November is Native American Heritage Month. Recently, someone asked me why it’s important for FLC to offer programming around historically marginalized peoples and cultures. Though that may seem a complicated question, the answer is really quite simple: to educate someone, we must first value education itself. And education is grounded in inclusivity and connection. As the late educator Paulo Freire wrote, “The pursuit of full humanity, however, cannot be carried out in isolation or individualism, but only in fellowship and solidarity; therefore, it cannot unfold in the antagonistic relations between oppressors and oppressed. No one can be authentically human while he prevents others from being so.”
The freedom to develop one’s own stance and articulate one’s own opinions are the hallmarks of higher education in America. In colleges and universities, diversity, equity, and inclusion provide the foundation on which education is built. Fort Lewis College empowers students to think critically and independently and encourages open articulation and exploration of ideas.
The only way we can maintain this commitment to openness and innovation, to maintain the fertile ground in which new ideas grow, is to make sure all voices have the opportunity to be heard and considered. For too long, voices have been silenced, and those who would offer alternative views have been ignored. In fact, educational systems themselves have sometimes been used to stamp out difference.
It is the responsibility of institutions of higher education to make sure that multiple cultures, histories, and worldviews are acknowledged and respected. We celebrate Native American Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, LGBTQ History Month, etc. to reinforce the inclusivity that should exist in every day of every month, to remind us that all people are valuable and we should respect differing ways of knowing and understanding the world.
Fort Lewis College stands by its commitment to self-determination, expression, and sovereignty for all students, faculty, and staff. I believe that we walk best when we walk together, and many eyes make a stronger vision.
Provost, Fort Lewis College