Suddenly, I have found myself staring down an unpleasant reality. I hold onto things for too long. Call it what you may; packrat behavior or hoarding. Anything that includes a “rat” reference gives me the creeps, while the other label is a formal psychological diagnosis. I refute both.
Nevertheless, there is some value in unpacking, sorting, and discarding decades worth of books acquired through multiple academic disciplines and just as many career changes. There is a psychological connection to the process of purging. I confirmed this while pouring through the multiple therapy-related books acquired through two graduate degree programs and an adult life of counseling and coaching people to a more desirable life.
My conclusion is this: a mindset that willingly accepts equity, inclusion and diversity as a life improvement goal is one that is cultivated as part of the human development experience. This position is not rooted in the works of one theorist, or a favored theoretical orientation. The cleaning process of deciding which books to keep and which to discard is not determined by my preference for who said what, but which sources provide the greatest depth of content.
All this brings to mind the recent decision at the Federal Government level to withhold financial support for trainings that address topics such as white privilege and critical race theory as they are thought to be “Anti-American” and divisive. In an odd way, the latter is true when examined through the lens of human development theory.
From Sigmund Freud — the father of psychology and generally agreed upon wackadoodle – to Russian-born American psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner, the consistent position is that events experienced in childhood help to shape experiences and beliefs executed as adults. Therefore, when childhood experiences about people, places and things are cemented by only positive events, it becomes challenging to empathize with needs to create a more equitable society because from one viewpoint, the world is alright as it is. Yet, it is theorist Jean Piaget who argued that early childhood education is vital to one’s continued growth over an individual’s lifespan. From his perspective, individuals develop through life in stages that build upon one another to create a complete life experience. His theory is not only about the accumulation of knowledge but using that knowledge in ways that create a complete and psychologically healthy individual. Psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, followed suit, adding sociocultural theory as an argument for the important roles of society and relationships in human development.
What then, does this mean for diversity, equity, and inclusion? White privilege is the outcome of socially constructed ideas about people primarily shaped using race and ethnicity. To withhold education about this concept as part of the American human development experience, is to delay the healthy development of citizenry. To teach about white privilege and critical race theory is “Anti-American” because it focuses a light on the horrific and perpetually destructive practices that are part of this country’s history. Education that teaches about the deliberate genocide of Indigenous cultures in North and Latin America, and the internment of Japanese American citizens, supports a long history of discrimination against these Americans, and more than 400 years of oppressive actions against Black Americans. This cannot help but shift one’s unchecked allegiance to a country that operates in conflict with its founding principles. Healthy human development allows individuals to learn as much from what is right as it does what is wrong.
Now, the question is: what is so bad about being temporarily “Anti-American” in order to develop into the America that the founders envisioned?