Re-printed from the December 2009 Seventeena
Is PTA using “diversity” as the new buzzword? No, that is not the case.
Mrs. Alice McLellan Birney, one of PTAs founders shared her vision at the first convention held in Washington DC on February 17, 1897 with over 2000 new members. Her audience consisted of fathers, teachers, laborers, mothers, educators and legislators. Her message was directed to all mankind and to all woman-kind, regardless of race, color, or condition, to recognize that the republic’s greatest work is to “save the children.”
Fast forward 112 years and PTA is still concerned about diversity, and about saving and improving the lives of all children. PTA’s purpose is:
- To promote the welfare of children and youth in home, school, community, and place of worship;
- To raise the standards of home life;
- To secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth.
- To bring into closer relation the home and the school, that parents and teachers may cooperate intelligently in the education of children and youth.
- To develop between educators and the general public such united efforts as will secure for all children and youth the highest advantages in physical, mental, social, and spiritual education.
What is PTA currently doing about diversity? National PTA has held four Emerging Minority Leadership Conferences designed to prepare ethnic minority parents and caregivers from across the country to assume leadership roles in their local communities and schools. California State PTA held its first such conference on September 20, 2008. The purpose of the conference was to increase PTA’s ability to serve all children by growing in inclusiveness. PTA is encouraging all units to become more inclusive and representative of their communities. In other words, to get everyone involved in improving the lives of all children. California State PTA formed its first Diversity and Inclusion Committee this fall. Its purpose is to advance inclusion and diversity within the membership and leadership throughout the organization.
So, what can you do about diversity? You can form your own diversity committee to identify the groups in your community who are currently not very active in your PTA. When surveying your community, consider gender, race, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, special needs, grandparents, foster parents, military families, individuals and businesses. Invite speakers to hold workshops about cultural, ethnic, or religious issues for the PTA board, membership, parents, and students. Include current and emerging issues from your community in your plans. Be responsive to the language needs of others; and provide assistance when needed. Work to understand and promote respect for the unique contributions of every family. By working together we can help to make PTA an effective voice for all children.
Chairman, California State PTA Diversity & Inclusion Committee
Past 17th District President