The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

[STAFF EDITORIAL] To make diversity training meaningful, engage when it’s hard

77% agreement
Annika Kim
DIVERSE DIRECTIONS. Students are given a wide range of opportunities to engage in diversity-related programming at school. Now, to combat complaints that diversity training isn’t engaging enough, it’s time to apply what they’ve learned.

In recent years, the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (known as DEIB) has become divisive in educational institutions across the nation. Given this polarization, it is crucial that SPA continue to teach students how to engage across differences, including race, religion, and ability in order to reduce microaggressions and prejudices.

Diversity training aims to boost understanding of differences in students’ backgrounds and ideally equips students with skills to foster an inclusive environment. When done properly, it can transform perspectives and behavior, but in practice, students generally take a dislike to the countless numbers of assemblies followed by advisory discussions.

When students start feeling the strain of diversity training, they often take aim at a tool meant to encourage structured discussion: the Courageous Conversations compass.

While most of our explicit training and practices centers on the compass, the tool is widely regarded as ineffective, even used as a form of mockery against the school’s methods of diversity training at times. Student discomfort and complaints that the school’s DEIB practices are purely performative weaken the intended effectiveness of the compass.

Ironically, with a non-white student population of 39% in the upper school and a diverse demographic encompassing different racial, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds, the limits of the compass lead many to stay silent in discussions about inclusiveness.

Ironically, with a non-white student population of 39% in the upper school and a diverse demographic encompassing different racial, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds, the limits of the compass lead many to stay silent in discussions about inclusiveness. This dissatisfaction is an indicator that some change must occur for diversity training to be effective.
The power for the student body lies not in what is offered, however, but in what we do with it. Whether the programming meets one student needs while another feels underserved, we are lucky to be able to have conversations around diversity at all.

Recently, Republican lawmakers in a number of states including Texas, Utah, and Florida have begun banning DEIB as a whole, and more states have put limits on what can and cannot be said in diversity training, according to an interactive map published by NBC News in March.

This school year alone, administration has worked to create plenty of opportunities to participate in diversity training. In September, the upper school added a number of student-led affinity groups and clubs to connect across difference, and the history department replaced a textbook in the curriculum with a more expansive history site that elevates more female and BIPOC voices. In October, co-Director of the Race Institute for K-12 Educators Ali Michael kicked off the Multicultural Communities Series and Immigration Law speakers discussed the difficulty of the legal process of immigrating to the United States. In November and December, administration invited clinical psychologist and researcher Howard Stevenson to follow up on Michael’s discussion by examining racial trauma and healing, and GDS Summit attendees worked with administration on a revised gender harassment policy. The administration has clearly acknowledged student concerns and complaints and demonstrated dedication and commitment to diversity training through these efforts.

January brought speakers Rose McGhee and Roslyn Harmon to talk about advocacy and political action, and MLK Day offered a time of action for food insecurity. Community Day was a student-sponsored day focused on awareness and equity in terms of redlining and racial covenant history. The Namecoach roll out in February aims to reduce microaggressions due to mispronunciation of names. The student ambassador program created a partnership around data research and aggregation to capture where students feel seen and valued and where the community might do some work to build meaningful connections. In March, the Interfaith Iftar brought students together across religious practice to build bridges and understanding while sharing a meal. Community Action and Service kicked off the return from Spring Break with a service night to increase awareness and promote equity… and all of this is just a snapshot of the many ways the school supports student-led initiative and institutional change.

With an arsenal of tools provided, lack of student participation isn’t an issue that administration can fix. Many students worry about saying the wrong thing and facing unnecessary backlash, and white students can feel that conversations about race and other identity markers are not their place to speak. Fear cultivates silence when open-mindedness to different perspectives is lost. As a solution, students can approach diversity training accepting that everyone’s experiences are different, and extend grace to peers who are trying to learn. Engagement can start as small as one individual engaging in the messy and incomplete conversation, leaving it with new thoughts and questions.

The goal of diversity training is to foster an inclusive and safe educational environment. When students do not utilize the multitude of tools at our disposal, its effectiveness drops dramatically. Engage in diversity discussions, whether they feel formulaic or spontaneous. Approach tough conversations with an open mind. Destigmatize the judgmental environment around diversity training and, instead of using the compass as an excuse, forge a path to understanding.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Annika Kim
Annika Kim, Illustrator
My name is Annika Kim (she/her). I work as the Illustrator for the Rubicon, and this is my second year officially on staff. At school, I work on Iris Art & Lit magazine and act in the theatre productions. I love animation and want to combine computer science with art to tell a story. I can be reached at [email protected].

Comments (0)

Comments are welcomed on most stories at The Rubicon online. The Rubicon hopes this promotes thoughtful and meaningful discussion. We do not permit or publish libel or defamatory statements; comments that advertise or try to sell to the community; any copyrighted, trademarked or intellectual property of others; the use of profanity. Comments will be moderated, but not edited, and will post after they are approved by the Director of RubicOnline.  It is at the discretion of the staff to close the comments option on stories.
All The Rubicon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.