All right Bow Valley friends and neighbours, school’s in session and it is time for an important lesson in how we approach discussions around inclusiveness in our community.
The reason we need a lesson is fairly predictable, given what we know about social media. When we have conversations around inclusion and how we treat marginalizaed groups in our society, it can be difficult for those who have not experienced intolerance because of who they are to understand what is being accomplished.
Take the recent converation Canmore Collegiate High School principal Chris Rogers began with the current student body and parents in the community about the school’s team name.
The Canmore Crusaders – accompanied by the image of a medieval knight that promises to save the day – has been a staple in the corridors, gymnasiums and fields of local high school students for decades.
The question put forward for consideration was framed in the context of today’s society and world we live in – does this symbol and name reflect the core values of the school?
This is very important, because in no way whatsoever was the principal suggesting or implying that the inappropriateness of the Crusader moniker , was demeaning the experiences of students over the past four decades. The reaction for many who have valued their high school sport team experiences was to cry foul that their recollections of team spirit, the lessons that particpating in high school sports and experiences contributing toward school spirit were somehow under attack.
For the record – they are not. The conversation should remain focused on the community of high school students that exist today and the context of our society as a whole in this moment – 2019.
If in 2019, CCHS holds itself up as a school that values and practices inclusiveness – does the Crusader name and logo remain appropriate?
This reaction is understandable. The word crusader, when detached from its problematic historic reference to retaking the Holy Land from Muslims, remains aligned to values that a school sports team rightly embodies. Many former students feel this keenly, and have argued against considering the team name as a historical reference. The trouble is that the logo is a medieval knight – regardless of whether those who chose the name knew that at the time or not.
It can be hard to digest the idea that something you value from your youth growing up in Canmore is under threat, but we would argue that being on the defence in this conversation is not the higher ground and relies heavily on emotions and less on a deep dive into what is actually being asked in this exercise.
You see, if you were on the high school basketball team, or the volleyball team – you were likely very much included into the school’s social structure. School sports by their very nature are inclusive.
What about those who have lived in Canmore and have not been included by the very nature of their gender, race, or religious background? Certainly the community that is Canmore in 2019 is far more diverse than 40, 30 or even 20 years ago.
Having more diversity in the community is one thing, but what about the ways those who have and can be marginalized are treated either overtly or covertly in society? Do we organize and structure ourselves in ways that acknowledges diversity and promotes inclusion?
By speaking up and asking this tough question about the high school sports brand, Mr. Rogers has done something brave – because there is always a reaction anytime we change something in this valley. To attack him for this, attacks every student that wasn’t included and had no voice to speak up with.
To attack those engaged in this conversation is a disservice to core values in place to guide current students into the future. CCHS alumni should lead by example, not by over reaction.