Parker’s Failure In The DEIB Program

What’s Going Wrong And How To Fix It


I would like to preface this opinion piece by acknowledging some outstanding information. First, it is an intentional choice to not write this opinion piece in my column, “The 14 Year Experience.” My column is filled with witty remarks and sarcastic comments. I chose to write this outside of the confines of my column which holds a lighthearted and eccentric tone. This opinion piece will tackle a prevalent and sensitive issue. It requires a sincere and deliberate tone. Second, I am in no way arguing that DEIB is negligible. Though my analysis of the program can be seen as harsh, it is only because I believe that DEIB work is too critical and essential to our community to be broken. This opinion aspires to highlight the shortcomings of the program, and offer efficacious solutions. 

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a phrase that floats around society. The unequivocal meaning is that though words are robust and powerful, they can’t create tangible action. Real action takes ambition, gumption, and dynamism. Words do not possess these virtues. They can tout and campaign for action, but as the phrase says, they cannot break bones. Words can only do so much. 

Though Parker’s words are powerful, they don’t contribute to the goal of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging program. Parker’s words are actually becoming harmful to the overall atmosphere regarding DEIB. A main issue is the desensitization and dehumanization of the DEIB program. The program highlights paramount challenges that are integrated in our greater society: racism, homophobia, sexism. However, Parker’s program has somehow metamorphosed those into a distant concept, an idea that doesn’t plague our community. 

But it certainly does, more than even administrators realize. Parker’s administration’s words in everything from emails to presentations have created an environment where students view the DEIB program as just another mandatory meeting. Students show up to these meetings with hoods up and airpods in. They have zero intention to learn or listen, and it is hard to blame them. When you walk into a gym just to watch someone lecture about what’s wrong and give basic information and broad solutions, it is difficult to be galvanized. Every email, every presentation, every lecture further alienates students and encourages them to be less and less engaged. And yes, there are abhorrent actions that take place in our community that deserve emails, but emails can only do so much. Discussions can only do so much. Lectures can only do so much. The DEIB program needs to take a step past words. 

Some argue that words can manifest action. I agree that the right words incite and initiate action. But there is a necessary step that belongs in between words and actions. That step is motivation. Words need to motivate people to establish action. And Parker’s DEIB program is missing that step.

Parker has set out to accomplish a near impossible goal, and it’s becoming more impractical as they keep digging themselves into an ever larger hole. To achieve what they’ve pledged, one cannot just present a slideshow and lecture to a cohort of 300 students in a stuffy gym. Not only is that unmotivating, but it makes students irritated. It doesn’t help that the message each presentation sends is one that has never made an impactful change: “be kind, be empathetic, be an upstander.” Those principles have been around for years, and they haven’t helped society. Humans are biologically selfish, narcissistic, and arrogant. Those ideals, while true, won’t change students; no matter how many times students hear it or play out hypothetical situations. They are too vague and students are too unmotivated to take action when they need to. Students need to realize that real life isn’t just math class and ski vacations. There are actually problems in our society that stem from hate and hostility towards people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other minority groups. As of now, Parker has failed to pop the “Parker Bubble” in regards to DEIB. Students are unmotivated because they don’t believe it’s real. They can’t see these problems that torment our society. They can’t see the real damage it has on society. 

In my opinion, the main reason the DEIB program is currently failing Parker students is how un-personalized the program is. It’s insincere, sugary, and hollow. The ideals the program is trying to instill can’t just be thrown at students. Each meeting and lecture continues to dig a hole for Parker administrators and the DEIB program. For the student body to really understand the gravity and urgency of these societal issues, they need to feel connected. The DEIB program needs to inject humanization into their curriculum; make it more personal. For example, the poet who came to Parker for an MX, Carlos Andres Gomez, was a great example of personalizing the program. He was not only able to engross the audience in his poems that tackled cardinal issues, but also connect and converse with the audience members. 

In contrast, the DEIB meetings the student body have had in the Big Gym lack personalization and engagement. Not only is the environment and ambience inept, but the topics and plan for those meetings are disconnected and trivial. At this point, the DEIB program needs to slap the student body. To get them out of the hole the DEIB program has dug themselves into, they need a “punch in the stomach” idea to put the students back on the right track and into the correct mindset. On this trajectory, by the end of the year, the DEIB program wouldn’t have just failed, but have forever stained and hampered the views of students on pertinent and actual societal issues. 

There have been attempts to produce action this year and in years past, but they’ve all fallen flat. Personally, I have never understood the concept or idea of having a “task force,” but Parker has continuously established them for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, I have never seen a successful task force. Task forces and discussions aren’t going to create a more equitable and diverse community. While it is helpful and crucial to discuss and reflect on the heinous acts that have occurred in the world, it’s not going to stop the problems. To be frank and harsh, task forces and mission statements are superficial solutions for real, deep problems. 

Parker and the DEIB program is missing action that will actually transform students into global citizens. If I were in charge of Parker’s DEIB program, I would focus on popping the “Parker Bubble.” No more shallow meetings. No more perfunctory reflections. No more task forces. Parker needs to show, not tell. Injecting a civic-lab based curriculum in the DEIB program would be the first step. By positioning students in the real world, they’ll be able to see societal problems right in front of them. If the DEIB program would work with Chicago-based foundations like the MacArthur Foundation or the Tawani Foundation to educate and show students how real people are affected by these real social problems, students would be more inclined to become more thoughtful and diplomatic to those problems. The DEIB program also needs to bring in more guests and speakers who can actually speak from the heart and connect with the students. Those guests need to make their speeches connect to each and every student. For example, the poet Gomezs was able to connect his poems with students. As a result, students were attentive and captivated. 

The DEIB program is failing Parker’s ideal and Parker students. The program needs to fix the problems that inhibit it from creating real change: producing action, motivating students, and personalizing its material. In short, they need to show, and not tell. 

I believe the program is lost and missing an opportunity. I believe that Parker’s DEIB program has an immense potential to educate, enlighten, and develop the next generation of global citizens. But as of now, Parker’s DEIB program is seen as just another mandatory meeting that has no relevance to the students. It would be a shame if Parker’s DEIB program continues down this doomed path and misses the opportunity to make the world a better place.