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Diversity spreads in Minnesota


Early in my speaking/consulting days, say mid-90s, I was accused of giving a racist presentation. Now while I have never claimed to be a particularly culturally proficient individual, I never considered myself to be racist. Ignorant, lacking in experience, and insensitive perhaps - but not racist. So I was taken aback.

"What did I say?" I asked the librarian who had confronted me.

"It's not what you said, it's what was on your slides. You only had photographs of white children throughout the presentation!" 

And on review, I had to admit I was guilty as charged.

I always illustrated my slides with photos of students from my district's classes and libraries. I would run them through a photo filter to make the students unrecognizable and make me look artistically talented. Seeing actual HPLUKs added cred - that I was walking the talk. I had also read that in showing pictures of happy children, you were more likely to be liked as well since subconsciously the listeners would credit you with their happiness. 

Anyway, the comment was a wake up call to be more inclusive in my subjects. While the other-than-white population was a small percentage of my rural Minnesota community, it was present and I gladly snapped photos of a wider range of ethnicities for my talks. 

I was reflecting on this experience after reading the following story: The number of majority-minority school districts in Minnesota has doubled in the last five years, Minnpost 7/23/18. The district in which I am currently employed has a "majority-minority." Administration has led and continues to lead a very purposeful cultural proficiency initiative to raise awareness and understanding what a large minority population means in a district comprised primarily of white teachers and administrators. 

As are most changes, this increase in minority students has made some people unhappy. Some families open enroll their students in districts with a larger white student population. (Personally, I see this as doing a disservice to their kids since they will be living and working in an increasingly diverse society and should experience this diversity as learners.) Teachers have had to change their mindset from having students adapt to traditional teaching practices to having to adapt teaching practices to better meet the needs of today's students. And for those of us in technology, we have now made equity and access for all students a primary factor in planning and budgeting.

Personally, I like living in a diverse community, a diverse state, a diverse country. I like walking through the halls of our schools seeing lots of skin colors and hair styles and clothing fashions, especially when the common denominator among all the kids is their smiles.  

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