Dear Flint Hill School Families,
As I mentioned in my letter last week, Dr. Gene Batiste will lead a discussion this evening at the Upper School on diversity and inclusion. In advance of Dr. Batiste’s presentation, the recent election and the discussions that have taken place since both in the news and in conversations with our friends, families and colleagues, provide us with a timely opportunity to define what we mean when we refer to “diversity and inclusion” at Flint Hill. Here at school, discussions regarding diversity and inclusion have been taking place for some time. For three years now, Mia Burton, our Director of Diversity and Inclusion, has provided valuable leadership for professional development and programming around issues of inclusion. And several years ago, we developed and adopted a strong Statement of Diversity and Inclusion for our School. While there can be much confusion around the topic, the concept of diversity speaks to who we are as individuals—whether it has to do with our learning style, age, ethnic background, gender, location or socioeconomic status. “Inclusion” is the work we have to do to ensure that our wide ranging experiences and backgrounds come together to form a cohesive, connected community. How we define our work in this area is part of the challenge.
Diversity is a challenging topic. But preconceived notions aside, diversity is about accepting and respecting our differences as individuals. Every day, our children are witnesses to our approach to inclusion as they are learning to create, navigate and develop their own. Our children will be the first to tell you whose households are strict and whose are not. Whose parents let their children do certain things like going to concerts, and others simply won’t allow that. To some degree, we also see that when people question the idea of affinity groups. Affinity groups are our neighborhoods, our political interests, and our places of worship. And again, all of it helps us develop our individual identities.
As we talk about diversity and inclusion, particularly in a school like ours, it is important for the adults who surround our children with unconditional love and support to do so in a way that facilitates a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish as an institution. Getting about the work for inclusion requires dialogue and discussion. In the past, schools often used the term “tolerance” to address diversity and inclusion, but I personally stopped using that word a number of years ago. A friend of mine pointed out that the word “tolerance,” means “to get used to something” and that is not what we are trying to do. Instead, we are working to identify ways to value and accept the differences we all have, while working together as a school family.
As we go forward, it is important that we all remain engaged in the process of fostering inclusion here at school. As parents, your presence alone at school events—whether you’re volunteering, cheering on one of our athletics teams, attending an arts performance or sharing your voice at one of our coffees―contributes to supporting this effort. So when you hear us talk about diversity here at school, remember the term’s deeper meaning. We aren’t simply talking about the differences among us that are visible from the outside; we are talking about the multitude of experiences, family structures, abilities, and personalities that contribute to the richness of our school family.
I hope to see you tonight! And I wish all of you the very best as the holiday season approaches. I hope you will all take time to be with your family and friends, to reflect on all that there is to be grateful for, and to seek much-needed rest and rejuvenation as we all prepare to move forward.
Best wishes to you!
John M. Thomas