Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Why Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity?
Voices are becoming audible; faces are becoming visible; and we are realizing, some of us for the first time, how many silences there have been in the past, how many blank spaces in our history. We may have looked too long from monological points of view; we may have assumed consensus where it did not exist. Today we are being made sharply aware of multiplicity. We are discovering the range of perspectives that must be taken into account as we work to remake community, as we strive to achieve a common ground. - Maxine Greene, Professor of Philosophy and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
It has never been more important in today’s political and social climate that Westland School state its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity. Since its inception in 1949, Westland’s dedication to diversity has been strong and resolute, inherent in our position as a leader in progressive education and reflected in our history.
Fundamental to our approach to progressive education is the concept of pluralism. Progressive educator John Dewey understood that social and educational situations must be created if we are to reap the benefits of our differences, and that a person living without connection to others with different experiences and viewpoints is unlikely to achieve true freedom of thought or to reach their full potential. “Diversity of stimulation means novelty, and novelty means challenge to thought,” he wrote. Diversity cannot develop when there are “rigid class lines preventing adequate interplay of experiences.” Real democracy needs “reciprocity of interest.”
Progressive education at Westland is an educational methodology characterized by active and experiential learning, open dialogue consisting of both talking and listening, and meaningful problem posing and solving. But its other--equally important--focus is the development of democratic citizens. At its heart, progressive education is an engagement of people--of all people. Starting in Group One, students begin by studying people’s differences and similarities, so that by Group Six, they are exploring the different dimensions of self, recognizing unfairness including historical and social injustices. They empower themselves to organize and take action. Westland teaches students to recognize, honor, and utilize differences and similarities.
An invitation to be part of Westland is an invitation to engage. This engagement affects what happens in the classroom, within the home, and in the world beyond the school gates. Westland aims to represent progressive education at its best: an education for the nurturing of what Dewey called “an articulate public.”
Our History of Diversity
From Westland School Charter, 1949
Westland School was started by a group of parents and educators because they knew that each child who starts in school brings a response to new experiences. He starts with freedom and courage in his early, creative efforts. It is our belief that too many schools, in the name of learning, destroy these qualities, and our aim is to see that they are kept alive and strengthened. It is an important period also for establishing an environment where children can comfortably, happily, and informally, live, grow and develop together in a democratic atmosphere.
Last line from Westland School Mission Statement, 1949
We believe that learning best occurs when there is a student population that is culturally, socially and economically diverse.
From Westland brochure, 1960s
Westland School is co-educational and inter-cultural. Our aim is to enrich the lives of the children by welcoming students from as many different backgrounds as possible.
From Westland viewbook, 1970s
Westland is dedicated to a student body that reflects a racial and economic balance. Its purpose would be greatly diminished unless it could include families of all kinds. A school which consciously looks for an inter racial and cultural staff and student body certainly shows clear intent that school is not an isolated spot for book learning alone. If the ideals of the country are democratic, the institutions must be alive with the ideals.
The people who established Westland—and those who supported it—were committed to equity and inclusivity. Westland continues to honor this commitment with a loud voice.
In 2016, Westland’s Board of Trustees created our most recent Strategic Plan, which included two diversity initiatives:
GOAL: Westland provides an inclusive, socioeconomically diverse, multicultural learning environment for students, families, and faculty, so that all community members are welcomed, valued, and included.
GOAL: Westland identifies and implements initiatives and practices to recruit and retain racially and ethnically diverse students, families, and faculty.
In 2018, the Diversity Leadership Team, a Board of Trustees-level advisory committee comprised of trustees, faculty, administration, and parents, wrote a Diversity Mission Statement to state Westland’s intent and ongoing commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusivity.
In 2018, Westland rolled out affinity group programming for faculty and staff and for parents. Gene Batiste of National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) wrote that affinity groups, “provide a safe space for all participants to identify salient issues and common concerns through dialogue, using our individual voices to bring about affirmation, fellowship, connection (networking), and empowerment: to come together for sharing and listening and offering support in the service of greater understanding.” At Westland, affinity groups are a supplement to, not a replacement for multiracial dialogues.
In 2019 Westland hired Rasheda Carroll, as the first Assistant Head for Equity, Inclusivity, and Counseling, an individual who is deeply invested in the work of honoring the whole child, supporting families, and promoting diversity, equity, inclusivity, and social justice at the institutional, cultural, interpersonal, and personal levels of our school community.
Westland’s Diversity Mission Statement
Together as a community, Westland School is committed to:
Acknowledge, respect, and honor each community member’s full identity. Our differences may include but are not limited to:
Integrate and promote diversity, equity, and inclusivity in our curriculum, practices, policy, school culture, and institutional identity.
Contribute actively to the welfare of our diverse community, assuring that all community members know that they belong.
Provide our children, families, faculty, and administration with opportunities, safe spaces, and support to reaffirm and explore our individual and group identities so that we may all thrive.
Build each member’s cultural literacy and the skills to recognize oppression, unfairness, and privilege that exists on all levels: the personal, interpersonal, institutional, and cultural.
Empower each member with the confidence, voice, and agency to speak out against oppression and move our community ever towards equity and inclusivity.
Westland’s Diversity Work: How It Gets Done
Diversity work is challenging work. It requires collective community reflection as well as self-reflection, which also means a close examination of what has come before so that we may continually question the status quo. Through education, programming, practice, accountability, and support, we learn the language to talk about the once unspeakable. We grow from our inevitable mistakes. We are able to recognize the biases each of us carries. We see and celebrate our differences with a new sense of belonging and affect real, lasting change.
Westland’s Community Diversity Efforts
Diversity Leadership Team (DLT): a Board of Trustees-level advisory committee comprised of trustees, faculty, administration, and parents
Educational Advisory Committee
Social Justice Anti-Bias Curriculum Task Force: a committee of teachers who work to develop Westland’s Social Justice and Anti-Bias Curriculum scope and sequence. Each group hones in on two focus areas connected to an aspect of identity, ranging from gender to race to socio-economic status.
Social Justice and Anti-Bias Curriculum
Parent Affinity Groups (See above.)
DLT-Parent Education Programs: Each year Westland parents have multiple opportunities to hear from nationally recognized speakers and authors. Guest speakers have included Jason David, who explored whiteness and white, anti-racist identity work, as well as Alison Park, who explored socio-economic status and class issues that arise in independent schools.