Opinion: Erasing mention of ‘diversity’ in teacher prep is mistake

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

In a guest column, two teacher educators from Mercer University decry a proposal by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to scrub the mention of diversity from a state teacher preparation program. The commission will vote on the changes to the Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy on May 11.

Robert J. Helfenbein is professor of curriculum studies in Mercer’s Tift College of Education. Robbie J. Marsh is an assistant professor of special education.

By Robert J. Helfenbein and Robbie J. Marsh

As teacher educators, we are writing to express our deep concern about the recent proposal to remove the diversity, equity and inclusion language from teacher preparation standards in Georgia.

This ill-conceived proposal disregards the diverse makeup of the state of Georgia and the communities served by its public school teachers. It is a step backward that fails to acknowledge the crucial role diversity, equity and inclusion play in creating an inclusive learning environment for all students.

As our country becomes more diverse, it is essential that our education system reflects this diversity and prepares teachers to meet the needs of all students. Removing attention to diversity, equity and inclusion from teacher preparation standards sends a message that we do not value diversity in our classrooms and are not interested in creating welcoming, equitable and inclusive environments for all students.

Furthermore, this removal could limit teacher exposure and training in evidence-based practices to support diverse student abilities and needs. We owe it to our neurotypical and neurodiverse students to have teachers trained in evidence-based practices to support their academic success.

We know that teachers trained in diversity, equity and inclusion are better equipped to recognize and address the unique needs of their students, and they are more likely to create a safe and positive environment in their classroom that fosters learning, well-being and growth.

By removing diversity, equity and inclusion from teacher preparation standards, we are hindering our students’ ability to succeed in a globalized world. Diversity, equity and inclusion are not just a moral imperative; it is also essential for the success of our economy and democracy. Our students must learn to work collaboratively with people from different backgrounds, perspectives and abilities in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected. By removing these terms from teacher preparation standards, we are not preparing our students for the realities of a globalized economy and society.

We urge the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to reject this proposal and ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion remain critical components of teacher preparation standards. Quite simply, to ignore a student’s culture is to ignore who they are.

As educators, we are responsible for creating an inclusive learning environment that benefits all students, regardless of their race, gender, ability, language, religion, or any other characteristic that may make them unique.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed