
First, and most important, we believe that no school can be academically excellent in 2012 unless its students and teachers bring many different backgrounds and experiences into their classrooms.
It’s essential to have a range of perspectives represented in class discussions and the curriculum, and that will not happen without a diverse student body and teaching faculty.
Let me give you an example from my own teaching. In my fall semester class for juniors and seniors, Genocide in the Modern World, we recently discussed the subject of obedience to authority. The students had read about Stanley Milgram’s experiments at Yale in 1964 and were discussing why some individuals were more likely to obey authority than others. My students shared both their individual experiences and knowledge of many cultural values and norms, local and global, informed by their different ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds. One shared that in her family, one always obeys elders; another said her cousins who live in another country were more likely than she to obey authority, as she is first-generation American; and a third offered a belief that cultural background is less influential than whether one’s parents were authoritarian, democratic, or laissez-faire in their child-rearing practices.
I sat thinking that this was a rich discussion for our students and much like future discussions they will have in a global workplace. We live in a diverse nation and world. When our students attend classes with those both similar to and different from themselves, they learn to respect difference and celebrate the talents that every person brings to the table. These are essential skills for thriving in the future.
Second, we believe Lakeside School should be a good institutional citizen in Seattle and do its best, given our resources, to serve as many intellectually capable and motivated local students as we can enroll, regardless of background. All institutions play an important role in their respective cities; we share an obligation with other local public and independent schools to develop future leaders for our city. It’s important that those leaders reflect the demographics of our metropolitan area.
Later this week, you will receive a report in the mail on Lakeside’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative: a yearlong review of our diversity efforts and a strategic road map that grows out of and expands upon the work that has come before. The initiative is focused on race and socioeconomic class and lays out forward-looking and achievable goals. Over the next five years, we plan to do more to create an inclusive student and adult culture; hire a more diverse faculty and staff; examine teaching strategies with an eye to developing cultural competence; and address issues of access and affordability.
Diversity at Lakeside, after all, is not just about numbers. It is also about being an inclusive and equitable community—one in which all members feel valued and respected and have equal opportunities and access to engage fully in the life of the school. Building that community is our ultimate goal.
Our new director of equity and instruction, Christel McGuigan, will oversee the implementation of the diversity and inclusion plan. (You can read a profile about her in the next issue of Lakeside magazine.)
Please take the time to review the broad outlines of the plan in the report and send along any questions you have.
Enjoy the waning days of fall everyone! I will see you at all sorts of school events!