Diversity Daze

My last post for October was going to be my super awesome interview with Peggy Levitt, but it looks like she will be kicking off November instead. What could cause me to bump one of the interviews I’m most proud to have done? The spat of concerned emails sent to me about Pinkerton Academy’s Diversity Week. Weird, yes? If you agree, you’ll be clicking in right about now.

On Friday October 24, 2008 the Union Leader’s website ran an article called “The Truth about Witches”. Kimberley Pietz’s article outlined the saga of 17 year-old Pinkerton senior Jerica Haynes. As on out of the broom closet Wiccan, with a practicing mother and grandmother by the by, Haynes was asked to put together a presentation on Wicca for the school’s Diversity Week. After a month she had put together a presentation that was “as factual and historically accurate as possible” and “did not contain obscenities or violence”.

Obviously you can imagine her surprise, when after having been asked to give the presentation she was told she would be unable to deliver it due to complaints the school had received from concerned parents.

According to the article, parents called the school to complain that the presentation was inappropriate. Although Robin Perrin, Director of Relations Management at the school, went on to explain that the issue for parents was that whole classes sign up for some Diversity Week presentations, and there was a fear that the Wicca presentation would be mandatory for students whose class signed up to attend the presentation.

There are talks of Haynes giving the presentation to the diversity committee and if they deem it okay, she may be able to give her presentation after school with attendance being voluntary.

Okay, let’s all take a step back and break this one down. First, how awesome is it that their school does a Diversity Week where there are presentations given on different religions, cultures, and countries? My school didn’t do anything like that, neither did Jim’s. Did yours? So let’s give credit where credit is due, big thumbs up to Pinkerton Academy for even putting on a Diversity Week.

Although I’d like to personally give a big thumbs down to all the parents who were concerned their children would be forced to watch a presentation about Wicca. I can’t even imagine. Are they afraid of recruitment? Are they afraid Haynes will bewitch them? I mean, I get the whole, you can’t force my kid thing, I really do understand concerned parents. At the same time, what’s the deal? It’s a presentation that even Haynes’ mother confirmed in the article “was not trying to recruit anyone to the religion”. As one of the fastest growing religions, perhaps your kid having a clue as to what Wicca is about wouldn’t be a horrible plan.

Before I just ramble on about how annoying I find those parents I should point something out. Many people who emailed me expressed frustration that a Rabbi gave a presentation called “A Rabbi’s Life” yet Haynes’ presentation on Wicca got cancelled. A careful second reading of the article shows that he “spoke about what it means to be Jewish to an audience that attended on a voluntary basis.” As we recall, parents were concerned attendance to the Wicca presentation would not be voluntary. Now perhaps there were some mandatory presentations given on other religions, but all I have is this article to go by.

Here’s a question I wish Pietz had asked, “Did everyone have to give their presentations to the diversity committee before being allowed to give it, even if attendance was voluntary?” I get where the school is going with their whole after school voluntary attendance solution. I don’t like it, but I get it. What I want to know is, Haynes has to prove her voluntarily attended and now after school presentation is okay, did everyone who gave mandatory presentations have to do the same? If Haynes was singled out, even after getting bumped to after school and after Diversity Week is over, that would be most suckful.

To make a long post short, don’t offer me a Diversity Week unless you mean it Pinkerton Academy.