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Finding diversity

by Tim Middleton

The Great Barrier Reef website states that, “Home to over 1 500 different species of tropical fish and other variants, the Great Barrier Reef is teeming with life. The reef is home to fish of both of ends of the spectrum — from small bait fish through to the largest varieties of sharks on earth. The sheer volume and density of fish varieties which can be found within a small area make the reef a diver and snorkeler‘s paradise.” There are fish of every size, colour, shape and behaviour to be found there. In fact, we could well describe it using the lines of Dr Seuss: “One fish. Two fish. Red fish. Blue fish. Black fish. Blue fish. Old fish. New fish. This one has a little star. This one has a little car. Say! What a lot of fish there are.”  No wonder then, it is a diver’s dream, almost like a little city under the sea. It is a city, a diver’s city, all because of its diversity!

In one of the most successful animated films, Finding Nemo, the audience is spellbound by the adventures of the young clownfish who sets out to explore the ocean only to be caught in the nets of profiteers and imprisoned in a goldfish bowl. Interestingly, the word “nemo” in Latin means “nobody” and perhaps the young fish nemo was trying to find answers about his life, as many youngsters are doing, only to be ensnared by others and dumped into a confined world. He was a nobody, a little fish in a massive ocean. Perhaps the film should have been called Finding Omnes (almost exactly the same letters as Nemo) as “omnes” in Latin means “everybody”. The film is about everybody, everybody looking for themselves, searching for their real home and enjoying the freedom of the ocean, through the schools of fish that prevail. And through the schools of pupils that we find around us. We will find the answers in the divers’ city, in diversity.

We will find everybody there, every type of fish.

A school of pupils, like its fish counterpart, is a gathering of people, of many people, and there lies the identity, the beauty and the problem. There are children of every size, colour, shape and behaviour to be found there. However, the diversity is far greater than those simple obvious differences. It is a community made-up of people of all sorts of different abilities, beliefs, cultures, desires, experiences, fears, genders, hopes, interests, jargon, knowledge, limitations, motives, notions, opinions, principles, questions, resources, stages, tempers, understandings, values, wiles, xenophobia, yen, zeal — every letter of the alphabet! In other words, it is the world in microcosm; it is the fish in the ocean. It is a diverse world of epic proportions. So when we come to look at our schools, let us not limit the diversity to colour, gender and ability — real diversity is far greater.

It is interesting that the great Einstein’s often-quoted description of education refers to fish: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” A school is made up of extremely diverse people and we must not measure one against another. The message is clear that we allow each one to retain her uniqueness, his individuality, and not try to make people conform to others. An angelfish is not a shark but both have a place in the ocean. We need there to be such diversity.

The website mentioned above also added that the “Great Barrier Reef fish are some of the most striking, diverse and colourful found on any coral reef system, anywhere on earth” — it is entirely appropriate that the fish are the most diverse for divers! Diversity is not a barrier, great or small; it is a place of beauty, home to thriving schools — and our schools can be places of great diversity, if only we get below the surface and see.

There is far more diversity than we think; we are surrounded by diversity, far more than we think. As the oceans are fully of diversity, so our schools are full of diversity. So what should we do? We must accommodate diversity, bolster it, celebrate it, develop it, enjoy it, facilitate it, grasp it, highlight it, incorporate it, jubilate it, keep it, liberate it, maximise it, nurture it, optimise it, promote it, quicken it, recommend it, savour it, trust it, use it, value it, welcome it, execute it, yearn for it and zero in on it. Our schools are teeming with life and diversity. In fact, with all this diversity, we should just do one thing: Everybody should be a diver in the city! So, dive in and swim in divers’ city!

l Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.

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