I went to the University of Colorado–Boulder, hippie central. And, not only that, but I entered one of the most liberal professions of them all–teaching. Throughout my teaching school, we were constantly discussing the term of ‘diversity’. Diversity does not necessarily just mean differences in ethnicity. It also means differences in backgrounds, perceptions, histories, and an overall experience in the world. Throughout my teaching school and short teaching career, I do preach diversity, but I never quite understood the value of diversity until this week.
On a daily basis, I check in with over 200 different people: 172 students, 12 faculty members, 6 family members, 10 dance team girls, and whoever else I might encounter during my day. This is a privilege, because I can hear over 200 diverse opinions and perceptions of the world in just one day. This allows me the ability to listen, synthesize, and analyze over 200 opinions before I make my own interpretations. For example, our bell schedule changed this year. As I am deciding whether or not I like this new schedule, I listen to the students’ opinions, the old teachers’ opinions, the new teachers’ opinions, the admin opinion, and so on, so forth. Then, I make my own opinion based on what other people have said and what I have thought. I think this is also very beneficial in relationships. A few months ago, I had a conflict with someone very close to me about a family issue. Before I made my own rash decision, I checked in with many older adults that I know who have had successful marriages; a successful marriage, to me, means that you have done something right throughout the years and you have some kind of wisdom. By doing this, it allowed me to make the most informed decision possible.
This week, I have been exposed to the danger of not experiencing diversity. We become closed minded, ignorant, judgmental, and risk making informed decisions. We do not allow ourselves to see other perspectives and allow ourselves to be manipulated, controlled, and taken advantage of. This is especially true when we vote: without seeking other opinions, I might make an emotional decision to vote for a candidate just because they are charismatic, but at the end of the day, their values and work ethic may not be up to par. I believe this same thing occurs in relationships. For example, people my age are in a difficult position, because they are stuck between what was and what they want to become. In what was, we trust our parent’s opinions, because they raised us, so their opinions and advice must be accurate, correct? But, in the situation of what we want to become, we struggle because we might be finding inaccuracies in our parent’s advice; we are NOT our parents, so what worked for them may not necessarily work for us. Without seeking a diversity of opinions, we might make a decision solely on our parents opinions that may not necessarily be as accurate as we think. This might also happen when we go to buy a car: without researching around about safety features, price, gas mileage, etc. we might get sucked into purchasing an uneconomic car, or one that will might break down two years down the road. Or, when we are accepting jobs: it is important to look at a diverse amount of aspects of the job, the benefits, the hours, the location, the employee moral, instead of just looking at how much money we might make. We make decisions on a daily basis that are more beneficial when we use diversity.
The situation I witnessed this week was a prime example of this and as I reflect back on it, I realize just how sheltered and closed minded some people can be for the simple fact that they do not open themselves up to a diversity of opinions. It makes feel sympathetic for them, because they are missing the wonderful, grandiose visions of the world; they are stuck in whatever closed off world they entered when they shut off the diversity. The consequence is undoubtedly less progress, growing, and learning. If we do not expose ourselves to diversity, we will continue to do the same thing over and over again, not realizing the perhaps times have changed (think about your grandparents who are computer illiterate) or that perhaps something is broken about the cycle we are taking.
I took a trip to Europe last summer, which was perhaps one of the most eye opening experiences of my life and forever changed my view of the world (well, going to Europe and reading “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver). I learned that, although someone may use a different path to get somewhere–they might choose to use public transportation instead of their own car, or they might think allowing citizens to have guns is a bad idea–we all do what we think is right; so, just because someone has a different perspective than we do does not necessarily mean they are in the wrong; it just means they have different reasons and experiences for doing what they do.
As I go into another week of teaching, this revelation of the importance of diversity will continue to ring vivid and authentic as I remind my students the importance of critical thoughts; I always say that I do not care what you believe, as long as you have enough evidence to support your ideas. When I was in teaching school, I knew that we should preach diversity, but I never really understood the benefit of it until now.