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Why ICIE - Identity, Culture, and Institutional Equity

The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has a list of cultural identifiers used to explore and discuss diversity. The current list has 18 items includes educational background, academic/social achievement, family of origin, family structure, geographic/regional background, language, learning style, beliefs (political, social, religious), and globalism/internationalism. The 18th, and last item, is "?," perhaps an indication that the way in which we identify people is broad-reaching and limited only by our individual viewpoint

Identity is simply defined as who we are. Beverly Daniel Tatum states,

“The concept of identity is a complex one, shaped by individual characteristics, family dynamics, historical factors, and social and political contexts. Who am I? The answer depends in large part on who the world around me says I am. Who do my parents say I am? Who do my peers say I am? What message is reflected back to me in the faces and voices of my teachers, my neighbors, store clerks? What do I learn from the media about myself? How am I represented in the cultural images around me? Or am I missing from the picture altogether? As social scientist Charles Cooley pointed out long ago, other people are the mirror in which we see ourselves.”

In the work of equity and inclusion, we start with the “Big 8 Cultural Identifiers” as the beginning of our understanding. The “Big 8” are ability, (physical, mental, emotional, learning), age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status. They carry meaning both historically and personally for all of us. Learning who we are as defined by ourselves and the world around us opens up our capacity to understand each other more deeply and build community more intentionally and with a greater understanding that each of us will need different things to thrive.

Culture has been defined as, “the totality of a group’s thoughts, experiences, and patterns of behavior and its concepts, values, and assumptions about life that guide behavior and how those evolve with contact with other cultures,” (Jandt, 2004). Creating a culture of inclusivity at HM happens when we are intentional about recognizing all aspects of identity within our community to ensure that everyone is included, affirmed, and empowered. Culture is formed by our programs and practices that create an inclusive and open educational environment for every person to be fully present in their authentic selves every day.

Institutional Equity is the intentional practice of creating structures and systems to correct historical inequalities that limit the success and potential of every member of our community. We think about the difference between equality and equity as ensuring that everyone gets what they need; equality means everyone gets a t-shirt, but equity means everyone gets a t-shirt that fits. Our office strives to find ways to institutionalize the practice of equity across every division through policies and practices that would support the success of every student and adult in our community especially those carrying identities that have historically been marginalized and excluded.