Thoughts on diversity by Head of School, Andrew Davis.
The gap extended a good twenty paces. The physical distance between myself – and much of our white professional community – and our black guest facilitator was the physical representation of how differently race and privilege impacts our daily life. The simple exercise towards the tail end of our recent professional development workshop on diversity, equity, and inclusion, evoked strong emotions in me and many of my colleagues. I had entered the day, from a place of believing. I believed that having a diverse and inclusive community is the right thing to do. At that moment, I was feeling that moral imperative. I was living that day in my heart.
About a month before that I was in my head, rather than my heart. Early in February I heard a talk titled “The Diversity Bonus” that showed me the mathematical proof that diversity is not just a nice to have, but a must have. Scott Page, a professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics at the University of Michigan, showed through numerous, data-heavy examples that a diverse group is better at prediction, creativity, and problem solving. The best results require both ability and diversity. Diversity is essential to the work that we want our students to be doing in the years ahead.
At the tail end of his talk, Page revealed that having a diverse group is necessary for knowledge economy success, but not sufficient. The group must also be inclusive. In order to realize the “diversity bonus,” a group must be able to hear and value the diverse voices around the table. While we might not be asking our students to solve the most complex problems in grades K-8 – though I have been impressed with the depth of work so many of our students do – we do have the opportunity to help our students develop the skills of being inclusive of all voices. If our students can graduate 8th grade valuing and including the diversity of our community in all of its forms, they will have taken a critical step to being the most successful leaders of the knowledge economy.
Throughout this year the professional community – the faculty and staff – has been engaged in diversity work and discussions about race with Dr. Lori Watson from Courageous Conversation. In each session, she has asked us to approach the work of diversity and inclusion from four places: 1) Feeling, what I experienced as we lined up; 2) Believing, my starting point of what is “right” and moral; 3) Thinking, Scott Page’s work; and 4) Acting. It is acting that we plan to do more of at MTS in the future.
Building an even more diverse and inclusive community is the right thing to do. It is also what you, our families, as well as our alumni want us to further improve. I am excited to be working with the faculty Diversity Committee, as well as the Board of Trustees and parent community, in the months and years ahead to amplify the important – no, critical – work of diversity and inclusion at Mount Tamalpais School.
That work will require believing, feeling, thinking, and acting. The work will take time, involve taking risks, and, inevitably have some missteps along the way. Our success will further hinge on good teachers and advisors. This – taking time, taking risks, and looking to good teachers to do challenging and important work – is exactly what we want our students to do. I look forward to doing the work with all of you and building an even stronger Mount Tamalpais School community.