Diversity

In his landmark book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies (Princeton, 2008), Professor Scott Page “explores the way we understand ourselves in relation to one another. The Difference is about how we think in groups--and how our collective wisdom exceeds the sum of its parts. Why can teams of people find better solutions than brilliant individuals working alone? And why are the best group decisions and predictions those that draw upon the very qualities that make each of us unique? The answers lie in diversity--not what we look like outside, but what we look like within, our distinct tools and abilities.”

“The Difference reveals that progress and innovation may depend less on lone thinkers with enormous IQs than on diverse people working together and capitalizing on their individuality. Page shows how groups that display a range of perspectives outperform groups of like-minded experts. Diversity yields superior outcomes, and Page proves it using his own cutting-edge research. Moving beyond the politics that cloud standard debates about diversity, he explains why difference beats out homogeneity, whether you're talking about citizens in a democracy or scientists in the laboratory. He examines practical ways to apply diversity's logic to a host of problems, and along the way offers fascinating and surprising examples, from the redesign of the Chicago "El" to the truth about where we store our ketchup.” (Princeton University Press review)

Gunston has always valued diversity, and now that we are in 2017, our students are preparing to enter a world where change is exponential. Gunston students will soon inhabit a workplace that will most likely be unrecognizable to us today. As the world becomes more integrated, our nation’s economy and health will undoubtedly become more dependent on the success of this integration. In his landmark book, The Post-American World, Time Magazine and CNN commentator Fareed Zakaria chronicles some of these changes:

Look around. The world's tallest building is in Taipei, and will soon be in Dubai. Its largest publicly traded company is in Beijing. Its biggest refinery is being constructed in India. Its largest passenger airplane is built in Europe. The largest investment fund on the planet is in Abu Dhabi; the biggest movie industry is Bollywood, not Hollywood. Once quintessentially American icons have been usurped by the natives. The largest Ferris wheel is in Singapore. The largest casino is in Macao, which overtook Las Vegas in gambling revenues last year. America no longer dominates even its favorite sport, shopping. The Mall of America in Minnesota once boasted that it was the largest shopping mall in the world. Today it wouldn't make the top ten. In the most recent rankings, only two of the world's ten richest people are American. These lists are arbitrary and a bit silly, but consider that only ten years ago, the United States would have serenely topped almost every one of these categories.

Such rapid change will continue, and we are seeing the rise in wealth and power of nations like China, India, Russia, and Brazil. The tremendous exchange of wealth between West and East as well as North and South will increase as Asian and Latin American nations continue their own economic development, and by 2025, an increased population (1.2 Billion more people) will put significant pressure on limited resources like energy, forests, fisheries, agriculture, and fresh water. Extraordinary advances in technology will have unforeseeable impacts on global culture, and issues of climate change, nuclear proliferation, as well as migration and immigration will continue to endure.

Both the speed and scope of such significant change means that Gunston must continue to embrace an important fundamental question: How do we best prepare our students to navigate the 21st Century world? Currently at Gunston, with courses focusing on Ancient History and the History of Ideas, our curriculum aims to help students understand the rich intellectual and spiritual heritage of various cultures. Our technological infrastructure provides student access to the limitless resources on the world wide web, and our foreign language program maintains a strong focus on issues of culture. Our science program is deeply embedded into the natural environment on our campus, and Bay Studies, our week-long experiential learning program, emphasizes the intersection of people, culture, and the environment. Meanwhile, our focus on developing strong fundamentals in reading, writing, thinking, reasoning, and speaking provides every Gunston student with the core academic skills that transcend time and geography.

Gunston seeks to recruit a diverse student body, and perhaps most significantly, Gunston welcomes each year onto our campus international students from Europe and Asia who make up nearly 15% of our student body. These talented young men and women, all of whom are living and studying far away from their family and support network, bring an extraordinary diversity of perspectives and experiences to our campus, and we all benefit from their presence. At Gunston, our family atmosphere extends to diverse communities across the globe.

To this end, we dedicate a day each year—Gunston’s International Day—to expanding student understanding of global issues. The aims of each year’s International Day include educating our students about the opportunities and challenges of our rapidly globalizing society, honoring the cultures and traditions of our international students, celebrating the beauty and diversity of various artistic traditions, increasing our students’ overall level of cultural competence, and having some fun. Last year’s program included a keynote speaker from the U.S. Army War College, who shared his expertise on Middle East politics and culture; a “Challenge 2020” presentation where students learned about the twenty most pressing issues that will be faced by their generation; a “cultural fair” in the Field House where our international students shared various aspects of their heritage; a musical performance by our own Juan Angarita and his band combined with a Colombian dance routine performed by our students; and finally, a very competitive ping-pong tournament and our annual chariot races.

Even though we have many things in place to facilitate Gunston students’ learning experiences in regard to global issues, our approach to diversity and global education is something Gunston must revisit every year. Between the recent extraordinary events in the Middle East, the tsunami in Japan, and the longer-term tectonic shifts in the culture and the economy, finding a comprehensive educational approach presents a monumental challenge for families, educators, and schools. We have put together a bibliography of works that can serve as an initial guide to understand this transformation. We hope you take the time to pick up one or several of these books, and we look forward to the dialogue that will continue to develop around these issues.