A group of BICS educators and parents/guardians formed the BICS Diversity Group several years ago with the intention of its participants learning more about diversity and inclusivity and contributing to making BICS a more inclusive school.
We are also organizing Multicultural Week for March 11-16, 2019.
Preceding the week, the Diversity Group hosted Alden Habacon who offered a workshop for the community of Bowen Island on inclusion literacy. In Mr. Habacon’s presentation, he spoke of the A, B, Cs of inclusion; three key elements for a school, workplace or organization to be inclusive. Organizations that ensure people feel they are treated fairly, where they feel their uniqueness is valued while also feeling a sense of common belonging to the organization, and where they have a voice over decisions, typically have inclusive cultures. The intent of our week is to recognize and celebrate differences amongst cultures.
Mr. Habacon started his talk explaining the difference between intent and impact and our Diversity Group is keenly aware that there may be a difference between our intent and impact with respect to offering a Multicultural Week.
After all, we’re calling it “Multicultural Week”. How much value can be attributed to something that’s only given a week’s focus? On the other hand, if people were to wear poppies every day of the year, would the act of remembrance of soldiers be enhanced or diminished? I suspect the latter. A focused week does not mean that is the only time attention is drawn to a topic, but it does highlight its importance. That is certainly the case with learning about diversity and inclusion at BICS.
Further, what aspects of culture can actually be shared to an audience of 333 children, aged 5-13, all within a short period of time and are these really the most important aspects of culture worth learning about or sharing?
The “Cultural Iceberg” (attributed to G.R. Weaver) suggests that there are aspects of surface culture, readily apparent to outside observers such as food, flags, festivals, dances, games, fashion, art, etc., and aspects of deep culture, such as attitudes about education, approaches to religion, marriage, raising children, the elderly and communication styles and rules. Although deep culture may, in fact, play a more significant role in the day-to-day lives of different people, deep culture is not easily observable without significant time with someone of a different culture or perhaps through experiences living overseas. And of course, aspects of deep culture would also vary between people of a particular culture. Deep culture is therefore not something that we will be able to feature prominently in our Multicultural Week; however, deep culture would be a great topic of discussion for families in exploring their own culture. The iceberg offers some entry points for an examination of a person or family’s beliefs that may be rooted in their culture.
Is it worth it then at school just skimming the cultural surface?
I think it is as long as everyone involved knows that is what we are doing. We are not trying to overpromise what will be learned during Multicultural Week. Rather, we are highlighting that the differences among how people live are worth learning about and to appreciate that the culture that students may be influenced by is one of many equally valid ways of living.
Our intent is that students gain some awareness and understanding for some of the differences among cultures, an awareness that cultures don’t just belong to other groups but that we all have been influenced by both the deep and surface cultures of our families, an appreciation that these differences suggest there are many ways of doing and of being, and most importantly, an openness and curiousity for learning more both about their own culture and the culture of others. The impact of multicultural week remains to be seen and as our purpose is to stimulate curiousity this impact may remain to be seen for some time to come.