CUSP February Editorial

CUSP February Editorial
“Diversity and Acceptance in High School”
Ah, yes. The dreaded d-word: Diversity. With only four syllables spoken, guards are raised and
students prepare to do battle defending, or defacing, a central message the Cannon Upper School
administration has worked hard to convey to its student body. In the wake of a student-led
presentation on Black Awareness Month, it is only appropriate that the idea of diversity and what
it actually means to students today is addressed.
However, first a working definition of “diversity” is necessary. According to Merriam-Webster,
diversity is the condition of having or being composed of differing elements: variety: especially:
the inclusion of different types of people in a group or organization. So, no; diversity is not
simply a black and white issue—pun intended. Indubitably, issues of diversity concern race. But
they also include sexual orientation, gender, age, ability, socioeconomic status, political mindset,
religion, education, and ethnicity. And that’s just naming a few.
The key word in defining diversity is inclusion. By allowing students to present on black culture,
women’s history, religious celebrations, and more, Cannon isn’t shoving diversity down
anyone’s throat. The goal of promoting diversity is to showcase the wonderful variety that makes
us the unique, talented, strong student body we are. It’s not to divide us, or make a section of us
feel awkward or ostracized for any reason. However, realistically, we likely will never have a
student body that is entirely inclusive. But why not try? A more inclusive environment is a safer
environment, a more welcoming school, and a happier student body.
But the message Cannon administration works so hard to communicate seems to fall on many
deaf ears. Ironically, it appears that the same students who complain of the cliques, judgment,
gossip, and drama are the ones who mock the efforts made to unify us and break down the
barriers between groups. Barriers can’t be broken by ignoring the past, or by simply “getting
over” something that may have really hurt. They’re brought down by recognition of the hurt,
willingness to improve the future, and mutual respect based on the fact that we, as humans and
social beings, want nothing more than acceptance from others at our core.
It doesn’t matter how many Student Life blocks are devoted to a message of diversity and unity.
It doesn’t matter how hard Cannon tries to make its students welcome others. It doesn’t matter
what advisors tell their students in the morning. Nothing, really nothing at all, will change until
we the students decide to change the way we view what Cannon is working to achieve. Instead of
seeing these sixty minutes as a waste of your time, see it as an opportunity: an opportunity to
walk a mile in someone else’s shoes; an opportunity to see life from another perspective; an
opportunity to learn and expand your understanding of the vast and diverse world around you.
Maybe you won’t like every presentation. But if you, like every other student, want to be
accepted, then start by accepting others. Meet them halfway. Maybe for you that doesn’t mean
sitting at a new table in the cafeteria every lunch period. Maybe you don’t vastly change your
circle of friends. But try to talk to someone new. Find someone you don’t think you have
anything in common with, aside from the fact that you both attend Cannon School, and challenge
yourself to find something, some interest, you both share. It’s easier than you think. They may
surprise you and become your new best friend. You never know.
At the very least, when fellow students go up on stage in front of an intimidatingly large sea of
teenagers, you can pay attention. You can give them the respect they deserve for having the
courage to speak their hearts to a crowd that may not receive the message well. Maybe you don’t
like what you hear. But, again, take the moment as an opportunity and listen.
So when you’re sitting in those CPAC chairs, and a fellow student is presenting, get off your
phone. Look up. Social Media can wait. You are missing out on a real chance to mature and
develop a more global viewpoint by closing yourself off. And the world definitely doesn’t need
more closed-minded, technology-addicted, self-centered teenagers. It needs more open-minded,
creative, compassionate leaders. If you want to make a difference in your community, start by
looking inward. Take what is given to you, yes even anotherdiversity presentation in the CPAC,
as an opportunity to grow. Remember the incredible wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi, and “be the
change you wish to see in the world.”
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