The working group met on 13 October 2014 at the Jewish Museum Berlin as part of the conference titled Schools and Museums in a Society Shaped by Migration, which marked the completion of the Diversity in Schools project.
Schools are places where people with different experiences and from different social and cultural backgrounds meet and learn together and are subject to classification processes. Diversity training provides an opportunity to reflect on how we see others and how others see us and to explore classification processes and social prejudices. The concept of diversity training was introduced and two teachers who had participated in diversity training programs reported on their experiences. Based on these contributions, we examined the possibilities and challenges posed by countering discriminatory ascriptions and social prejudices through diversity training.
Meral El led the working group with contributions by
- Dr. Czarina Wilpert, Eine Welt der Vielfalt e.V. (A World of Diversity), Berlin
- Grit Gottschalk, Ernst Schering School, Berlin
Dr. Czarina Wilpert: How and Why Should Diversity Approaches Be Taught in Schools?
In many areas of society, especially in schools, interculturalism and ethnic heritage continue to be seen as problematic. On the other hand, gender issues, ethical and ideological questions, religion, antisemitism, Islamophobia, racism, inclusion, sexual identity, and other basic human rights principles such as social origin and language have assumed greater significance in society and at schools. Our inherited views of each other often form barriers to communication. Depending on social status, these views affect our self-esteem, perception of others, and opportunities and acceptance in society.
These questions play a central role in the horizontal diversity approach used by the Welt der Vielfalt (World of Diversity) association. The pedagogy of diversity informing this horizontal approach partly evokes participants’ own outsider experiences in order to shift their perspectives and help them grasp others’ hardship.
Another pillar of this pedagogy is creating trust and forgoing blame. Using a diversity approach, we can learn to value people as individuals in all their diversity and to regard them as an enrichment of our schools and society.
Our goal is to manage diversity in schools and their surrounding communities. For us, managing diversity means discovering and developing common interests and accepting and recognizing difference. Under these conditions, individuals can best realize their potential and contribute to a positive configuration of schools and society.
Grit Gottschalk: Report on Diversity Training
The diversity training course showed the multidimensional nature of the concept of diversity. It focused on identifying commonalities and accepting difference. By encouraging the participants to examine their own views of diversity and to question their own identities, it helped them perceive the diversity of their students. The theoretical underpinnings were helpful and repeatedly provided thought-provoking ideas from different perspectives.
I found it quite interesting to question my identity, and the theoretical and practical parts of the seminar confirmed my view of the diversity concept and its application in the classroom. The course was especially important for the exchange of ideas with colleagues because several of them, due to their cultural or educational backgrounds, had different life experiences and thus different perspectives and approaches. The students at our school also have wide-ranging sets of values and cultural backgrounds and all bring diverse qualifications, language skills, capabilities, and talents to the classroom. The seminar shed light on all of this.
Because circumstances vary in each school, it is important to provide ample time and space for discussions about diversity and internal school organization (methodological questions, content, integration into individual subjects, etc.).