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Multicultural Focus at Private Schools

October 15, 1992

In reading the Q&A interview with Rose Gilbert, I realized what an enthusiastic teacher she must be. Surely, thousands of students have been inspired by her energy, love of literature and dedication. Finishing the article, however, I did feel the need to respond to certain generalizations made by Ms. Gilbert, especially those directed against independent schools and one in particular, Marlborough, where I teach English.

Rather than be elitist, "snobbish, not multicultural, not diversified," Marlborough prides itself on its cultural diversity. Black and Hispanic students are found in every class. Asian students alone make up about one-third of the student body. Also, to enrich our heterogeneity, we maintain an active scholarship program. Most importantly, at every level, Marlborough students read a wide variety of works written by Latino, Asian-American, African-American and Native American writers in addition to the traditional texts we have always taught. The Marlborough of today has a far more inclusive curriculum than even five or 10, let alone 20 or 30, years ago.

I was surprised to note that, while Ms. Gilbert stresses that public school students can engage themselves with "more creative and original" ideas than their peers at independent schools, she herself did not cite the name of one woman or one minority author in the extensive list of books she teaches. All of the writers, with the exception of Salinger, are dead white males. Salinger is merely a white male recluse.

The goal of teaching at Marlborough is not to educate the children of the rich and powerful. For my colleagues and myself, the teaching process is to participate in that rare career opportunity (one done so well by Ms. Gilbert) of helping young people come into being and discover the waiting world. Here at Marlborough, education concerns teaching more than 500 young women. I am proud to help prepare a generation of women to emerge more articulate, more self-confident, more able in the future to assume their rightful positions in society. These same young women of today will be tomorrow's doctors, scientists and, yes, teachers like Ms. Gilbert.

The issue at hand is not either public or independent schools. The issue is to give the young the potential, the possibility, the promise to become themselves. Only through education can an Alice Walker, an Amy Tan, a Carolyn Forche discover the words to free all of us, men and women, black, white, red, yellow, and brown--humanity, in other words.

STEWART LINDH

Los Angeles

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