The proposed new Vancouver School Board ‘diversity’ policy, recognizes that “race” is an arbitrary social categorization—correctly, for the Human Genome Project has informed us that the physical characteristics which we have customarily called “racial characteristics” comprise only 0.012 per cent of the human genome. There is, in fact, only one “race”: the human race (GASP!: a position consistent with biblical ethics, which proclaims that “God has made all men on one blood.” (Acts 17:26) )
However, the Social Responsibility and Diversity (SR&D) team that drafted the proposed new policy then blithely proceeds to re-introduce “race” as a policy concept, adding “racial and” to the phrase “cultural diversity”. And the Aboriginal Educational Enhancement Agreement, to which the SR&D team says the VSB is committed, of course, defines the target beneficiaries by traditional concepts of “race”, which this paper correctly says are obsolete.
Of course, the distinctions implicit in the Aboriginal Educational Enhancement Agreement can be, and should be, understood to be rooted in culture, not race.
The prohibited grounds of discrimination under the BC Human Rights Code, which provided the basis for this draft, urgently need to be reviewed in light of three decades of study that now reveal that some of the protected categories and practices are in fact harmful to society and to the individuals who engage in them.
Some of the terms used in this report require definition – e.g., “ethnocentrism”. What, exactly does that mean? The roots of the word would seems to mean a focus on ethnicity—but the implication of its use here is that one ethnicity is given preference, and that’s bad. Well, if ethnicity means “race”, we have already demonstrated that such a focus would be wrong; but if it means culture, then the SR&D team has descended into the absurdity (very popular in some circles today) of declaring that “all cultures are equal.”
But clearly, they are not: some cultures embrace cannibalism, female genital mutilation, “honour” killings, child marriage, forced marriage, and slavery. Those cultures are demonstrably inferior to others which have transcended such savagery.
Again, the policy statement that “welcomes diversity” is not clear about what aspects of cultural or behavioural diversity are to be welcomed. Some behaviours are vectors for lethal diseases; others are rich artistic expressions. Some are barbaric; some add welcome dimensions to our own culture. In both parallels, the former should be discouraged, and the latter welcomed.
But the proposed VSB policy does not seem willing to make such distinctions, fearing to appear “Euro-centric”; but there are cultural divides according to which some cultural practices conform to or enhance Canadian society, and others are deleterious or even criminal.
The failure to make such distinctions is the result of a common and widespread misunderstanding of the word “discrimination” – a misunderstanding that is vividly apparent in this proposed policy statement.
Discrimination is, at its heart, the ability to tell good from bad, and better from best. In previous generations, discrimination was regarded as a good characteristic; we spoke of “a discriminating gentleman,” and it was meant in praise. Today both words are considered terms of opprobrium.
Prejudicial “discrimination”, of course, is wrong: to pre-judge without information, and then arbitrarily to classify people as “good” or “bad” is, in fact, the very obverse of true discrimination. True discrimination is beneficial, to both the individual and society. Prejudice, meaning pre-judging, or judging before the facts are known, is wrong; discrimination is good. This policy statement wrongly equates the two words. Such inability to use words correctly is one of the results of the deterioration of public education in recent decades, or a wilful attempt to deceive).
The policy draft falls into a similar trap when it mandates an “inclusive and multi-centric” curriculum.
But a primary goal of education is to transmit the national culture from one generation to the next, thus providing a moral framework from which other cultures can be evaluated when they are encountered later in life.
There’s a classic example in a story from the days of the British Raj in India. The Governor wanted to abolish the custom of suttee, by which, when a man of rank died, his widow was consigned, alive, to the flames of his ghat. When the British Governor sought to outlaw the practice, one of his Indian advisers cautioned him, “This is an established tradition in our culture.”
The British Governor replied, “It is an established tradition in our culture that whoever does such a thing is to be hanged.”
Suttee was eventually stopped.
The British Governor’s moral values were rooted in his culture, and he sought to guide India into governance that conformed to those values. He was also able to appreciate Indian art and cuisine; he was a discriminating gentleman.
Today’s “multi-culti” and post-modernist administrators – and the graduates of curricula such as the VSB is proposing – would not be able, with consistent cultural logic, to say that burning a widow alive was wrong; they would fear being considered “judgemental”. To them, suttee would be defensible because “all cultures are equal.” But they are not.
The SR&D team would probably excoriate the British Governor’s actions as “Euro-centric bias”, and would teach our children that he was wrong. But simple humanity screams that he was right.
This faulty perception of culture extends, in this policy statement, even to staff development: the proposed policy says, “All staff members need the knowledge, skills and attitudes to understand and accommodate diversity and difference.” That is fatuous, errant nonsense.
They need the knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable them to discern between diverse ideas and practices, to select the good and eschew the bad.
If the attitudes proposed in this policy proposal become the template of public education, there will be no people in the future equipped with the necessary discernment between good and bad cultural practices. If the Vancouver School Board wishes to destroy our society and culture, then let them campaign clearly on that theme rather than impose a regulatory agenda by bureaucratic deception.
~ Ron Gray