Sometimes you have to wonder what’s going through another person’s mind – or whether anything’s going on in there at all.
The latest entry in the what’s-he-thinking? ledger belongs to the teachers at Archbishop Denis O’Connor Catholic High School in Ajax, Ont.
To celebrate Black History Month, the school’s black history committee suggested students and teachers wear do-rags on a dress down day. Do-rags are nylon skullcaps most often associated with gangster culture.
Predictably, the story landed in the national media. The CBC reported that a white teacher taught a class wearing a do-rag. The school’s blushing principal Dave Chambers stepped forward to apologize, and students and staff stressed that O’Connor is not populated with racists.
Thank god the teacher didn’t wear blackface.
Good intentions gone bad aren’t particular to high schools. Colleges face-plant, too.
Last week, Georgian College in Ontario announced that it’s shutting down a diploma program in homeopathy.
In earlier eras, homeopathy was called witchcraft. In today’s more measured parlance, we call it a pseudo-science. But it sure sounds like witchcraft. For instance, homeopaths say chicken pox can be treated with a bit of wolf’s bane. For ankle sprains, rub the area with poison ivy. Homesick? Take some belladonna. Is your dog anxious? Belladonna can fix that too.
Georgian College said it cancelled the program in response to concerns issuing from “our local community and beyond.” The “beyond” part includes the many doctors and scientists who complained that the college diploma system legitimizes a scientifically unsubstantiated “medicine.”
But Georgian College isn’t the only entity that should feel embarrassed for letting this program coast through the approvals process. The provincial ministry that oversees college activities sanctioned the program. Apparently, somebody in that ministry thinks it’s a good idea to offer a diploma in magic.
A noisy group of people may want homeopathy to be taken seriously, but that doesn’t mean the government or colleges should take them seriously.
One other disaster deserves a place in the annals of bad educational ideas: the idea that young children shouldn’t have best friends.
Last year, media reported that poor Prince George, the future king of England, was told he couldn’t have a best friend. Already the coolest kid in school, educators worried George might permanently warp the social fabric of his schoolyard by striking up a friendship – even a best friendship – with a boy or two.
An extreme cautiousness among educators drives the desire to snuff out best friends. They worry that best friendships will break hearts when the best friendship ends or when a third child feels left out.
What threads these bad ideas together, other than their badness?
One answer is a perverse idea of inclusion.
Inclusion sits atop the pile of virtues that we alive today must strive to obtain. The only way to obtain perfect inclusion is to obliterate all differences and tear down every wall.
What’s more inclusive than celebrating Black History month? I know – dressing up like how I think black people dress.
If a group’s beliefs about medicine aren’t treated seriously by medical science, why not let them legitimize their unscientific beliefs through the college system? Let them have their beliefs. After all, who are we to judge what’s scientifically true and what isn’t? What’s important is that we’re inclusive of everybody’s beliefs.
And if best friends create cliques on the playground, nothing makes more sense than outlawing best friends. Better yet, why not make everybody best friends to everybody else?
As a society, we should strive to eliminate negative forms of exclusion that seek to divide people, like policies that exclude people because they have the “wrong” skin colour, background or religion.
But inclusion taken to extremes inevitably creates other divisions. We can’t pretend to have access to every other culture in the world without turning those cultures into stereotypes. We can’t all be best friends with each other without destroying the very concept of friendship. And we can’t treat every person’s belief as equally valid without invalidating larger truths.
Inclusion is a virtue, but not when inclusion erodes the boundaries of taste, truth and common sense.
Troy Media columnist Robert Price is a communications and professional writing instructor at the University of Toronto.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.