Now that we have stumbled through the school board elections, it’s time to think more seriously about “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Notice that I didn’t say “critical race theory.”

The key questions are: What do those words mean, and how do we achieve some sort of consensus about how to move forward?

Nobody is in favor of “critical race theory,” in the way it’s been defined by politicians. But everybody is in favor of “diversity, equity and inclusion.” Where our agreements break down is somewhere in the middle. The hard work, for serious people, is to reach an agreement on a course of action. Truth is, that’s really the underlying issue in the mascot debate. Back to that in a minute.

Let’s start with this: Everybody can agree that the public school system needs to seriously examine why minority kids are generally less successful than white kids. I didn’t say the public school system needs to equalize outcomes. I said it needs to examine why the gap exists.

I think we can all also agree that the system should then attempt to remove barriers to success for minority kids, so long as the removal of those barriers doesn’t somehow harm other kids. That’s really the concept of “equity.” Everybody ought to be on the same footing. There’s also something approaching a general consensus that the school district should hire more minority teachers, presumably because that could remove a barrier. That makes some logical sense; that’s partly the concept of “diversity.”

But that has been quite difficult to do, as a practical matter. So the next logical step along those lines is to try to train white teachers to relate better to minority kids. My guess is that approach will re-surface, repackaged in a more palatable form. Somehow or another we can agree on that form, too. That’s “inclusion,” for lack of a better term.

What other changes have to happen? Changes to the curriculum, so as to include more content about the full richness of our country’s history? Probably. Changes to testing methods? Maybe.

Changes to the name we use for our high school’s sports teams? Truth is, that’s where the anti-mascot movement is coming from. Advocates of removing the Indian mascot say that it is harmful to efforts to improve the performance of minority kids. Or at least that its continued use makes a mockery of the school district’s stated objective of improving diversity, equity and inclusion.

Does a commitment to improving diversity, equity and inclusion require removing that mascot? That’s really at the root of the debate.

Serious-thinking backers of keeping the mascot — including, I like to think, me — argue that keeping the mascot could actually serve to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, by more prominently asserting the value of the Native American history and culture in our area.

But that’s not what this column is about. My point here is that we’re all in favor of the same thing, really. What’s tough is agreeing on a definition, agreeing on priorities, and agreeing on the particulars of how to achieve the goal.

Before we get dragged into the mascot debate at a school board meeting, we need to have some serious discussions about the underlying issues first.

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