Our nation is at a crossroads. As we become more diverse, we can find the shared values and common ground of what make us all human and connected, or we can use our differences as a means to divide and separate us from one another.
Unfortunately, the proud tradition of teaching different ways that individuals of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds can include and learn from each other has come under assault.
Across the nation school board meetings have become battlegrounds about a little known graduate-level academic theory about systemic racism that originated 40 years ago in higher education and is sometimes taught in colleges, universities, and law schools, called “Critical Race Theory (CRT).”
This contentious debate has pitted well-intentioned parents who care deeply about their children’s education against each other. Since so few people have ever heard of CRT, it’s become easy for many to confuse it with diversity and inclusion programming. Some parents have mistakenly been led to believe that this theory is seeping into our elementary, middle and high school classrooms and that children are being made to feel guilty or racist because they were born with a certain skin color.
CRT is not taught as part of the diversity and inclusion programming that The Diversity Center and similar organizations do in our schools. Dedicated teachers, administrators, and board members increasingly are being forced to defend themselves against something that is not even happening.
One way some try to win an argument is to misrepresent their opponent’s position in order to make it easier to invalidate. It’s called creating a straw man, because you erect a “straw man” - a phantom villain - and proceed to attack and knock it down. We believe CRT is such a straw man. Rather than attack diversity education and programming for what is, it is being attacked under the guise of something that it’s not.
Instead, let’s focus on what diversity and inclusion education and programming is and what we at The Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio do in schools.
Each year, we work with thousands of students and educators to develop awareness, knowledge, and skills needed to be leaders and bridge builders in their schools and communities.
We have been dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry and racism since 1927 when we were founded as the National Conference of Christians & Jews. We began with a focus on interfaith work, and over the years, we have grown and expanded to reflect the scope of the needs of our communities.
We believe and teach people skills to get past feelings of discomfort when they happen. We do not believe or teach that participants should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race, sex, or other identities.
We believe and teach skills and strategies for respecting others’ political, religious and other beliefs and practices and for navigating conflict around these subjects. We do not believe or teach any specific political, religious, or economic belief system.
We believe in bringing people of different faiths, color, ethnicity, and thought together to find common ground and common values.
Teaching our children the important skills they need to succeed in this complex world has never been more important, and that includes the importance of understanding and celebrating our differences and creating environments that make everyone feel valued and included. Our programing does just that.
If we truly believe in the value of diversity and inclusion, we must be prepared to explain it and defend it.