Diversity Is Not Bad, Diversity for Diversity’s Sake Is

December 20, 2020

Senior Andrey Aricidiacono shares his thoughts on the article “Woodson Updates Literary Curriculum”, and opinion editor Naomi Scully-Bristol replies.

A response to English curriculum changes

Dear Naomi,

Education must center on ideas.

The classics have one important credential that these new diverse books don’t.

The classics have changed the way people think. That means by extension they have changed the things people do. These classic texts, The Allegory of the Cave, The Odyssey, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, Frankenstein have all had monumental influences on our intellectual heritage. They have shaped the beliefs of our western society and are the sources of many of our contemporary ideas.

Within these texts are the questions we ask ourselves every day and the answers that we often take for granted. Some ideas from the works I’ve mentioned: What makes life worth living? Is there an ideal form? How should we treat others? Is government best which governs least? Are people inherently evil? 

This process of reading for ideas helps us better understand our own personal beliefs as well as the beliefs of others with whom we might disagree. 

One school year only allows for students to go through 5 or 6 books at most. Diversity for Diversity’s sake is not a good enough reason to replace culturally important, high-quality books with newer popular books with a contemporary author. If it ain’t broke…

While diversity is not a bad thing, diversity for diversity’s sake is. We have to recognize where our educational priorities lie. And through those priorities, education must center on ideas because ideas produce action.

So you see, reading for ideas is the first step in preparation in writing for ideas. By reading for ideas, we not only better establish our beliefs, but we also gain a unique ability to incite action with our ideas.

So how about instead of Trevor Noah we read Fredrick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr; all culturally important, all stimulate good writing, and most importantly of all, they have all changed the way people think.

Sincerely,

Andrey Arcidiacono

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… and the editor’s clarification

Dear Andrey,

Thank you for taking the time to reply to this article. It is always important to hear from the student body on issues like this.

I would first like to mention that the article I wrote was a news article and therefore does not necessarily represent my opinions. I interviewed both students and teachers about their opinions and the reasons behind the shift to include more contemporary, diverse books in the curriculum. The hope was reporting an unbiased story which explained this change and gave some insight into how the Woodson community felt about it. 

One of your largest concerns seems to be that these changes are simply “diversity for diversity’s sake” and that newer books have less value, as they have not had an effect on our society’s thought. I am disappointed that this is what you feel my article portrayed. One of the most important ideas expressed by the students and faculty I spoke with was that a driving force behind the inclusion of more diverse books was to expand students’ range of thought. If the school teaches books old enough to have already changed how people think, then students will be exposed only to old, and likely whiter, views which are less pertinent to the world they live in today. I believe that everyone I spoke to would agree with you that classics have changed the way people think, however, they were only able to do that because they were read. The more contemporary, diverse books being included in the curriculum now could also change how people think, which, as I hope was expressed in the article, is why the school is giving students the opportunity to read them. 

Please keep in mind that I was only reporting on a change already in motion within our school. Should you wish to have your opinions heard by someone who can actually do something I would recommend that your opinions and proposals be shared with the English Department and administrators. 

Sincerely,

Naomi Scully-Bristol

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Diversity Is Not Bad, Diversity for Diversity’s Sake Is