Diversity is underappreciated.
What’s that you say, but we love diversity. Heck, we’re lowermainlanders, (those of us not off plundering the rich bounty of the sea anyway) we’re all about that stuff.
On the surface that may be true, we celebrate lunar New Year alongside Robbie Burns day. We appreciate the different smells, flavours, and the rich patina of a multicultural landscape. What we don’t seem to truly appreciate is mental diversity.
It’s not that we don’t recognize the breadth in our varying capacity to learn, cope, empathize, love, and generally thrive amongst our peers. The issue is that we have created a divisive atmosphere focused on the extreme. We built a black and white landscape where we’re either gifted or handicapped, and thus celebrated or medicated.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, partially because of the rough waters in the k-12 community.
The B.C. Labour Relations Board has ruled that not administering FSA tests amounts to illegal job action, yet a substantial number of parents and teachers oppose the tests. Part of the problem is the tests don’t properly account for diversity in the classroom.
We’re not just talking social diversity here, but the breadth in maturity and capacity to thrive in a traditional learning environment.
There’s a whole grey area that comes into play between gifted learners and those with significant challenges. Our resources go to coping as best we can with those on either end of the spectrum, while to a great extent those in the great gray are ignored.
This mirrors life outside the k-12 community as well. In order to get support people are pushed to align themselves with one extreme or another.
There aren’t a lot of groups or programs dedicated to helping average people succeed, which is leading to the diagnosis and treatment (which all too often means medication) of ever slighter variances from the norm.
Feel awkward in social settings?
It’s not that while being told you were a unique snowflake during your formative years you found yourself amid a sea of indistinguishable yet equally unique snowflakes. Find the right diagnosis and you can be medicated for your pervasive developmental disorders.
Worried to the point of exhaustion?
That’s not because your education and upbringing didn’t equip you with adequate coping mechanisms for the realities of an uncertain future. It’s an anxiety disorder and you need TCAs and SSRI
I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t strive to recognize and address mental illness. I’m sure each and every one of us has seen or felt the effects of mental illness at some point in our lives. I’m saying we should appreciate mental diversity as we appreciate physical and social diversity.
Those of us that are awkward, nervous, or prone to worries need patients, caring, and appreciation for what we bring to the table.
A complex grisaille.
So expand the grey. Find beauty in its complexity, and opportunities to help all of us who exist within its gauzy borders to thrive. After all, grey is a common companion to us landlubbing lowermainlanders for the better part of the year.