Diversity and Inclusion

By Rich Wilson

When I was a Brand Manager at P&G, we all had to attend training seminars in which the trainer would put us through various exercises to make a training point or improve our skills. There was one exercise that made a big impression on me. 

A challenge was put before us. We were on a camping trip. A catastrophe befell us, and with the list of materials available in our backpacks, we had to figure out the best solution. Each of us was given a half hour to come up with a plan. After that they put us in groups of five to share our plans and come up with the best plan the group could devise. 

They then shared what was considered the best solution. Next, the trainers asked, "How many of you came up with this solution on your own?" No one raised their hand. We then reviewed the plans the small groups devised. Most were reasonably close to the best one.

The point was made very powerfully: The best solutions are a product of many different voices, not just one. 

That is a lesson we want Summit students to learn and universally practice when faced with a challenge.

As leaders, we want them to seek out diverse views and invite input from those voices, so that the solutions devised are the best they can be. 

For several years we've had active Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) clubs in both the Middle and Upper Schools. They learn about these principles and seek ways to practice them in our school. The clubs have brought provocative speakers to our campus. 

Over the last 12 years, we've sent a delegation of teachers and students to the People of Color Conference, sponsored each year by the National Association of Independent Schools. The funding for the program had been provided by one of our generous families who passionately believed in the importance of diversity. We're now looking for another family to sponsor, if not endow, this opportunity for the benefit of our students long into the future. 

While these efforts have been worthwhile, we felt there was an opportunity to teach D&I principles like we would math: develop a scope and sequence from preschool through grade 12. This would ensure that all children would have the same exposure as they move through the grades. 

The first step in accomplishing this objective was to adopt D&I teaching standards. From those standards, teachers would then develop lesson plans to bring those standards to life. 

We've adopted 20 standards grouped into four areas: 

Identity: Students recognize they belong to multiple identity groups, recognize the traits of dominant and minority groups and learn how to negotiate their way through interactions with multiple groups. 

Diversity: Students seek to understand, develop respect and become comfortable interacting with those who are different from them. 

Justice: Students recognize stereotypes, bias, power and privilege of dominant groups and injustice. 

Action: Students recognize their responsibility and have the courage to stand up and speak out against bias, exclusion and injustice despite peer pressure to behave otherwise. 

Two of the Hallmarks of a Notre Dame education provided to us by the Sisters echo these standards: "We embrace the gift of diversity," and "We honor the dignity and sacredness of each person." Our plan to teach to the D&I standards in our curriculum is a way of actualizing these hallmarks. 

In so doing, we believe we'll be giving our students the tools to become leaders of character who go out into the world and become the changemakers and peacemakers Christ calls all of us to be.

That's Christ's way, the Sisters' way and The Summit Way. 

Reprinted from the Spring 2019 issue of The Summit magazine. Read more about our D&I standards in the magazine.