At a recent HS OASIS assembly, Mr. Dwight shared his approach to diversity, cultural understanding, and some principals that allow diverse peoples to live harmoniously. It is wonderful food for thought.
Written by Mr. Paul Dwight
Here is the framework I use to judge the cultural practices of others. I try to adhere to two main principles. The first one is that there are some self-evident truths that are universal in nature. These truths are based in our own uniqueness as humans. So if I believe in free will I must also then believe that humans need an opportunity to practice free will. From this premise I can began to construct a universal truth that oppose oppression and slavery. If I believe that humans have a moral sense, they uniquely know right from wrong, then I can universally condemn acts of dishonesty and wanton destruction. If I believe that humans are innately creative, then I see the universal value in promoting learning and self-expression. Using this line of reasoning I can identify certain universal truths that transcend all cultures and are not relative to the circumstances. Of course, if I only lived by this one principle I could quickly become self-righteous and oppressively judgmental of others.
For this reason, I also believe we must adhere to the second principle called the "Golden Rule" principle. Do you remember the golden rule? "Do to others as you would have them do to you." It is a simple concept that has a powerful affect in keeping us from committing the mistake of ethnocentricity, that is, thinking my culture is somehow superior to your culture. Here is how it works. If I wish for freedom to practice my faith I must also give that freedom to someone of another faith. If I criticize the practices of another culture I must also allow them the courtesy to critique mine. The principle of the golden rule doesn't negate my claims of truth, but rather it enhances the dialogue and forces me to think more deeply about what I believe.
So I encourage you to consider these two principles as you encounter the diverse cultures here at YISS. Understand that there are universal truths worth fighting for, but be sure to apply the golden rule when cultures clash. You need to be confident in your own story, and be humble enough to learn from the stories of others.