Steamboat Springs Segregation in the educational setting may be alive and well in very subtle forms - notwithstanding the rhetoric we espouse for the advocacy of diversity. Arguably, understanding and appreciating diversity is one of the most important character traits that we can teach our children as the cornerstone of serving humanity.
It is a trait that can and should be nurtured whenever and wherever the opportunity presents itself. However, in the larger scheme of things, we may inadvertently inhibit those rich opportunities that would help children develop this vital part of their character.
When children are grouped by ability in the classroom, the high achievers and those with capacity for certain academic disciplines learn that academic achievement and developing a competitive edge is more important than serving those who are less fortunate. The children who are placed in the slow group also learn an important lesson about their self-worth and their station in the academic world.
On a larger scale, we teach our children about how we value diversity when we choose the schools our children attend. For example, if we choose to shelter our children from other children who come from different race, ethnic, or socio-economic backgrounds by placing them in a homogenous private academic environment, we teach an important lesson about how we prioritize the value of diversity.
There are always varying circumstances for the choices we make for our children; however, our intent for the choices we make is what our children understand and learn as values.
Indeed, one of the most profound examples I have seen of parents teaching the value of diversity was by actually pulling their children out of the public school system. They replaced the public school environment with home-schooling while sailing around the world in order to give their children first-hand experiences with places and people around the globe. The children who were home-schooled in this context had a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience that, arguably, could not be replicated in a traditional classroom.
If we believe that a valuable educational learning experience is knowing how to build relationships and get along with people from all walks of life, then we need to be willing to make some sacrifices and concessions in order to help our children appreciate and get along in an environment that more realistically reflects the world they will need to function in as adults.
In the final analysis, academic knowledge and skills will balance out so that students acquire the knowledge and technical skills to be productive contributors in the workplace. But developing human relation skills for a global society is something that must continually be fostered from the early stages of life. We can't afford to risk sacrificing this important life-skill when we have the opportunity to make choices.
Kerry Hart is dean of the Colorado Mountain College Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs.