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Diversity

Authentic Diversity: An Educational Imperative for the 21st Century
by Luthern Williams, Head of School
 
In the “Post-factual” Age, many of us lament how decisions in our democracy are often based on tribal affiliation, moral intuition, rationalization, and incomplete, distorted, or inaccurate information, as Jonathan Haidt notes in his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Democracy depends on our capacity to examine evidence and argument as well as to use reason and judgement soundly and ethically.
 
When New Roads was founded in 1995, research had not validated how learning and living in an authentically diverse community of students and adults developed these skills. In a school that mirrors the socio-economic, cultural, and racial diversity of Los Angeles, New Roads students are challenged daily to question their own worldview, assumptions, perspectives, and righteousness. They know that problem solving is a continuous process of carefully listening, fact finding, weighing, acknowledging, and bridging sides that seem diametrically opposed and refining and expanding their initial points of view to reframe the discussion. That is a key to discovering a solution that serves the common good. In the article Diversity Makes You Brighter, Sheen Levine, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, and David Stark, a professor at Columbia University, found that an authentically diverse community stimulates cognitive friction in and out of the classroom, which “prompts better [sharper] critical thinking.”
 
New Roads’ students themselves seem to further substantiate the findings of Levine and Stark. Our academic and co-curricular programs require our students to engage, make sense of and synthesize multiple and diverse perspectives. Middle and upper school Speech and Debate teams advocate for a position while acknowledging the arguments of the opposing side. High school drama and humanities students grapple with the humanity of characters with conflicting views in The Laramie Project. Math students are asked to approach problems from multiple perspectives to identify the most effective and efficient solutions.
 
We are inspired by the promise our students represent for the future of American democracy. At New Roads, students understand the validity of opposing positions on critical issues so that they can develop the habit of formulating complex solutions to the opportunities and challenges their generation will inherit. It is our hope that our students will move us beyond gridlock and onto a road where diversity and respectful debate will be at the center of the next chapter in the American story.

New Roads School

3131 Olympic Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90404
ph: 310-828-5582
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New Roads School is a college preparatory K-12 private independent school in Santa Monica, CA, serving over 650 school age children from the greater Los Angeles area. New Roads School provides an inspired educational program from which an authentically diverse student population, mirroring the rich diversity of Los Angeles, develops a personal dedication to learning, a respect for independent thinking, and an expanding curiosity about the world and its people.