CRES Chief Learning Officer
Finefrock , CRES Chief Learning Officer, is shown here in a slightly-doctored
photo with one of her mottos-of-the-month. Maggie has informally assisted
and encouraged CRES for many years, so we are delighted that Maggie's great
skills in group process and her passion for human liberation are now formally
part of CRES. Maggie's very presence heals.
Maggie has worked in education and organizational development for over a quarter of a century. She currently is
Director of The Learning Project, now in its 12th year, which helps teach change processes for high performing, diverse and dynamic learning organizations.
In 1970, as a member of the Teacher Corps, she helped to desegregate Norfork State University. She served in the Peace Corps in Nepal 1982-85. She was co-director, then director of Kansas City's Harmony in a World of Difference, 1990-93. She led the Religion/Spirituality Cluster of the Mayor's Task Force on Race Relations in 1996. She teaches cultural pluralism at UMKC and consults with other organizations on curriculum design.
hosts Vern, David and Ed on her veranda at an October staff meeting.
As I See It--We the People, with liberty and justice for all. What part of the ALL do we not understand?
I am a fifty year old white woman who has benefitted from
affirmative action. In 1973 I was recruited from Santa Barbara to attend
Norfolk State University, one of the largest traditionally African American
universities. I was privileged to attend NSU on full scholarship, mainly
on the basis of the amount of melanin in my skin.This was not a lowering
of standards. I had good, not great, SAT scores. I was accepted at several
other prestigious institutions. I was not merely meeting a numerical quota.
At the time Norfolk State was trying to diversify its student body to insure
that all students received the best education possible.
It is well researched that a diverse group, with the experience and skills to capitalize on that diversity, will outperform a homogeneous group.
This occurs because more skills and perspectives are offered for problem solving and people develop the intelligence, resiliency and cultural competence needed for success and innovation at school and work in the 21st Century. I would not hire employees, doctors or elect a president without these skills. We would not be wise to judge qualifications of students, employees or our doctors based solely on scores on a biased standardized test.
We have always had affirmative action in this country but there has been no outcry of unfairness when policies only allowed limited white groups admittance to power and privilege. Why is that?
My grandfather was a doctor because he was admitted to medical school in the class of 1911. Many others had the desire and gifts to practice medicine but were denied admittance solely based on external characteristics like skin color or gender. Perhaps one of those denied would have found cures for cancer or AIDS. We will never know because of our history of ignorance and bigotry.
In my work as an educator and mediator throughout the world, I ask this question, â€˜Since 1787 and the limited population represented in the â€˜weâ€™ of We the People,(white, male, landowners, mainly protestant) how far have we come towards our democratic ideals of a fully equitable society with liberty and justice for all? In years of asking this question in corporations, government agencies, schools, universities and non profit groups, the consensus of thousands of people has been: thirty percent.
Hopefully this thirty percent mark is approaching a critical mass of informed people and strategies and we can experience a giant leap forward to justice and freedom with renewed effort.
Many great leaders have given their lives to win incremental steps to full justice. We must honor those who have led us thus far on the way, and honor our democratic ideals, laws and personal convictions to continue the journey of the other 70 percent. In one sense, ending discrimination is easy; all it takes is all of us, now. It is not too much to ask that this road to justice be completed in our lifetime.
Part Two Excerpts or what was omitted to keep the word count down
Respect for the power of diversity helps this country be what it says it wants to be; a nation of freedom and equality and justice for all. That is an ideal to which the United States aspires but we are not there yet. Yes, we have come a long way and we have a long way to go. This is a critical time to renew our efforts and not step backwards.
Jim Banks, professor at the University of Washington says " The purpose of diversity work and multicultural education is not to divide a united nation but to unite an extremely divided nation." It is a myth that we have arrived at the point where we have made up for past injustices. We must remember that programs and policies to guard against discrimination are not about exclusion or "lowering" standards but they are about the need for all groups to benefit from the synergy of diverse perspectives. They are the best attempt that we have put in place so far to deal with past and present and proven, often government sanctioned discrimination, bigotry, deprivation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, denial of equal opportunity and murder.
I understand that it is painful to admit to these realities on an individual, institutional and societal basis. Yet that is an important barrier to cross if we are to face current and historical facts. To achieve
the ideals together we must stop the polarization and develop strengthened capacities to face the painful and hopeful realities before us.
It is a shallow democracy indeed that is merely worn on a lapel pin.
In one sense, stopping discrimination is easy; all it takes is all of us, now. We have the way and we must have the will. Affirmative Action can be used to affirm that we still uphold democratic ideals, that we affirm the regret and horror of our past complicity in injustice, we affirm that a just nation is an inclusive, not elitist nation, and we affirm that discrimination will stop now.
President Bush must admit the benefit from affirmative action that got him to Yale and Harvard. He did not have high SAT scores or an exemplary high school record. He got those extra points by being the son and grandson of alumni, and famous alumni. Of alumni applicants at Yale, 40 percent were admitted as opposed to 11 percent of total applicants. I am glad that President Bush got to attend the higher institution of his choice. I did too. It is a travesty when any student cannot have the opportunity to participate in the type and place of higher education that he/she needs. That should be our outcry.
But we can not simply replicate old historical patterns of subtle affirmative action and monocultural groups and continue to promote disparate
justice in this country. We can not ignore the necessity of diversity for heightening the standards of intellectual discourse and skills for problem solving and teamwork needed on school and workplace campuses. Affirmative action does not seek to exclude but to turn around an historic system of privilege and advantage for some and open it up for the benefit of all.
We have developed a level of technology in this world disproportionate to the development of our human understanding and ability to think together and work together. Everyone is needed at the table of problem solving to address the crises and opportunities before us Let us critically think about these issues, determined in thought and action to bring about equal access for justice, not "just us"?
. We are All in this together. In this grand experiment of democracy we must affirm the inclusive we in We the People in order to complete the remaining seventy percent of the way to a united country with justice for All.
Maggie Finefrock is the CLO of The Learning Project and has served in the National Teacher Corps and the U.S. Peace Corps