Equity in the Classroom
By Dr. Goldkamp and Mrs. Helling
Starting October 21, middle school students will begin a diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculum that will take place in advisories. History and current events show us that things like racism, ageism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice or discrimination target specific identities or groups of people. Human beings have a difficult time embracing those who are different from them. This is a tragedy because it causes human beings to form communities of people who are similar, where others feel excluded or receive unfair treatment. The middle school diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculum is meant to be an action step within our community to educate Viz girls to recognize and address prejudice, discrimination, and injustice within our community and the world.
Our Visitation mission statement says that it is our school’s mission to teach students how to respond to others and the global community. In our portrait of a graduate, we say that we want our Viz girls to graduate from Viz with an openness toward and appreciation for diversity. We need to address this in a more concrete way. In this curriculum, we are focusing on building diverse communities where all people feel loved by exploring our own identities and experiences, learning about the identities and experiences of others, analyzing unjust systems in our society, and thinking about ways to build communities that acknowledge, celebrate, and welcome the experiences of all people.
The Catholic Church teaches that all people have equal worth and value, which the Church calls dignity, because all people were created by God in the image of God. This means that all people have equal dignity regardless of the choices they make, the actions they take, where they come from, what they believe, what they look like, etc. People do nothing to earn dignity and can never lose their dignity. Our goal is for students to defend and love all people based on this teaching of equal dignity, which mandates that all people deserve love and fair treatment.
Our Advisory programming is built on a common language that reflects the reverence for the dignity of every person. The first important words in this common language are diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here is how we will be defining these words in our middle school:
Diversity refers to the presence of differences between us that are a gift from God and add value to our community. We value diversity, as it allows us to recognize, accept, and celebrate the unique identities of each person and/or groups that all have equal dignity. In diverse communities, it is not just that there are a variety of different people present, but that differences among people are recognized, accepted, celebrated, and viewed as contributing to the beauty of a community.
Equity means everyone is treated based on what they need as diverse individuals so the end result is equal. It is different from equality. This graphic can help us to understand this concept a little better. In a situation that is equal, everyone is given one box to stand on in order to see over the fence, but still, not every person can see over the fence so the end result is not equal. Equity gives each person what they need in order to see over the fence so the end result is equal. When we build communities that honor the dignity of each person, we are okay with giving people more than others based on their needs, as long as the end result is equal.
Inclusion has to do with a sense of belonging and acceptance. When we build communities of inclusion, everyone, in spite of their differences, feels like they are invited, accepted, and belong. In communities that practice inclusion, everyone’s equal dignity is recognized, so everyone feels valued and respected.
The middle school advisory programming will take shape through a series of meetings within advisories around identity, diversity, justice, and action. Each meeting will have an activity followed up by discussion questions to help us meet our end goal of analyzing what it means for all people to receive fair treatment and building communities that honor the dignity of all people. We are so excited to have high school students who will help facilitate this programming in middle school advisories. The hope is that all students can leave Visitation knowing how to Live Jesus by building diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities in the spaces they will occupy in the world.