Monday, March 14, 2011

Vancouver School Board's "Diversity Team"?

Diversity doesn't mean getting rid of materials that offend, but including a greater variety of books.  Right?  That's what I thought too.

The "Diversity Team" in Vancouver schools is being criticized by journalist Mark Hasiuk of the Vancouver Courier for actually suffocating diversity by removing books from the curriculum and libraries to make room for accurate (?) materials:
According to the Team’s 27-page Planning Tool for Vancouver Educators, elementary school teachers and administrators should: “Choose a range of children’s literature that accurately portrays all kinds of families, various cultural communities and traditions.” 
Nothing wrong with that. We live in a multicultural, multiracial society. But they don’t stop there. 
“Review the resources you use with a critical eye,” reads the manual, “for possible hidden messages about cultural, gender and other stereotypes.”
 Hasiuk goes on to reveal his interpretation of what this means to the schools under the VSB: thing is certain. If educators listen to the team, and its how-to manual on book banning, Vancouver schools will be purged of classic children’s literature. In light of the team’s narrow interpretation of the acceptable, no one is safe. Not C.S. Lewis and his Christian overtones. Nor Mark Twain or Horatio Alger or Roald Dahl—all inherently racist white men who dared publish before our current era of enlightenment.
And his evidence?  Here's the account he brings forward from another article:
In 2009, retired teacher-librarian Val Hamilton sent a letter to the Courier describing those halcyon days when she ruled Vancouver school libraries at Carleton elementary and elsewhere. “When I took over a school library, the first part I weeded was the religion section,” remembered Hamilton. “I removed the Bible stories, in one school it was several dozen, and replaced them with a large selection of books explaining the various religions in the world.” 
I visited Carleton last Friday afternoon. Hamilton’s legacy remains intact. The Carleton library is Bible-free.
Not having actually looked into the Diversity Team myself, I cannot comment especially on this topic, nor can I prove that the information is correct and valid besides taking what Hasiuk says at face value.  What I can say, however, is that if this is actually the case, and books are being removed to accomodate more diverse resources, then the policy they are working from is extremely problematic.

If it is true that books are being removed in order to change the landscape of literature available for students, this is no longer promoting diversity, but promoting a limited scope of certain acceptable works.  Personally, this is a frightening prospect and I certainly hope that it isn't true, but only a misunderstanding, though I don't wish to say that Hasiuk is mistaken either.

Has anyone reading this blog heard about this issue, or do you have anything to add?  I hope you have gotten something out of this post.

As always, thanks for listening!


  1. Hi Rob,

    I was searching for the Diversity Team in Vancouver and came upon your entry. I have added you to our list of banned and challenged book resource links. I thought I would let you know.

    Elaine Anderson
    Pelham Public Library
    Fonthill, ON

  2. Thank you very much for letting me know!