My son began high school in August.  He’s attending a private school with a price tag of about $25,000 per year.  This past week, we had parent-teacher conferences to understand the curriculum, review each class syllabus, understand the amount of work required for each class, etc.    As your typical high school, he’s required to take the usual classes and he’s enrolled in the following:  Biology, Physics, Algebra, World History, English, Theater, Spanish.  Note that this is an IB  program.

When we got to English class I was already a bit perturbed as some things but in particular the lack of diversity in the program.   The school student body is plenty diverse as it has kids from all over the world including from Asia, Africa, Middle East, Latin America, Europe and the US however the materials were far too Anglo-centric in my view.  So we get the reading list of books students should read for English class.  The kids don’t need to read every book but select from the list.    I took the list and what immediately jumped out at me were all the euro-centric names on it so I did an analysis and here’s what I found.

9th Grade Reading List

Analysis Percentage Count
Male 59% 30
Female 41% 21
     
USA 67% 34
England 16% 8
Canada 2% 1
Ireland 4% 2
Russia 4% 2
France 2% 1
Greece 4% 2
India 1% 1
     
Black 12% 6
Asian 2% 1
Latino 2% 1
     

There are a total of 51 authors from different segments including drama, nonfiction and fiction.   The instructor and/or school did a good job with gender balance at a split of 60% male to 40% female authors.     Where the reading list falls short is in any other kind of diversity.   The list is 67% top heavy with American authors with the second highest, 16%, coming from English (UK) authors.   These two groups account for over 80% of the reading list and the diversity only gets worse when you break the authors down by race and ethnicity.    Of the 51 authors only 6 were Black, 1 Latino and 1 Asian.    I didn’t do a religious analysis but I suspect that 80% were likely Christian and the remainder Jewish with a few atheists to make up the remaining esoteric intellectual authors.

So you’re saying to yourself, “What’s the beef with this….it’s an ENGLISH class and it’s best to learn American English from American authors….”

Here’s some trivia for you…do you know how many countries around the world have English as the official language?   The map below will give you a hint but there are 88 nation-states from around the world.

English-as-Official-Language_Map

My beef of course is that the world is now globalized and I deal more and more with people from all over the world including many people from Asia (Japan, China, India/Pakistan and Malaysia) and emerging markets in Latin America and Africa.   All too often I’m embarrassed at my cultural ignorance of holidays and other customs from these regions because I suffered from being raised in a USA-centric school system.    Perhaps it was fine to be raised in a USA centric educational system 30 years ago but the world if far different now and knowing/understanding experiences from different point of view is critical to being able to bridge relationships with people from all over the world.     On a personal level, I now officially know more couples with mixed heritages than I do of people with same heritages.   This is probably not the case if you’re in Kansas or North Dakota but it’s pretty much the case anywhere that borders an ocean or sea.

I was fairly vocal with the instructor that the list was not diverse enough and she assured me the students could pick their own books but they needed her approval first.   I guess as long as the master approves of the my son’s choices, we’ll be able to get some diversity in on our own.

On the 50th anniversary of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech it seems like we still have a long way to go and it needs to start with the revamp of the educational system.