Deepening our Understanding of Diversity
The Oaks mission statement states that the school “exists to provide a rich, classical education to children of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, preparing them to succeed…” This means not only admitting and enrolling a diverse population of students, but also serving them well by providing the environment and supports that they need to succeed.
Last school year, one of The Oaks’ professional development workshops focused on how diversity and inclusion is lived out at The Oaks. During that session, CEO Andrew Hart, framed his remarks on diversity around The Oaks’ core values. Below are notes from those remarks, which provide a glimpse into how we continually reflect on our commitment to this critical part of our mission.
Personhood of the Child
The central question is: how do we see each other? What is our starting point as we engage and enter into relationships with our students, with our families, with each other? Andrew spoke about his own reflection on those questions and referenced a PBS quiz that he took, Do you live in a bubble? After the quiz, you are given a score one to 100, with one meaning you are encased,
entirely in a social-economic bubble of the middle/upper, well-educated class, securely situated in a prosperous neighborhood. His score challenged him to consider ways in which his own actions and thinking needed to be examined. He shared the quiz with the faculty and it sparked interesting dialogue.
Relationships Come First
The workshop was given on April 4. That is the day in 1968 that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. On that same day 48 years ago, just down the street from where The Oaks now sits, Robert F. Kennedy spoke to a restless crowd after recently announcing his presidential campaign. In his speech Kennedy reminds the crowd that the majority of people in this country want to live together, want justice, and want to improve the quality of life. How can we get there? At The Oaks it starts with being known and loved. When do we feel known and loved? When someone takes the time to understand, to listen, to ask follow-up questions. We have to ask ourselves, do we want to understand or are we comfortable living in our assumptions?
Truth, Beauty and Goodness
In this part of the workshops, teachers broke out into grade level groups to discuss how our curriculum does and does not effectively reflects diversity. Kari Carr, the Director of Academic Development, introduced African/African-American connections in humanities curriculum, then teachers had the opportunity to discuss what they thought worked and what could be improved.
Catalyst for Renewal
As a Christ-centered school, faculty and staff at The Oaks believe that people are renewed by the Gospel. The gospel changes everything - changes your social identity, changes the architecture of your heart, and changes the way you think about diversity. This is renewal.
This is work that continues on different levels all the time at The Oaks. It is an essential part of who we are every day. It doesn’t end at the end of a workshop. And so we continue the discussion, we make changes formal and informal to become more aware and understanding, and to address challenges in the hope that our children see, hear and feel our interest and our care.