Deemphasizing Diversity

In the November 1 edition of The Phillipian, Sayer Devlin ‘16 argued that Andover should actively try to create racial and gender diversity within our faculty and school leaders—an assertion which I consider fundamentally flawed. Forcing diversity quotas upon the school could have the unintended consequence of limiting the faculty’s teaching potential by excluding qualified educators who happen to be white or male, and sends the message to students that their only, or at least primary, role models should be of their own race. Diversity can be a great aid to the educational process, but imposing a diversity quota upon a working system threatens to oppose the very benefits diversity can provide. The purposeful hiring of administrators of color or women could, on a case-by-case basis, exclude more worthy candidates who could provide a better education for the students of the Academy. If two candidates, a white man and a black woman, are in consideration for a position, the better qualified candidate should earn that position. If the more qualified candidate happens to be the white male, then his presumed “lack” of diversity should have no bearing upon whether or not he is chosen. Just as being white or male should not give a job applicant an unfair advantage over female candidates or applicants of color, it should not place him at a disadvantage either. The job application process should be based explicitly upon merit rather than gender or race. In addition, to tell Andover students that our school has to purposefully recruit women or faculty of color in order satisfy the standards for diversity would suggest that we cannot become well-rounded by learning from white, male teachers. Such an assertion is entirely untrue. My English teacher last year, a white male, assigned our class readings from a variety of books, whose subjects ranged from a young girl’s experience with child prostitution to an African villager’s struggle against colonization. These literary works opened my eyes, as well as the eyes of my peers, to issues we might otherwise have remained ignorant to. The gender and race of my teacher were not even remotely relevant to the diversity of thought he inspired within us. A similarly flawed message of the purposeful recruitment of diversity is that women and people of color are incapable of independently earning adequate positions. This erroneous notion, while not overtly conveyed, would express itself indirectly. An imposed diversity quota could provide the grounds for accusations that female educators and people of color are unable to earn academic positions on merit alone, which would be a completely unfair conclusion. If the school were to publicly embrace recruitment on the basis of race or gender, it would be like conceding that women and people of color are incapable of succeeding within the current system. The final and most evident flaw in Devlin’s article is its assumption that diversity can only be achieved in terms of race or gender. In reality, diversity is a nuanced term that encompasses more than just a collection of skin tones. Our teachers and mentors at Andover can gain diverse perspectives, not only from their experiences with race and gender, but also from any number of alternative variables, including their upbringings, regional backgrounds, sexual orientations or socioeconomic classes. It would be ignorant to say that race does not matter in modern society; however, we should not ignore the fact that races are not neatly organized into cultural roles. It will be easy to look at the argument I am making and say, “He is a white male, so he does not know what it is like to be disadvantaged or underprivileged. He is not qualified to make this argument.” Statements like these, however, fail to acknowledge that diversity is too complex to be quantified exclusively by race or gender. It is becoming far too easy to look at a white male educator and categorize him as the traditional boarding school teacher paradigm. Devlin claims in his article that “the Andover administration and faculty who are tasked with making important decisions see almost entirely through the lens of a Caucasian male.” What Devlin fails to understand, however, is that there is no one “lens” that all white men look through. Every Andover teacher brings a unique background and worldview to our community, and, likewise, every Andover teacher is capable of expanding his or her students’ outlooks. If administrative diversity in the realms of race and gender will truly aid education, as Devlin argues in his article, then it should arise naturally as qualified teachers earn their place as educators at this school. Andover’s primary goal is to provide the best possible education for its students, but perhaps trying to get high statistics of a diverse faculty has the potential to compromise the quality of classes.