Ebony, Ivory and Everything In-Between

Some time ago I read about some people in Ontario who wanted to segregate their children from the general population of students in schools so that they might study the finer details of their indigenous culture and feel pride in their ancestry.

There was of course considerable debate about the wisdom of doing this.  In the debate, were two trains of thought. First was the perspective that children whose background and culture differed from the general population would lose their sense of self or at least be subordinated in some way to the greater will. And second, there was the perspective that by separating these same children from the general population of students, the result would be a kind of apartheid that people all over the world have been struggling against for umpty-ump years.

In thinking about it, I’m not sure that either perspective would do anything to build a more tolerant environment. I think there is a third viewpoint here that I haven’t heard anyone mention. Here it is.

In my own, possibly naive, way, I see this as an opportunity for schools and school boards to introduce cultural education in all of its schools. What’s wrong with all children, regardless of gender, race or cultural background, having the chance to learn about a variety of cultural practices other than their own and becoming familiar with religions other than their own for that matter? Surely this would help our human race come to terms with its differences as well as appreciate its commonalities.

I expect that someone will be able to tell me why this is a terrible idea but it seems to me that the more we seek to understand, the more tolerant we become.

While I’m ruminating on this topic, it occurs to me also that girls and boys of all backgrounds and religions who grow up understanding each other on a deeper level will build workplaces capable of honoring and relying on the mosaic that is the human race to ensure their prosperity.

Charles Handy once said,  “The companies that survive the longest are the ones that work out what they uniquely can give to the world not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others and their ability to make people happy.  Some call those things soul.”

In my experience, respect and happiness often spring from being seen and heard.  When we are seen and heard, we have a better chance of being inspired to do our best work. And, in my reverie, I picture more leaders in the world who come to see the differences among us as assets to be valued.

I’m reminded too of a song that Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder sang together some time way back in the 80’s.  It rings true for me today and I hope it does the same for you.

As always, your thoughts are most welcome here.






Filed under building awareness, diversity

12 responses to “Ebony, Ivory and Everything In-Between

  1. Gwyn,
    Especially liked this paragraph:
    In my experience, respect and happiness often spring from being seen and heard. When we are seen and heard, we have a better chance of being inspired to do our best work. And, in my reverie, I picture more leaders in the world who come to see the differences among us as assets to be valued.

    I agree with what you suggested for the schools. The only argument I can “hear” against it is time. “We can’t teach about all cultures, there’s not enough time in a day.” That’s probably true, but they certainly can teach eveyone about the one that’s part of their backyard.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Yes, I can see that argument too, along with the one that usually involves budgets.
      Thanks for coming by 🙂

  2. Hi Gwyn,

    In the 1960’s ,Carl Rogers said the most important thing for elementary school age children to learn was not “what” they learned, but that they learn “how” to learn. We’ve come a long way, and not for the better. Sadly, schools now approach children as though they are empty vessels to be filled with information. I can’t imagine anything more important then spending time learning about current events, each other’s heritage, and how to understand and appreciate our differences as that is the only thing that will prepare them to function in the world as global citizens.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Jesse,
      If we are not preparing our children to take their places as global citizens, we are indeed doing them a disservice. Providing them with an education that will help them replace ignorance and fear with curiosity and appreciation doesn’t seem that onerous a task and yet we seem to be sadly missing the mark. And, apparently we have been doing so for some time.
      Thanks for sharing your observations here.

  3. Hi Gwyn – I have lived in an international environment for a large part of my life and although there isn’t the wideness of ethnic diversity you might find elsewhere, the cultural and linguistic differences are huge with different histories and heritages coming into play every day . I see miscommunication and conflict resulting from this all the time.

    My kids had the privilege of going to an international school where the teaching of different cultures was part of the curriulum or included as fun activties of the extra curricular activties programme. There is no substitute for gaining understanding of others as a strong base for becoming a global citizen as Jesse said.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Dorothy,
      Your comments led me to remember the days, (way back when), when I was recruiting management trainees for the bank. The people who stood out most significantly for me were not necessarily those with impressive formal credentials but those who had travelled and taken the time to learn about how other people lived and what they valued. These people seemed to be less self important and certainly more interesting than those who hadn’t.
      I rather think that when we look around us, we certainly have the mix of people to make just about every school an international one. We just need to look at it differently and respond accordingly.
      Thanks for bringing your voice to the discussion.

  4. Thank you Gwyn for this! For me the concept of segregation fills me with sadness (and not a little horror) – what a narrow view of the world! My own family has a mixture of cultures and races stretching from the Caribbean to Sri Lanka via England, Wales, Spain and Germany. So which culture would we need to opt into and out of? In reality our strength and vitality comes from the mix!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Wendy,
      I think you nailed it when you said, “our strength and vitality comes from the mix”. Indeed it does. There is strength in numbers, (as they say) and there is also strength in variety..not to mention that without variety, life would be pretty boring.
      Thanks for bringing your perspective and your rich family culture here.

  5. Hello Gwyn, I have a daughter who is adopted from China, I take every opportunity to share with her class about China. We live in a less than diverse community. We recruited others adopted internationally to a girl scout troop in our community. We have four girls adopted from China, one with a grandma from Greece another from Vietnam. I was blown away that on international day for girl scouts in our small town.. four troops wanted China. I think kids have a thirst for knowledge about others. I love your post!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Amy,
      You’re right. Children have a natural curiosity. For a lot of reasons, some adults feel it necessary to control that curiosity perhaps so that their children learn to be discreet or diplomatic and not embarrass themselves or others. Somehow, in all of that though, the thirst for knowledge you speak of has a way of getting absorbed in life’s accepted protocol and that’s a shame.
      I applaud your mission to open eyes and minds in your community.
      Thanks so much for sharing your story and for coming by!

  6. Amy

    I forgot to say congrats on being one of Jane’s Friday Favs!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s