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The question of diversity and inclusion in schools is by no means a new one. Some do it well, some refuse and most, I would say, are just not sure where to start.
Preparing a keynote for Auckland Careers and Transition Educators –whose "main focus is on the career education of youth and their transition into the wider world of employment, training and/or further education", I began by reflecting on the question, "Can we get straight from diversity to inclusion?" It occurred to me that, no, we can't.
12 June is the "Day of Silence", "a day of action in which students across New Zealand vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, name-calling and harassment in schools."
At Epsom Girls Grammar School, however, 12 June will be a day of anti-silence. Students who are part of DIVINQ – a process targeted at senior students that I co-created with Jeannie Grant, which uses philosophical inquiry to explore the ways our identity is limited by assumptions, labels and fear of difference –will be taking a different tack.
We'll be shouting about bullying all over the school at lunchtime.
It seems like neo-liberalism has reached its farcical extreme in the last week or so. First with Lecretia Seales' bid before the High Court for the right to die with dignity.
Then Peter Dunne gives Ministerial approval, on compassionate grounds, for the one-off use of Elixinol, a cannabis product, for Alex Renton who is in "status epilepticus", a kind of prolonged seizure.
The latter is made all the more ironic given Dunne was behind the prohibition of legal highs. Add tot his his disclaimer, "Ministerial approval in this case does not extend beyond Mr Renton's application and should in no way be construed as setting a wider precedent," and I'm left wondering where this is heading.
This morning I woke to the news that Lecretia Seales had passed away at 12.35am. As I write I am watching tweets from the NZ Herald that the Judge in her right-to-die case said no. I'm gutted about both.
The following is taken from my affidavit. As I said in an email to Lecretia's lawyers this morning, I think this is such an important issue and I'm committed to doing what I can to ensure that it remains high in consciousness, in public and political spheres.
The Ministry of Education's new curriculum guidelines released last week, aimed at improving sex education and diversity for students, seem almost too good to be true. Actually they are, because they are not mandatory.
Recommendations for non-gendered uniforms, same-sex partners at school balls, reviewing toilet spaces and making sport less gender-specific are no-brainers in our day and age — actually they've been no-brainers for decades.
These guidelines show surprisingly courageous change leadership from the Ministry. But there's always some right-wing plonker, who purports to represent the moral majority, ready to go into bat for the status quo (as I posted about recently).
What is the distinction between leadership and representation? If I were to draw a diagram it would be a triangle with leadership at the pointed end and representation at the flat end.
I'm not sure which way up the triangle is – it may change from time to time and from situation to situation, with the point being at the top, bottom or even on the side.
It seems to me leadership has sharp focus and works best with fewer people. The more leadership becomes representative, diversity increases, the softer the focus and the more people, issues and opinions there are to accommodate.
Kathryn Shultz quotes Ira Glass in her excellent TED Talk, On Being Wrong. She does so to add another example of how we go through life in "a bubble of feeling right" when, in fact, we seldom are.
"I thought this one thing was going to happen and something else happened instead. And the thing is, we need this. We need these moments of surprise and reversal and wrongness to make [our] stories work." — Ira Glass, Host, This American Life.
Leadership, diversity, complexity and change, the spaces in which my work most often falls, are bastions of wrongness.
A few weeks ago at the Home and Community Health Association conference I met some of the team behind CleverCare, a new service that connects an Android smart watch to a web interface and a 24-hour call centre.
CleverCare is the brain-child of Maria Johnston. As the website explains, "developing the Clevercare system was driven from a personal need for Maria to make a positive difference in the everyday life or her parents. She then found that her family’s problems were experienced by many and now, through Clevercare making lives better with independence and peace of mind can be achieved for many."
Designed for people with dementia, the Android watch runs a simple app and contains a GPS geolocator. The device is tracked via Google Maps in an online dashboard. Boundaries can be set to alert family, friends or support workers if someone wanders beyond a safe distance. Reminders can be pushed to the watch via the dashboard.
The easiest way to define an entrepreneur is "someone who starts things". I've been given the mantels of both creative and social entrepreneur (it's one of those things you are recognised for – you don't decide for yourself). Entrepreneurship might be explained as "start-up leadership".
So as a creative and social start-up leader, I've started lots of things – organisations, projects, websites – in the realm of creativity and social issues or change. Many have concluded of their own accord (projects, for instance, because they have a beginning, middle and end); and others I've walked intentfully away from (organisations where people have taken them in directions I've disagreed with, or I've realised I with my penchant and skills for starting things, need to be replaced by someone who can maintain and grow the entity).
In 2005 I started Diversityworks Trust Inc., the only start-up I have stayed with (as trustee and Executive Director) since its inception. I originally started the Trust to fundraise for Momentum'09, an international symposium on creative diversity. Due to the financial crash in 2008, we lost critical funding and had to downscale from the planned four-day event at SkyCity to one day in Royal Oak.